Who knows how far gone Van Morrison was at the point that Beautiful Vision was released. In his favour he was creating music as fantastic as ever, had a new Scandinavian girlfriend, and was beginning to even enjoy touring again. He had been struggling under the spotlight, and critical acclaim had been up and down, but at least he was doing what he wanted. He had never fallen off the rails like Dylan. Albums had been coming out on a regular one or two yearly basis. It would appear as if there were no issues.
On the other hand he had created an album based around, and invested in, the writing of Alice Bailey - an esoteric theosophist.
Perhaps he was just doing it for inspiration, reading the prose like poetry for an exploration of evoked emotion, a window to new lyrics. Or perhaps he actually believed the things Alice Bailey wrote. Certainly he was probably placed somewhere on the sliding scale. These beliefs where not offensive to Van, that much was clear. He had probably heard crazier things before.
Alice believed that spirits could influence the solar system, healing, meditation and even the future of nations. Unlike Van though, who spoke of no guru, no method, no teacher, Alice proclaimed her work had been telepathically dictated to her by a Ascended Tibetan Master called Djwhal Khul.
A recurring theme in her work was that of a Dweller on the Threshold. In the words of Alice Bailey, A Dweller on the Threshold is essentially a celestial manifestation of what the rest of us might recognize as original sin or dukkha. More precisely:
From ancient recesses of the memory, from a deeply rooted past, which is definitely recalled, and from the racial and the individual subconscious (or founded and established thought reservoirs and desires, inherited and inherent) there emerges from individual past lives and experience, that which is the sumtotal of all instinctual tendencies, of all inherited glamours, and of all phases of wrong mental attitudes; to these, (as they constitute a blended whole) we give the name of the Dweller on the Threshold.
This Dweller is the sumtotal of all the personality characteristics which have remained unconquered and unsubtle, and which must be finally overcome before initiation can be taken. Each life sees some progress made; some personality defects straightened out, and some real advance effected. But the unconquered residue, and the ancient liabilities are numerous, and excessively potent, and - when the soul contact's adequately established - there eventuates a life wherein the highly developed and powerful personality becomes, in itself, the Dweller on the Threshold.
To Alice Bailey the Dweller is a very real thing. As real as the pixels of your computer screen. It isn't just a spiritual entity. The Dweller is physical too; racial. Not wholly genetic, but also passed down via the customs, strive and poverty of a race. Spiritual Nirvana, to her, is also very real. The idea of an elevation which can be achieved via a global understanding and peace with the world is not only plausible - it is directly entailed by her philosophy. What we see as an exercise in self deception she sees as a kind of mental training. Probably envisioned in a noble sense, such as the puzzles considered by Socrates or Plato.
I am sure that Van Morrison felt That Dweller of Race and Culture. Had I had more of a nationalistic upbringing, or a larger family, I too may have been able to feel it. The Irish have suffered. There is a reminder of this in every encounter in Ireland. It is spoken by the shape of the landscape, the taste of the beer, and the perks of the accent. For Van Morrison this cultural Dweller was not just unavoidable, it was his muse and passion.
But the Celtic Dweller was for other tracks on the album. This song is about Nirvana. Van Morrison sings about sitting in the darkness, waiting for some right of passage. He mentions his struggles and the pain. This song is about fighting for redemption. Hopes, dreams and labours. The will behind his sentiment is strong, almost religious, but I think this point the esoteric spirituality of Van Morrison stops.
Alice Bailey is in love with Nirvana. Up to a point where for everyone else she may as well be away in the clouds. For Alice the Dweller is not a positive entity, but a symbol of all that is lacking in life, it is the shadow of what could have been. There is no compromise in Alice's philosophy and her road goes in a single direction.
But Van Morrison has already been in love, had a child, seen the beauty of God. He knows that Nirvana is on earth, and in this song you can hear the muted horns are heralding it in with their calls.
To me this song is about redemption in it's most basic form. But unlike Sweet Thing it is not simply a retelling of good times as a reminder. Dweller on the Threshold is stronger than that. It is about waiting patiently, and knowing that it will come. The Dweller is not a transitional form, it is the state of humanity. "I'm a Dweller on the Threshold" sings Van Morrison with melancholia and clarity, "I know just what I am".