Thresholds:Further Musing.

This January I have loved reading the Anam Cara by the late John O'Donohue, a most remarkable poet. I want to make some comments since his writing had brought into focus for me countless THRESHOLDS; the title of this Blog. First let me confess, I was naive enough to think this was a word I alone had conjured up for those special spaces between the old and the new.  How very definitely mistaken can one be? I like to define or understand a threshold to be the space that is in a sense infinite; a numinous emptiness that lingers in the midst of one episode of life into another; the transition or movement from one sphere to another; the Threshold.

John O'Donohue, says in the first chapter:

" It is one of the tragedies of modern culture that we have lost touch with the primal thresholds of nature.” p 2 Further, he says, “All creativity awakens at the primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover balance in you life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm.” p2-3

Another threshold he identifies is,“Love is the threshold where divine and human presence ebb and flow into each other. All presence depends on consciousness.” p.15

There is the thresholds of death and life; the final corruption of the physical organs to one of inability to function; the life of the moving blood stops; the heart stops; all that is a physical fact comes to the end point or wall where it can no longer experience or function in any way. This is I think  a threshold in which the life force which has been pulsing through the blood is separated from the physical cells and passes into another level of existence.  One that is invisible to the world as we experience it with our senses. The life sloughs off the corrupted body that served as a vehicle to its growth. Now traveling through this threshold of life to death it (the soul–or the spirit) can be experience on a dimension that is on the same wave length. I think an analogy of hearing under water is a good one. Just as one can hear better above water than under it, and likewise, the deeper one goes the sense of hearing is less functional.  This analogy to the spirit,  tells me the dimension of the invisible spirit force of living breath moves in a sphere to high or refined for our five senses to respond.

As the cycle of life in this realm begins with the birthing of the life out the unknown or invisible into the form of a another being by the womb of a being of the same nature, so then the end point of that physical life cycle is the passing back of that life force into the unknown realm of invisible life however, now transformed and transfigured by life experience. The conscious level for that spirit has emerged from a earthly reality back into its formal translucency but in a from grown and matured in being. This threshold we will all stand on and find ourselves looking into the unknown because in our senses we cannot decipher the emptiness of non earthiness. 

There are scientific empirical studies which find what they are defining as “thresholds”  or call end points too, or the wall, the point in the physical adaptation of the organ that can no longer recognize sound and translate or transmute it to the brain.

This does not negate the reality of the life force.  It simply cannot measure it.

One article says, "Quite different are then thresholds of seeing, of continuation-activation (dream walking), of visual reactions and reaction times, distance thresholds, base-line metric thresholds, suffice it to say, countless systems of study use this term to identify edges of ability, or points of change. In some of these as in medial thresholds with diseases these change with cultures and time."  These are all thresholds of natural phenomenon science has identified.

Cybernetics the study of the brain also uses this term and because they assume they can measure waves, and non physical or non visual waves that this disproves then the metaphysical discussions or religious, or spiritual attitudes, praxis, what have you. Their scientific “theories” then based on mathematical and assumptions is to be the “new religion” of the modern “smart” human.  I disagree. Measurement of invisible light waves is one thing but the immense or emptiness of the Beyond is another.

Just because science has begun to measure invisible waves of light does not negate the reality of a spiritual dimension, as we may have been naming it since ancient days. We cannot stop our transformation, or growth in understanding, which is in keeping with the scientific mind set. It is inborn in the human spirit to search; we continue and may make further insteps into the measurements of the invisible which actually awakens our consciousness to a higher level. This does not deny the metaphysics of spirituality. There is the remarkable life of the unknown and the knowing through the emptiness.

Christians have identified this experience and named it as Kenosis which is therefore a paradox and a mystery since "emptying oneself" in fact fills the person with divine grace and results in union with God. This has nothing to do with measurable wave lengths as we know it to be. Christians and ancient civilizations have all named the Holy One as Light. 5

“If the theory of cybernetics is by itself to oust all metaphysical concepts — including the concepts of soul, of life, of value, of choice, of memory — which until recently served to separate the machine from man, it must conserve the notion of writing, trace, written mark, or grapheme, until its own historico-metaphysical character is also exposed.” 1

I did a search for images for thresholds and found some very interesting articles actually accompanying graph images. I found myself using the graph image of the hearing of fish underwater, and their different thresholds of hearing, as an analogy for our hearing or being conscious of G_d's Spirit working in our lives. 2

The first graph below shows the fish hearing in pink & green–the light blue is the lower the loop for the mammal which is in deeper water. The black line is the noise spectrum. The loops represent the spectral level of fish & mammals  hearing under water.

Fish graph frequency
Human hearing frequency

Another interesting threshold of human hearing underwater to use as an analogy is:

“The research has shown that human hearing underwater is less efficient than in air, so that there is some protection of hearing from noise. The protection is least at low frequencies, and increases with increasing frequency, accounting for the "muffled" sound that divers tend to hear. Hearing thresholds for a human in air and water are shown in the second graph.” 3

See the second graph on the left; the blue line is underwater human hearing the black line is the human hearing threshold airborne (above water).

Also of interest is a more detailed Audio Bone Threshold link with the graph below  on Audibility Thresholds of Humans.

threshold graph for bonephones"We examined the hearing thresholds for pure tones at a wide range of frequencies, with (red)  the ears open, (blue) the ears plugged with foam earplugs, and (black) the ears open in the presence of background noise. The key findings are summarized in the graph to the right." 4.  At the bottom of the chart is the Sound Stimulus Frequency (Hz)  on the right scale is db Attenuation.  It shows clearly the hearing is best with the background noise attending.

To be continued……


  1. (Internet link: Article: Systems of Control: Derrida and Machines In automation, control, cybernetics, derrida, history, human, machine, metaphysics, nonhuman, system on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 5:48 pm )

  2. (Internet Link:

  3. ( Internet link:

  4. The initial findings were presented at ICAD 2005. ; (Internet Link:…/index.html )

  5. In Christian theology, Kenosis is the concept of the 'self-emptying' of one's own will and becoming entirely receptive to God and his perfect will. (Internet Link: on Friday, March 9, 2009 at 4:40pm)

Read and post comments | Send to a friend