Iona Miller, (c)2016
"The eye of the heart that ‘sees’ is also the eye of death that sees through visible presentations to an invisible core. When Michelangelo sculpted portraits of his contemporaries or of the figures of religion and myth, he attempted to see what he called the immagine del cuor, the heart’s image, “a prefiguration” of what he was sculpting, as if the chisel that cut the rock followed the eye that penetrated his subject to the heart. The portrait aimed to reveal the inner soul of what he was carving." (Hillman, Soul's Code, p146)
Voice of the Higher Presence
The ancient Greeks believed that our character or genius was a daimon [Latin daemon] or divine spirit who oversaw our experiences with mortality -- dispenser of our fate -- our personal yet transcendent god. The root of daimon, from the Indo-European, is to “deal out.”
Daimon is character and character is destiny, the individual, immortal and potentially divine part of ourselves. Each unique image acts as a personal daimon, the force of fate. We care for our soul by allowing that force to move through us constantly and to have expression. Sometimes we may seem possessed by it.
In the Hellenistic ruler cult that began with Alexander the Great, it was not the ruler, but his guiding daemon that was venerated. In the Archaic or early Classical period, the daimon had been democratized and internalized for each person, whom it served to guide, motivate, and inspire, as one possessed of such good spirits. Similarly, the first-century Roman imperial cult began by venerating the genius or numen of Augustus, a distinction that blurred in time.
All old trees had their daimon or tree numen, and the World Tree is no exception. This is the ancestral or family daimon -- the secret voice of family memories. The tree is the wise or knowing diamon at the same time because they are different categories of existence -- secular and sacred in phase co-existence, (an influence perceptible by mind if not by the senses). Active in many contexts, sometimes the daimon appears in the form of Asklepios the healer, whose staff is entwined with the serpent.
When we are 'called', we are called by our daimon. If we ignore that call we may wither away or live half a life. To answer that call is essentially a shamanic initiation that opens relations with the Otherworld -- equilibrium of conscious and unconscious. If we are fortunate the daimon informs our creativity and death with some nobility.
We were infused with the value of our potential. Creativity has frequently been treated as a form of self-expression or a way of understanding or coping with life that is intimately connected with personal dignity, expression of one's inner being, self-actualization, and the like (e.g., Maslow, 1973; May, 1976; Rogers, 1961). Moustakis (1977) summarized the individualistic approach to creativity by seeing it as the pathway to living your own life your own way.
This plant is an inner, spiritual growth, the development of a tree of life and knowledge which played a great role in alchemy....In general it is advisable to watch these inner developments and not let them slip back into the unconscious, lest they get stuck in the physiological sphere, or rather in the realm of the [psychoid] unconscious which merges with the body, where they give rise to pathological formations which a wise man carefully avoids. (Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 607-608)
Jung called compulsions the greatest mystery of human behavior. The heterogeneous character of the daimon is confirmed by the description of its body as an “alien garment.” As trickster, it urges us toward the deathless mental aspects of compulsions.
The daimon can incite 'oblivion-seeking' in the person -- the escapism and oblivion of addiction and altered states. It seduces the ego into oblivion and anesthetizes it. The incarnate daimon is also the physical principle of love. There is the flesh and blood reality, the character, the daimonic element within and the lived history of the human person, which is a deep mystery.
‘Fate’ is distinguished from ‘fatalism’, ‘telos’ is distinguished from ‘teleology’, and ‘accidents’ and ‘necessity’ are all explanations of how individuals may be guided but not determined by daimonic influence. We must be free to choose to grow into the daimonic image, or to ignore this, or to try to forge another identity, or to find what there is for us to find: the stars do not determine human life, they simply guide.
James Hillman's acorn theory says that the "daimon" selects the egg and the sperm, that their union results from our necessity, not the other way around. This has huge implications. Soul, calling, or image, it guides our unique path. The daimon guides us down into the form of our calling -- in terms of a soul’s descent rather than a developmental ascent from nature and nurture.
Cost of Personal Satisfactions
Sometimes, however the "daimon" asks a great deal from you. You feel as if you've never done enough. You've never written enough, played enough, or fought enough, whatever it is. There is always more because it is like an unquenchable urge. It costs what you might call your normalcy. (Hillman)
"A child defends its daimon's dignity. That's why even a frail child at a 'tender' age refuses to submit to what it feels is unfair and untrue and reacts so savagely to abusive misperecptions. The idea of childhood abuse needs to be expanded beyond the sexual kind--which is so vicious not principally because it is sexual, but because it abuses the dignity at the core of personality, that acorn of myth."[Hillman, Pg.27 The Soul's Code.]
"The acorn theory proposes, and I will bring evidence for the claim that you and I and every single person is born with a defining image. Individuality resides in a formal cause--to use old philosophical language going back to Aristotle. We each embody our own idea, in the language of Plato and Plotinus. And this form, this idea, this image does not tolerate too much straying. The theory also attributes to this innate image an angelic or daimonic intention, as if it were a spark of consciousness; and, moreover, holds that it has our interest at heart because it chose us for its reasons."[James Hillman, Pg. 12, The Soul's Code]
Hillman suggests that the daimon explains the impossible marriages, quick conceptions, and sudden desertions that form the stories of so many of our parents. He goes further to point out the poverty of seeing our mothers and fathers as, literally, mom and dad, when nature could be our mother, books our father - whatever connects us to the world and teaches us. Quoting Alfred North Whitehead, who said that ‘religion is world loyalty’, Hillman says that we must believe in the world’s ability to provide for us and lovingly reveal to us its mysteries.
The Soul’s Code shows how the daimon will assert itself in love, giving rise to obsessions and torments of romantic agony that defy the logic of evolutionary biology.
Fate, Fortune, & Chance
Every person had their spirit or guardian angel, an occult power mediating the celestial and terrestrial realms. It appears 'replete with knowledge' and the power of Presence, perhaps even an audible voice. In popular thought, such daimones were credited with conveying supernatural powers and abilities to humans, resulting in increased physical or intellectual prowess for special occasions. They could also effect changes in human moods and temperaments, and their accompanying actions.
The daimon is our invisible and irrational spiritual guide or self, and our character -- a divine mediating power that impels our action and drives or mediates our destiny. It is what makes us unique in relation to the world. This inborn immortal factor embodies our innate talents, inherent gifts, and positive or negative natural tendencies -- and a way to honor the individuality of soul.
This supreme form of soul is our constant companion and source of inspiration -- like the Latin genii, our genius. This "genius" (from the Latin genere) means to generate, to beget, making the daimon the voice of the generative process in us. It can be a personification of the transcendent function, experienced in dreams and in our acts of doing and becoming. The gifted child tends to be blessed with some sort of self-remembrance. Jung notes, "A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon." (pp. 356-357)
The daimon is also our suffering, emotional disorder, and more, but could also heal, and promote health, happiness, resilience, perseverance, and harmony. The vitality of the inner universe is mobilized in happiness, misery, regret. The daimon can inform even a painful death with some poetry and grace.
Suffering can be produced by painful states of mind such as hatred, envy, alienation, scapegoating, cruelty, and loneliness. The daimon can also bring altruism, empathy, compassion, concern, care, consolation, and pity. It brings understand of the beauty, compassion, and the foundation of wisdom...perhaps even the psychobiological transformations of epigenetics, changing our responses to life experiences.
Regardless of the nature of the genes we inherit from our parents, dynamic change at this level allows us almost unlimited influence on our fate. Beyond "biology a destiny" is “self-directed biological transformation,” but under the daimon, not the ego. the disruptive and transformative reality of the individuation process, the uncanny otherness of the unconscious.
In The Soul’s Code, James Hillman discusses Plato’s Er myth—that the soul is given a daimon (inner attendant spirit or inspiring force) at birth, which is the carrier of one’s destiny. We may forget our daimon, but it doesn’t forget us.
The daimon has our interest at heart, guiding providence; it motivates, protects, invents, has prescience, and persists. The daimon can be a force of deviance and oddity, especially when it is opposed or neglected. Hillman enumerates various signs of daimonic feelings: restlessness of heart, impatience, dissatisfaction, and yearning. He notes that the daimon wants to be seen, witnessed, accorded recognition—especially by you.
The daimonic can be both creative and destructive. We get the notion of demonic possession from the destructive workings of these forces; this is also where the notion of “evil genius” comes from. Many artists are haunted by their daimons, showing that our wounds made us who we are and that living creatively with them is key. We can learn to use this inextinguishable heat to forge works and the self.