© Copyright 2000 Revised 2000 Robert Zoller All Rights Reserved
James Hillman, in The Soul's Code1
explores the psychological significance of the daemon or guardian angel. He states that the daemon accompanies us from birth bringing with it an agenda which influences our subsequent life.
This powerful assertion poses a direct challenge to a major theory of psychology. If this guardian angel can shape our character and our calling or vocation, can in short define our destiny, then the theory that parental influences (or indeed lack of them) set the course for an individual's life must be re-examined.
We are not tabula rasas
or clean slates upon which our parents and educators delineate our subsequent histories. Rather, each incarnating soul brings with it, in the form of its daemon a goal or agenda which environmental and parental influences can either collaborate with or interfere with. Thus, by way of example my father's dominant business oriented view of life may obstruct the agenda of my daemon, which would lead me in the direction of introspection, philosophy, theology and the occult.
According to this view, the education of children ought to take into consideration their daemon's agenda for that daemon will permit only so much interference with its goals and pre-set course.
Hillman suggests that many of the "abnormal" outbursts, intransigence, expressions of wilfulness and blatant non-conformity exhibited by children whose families or teachers are trying to get them to conform to one convention or another are understandable only from what he calls The Acorn Theory.
That is, the daemon has the agenda of the acorn becoming an oak. Though external circumstances can stunt, distort or foster the eventual development of that oak tree, they cannot prevent it nor are they responsible, in fact, for the acorn's inexorable destiny to eventually become an oak. Hillman is convinced that the daemon's prodding and guidance are most clearly seen in the soul's vocation.
The calling or vocation each of us has manifests early in life and is that which the daemon wants us to do. This calling is what our lives are about. It may manifest as vocation or avocation, depending upon how favourable external circumstances are to its realisation in a socially acceptable professional context. But whether it is socially acceptable or not, it is that which the soul longs to do.
As stated above, the external conditions of nurture (familial and educational) usually ignore the unique stirrings and prodding of the individual's daemon. Frequently it seeks to normalise and socialise the aberrant, obstreperous or seemingly dysfunctional child essentially forcing a round peg into a square hole. Hillman suggests that the apparently disruptive, uncooperative or under achieving behaviour exhibited by many children is not a sign of their incapability or that there is necessarily something wrong with them. Rather it is their daemon rebelling against a set of life circumstances incompatible with its agenda.
Success, happiness and fulfilment can be more easily attained by the child when its daemon's agenda is known and cultivated. Hillman is a psychologist, and not an astrologer thus it is unlikely that he knows of the Almutem figuris.
As a consequence he looks for psychological clues as to the nature of the daemonic agenda in the context of analysis or observation, both of which are time consuming and costly affairs.
Hillman also suggests that, while in most cases, the daemon is a benign influence, in a percentage of cases, it seems to be a bad, leading its charge into anti-social, criminal and self-destructive behaviour. This perception and my reading of the doctrinal evidence of the ancients are at odds (for further reading see Robert Zoller: Angels
It must be admitted however, that there are some people who seem utterly committed to sociopathic and destructive behaviour from very early in their lives. Their horoscopes reflect this and their personal history is a litany of mayhem. Instances such as these are not always found in the families of the abused or the underprivileged. Often such people are born into privileged, coddled and affluent families.
We may understand that one who has a good daemon may have to struggle against obstacles to the realisation of his/her noble and wholesome agenda (manifesting as mis-education, lack of opportunities or parental suppression of the soul's yearnings) however, the bad seed sprouting up amidst favourable circumstances seems puzzling.
Born to affluence, ease and opportunity, the bad seed squanders its privileges and enters into evil actions which cannot always be attributed to parental fault. Such "bad seeds," if they truly exist as such, should show up in the natal figure in connection with the Almutem figuris
and certainly in the natal figure as a whole. In any event, the bad seed's calling, or vocation, is as much a matter of his/her daemon's agenda as the benign person's vocation is.
Marsilio Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda2
(chapter 23) provides support for some of Hillman's remarks. Ficino, a 15th century Hellenist and philosopher was adviser to the renowned and powerful Medici family of Florence. He was an astrologer and a physician. His translations of Plato, Plotinus and the Corpus hermeticum3
were immensely influential in Renaissance Art, philosophy and religious thought.
In his De vita coelitus comparanda
he expands upon the importance of astrology in harmonising the soul and attaining spiritual felicity and psychological balance. In the said chapter he states that each person born with a sound mind has a heaven sent task to perform in life. Referring to the daemon he explains that it was Platonic doctrine (in which all antiquity concurred) that to each person there is given at birth a certain daemon which acts as a guardian and is assigned to a star. Ficino means by "star" a celestial body in the broad sense (e.g. planet, constellation or fixed star). He openly and deliberately equates this daemon with the guardian angel.
Whoever has investigated his own talent [ingenium
] also has found the work most natural to him or her, his/her star and his/her daemon. By cultivating this talent one may act successfully and live happily. Otherwise one's fortune will be adverse and the heaven will be perceived as an enemy. Even a cursory empirical survey indicates that a great number of unhappy people in the world are so because they are stuck in a profession contrary to their genius (i.e. daemon).
Ficino suggests ritualistic means for attracting and communing with the daemon and reports the astrological and Platonic opinion that there were two daemons of importance: one belonging to the birth and the other to the profession. When these two are harmonious, concord and tranquillity reign in the soul.
If however these two were discordant, one's life is laborious and full of cares. He mentions several ways of trying to find the star signifying one's daemon. He refers to a rule given by Porphyry but merely indicates that it discovers the daemon by finding the dominant planet in the birth chart. He does not give any details as to how this is done. He also gives the method of Firmicus Maternus, i.e. the planet ruling the sign into which the Moon will enter after it leaves the one it held at the time of birth and also the "Chaldean" Method (Find the pars fortunae
and the planet ruling its term will indicate the daemon.)
Ficino's remarks are of philosophical and historical interest. Certainly they mark a high point in the history of astrology showing how astrological doctrine was openly advocated by the Italian intelligentsia of the 15th century. However, from a practical point of view they render little effect. It may well be that the Ficino and his fellow philosophers while grasping the importance of the connection between the daemon and the vocation simply did not recognise or for some other reason did not use the practical knowledge necessary for determining it. This may have been because the Greek astrological texts they were familiar with were not clear or consistent as to how the daemon (ruling planet) was to be calculated.
However, the technique did survive and has come down to us today through the writings of the Jewish and Arabic astrologers.
For further insight into this please read: Robert Zoller: Angels
and for the astrological method please refer to Robert Zoller's Courses
- it is more fully explored in the Diploma Course on Medieval Astrology. I do not give the method here, breaking my normal practise. This is because I have concluded that the quick path of the dilettante who customary approaches complex matters in a piecemeal fashion is best cut away. This leaves the field, as is more proper to the serious student intent on mastering what is an exhaustive and complex subject.
James Hillman, The Soul's Code, New York, Random House 1996
Marsilio Ficino, De vita coelitus comparanda
, in Opera Omnia
, Bottega D'Erasmo, Torino, 1962
Ficino's translation of the Corpus Hermeticuum I-XIV was finished in 1463. It was printed in 1471 at Treviso: Mercurii Trismegisti Pimander, seu liber de potestatte et sapientia Dei
. Ficino's Commentary on it shows up in his Opera Omnia
, Turino 1962 Bottega D'Erasmo, beginning fol. 1836.