What Is Daimonic Psychology? A Guide to Guardian Angels

What is Daimonic psychology? It is the study of the phenomenon of people reporting the presence of “personal guardian spirits,” a phenomenon that has been attested cross-culturally for thousands of years. In the Christian tradition, we call them “Guardian Angels.”

“God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self.” ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of contemplation

What is this “other” and “true” self hidden within us, that is identical with God Himself?

Although Merton likely didn’t mean it like this, I am keen on exploring this hidden divine self inside of us in terms of daimonic psychology.

One interesting angle on this is to explore the idea of the “Angel of the Lord” in the Bible. In various parts of the Bible, God is identified to be the same entity as an “Angel of the Lord,” for example in the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. This “angel of the Lord” is later identified to be really God Himself.

So clearly we have a precedent for God temporarily becoming an angel of some kind, or at least “dwelling within” an angel, or emanating Himself as an angel, or speaking through an angel.

Could Merton’s “hidden other self” be a daimon, a guardian angel?

11 “For he will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11)

Guardian angels have long been an important part of Catholic ontology. Saint Jerome said, “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.”

The concept of the guardian angel is further enshrined in the Catholic catechism:

Angel of God, 

my guardian dear, 

To whom God’s love

commits me here, 

Ever this day, 

be at my side, 

To light and guard, 

Rule and guide.


‘From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their (the angels) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God. ‘

– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; 336.

I propose this same “Angel of God” that is our “guardian dear” functions symbolically as the same Angel of God that appeared to Hagar. So perhaps all of our personally assigned guardian angels are themselves extensions of God emanating Himself down through a divine hierarchy of personification reaching all the way down to the individual level of our personal Souls.

Plato and the Daimones

The idea of guardian spirits is quite old even outside of a Christian context. The notion can even be found in Plato:

“And to the extent that human nature can partake of immortality, he can in no way fail to achieve this: constantly caring for his divine part as he does, keeping well-ordered the guiding spirit that lives within him, he must indeed be supremely happy.” (Plato, Timaeus, 90c)

“We are told that when each person dies, the guardian spirit who was allotted to him in life proceeds to lead him to a certain place, whence those who have been gathered together there must, after being judged, proceed to the underworld with the guide who has been appointed to lead them thither from there.” (Plato, Phaedo, 107d-e)

“‘Here is the message of Lachesis, the maiden daughter of Necessity: ‘Ephemeral souls, this is the beginning of another cycle that will end in death. Your daemon or guardian spirit will not be assigned to you by lot; you will choose him.’’” (Plato, Republic, 10.617e)

“After all the souls had chosen their lives, they went forward to Lachesis in the same order in which they had made their choices, and she assigned to each the daemon it had chosen as guardian of its life and fulfiller of its choice.” (Plato, Republic, 10.620d)

Famously, Socrates himself was well-known to have a daimon, an inner guiding voice, who always gave him advice on what not to do. He describes it in the Apology thus,

You have heard me speak at sundry times and in diverse places of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a child; it always forbids but never commands me to do anything which I am going to do. This is what deters me from being a politician.

The Soul’s Code

James Hillman writes:

For centuries we have searched for the right term for this “call.” The Romans named it your genius; the Greeks, your daimon; and the Christians your guardian angel. The Romantics, like Keats, said the call came from the heart, and Michelangelo’s intuitive eye saw an image in the heart of the person he was sculpting. The Neoplatonists referred to an imaginal body, the ochema, that carried you like a vehicle. It was your personal bearer or support. For some it is Lady Luck or Fortuna; for others a genie or jinn, a bad seed or evil genius. In Egypt, it might have been the ka, or the ba with whom you could converse. Among the people we refer to as Eskimos and others who follow shamanistic practices, it is your spirit, your free-soul, your animal-soul, your breath-soul.” ~ The Soul’s Code (emphasis mine)

What is the purpose of this Guardian Angel, this Angel of the Lord? It is here to call us to our destiny. Hillman calls this the “acorn theory,” referring to the hidden genetic blueprint hidden within an acorn.

Each of us has an acorn that contains the unique blueprint of our calling. This is our genius. Our daimon. Our guardian angel. As the Catholics say, this guardian angel functions to “light and guard, Rule and guide.”

Hillman says,

The soul of each of us is given a unique daimon before we are born, and it has selected an image or pattern that we live on earth. This soul-companion, the daimon, guides us here; in the process of arrival, however, we forget all that took place and believe we come empty into this world. The daimon remembers what is in your image and belongs to your pattern, and therefore your daimon is the carrier of your destiny. (emphasis mine)

Thus, our Soul is never lonely. Our ego is never truly isolated within a private mental prison, cut off from other persons by the Abyss of mental privacy. This is because each of us contains a living intelligence, a divine intelligence, far more wise and perceptive than our ego-consciousness, who acts as a bridge to the divine world of God and his hierarchies of angels.

Within the tradition of Western Ceremonial Magic, this Angel of the Lord, this Daimon, this guiding spirit, is referred to as the “Holy Guardian Angel.” Knowledge and Conversation with this holy daimon is considered the pinnacle of one’s lifetime spiritual journey.


The Holy Guardian Angel

“Holy Guardian Angel whom God has appointed to be my guardian, direct and govern me during this day/ Amen”

It should never be forgotten for a single moment that the central and essential work of the Magician is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Once he has achieved this he must of course be left entirely in the hands of that Angel, who can be invariably and inevitably relied upon to lead him to the further great step—crossing of the Abyss and the attainment of the grade of Master of the Temple.

~ Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears (emphasis mine)

HGA as a separate being

“Now, on the other hand, there is an entirely different type of angel; and here we must be especially careful to remember that we include gods and devils, for there are such beings who are not by any means dependent on one particular element for their existence. They are microcosms in exactly the same sense as men and women are. They are individuals who have picked up the elements of their composition as possibility and convenience dictates, exactly as we do ourselves… I believe that the Holy Guardian Angel is a Being of this order. He is something more than a man, possibly a being who has already passed through the stage of humanity, and his peculiarly intimate relationship with his client is that of friendship, of community, of brotherhood, or Fatherhood. He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.”

~Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears (emphasis mine)

How to Contact the HGA

It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which a man may attain to the knowledge and conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever his grade. It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each man is his own High Priest, and none knoweth the Name of his brother’s God, or the Rite that invokes Him. 

~ Aleister Crowley, Book 4

Israel Regardie, in The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, wrote:

“Many students as well as those not involved with Magic often substitute a form of their infantile conscience for one form of “Higher Self” or another. This can lead to nothing but disaster. Instead of being guided by a Higher Genius the person is really at the mercy of infantile “voices” and values, so-called brain chatter. Not only does this cause undue individual suffering and deception, it also causes a complete halt to any real progress in the Theurgic arts and sciences. To a large extent this confusion contributes to the often “bad” reputation students of the occult possess.” [location 1345]

However, Regardie was a product of his time and the theories of the unconscious have advanced considerably since Freud’s model of the id, ego, and superego. 

For Freud, the superego was hypothesized to be essentially a kind of moral conscience that strives for us to follow the culturally appropriate cultural rules taught to us by our parents. In some sense then it is extremely limited as a concept for it is culturally relative and based on social mores.

However, modern work on the unconscious, as indicated in works such as Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown in the Bicameral Mind or John Geiger’s The Third Man Factor point out that within all human minds lies a vestigial capacity to generate what Socrates’ called his Daemon or what the Egyptians called their Ka, that is, personal gods. 

“A large proportion of the inventory type of cuneiform tablets have impressions on the reverse side rolled from such seals; commonly, they show a seated god and another minor divinity, usually a goddess, conducting the owner of the tablet by the right hand into the divine presence.

Such intermediaries were the personal gods. Each individual, king or serf, had his own personal god whose voice he heard and obeyed.” (Jaynes, p. 184) (emphasis mine)

The personal gods or guardian angels possess the entire wisdom of the unconscious and due to the unconscious mind’s unfathomable, collective depths, it is quite capable of acting as a medium for these beings many times more intelligent than the individual conscious ego.

As Geiger chronicles, in many tales of extreme survival such as mountaineering, these guardian angels are encountered and their vast intelligence and spiritual presence motivate and guide us to safety, providing advice and comfort. 

These guardian angels or personal gods or whatever you want to call them are not mere “brain chatter” nor are they mere instances of a socially conscious Freudian superego. They are far more complicated and far more capable, constituting a genuine encounter with intelligent beings separated from our own ego-selves but not clearly embodied in the physical world.

I am proposing that these entities are of the same type as what magickal orders have for a long time called the Holy Guardian Angel and getting in contact with these entities constitutes a legitimate spiritual Path.

Furthermore, I believe it is possible to tap into whatever power of the unconscious brain there is to create such entities in order to purposely create a new being, what some people call a tulpa. These tulpas have, in principle, all the same powers fitting of a spiritual being encountered in the archetypal depths of the collective unconscious insofar as they are far wiser than the conscious mind, on account of being able to tap into the near-infinite processing power of the human unconscious.

Moreover, the very same process is capable of happening and, indeed, has already happened for some, in regard to the personification of the Tarot and the various Tarot Symbol Systems derived from individual decks and their inspirational deck systems such as the Rider-Waite-Smith System or the Thoth System.

Personally, I have found the Thoth system to be much more powerful but that is just me. It is largely a matter of personal taste. 

The Third Man Factor

Have you ever wondered where the archetype of a “guardian angel”, “vision guide”, “helper”, or “Third Man” comes from?

Why, in extreme survival situations, is it common for people to report the experience of a presence assisting them?

John Geiger’s book The Third Man Factor is a comprehensive compilation of reports from mountaineers, explorers, sailors, adventurers, divers, and other persons faced with death in extreme survival situations who all report strangely similar accounts of a presence helping, comforting, motivating, or advising them, a phenomenon often dubbed the “Third Man Factor” from Ernest Shackleton’s famous report that during his harrowing travels in polar regions “it seemed to me often that we were four not three”.

It’s called the “Third Man” factor not the “Fourth Man” factor because T.S. Eliot thought a trio was more poetic when he channel’s Shackleton’s story:

Who is the third who walks always besides you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I looked ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you.

Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded

I do not know whether a man or woman

– But who is that on the other side of you?

The Waste Land

The Third Man Factor is one of the most riveting books I have ever read. This is not only because of the nature of the extreme survival tales but because the Third Man factor is one of the most interesting psychic phenomena ever recorded.

I do not call it “psychic” to dismiss it as delusional hallucination or reduce it to pure brain function. I take a non-reductive, phenomenological approach.

I am interested in the phenomenon itself, as witnessed in the depths of the human Soul. I am open-minded to the possibility of these being encounters with an “objective” presence with origins outside of the confines of our own souls, perhaps by our brains acting as some kind of “receiver” that interacts with a larger field of consciousness that somehow permeates physical reality in ways that science has not yet been able to detect.

But ultimately I am agnostic in the Jungian sense of “unasking” the question of whether these psychic presences are “objective” (real) or “subjective” (unreal) as if this is a strictly binary, mutually exclusive either/or. For it is both. Both objective and subjective. Real and unreal. Fantasy and fact. Myth and matter. Independent of humanity yet fundamentally ensouled.

The simple fact is we do not have the right terminology in English that can properly capture the sense in which the collective unconscious, and thus the full extent of the human Soul, in depths beyond the limitations of ego-consciousness, is both objective and independent of the human mind yet simultaneously a phenomenon of the Soul, imbued with meaning, purpose, and living intelligence.

All we can do is contrast mind and body, material and immaterial, and put some kind of hyphen between the concepts: mind-body.

We see the mind and body as two separate “things” that interact in some way. Or, worse, we erase either the mind or body entirely thinking that reality is purely material or purely mental. It is both. But it is both in a way that eludes adequate description or intelligibility.

This indescribability is at the heart of all true religious experiences.

I say all this in order to ward off any accusations that my speaking of brain processes or evolution in any way is me trying to “reduce” to “explain way” these phenomena as merely hallucinatory or unreal.

Since I believe consciousness is a fundamental component of reality in the same way mass, force, and spacetime are, I take as an axiomatic truth that conscious experiences are real in a completely fundamental and primordial way that cannot be reduced to explained as simply being “products of the brain.” In a very real sense, consciousness is completely baked into the cosmos in a way that humans do not fully as of yet understand.

Finally, back to the Third Man Factor. Allow me to quote some first-hand descriptions of the Third Man phenomenon:

“It was something I couldn’t see but it was a physical presence. It told me what to do. The only decision I had made at that point in time was to lie down next to Rick and to fall asleep and to accept death. That’s the only decision I made. All decisions made subsequent to that were made by the presence. I was merely taking instructions…I understood what it wanted me to do. It wanted me to live.”

“It seemed to me that this ‘presence’ was a strong, helpful and friendly one, and it was not until Camp VI was sighted that the link connecting me, as it seemed at the time to the beyond, was snapped.”

“Then all at once I became aware of something new and strange, a consciousness of a ‘presence’, a feeling that I was not alone.”

“I could feel his invisible presence sitting there comfortingly beside me in that lonely little raft lost so hopelessly in the vast Atlantic.”

“Two hours later, he was awoken with a start by a stern voice: ‘Get up. It’s your turn at the helm.’”

“I didn’t pray, and I’m not a religious man usually, but for the whole voyage I’d had the strange feeling that someone else was with me, watching over me, and keeping me safe from harm.”

“…a strange sensation as if someone were in the boat with me. How can I explain it –not a mystical experience, just a calm feeling of assurance that someone was there helping and sharing tasks. Looking back, I do not feel that my mind became deranged — I was just quite certain that I was not alone.”

“It was then that he became acutely aware of a presence with him. Venables felt that it was an older person: ‘I never identified him, but this alter ego was to accompany me on and off for the rest of that day, sometimes comforting me and advising me, sometimes seeking my support.”

“I don’t often talk about my companion watcher these days…After the Breach when I first spoke of him to people, they reacted quite predictably: “What an imagination!”…At first I persisted in my stand: ‘He was real. There in the flesh or at least in some concrete form I could see.’ Now I know this and say this to you: He was there and as real as you or I.”

“I’ve never believed in apparitions, but how can I explain the forms I carried with me through so many hours of this day? Transparent forms in human outline – voices that spoke with authority and clearness.”

Clearly, this is a very real psychological phenomenon. I see no reason to believe that these reports are somehow getting the phenomenology wrong. What interests me is how the Third Man factor is closely intertwined with religious history.

For ages, religious persons have reported experiences of “guardian angels” assisting them or comforting them. Almost all primitive cultures believe in various spirits or ephemeral beings, and the concept of seeking out such beings on “vision quests” is quite familiar. I think atheists and skeptics can learn a lot about the epistemology of religious belief from understanding the Third Man Factor.

Many atheists assume that believers are irrational in using “mere subjective experience” to argue for the rationality of their belief in supernatural phenomena. Arguably, it is less rational in today’s modern scientific society with ample brain-based explanations, but to understand the persistence and appeal of religion in modern times we have to understand its origins in prescientific eras.

I see no reason to think that the Third Man Factor is a modern phenomenon. Likely it has a hardwired biological underpinning that would have been present in humans long before we knew anything about how the brain works. Consider this telling quote from the book:

“Once again I became aware of what I can only describe as a Presence, which filled me with an exaltation beyond all earthly feeling. As it passed, I walked back to the ship, I felt wholly convinced that no agnostic, no skeptic, no atheist, no humanist, no doubter, would ever take from me the certainty of the existence of God.”

How can you argue against that? You can’t really.

Now imagine the epistemic situation prior to the invention of brain science. If you experienced a Third Man, then you would be quite rational in explaining that experience in terms of your local cultural narrative whether Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or animism. For Christians, they would have explained it in terms of the Biblical concept of an angel.

For some Christians, the Third Man could also take the form of Jesus or God Himself rather than just a “lower” entity like an angel (or demon).

From an epistemological perspective, the Third Man factor is extremely interesting. It explains why many believers are “certain” that God exists and that nothing could ever change their minds: they have experienced the Third Man. I have no doubt the Third Man factor is also at play in alien abduction experiences.

Of course, there is a perfectly rational explanation for such phenomena if you accept the findings of modern neuroscience and philosophical naturalism. As Geiger discusses several times, one of the most promising theories to explain the Third Man is Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism. However, I do not think the productivity of this framework is conclusive proof one way or another for any kind of philosophical naturalism. The right hemisphere of the brain could just operate as a “receiver” for the conscious intelligence encountered in the Third Man phenomenon.

On the basis of multiple sources of evidence, Jaynes argues that at the dawn of history, humans had a much lower stress threshold to trigger these encounters with the divine unconscious. Moreover, he argues (convincingly, in my opinion) that such encounters could have had an adaptive function reinforced by natural selection.

Such “bicameral control” is a type of decision-making that manifests psychologically in the form of religious experiences, particularly of authoritative voices giving commands. Jaynes argues that these experiences allow for a novel form of self-stimulation and self-regulation.

Such self-stimulations replaced the promptings by others (e.g. leaders) that would have triggered stereotyped behavioral patterns. By prompting oneself internally, a human would have been able to engage in more complex, “time-delayed” behaviors in the absence of verbal promptings by others. As Jaynes says,

Let us consider a man commanded by himself or his chief to set up a fish weir upstream from a campsite. If he is not conscious, and cannot therefore narratizethe situation and so hold his analog “ I ” in a spatialized time with its consequences fully imagined, how does he do it? It is only language, I think, that can keep him at this time-consuming all-afternoon work. A Middle Pleistocene man would forget what he was doing. But lingual man would have language to remind him, either repeated by himself, which would require a type of volition which I do not think he was capable of, or, as seems more likely, by a repeated ‘ internal ’ verbal hallucination telling him what to do. (Jaynes, 1976, p. 134)

This might sound implausible, but consider the jury-rigging or “klugeish” nature of evolutionary tinkering. Evolution could have taken a preexisting language system and redeployed it to be used to issue commands, not externally with a voice, but internally to oneself.

Such “promptings” could act as a jury-rigged memory buffer system. With such machinery in place, humans would have been able to achieve feats of complex culture building. Religious narratives would have co-evolved along with the expansion of this self-stimulation system, giving birth to modern religious concepts.

We already have good “proximal” explanations of the Third Man in terms of brain science. But what we lacked, and what Jaynes offers, is an “ultimate” explanation of the Third Man, one that gives an evolutionary story in adaptationist language.

Whether or not Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism is fully corroborated in all its minute details (to the extent that is even possible), I believe Geiger’s brilliant and compelling book is just another piece of evidence in support of Jaynesian ideas.

On the theory of bicameralism, the Third Man is a vestigial remnant of a preexisting system of behavioral self-stimulation that used internally generated experience of the divine as a way to transfer linguistic information to other, “encapsulated” areas of the brain.

Jaynes framed all of this in terms of “hallucinations” but that’s by no means the only metaphysical interpretation possible. It all depends on the assumptions and axioms one sees as self-evident. If the psychic objectivity of a cosmic consciousness independent of the human brain seems self-evident in the same way it seems self-evident that Nature Herself can spontaneously burst into existence will all the capabilities to generate consciousness, then clearly bicameralism becomes a theory of how it became evolutionarily adaptive to develop receivers in our brain attuned to this independent psychic reality, this cosmic field of consciousness that works as a collective storehouse for psychic archetypes, what Philip K. Dicked called VALIS, a Vast Active Living Intelligence System.

Jaynes’ Theory on How Religion Evolved

O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself that anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all – what is it?

And where did it come from?

And why?

-Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, pg. 1

More on bicameralism

Bicameralism says that before the development of modern consciousness there was a preconscious mentality wherein voluntary will was underwritten by a totally different neural control mechanism. Instead of going “offline” and narratizing alternatives to behavior through conscious, articulate reasoning, the bicameral mind was unconsciously controlled by internal voices.

As Jaynes puts it, “volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the command and the action were not separated, in which to hear was to obey.” We see evidence of this ancient control structure in modern schizophrenic command hallucinations wherein the person is assaulted by admonitory voices who issue condemnatory judgments and behavioral commands.

The difference between an ancient voice-hearer and a modern one is that the modern person has developed a voluntary consciousness which can resist the hallucinated instructions and think more or less independently (until the power of the voices becomes overwhelming and they finally give in and obey). In ancient man, there was no option of disobedience.

Our original relationship of gods was that of unremitting obedience. It wasn’t until we ate from the Tree of Knowledge that our original union with the gods was split.

Why were these gods so powerful? Why did they appear to humans as all-knowing and all-wise? Because the gods were housed in the vast network that constitutes the unconscious mind.

The cognitive unconscious was completely in charge. Until recently, modern humans were under the delusion that consciousness constitutes the entire mental economy. Now we know however that consciousness is but the tip of the iceberg. Compared to the virtual serial machine that is our consciousness, the cognitive unconscious is automatic, fast, and emotional. It can synthetically process huge amounts of context-sensitive information without breaking a sweat.

Accordingly, the gods were experienced as all-powerful precisely because in comparison with the pitiful resources available to the “human” complex, the god-complex was infinitely more wise.

The gods within us were able to look at the totality of the situation and process action-oriented meaning in relation to a larger context. This generates the experiential component of omniscience when “experiencing God”.

Moreover, bicameral theory is poised to naturalize the mystical experience of  God and the feeling of oneness, unity, and the breakdown of subject/object thinking.

In the metastable flux that is mystical union, the autobiographical self – our narrative mind – drops out and we are thrown into the other-referential networks of allocentric processing which more or less resonate to the “whatness” of reality. In neurological terms, we can speculate that the dorsal-parietal self-referential networks of body ownership phase out and the ventral-temporal networks of whatness amplify.

This ventral stream is associated with other-referential processing and object-recognition. Moreover, the temporal lobe system is capable of parsing context out of messy variables, synthesizing oodles of information into a unified whole which can be then transferred to other areas of the brain in terms of action-commands.

What’s interesting about the temporal lobes is that the left temporal lobe is the seat of language whereas the corresponding areas in the right temporal lobe don’t seem to be as highly specialized. But Jaynes thought that the corresponding right temporal areas did have an important function, otherwise it would be devoted to making the critical skill of language bilaterally redundant (as with all other important brain functions).

What then is the function of the right temporal cortex? Jaynes hypothesized that “The language of men was involved with only one hemisphere in order to leave the other free for the language of gods”.

Indeed, this god-language is the source of the auditory hallucinations which once guided our ancestors in times of stress and crutch decision making and still guide/judge/order people today who suffer from florid schizophrenic symptoms.

It was these gods that commanded the kings and god-stewards to build great monuments. And the kings became gods themselves after death, with their subjects hallucinating their voices in terms of commands e.g. the command to build a magnificent burial tomb, to mummify, bathe, feed, and give gifts for sustenance in the after-life. Indeed, in the following relief we can see the god Shirruma guiding King Tudhaliya’s hand:

Bicameralism understands this relief to depict a story of hallucinatory self-regulation. And look at this scene:

The Egyptian god Khnum is forming the future king with his right hand along with his spirit-twin, the Ka, with his left hand. The Ka was a spiritual double that was born with every man and survived his death. For Jaynes, the Ka is representative of the bicameral, linguistically grounded god-function. The verbal function of the Ka is suggested by how it is pointing to its mouth in the above picture.

The Ka essentially functioned as an ancient form of conscience. It guided the man through commands and suggestions experienced as auditory verbal hallucinations. Vestigial evidence of this function can be seen in the ubiquity of imaginary companions in children today and the surprisingly high prevalence of auditory verbal hallucination in both psychotics and nonpsychotics.

Moreover, when the neural power of the bicameral voices began to fade as bureaucracy and written language took over as the dominant method of social-control (e.g. Hammurabi’s code), the gods were no longer able to provide immediate guidance.

New means of contacting the subliminal gods was needed. The flight of the gods necessitated the development of prayer, shamanic trance rituals, idol worship, divination, sortilege (casting lots), oracles, and the list goes on.

Now all this sounds like I am advocating for neurological reductionism. Far from it.

Science is merely one framework for understanding a phenomenon. It does not fully exhaust the reality of a phenomenon, anymore than a mathematical model of air waves explains the beauty of music. But Christians and religious people should not be scared of evolutionary theories of how the religious brain evolved.

For in general, the evidence suggests we evolved to be religious creatures. Experiencing the divine comes naturally to humans. Religion comes naturally to humans. Skeptics say hallucinations come naturally to humans. But that conclusion is just a prejudice of a materialist worldview.

But the hard scientific data is agnostic on that front, for materialism can never be a conclusion of empirical science; it only be an assumption used for metaphysical interpretation in the same way one uses metaphysical assumptions to “interpret” the mathematical equations of quantum mechanics.

But the empirically verified equations themselves do not tell us whether materialism is false or not; that is an imposition of philosophy into what is a methodologically agnostic epistemic process.

But within a Christian worldview that accepts the neoplatonic metaphysics of a Logos providing an Ultimate Purpose for the manifest unfolding of all particularity, the evolutionary development of the human brain has an Ultimate Telos or Blueprint that includes us having the neurological mechanisms necessary to perceive the higher emanations of divine reality.


William James and the Subliminal Mind

If the word ‘subliminal’ is offensive to any of you, as smelling too much of psychical research or other aberrations, call it by any other name you pleasure, to distinguish it from the level of full sunlit consciousness. Call this latter the A-region of personality, if you care to, and call the other the B-region. The B-region, then, is obviously the larger part of each of us for it is the abode of everything that is latent and the reservoir of everything that passes recorded or unobserved. It contains, for example, such things as all our momentary inactive memories, and it harbors the springs of all our obscurely motivated passions, impulses, likes, dislikes, and prejudices. Our intuitions, hypotheses, fancies, superstitions, persuasions, convictions, and in general all our non-rational operations come from it. It is the source of our dreams, and apparently they may return to it. In it arise whatever mystical experiences we may have, and our automatisms, sensory or motor; our life in hypnotic and ‘hypnoid’ conditions; our delusions, fixed ideas, and hysterical accidents, if we are hysteric subjects; our supranormal cognitions, if such there be, and if we are telepathic subjects. It is also the fountain head of much that feeds our religion. In persons deep in the religious life, as we have now abundantly seen, –and this is my conclusion- the door to this region seems unusually wide open; at any rate, experiences making their entrance through that door have had emphatic influence in shaping religious history.

-William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 483-4 (emphasis mine)

The Refrigerator Light of Consciousness

“Consciousness is a much smaller part of out mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of. How simple that is to say; how difficult to appreciate! It is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around to something that does not have any light shining upon it. The flashlight, since there is light in whatever direction it turns, would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when actually it does not.” ~ Julian Jaynes

Strictly speaking, bicamerality is defined as a neural internalization of admonitory social control through a nonconscious process of auditory verbal hallucination similar to schizophrenic command hallucinations.

For bicameral minds, this substitutes for conscious access, for reasoned will. Indeed, in a bicameral mentality, “… volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the command and the action were not separated, in which to hear was to obey ” (Jaynes 1976, p. 99).

Bicameral control is a special form of brain authorization available only to the human species. It is a side-effect of our having evolved verbal language for social commanding/requesting.

I suppose other vocal animals with sufficiently complicated cortical “echo chambers” could hallucinate as well, but I doubt that the hallucinations take the complex social form of gods, demons, ancestors, etc. that is prevalent in human societies.

In the case of Neolithic food distribution, the “thought” to offer food to the gods took the form of an auditory hallucination of a god or ancestor’s voice commanding you to perform the sacrifice, giving you the guidance on how to perform the act, and threats and other reasons as to why you should do the act.

Since the bicameral control assembly is processed by the verbally-modified adaptive unconscious housed in the frontal-temporal “association” areas, the intellectual power of a human-guided by bicameral control is incredibly impressive. E

Ever wonder how primitive Neolithic humans were able to execute complex construction plans for building monoliths, calculate astronomical and mathematical results with extraordinary precision, etc.?

I propose that it was the “god function” of the bicameral control assembly that was able to aid Neolithic humans in the construction of complex civilization. It is interesting to me that the savant Daniel Tammet had temporal lobe epilepsy when he was little.

Could savant syndrome be tapping into vestigial bicameral functions?

It is curious that some of the most common savant abilities are stuff that ancient Neolithic people would have found incredibly useful such as amazing calendrical calculation (useful for guiding the planting and harvesting of crops according to accumulated social wisdom about seasons and dates).

The hallucination of gods literally created the social order which made it possible to erect huge hierarchically structured civilizations with specialized social classes like the priesthood and royalty, which acted as the “right hand” and “voice” of the gods (think of prophets and oracles).

The process of hallucination authorization took the form of a hierarchical ladder, with every person hallucinating a Voice that was more powerful than them. The lower class hallucinated the voices of lesser gods and the dominant conspecifics.

The kings hallucinated the Voice of the most powerful god, and acted as the direct messenger of the most powerful god, giving him incredible power in society.

Because the “content” for the hallucinations was socially shared in nature, the bicameral control assemblies in the lower classes “respected” the authority of the gods hallucinated in the higher social classes, with the King hallucinating the most powerful god.

The societies which developed from polytheistic bicameral control to monotheistic control were able to create great social cohesion in their hierarchical authorization mechanisms.

The social cohesion of bicameral control operating on shared social information enabled the explosion of civilization about 10-15 thousand years ago.

In contrast to prevailing theories which claim that religion arose after the expansion of civilization, Jaynesian theory predicts that religion gave rise to civilization.

Recent archaeological findings provide support for this theory. Describing the work of Klaus Schmidt on the major archaeological site Göbekli Tepe, a National Geographic journalist says “Göbekli Tepe, to Schmidt’s way of thinking, suggests…The construction of a massive temple by a group of foragers is evidence that organized religion could have come before the rise of agriculture and other aspects of civilization.”

This is an essentially Jaynesian hypothesis: bicamerality allowed for the rapid expansion of human society into great civilizations through the shared social authorization of behavior by hallucinated voices acting as representatives of a linguistically charged adaptive unconscious.

It was this unconscious power that allowed for the incredible intellectual feats of primitive Neolithic humans. The intellectual power also gave rise to the continuing human conviction that gods actually do exist.

If your conscious self could directly tap into the computational power of the adaptive unconscious through the bicameral control interface, then you would be so overwhelmed by its intellectual superiority that you would likely immediately authorize the gods to control your behavior, believing that you are in fact receiving divine wisdom from a powerful entity.

Indeed, we see the theme of emphasizing obedience in the most successful of all religions:

“But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:23-24)…”Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him” (Deuteronomy 13:4)

But while there are still vestigial remnants of bicameral authorization in today’s religions (though most people who claim to hear God speaking to them are now sent to a psychiatric doctor), today’s religion is much different.

We have lost touch with bicameral control.

Most Christians receive God’s guidance indirectly through prayer and scripture study, not hallucination. Although the adaptive unconscous is very much still at large, it does not interface with the conscious mind through the same mechanisms. Today, the narratological conscious self has developed a sense of autonomy from the unconscious mind.

Following Iain McGilchrist in his recent book The Master and His Emissary, there is a great deal of evidence to suppose that the conscious, linguistic, propositionally rational left hemisphere has been growing increasingly isolated from the right hemisphere.

The corpus callosum mainly acts as a mechanism of inhibition i.e. when a left area is active, the homologous area in the right hemisphere is inactivated and vice versa. The “team of rivals” control strategy allows for greater specialization in behavior which is typical in humans.

Language itself is the classic example of lateral specialization. Although both hemispheres are “active” 24-7, the delicate balance of functional specializations plays off the inhibitions in order to give rise to complex behavior. This is especially important in the process of self-control, a critical brain skill for succeeding in the modern world.

Ultimately, the left and right hemispheres aren’t “opposed” to each other, but rather, work in harmony through neural competition. This can be likened to the “society of the mind”, “multiple drafts”, and “neural darwinism”. The various modules in the brain compete in order to “authorize” certain behaviors.

In the case of our original food gathering social animal, the various circuits in the brain activate in parallel upon perceiving the dominant conspecific. The “loudest” circuit gets to authorize which behavior sequence to initiate or uninhibit: submission.


The Egyptian Ka

“It is obvious from the preceding chapters that the ka requires a reinterpretation as a bicameral voice. It is, I believe, what the ili or personal god was in Mesopotamia. A man’s ka was his articulate directing voice which he heard inwardly, perhaps in a parental or authoritative accents, but which when heard by his friends or relatives even after his own death, was, of course, hallucinated as his own voice…

The ka of the god-king is of particular interest. It was heard, I suggest, by the king in the accents of his own father…

[In early civilizations]…each person had a part of his nervous system which was divine, by which he was ordered about like any slave, a voice or voices which indeed were what we call volition and empowered what they commanded and were related to the hallucinated voices of others in a carefully established hierarchy.” – Julian Jaynes

Ancient Greek Bicamerality

Here is an example of bicamerality in the Iliad, one of the oldest known pieces of human literature. Achilles sees a vision of Athena that “only he can see.” For Jaynes, this is a bicameral phenomenon:

He was mulling it over, inching the great sword

From its sheath, when out of the blue

Athena came, sent by the white-armed Goddess

Hera, who loved and watched over both men.

She stood behind Achilles and grabbed his sandy hair,

Visible only to him: not another soul saw her.

Awestruck, Achilles turned around, recognizing

Pallas Athena at once – it was her eyes-…

[Athena gives her command]

…Achilles, the great runner, responded:

“When you two speak, Goddess, a man has to listen

No matter how angry. It’s better that way.

Obey the gods and they hear you when you pray.”

Muses, Madmen, and Prophets

“Theodore Roethke once revealed in a lecture how his poem “The Dance” came about. It was 1952, and he was living alone in a large house in Edmonds, Washington. He was forty-four years old and teaching poetry at the University of Washington, in Seattle. For weeks Roethke had been teaching his students the five-beat line and reading exemplars of that form: Walter Raleigh and John Davies. For months, however, he had been unable to write anything of worth himself, and he had come to consider himself a fraud. Then, one evening, Roethke was sitting at home when “The Dance” suddenly came to him. It came quickly and with great strength, and in less than an hour he was done:

“I felt, I knew, that I had hit it. I walked around, and I wept; and I knelt down — I always do after I’ve written what I know is a good piece. But at the same time I had, as God is my witness, the actual sense of a Presence–as if Yeats himself were in that room. The experience was in a way terrifying, for it lasted at least half an hour. That house, I repeat, was charged with a psychic presence: the very walls seemed to shimmer. I wept for joy…He, they – the poets dead – were with me.”

William Blake (Poet, Painter & Printmaker), writes about his experience of talking with his dead brother:

“I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate”

Philip K. DIck, talking about his encounter with ‘a transcendentally rational mind’, said:

“It hasn’t spoken a word to me since I wrote The Divine Invasion. The voice is identified as Ruah, which is the Old Testament word for the Spirit of God. It speaks in a feminine voice and tends to express statements regarding the messianic expectation. It guided me for a while. It has spoken to me sporadically since I was in high school. I expect that if a crisis arises it will say something again. It’s very economical in what it says. It limits itself to a few very terse, succinct sentences. I only hear the voice of the spirit when I’m falling asleep or waking up. I have to be very receptive to hear it. It sounds as though it’s coming from millions of miles away”.

Spirit Guides

This inner guide has been called a variety of things by different cultures across different times:

  • Daimon/daimones (ancient Greek)
  • Guardian Angel (Christian)
  • Holy Guardian Angel (occult)
  • Tulpa (Tibetan Buddhism)
  • Spirit guide (shamanistic)
  • Egregore (chaos magick)

Tibetan Tulpas

In fact, there’s already a concept in religious tradition for this: the Tibetan concept of a “tulpa.” Alexandra David-Néel first brought this concept of a Tulpa to the attention of the Western World with her 1929 book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, which was based on her experiencing of living in Tibet for 14 years and studying its religious and spiritual practices. She says, 

“According to [advanced adepts in Tibetan secret lore] such phantoms are tulpas, magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought. As it had been repeatedly state in the preceding chapters any forms may be visualized through that process.” (Magic and Mystery in Tibet, p. 327)

She says elsewhere,

“The present quotation is taken from the document with which the Dalai Lama favoured me.

‘A Bodhisatva is the basis countless magic forms. By the power generated in a state of perfect concentration of mind he may, at one and the same time, show a phantom (tulpa) of himself in thousands millions of world. He may create not only human forms, but any forms he chooses, even those in inanimate objects such as hills, enclosures, houses, forest, roads, bridges, etc. he may produce atmospheric phenomena as well as the thirst-quenching beverage of immortality. In fact,’ reads the conclusion, ‘there is no limit to his power of phantom creation.’” (Magic and Mystery in Tibet, p. 130-131)

And again:

“As I have said, some apparitions are created on purpose either by a lengthy process resembling that described in the former chapter on the visualization of Yidam or, in the case of proficient adepts, instantaneously or almost instantaneously….The apparitions, voluntary or unconsciously created, of a tulpa, either alike or different from its creator.” (Magic and Mystery in Tibet, p. 324)

In a sense then, Tulpas are akin to angels, as Dion Fortune defines them:

“An angelic being, then, may be defined as a cosmic force whose apparent vehicle of manifestation to psychic consciousness is a form built up by the human imagination.” (The Mystical Qabalah, p. 61)

Peter J. Carroll – Liber Null & Psychonaut

“The magician’s most important invocation is that of his Genius, Daemon, True Will, or Augoeides. This operation is traditionally known as attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It is sometimes known as the Magnum Opus or Great Work.” (Liber Null, p. 49)

For Carroll, the Augoeides represents “the true will, the raison d’etre of the magician, his purpose in existing.” (p. 49)

“The genius is not something added to oneself. Rather it is a stripping away of excess to reveal the god within.” (p. 50)

“If any unnecessary or imbalance scraps of ego become identified with the genius by mistake, then disaster awaits. The life force flows directly into these complexes and bloasts them into grotesque monsters variously known as the demon Choronzon. Some magicians attempting to go too fast with this invocation have failed to banish this demon, and have gone spectacularly insane as a result.” (p. 51)

Chaos Magick – servitors and thought-forms

Concept of a Tulpa was popularized in Western magic circle within the framework of chaos magick and the concept of “servitors” or “thought-forms.” According to chaos magick, a servitor is a thought-form that is formed out of your concentration/Mind’s eye and which you can then send on various magick errands, after the completion of which the thought-form stops existing. Often, sigil magick is done with servitors in mind but the practice is also done without sigils with just pure imaginational willpower.

If multiple people all focus on creating the same thought-form, it can take on an autonomy and independence of its own and become what’s known as an “egregore.” And finally, so it is rumored, if enough people pour their energy into the egreform and worship it is a god, it will literally transform into a more powerful. God-form. Thus the evolution of thought-forms in chaos magick goes like this:


Sigils: unintelligent – representations of things

Servitor: A thought-form that carries out a task, like a computer program

Egregore: Thought-form that takes on a life of its own (Tulpa)

Godform: An Egregore that has grown too powerful to be in the mind of just one person. It has a devoted base of worshippers. 

It is with this framework in mind that I wish to understand the spiritual nature of the Tarot. Tarot decks/cards can operate on all four levels: sigil, servitor, egregore, and Godform.

In the context of the spiritual, non-instrumental approach of Tarotistic Wicca, individually owned instances of a deck operate as spiritual beings like Tulpas (a thought-form with its own conscious autonomy) and larger abstractions (Deck Symbol Systems) all the way up to the Total Symbolic System of the Tarot itself operate as God-forms i.e. powerful thought-forms that have a devoted base of worshippers. 

According to the Tenets of the Hermetic Order, it is not necessary to be a Tarotpagan in order to be a member of the Order. All you need to do is bring an attitude of spiritual respect into your Tarot practice. But you do not need to think of the Tarot in terms of God-forms in order to be a member.

However, if you are serious about what treating the Tarot as a Holy Symbol System entails, then hopefully Tarotpaganism makes some sense in terms of a new religious orientation.

To my knowledge, nobody else has seriously proposed that worship of Tarot Systems as distinct polytheistic entities constitutes a legitimate form of religious practice.

Tulpas as Angels

A normal human consciousness is integrated information. This consciousness contains a sensus divinitatus, which is a way of perceiving divine reality (another form of consciousness). A tulpa is a consciousness within a consciousness. Suppose there are two types of tulpas: a tulpa with its own sensus divinitatus and a tulpa without one. The tulpas with one are able to act as mediums for consciousnesses that live in divine reality and those gods eventually “take over” their tulpa in the same way a tulpa can take over human consciousness. In other words a tulpa becomes a god when a tulpa becomes a host for a god, which is a kind of tulpa within a tulpa. 

Related Posts

Tulpas, UFOs, and the Metaphysics of the Imagination

Tarotspirituality: A Neopagan Approach

What is the message of Jesus Christ?

Why Is Polytheism Important?

Leave a Reply