Chapter 17. The Personal Demon

Come, then, let us now endeavor, so far as we are able, to straighten the complicated problem in respect to the personal daemon, which is likewise made the theme for various objections. So, therefore, to speak plainly, the treatment of the subject in respect to the personal daemon is twofold, theurgic and technic: the one evoking him from the categories above, and the other from the visible periods in the world of generated existence. The former makes no use of the art of casting nativities, but the latter is devoted to such pursuits. The former pays honor to the daemon more generally as superior to the province of nature, but the latter specifically as pertaining to the realm of nature altogether. Hence thou seemest to have brought down strangely the most perfect sacred performance to regard as a mere human affair, and to have put thy questions upon this subject as in a gymnastic exercise.

So then, thou appearest to me to have cut off here only a very small part of the statement in relation to the personal daemon. For it is the custom of those who work by the rules of the art of vaticination in respect to the time of birth <sup>1</sup> to summon him in a prescribed form from the decans and the risings of the constellations of the zodiac and likewise the stars; the sun also and the moon, and from the Bears <sup>2</sup> and likewise from all the elements, <sup>3</sup> and from the world. It is not fair for thee thus to parcel out one very small part of the subject, “the Lord of the House,” <sup>4</sup> and put questions simply in regard to that.

Here, in turn, thou askest in relation to one single subject under consideration (the personal daemon), “how the Lord of the House assigns it: according to what purpose, or what quality of emanation, or life, or power, comes from it to us.” Thou also puttest the question in regard to “the calculating of nativities, whether it (the daemon) actually exists, or not,” and in regard to the finding of the Lord of the House, “whether it is impossible or possible.” What importance have these questions about the domination, in relation to the daemon? For it is evident that our knowing as to how he exists makes no difference in regard to such matters as his essence and cause. For in respect to things having an origin in the realm of nature, even though we do not chance to know, it happens all the same, that all and each of them have their own stability of essence in the universe. Thus, therefore, we will meet thy difficulties generally; but we will direct our attention specifically to what thou askest and endeavor in respect to them to give thee the solutions.

Thou also declarest that “the person who has learned the scheme of his nativity, and so knowing his own daemon, is liberated from fate, is truly favored by divinity.” Thou dost not seem to me, however, to be saying these things altogether in harmony, either with themselves or with the truth. For if the daemon has been assigned to us from the scheme of nativity, and we may find him from that, how are we released from fate through the knowledge that the daemon was given to us according to fate? But if, as thou dost declare, we are really set free from necessity through the daemon, how was it allotted to us by Fate?

Hence the things now uttered by thee not only conflict with themselves, but they are also at variance with the truth; seeing that the personal daemon does not by any means come to every one by the scheme of his peculiar nativity. On the other hand, its origin, which we will hereafter set forth, was older than this. If, therefore, the daemon that comes down should be contemplated alone from that source, the individual who attained a knowledge of the daemon of his nativity, would by no means be happy or fortunate. Who, indeed, if in this case it were permitted to him, in order that he might accomplish the allotments from fate, would consent to receive the daemon as a guide to liberation from fate? Yet this appears to me as a part of the theory respecting the daemon, and to be the last of the kind, but that the whole of his essence is passed over in silence by such a mode of investigation. Yet these things, although they are incorrectly stated, are, nevertheless, not utterly foreign to the subject.

The doubts, however, which thou bringest out in their order, in relation to “the enumeration of the Canons,” and in relation to “skill in calculating nativities,” that they are “beyond comprehension,” do not involve us in any controversy in relation to the subjects before us. For whether these arts are knowable or beyond comprehension, yet the aura or emanation from the stars brings the daemon to us, whether we our-selves are cognizant of it or not. The divine oracular art, <sup>5</sup> however, can teach us in relation to the stars as to that which is the truest, and, at any rate, we have no need of the enumeration of the canons, or of the art of divining.

If, however, it is necessary, when dismissing these subjects, to say it, thou dost not seem to me right in what thou affirmest, namely: That it is impossible for expertness in astral observations <sup>6</sup> to amount to any actual knowing, for there is great disagreement in relation to it, and because Chæremon or somebody else has spoken against it.“ Indeed, by this mode of argument reasoning will be beyond comprehension. For all the sciences <sup>7</sup> have tens of thousands of persons disputing, and the matters of doubt in them have been innumerable. Hence, therefore, we are accustomed to say in opposition to those who are fond of disputing, that contradictory things create dissension even in things that are actually true, and that falsities are not alone in fighting one another. So, also, in regard to the mathematical science astrology, we may not only affirm that it is true, but also that those who err in respect to it contradict, knowing nothing in respect to the things that are really true. This happens, however, not only in relation to this science, but also in relation to all the sciences which are delivered from the gods to human beings. For as time is always going on, they are often intermingled with much that is of mortal origin, and the divine character of the knowledge becomes greatly obliterated. It is truly within, however, and though scanty, this sure evidence of the truth is nevertheless effectual for its preservation. When the signs of the measurement of the revolutions of the divine ones are clearly evident before the eyes, when they indicate beforehand the eclipses of the sun and moon, the enterings of the sun into the signs of the zodiac, and departures out of them, and the concurrent risings and settings of the moon with those of the fixed stars, the proof of actual sight is manifested agreeing with the prediction. And what is more, the observations of the heavenly bodies which have been preserved through all the period, both by the Chaldaeans <sup>8</sup> and by ourselves, bear witness together to the truth of this Science.

Demonstrations better known than these might be exhibited, if the discourse had been primarily upon these subjects. Nevertheless, as they are superfluous, and do not pertain to the recognition of the daemon, it is proper that I leave them out, and pass on to matters more appropriate than these.

In thy epistle thou makest this statement “The assumption of the Lord of the House (or Lords of the House, if there are more than one) pertaining to a nativity, is almost confessed by astrologers themselves to be beyond absolute proving; and yet. it is from this assumption, they say, that the ascertaining of one's own personal daemon is possible.” How is the knowing of the Lord of the House to be acknowledged by them to be beyond comprehending, when they deliver clear methods in relation to its discovery, and likewise teach thoroughly the elementary principles for the determining of the disputed matters; some five, others more, and others fewer? <sup>9</sup> However, in order that we may get beyond this, let us proceed to examine a matter of more importance, the contingent attributes of both sides of the question. For, if it is possible to discover the Lord of the House pertaining to the nativity, the daemon that has been assigned from it is also knowable; and if the matter is out of reach, then, according to this hypothesis, we do not know him. Nevertheless, as there is a Lord of the House, there is also a daemon that has been assigned from him. What hinders, then, that while it may indeed be difficult to discover him through the calculating of the nativity, it may be easy to perceive him by means of sacred divination or theurgy?

In short, the daemon is not assigned by the Lord of the House only, but, on the other hand, there are many origins for him more universal than by the Lord of the House. <sup>10</sup> Still, however, such a method introduces an artificial and human procedure in regard to the personal daemon. Hence in these difficulties which thou hast suggested there is nothing wholesome.

If, however, it is necessary to reveal to thee the true doctrine in relation to the personal daemon let me say this: It is not from one part in the sky, nor from any individual element of the objects that are visible, <sup>11</sup> that he is assigned to us. But there is from the whole world and the various kinds of life in it, and the various kinds of body by which the soul comes down into the realm of generated existence, an allotted portion, all our own, divided among us to each of the distinctive qualities in us, which distribution is made according to the ruling disposition of each individual.

This daemon, therefore, is present as exemplar <sup>12</sup> before the souls descend into the realm of generated existence. As soon as the soul chooses him for leader <sup>13</sup> the daemon immediately comes into charge of the completing of its vital endowments, and when it descends into the body, unites it with the body, and becomes the guardian of its common living principle. He likewise himself directs the private life of the soul, and whatever the conclusions we may arrive at by inference and reasoning, he himself imparts to us the principles. We think and do just such things as he brings to us by way of thought. He guides human beings thus continually till through the sacred theurgic discipline we shall obtain a god to be guardian and leader of the soul. For then he gives place to the superior, or delivers over the superintendence, or becomes subject, as a tributary, to him, or in some other way is servant to him as to an Overlord. <sup>14</sup>

From these facts I may easily reply to your next question. For the personal daemon does not “preside over specific regions in us,” but simply over all at once. He pervades every principle about us, in the same manner as it was assigned from all the orders of intelligence in the universe. For it also seems proper to thee to remark as follows: “That there are daemons placed over specific departments of the body, one over health, one over the figure, and another over the bodily habits, forming a bond of union among them, and that one is placed as superior over all of them in common.” This very thing thou shouldst consider as proof that the authority over everything in us is vested in one daemon alone. Accordingly it is not right to define “one daemon as guardian of the body, another of the soul, and another of the mind.” For if the living person is one individual and the daemon manifold that is placed over him, the notion is absurd. Certainly the ruling powers everywhere are single rather than those that are ruled. But it is still more absurd if the many daemons ruling over special departments are not akin, but are to be classified apart from one another.

Thou also declarest that there are contradictory characters among them, saying that “some daemons are good and others bad.” Evil daemons have no allotment whatever as guardians, and they are never classified in opposition to the good, like one party against another, as though having equal importance.

Having in succession abandoned these points, thou goest quickly over to the conjecture of the (Grecian) philosophy; yet in relation to the personal daemon thou overturnest the entire hypothesis. For if the daemon is “a part of the soul,” as, for instance, the spiritual or intellectible, <sup>15</sup> and “he who has a mind imbued with good sense is the truly favored one,” there will be no other order of beings, divine or daemonian, assuming authority over the human soul as being superior to it. Instead, there will be special parts of the soul, or some power existing separately supreme over the many forms of the life within us; and these, not as allied by nature, but as having been set apart as superior in their nature to our entire substance.

After this thou callest to mind another statement in relation to the personal daemon, namely: that “some persons perform worship as to two, and others as to three of this class.” This, however, is all erroneous. For the classifying of the superior causes that are placed over us instead of including them in one, is a fallacious way of proceeding, and it goes completely astray from the unity which holds dominion in every-thing. The doctrine which apportions the daemon into parts in the body, or in the governing of the body, drags down its leadership to a very small point. What necessity, in such case, for those who entertain such an opinion, to regard sacred rites, the first principle of them being unsound?

There is, accordingly, one personal guardian daemon for every one of us. It is not right to assume that it is common to everybody, or that it is common at all, but only that it is present with every individual as his own. For a distribution to every species, and the diversity existing in the realm of matter, do not admit of the union and identity of things essentially incorporeal.

Why is it, then, that the daemon “is invoked by all with a common form of invocation”? It is because their invocation is made through one divinity; the Lord of the daemons who from the beginning assigned to every one his personal daemon. <sup>16</sup> Even now also at the sacred rites he makes known to all and each their personal daemons, according to his own purpose. For always in the theurgic arrangement, the secondary are invoked through the superior divinities. In respect to the demons, therefore, one common leader of the cosmocrators, <sup>17</sup> in respect to the nativity, sends down to each and all, his personal daemon. Hence when the personal daemon is present he makes known his own proper worship and teaches the proper mode by which he is to be invoked.

This arrangement is also acceptable to the daemons. One part of it is akin to the daemons that are invoked: another comes down from the more ancient categories: and the third makes a joint action from both the others. Do not, therefore, liken the invocations of gods with those to men, nor things not to be uttered with those that may be told; and do not compare the things that are prior to every limitation and every undefined mode, to those that have been defined by men or with indefinite arrangements. For these things that belong with us have nothing in common with those who are wholly superior to us in their entire race and order and rule the whole of our essence and nature.

Nevertheless, right here especially, the greatest failures occur to men when from human weakness, they infer anything in relation to the guardianship of the daemons: and when with things that are trivial, worthy of nothing, and in parts, they form a judgment of beings that are great, noteworthy and perfect.

This much we answer you in respect to the personal daemon in addition to what was said before.



  • 1. Greek, phusis. This term has a wide signification. It strictly means the passive or material principle, the originating power of the universe: but from that it has been used to denote the constitution of things, the peculiarity of sex, the bent of disposition, etc. Our author here employs the term as the female agency in production, contrasting it with the genesis. It thus signifies “birth” and has been rendered accordingly.
  • 2. It has been remarked as an argument against the genuineness of this sentence, if not of the entire book, that the Egyptian astrologists did not have the Great and Little Bear in their planisphere. Iamblichos, however, was a Syrian and conversant with Chaldaean and Grecian learning. Herodotus names the Bear as a northern constellation. See I, 148: V, 10.
  • 3. This term has a somewhat indefinite signification. It is supposed accordingly by some to denote in this connection the planets, and by others, the signs in the zodiac.
  • 4. Every sign of the zodiac was considered to have a “house” for its “lord,” or ruling planet. In the Gospel according to Matthew a pun seems to he made on the term. “If they call the lord of the house Beel Zebul.” This last name signifies “lord of the house.”
  • 5. Ficino renders this term “divine inspiration” in this place where it is contrasted with the art of casting nativities.
  • 6. Greek, mathematical episteme, literally, skill in mathematics. But at the time when this work was written the term “mathematics” was employed to denote astrology, and accordingly it is so rendered.
  • 7. Greek, epistemai. This term properly denotes knowledges of a superior character, which are comprehended by the noetic intelligence, instead of the dianoetic reasoning faculty. Hence it signifies what is above the common arts which are learned and classified, and so constitute what is in modern times designated “science” and “exact science.”
  • 8. The Aeon, or period, was reckoned as three hundred thousand years. Proklos, in his Commentary on the Timaeus, states that the Chaldaeans had records of observations of the stars which embraced entire cosmic cycles of time. Cicero, in his treatise on Divination, declares that they had records of the stars for the space of 370,000 years; and Diodoros the Sicilian asserts that their observation comprehended 470,000 years. As great antiquity was also claimed for the Egyptians. Kallisthenes when in Babylon sent the computations of the Chaldaeans to his uncle Aristotle.
  • 9. “We say,” says Hephæstion of Alexandria, “that a star which has five conditions anywhere in sight is a Lord of the House: in other words, if that star received the luminaries in their own boundaries, their own altitude, and their own triangle.” He adds this condition: “if besides it has contiguity, emanation and configuration.”
  • 10. According to the Egyptian notion, every person received his guardian daemon at the hour of birth, and they looked no further. They regarded only the horoscope.
  • 11. Greek, stoicheion. In later centuries of the Roman Empire, this term was used to signify planets and signs of the zodiac.
  • 12. In other words the ideal or divine model after which the soul takes earthly form.
  • 13. PLATO: Republic, X. Plato has outlined no distinction beyond choosing a mode of living, but here it is affirmed that the soul chooses a daemon of a superior order by its own intelligent volition.
  • 14. One writer remarks: “A daemon is placed with every human being to be his initiator into the mysteries of life.”
  • 15. Menander says: “The mind is our daemon.” The term was used with a variety of meanings at different times.
  • 16. This seems to be at variance with Plato, who says: “The daemon will not receive you as his allotment, but you shall choose the daemon: the cause is in him who makes the choice, and the Deity is blameless.”
  • 17. Rulers of the cosmic world: the daemons allotted to the several regions of the universe. The term occurs in the Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, vi, 12.