In Chapter twenty six of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy, the great expositor of esoteric wisdom, Henry Cornelius Agrippa, provides us with one of the most complete modern variations of the ancient concept of tutelary spirits, which he divides as the Angel, the Genius and Evil Daemon:
“Drawing [the name] from the disposition of the heaven; as for example, any Celestiall Harmonie being proposed to thee for the making an image or ring, or any other work to be done under a certain constellation; if thou will finde out the spirit that is the ruler of that work… [casting] forth letters in their number and order from the degree of the ascendent, according to the succession of signes through each degree by filling the whole circle of the heaven: then those letters which fall into the places of the Stars the aid whereof thou wouldest use, being according to the number, and powers of those Stars, marked without into number, and order, make the name of a good spirit: but if thou shalt do so from the beginning of a degree falling against the progresse of the signes, the resulting spirit shall be evil.”
Further, he elaborates on the nature of such spirits as they relate to the individual:
“Every man hath a threefold good Demon, as a proper keeper, or preserver, the one whereof is holy, another of the nativity, and the other of profession. The holy Demon is one, according to the Doctrine of the Egyptians, assigned to the rationall soul, not from the Stars or Planets, but from a supernaturall cause, from God himself, the president of Demons, being universall, above nature: This doth direct the life of the soul, & doth alwaies put good thoughts into the minde, being alwaies active in illuminating us, although we do not alwaies take notice of it; but when we are purified, and live peaceably, then it is perceived by us, then it doth as it were speak with us, and communicates its voyce [voice] to us, being before silent, and studyeth daily to bring us to a sacred perfection.”
This concept of a Three-Fold Divinity is common in nearly every Semitic and Indo-European culturea, similarly popping up in some East Asian and African religious traditions as well. For the purposes of this, I’m merely going to treat the Indo-European perspective of the Abrahamic religious tradition through the lens of the Neoplatonism which would have been familiar to Agrippa in his writing.
According to Neoplatonic philosophy, spiritual beings exist heirarchically in two prinicpal forms, a tetrad comprising the unitive intelligible forms of divinity; and a triad, composed of intelligible forms that may be classified as hypercosmic, liberated and encosmic. The Tetradic hierarchy is mostly cosmic, from a a modern Western Esoteric perspective, one might not do wrong by examining much of the material on the mysteries of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) or, from a Gnostic perspective, the Simonian mysteries of the Father, Mother, Son and Daughter as a Tetradic expression of the Trinity. The function of the triadic hierarchies is to facilitate illumination and purification toward Godhead, or in classical Neoplatonic terms, the Pre-essential Demiurgos which is not to be confused with the Demiurge as commonly depicted in Gnostic legend.
From this vantage point, it seems clear that Agrippa’s Genius and Evil Daemon function somewhat as two aspects of the individual’s personal spiritual ‘pantheon’, with the Guardian Angel at the apex of the hierarchy. This is a particularly important consideration as it removes the otherwise gross consideration of having a little angel and a little devil vying for control over a person’s life in a much unsophisticated, dualistic manner that I’m fairly certain Agrippa had not intended. The Genius and Evil Daemon, then, may be seen as enforcers of the Holy Guardian Angel prior to the mystical or theurgical illumination in which the magician or mystic attains knowledge and conversation with the latter and, finally, acheive henosis with the Pre-essential Demiurgos – i.e. Godhead.
The third, or fourth, entity in Agrippa’s schema of personal daimonology is the Daimon of Profession. From a surface reading, it may seem that this particular entity may complete a tetradic heirarchy, I doubt that this was necessarily implied as it does not seem to function in any distinct way other than influencing one’s personal profession which, at the time was more or less fixed according to class (e.g. a son inheriting the father’s business; the daughter, becoming wife and moving up or down social rank through marriage) which we understand now is neither conducive to the concept of Free Will nor theurgic ascent. For this reason, I view it as a changeable entity separate from the triadic heirarchy.
To begin working with the Genius and Evil Daemon, Agrippa conveniently lays out a system of arriving at their natural names through an advanced system of Hebrew gematria and astrological calculation, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book 3, xxvi:
“There are also the Arabians, and many others, and some Hebrews, who finde out the name of a Genius by the places of the five Hylegians, and making projection alwayes from the beginning of Aries, and the letters being found out according to
the order of Hylegians with the Astrologers, being reduced into a known order, and being joyned together, make the name of a good Genius: but they draw the name of an evil Genius from the opposite Hylegian places, projection being made from the last degree of Pisces against the order of signs.”
While one may easily calculate this by hand, there are fortunately many avenues of arriving at this presently; personally, I would suggest finding a person such as the contemporary occult writer Frater Rufus Opus who does so for a small fee and from whom one may obtain much informative literature; the second is through computational means such as those provided by Frater Acher in his blog, “My Occult Circle“. The methodology of Frater Rufus Opus is will be well suited to anyone with a vested interest in Agrippan and Trithemean methods of magical practice and I highly recommend them for those inclined toward that angle. My own personal method, drawing much on my own experiences working more in line with Graeco-Egyptian magic are outlined below.
On a convenient day, preferably making first contact on your own birthday but any Sunday seems to work, arise early at the first hour of the sun and purify the temple space with water and incense. In a symbolic alphabet such as the celestial alphabet or having transliterated the name into a known alphabet be it Greek, Latin or Coptic, draw the name of the Genius at the back of the altar in consecrated oil. Having composed an invocation beforehand; call to that spirit and make an offering of frankincense. Toward the front of the altar, in the same manner, write the name of the Evil Daemon in consecrated oil, make an offering of myrrh and recite a similar invocation. In the center of the altar, light a large pillar candle in offering to your Holy Guardian Angel to mediate between these two forces.
The above ceremony can be done on any day, according to one’s inclinations, to facilitate conversation with these lesser daimones and to indicate to the mediating Holy Guardian Angel one’s intentions toward attaining Knowledge and Conversation, which is not a pre-requisite to this practice and, in fact, I would suggest holding off on until one has a more thorough understanding of the supporting and persecuting forces in their lives.
It should be important to note, that one may choose at some point to only work with the Good Genius or the Evil Daemon on a particular day. This is highly encouraged. From the Good Genius, one may obtain a clearer picture of their own progress along the path of their practice and from the Evil Daemon, obtain a record of their pitfalls from which they are able to rise above, make amends where possible, and move closer up the theurgic ascent. As a note, I absolutely reject the concept of subjugating or otherwise eliminating the Evil Daemon on the basis that I find reconciliation between opposing dynamic forces to be more beneficial and symbolic of uniting relative and ultimate truths of one’s nature and thus Macro and Microcosms, than dividing everything grossly and unscrupulously.
Until one attains to Knowledge and Conversation with their Holy Guardian Angel, there is ample opportunity to explore their own spiritual hierarchy through conversing with the more immediate daimonic forces. I strongly suggest this beneficial practice of obtaining and working with these spirits to be to the ultimate benefit of the aspirant to K&CHGA and significantly more confidence increasing than the current modality of pass and fail with the HGA working alone. To those who may have found benefit with this brief essay, I look forward to hearing your results and if there are any questions, please feel free to comment below.
Platonic Daimon from the Neoplatonic Tarot by Jeffrey Kupperman