DAIMON: Demon or Destiny?

Jul 7, 2022

A Caravaggio painting of St Matthew being inspired by an angel illustrates the idea of the daimon, or guiding spirit of individual destiny.
The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio

The daimon, a guiding spirit of individual destiny, was discussed by ancient Greek philosophers and still surfaces in books and movies like The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Daimons were particularly linked to creativity and life force and described as lesser deities, divine messengers, and determinative fates. For Jung, “daimon” was a synonym for that part of the unconscious concerned with life purpose, and it spoke through intuition and dreams. Ego’s task is transforming the autonomous power of the daimon into authentic expression in life. Jungian analyst and author James 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.”

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I am sitting in the front row of an academic lecture in a large auditorium. I can see my father sitting way back in the last row. A speaker is introduced. He begins to perform miraculous feats. For example, although he is an older man in his 60s, he successfully bench-presses over 500 pounds on stage. Next, he begins to levitate. While flying through the air, he proclaims that he is Jesus. He demands that everyone in the audience pray to him in worship. I do not pray to him. He goes around to each audience member and requests a prayer – all obey. When he appears in front of me, he demands a prayer. I hold up two sticks in the shape of a cross and denounce him. I state angrily that “Christ protects me” and that “this old man is not God.” At this point, I notice that my father (in the back row) is the only other person in the building not praying to the fraud.” 


James Hillman. The Soul’s Code. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0182Q5VQ6/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_PQMPE5QJ2S9FWVB3CTAK

Andrew Solomon. Far From the Tree. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0743236726/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_47WXXPMBZNTE88VHYTC7


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  1. Sabina Clarke

    This is fascinating- never knew this

  2. Mamie Allegretti

    Hello Deb, Joseph and Lisa,
    Thanks for this episode. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this topic. I’m obsessed with it really! I’ve been reading a lot of Corbin and books about Sufism lately. There is this same idea of the daimon as the Beloved but it’s taken even further in that the daimon (and that unknowable source behind the daimon) can actually be changed through the human being’s relation to it. Basically, the unknowable “wants” to be known through all manifestations. Sound familiar? So the idea also came to me that individuation and the mysterium coniunctionis can be seen as the symbiotic relationship of the ego to its daimon or Beloved. And the Beloved is an emanation you might say of God, the Mystery, the Divine, Spirit – whatever you like to call it. As to your comments, Joseph, on how to know the voice of the daimon, two excellent books come to mind. Both are by the Jungian Analyst Jeffrey Raff. The first is The Practice of Ally Work and the other is Healing the Wounded God. Gary Lachman also gives a nice overview of the imaginal in his book Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Henri Corbin’s book Alone with the Alone is also excellent. It also makes me think of Jung’s definition of God and how it really expresses the quality of this daimon perfectly. It also makes me think of his Vocatus quote as well. Even if we don’t consciously seek our daimon, it is always there. Thanks for this episode!


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