The Daimon- Shadow & Light

The psyche in its impulse towards wholeness does not always guide us toward the light, instead sometimes plunges us into the dark and often shocking recesses of the unconscious, our own and the collective.

In coming to terms my own darkness I have attempted to define it, give it shape and form, a reason for being and a name… in short, I have tried to know the darkness. But the primordial darkness cannot be known any more than the light as both belong to the mystery and may not be so opposite and we have led to believe.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light: and there was light”.


Detail from Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel.

The Christian- Judaeo tradition separates dark and light and ascribes names to these states- Christ and Satan, Heaven and Hell, good and evil. Within that tradition we are taught that we ought to strive for the light… that Christ is all good while the devil is all bad. But what if these two seemingly opposite states are in fact one in the same and that what has been feared as evil and darkness is in fact an expression of what has been known since the time of Socrates as the daimon, the guiding principle mediating between our human and divine states of being- or our guide to help us realise our true nature?


blake 3

‘Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ c.1805 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949

God does indeed move in mysterious ways and the daimon, as an intermediate power of divine order, interacts with all parts of our being from the highest to the lowest to facilitate our wholeness. According to Plato, the daimon exists within us before birth and the conditions are set for the journey through life to reveal the will of God.

The daimon appears as the ultimate trickster and speaks to us through archetype, symbol and the imaginal, and in this way the daimon will draw upon and use any means in order to communicate to us… and it does not always appear as benevolent. This communion largely depends on how conscious we are of a situation; the daimon may talk to us in a symbolic language that can be understood only by us.

Influenced by Jungian and archetypal psychology my sense of the daimon is also shaped by my personal experience and confrontation with the darkness of my own soul. I am  inspired by those who have allowed themselves to be transformed by their darkness.

Carl Jung famously had a confrontation with his own unconscious from which he created the Red Book; Philemon was a guide who appeared to Jung in a dream in 1913. Jung says,

[Philemon] was simply a superior knowledge, and he taught me psychological objectivity and the actuality of the soul. He formulated and expressed everything which I had never thought.


During Jung’s descent he was aware that he was being guided by a power that he was incapable or resisting and therefore did not feel that his life was entirely his own-

I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice…. . . A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon …. This lack of freedom has been a great sorrow to me. ~Carl Jung, Jung’s Last Years, Page 141.

The purpose of a such a journey (or ordeal) is to transcend the limited scope of the ego. Jung writes,

Thus the Self can appear in all shapes from the highest to the lowest, inasmuch as these transcend the scope of the ego personality in the manner of a daimonion ~Carl Jung, CW 9ii, Para 356

When we are in the grip of the daimon and the archetypal forces, our ego is shattered, and a new sense perception is revealed to us. Returning from the experience we are changed forever. Many mystics and saints were touched by God through ecstatic states where the holy spirit descended into them- think of Saint Theresa of Avila.

the whole statue

Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila”

Ecstasy means to stand outside oneself and many indigenous cultures as well as the ancients understood the power of ecstatic ritual, dance, theatre, and song to enable moving beyond the restrictions of the ego. We also move beyond the ego when we are broken down in psychosis, madness, dissociation, or any altered state caused by archetypal forces being too powerful or over-whelming for the ego to handle. Likewise, we can reach these states through psycho-active substances or Dionysian intoxication, and through sex. In all of these transcended states we return transformed in some way, however there are dangers and perils on this journey- we may become stuck or lost, attached to the archetype, addicted to intoxication or just too far into madness to return.


Orpheus returning form the Underworld

The archetypal forces- guided by the daimon– move through us and can destroy us if we do not provide adequate containment or are not prepared for the penetration. Restoring ritual in our modern world will go a long way in helping us to navigate archetypal meetings.

We can be exposed to the archetypal realm through wounds that occurs in early childhood… sometimes called sacred wounds, created when forces that move through our underdeveloped psyche are so over-whelming that they cannot be processed in the usual way and are instead introjected. This creates a rich and magical world that can be dissociated from the external world of consensual reality causing our psyche to become fragmented. 

Plato believed that between our human state and God a spectrum of forms or states existed – including the daimonic– and that the human realm was inferior to loftier states such as the angelic realms.

Instead of separating heaven and earth, human and divine, could the times we are living through now be about merging these states and recognizing our human divinity?


Archangel Michael by Guido Reni




1 thought on “The Daimon- Shadow & Light

  1. Pingback: The ritual landscape, the faery realm, and the Grail – Red Spiral

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