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Are there angels and demons on the Way of Hermes?

Angels are never mentioned in the hermetic texts. The original Greek term just means “messenger”, and was a title of several gods. Contrary to the term “angel”, the term ‘demon” is often found in the hermetic texts. But what are these demons and are they similar to demons and devils in Christianity, Judaism or Islam?

The term “demon” found in the hermetic texts should not be understood in the sense of the Christian-influenced notion of “wicked devils”. The proper Greek term that provides the origin for this word, daimōn (pl. daimones), refers to spirits in general, technically including even the gods and human souls (even if they should be treated differently).

In a Hermetic context, daimones are spirits, but these spirits are also energies. “Energy”, likewise, has a specific meaning that isn’t reflected well by its modern sense; an “energy” is a force-at-work, a being-at-work-ness that is actively doing something or causing something to be done.

To use a physic metaphor, philosophical energy is like kinetic energy while philosophical power (Greek dynamis) is like potential energy. In a Hermetic sense, all things that are at-work are fundamentally being done by daimones.

The Cosmos (the material realm in which we live) is constantly creating itself, and so has a vested interest in its own continued creation. As a result, the encosmic powers and entities that are that rule over this place do what they can to ensure that things keep being made and keep being materially present. This includes the daimones, that seek to continue to make things work (the core meaning of the word “energy”) down here.

Humanity (in the hermetic texts called Anthropos) on the other hand, is in an awkward position when it comes to all this, since our bodies are from the cosmos but our souls come from a place beyond the cosmos (i.e. God). The essence of humanity is their soul, not their body; the soul has the body, but the soul is not the body.

Moreover, our job as humans is to rise up to (re)join God in the place beyond the cosmos, starting from where we are as incarnate beings. This is where things get tricky for us, because the body wants to keep being a body and wants to keep living (because all things in the cosmos want to continue themselves), but the soul needs to use the body in a way that helps the soul and doesn’t hurt it, while the body’s own needs would seek to thwart the soul for the body’s own ends.

A human being is twofold, body and soul. Mind (Greek nous, a sense of divine and direct awareness) is a faculty or potentiality that lies dormant in most people. Soul moves and inhabits the body, but has to wrestle with the body as well, since while the soul has its own needs, so too does the body (known as “drive” and “desire”, also technical terms in Hermeticism and Platonic philosophy).

The body takes primary influence from the soul, but it can also be influenced by other forces as well (like how a computer speaker gets the bulk of its signals from the computer that it’s connected to, but strong radio or magnetic signals nearby can influence the sound coming out of it too).

In those who have Mind (or who have Mind awakened as an active and not latent faculty of soul), Mind is what provides divine, true, and proper conceptions for the soul to work with and to relay to the body, and offers a form of insulation and protection from non-divine sources of influence.

However, in those who do not have Mind (or who do not have Mind awakened), the soul is far more susceptible to influence from non-divine sources, i.e. daimones, like whispers in the ear of a king who officially relies on their own judgment but whose judgment can be swayed by their courtiers.

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