Ta’wil and the Daimon

Ta’wil and the Daimon

We might think of the daimon as the ego of one’s entelechy, the personification within one’s psyche of the higher presence (Jean Houston, A Mythic Life, page 130). . .

Many of us have read James Hillman’s wonderful book, Soul’s Code, where he discusses the daimon, along with his acorn theory of Soul (See my essay, Follow Your Star, for my thoughts on the daimon). I’ve always imagined the daimon to be similar to a guardian angel, as in Catholicism. I have learned recently, from reading Tom Cheetham, that this idea is of Zoroastrian origin, and is very prevalent in Sufi mysticism. I have been aware for years that the daimon is a messenger, which is the meaning of the word “angel.” Until reading about Henry Corbin’s work, I didn’t realize how truly important these messengers are for all of us. 

Hillman’s acorn theory is really just the introduction to what I will call the Messenger. In the exchanges between Hillman and Michael Ventura (We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy–and the World is getting Worse), Hillman discusses a self-portrait of Pablo Picasso that he painted at the age of ninety-one. It is called Le Jeune Peintre (The Young Painter). It shows a child holding a brush and wearing a floppy hat. He has a happy smile and seems to be enjoying his life immensely. Hillman is of the opinion that it is the image of an acorn painted by an oak; Picasso painted his Mesenger at the end of his physical life, having realized the being of his daimon. Jean Houston says of the painting, “it is the portrait of the seed of the entelechy painted by the fully realized self” (ibid.). Hillman also comments that this portrait confirms Henry Corbin’s idea that we are not individuating ourselves at all; throughout our lives, we are actually individuating our Messenger. The thought comes to mind of Jung’s Bollingen Tower. Was the tower Jung’s materialization in stone of his daimon? I think so.

Hillman goes on to discuss Henry Corbin’s thoughts on the Islamic idea of ta’wil, the Sufi art of hermeneutics, or interpretative reading. We must “read life itself.” Our Messenger is trying to individuate into this world, to manifest itself; it is up to us to read and properly interpret the Messenger’s life and being into ours.

I am just learning about these exciting things, so I may not be conveying these ideas accurately; bear with me. I am trying to listen closely to my Messenger.

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