The Holy Guardian Angel: a tricky little devil
by Ed Richardson
The Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) remains as something of an enigma to this day despite some occult schools describing it as an essential element at the core of magical practice. Paradoxically, little of any practical use has been written on working with the HGA despite its potentially enormous source of magical inspiration. To many gaining "knowledge and conversation" of one’s HGA is a sign of passing through "occult puberty" successfully and I would suggest that this is a useful perspective, the reasons for which are outlined below.
This essay will explain why one should bother working with such entities, will indicate some methods and will then explain some of the pitfalls which make this work tricky. First, however, a little shall be said about what the HGA might be.
What is it?
The HGA is a very difficulty concept to define, as most labels serve to impose falsehood and/or limitations on what the HGA may be (I did say there would be pitfalls!). However, unlike many magicians who have effectively left it at that, I will take some risks and say some more, as I feel that I have had some success with this work.
Firstly, the title "Holy Guardian Angel" needs to be addressed. You may be wondering why this pompous/ silly sounding title is used and why on earth you should take it seriously. You may think that Pete Carroll’s word "Augoides" sounds more cool and "genius" far more sensible. Well, I would suggest that what you call it doesn’t matter, but that if you can’t handle dealing with a silly title then you face falling into one of the biggest pitfalls (which shall be detailed later) which is that of taking it, and yourself far too seriously. At the end of the day, being able to distance yourself from this work, viewing it as being ridiculous from time to time helps keep a lid on things to make sure it doesn’t all get Out of hand. This was one of the most important things I learned when I was initiated into Temple Two Dogs Fucking.
There are many speculations as to what the HGA may be, and I shall list them as I believe they all have a sense of truth and falsehood. Theories on what the HGA is generally fall into three categories: psychological processes! concepts; external entities that have an interest in the magician’s life; and entities that are somehow part of the magician in the way that shamanic totems might be. I would suggest that it is foolish to fall into one camp; using as many concepts as possible will give a more useful point of reference. If you limit yourself too much here only a certain degree of success will be possible.
First, the external entities shall be considered. The concept of a watchful guardian or angel is not something that only belongs to magic. A Christian friend was once telling me how the organisation he belonged to used a practical belief in angels and guardian angels to protect them from danger, both real, in the form of violence, and imaginary, in the form of nasty old Satan tell them to shag good looking individuals of the opposite (or same) sex. He then went on to describe a truly miraculous (magical?) experience in which a female friend of his managed to avoid being stabbed and robbed in a violent confrontation with a dangerous nutter due to angelic intervention. Some descriptions of HGA visions (including my own) have included fantastic scenes of beings composed of living flame and a certain magical friend and mentor once pointed out to me that the biblical race, the Seraphim, appear in this way. Some sources have described HGA entities as being alien beings, with Aiwass and Lam being examples of them. I quite like some of these theories too as the HGA certainly does seem very detached from most of the ordinary concerns of humanity, but then so do many magicians!
Whatever the HGA actually is, it does seem to be ever watchful, knowing our interests and being able to offer insights as an "outsider" might.
The HGA as an "internal entity" includes "inner planes" (what ever they might be) experiences or insights into its nature. Here the HGA may be seen as some sort of "spirit guide". It may also be related to animal totems. However, I would suggest that the HGA is not the same as an actual animal totem, even if it can take animal shape. The totem animal is a separate shamanistic concept, and personal experience tells me that it is possible to have both. The HGA as an internal entity also includes theories of it being in some way connected with the divine manifest within humanity. One magical friend put forward a reasonable theory that connects the HGA with the Goddess Kundalini, as an ever watching, consuming flame that drives and is driven by our experience of the world.
Psychological models are also useful, but over reliance on them can kill any relevant experience with the angel by a sort of "death by reductionism". However, I have seen the HGA described as being (hidden) genius. This can be a little misleading, though, as genius could be accounted for as a subconscious driving force, or as something leamed beyond ordinary expertise. Successful work with the HGA is not merely discovering one s own talents and potential talents, but is something more intangible and yet personally relevant. I would suggest that anyone who reduces HGA experiences to the discovery of genius, has not been wholly successful, despite the fact that success in this work should lead to the subsequent exploration and manifestation of genius. Other "states of consciousness theories" suggest that the HGA is bound to your perception of the universe. However, this perception is one that does not involve the distractions of ego, but merely involves you as an observer. This is a difficult concept to understand unless you have practised yoga and have learned to perceive the universe without getting involved with your perceptions. The HGA has been approximated by Rodney Orpheus, in his excellent book "Abrahadabra", as being your perception of the universe minus you! This is one of the most useful concepts I have yet seen on the subject as it hints at practical methods to carry out the work.
Well, why do anything? My usual answer (which did me no good at school) is usually "It seemed like a good idea at the time". Now that, believe it or not, is why I started the Great Work. Since then I have discovered many little reasons as to why doing this work has been of use, and these can be summed up by two general reasons.
Firstly, the occult puberty bit. Yes, conjuring the HGA is excellent training. If you can make a success of this you will make a success of conjuring other entities. You will have learned to critically evaluate your findings and to avoid all sorts of magical pitfalls. You will have also most likely learned either more magical techniques, or more about the ones you already use, finely honing them for future use. In the process of your quest you will have discovered more about yourself, knowing more about your strengths and weaknesses and thus being able to offset the one with the other. You will also come to understand more about your motives and passions, gain valuable insights and even discover some of your genius.
The second major reason connected with this as your HGA will furnish you with insight into a great many things including a great deal of magical inspiration. Linked to this the HGA as an entity can be communicated with to discover occult secrets and may also called upon to protect you. The question is not really about why should you conjure it, but more why shouldn’t you?
As I hinted earlier, one of the main reasons for people not working with the idea of the HGA is probably that very little of any use has been said on the subject. Hopefully this essay will go some of the way to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, the two most famous methods for this work both involve a very old fashioned approach to magic, which assumes that the magician can avoid going to work, raising a family and having a social life, yet still have loads of money and comfortable surroundings. Oh, for the good old days again! Another reason is that achieving HGA consciousness does require certain prerequisite qualities that many magicians simply don’t have. Whilst some people seem unable to change (which makes me suspicious of any claims of magical authenticity on their part), some of these qualities can be learned and I have found regular martial arts and yoga practice to be extremely useful.
The first quality is attitudinal and can definitely be learned as a skill. Its equivalent in yoga is Dharana, or focus. This is the ability to pay close attention to the point of immersion in the subject of study. At the same time the magician must learn to be disinterested, to take in information and sensory experience without attachment to it. Attachment to visions in this work will lead to obsession and self delusion. Diary records of visionary experiences should show variety, otherwise something has gone wrong.
Secondly the magician must be able to discriminate. The most dangerous pitfall of all is that of believing every vision and every piece of channelled information. As I was taught in my sales training: "Assume nothing or you make an ass out of you and me!"
At least half of what you see! receive will be of no use at all. Some will be downright misleading and some will be extremely valuable. If you can’t discriminate, you will start to take yourself far too seriously and everything will seem to have cosmic importance. All of a sudden you will go from being a curious seeker to being a tedious fruitcake and all because you "heard voices". This is another reason to discriminate - these sorts of workings do involve engineering a little madness and if you always bear this in mind you should be O.K.
Patience is essential. Success will not happen over night. The techniques that I shall suggest should help speed things up a little, but you will still need the patience and determination to get through the difficulties, blind alleys and delusions which force progress to be slow.
Finally, the magician must have an open mind. This sort of working is likely to take you outside of your usual belief structures and promote both increased self awareness and profound personal change.
One of Aleister Crowley’s wisest concepts in magic is to invoke often and banish often. In this sort of working there will be much that is of little or no use but a little of vital relevance. In order to maximise the useful experiences, the magician should invoke often. In order to minimise the rubbish the magician should banish often.
Crowley suggested that the Angel itself should never be banished. I’m not so sure about that. Firstly, what you think is the HGA is, in the first few months (maybe years), not the HGA. This should be banished as it is probably more trouble than it is worth to have the same false impressions influencing future visions. Secondly, the HGA itself is fallible and when you have built up a good rapport with it you should not only know this, but it should know that you know! Thirdly, the HGA is potentially obsessive - you really don’t want to dwell on it whilst driving on the M25! If your invocations are as frequent as your banishments there really should be no problems.
The first step to take in the Great Work is to start practical magic. Regular magical practice will hint at specific magical techniques that will help you. It also seems to work as an attractor, drawing the attention of the HGA.
he most famous methods published are Liber Samekh and the Abra Melin system. Both of these involve using already developed magical skills and spending long periods of time in isolation. This sort of approach probably doesn’t suit a great many people, but the use of the magical retreat or sabbatical can be extremely valuable. I found that six months away from work with daily magical rituals and yoga most useful, but I found it essential to immerse myself in the world of making money straight afterwards to remain grounded. I have also cut down the amount of time I spend with occultists to avoid HGA (or occult) obsession.
The following methods are techniques that I have found to be successful and are only meant to be suggestive. They are divided into two categories that I have labelled "The Vision" and "The Voice", the reasons for which shall become quite obvious.
Much of the Great Work is not about merely discovering hidden aspects of the personality, but is about personally meaningful experience. As beings who respond to visual stimulus and language, we often seek illumination through visions. Whilst the HGA is not necessarily defined by any shape, pattern or appearance, we find it simpler to comprehend as something which can stimulate our senses. For this reason it is entirely appropriate to seek visions. It is important to bear in mind that the map is a tool for studying the territory.
The quest for the vision starts with yearning. This yearning must be channelled through preferred magical techniques. A personalised sigil is probably appropriate for use in these workings. The key to the vision of the HGA is gnosis. Gnosis fires up the mind, creating images free from thought, steered only be the forgotten intent inside the sigil. Sexual gnosis, pranayama yoga, shamanic dance and the sweat lodge all are useful tools to discover and explore the images. As images become familiar, or suggestive, they should be evoked further, compared with existing (or not) belief systems and communication should be initiated.
The voice may inform the vision, as the vision the voice. Once again, gnosis is the key. During pranayama sessions, I would silently intone my mantra and use it to count my breath. This would then time my footsteps whilst the rest of my ego focused on looking where I was going. Something would still be there, observing, ever watching. What could it see? What did it look like? What did it think? Were its thoughts a voice, clearly detached from my own?
The "Game of Higher Intelligences" was mentioned in Robert Anton Wilson’s excellent book "Schrodinger’s Cat" as an excellent short cut to HGA consciousness. Normally there are two players. One player plays the role of human seeker, the other plays the role of extra terrestrial genius who is watching the world. The seeker asks the genius questions about some of the great problems faced by humanity. The alien intelligence responds, from its detached/disinterested perspective:
"‘Why is there so much violence and hatred amongst us’?.."
It is always that way on primitive planets... The early stages of evolution are never pretty...
"Do planets grow up?"...
"Some of them"...
"Through suffering enough they learn wisdom"...
"Through suffering... There’s no other way.
"Not in the primitive stages... Primitives are too self centred to ask the important questions until suffering forces them to ask"...
(Robert Anton wilson (1990) Schrodingers Cat Trilogy [Orbit Books]).
The players then switch to dealing with personally relevant issues and have goes at swapping roles. I found an interesting method was to then try playing both roles alone...
The vision and the voice should eventually come together, complete with a fully fledged, working, state of the art HGA... in theory! This work is never fully complete. Visions inevitably shift, our experience of different gnosis also shifts. As our perceptions change, so too do our HGA experiences. I used to think a name for the entity was important, but this, like the form it clothes itself in is merely a handle to grasp the otherwise intangible. Of course a fiery serpent is a powerful image to conjure for protection, but a beautiful, sexual being may have its appeals. The important point to remember is that the advantages that the HGA will bestow will only be bestowed to those who continue the relationship, which some call "The Great Work".
This essay was first published in Chaos International magazine, issue 23