Anthony Peake, Author of the Month for April 2009
The Case For The Daemon (cont.)
By Anthony Peake
For many of the early Christians the idea of such a duality of spirit was a dangerous heresy, particularly as it clearly had Pagan roots. In order to deal with this the early Church Fathers applied simple semantics. They took the word daemon and consistently applied it to designate it to a disincarnate spirit that has been spawned by the devil to tempt man away from the true God. Over time the letter 'a' was dropped and the word mutated into one we all know so well, demon. Job done.
Well not exactly. There was another group of Christians who found a good deal of theological justification for the daemon-eidolon duality. These were the little known, and quite intriguing, Gnostics.
According to the Gnostics the universe was under the influence of two conflicting forces; Light and Darkness. Human beings are in turn a reflection of this duality. Our soul is a spark that comes from the Light. It is therefore part of the positive side. However our bodies are made up of matter. Matter is part of the Darkness. As such there is this ongoing conflict within the human condition. Man is imprisoned in this body of darkness but a part of him retains memories of his divine origin. The part of man rooted in the darkness equates to the Eidolon. This being is made of matter and will cease to be when the body dies. However that part of him that retains the memory is the Daemon.
The central tenant of Gnosticism was that an eidolon had to reach a state of gnosis - literally 'knowledge' - and having done so they could achieve union with the daemon and in doing so move away from this corrupt world of matter. To do this they would need to spend many years being initiated into the secrets of Gnosticism.
However there are times when the Daemon chooses to make itself seen or heard by its Eidolon without initiation. The Eidolon in these circumstances will perceive the Daemon to be some form of guardian angel or spirit guide. Indeed Plato teaches
"We should think of the most authoritative part of the soul as the Guardian Spirit given by God which lifts us to our heavenly home"
The Gnostic sages carried this belief forward in its entirety. Valentinus taught that a person receives gnosis from their Guardian Angel but that in reality that being is simply that person's own higher self. This implies that the angels that communicate between the World of Light and The World of Darkness are in fact not independent beings at all; they are Daemons from this world. We are our own teachers!
This is all very interesting with regard to the history of religion and mysticism but it really has no relevance to 21st century psychology and neurology. Or has it?
The Evidence from Neurology
That human consciousness may be dual rather than unitary may fly in the face of common sense but for those who study the brain such an idea is not only possible but probable. A swift review of brain anatomy cannot but support such a proposition. The most immediate thing that strikes you when you observe a brain for the first time is that it is not, in fact, a brain at all. It is two, virtually identical brains, joined together by a mass known as the corpus callosum. Every structure in one side is mirrored in the other, with one, curious exception, the pineal gland. There are two of everything; two limbic systems, two temporal lobes two amygdalas, the list goes on. The singularity of the pineal gland was noted in ancient times and because of its unique position it has been thought of as the location of the soul.
Neurologists have long been puzzled by this. Why should the brain be structured in this way? Indeed the puzzle has deepened in that it has been shown that certain individuals continue as normal people even when one of the hemispheres is damaged or removed. Indeed in the last fifty years or so surgery has advanced to such an extent that the corpus callosum can be cut and in doing so the two hemispheres cease to have a line of communication. When this is done these patients literally have 'split brains'. They also end up with two independent centres of consciousness. The implication of this is both clear and mind-blowing; we have two independent beings sharing our perceptions.
It is generally the case that one side of the brain is dominant and one is passive. The dominant hemisphere (usually, but not always, the left) is rational, objective and unemotional. The non-dominant (right) is understood to be irrational, subjective and emotional. However this does not on its own imply two foci of consciousness, just simply two aspects of the same consciousness. The two elements are simply seen as aspects of a unitary consciousness with the left hemisphere being generally in control with the occasional eruption of emotion from the right. This is why in recent years there have been so many 'self help' books suggesting techniques by which people can attune to their intuitive right brain. But the reality is far more complex - and fascinating.
Usually the two hemispheres work in tandem with the left generating a constant stream of inner dialogue that gives us our sense of self. Meanwhile the right hemisphere is still actively involved in all cognitive processes, working away in the background. However, and here comes the surprise, the being known as 'I' or 'me' is generally completely unaware of what its silent partner is up to. Indeed for most of the time 'I' is completely unaware of its partner. Problems arise when the two fall out of phase. Suddenly 'I' senses 'us'. However it is much more disturbing than that. The dominant hemisphere perceives its non-dominant twin as an external presence, a being that is not self but other. To the experiencer this 'sensed presence' is not themselves at all but an outside ego-alien being.