Re-Evaluating our Re-evaluation of the Holy Guardian Angel

by Anna

Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical Language Volume I and Volume II, and Essential Enochian Grimoire.

Greetings, Angelophiles!

Here’s another one from the Solomonic FB Group files! Somewhat recently, occult scoundrel and esoteric hooligan Nick Farrell posted the following comment to a thread about the Holy Guardian Angel (or “HGA”):

“I think the HGA is a big dumbed down modern con-trick. Sure Abramerlin featured him, but it was more of a gimmick, It was a pick part of Crowely’s ideas and of course Crowley was right about everything especially when it comes down to livestock. Now you get everyone asking you about HGA as if it is a vital thing… or worse your divine self (it really isn’t). I know… not a popular thought but there you are.”

Not a popular thought indeed! It was hardly just Crowley behind the HGA push in the Western Mystery Tradition. Israel Regardie picked up that flag and flew it in his work, and from those guys it was picked up by—well pretty much everyone else. (Except the Neopagans—but we’ll get back to that in a bit.) Especially among the Golden Dawn and Thelema crowds, the concept of achieving “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” became paramount. It was billed as the highest achievement of the adept, the “thing” toward which we should all be working. Without it can nothing else be accomplished! It is our Western version of Enlightenment.

That’s a very lofty philosophy, and I can’t blame those early Golden Dawners (yes, including Crowley) for sensing something vastly important at the heart of the Abramelin Rite. I certainly did! The Holy Guardian Angel is not described as a Cherub or Seraph or as coming from any of the known choirs of angels. I believe there is a Gnostic (-influenced!) core at the heart of the Book of Abramelin, and that its intent is to contact an entity from a much higher realm. This realm was called the Plermoa (fullness) by the ancient Gnostics, and it represented the perfection of the Godhead before the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. It was an “Eighth Heaven,” if you will, existing above and beyond the usual seven planetary firmaments. And the beings who populated it—such as the Logos, Sophia, Spiritus Sanctus, and numberless super-archangelic beings—were called Aeons instead of mere “messengers.”

Also according to Gnostic philosophy, this Pleroma was the true origin of the Human Soul. The job of every Gnostic was to awaken from the slumber of the senses and subservience to the harsh laws of the archonic spiritual rulers of Matter and Time. Once awake, it was necessary to seek an ascetic and initiatory path back home again—to cease the endless cycle of reincarnation into a world of suffering. (Did I mention some of these ancient Gnostics lived right next door to India?) Gnostic religion was quick to adopt the story of Jesus—they even wrote one of the four Gospels, the Book of John—because his message had been much the same: “Put down your worldly things, take up your Cross, and follow me [back Home].”

A bunch of Victorian masons couldn’t have asked for a more sublime magickal operation than the Abramelin ritual. It has no worldly focus; in fact, it is just the opposite: intended to summon a pure being from the highest divine realm who possesses only the overriding purpose to break you free of the Wheel of Karma and guide you back Home again. Even A.E. Waite couldn’t find a problem with that concept! At least, so long as you casually ignore all the goetia at the end of the Book of Abramelin, oh and all the conjure spells in the middle.. but that’s ok because most folks usually do. Even where practical magick is unavoidable, you should now have infallible guidance from above on what you should or shouldn’t do.

Crowley went so far as to try the ritual, though he didn’t complete it. (He would later “complete” it under utterly ridiculous circumstances—but, hey, at least he was in the desert at the time!) Regardless of whether or not one believes he was successful, he did meet an entity named Aiwass who went on to help him create and establish the Thelemic system. Is it any wonder, then, that the HGA concept would be central to such a tradition? Regardie and the modern Golden Dawn essentially inherited their view of the HGA’s importance from there.

But now we run into a snag. As wonderful and transcendent as the HGA may be, we don’t actually find him everywhere, do we? For all the influence the Golden Dawn and Thelema had on the shape of modern Neopaganism, the HGA didn’t make the trip from one to the other. Wicca describes a Goddess and God, with individual groups or practitioners focusing upon patron deities who represent Them. The original Golden Dawn—and this one may shock you—didn’t mention him at all. And you’re not going to find him in any of the ATRs, nor in any form of indigenous witchcraft or conjure around the world. And (guess what?), all of them follow their traditions and get results without the HGA.

So has the concept of the HGA been overblown in the Western Mysteries? You bet it has! Nothing changes what the HGA represents, and if that’s the kind of thing you’re into then it’s absolutely a way to go. Without a doubt, if you were to perform the Rite successfully and have your Guardian Angel at your side (and in your head) for life, you would consider it the most important thing you had ever done. You would rightly attribute all your success to it. I certainly do.

Yet, at the same time, it is in no way what the modern Western Mystery Tradition has made it out to be. It is not the equivalent to Enlightenment. “Knowledge and Conversation” is not some alien and out-of-reach state to be achieved, just maybe!, by only the highest ranking and most experienced adepts. In fact, the Book of Abramelin is intended for beginners—written by Abraham of Worms for his second-oldest son who had not inherited the secrets of the Qabalah. If you are called to the HGA path, then you need to start with Abramelin, not end with it!

So we must (grudgingly) admit Nick Farrell has a point. The HGA concept has indeed been exploited for many years by charlatans—none of whom have actually performed Abramelin, mind you!—who wish to elevate themselves to some special place in the social pecking order. “I am special because I have met and spoken with my HGA.” It’s not very different than the old days, when everyone had “contacts” in the spirit world. And of course: “My contact is bigger and badder than yours, if you really have one at all, which I doubt.” There truly is nothing new under the Moon, is there?

And so we are seeing a re-evaluation of the Holy Guardian Angel in the Western Mysteries today. Why, Nick was able to post that snarky comment about the HGA right out in public, where everyone could see, and got no blow-back from it. Aspirants are learning that Abramelin represents one path that can be chosen, but they are not wrong for going in a different direction. People can and do use magick all the time without a Holy Guardian Angel.

Except now we’ve hit another snag, I’m afraid….You see, while it is true the HGA—by that name—doesn’t appear anywhere outside of the Book of Abramelin, the concept behind the Guardian Angel actually pops up everywhere. In many traditions, these guardians are called “head spirits;” essentially a patron deity who has been bonded to the head of the aspirant. In the ATRs, the aspirant is considered the spiritual child of the deity to which they are bonded, and are henceforth priests or priestesses of that deity’s tradition. In some ancient shamanic cultures, the same bonding was viewed as a marriage ceremony—after which the human would be under the tutelage and guidance of his or her spiritual spouse. Of course, none of these deities are the “same thing” as the HGA—as the former are part of the world while the latter is transcendent—yet the process of invoking a higher spiritual being to “permanently possess” a human remains the same.

As I progress in my own path, I find myself writing about these head spirits more and more. They are something of a lost secret in the modern Western occult traditions, and I am discovering how ultimately detrimental it was to our magick and mysticism that we forgot about them. Your head spirit is your teacher and guide, your protector, your co-ritualist, and your power source. (In the sense of a battery, it charges your spells!) Not to mention the fact your head spirit can also be the Gatekeeper—another lost magickal secret. The gatekeeper, or intermediary spirit (usually Mercurial, but sometimes Solar in nature), is the one who knows how to open the way between the physical and spiritual realms, and knows how to carry your invocations to their target. He is the one who brings spirits to you when you perform evocations, and he is the one who makes your spells work after you’ve cast them.

Can you do magick without a head spirit? Sure. But you’re doing it completely alone, banging on the doorways and screaming into the wind in the hopes someone will hear you. Work at it long enough and you might even generate some useful relationships on the other side. That, in fact, seems to be the standard modern Western method. (Even Don Kraig talks about it in his Modern Magick—how solitary practitioners must work hard to establish a link with the angels and spirits, as opposed to initiates of orders who are directly introduced to them.) So, I am not suggesting that your magick can’t or doesn’t work if you don’t have a head spirit. I am, however, suggesting it is much more difficult and even potentially dangerous without one. If you haven’t explored this area, I would highly recommend you look into it.

So, head and intermediary spirits can be/are vitally important to magick. And what Western example do we have of a head spirit? Why, it’s our old overblown friend the Holy Guardian Angel! There are others as well, such as the Nativity Angel—a lower form of Guardian who is linked to your birth chart. There are also angelic guardians associated with every part of your chart, such as the angel of your Ascendant, your Sun Sign, your Part of Fortune, etc. There are even old Hermetic theurgic practices involving altars, statues, and invocations of Pagan deities that are strongly reminiscent of the older head-spirit initiations. (For the record, Crowley invented one of those that is often conflated with Abramelin, called Liber Samekh.) All of these are more Pagan because they call on deities of the physical world (the stars, planets, elements, etc), while the HGA is supposed to lead you to a higher place. Yet, I say again, in practice they are nearly identical.

And so we are coming ’round full circle. The HGA was once considered the highest achievement of the adept—something only the best of the best could hope to touch. But that didn’t exactly pan out, because it simply isn’t true. So we began to re-evaluate our viewpoints on the subject—to de-mystify it, so to speak. Yet, before we could even get that job done, we discovered that the HGA might be important after all. Not in the way we first thought, of course, but in a whole new way. Well, really a very old way that we had forgotten. Now that we know what a head-spirit is, and an intermediary to boot, we can come to appreciate the HGA as something vital to our magick without, perhaps, taking it too far.

And, now that I can freely declare how awesome the HGA is again, I can go right back to thinking Nick Farrell is wrong. All is right with the universe.

Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.

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