Of what order is this daimon, which manifested itself to Socrates in childhood but was also heard by Apollonius of Tyana only after he had begun to put into practice the Hermetic principles? "They are intermediate powers of a divine order. They fashion dreams, inspire soothsayers," says Apuleius. "They are inferior immortals, called gods of the second rank, placed between earth and heaven," says Maximus of Tyre. Plato thinks that a kind of spirit, which is separate from us, receives man at his birth, and follows him in life and after death. He calls it "the daimon which has received us as its portionment." The ancient idea of the daimon seems, therefore, to be analogous to the guardian angel of Christians. Possibly the daimon is nothing but the higher part of man's spirit, that which is separated from the human element and is capable, through ecstasy, of becoming one with the universal spirit. ²
intriguing concept that Socrates unintentionally inspired was that of
the dæmon (or daimon). The philosopher spoke often of his 'internal oracle'
whose injunctions he followed. This voice of guidance gave only negative
admonitions (such as 'don't do that' or 'don't say that'), and would warn that certain
actions or events would lead to disaster - making it most synonymous with
Socrates' conscience. However, the oracle only spoke its mind, but never tried to coerce Socrates into following its advice. H. P. Blavatsky wrote that "the Daimonion of
Socrates is the god or Divine Entity which inspired him all his life." ³ Socrates himself said, "The favor of the gods has given me a
marvelous gift, which has never left me since my childhood. It is a voice which,
when it makes itself heard, deters me from what I am about to do and never urges
He spoke familiarly of this daimon, joked about it and obeyed blindly the indications it gave. Eventually, his friends never took an important step without consulting it. But the daimon had its sympathies, and when it was unfavorable to the questioner it remained absolutely silent; in that event it was quite impossible for Socrates to make it speak. ²
The fact that the daimon had preferences among Socrates' friends and those who
asked for advice (that it chose between them) seems to show that its
intelligence was different from that of Socrates himself. And he would always listen to its wisdom - sometimes standing motionless for a
full day, unaffected by a hard frost, listening to the daimon's recommendations. ³
The dæmon would always warn Socrates if he was undertaking something inappropriate, but remain silent if he did good. Linked to this, the one well-known fact about Socrates' daimon is that it made no sign of opposition during the trail that would condemn Socrates to death. He took this to mean that death was not an evil to be feared, but was instead the next journey of existence. In his own words, Socrates addressed the court by saying, "O my judges - for you I may truly call judges - I should like to tell you of a wonderful circumstance. Hitherto the divine faculty of which the internal oracle is the source has constantly been in the habit of opposing me even about trifles, I was going to make a slip or error in any matter; and now as you see there has come upon me that which may be thought, and is generally believed to be, the last and worst evil. But the oracle made no sign of opposition, either when I was leaving my house in the morning, or when I was on my way to the court, or while I was speaking, at anything which I was going to say; and yet I have often been stopped in the middle of a speech, but now in nothing I either said or did touching the matter in hand has the oracle opposed me. What do I take to be the explanation of this silence? I will tell you. It is an intimation that what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think that death is an evil are in error. For the customary sign would surely have opposed me had I been going to evil and not to good.."