The term Holy Guardian Angel was possibly coined either by Abraham of Würzburg, a French Cabalist who wrote a book on ceremonial magick during the 15th century or Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, the founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who later translated this manuscript and elaborated on this earlier work, giving it extensive magical notes. In his publication of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, he writes:
- "If thou shalt perfectly observe these rules, all the following Symbols and an infinitude of others will be granted unto thee by thy Holy Guardian Angel; thou thus living for the Honour and Glory of the True and only God, for thine own good, and that of thy neighbour. Let the Fear of God be ever before the eyes and the heart of him who shall possess this Divine Wisdom and Sacred Magic.
Later, Aleister Crowley popularized the term within his system of Thelema.
Aleister Crowley's view
Within the system of Thelema
founded by Aleister Crowley
in 1904, the Holy Guardian Angel is the "Silent Self", representative of one's truest divine
In some branches of occultism, the term is so widely known that HGA has become a common abbreviation even in non-English-speaking countries. Crowley seems to consider it equivalent to the Genius of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Augoeides of Iamblichus, the Atman of Hinduism, and the Daemon of the ancient Greeks. He borrowed the term from the Grimoire "The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage".
Even though the HGA is, in a sense, the “higher self”, it is often experienced as a separate being, independent from the adept. In the system of Thelema, the single most important goal is to consciously connect with one’s HGA, a process termed “Knowledge and Conversation.” By doing so, the magician becomes fully aware of his own True Will.
For Crowley, this event was the single most important goal of any adept:
- It should never be forgotten for a single moment that the central and essential work of the Magician is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Once he has achieved this he must of course be left entirely in the hands of that Angel, who can be invariably and inevitably relied upon to lead him to the further great step—crossing of the Abyss and the attainment of the grade of Master of the Temple.
Methods of achieving knowledge and conversation
Crowley said that the Abramelin procedure was not the only way to achieve success in this endeavour:
- It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which a man may attain to the knowledge and conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever his grade. It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each man is his own High Priest, and none knoweth the Name of his brother's God, or the Rite that invokes Him.
Since the operation described in “Abramelin” is so complex and requires time and resources not available to most people, Crowley wanted to provide a more accessible method. While at the Abbey of Thelema in Italy, he wrote Liber Samekh, a ritual designed specifically for attaining the Knowledge and Conversation with one’s HGA. In his notes to this ritual, Crowley sums up the key to success: “INVOKE OFTEN.”
He also explains, in more detail, the general mystical process of the ritual:
- The Adept will be free to concentrate his deepest self, that part of him which unconsciously orders his true Will, upon the realization of his Holy Guardian Angel. The absence of his bodily, mental and astral consciousness is indeed cardinal to success, for it is their usurpation of his attention which has made him deaf to his Soul, and his preoccupation with their affairs that has prevented him from perceiving that Soul.
- The effect of the Ritual has been
- # to keep them so busy with their own work that they cease to distract him;
- # to separate them so completely that his soul is stripped of its sheaths;
- # to arouse in him an enthusiasm so intense as to intoxicate and anaesthetize him, that he may not feel and resent the agony of this spiritual vivisection, just as bashful lovers get drunk on the wedding night, in order to brazen out the intensity of shame which so mysteriously coexists with their desire;
- # to concentrate the necessary spiritual forces from every element, and fling them simultaneously into the aspiration towards the Holy Guardian Angel; and
- # to attract the Angel by the vibration of the magical voice which invokes Him.
- The method of the Ritual is thus manifold.
Another detailed description of the general operation is given in The Vision and the Voice in the eighth Aethyr and is also described in Liber 8.
Variations in Crowley's view
Crowley only espouses a view that the Holy Guardian Angel is the 'silent self' in his early life. In his seventies, when composing Magick without Tears
, he presents a completely different and diametrically opposed view. According to this definition, the Holy Guardian Angel is not one's 'self', but an independent and discrete being, who may have been a human like oneself at one stage:
- Now, on the other hand, there is an entirely different type of angel; and here we must be especially careful to remember that we include gods and devils, for there are such beings who are not by any means dependent on one particular element for their existence. They are microcosms in exactly the same sense as men and women are. They are individuals who have picked up the elements of their composition as possibility and convenience dictates, exactly as we do ourselves... I believe that the Holy Guardian Angel is a Being of this order. He is something more than a man, possibly a being who has already passed through the stage of humanity, and his peculiarly intimate relationship with his client is that of friendship, of community, of brotherhood, or Fatherhood. He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term 'Higher Self' implies a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.
Peter Carroll's view
The occult writer, Peter Carroll
split the concept in two and speaks of two "Holy Guardian Angels". According to him, one is the Augoeides, a projected image of whatever the magician strives for, and the other is quantum uncertainty
, which he says ultimately determines the acts of the magician and is a spark of the only true creative force, chaos
, much as previous concepts have spoken of the Guardian angel as a spark of divinity
The Enochian system of Dr. John Dee offers a concept similar to Crowley's later views with regard to the HGA.
In this dialog between Dee and the angel Jubanladace on p.18, Cotton Appendix XLVI 1, the angel provides this perspective:
Dee: If I should not offend you, I would gladly know of what order you are or how your state is in respect of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael or Uriel.
Jubanladace: Unto men, according unto their deserts, and the first excellency of their soul, God hath appointed a good Governor or Angel, from among the orders of those that are blessed. For every soul that is good, is not of one and the self same dignification. Therefore according to his excellency we are appointed as Ministers from that order, whereunto his excellency accordeth: to the intent that he may be brought, at last, to supply those places which were glorified by a former: and also to the intent, that the Prince of darkness might be counterposed in God's justice.
In the past life regression
Hypnotist Michael Newton
, wrote in his book Destiny of Souls
that, "In my work, guides are sometimes described as guardian angels, although our personal teachers are beings who have incarnated in physical form long before graduating to the level of guides.
Mike Howards reports in The Book of Fallen Angels
that members of the Order of the Morning Star
(OMS) have argued that the Holy Guardian Angel is a fabricated concept in Western occultism
and is largely the invention of Aleister Crowley
and his peers, drawing upon only a handful of sources. In the Thelemic journal Starfire
this discussion was explored in more detail, with various occult authors siding on both sides of the debate.
- Crowley, Aleister (1997). Magick: Book 4 (2nd edition). York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser.
- Crowley, Aleister (1982). Magick Without Tears. Phoenix, AZ: Falcon Press. ISBN 1-56184-018-1
- Crowley, Aleister (1998). The Vision & the Voice. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser.
- Newton, Michael (2000). Destiny of Souls. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
- Howard, Mike (2004). "The Book of Fallen Angels". Capall Bann.
- Thelemapedia (2005). Holy Guardian Angel. Retrieved March 15, 2005.