Matt Cardin is a horror writer, teacher, and musician-composer. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Two: A Brief History of the Daimon and the Genius, in his (free) ebook: “A Course in Demonic Creativity” available at his site Demon Muse – “a blog about the creative daimon muse: what it is, how to meet yours, and how to become a conduit for its creative energy.”
The understanding of creativity as a mysterious external force with which you carry on “a peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration and conversation”6 (to quote Gilbert’s vivid characterization of the inner relationship) redefines the customary view of things in our contemporary culture and endows the artist with new gifts and responsibilities.
This insight is fundamental to the whole outlook I’m presenting here. It’s also paired with a corollary proposition: that a conscious, working knowledge of the intertwined histories of the daimon and the genius in religion, psychology, and philosophy is indispensible. //
Both the idea of the daimon and the idea of the muse come to us from the ancient Greeks, who in addition to worshiping the gods and goddesses familiar to all of us through the stories of classical mythology believed in spirits they called daimones or daimons (known more commonly today by the variant spelling‚ “daemons”…
In fact, if we are to believe classical scholar Reginald Barrow, worship of the daimons made up an underground mainstream in ancient Greek religion: “Because the daemons have left few memorials of themselves in architecture and literature, their importance tends to be overlooked…
“They are omnipresent and all-powerful, they are embedded deep in the religious memories of the peoples, for they go back to days long before the days of Greek philosophy and religion.
“The cults of the Greek states, recognised and officially sanctioned, were only one-tenth of the iceberg; the rest, the submerged nine-tenths, were the daemons.”7
In one respect the daimons weren’t very different from the animistic spirits that have populated the belief systems of all peoples throughout history.
They were thought to be local, limited spirits who inhabited certain places, affected the weather, brought good and bad luck, and so on. But the Greeks also held a more distinctly spiritualized or psychologized view that eventually outstripped the first.
In this second version, the daimons were understood to exist deep within the human psyche or spirit, where they made themselves known through their influence upon human thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions.
6 Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity – a TED video.
See excerpt of the video in my post Elizabeth Gilbert on fear and creativity and mental health.
7 Quoted in Stephen A. Diamond’s book Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity.
Also see my interview with Dr. Diamond: The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons.
Diamond comments in another article that the goal for psychotherapy with artists and other creative individuals is “not to eradicate the daimonic, to drug or rationalize the demons out of existence. Not only is this not desirable; it is not possible, at least not in the long-run. As Rollo May put it, the therapist’s task is to awaken and confront the demons, not put them to sleep.” From my article Learning to befriend our demons.