Get in touch with your Daemon

by | Aug 15, 2022

Last month, I spent time reading His Dark Materials, by the English author, Philip Pullman. It is a three-book novel comprised of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Written as a children’s book, in Harry Potter style, at a superficial level, this book is a fantasy, but presents the most fundamental question – the forces of ‘religion,’ who believe in destiny and present themselves as an intermediary force, versus the free-thinkers, who discard the idea of destiny and allow people to control their own lives. The Northern Lights has been made into films, first, in 2007 and then, in 2019. 

Having lived life past youth, settled in a family, and reaching a point in one’s livelihood, every thoughtful person starts realizing that all does not happen as one wishes and that there is an ongoing conflict between what one feels and what one is told, wherever one goes. The axis of all personal struggle is about being in control of every moment of our life. As we grow, we know that the controls we enjoyed are no more effective – things do not happen as per plan, people behave in unpredictable ways, and as old age sets in, and the end point of life is visible, the futility of life stares at us.

My take from the book is that knowledge is fundamental to earn one’s livelihood. Without knowledge, no one can, indeed, survive in the world. The right to decide how one wants to live is given to everyone by God and must never be denied. This right is very desirable. Pullman says that one must operate on one’s knowledge, and live without the grace, comfort and protection of a higher power. Here lies the pivot. I spent a few days in reflection and then realized that there is, indeed, no conflict, confusion, or even dilemma in his statement. All problems arise out of the error in understanding the meaning of knowledge and grace. 

The ninth verse of the Ishavasya Upanishad, comprised of just 18 verses, puts it very bluntly:

अन्धन्तमः प्रविशन्ति येऽविद्यामुपासते  

ततो भूय इव ते तमोय विद्यायां रताः

They who live in complete ignorance, fall into blind darkness; and they who live by knowledge alone, fall into an even deeper darkness.

So, it is neither by living in ignorance of what is happening around, nor by its complete knowledge, that life can be understood. The mind must be applied to make sense of the situation you are in, attend to the responsibility and obligations that the situation brings in, but leave the outcome to a higher power, as you are not the only person living in the world – there are 8 billion like you – and as your situation has emerged out of a bigger situation, the solutions also lie beyond you. But the key is to do your part, your bit of what is to be done. Not doing that is sin. 

When I watch people living false lives – not studying in one’s student days, not taking care of their physical and mental fitness, not honing the skills required in earning their livelihood, but pretending at work, and not feeling grateful for the gift of life, family and friends that they have already received, I look at these as acts of self-inflicting injury, the splurging of one’s endowments, and becoming a part of the problem for everyone, rather than a part of the solution in their own lives. As time passes, these people’s own colleagues, relatives, and even children desert them, and they spend their last years in despair. 

It is unpleasant to look at life in this way. But not to know something, because it hurts, is no escape either. It is here that Pullman’s book offers some brilliant insights. Pullman presents daemons, the external expressions of people’s souls, taking forms that symbolize their owners’ character. Pullman presents them as animal companions present with one from birth till the end of one’s life. They keep changing their forms, depending upon the situation, but their basic form remains unchanged.

Your daemon represents your basic nature, the way you are – your instincts, your drives, your temperament, your likes, and dislikes. Your daemon is your uniqueness. The world we live in is designed to separate us from our daemon and turn us into components of a machine – working where fitted. As we grow, we shun our daemons, but they never die till our own death. Living connected to your daemon, is, therefore, the only way to live a purposeful life. In practical terms, keep your child alive in your heart, be mindful of your emotions, and keep releasing them appropriately.

There is a quiz on the Internet. You answer ten questions, and your daemon is suggested to you. My daemon was a grey wolf. It was written, “Your daemon is mysterious, loyal, strong, and the kind that would do anything for their loved ones. But with that, you have a dangerous side that can frighten your enemies and sometimes even your friends.” I searched for more clues. One site says about people with a grey wolf daemon, “You are self-motivated and ambitious. Once you have an idea in your head there is little that can stop you on your road to success. You don’t let yourself get pushed around and you won’t stop until you’ve achieved your goals.” 

Had my daemon been a peacock, a lion, or even an elephant, I would have been delighted, perhaps. But a wolf? It took me a while to digest this. But as I recollected my experiences, starting from early childhood, University, the DRDO, the Care Hospital, my time with President Kalam and after him, my health, friendships, fights, and health issues… the grey wolf looked more and more reasonable. 

I certainly enjoyed cooperative game hunting to achieve recognition; I was quick to adapt where I was; I tackled difficult people diplomatically, rather than going in for direct fights, which I was sure I would lose; I had a good social nature and very expressive behavior, no different from individual or group howling. I travelled with my wife and children, prioritizing these trips over other expenses. But the Aha! moment came when I realized that a wolf is the ancestor of the domestic dog. 

And then, many characters flooded my memories, who flourished in their careers by following the commands their bosses gave them – right or wrong was never their concern. They did what they were told to and felt happy with whenever and whatever they got. But I could not do that. I remain a little bit of a wild animal in this world, never fully domesticated, and in the process, perhaps, not as rewarded as others. 

So, know your daemon. And then keep him close to your heart in whatever you do. Let your daemon talk to you. Drift, wait, and obey, if you like, but hear him, nevertheless. As Philip Pullman writes about multiverses, this world is just one place, a little aspect of the One, which exists in a million forms, at a million places, even at this very moment. Your daemon is your bridge into those unseen realms and helps you meet your doppelgänger your double i.e., your true nature, like a mirror!

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19 Comments

  1. Fascinating blog, Prof Tiwariji !

    Your exploration of a purposeful life by getting in touch with your daemon is enlightening !!

  2. Thanks for making us explore darker hidden aspects of our nature. Their representation in the visual animal form makes us recall these quickly and help us in better decision-making.
    It might be possible that our choices given in the quiz vary with our changing world views, our environment and even our mood thus representing a different animal form.
    Knowing our demon is step one… letting it drift, wait and obey is the liberating practical advice.

  3. Think again. You are not a person who can be compartmentalized–into a particular daemon. Maybe it is the effect of reading too many religious texts which basically aim to align your thinking between to parallel lines. Maybe your daemon is are more like a monkey…

  4. Thank you for sharing your Daemon with us, Prof Tiwari, along with the interesting reflections and analysis. And of course, it led us to looking up the quiz and our individual Daemon!

    Daemons are indeed an interesting concept and they can be useful to a great extent in saving us from time-wasting pursuits and efforts. I felt it was akin to the concept of ‘sva-dharma’…

    While adhering to our basic Daemon traits, we have to put in our best efforts in all that we do and the way that we live. Results and success are of course, always by the grace of God.

    I liked the part where you talk about living false lives — “acts of self-inflicting injury” and “being a part of the problem”. That is to be eschewed, and it can happen only by daily reflection!

  5. Dear bhaisaab,
    All human beings have the capability to know God. However like a magnet we all have two opposite poles.
    One end is the animal instinct, or let’s term it as the Earth instinct, which we have in common with all animals.
    The other end is the one where we as humans have an edge over all beings.
    Whether of this earth or other more subtle worlds.
    That is the astral pole that can connect us to the divine.
    It is for us and our fate to slowly move towards the divine pole. Over many births… Daemon’s job!
    But at the end, it is determined by Grace.
    Not the logical mind. In which we lay so much trust.
    Our final thoughts at the time of departure will determine where we head.
    Towards more Earth. Or up towards our real source.
    Everything else is drama.
    That thickens the plot of life!
    Best regards,

  6. Sir, I am amazed to read about daemon. It is such a natural phenomenon to feel different impulses and drives rising in the body. In general, it is advisable to watch these inner developments and not let them slip back into the unconscious. But if not, it is better to act them out rather than they merge with the body and create disorders like headaches, ulcers, and even blood pressure and diabetes.

    Our compulsions are the greatest mystery of human behavior. Your description of the daemon as an accompanying animal is interesting. I am especially surprised when you mention a wolf as your daemon. Yes, the daemon must be different from the apparent person, otherwise, it loses its purpose. The daemon asks a great deal from you. When a frail child at a ‘tender’ age refuses to submit to what it feels is unfair and untrue and reacts so savagely, this is a daemon in action.

  7. Very interesting co-incidence Arunji.. There are quite a few things in this article which somewhere have been running around in my mind for past couple of days. And my daemon, at this time around mid-night, somehow appealed to me to checkout your blog. I simply obeyed and immediately experienced an “aha” moment reading through it.

    Loved the meaning of 9th verse of Ishavasya Upanishad you referred – “They who live in complete ignorance, fall into blind darkness; and they who live by knowleAnd dge alone, fall into an even deeper darkness.”

    And also the following on personal daemon- “Drift, wait, and obey, if you like, but hear him, nevertheless.”

  8. Very interesting blog. In computing, a daemon (DEE-muhn) is a program that runs continuously as a background… rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user. For example, syslogd is a daemon that implements system logging facility, and sshd is a daemon that serves incoming Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) connections.

  9. Sir, I read this poem on the Internet about daemon sometime back. It did not make sense to me but now, after reading your blog, I can appreciate it.

    When the daemon of a person is lost
    that person will wander through trackless wastes.
    But if you sweep your house and pray diligently,
    It may be
    that seven new spirits
    will come and take up residence with you
    and there will be dancing
    and a turning
    and a new fire may be kindled.

    Thank you for this very interesting blog. It is indeed important to listen to the voices in the head, especially the weird ones.

  10. Dear Sir, One of the interesting blog to read, made me think on several aspects of life, I think you are talking about the sixth sense when you mentioned about Daemon. I initially confused with the EBLIS who always guide us against the nature and God.
    I believe in that story of God and Eblis and always follow my basic extinct when ever I have a though of Kucch Nahi Hota…. Today was my last day with Infosys and now I am working for an Australian firm, a first step towards getting my PR visa of Australia.

  11. I am truly surprised by the track change in your blog. I read it multiple times and understood daemon as the voice of the higher presence. I am tempted to call it Atman but am not sure. So, let me call it our personality essence as you nicely explained the meaning of having a wolf daemon – not domesticated, moving in packs, howling alone or in group…

    So, if I take daimon as the individual, immortal and potentially divine part of me, it operates as my character and manifests as my destiny. We care for our soul by allowing that force to move through us constantly and to have expression. Sometimes we may seem possessed by it.

    We were infused with the value of our potential. Creativity has frequently been treated as a form of self-expression or a way of understanding or coping with life that is intimately connected with personal dignity, expression of one’s inner being, self-actualization, and the like. By feeling our daemon, we can move on the pathway to living our own life in our own way.

  12. Making us get into a time machine, rewind and start afresh till present, simply to evaluate my life and times ….is what I was prompted to by “Get in touch with your daemon.” Result – A lovable and adorable walk down the memory lane titled Life.

    What has gone by cannot be upturned, the water flown down the Ganges cannot be retrieved but yes it can be channelized. Self evaluation of life gone by certainly makes sense. Knowing where one faltered, one scored, where one could have done better, could have been honest or could have marveled to make life even more superior, enjoyable, worthy, meaningful for self and society is a pleasurable self appraisal.

    But then as per human nature in general one is never satisfied. The grass is always green on the other side, the obstinate feeling that others bowl has more ice-cream than mine lingers.
    Temptations drip and dribble but one who remains satiated is the winner.

    Even at this juncture of our life, even when we know we are nearing life’s ‘Road Block’, if we are able to identify our daemon, I agree it will work as a bridge for a smooth cross over.

    Loved the rewind…. no regrets….. though could have been more fruitful – This would be 99% thought of every human being… Ha, ha, ha.

  13. Dear sir, A very thought provoking article and after reading the article or before completing the article one is tempted to know his DAEMON. What makes it more authentic and interesting is the analysis of your own daemon. intially I also felt WOLF was not the right daemon for you but a dispassionate analysis tells us that there is nothing wrong with the DAEMON assignment. The analysis “You are self-motivated and ambitious. Once you have an idea in your head there is little that can stop you on your road to success. You don’t let yourself get pushed around and you won’t stop until you’ve achieved your goals.” sums up your personality and I have seen this in the last 10 years of my association. That way you are blessed with WOLF DAEMON, may your cult grow and let the society be the beneficiary.
    Thank you once again for an interesting blog.

  14. To you and the people of the Worlds largest democracy ‘India’ happy 76th Independence Anniversary!
    Thank you for provoking our thoughts as you always do Prof Tiwari, we need to learn more on daemon and adapt!

  15. It’s thought-provoking. Yes, knowledge is fundamental to earning one’s livelihood. However, we need wisdom too. Knowledge and wisdom are vastly different. A person who is knowledgeable cannot survive well if he/she has no wisdom. Thank you!

  16. A very profound blog and one so true. One never realises the demon within and when we do, its perhaps too late. I wish there were AI models which can predict accurately one’s mindset and helps in improving it if required. More often than not people do not go to seek help if they need due to a stigma in the society. What if there were programmes to identify a person’s inherent qualities and then help the person hone on those skills. Family is always the best ecosystem to keep a person sane and healthy.

    Also Indians have always believed that knowledge is wealth and not vice versa. This blogs furher strengthens this belief. Very well articulated indeed. Enjoyed reading it on Independence Day afternoon.

  17. Very interesting, makes one introspect and launch out on the search of ones on inner daemon. It is a search which leads to a lot of introspecting and self-analysis.. Thank you for reminding me of myself, Arun .It was a pleasure meeting me, let’s hope the conversation with ones own self is both enlightening and fulfilling.

  18. Thank you Arun ji for a very insightful blog on our Independence Day. Know your Daemon is very powerful statement for practicing.

  19. A beautiful piece of writing! Thanks for sharing your daemon with us…

    I also believe that you are blessed with the ‘wolf daemon’. May you continue to delight in life living out your daemon.

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