Holy Guardian Angel: The Evolution of a Mystical Concept

The origin of the term Holy Guardian Angel is unknown. Possibly it was coined either by Abraham of Wuzburg, a French Kabbalist who wrote a treatise on ceremonial magic in the 15th century or Samuel Liddell Mathers who later translated the work as The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. In the translation Mathers wrote:

If thou shalt perfectly observe these rules, all the following Symbols and an infinitude of others will be granted unto thee by the 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 thy Fear of God be ever before the eyes and heart of him who shall possess the Divine Wisdom and Sacred Magic.

As it is known when Aleister Crowley adopted Mathers’ translation of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage from the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn he adopted as well the term of the Holy Guardian Angel which became the principle part of his magical system of Thelema. Crowley definitely considered it equivalent to the Genius of the Golden Dawn, the Augoeides of Iamblichus, the Atman of Hinduism, and the Daemon of the ancient Greeks. For Crowley personally the Holy Guardian Angel represented the «Silent Self,» his genuine divine nature.

The obtaining of the «Knowledge and Conversation» of the Holy Guarding Angel was such a vital part of his Abra-Melin Operation that Crowley embodied it in his entire Thelema magic. His purpose for doing so stemmed from the Greek meaning of Thelema, «the will,» and knowledge of man’s true Will, the essential thing which he was to do in life, came through his Holy Guardian Angel. To Crowley, finding one’s true will or purpose in life was the only justifiable use of such Knowledge, any other use was black magic.

For the adept, to Crowley, this was his single, most important goal. As he writes:

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 achieves this he must of course be left entirely in the hands of that Angel, who can be invariable and inevitably relied upon to lead him to the further great step-crossing the Abyss and the attainment of the grade of Master of the Temple.

Also emphasizing the importance of the Holy Guardian Angel to Crowley was the Kabbalistic number of sixty-five which he assigned to The Book of the Heart Girt with a Serpent. Sixty-five also signifies Adonai (one of the Hebrew names for God) as well as Augoeides. The five chapters composing this book explore the five spiritual elements of Western esotericism-earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. The work blend Western esotericism (the heart as the center of the human soul) and Eastern symbolism (the serpent as the rising Kundalini energy and the flowers as the highest chakra of enlightenment, the thousand-petalled lotus Sahastara).

`Throughout his instructions to initiates and adepts Crowley urges the necessity to invoke often, as seen associated with the Bornless One Ritual, and emphasized this at the Abbey of Thelema. The most important part of this invocation, as he explained, is the stripping away of the physical, mental, and astral self in order to concentrate on the deepest self, the Soul; and for this the Holy Guardian Angel is required.

For this, the communication with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, Crowley emphasizes the importance of the ritual.

The ritual is to first strip the deepest self from concentrating on any external activities; to rid the aspirant of any resentment of the spiritual vivisection which he is undergoing, just as bashful lovers become drunk on their wedding night to abandon their shame which mysteriously coexists with their desire; to concentrate the spiritual force of each element and simultaneously focus them into the aspiration toward the Holy Guardian Angel; and to attract the Angel by a vibrating magical voice which invokes him.

Crowley also tried achieving the Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel through sexual encounters including infrequent masturbation. He considered himself successful especially during his first year in America. His partners were both male and female including New York street prostitutes and men he met in Turkish baths. But there were also women for whom Crowley felt a serious friendship and/or romantic attachment.

Crowley acknowledged that the Abra-Melin Operation was not the only method by which the adept could contact his Holy Guardian Angel. He writes:

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 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.

Just as Crowly states each person has his separate Guardian Angel he later claims these Angels change. In Magick Without Tears he presents a different view of the Holy Guardian Angel which is no longer the «Silent Self.»

Now, on the other hand, there is an entirely different type of angel; and here we must be 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 pick up 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.»

The term Holy Guardian Angel has become so profound in the Western magical tradition that it is abbreviated HGA even in non-English-speaking countries. As with many such terms as this one, the Holy Guardian Angel has acquired various meanings from «Silent Self» to Higher Self» to «Cosmic Consciousness» signifying the divine spark in each man and woman. Perhaps this variety of meanings is what caused Crowley to feel the need to later clarify it. A.G.H.


Drury, Nevil. Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult.San Francisco. Harper & Row. 1985. p. 119
Holy Guardian Angel. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Guardian_Angel>.
Sutin, Lawrence. Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley. New York. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2000