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The genesis of the idea "daimon" is difficult to pin down. The term proper is thought to have originated with the Greeks, by way of Latin -- dæmon: "spirit", derived from Greek -- daimon (gen. daimonos): "lesser god, guiding spirit, tutelary deity". [1]

For the Minoan (3000-1100 BC) and Mycenaean (1500-1100 BC), "daimons" were seen as attendants or servants to the deities, possessing spiritual power. Later, the term "daimon" was used by writers such as Homer (8th century BC), Hesiod, and Plato as a synonym for theos, or god. Some scholars, like van der Leeuw, suggest a distinction between the terms: whereas theos was the personification of a god (e.g. Zeus), daimon referred to something indeterminate, invisible, incorporeal, and unknown.[2].

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles (5th century BC) later employed the term in describing the psyche or soul. Similarly, those such as Plutarch (1st century AD) suggested a view of the daimon as being an amorphous mental phenomenon, an occasion of mortals to come in contact with a great spiritual power.[2]

The earliest pre-Christian conception of daimons or daimones also considered them ambiguous -- not exclusively evil. But while daimons may have initially been seen as potentially good and evil, constructive and destructive, left to each man to relate to -- the term eventually came to embody a purely evil connotation, with Xenocrates perhaps being one of the first to popularize this colloquial use.[2]

Some modern interpreters have thrown back to a more traditional understanding of the term. For example, the psychologist Rollo May defines the daimonic as "any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person... The daimonic can be either creative or destructive, but it is normally both... The daimonic is obviously not an entity but refers to a fundamental, archetypal function of human experience--an existential reality".[3]



References

[1] Etymology Online.
[2] Diamond, Stephen (1999). Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: the Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0791430766.
[3] Rollo May, Love and Will, ISBN 393-01080-5. p. 123-124.





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