One of the central aspects of western occultism is the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel. This concept is alternately referred to as one's higher self, or as a spirit guide of sorts with whom conversation and communion is considered of great importance. For the longest time people mistook attaining conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel (from here on referred to as HGA) as the epitome and even end-result of magical practice. This stance has been shifted to where conversation with the HGA is but one rung on the ladder of spiritual progress and magical practice. Yet, the nature of this being remains highly controversal.
There are a variety of opinions on what the HGA is in nature; from being one's higher self to being an Angel of the Lord assigned to guide the aspiring magus. In my opinion, Frater RO said it best, "it's complicated" (in fact I am of the opinion that Frater RO is one of the few people online who truly exhibits having acheived conversation and communion with the HGA and his discussion of his Supernal Assistant/HGA accurately portrays the relationship).
I propose to present a perspective on the HGA that is not commonly heard online, but one that is in line with Near Eastern spiritual practices and what may have been the source from which later magi drew inspiriation for their concepts of the HGA.
In Near Eastern magical practice (which includes the Semetic religions and cultures) each individual is assigned a group of spirits which act as the guiding influences in their life. Depending on the sources, the number vary from 2 to 4 to much more. However what is consistent is the varying natures of the spirits attached to the individual and how relationship between the spirits and the person contributes to magical work.
The first spirit is what has come to be commonly called the Holy Guardian Angel. This entity is viewed as separate from the magician and not their "higher self." However the Holy Guardian Angel acts as a recepticle for the divine power that is man's birthright. As man descended through the spheres he forgot his link with the divine and so the Holy Guardian Angel holds in trust the true powers of man until he once more is ready to take them up. In this paradgim the conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel is but the first step. The HGA acts as a guide and comforter for the mage helping him or her once more rise up through the spheres and finally absorb their birthright from the HGA. In this way this spirit is intimately connected to the individual, yet also remains "other."
Because the HGA, which has also been alternatively called the Genius Spirit in this tradition, holds in trust the true power of man, it is through the HGA that authority to work with the angels and the divine sphere is acheived. The HGA can act as a guide, a comforter, and an emissary to the divine realm.
The balance to the HGA is the second genius spirit which comes from the ranks of the chthonic. Just as each individual is assigned a Holy Guardian Angel so too do they have a djinn. This is the spirit that is used as an emissary to the sublunar and chthonic realms. We find evidence of this type of working in the Greek Magical Papyri, the familiar spirit of the Witch of Endor, and it is carried on in works like The Grimorium Verum where Scirilin acts as the primary intermediary spirit.
In the spiritual practices of the Near East, the mage is recognized as having the ability to cultivate both of these relationships: one with the Holy Guardian Angel and the other with their djinn spirit. Each represents a side of the coin that contributes to all around wholeness. However, what is lacking in this system is the idea that one power needs to restrain the other. While the Holy Guardian Angel provides the mage with authority until he or she is able to reclaim their own innate authority, the Holy Guardian Angel, or any angel for that matter, is not used to restrain the powers of the chthonic. Instead if one were to work with the dead, or djinn, then the mage would turn to their personal djinn or genius to act as intermediary--a practice that is illuminated in the manuscript of Charles Wycliff Goodwin called Fragment of a Graceo-Egyptian Work upon Magic where the Egyptian mage uses his two genius spirits, or djinn to help him contact other spirits in an armadel operation. In this working the authority to work with such spirits comes directly from the intermediary spirit who is able to traverse the underworld and call other spirits forth.
While the concept of the personal deity of the Near East, more commonly known to today's mages as the Holy Guardian Angel has become one of the more distinguishable aspects of western occultism, the familiar spirit, on the other hand has not received the same attention. It is my opinion that a more hollistic approach to magical practices would be to get back to this older and more complete paradigm where both spiritual guides are cultivated, one to restore man's innate connection with the divine, and the other to restore man's innate connection to the underworld--it is the connection to both that distinguishes the mage from the mystic and priest.
This concept of multiple guiding spirits is one that also makes an apperances in the African Diasporic Traditions with the ATR's often alluding to each person having a "head" which can be equated to the Holy Guardian Angel and each also having a series of other guiding spirits often in the form of spirits of the dead. Similarly in ancient Rome, each person was guided by a holy ancestor while having the personal lares who carried out the function of a familiar spirit.
My experiences with both my Holy Guardian Angel and my person djinn have led me to believe that the incomplete approach that has been become popularized by Abramelin may indeed actually contribute to the disparity in results acheived by those traditions still connected to their folk roots versus those that have lost that connection. This can be seen in the results acheived by Arabian mages and people in the ATRs versus the less than spectacular results acheived by western occultism. It comes down to the approach.
If our focus is entirely on the Holy Guardian Angel then our magic by very nature will take a more mystical aspect. The Holy Guarian Angel is beyond a doubt a powerful force in our lives, but the results often alluded to in the grimoires are a result not of Angels who focus on more cosmic matters, but the sublunar or chthonic spirits who hold a strong connection to our natural world. For the magus to acheive the level of success that is often fantasized he or she must also cultivate the power of the chthonic and this is done through the intermediary spirit of old.
In my opinion it is time for this old familiar spirit to once more be recognized as a valid source for the power for the mage and take its place in the western world along with its counterparts in the ATRs.