Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's in a name?

Why "egregores"?

An egregore is almost, but perhaps not quite, a living Being. It is not quite a living being in the full sense because it probably does not have sufficient independence to be called that. Yet it is alive, aware and intelligent (after a fashion), and very active. An egregore comes into existence through the interactions of mortal human beings and divine Beings. This is where the dependency of the egregore comes in. An egregore must be sustained by the ongoing interactions of humans and Spirits, or else the egregore will dissipate and cease to exist.

An egregore is more "real", stable, and powerful than your average "group mind" astral thingy. But it is "lower" than a God-form. God-forms can (thank the Gods) survive for long periods without much (but probably not without any) active participation of human beings. A God-form is not a God, but rather, as the name implies, the "form" of a God that is knowable by humans.

I have read more precise Qabalistic definitions of egregores, especially in the writings of Denning and Phillips (Ogdoadic Magi extraordinaire). Bascically when a sufficient number of people over sufficiently long periods of time share a common set of symbols, ritual acts, etc, with respect to some specific God or group of Gods, a new Being is created: an egregore. The Gods being worshipped already existed, but these Gods have responded to some particular group of humans who have called upon Them. So an egregore is basically a relationship, one might even get all Biblical and say that an egregore is a covenant. But it is not just that - it is a covenant "come to life". And like all that is born, it is mortal.

I like to think of an egregore as a dance in which one partner is human and the other divine. The music is all of the rituals, iconography, etc, that defines a particular "tradition". When the humans and divinities come together, they strike up the music ... and the dance begins.

Gabriel Emerson has put together a compilation of definitions of "egregore":

And here is an essay written by occultist Walter Ernest Butler of the Servants of the Light Mystery School:

And here is an essay by Phil Hine:

My interest in the word comes from the fact that an egregore, to the limited extent that I understand the term, only comes into existence when a given spiritual path is lived. It is not a result of mere "belief", it can only come about as a result of what Gandhi-ji called "a constant heart-churn". When Gandhi said that he was talking specifically about renunciation, but really I think he was describing devotion in the truest, widest, and best sense. One common perspective found in Hinduism is that there are (at least) four kinds of Yoga: bhakti (devotion), jnana (knowledge), raja (meditation), and karma (works). I think this is a useful idea - but only if it realized that (1) we must have all four, and (2) bhakti takes precedence over the other three.

Of course the greatest of care is called for in deciding what to devote oneself to.

[The cool image at the top of this post is the logo for a small publishing house called Egregore Press, with which I have no affiliation. But they do have a catchy name, don't they?]


Raima said...

What a fascinating concept - I have never heard this word before, so thanks for defining it.

Your post generated many thoughts, most reflecting my Christian background, and I wonder how they might be related to the idea you describe here. Here are a few of the thoughts I had after reading your post, in no particular order:

There is an oft-quoted saying of Jesus: "When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there."

Christians speak of being "the body of Christ in the world" and try to live as if they are.

The Holy Spirit is sometimes described as being the relationship between the Father and the Son, so the trinitarian God of Christianity seems to be an example of what you describe here.

I also followed some of the links you provided and see that these other folks talk about "group mind" or "collective mind" in defining this term, without much of a spiritual or religious interpretation.

I like your take on it and your attempt to make a connection with the spiritual. Very thought-provoking! Thanks for posting this.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

"Wherever two or more are gathered" is definitely related to the whole egregores phenomenon, so far as I understand it myself. Personally I don't have a problem, necessarily, with organizations and buildings, etc, but it is the gathering together of people that makes religion come alive.

I think that "group mind" is a valid, if vague, concept outside of religion as well. But I think the idea of "egregore" points to the level of intensity that is probably only attainable with spirituality.

Sorry that comment got hung up by the way. I'm supposed to have my seettings set to allow "anyone" to comment - but sometimes comments still end up waiting for my "moderation". Oh wait - now I see why. I do have moderation set for posts older than 14 days. I'll probably leave that on, but at least now I know what's going on with my own blog!

Alexandra said...

I saw that you added me to our blogroll and I returned the favor after reading over some of your work. Thanks!