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A little note on the concept of the `egregore’

The term `egregore’ is derived from a Greek word meaning `to be aware of’ or `to watch over’. It can be seen at one level as a gestalt summation of the social dynamics of a group, included any glamours associated with it i.e. the kind of image it has in a particular community created through the use of distinct symbols, dress code, overall behaviours together with the methods  of attaining gnosis within its particular tradition.

On a magical level an egregore becomes a thought-form. On a neurological level it can attain an alignment of wave forms generated by sympathy of purpose, a degree of motivational intimacy predicated on trust, friendship and loyalty. In socio-psychological terms this has been long been known as the `group mind’. It will occur organically but can be created purposefully by a group or an Order as representing and embodying an encapsulation of the group’s collective aspirations and ideals. In dynamic terms it represents the `energetic engine’ of a particular group or tradition and as such can be transmitted via initiation or just grow out of regularly working and meeting socially together.

Such a fetish-entity can be used as a focus for power in group ritual, invoked as a source of power, or evoked to exteriorize the group’s will in a specific direction. The fetish may come to act as a repository of magical energy, be given a name in its own right & constructed in a variety of ways, e.g. along dualistic lines of light/dark.

According to Cabalistic doctrine a group egregore must be carefully managed. If the qualities which the egregore is stated to embody are not made explicit, the egregore is in danger of attracting to itself the lower emotions and negativity which can abound in any group or Order. The egregore may then become little more than an astral shell without a coherent persona, lacking aspirational power and merely reflecting the ill-defined emotions and/or implicit desires of those who work with it.  If such an egregore entity is consciously created, implemented and subsequently worked with then this will require a tight approach to ritual, discipline and a structured approach to work. Even if the creation is left to naturally form organically the same advice should be followed.

For a group to succeed it should have an inspiring vision, common ideals and motivations which are clearly expressed by the facilitators and increasingly embedded in the egregore. The creation of this is the work and responsibility of those who have a sense of the collective aims and ideals of the group in question and can articulate them.  The egregore then becomes a product of such a context, an emergent phenomenon in its own right, which is informed by a specific intention, consistency of attendance and the quality of the ensuing performance.

Now the Wicca model of the coven being like a family should help here, so long as at least some members are aware of the actual dysfunctional dynamic in many actual families and how these are, or are not, dealt with. There are equally difficult, but different, issues surrounding the Masonic brotherhood model. The (shamanic) tribal or clan model represents a third type, with the Buddhist sangha is a fourth. For this writer a combination of the latter and the collegiate model is probably the most trouble free. On a learning and teaching level some kind of scheme of work or syllabus, curriculum, etc, might be advisable.

Careful reflection on what range of techniques of gnosis is necessary – especially if key archetypes, functioning e.g. as god – forms are used, partly for identity formation, for the group as a whole. This, in turn, should also relate to individuals’ magical names where chosen and in use. The developing ethos of the group will grow out of the choices made here as regards methodology and naming, and overall interaction between these factors. In this context a delicate balance may need to be struck between an individual’s commitment to the group and their ability, at the same time, to maintain a certain distance. If someone’s entire life revolves around the activity of a group then they are likely eventually to become stifled, albeit not always realising it if only because the growing social satisfactions will tend to displace the magical work and original raison d’etre.

To sum up – a pattern forming a group consciousness, an egregore, will be implanted in the `astral light’ to use Eliphas Levi’s term or in Eastern terms, the `akasha’ (see e.g. HP Blavatsky). This is a thought-form, a living entity. When a particular ritual is used by a group and has been for many years, the egregore that has been built up can become very powerful because it is composed of all the thoughts, ideals, emotions and concepts of the participants who had constructed the ritual and been affected by it. Hence the importance attached to the place of the central liturgy for whatever grouping is under discussion.

Here is where an argument for having little or no variation in whatever this rite is to be performed so there can be an immediate contact with the egregore inculcating depth and influence for the whole of the meeting. It is also an argument for having a stability of core membership rather than a shifting personnel and/or too many guest appearances from other groups, lone individuals or whoever.

A final point is the possibility of a confusion of egregores where an individual may be in two or more groups not sufficiently close in terms of `current’ to have much of an overlap. The confusions actually will reside in the individual but again they may not be particularly conscious of such. No man can serve two masters as the Biblical quote reads.

KIR/TH/23.01.07: 14.04.14 /15.02.20 (c)

Postscript

  “ One gives the name egregore to a force generated by a powerful spiritual current and then nourished at regular intervals, according to a rhythm in harmony with the universal life of the cosmos, or to a union of entities united by a common characteristic nature….In the Invisible, beyond the perception of man, exist artificial beings – generated by devotion, enthusiasm and fanaticism – that one names egregores. These are the souls of great spiritual currents… constructed through the egregores of Catholicism, Freemasonry, Protestantism, Islam as well by great political ideologies”

(Robin Amberlain, La Kabbale pratique, Paris, 1951 p. 175)

`One needs to distinguish between revelations, those spiritual beings that reveal themselves from above, and egregores engendered artificially from below. The confusion between these two is very widespread amongst occultists. Because egregores, as powerful as they may be, have only an ephemeral existence, whose duration depends entirely on galvanising nourishment on the part of their creators.’

(Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot: A journey into Christian Hermeticism, Element 1993, p.139)

KIR/TH/26.04.16

 

Written by

Since researching as a post-graduate sociology of religion student into nature religion in the 1970s Ken has gone on to establish his own niche as a lecturer in esoteric traditions in a variety of London based colleges and universities as well as running many experiential workshops and Day Schools, presenting countless one-off talks and small group and individual training circles. He has penned several published articles, acted as consultant to academics and holds, or has held memberships of the Theosophical and Swedenborg Societies, Co-Masonry, the Fintry Trust and the Alister Hardy Society for the Study of Spiritual Experience. He stresses the importance of discovering one's own personal myth and living this as functionally as possible rather than following any particular `name' or tradition, however illustrious the glamour attached to them might be. For over 40 years he has adopted an attitude of critical empathy towards such spiritual traditions, as both participant and constructive commentator within these.

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