The Egregore, an introduction

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UF makes the subtle point that one cannot engender a positive egregore, or collective mind parasite. This is related to the principle that the mind parasite is an effect of “congealed” or “coagulated” psychic energy. As a result, it always “enfolds,” whereas the good radiates. The former is an inward, contracting movement, whereas the latter is an expansive, radiant movement.

— Robert Godwin, One Cosmos

In the Hugo award winning comic Digger, there is a god called ‘The Black Mother.’ The Black Mother is not an actual god per se, that is to say, she is not part of that world’s mythos which predates history and whose mysterious ministrations call forth the dedication and belief of pious souls. Rather, she is the imaginary perversion of the mother of a god (who in the story seems to have been a real person) called ‘The Good Man,’ a Christ-figure in that world.

Suffering children who prayed for deliverance and did not receive it created an explanation for this in their devotion and fear of this Black Mother, who through their fear and hatred actually took root somehow in the souls of these children, one of whom is an integral part of the story.

In the world where we are made to operate we desire the good; therefore we try to understand our well-intentioned mistakes in terms of the good, if not because we are afraid of condemnation at least because we have no knowledge of how to seek the good outside of our own feelings. The soul asks per Nietzsche, if what I do is not good, then who is left to correct me? If the world will not correct me, and I am pleased with what I do, and there is no longer a god to correct me, and I no longer feel shame about it, then what I do must be good.

The concept of the ‘radiation’ of the good is essential to understanding what an egregore is and how it could be in any way real at all. (And why this phenomenon is seemingly asymmetrical) There are some among us that believe, as the Gnostics did from time to time, that through thoughts they could change the world directly. A lot of quasi-science is based on these concepts, where it is thought that good thoughts attract the good and evil thoughts, the evil. Extrapolation on this idea comes to concepts such as using breathing techniques to become a god, to use mantras to bring good fortune, and so forth. Underlying it is an assumption about the universe, namely: that it is in reality nothing more than pure thought, and strong thought makes reality, while weak thought is made by reality.

Needless to say, this kind of knowledge, whether true or false in various ways, has never been compatible with natural philosophy, that which assumes the mutable world to be real and have consistent laws of operation which cannot be modified by whim. There are ways to reconcile these two positions of course, but none of those ways involves hand-waving one proposition or the other away.

If we assume for a moment that both must be true, that is to say, that the immutable laws that moderate the changes in the empirical world can not be affected by a strong will, but also that the one who gave the laws is not subject to them, we arrive at something of a concordance: the solution to impossible necessities is to petition the one who established them. This is a rough concept of prayer in the form of requests.

Even if we do not think there is such a thing as the miraculous – however we wish to define it being ‘above’ nature – it is clear that the workings of gods and religion and metaphysics have great sway over the minds of men and thus over their actions, within the bounds of what their natural abilities permit. My genes prevent me from flapping my arms and flying, but they do permit me to entertain robbery as social justice or servitude to a company for a stipend as possible alternatives. This hard limit does not prevent there from being a wide variety of options with a wide variety of possible results.

Some ideas however, seem to have a greater sway over men than others; it is typical that gods are named or associated with strange attractors – professions, virtues, vices, etc. Which direction this order proceeds, from the god to the attractor, or the attractor to the god, is beyond our knowledge. But a third possibility exists: that ‘when the student is ready, the master will appear’ – the Athene and Wisdom spring forth in the Hellene simultaneously, the one expressing the other in the form he finds most apt.

The Slenderman is a faceless horror. Created by anonymous or semi-anonymous contributions in the tradition of poetry left on trees, Slenderman is by definition a coagulation of particular fears in a given subset of humanity. His form and his myth are a ‘most apt‘ expression of these things.

In Plato’s Symposium, the feasting guests are each given the challenge of expounding on love, a deceptively difficult task. Curiously, the first thing of note remembered by the storyteller is “that the god love has no temples and no priests.” And as the men try to explain what love is, including Aristophenes who tries desperately to naturalize homosexuality and soulmates (though admittedly, fails), it is clear that if anything, love is not coagulated into a single concept at all, it is not a particular image or myth that can be fomented into a cult; it is rich and varied and like the virtues which Socrates argues about but cannot completely define.

In that sense, the ‘good’ gods are much more subtle and hard to personify; Nyx can be a woman in a dark cloak, Apollo a charioteer, but these are only ‘most apt’ approximations and as much as we try to pretend that Greek myth was a fixed thing, these men argue about the gods  myths like we argue about the concepts the gods personified. Even Athene is chimerical; and inasmuch as she becomes a coagulation of desires, she becomes as the Psalmist remarked: “The gods of all the nations are demons.”

If we hold as C.S. Lewis did that there were actual spirits, which is to say, not merely ideas, but entities of a subtler kind (likened in solidity to the wind, thus the terms relating to steam or breath with most languages use for ‘spirit’ or ‘ghost’) we enter into a curious conundrum.

In Digger, this conundrum is not hand-waved, the god with which the Digger speaks is a real entity, a spirit that is nonetheless bound by a particular set of rules but who is yet very powerful. In that setting, a group of men could imagine a god of wisdom and make statues, but this would not create an entity. The idea and the being are not coeval.

However, the story suggests a hack, but a dangerous one; that if no god exists for an idea, a certain kind of idea might become a god. Far from attracting a particular spirit (as might be an explanation given to a god appearing when a statue was made)  my assertion is that this process must always produce an egregore.

In one sense given our flexible understanding of ‘the spirit of…’ as in for instance ‘the spirit of the times‘, we acknowledge there may be a shared sense of a thing without it being a particular mind or will. But when we begin to observe a common set of behaviors in people, of ideas that take hold when they should not due to a necessity, we begin to get close to the empirical phenomenon that accompanies the egregore.

There are various esoteric seekers who try to link together various gods to things such as extraterrestrials, or to various artworks of dubious origin, and so forth, as if they were uncovering for us a secret pantheon — that if we discovered what would we do? I recall a man speaking to a Puritan inquisitor who asked, “and if you could get satan in court, would you?” The answer, quite foolish if considered in the scope of real powers, was yes. (The only man known to have defeated the devil in a court case of course was Daniel Webster. But it was in defense of a man, not in prosecution of old scratch.)

If we accept that various spirits could exist objectively that still leaves us at a loss to explain the egregore. If we try the basic method of the esotercist of naming it and connecting it to some foreign and hated deity, we move out of the empirical realm and into claims that, like those of the Hellene, were imaginative and speculative themselves in their own time. In short, we could be victims of a prank and not know it. Unless we are assuming that all human creativity is impossible, our links themselves consist of speculation upon speculation; a house of cards.

Consider this:

According to a criminal complaint filed in the attack, the girls were trying to become “proxies” of a fictional paranormal character called Slender Man, who first appeared online in 2009. The girls claimed that if they killed their friend they could prove themselves worthy to the character, who they believe is real. Police picked up the two Saturday as they walked from the crime scene toward a national forest in northern Wisconsin, where they allegedly believed Slender Man had a mansion. One of the girls carried a knife with a 5-inch blade in her backpack.

One school of thought says that this is the work of some god or demon,  and may give hints as how to identify this entity. Needless to say, trying to pin down something as subtle as a spirit would, in all objective ways of thinking, be an insane task. “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

In the pagan world, mythos aside, if a god was powerful they could affect world events and sway the hearts of men. It is obvious that Slender Man was nothing but now is something – a coagulation of fear that has no easy ‘spirit’ – is Slender Man the ‘spirit’ of slenderness? Of facelessness? Of just fear itself? Unlike Athene or Apollo, this thing is not a ‘most apt’ embodiment of either a thing or a great idea. No, it is closer to the cthonic cults of which we know very little.

In fact we do have a non-abstract idea of what an egregore like Slender Man is; and it is positively Lovecraftian.

So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.

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