Egregore.

I ran across “egregore” in my reading and assumed it was a typo, but no, it’s a thing! Wikipedia:

Egregore (also egregor) is an occult concept representing a “thoughtform” or “collective group mind”, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme.

The first author to adapt “egregore” in a modern language seems to be the French poet Victor Hugo, in La Légende des siècles (“The Legend of the Ages”), First Series, 1859, where he uses the word “égrégore” first as an adjective, then as a noun, while leaving the meaning obscure. The author seems to have needed a word rhyming with words ending in the sound “or”. It would not be the only example of word creation by Victor Hugo. However, the word is the normal form that the Greek word ἑγρήγορος (Watcher) would take in French. This was the term used in the Book of Enoch for great angel-like spirits.

Eliphas Lévi, in Le Grand Arcane (“The Great Mystery”, 1868) identifies “egregors” with the tradition concerning the “Watchers”, the fathers of the nephilim, describing them as “terrible beings” that “crush us without pity because they are unaware of our existence.”

The concept of the egregore as a group thoughtform was developed in works of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians and has been referenced by writers such as Valentin Tomberg, notably in his anonymously-penned book, Meditations on the Tarot.

A well known concept of the egregore is the GOTOS of the Fraternitas Saturni. […]

The notion of “egregor” also appears in Daniil Andreyev’s Roza Mira, where it represents the shining cloud-like spirit associated with the Church.

Egregore is also used in relation to the Montreal Surrealists, best known as Les Automatistes, in Ray Ellenwood’s Egregore: a history of the Montréal automatist movement.

My mouth was literally hanging open as I read all that, which is the densest concentration of what I think is technically called horseshit I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t even know how to pronounce it; Wiktionary says /əˈɡɹɛɡɚ/ (i.e., “a Gregor”), but that makes no sense to me given the French origin and the spelling — I would have expected /ˈɛɡɹəɡɔr/. Anybody know anything about this? (My apologies to anyone who takes occult concepts seriously; I calls ’em as I sees ’em.)

Comments

  1. Eli Nelson says:

    Hmm, and I was thinking of the pronunciation as a third possibility, /əˈɡɹigɔ˞/ (maybe compare “cathedral”; probably I was more influenced by “egregious” though). It looks like the name “Gregory” is related to ἑγρήγορος. The form “Grigori” has been used in various modern works of fiction.

  2. Rodger C says:

    As an academic student of esotericism, let me say:

    (1) Surely you mean ἐγρήγορος, not ἑγρήγορος.

    (2) The word is interesting because of its irregular formation. Potential thread here.

  3. SFReader says:

    Have a look

    http://www.emory.edu/INTELNET/fi.andreev.synops.html%20

    Daniil Andreev must have been smoking some really powerful stuff…

  4. Holy crap. My mouth was hanging open again. It’s funny, my mind simply refuses to admit that stuff; I could read that page twice in a row (if I had the stamina) and be unable to tell you what it was all about beyond “mysticism.” I just don’t have the gene for it.

  5. Since your response to a request for more information indicates you would not accept any information given, it’s not worth a reply.

  6. I’d guess the stress comes from Greek or is default-penultimate, and the spellin “egregor” is (pseudo-)Latin.

  7. Since your response to a request for more information indicates you would not accept any information given, it’s not worth a reply.

    I hope you’re not offended — I will defend to the death anyone’s right to be immersed in that sort of thing, it’s just beyond my own capacities. I’m happy to listen to explanations, but I may not be able to assimilate them.

  8. Rodger C says:

    I find occult concepts interesting as metaphors, given a special flavor by the fact that their origins are unconscious. Huge entities that step on us like bugs because they can’t see us? Sure sounds like corporations to me! Cf. the late Ioan Couliano’s invocation of the capitalist “sorcerer-state.”

    The Book of Enoch says that when the Egregors begat the Nephilim, they created essentially all the evils of ancient urban society, hence the Deluge. The chapter reminds the modern reader of those novels where the Atlanteans develop an industrial society and turn it to evil. Then after the Deluge the angels imprison the Egregors under rocks in the Wilderness of Dudael (influence on Tolkien here?) and set out to “heal the earth” (actual quote).

    As for the other matter, how many other Greek nouns are formed from the aorist stem? Any? What’s going on there?

  9. Typhoon Jim says:

    A good example of an egregore is the ideal version of any sports team which, despite not existing in a concrete form, people who call themselves fans support over long periods of time. They’re very real. Other examples abound in politics and social organizations of all kinds. The term is very useful for understanding groups of people.

  10. marie-lucie says:

    Ariana: Since your response to a request for more information indicates you would not accept any information given, it’s not worth a reply.

    Any comment on this blog is not just for the benefit of the owner but for discussion among the readers, who have – or are open to – all sorts of opinions.

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am struck my the apparent belief of the generators of this wikipedia article that the “concept[] of the corporation (as a legal entity)” is of more recent vintage than the writing career of Victor Hugo and/or the formation of the Herm. Ord. of the Golden Dawn. Unless they meant to suggest that the “thoughtform” gloss of “egregor[os]” itself goes back way past the Book of Enoch to an antediluvian origin? In which case I reserve the right to find a legally-minded subset of Freemasons with access to the occult history of how what we usually think of as more modern forms of corporate finance and coordination of infrastructure construction were indeed used in the building of Solomon’s Temple.

  12. A good example of an egregore is the ideal version of any sports team which, despite not existing in a concrete form, people who call themselves fans support over long periods of time.

    Now, that I can understand — thanks!

  13. David L says:

    Or as Jerry Seinfeld put it, observing that athletes move constantly from one team to another, longtime supporters of a team are not fans of the players, they’re fans of the uniform. They root for the laundry.

  14. John Roth says:

    Typhoon Jim has the wrong end of the right stick. It’s a group’s unconscious, and hence controlling, image of what it’s about. A followon concept is a “poisoned egregor,” that is, one that has absorbed non-useful concepts. A possible example is the way certain organizations seem to spawn sex scandals.

    To put it another way, many groups seem to have a mind of their own, regardless of what the people nominally in charge want.

    The modern meaning has nothing to do with older meanings.

  15. they’re fans of the uniform. They root for the laundry

    That seems excessive. Indeed, fans often remain fans through changes of uniform, of name, an even of location. “No entity without identity.” (W.v.O. Quine)

  16. The modern meaning has nothing to do with older meanings.

    Well, that’s a hell of a note. Why not choose a different term rather than causing an already obscure term to have two very different meanings? Bah!

  17. Bathrobe says:

    So egregore, from ἑγρήγορος (Watcher), has the same roots as Gregory (“Γρηγόριος” (Grēgorios) meaning “watchful, alert” (derived from Greek “γρηγoρεῖν” “grēgorein” meaning “to watch”)?

  18. Daniil Andreev is easy to read if you don’t mind memorizing a dozen or two names such as Zhrugr, the hereditary title of the demons of Russian statehood.

    In his view, the Church’s egregor is not “shining”: if it resembles a cloud, it must be a dark, heavy one. It is the emanation of all the less-than-holy feelings, thoughts and aspirations of the Church’s members.

  19. SFReader says:

    By the way, demon of the US statehood is called Stebbing…

  20. : By the way, demon of the US statehood is called Stebbing…

    That must be the true esoteric reason why so many Native American groups call settler Americans “Big Knives” (eg Cree: kihci-mōhkomān).

  21. marie-lucie says:

    LH: Why not choose a different term rather than causing an already obscure term to have two very different meanings?

    Obscure, esoteric terms tend to be misunderstood and thus to acquire meanings quite different from the original ones.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Lameen: so many Native American groups call settler Americans “Big Knives” (eg Cree: kihci-mōhkomān).

    I am not familiar with this, but I wonder if the Big Knives in question are long guns. In some languages of the West, the word for ‘gun’ is the original word for ‘bow’ or something close to it.

  23. According to Wikipedia, it was specifically used for British settlers in Virginia:

    “It is a literal translation of the treaty name that the Iroquois first bestowed on Virginia Governor Lord Howard in 1684, Assarigoe (variously spelled Assaregoa, Assaragoa, Asharigoua), meaning “cutlass” in Onondaga. This word was chosen as a pun on Howard’s name, which sounds like Dutch hower meaning “cutlass”[1] (similar to the Iroquois’ choice of the name Onas, or “quill pen”, for the Pennsylvania Governors, beginning with William Penn.)”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_knives

  24. Jeffry House says:

    Wouldn’t “Big Knives” likely refer to the swords worn by the US cavalry?

  25. marie-lucie says:

    JH: Big Knives = swords

    You must be right! This makes the most sense.

  26. how many other Greek nouns are formed from the aorist stem?

    Actually the perfect stem: the verb is ἐγείρω “awaken, arouse”, with aor. act. ἤγειρα, pf. act. ἐγρήγορα (with “Attic reduplication”). But it’s a fair question. It looks like the specialized meaning of the perfect in this case (“be awake”) helped it spawn a handful of rare words.

    (Nouns formed from the aorist stem are actually not uncommon because the aorist stem (sans augment) is the same as the root in many verbs.)

  27. “Wouldn’t “Big Knives” likely refer to the swords worn by the US cavalry?”

    That’s what I thought but apparently not! It goes back a century before the US even existed…

  28. All groups of European settlers arrived with long blades. Metal forging came to the Americas via the Columbian exchange, and it is hard to make large stone knives that are light enough to use and not so massive that they are unwieldy. So large, light, thin-bladed knives and swords may have been among the salient features of European newcomers in the Western Hemisphere.

  29. Why not choose a different term rather than causing an already obscure term to have two very different meanings?

    Maybe the crowd-related meaning arose from people unconsciously associating the word with “gregarious”?

  30. An interesting and plausible (but not egregious) suggestion.

  31. Metal forging came to the Americas via the Columbian exchange, and it is hard to make large stone knives that are light enough to use and not so massive that they are unwieldy. So large, light, thin-bladed knives and swords may have been among the salient features of European newcomers in the Western Hemisphere.

    Indeed. But, apparently, that’s not where “Long Knives” for settlers comes from – it was used specifically for Virginian settlers, who were presumably no heavier armed than any other.

  32. … it is hard to make large stone knives that are light enough to use and not so massive that they are unwieldy. So large, light, thin-bladed knives and swords may have been among the salient features of European newcomers in the Western Hemisphere.

    Although the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans did have long, swordlike macuahuitls — flattened wooden clubs with obsidian blades embedded along the edges.

  33. @Peter Erwin: Yes, certainly, although those are qualitatively different enough that the blades of European settlers could still be quite noticeable. (There is a magical macuahuitl, equivalent to a short sword +1 in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.)

  34. Trond Engen says:

    The word ‘egregore’ may be a modern misnomer but the idea of a community’s spiritual entity united with but different from the individual minds is surely old. The Holy Ghost strikes me as an example.

  35. Allan from Iowa says:

    I don’t know anything about the mystical meanings, but based purely on the pattern of word formation, I am certain that the egregore lives in the ecumene.

  36. We all live in the Oikumene, except for the North Sentinelese, who live only in the Dar al-Harb.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    away: “Long Knives” … – it was used specifically for Virginian settlers

    Could this apply to scythes rather than weapons? Scythes, with their long handles and blades, were a necessity for cutting hay (while cereal crops were more commonly cut with sickles).

  38. Jack Vance used “Oikumene” as the name for the setting of his Demon Princes novels. It might or might not be the same as the Gaean Reach in while many more of his books were set.

  39. Le Guin called her equivalent the Ekumen. I understand the Gaean Reach to be a geographical (spaciographical) term, the Oikumene a political one.

  40. David Marjanović says:

    I actually recommend reading the Wikipedia article on the (First) Book of Enoch for understanding where a lot of non-rationalist Western thought has come from. Because it describes a flat Earth in such unmistakable detail, it was soon stricken from the Bible except in Ethiopia, but its aftereffects have never disappeared. It’s cited several times in the New Testament after all.

    Well, that’s a hell of a note. Why not choose a different term rather than causing an already obscure term to have two very different meanings? Bah!

    Some people have a really strong aversion to creating new words, even for new concepts, and prefer to repurpose existing (or recently obsolete) words with vaguely reminiscent meanings. I’ve seen this attitude and its confusing effects in philosophy, biological nomenclature, and probably several other places.

    This word was chosen as a pun on Howard’s name

    That is delightful.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    away: “Long Knives” … – it was used specifically for Virginian settlers

    Sorry, I was replying to ajay and did not notice that the name was automatically changed to away.

  42. Computer* technical terms, as opposed to slang, are almost always repurposed rather than coined. I’ll mark such terms by a trailing* asterisk here. We have data*, which is composed of values*, processed by computers*. This data* may be organized into files*, records*, or both; what is more, it might be integers* (really just a subset of them), floating*-point numbers, or strings*. We provide users* with access to it using programs* written by programmers*. (I wasn’t sure about that last asterisk, but circus programmer goes back to 1875, and means the person who arranges the schedule of a traveling circus.)

  43. “Could this apply to scythes rather than weapons? Scythes, with their long handles and blades, were a necessity for cutting hay (while cereal crops were more commonly cut with sickles).”

    It could, but apparently it didn’t – it was derived from an Iroquois pun on the name of the British governor of Virginia.

    Look, can everyone else see my comment from earlier? From July 31? Was it inadvertently offensive or something?

    Because I posted an explanation for “Long Knives” as a pun on the surname “Howard” that is actually supported by sources from the period in question, and for the subsequent two weeks people have been completely ignoring it and saying “ooh, maybe it was to do with them using cavalry sabres? Maybe they meant scythes?”

    No! They didn’t mean cavalry sabres! Or scythes! It was a pun!

  44. I noticed that too and figured people either missed your comment or preferred other ideas for some reason. It was certainly not offensive and I for one was convinced.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    ajay, So you did! Obviously I for one passed over your paragraph too quickly. Mea culpa!

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