Thursday, March 14, 2013

Egregore of the Freemasons

The subject of this post might require some explanation, at least for some. For others among us, it is probably a well recognized concept, whether understood literally, psychologically or metaphorically. So, bear with me and we will unravel this concept. Etymologically, the word "egregore," comes from the Greek word εγρηγορότα, meaning  watchers . The word appears in the Septuagint translation of the Book of Lamentations, as well as the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch.

Christian tradition speaks about the Angels of Heaven and Fallen Angels, the ill-fated followers of Satan. There is, however, a third kind of Angel less well known. The Grigori were a group of fallen angels, described in both the Old Testament and Biblical Apocrypha, who mated with humans, giving rise to a race of hybrids known as the Nephilim, who are described as giants and heroes of old, the men of renown. In Enoch, the Watchers are angels apparently sent to Earth simply to watch over the people and teach law and justice to humankind. In that context, they might have been equated to what we today refer to as "guardian angels."
The first modern author to adapt "egregore" in a contemporary language appears to have been the French poet, Victor Hugo. In La Légende des Siècles ("The Legend of the Ages"), 1859, he uses the word "égrégore" first as an adjective, then as a noun, although he left the meaning obscure. The author seems to have concerned with providing a word that would rhyme with both with "or" (gold) and "mandragore".
Eliphas Lévi, in Le Grand Arcane ("The Great Mystery", 1868) identifies "egregors" with the tradition concerning the fathers of the nephilim, describing them as "terrible beings" that "crush us without pity because they are unaware of our existence." More recently, 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.
The concept of egregore is generally positive regardless of whether viewed as a psychological, sociological, or metaphysical concept. Gaetan Delaforge (Gnosis Magazine, 1987) defined Egregore as a form of group consciousness created by people consciously coming together for a common purpose.
In metaphysical terms, an egregore is the general character that binds a group entity. It may be viewed as the combination of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies generated by people working together towards the same goal; being a by-product of our personal and collective creative processes.
According to the metaphysical view, an egregore may develop to the point of attaining an independent existence as an entity or as an intentionally created entity, such as a servitor, that has grown in power well beyond its original design. To a non-religious practitioner of magic, an egregore and a god, or goddess, would be interchangeable terms. To a religious practitioner, an egregore would be somewhere below the level of a god or goddess, saint or other spiritual entity.
For those who find themselves either uncomfortable with such "magical" language or who are totally lost in the concept, relax, the concept may also be approached from a psychological or sociological perspective, and that might make more sense to you, or be more comfortable if you are into rigid materialistic views of what passes for reality. From these more material perspectives , an egregore is that  atmosphere or  personality that develops among groups independent of any of its members. It is the feeling or impression you get when walking into a neighborhood that has an ambience distinct from others, or that you may experience visiting a club or association that has been around for a long time. It also is analogous to what is commonly referred to as "corporate culture." In this last case, admittedly, egregore may be viewed as being from mildly toxic to downright evil. Generally speaking however, as noted before egregore is usually a positive or at least benign concept.
So, what does any of this have to do with Freemasonry? The symbols, rituals and meetings of a group, when repeated over time, develop an egregore or group mind which binds the members together, harmonizes, motivates and stimulates them to realize the aims of the group, and enables the individual members to make more spiritual progress than if they worked alone. Now here is where some psychological speculation may raise some interesting food for thought. Eosteric groups often shield themselves not so much against public awareness of their activities but to ensure that negative opinions do not disturb the group mind or egregore. This may in fact explain the extreme positions many rank and file members of mainstream masonry take toward the subject of secrecy, positions that often go far beyond the actual regulations. What is more, it raises another interesting question, and this may be considered from either a psychological, a sociological, or a metaphysical perspective. What reactions may be inspired in the egregore, or "group-think" of an organization which has a strong egrigore but which has somehow lost sight of its original purpose? How does that even come to be? Such a thread of speculation may provide some useful ideas for those concerned with the future health of Freemasonry.
To turn to a completely experiential set of observations, and this may be a way to convince the skeptical that such things exist, let me raise a few questions for the readers. Test your own reactions, and see whether the concept of egregore relates to Freemasonry, and how it may fit into your own understandings. How do you feel in lodge? Do you feel a different ambience there? Do you sense that Masonry is somehow, perhaps indefinably, more than just the members of the lodge? Is that difference palpable in some way? Does the lodge feel different when you are lone there than when with the other members? Do you sense a presence or awareness, on whatever intellectual or emotional a level? Have you ever entered a deserted lodge, or one which has been repurposed? How did that feel? Do not worry about trying to justify these reactions as belonging to your own thinking. That would be missing the point. After all, an egregore is at the very least, a feeling, a group of common emotions or conceptions, or social identity. At the opposite end of that spectrum, it may be more than just a common identity, it may be a group energy, or even a group "soul."
What is the "Masonic Egregore?" Well, what are real Masonic values? There will be more than one answer to that last question, as there is far less agreement among masons concerning Masonic values than most like to admit. If you look at a hundred attempts to express them, the majority will possess some range of divergence, which is fine. Uniformity is overrated. I would argue, that just as there is more than one "Freemasonry," there exists more than one "Masonic Egregore." Certainly the egregore of Progressive Freemasonry is a very different spirit than that possessed of Mainstream Masonries. Maybe they may be viewed as siblings. 

This seems to be an idea and a realm of speculation worth returning to, and should I find more worth sharing on the subject, the Hedge Mason will return to the subject. Perhaps looking at the concept of egregore in relation to Quantum Physics might reveal some interesting new insights.

3 comments: said...

There is definitely a Masonic Egregore. In one of my two lodges it is palpable. In the other it is absent. Guess which Lodge I prefer to attend. This is a wonderful article. I am glad to have found you.

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Thank you, Jay. Obviously we agree on this. But I can't imagine which lodge you prefer. B|


Unknown said...

Thank you for the well written, erudite article. One problem though:
"The concept of egregore is generally positive"
.....??? Have you ever read the Book of Enoch?
Furthermore, Matthew 18:20. "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them".
and, Hebrews 2:8. "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him."
I'm no mason, but surely the requirement of belief in an Ultimate being that is necessary for entry into masonry must allow admittance to Christians. Therefore, if there are 2 or more Christians in any given lodge, the masonic egregore must submit to the presence of the living spirit. No?
All the best,