Ritual and Myth

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under egregores, magick, ritual

Ritual and Myth

A while back, I went to see a movie after my piano lesson, mostly on a whim. Feeling virtuous for forgoing the nachos (how can something so nasty be so tempting?), I settled into my seat and after silently judging the previews (“yup,” “cool,” “no way,” “Western civilization has officially collapsed.”), I watched my film.

In it, the two heroes fought, first with each other. Eventually, one of the characters, tamed partially by the love of a woman, joined up with the other hero and together they managed to thwart a mighty foe. One hero offers peace to the foe, and the other objects. The foe rejects the peace offer, and is destroyed.

I’ve seen this movie before. In fact, it’s a pretty old movie — it first played in a Sumerian scribe’s head about a thousand years before the common era, and the earliest written version we have is from the 7th century BCE. In that version, the first hero was Gilgamesh, the second was Enkidu, and the monster they defeat is named Humbaba. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times since, or parts of it. This film is the first time, however, that Enkidu was a Vulcan.

Every movie borrows some plot from some ancient story (although, to be fair, some use more modern myths as well). And you don’t need a degree in literature to recognize it. With or without a literature degree, audiences are rarely surprised by plots. After all, who really thinks that the hero will die before achieving his or her goal? Even the surprises of movies famous for them — The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game — has little to do with the plot. The goals and outcome would remain the same whether the surprise were there or not, although the surprise does complicate them. The simplest plot outline — a hero tries to regain faith in himself after failure; an enemy soldier finds himself struggling with his duty — would remain intact with or without the twist. And everyone watching expects the action to play out in these predictable ways.

We expect our stories to have these mythological structures because we know that all stories are built of the same stuff. The building blocks of stories — I’ll call them “mythemes” — are the fundamental particles of character, personality, motivation, setting, and action. They’re not forces of nature; we learn them as we learn to speak. They’re the parts of our first stories, and more importantly, the parts of our culture’s stories. Each mytheme comes prepackaged with expectations, so that if the author invokes the mytheme of “sea,” we know that we will deal with isolation, travel, and exile. If the author invokes the mytheme of “mountain,” we expect revelation and hardship and struggle for attainment. When the author places a trickster in the story, we know that seemingly random actions will lead to life-changing results. When the author paints a character as a knight, we know that the he or she will fight with his or her superior, feel guilty for neglecting family. In other words, we know what’s coming because we know all these stories in their fragmentary parts already.

The magical bit comes in when we realize that what we call our lives is a movie that we play in our own minds. When we do magic, we are not flinging about energy to push stuff around. We’re redefining the universe in which we find ourselves. Magic is a much more radical practice than most magicians realize: every time we do magic, we destroy the entire universe and remake it in our own image. Of course, no one notices — except that our lives change, and we seem perhaps more fortunate than others.

Whether magician or not, we define events in our lives as mythemes in our personal stories. An argument at work is a rebellion against the king. A missed bus is a disaster on par with Ulysses’ lost ships. Sometimes, this tendency to tell stories about the events in our lives can get us in trouble. Your secretary not collating the report properly can become Brutus stabbing you in the back, if you let yourself imagine that it is. On the other hand, even those who do not know magic benefit from arranging their lives into stories. We can make sense of events by seeing how their mythemes fit together. This story-making can save us cognitive effort. Similarly, although sometimes it is useful to resist story-making, it can also be useful to engage in it more consciously — and this is one definition of magic.

Our magical goals are the mythemes of ancient stories. Love, money, happiness, even self-actualization, are all the goals of particular heroes whose archetypes we can wear like a coat. If we wish to go home but cannot, we are Odysseus. If we wish to shift and react to events with cleverness and skill, we are Taliesin. Imagine, for a moment, that you are heading to work in the morning. How different is the experience of stop and go traffic on the Dan Ryan (or whatever other route you take) if it’s a desert you must cross out of duty, a slow stream carrying you into a mysterious forest, or a mountain you must climb to achieve wisdom? You can manage your mood — and, magically, the result of your work day — merely by telling yourself a different story.

One way of seeing magical ritual is as a deliberate rearrangement of mythemes in order to revise the stories of our lives. In this view of ritual, when we pick up the athame to make a circle, we are Gilgamesh and Romulus and every other warrior who ever defended a wall in battle. Similarly, to pick up a wand is to become, for a moment, the mytheme of Ruler — it’s the scepter of the king, the thunderbolt of Zeus, and the magical rod of Enki all at once. We don’t necessarily think consciously that we become these archetypes, but they’re so ingrained in the way we arrange our experiences in story, that we cannot help invoking these archetypes. And, in fact, we live our lives as archetypes. It’s worthwhile (do I really need to put this in an “exercise” box?) to take a few moments to think and maybe write about which archetypes — what characters — you play in your life. You needn’t worry about giving them the “correct” names, of course; you could even rely on names from contemporary fiction. Are you always Spock at work, logical and rational in a society that reacts precipitously, or are you Scotty, fixing the impossible to fix? If you hate Star Trek, you might prefer to ask yourself if you’re Harry or Hermione, Ulysses or Telemachus, Mr. Darcy or Edward Casaubon, Jane or Mr. Rochester?

I’m not arguing that all magic is just psychology, and the only real effect we have on the world is in our own mind. I think we do affect, first and foremost, the mind — but I think matter is a side-effect of mind. By changing the stories we tell ourselves, we change the world we live in not just in our perceptions (although that’s easiest to notice first), but in the world of matter as well.

The Obligatory How To Bit

First, it’s important to have a conscious, rather than the usual unconscious, vocabulary of mythemes. The best way to achieve this vocabulary is by reading the myths, but of course this raises the questions of what myths. It is important to choose myths whose mythemes resonate in our psyches. For most Americans, no matter their background, these are the myths of Greece, Rome, and Iceland. These are the myths that inform most of our culture. Of course, if you feel like an alien in Western culture and frequently find yourself confused at movies everyone else seems to enjoy, perhaps you have a different vocabulary of mythemes. I find anime confusing, for example, because I don’t know the mythemes. (Why is his nose bleeding? What does that have to do with having a crush on someone?) And I didn’t get Xiu Xiu until one of my Chinese friends explained it to me. You can best start with making your unconscious perceptions of patterns more conscious, but it is also possible to become bilingual in myth. The more fluent we are in myth, the more we can understand not just the stories we tell ourselves, but how those stories fit together.

Mythemes aren’t building blocks that fit together any old way; like words, they have a grammar. They fit together in some ways and not in others. You’re more likely to find a sage on a mountain or in a desert than on the ocean, because the grammar of myth fits some mythemes together than others. The grammar of mythemes already encode the likely conflicts in our desires. For example, if we wish to become wealthy, we need to look at some of the mythemes of wealth. Croesus had great wealth, but his overwhelming pride and failure to attend to wisdom led to the fall of his nation. Midas had great wealth, but nearly died because of it, by turning everything he touched to gold. Clearly, if we wish to be rich, we must be aware that our ambivalence will spring from fear of our own pride and greed. We might be led to think of wealth differently then: rather than an acquisition of items of value — real estate in Croesus’ case and gold in Midas’ — we can begin to see wealth as the wisdom to use resources. Hunting around for a story that we can use, we fall finally on Philemon and Baucis — two poor but pious people who, when visited by Zeus disguised as a stranger, offered him the last of their food and were rewarded for it. Now we have a ritual structure: an offer of generosity as an act of faith.

It helps to study not just the myth, but also theories of myth. Joseph Campbell and Robert Graves aren’t exactly regarded highly by contemporary anthropology, but they go a long way to defining an abstract grammar of myth that is invaluable in the study of magic. Campbell, for example, reduces all myths to one ur-story, which simplifies the process of learning the grammar of myth. Instead of memorizing a lot of Greek names, we can start with a framework and use it to hang the names on later. Similarly, Graves’ work is often an unsung and uncited influence on much contemporary Wiccan theology. A reader needn’t accept their theories in the academic sense to find them useful for magic.

Second, it helps to have a system. A system will take the story and translate it into action. For example, if our myth calls for a journey most of us can’t take off a week and travel on a pilgrimage to Greece. But walking about in a circle — circumambulation — is an accepted symbol in Western magical systems for a journey. Fortunately, several convenient pre-made systems of mythemes already exist. If we must represent a figure of authority, and we use either Wicca or Ceremonial Magic, we can grab our wand, no matter what particular device was used in the original myth. Similarly, perhaps Perseus uses a sword to kill the Gorgon, but we can use our athame as a mythemic equivalent in a ritual to confront our own paralyzing fears.

Incidentally, I’ve had good luck using a system as simple as a tarot deck (and in a pinch, a deck of playing cards). Similarly, some magicians do all their magic using systems like the runes, so that drawing the rune tiwaz invokes the whole of the myth of Tyr, with all the attendant strength, victory, and sacrifice, depending on intent. A magical system needn’t be complex, and in fact, one could take one’s favorite myths and reduce them to symbols to create a own magical alphabet of mythemes.

Third, a ritual requires a structure — one that is not, incidentally, noticeably different from Aristotle’s structure of a story. A ritual has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, the magician separates himself or herself from the world. Most western magicians do this by drawing a circle around oneself, but even actions such as fasting, changing into robes or special clothing (or going nude), and ritual baths serve to separate the magician from the world. Once separate, the magician is free to refine the story. The ritual’s middle consists of ritual actions, symbolic reproductions of the story the magician wishes to tell. Inspiration, especially verbal, can be taken from the myths themselves, and symbolic action can be quite abstract. No one needs to slay a serpent to reenact the myth of Apollo’s winning of Delphi. Finally, a ritual ends by reintegrating the magician back into the story of the world, usually by reversing the actions that led to the opening, and often by a quotidian act like the eating of food or drink.

Even outside of rituals, having labels for the habitual patterns in which we find ourselves can help us break out of those patterns, which is of course one of the aims of magic. If you find yourself a lonely, antisocial writer, realize that the “lonely” part of writer is part of the writer mytheme, and not necessarily part of the reality you can live. Similarly, if you are a “struggling artist,” an awareness of the stories of our culture helps you to see that “struggling” need not go with “artist,” but usually does because that’s the story we tell.

The stories we tell as a culture, or myths, may therefore master us or be mastered by us. The magician masters myth, chooses the mythemes of his or her life consciously, and lives deliberately. Many other people simply follow the script written for them, for good or ill. Magic can teach us to revise that script, and have a more meaningful life — and perhaps become contemporary Taliesins and Apolloniuses ourselves, founders and characters in a unique life story.

©2009 by Patrick Dunn.
Minor edits by Sheta Kaey.

Patrick Dunn, author of Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age and Magic, Power, Language, Symbol: A Magician’s Exploration of Linguistics is a poet, linguist, and writer living near Chicago. He maintains a blog at http://pomomagic.wordpress.com/.

Book Review: Meta-Magick, the Book of Atem

April 14, 2009 by  
Filed under books, egregores, reviews

Book Review: Meta-Magick, the Book of Atem


Meta-Magick, the Book of Atem: Achieving New States of Consciousness Through NLP, Neuroscience, and Ritual
by Philip H. Farber
Weiser Books, 2008 $14.95
ISBN 978-1578634248
170 pages
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starFull starFull starNo star

I think I’ve been a bit spoiled in my reading choices — or maybe I’m just more of a geek than I thought. Here, Phil Farber presents a book that ties together memetics, consciousness and the nature of reality, NLP and other forms of psychology, and magical entities, and I’m thinking over and over again, “Wow, I’ve seen this before. I’ve read that, too. Oooh, I’m familiar with this concept!” And then it dawned on me — Farber’s read a lot of the same stuff, and managed to synthesize it into this nifty handbook for working with the entity Atem.

Atem is an egregore created by Farber in conjunction with this book. He is an opener of ways for an entire new group of entities to be created by those magicians who read Meta-Magick — in short, Atem is a catalyst, a means to an end. As such, this book should be taken not as a basic guide to consciousness and magic, or memetics, or entity creation, but in how these and other topics relate to Atem, and the overarching goals associated with him.

While Farber includes a satisfactory amount of theory to explain what he’s about, the practical material in this book is even better. For example, working with a six-part structure based on the various elements (such as Attention and Passion) that are part of Atem’s fabrication, Farber guides the reader through a thirty-six day regimen that allows hir to not only understand Atem in all his parts in more detail and work these into new entities, but to also have a better understanding of the self and its place in reality. There are other rituals and practices as well, and he does a good job of explaining why they’re there. It reminds me, in some ways, of an updated and expanded version of what Robert Anton Wilson was trying to do with Prometheus Rising — help explain how the mind and reality interact.

I would classify this as an intermediate text. Those who have a basis in magic, particularly Chaos or other postmodern forms of magic, will have a better understanding of what’s going on than a rank beginner. However, those who have already read extensively on consciousness and reality, psychology, neurobiology, memetics, entity creation, and other topics that Farber integrates into the Atem working will probably not find too much new material here. I would suggest using this book as a springboard into looking into these other subjects. I do wish he had used internal citations, because I like being able to follow a particular thought to its source and then on from there, but he does offer some resource suggestions to tempt the bibliophile’s appetite.

I think my only complaint is that much of the material works best with two other people. If you are a solitary practitioner entirely, and can’t find other folks who are dedicated enough to give a couple of months to Atem workings, you’re going to have trouble completing this text as described. This is a pretty significant drawback, considering that some magicians are simply isolated, and others don’t prefer to work with others. I wish he would have primarily tailored the material for the individual, with options for small group work.

I do commend Farber for what he’s trying to do here — he’s done a nice job of synthesizing his research into a cohesive magical working that’s effective both internally and on a wider plain of reality. This is a good book to give someone who’s already read Carroll and Hine and wants to do something more specific with Chaos-type magic, particularly surrounding entity work.

Four pawprints out of five.

Review content ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 – The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 - The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Theoretically, having more than one is intended means that someone else is forced to live with less than they are intended. This leads to suffering. One must ponder: How much is enough? Or, at the very least one must consider if that new house, car, or computer that one desires so much is worth having when one understands the effect that pursuing those things will have on oneself, as well as those who already have too little to eat. The goofs1 abhor this idea, for the entire economic well-being in modern times depends on people’s greed and the disregard of their humanity for the convenience of more things. In a way, it is painful for most people to admit that their consumerism may be indirectly responsible for the 20,000 people that die from hunger in this world every day.2

Keeping up with the Joneses and identifying with one’s possessions or income is the result of an illusion that corporate interests perpetuate. Presently, we can see the rewards of following such rotten advice, as the ever increasing number of unemployed in the U.S. find very little comfort in the fact that their jobs are being outsourced to overseas companies so that corporate interests can exploit workers by paying them less, or because the laws in those impoverished countries do not require American corporate giants to provide workers with medical benefits. How nice for them. We are expected to rejoice because now those exploited workers abroad can be consumers and buy Nikes. And when people abroad can buy Nikes, then that is good for America.

But what happens when Americans can’t afford to buy shoes, much less Nikes?

Greed is and always has been responsible for most of the world’s woes, and an ethical person will not perpetuate an evil that causes war, pestilence, hunger and misery to billions of his fellow humans. Instead, he or she will conceive a way to conduct business that is more inline with his or her beliefs, and will refuse to buy into that form of legalized theft and exploitation known as “capitalism.”

Consider how modern society seems to de-emphasize cooperation. Cooperation is dangerous, and the demiurge likes to perpetuate the myth of “rugged individualism” or the idea that every man is an island. Consider to what extent we have bought into this illusion — that we would warehouse our children, leaving them to be raised by total strangers in order to free ourselves to pursue some dream that seems more and more like a nightmare. How did it get this far — that two adults would consider having children in the first place, knowing that they wouldn’t have time to raise them because of the fixation with material things. Again, we must ask ourselves: How much is enough? How much of the violence, racial and religious hatred, and other increasing social ills could have been avoided by raising and educating our own children rather than putting them away like a book we intend to read later? The excuse has always been that we are working hard for their future so that they can have more of those material things we use as a measure of success (and doesn’t this seem to vindicate us?) when what they really need is the love and attention of a parent.

Our neighbors are subjected to human rights violations. Their doors are kicked in and we watch them from the illusory safety of our homes, thanking our gods it isn’t us. We must look out for number one. We mustn’t rock the boat by holding an unpopular thought, because that might interfere with our ability to collect more things. We stand by and do nothing because we are supposed to mind our own business.

We are worker bees, all of us. If we learned to cooperate, got to know our neighbors, and protested when injustices were committed against them, then we might come to realize that we control our own flow of honey, and that the demiurge cannot exist without its honey.

In the U.S., we like to think of ourselves as free. We like to think of Lady Liberty, in New York, as a symbol of that altruistic ideal. Yet, we seem to be collectively unable or unwilling to extend that benefit to others. China does not claim it was founded as a country of the free, but America does, and it resorts to hypocrisy of the worst kind by trading with countries like China. Many Americans don’t seem to give buying goods made by forced prison labor a second thought, since they individually benefit from the exploitation of those people. The less they pay for one toy, the more they have left to buy other toys.

On a very mundane level, we exploit others when we purchase items made by prison labor, occupied territories or the underprivileged because we expect to get these items at a much better price than we would if they were not being exploited. We benefit from their poverty. We even do it to our own countrymen when we patronize stores that exploit their workers by cheating them out of reasonable pay, hours, medical benefits, or when we employ businesses that promote, or pass up, individuals based on color, race, or religious beliefs rather than a good work ethic.

This planet has a Will. It is the Little Sister of Nuit. Should we patronize organizations, special interest groups, or individual wills when their actions violate global wellness? Of course, we could argue (and often have) that since we are all global creatures, any action we make, even actions that destroy our home, are in accordance with the global will. Crowley didn’t think so, and neither do I.

Apparent, and sometimes even real, conflict between interests will frequently arise. Such cases are to be decided by the general value of the contending parties in the scale of Nature. Thus, a tree has a right to its life; but a man being more than a tree, he may cut it down for fuel or shelter when need arises. Even so, let him remember that the Law never fails to avenge infractions: as when wanton deforestation has ruined a climate or a soil, or as when the importation of rabbits for a cheap supply of food has created a plague.

Observe that the violation of the Law of Thelema produces cumulative ills. The drain of the agricultural population to big cities, due chiefly to persuading them to abandon their natural ideals, has not only made the country less tolerable to the peasant, but debauched the town. And the error tends to increase in geometrical progression, until a remedy has become almost inconceivable and the whole structure of society is threatened with ruin.

The wise application based on observation and experience of the Law of Thelema is to work in conscious harmony with Evolution. Experiments in creation, involving variation from existing types, are lawful and necessary. Their value is to be judged by their fertility as bearing witness to their harmony with the course of nature towards perfection. — Duty

Remember: every dollar is a vote. Money is a talisman.

Footnotes:

  1. Noun. From the Hebrew Goph — a reference to the physical body. A derogatory term to explain humans that refuse to acknowledge their spiritual nature or humanity because doing so would mean they’d have to inconvenience themselves with the ethics such beliefs would imply.
  2. In the time it would have taken the average person to finish reading this book, 40,000 people will have died. Tomorrow, 20,000 more will die.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Nature of the Egregore

The Nature of the Egregore

Editor’s Note: This article was composed and published in December 2006, when Michael Jackson was alive and well. There was and there is no disrespect intended with use of his name here.

Standard Definition of Egregore

Wikipedia currently defines egregores thusly: “Essentially, an egregore is the ‘spirit of a thing,’ usually a human group or organization, shared by the members of the group, for whom it provides guidelines concerning principles, beliefs, and goals. Companies, religions, states, and clubs all can be said to have egregores. An example of the presence of an egregore could be when ‘a project takes on a life of its own.'”1 In my twelve years of working with spirits, I have observed the phenomenon of egregores to go considerably further than this.

Refraction

An egregore, based on my observation, is not in itself a being (in the strictest sense), but the living source of energy from which a being draws its life. Think of it as a vast “energy cloud” encompassing the collective view of the subject. The word egregore has its roots in the Greek egregoros which translates to vigil, thus giving “egregore” the sense of “watcher.”2 I consider an egregore capable of sustaining an infinite number of manifestations simultaneously, as needed by the collective. For example, hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, report seeing or talking to the Archangel Raphael at overlapping times. This is most apparent in occult circles by those who take view of a personal relationship with the archangel through rituals such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). Not only is it possible for the egregore of Archangel Raphael to manifest thousands of Raphaels at once, it is also possible for each manifestation to be what the individual finds most useful or necessary (not necessarily by choice, but rather by need). Meridjet (my spirit companion; you can read more about him in this month’s Into The Aethyr) calls this “refraction.” Think of a faceted crystal hanging in a window. Sunlight hits the crystal and sends hundreds of multicolored rays of light into the room. Raphael would be the the light, the egregore would be the crystal, and each of the manifestations of Raphael would be a ray of light refracting from the crystal.

Thought Over Matter

The strength and the life of an egregore (and therefore the lives of its manifestations) depends upon the strength of the energy it is fed. Magical energy takes many forms: emotion, attraction, repulsion, magnetism, inspiration, and others. These may be kinetic or potential,3 created by the chemical reactions within the cells of the body or brain, or something altogether else. The point is that thought can affect matter4 (witness the placebo effect, among others). Firewalking is a case in point. I attended a weekend workshop in firewalking in 1995. After a few exercises in which each of us demonstrated (to ourselves more than to the other attendees, I think) that our intent held the power of success, we spread the coals and began the main event of the evening. The first time I witnessed someone walk the coals, I literally swooned with the power of it. The key, we were taught, was to focus on the far “shore” of the “lake” of red-hot coals (a healthy 15 feet, or nearly 5 meters, away) and visualize a goal there. Choose something that means a great deal to you, a goal or accomplishment that you are determined to win. Then, focused on this goal, you walk barefoot across the coals to symbolically win the prize. I walked three times that night, and I can tell you that focus made all the difference. After walking twice and thinking there was nothing to it, I made the mistake of walking across without focusing — and I got burned. I went home and soaked my feet in a tub of ice water, having broken out into a few blisters that even then were oddly painless and essentially gone by morning. My attention on the goal wavered — and that was enough to change the outcome of the walk completely.

Attention is a very common and yet quite powerful form of magical energy. The egregore of something like Microsoft is not dependent only upon the people who make up the Microsoft employee base, but also upon the perspectives of those viewing from outside. This is an important point, as it is the reputation of the thing viewed that colors the manifestation for the individual doing the viewing.

Empathic Awareness of Energy Signatures

Contact with an egregore is primarily kinesthetic (at least initially). It’s a sort of deeply empathic understanding of the nature of a thing based purely on the feelings it inspires when one is in contact with it. (This also works on a smaller scale with one-on-one encounters with people.) Via the contact itself, one is able to instinctively or intuitively understand the essence of the contactee.

When you think of Microsoft, again, you are likely to think of a software giant who fights aggressively over its self-perceived turf in the software industry. Whether you see this to be negative or positive is purely a personal choice, but the feeling of Microsoft is large, looming, and watchful, aggressive and perhaps intimidating. If you were given this feeling alone in a metaphysical taste test game, there’s not much chance you’d mistake it for the much smaller and “softer” egregore of Quilted Northern bath tissue. This intuitive understanding is at the heart of all interaction with egregores, and indeed, at the heart of most interaction with any sort of spiritual being, whether that being is natural or manmade.

While it is true that an egregore can attach to anything from a nation (consider the current worldview of the United States, for example) to a small group project (such as a Wiccan coven), it is my observation that egregores are also attached to individuals of any degree of renown. This is because the individual is still the focal point of a collective view, of a large and even massive group of people. Consider, if you will, the different impressions you feel, intuitively, when you think of Queen Elizabeth versus Madonna, or the difference between Angelina Jolie and Oprah. Not much mistaking any of them for the other in our blind taste test, either.

Egregore Overpowers Original Source

The public view feeds the celebrity, which creates the egregore. The egregore then feeds the public view, as well as the fame of the individual, enlarging the circle of renown. The resultant increase in celebrity stimulates more attention, so the new public view sustains the egregore. This circle of sustenance builds until the egregore begins to feed on itself or recede for something brighter and shinier. We can feel when it starts to wane. We can feel when the egregore shifts, usually due to a gradual yet contagious shift in the public view — yet often the individual manages to do something of such power that they initiate a huge shift nearly overnight, essentially “poisoning” their own egregore and leading to their fall from public grace.

Michael Jackson is one clear example of an alleged self-poisoning, leading to an egregore feeding upon itself as the perspective of the collective public changes. In the 1980s, Michael Jackson was nothing short of a pop god, going so far as to name himself “the Prince of Pop.” His popularity seemed to know no bounds, despite speculation regarding his constantly-changing appearance. Then he was accused of child molestation, and his popularity took a nosedive. This affected Michael on a personal level, and changed the flavor of his own reaction. (This is an important point, but there’s no room to cover that right now.) Despite his efforts to return public opinion to his favor, the changed egregore (the energy supplied to Michael’s fame and reputation) proved stronger than his own personal power and intent. What he saw as his power was truly the power of the collective attention of the world, and when that soured, it was essentially curtains for Mike. What was once a huge wave of admiration for the star became a nightmare of equal proportion. This is the power of the egregore.

Magical Uses of the Egregore

The usual attraction of the egregore for the occultist or magician is one of invocation and archetypal influence. While the available archetypes in standard symbol sets may be limited, there is usually a media-based character that a magician can use to his or her benefit. If, for example, a magician wanted to see a person receive their comeuppance, he or she could invoke the energy of Bugs Bunny (a trickster who always managed to lure the enemy into sabotaging himself), and watch the person stumble themselves into their own just rewards. Invocation of an egregore allows one to personalize and even humanize the work one is doing and the results one would like to gain.

Another way that I see egregores used in magick and occult application is via the phenomenon of SoulBonding5. A “SoulBond” is a (generally fictitious and often popularly known) character that manifests to an individual as a spirit. This spirit is classified as outsourced, (created in canon by a writer and used in a manuscript, film, video game, or the like), or insourced (an original, self-created character, often used in one’s own story-writing). The latter is more along the lines of a servitor and so is not topical to this article. Many SoulBonders believe that their SoulBonds actually originate in an alternate or parallel reality and that the canon author tapped into their reality and wrote their story via channel. For example, this idea has surrounded J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy for decades, and now has spread to become a rather common phenomenon, particularly in the online occult community. While I certainly do not discount individual paradigms and I acknowledge that anything is possible, it’s my belief that a majority (if not all) of SoulBonds are essentially manifestations of the character’s egregore that grew in the mind of the individual until the character took on independence and a personality that is both true to the original and individual to that manifestation. This is another example of refraction as described earlier in this article. In my opinion, this is what allows umpteen people to all SoulBond Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, for example, though most SoulBonders will say that the multiverse (i.e. infinite universes are home to infinite Sephiroths) is responsible for this.

The potential use of the egregore is enormous and all magicians should gain understanding of that potential. If magicians could egregore-shift the way chaos magicians paradigm-shift, then our use and manipulation of energy via the juggling of egregores could result in a great shift in awareness of not only our psyches but also the nature of the subtle planes and how beings on those levels behave and interact with humans on our plane of existence.

Footnotes

  1. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 2006
  2. The History of Magic by Eliphas Levi, translated by A. E. Waite. Originally published in 1913 by Rider; republished in 1999 by Weiser Books, Inc. This particular reference is the first footnote on page 40 of the Weiser edition.
  3. http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/science/formsofenergy.html
  4. http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=1386262004
  5. http://childofmana.tripod.com/soulbonding.htm

©2006 Sheta Kaey.

Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. You can read her blog here.

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