An Essential Element of Mysticism
Pieter Bruegel the Elder c.1558
An 'egregor' (or 'egregore') is not a word one would find in a dictionary or on the internet.
Around the year 1985, I first came upon the word 'egregore' in The Magician, his training and his work, by W. E. Butler, Aquarian Paperback, 1982 (1959), p.155, where Butler writes that:
"A clear idea of the nature of the magical Egregore, or group form, should be built up in the mind in order that the aspirant may understand what part he plays in the whole complex scheme, and thereby may know how closely he is guided and aided in his chosen work."
[The mysterious head idol reportedly possessed by the Knights Templar, called the Baphomet, may have been intended as a representation of an egregor. RNS]
Although I was familiar with the concept of 'group form' or 'group thought form' from theosophical writings and from "magical" writers (such as Dion Fortune) I was not satisfied with the definition. Something in that word latched itself to my mind and made me investigate further.
The word also appeared in The Magical Philosophy, by M. Denning and O. Phillips, Llewellyn Publications, 1978, Vol.. IV, pp. 92-3, 95:
"That deep level of racial and archetypal egregores...is termed the Collective Unconscious..." (.p.92)
The word appears thrice more in the discussion on the ensuing page, #93. On page 95, however, we are introduced to a new term: "Watcher".
"...the Watcher ... at the Threshold ... is not ... a valid archetypal egregore " (p. 95)
The word also appeared in the French introductory booklet of AMORC, Maitrise de la Vie (p. 18:):
" ... l'Egregore manifeste par la Roise-Croix constitue un idee-force ... Il est un champ d'energie cosmique ... "
By that time I had a tentative idea that the "egregore" as a terminology is descended from the Golden Dawn activities. The founders of the Golden Dawn had claimed that they received a letter of authority from German Rosicrucians. Consequently I began to search published books that related to members of that Order or its upshoots, i.e. I. Regardie, E. Underhill, Dion Fortune, A. E. Waite. Nowhere did I find the term "egregore". However, I found a book by Eliphas Levi, The Great Secret, Thorson Publishers Ltd., 1975. Chapter 10, "The Magnetism of Evil" (pp. 127-136) has a multitudinous array of egregors (spelt without an "e"):
Levi refers to the powers of nature and the cosmos as egregors. "These colossal forces have sometimes taken a shape and have appeared in the guise of giants: these are the egregors of the Book of Enoch." (p. 127).
Levi later claims, discussing the planets; "...governed by those genii which were termed the celestial watchers, or egregors, by the ancients." (p. 129)
Further on in his article he relates the egregor to the Kabbalistic Adam Kadmon ("that collective giant"), to the "Anakim in the Bible," and generally speaking to natural powers operating the world and to their analogies as they have been expressed in myths in various cultures. When he has done that, he says:
"This is why we reject the mythology of the egregors finally and absolutely." (p. 130).
The manuscript of this work had been finished in 1868 and was first printed in 1897. Levi, who had been trained as a Roman Catholic Priest, died in 1875. The founders of the Golden Dawn were acquainted with his writings. Levi himself was conversant with Rosicrucian ideas.
While this was going on I began to look up dictionaries, first modern dictionaries and later Latin ones. Eventually I decided to learn Greek alphabet (which took me about a month) and look up a Greek dictionary. I found the word egregor at the Intermediate Greek - English Lexicon, founded upon the seventh edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, with reference to egeiro = to be awake, to watch.
As I turned to egeiro (Root EGER) (I am transliterating into English) I found the following definitions:
Clearly this word had many interpretations. Obviously it was connected to watching and wakefulness. It was obvious that at least some of the references I quoted above knew of its meaning as well as its source (Levi, as will be shown below).
Since Liddell and Scott mentioned the New Testament, I then moved on to A Concordance to the Septuagint, ed. E. Hatch, first published 1897, Clarendon Press edition, "egregoros".
The Concordance brings two citations of the word egregoros, together with the Hebrew equivalent = (Hebrew letters, "ayin", "yod", "reish"). The word in Hebrew is pronounced IR or ER.
The Septuagint translated "blind" into 'watchers"; instead of the Septuagint translators read .
Lamentations 4:14, according to the Septuagint, should be read thus:
"Watchers moved through the streets, polluted with blood, so that none could touch their garments."
The word is spelt "ayin", "vav", "reish". The difference between the letters "yod" and "vav" is a tiny half a millimeter length of stroke. There could have been a scribal error somewhere, especially as the word IR or ER had become rather extinct as a terminology, probably from the third century C.E..
(The Vulgate translated "blind" = "caeci". Daniel 4:10 is translated in the Vulgate as "vigil").
The second reference from the Septuagint is from Daniel, 4:10, 20,
Daniel 4:10,: "...and behold, a watcher and a holy one came down from heaven."
According to the Septuagint there are two Greek versions to this sentence: Codex A (Sinaiticus) writes egregoros but Theodosion writes "eir".
According to Andre Lacocque, Le Livre de Daniel, commentaire de l'ancien Testament, Paris, 1976, there are two versions, one "paraphrastique" (paraphrasing ) and the other "suit de pres le texte" (follows the text). The book of Daniel is the only biblical one where the Greek of the Septuagint is replaced by that of Theodosion, who adhered to the Hebrew and Aramaic text...(pp. 22, 64).
It is clear that Theodosion considered "eir" a special concept or terminology and decided not to translate it into an ordinary Greek adjective. He probably thought it would lose its significance in such a translation.
Now that we know that a Watcher is an egregor, and that an egregor is an "eir", which in Hebrew would be ("ayin", "yod", "reish") we turn to the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, with an appendix containing the biblical Aramaic, based on the Lexicon of Wm. Gesenius, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1907 (Gesenius died in 1842).
Here we come to the end of our search. According to Gesenius:
(he writes ir, not er) = "n. m. waking, or wakeful one, i.e. angel."
The root of the word is Syrian, in Hebrew it would
be "er", plural form "irin" (Daniel,
Thus, the mystery is solved. An egregor is an angel, sometimes called watcher; in Hebrew the word is ir, and the concept appears in The Book of Enoch, edited by Charles (that would be 1 Enoch).
- also means city. (In modern Hebrew, ir - city; arim - cities).
(2) Interim conclusions
We have now made a full circle with circumstantial evidence, leading us to wonder whether a group of people, in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, a group that was somehow connected to the Rosicrucian mysteries, was also dealing with Enochian secrets. It is obvious that they knew of the Book of Enoch, the manuscript of which had been brought to Europe in the 18th century; they had classical education and could read Greek. Still, the secret (whatever it was) must have been a very well-kept one, for the only ones referring to Enoch are Eliphas Levi, prior to the foundation of The Golden Dawn, and the writers quoted above - after the demise of The Golden Dawn. Of the Golden Dawn itself we know they reorganized the system called Enochian magic, based on the activities of Dr. John Dee (1527 - 1608). According to the Enochian Magick Reference Document , which is well documented, Dee referred to his system as "angelic". It was the G. D. members who named it Enochian. Of John Dee it has been claimed that he was the "founder of the Rosicrucian Order, the protestant response to the Jesuits" (About Dr. John Dee).
An additional question left unanswered is whether Dr. Dee was aware of the word egregor in the sense of a watcher/angel from the Book of Enoch. I have not learned his system, but as far as I know it contains four Watch Towers with designated governors, or angels. Generally speaking, the word "governor" in Dee's context is translated into Hebrew as "Sar" (the letter "shin" vowelled as "sin" and the letter "reish"), when it is retranslated it would be "arch" like "archangels (Greek "archon" also translated as 'Prince'). This type of angel, the archangel, appears in the Book of Enoch, and the "Sarim" in there are called "Irim" as well.
What is even more amazing is that the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to "towers" protected by angels. During a discussion of angelic names, M. J. Davidson, in his Angels at Qumran (Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), explains that "The group of four archangels, Michael, Sariel, Raphael and Gabriel are called by Syncellus (1.En.9.1) 'megoloi archanggeloi'. (Syncellus in his time distinguished between 'mere' archangels and 'Mega' Archangels). The same list occurs in 1QM9.14-16, where the shields of the towers are to be inscribed with these four names." (p.326).
Davidson explains that in the Qumran Community, the war between The Sons of Light (the Qumranites) and The Sons of Darkness (all outside the sect) ... "is to be conducted with acute awareness of the place of the angelic world in it.... 1QM 9.10-16 provides details on battle formations which involve four 'towers' ('Migdalot') which are apparently units of soldiers with specifically long spears and shields.... On each of their shields is written the name of one of the four archangels." (p.228).
At this point in the article I would like to point out that most of this research was done in the l980's, before I was connected to the internet. As I have mentioned before, the word egregor simply latched itself on to my mind in a truly occult fashion. I was very happy to have solved the meaning of the term, being a native Israeli English teacher who gets annoyed by recalcitrant new English words, and who is not afraid of dictionaries. It was only in 1997, when I was linked, that I realized there was a large community on the net who were discussing this exact terminology. They were kept in ignorance because, in the polite words of Benjamin Rowe "as an obscure subject, it has not rated a great deal of attention from scholars and publishers".
The internet is mentioned here since it presented me with an additional puzzle concerning Dr. Dee and modern occult milieu, the former being the elusive Liber Loagaeth, otherwise known as Liber Mysteriorum Sextus et Sanctus, dictated to Kelly and Dee by the angels (according to the Enochian Magick Reference Document), and the latter Lovecraft's Necronomicon - "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926). Both texts deal with the Old Ones and both are reminiscent of the myth of the Fallen Angels. Lovecraft claimed to have based his Necronomicon on a Manuscript of the Liber Loagaeth but later he retracted his claim. This is in conformity with my assumption that the topic of egregors was "top secret" among operating magicians at the beginning of this century.. Somehow the mysterious Liber Loagaeth manuscript disappeared (how did it come into Lovecraft's possession ?) while Lovecraft denied ever having come into contact with it.
However, according to information on The Necronomicon, Liber Logaeth was not dictated to Kelly. The Latin text came to Dr. Dee's possession while he was at the court of Emperor Rudoph II, in Prague. Parts of the Liber Logaeth are available at Al Azif: The Manuscript Liber Logaeth.
The Necronomicon page above also refers to "the fabulous city of Irem" .
"Irem is very important in Arab magick. 'Irem Zhat al Imad' (Irem of the Pillars) ...was probably built by the Jinn under the direction of Shaddad, Lord of the tribe of Ad. The tribe of Ad, according to legend, was a race roughly equivalent to the Hebrew 'Nephilim'....In Arab legend Irem is located in the Rub al Khali...- 'the empty Quarter' [which] ...refers to the VOID and is the same as AIN in the Kabbalistic traditions....Modern archaeologists have identified ruins at Shisha, Oman, as those of Irem, better known as the lost city of Ubar."
Thus, Irim, the city of the Nephilim is again linked
with the Book of Enoch, since the Nephilim, according to
that Book, were the sons of the Irim (the egregors).
Moreover, the name Cthulhu, could refer to the Hebrew root = KTL ("kof", "tet", "lamed") which means to 'kill', in battle and, or, other such unsavory circumstances. Thus, Cthulhu would be the name of a mighty and lethal (KaTLani) warrior.
It must be pointed out, however, that the Liber Logaeth abounds with many other strange names. I would like to suggest, therefore, four possibilities:
(1) The similarity of the names Irem and Cthulhu
to Hebrew is accidental;
Since I prefer the third possibility, which again connects me to the Book of Enoch, I ask myself again whether Dr. Dee had some kind of version, or excerpt of Enoch in his extensive library.
(3) Was there an excerpt of The Book of Enoch in Dee's period ?
According to Michael A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, Oxford U. Press, 1978, "Regrettably we have no information concerning the circumstances in which Enoch was translated from Aramaic into Greek nor of the presumed date of translation ... fourth to sixth centuries ..." (p. 27)
According to Matthew Black, The Book of Enoch - or 1 Enoch, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1985, "...no one seems to doubt that it was a Greek vorlage which the Ethiopic translated, with or without the help of a copy of the Semitic (in my view Hebrew) original." (p. 4)
According to J. T. Milik, The Book of Enoch, Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford, 1976, "The altogether incontestable terminus ante quem falls in the year 164 BC, the date of the composition of the Book of Dreams which is closely dependent on the Book of Watchers." (p. 24)
Prior to the modern research of the Book of Enoch, hardly nothing was known about it, while "the short Greek excerpts in Syncellus, covering 6.1-10, 14; 15.8 - 16.1, provided the only source of information we had". (Knibb, p.1.)
Georgius Syncellus wrote, at the beginning of the
9th century (808-810) a chronography of the earth, from the first
day of creation to the year 284 C.E. Syncellus used The Book
of Enoch as part of his sources, though, according to Milik,
not directly: "It will be remembered, however, that he [Syncellus]
was acquainted with the Enochic writings only through the works
of the Alexandrian historians Pandorus and Annianus (around C. E.
400)." (Milik, p. 5.)
The Chronography of Syncellus was translated into Latin already at the beginning of the 9th century, together with the Chronographies of the Confessor (752-818) and others by Anastasius, surnamed Bibliothecarius, who, after having been cardinal and anti-pope and thrice excommunicated, became papal librarian under Hadrian II and John VIII. His literary energy was great, especially in translation from the Greek. (A History of Historical Writing, by J. W. Thompson, McMillan Co. USA, 1942, p. 207).
However, the Latin version of Anastasius, which is called Historia Tripartita or Chronographia Tripartita and which was used in the West does not refer to the fallen angels, since Syncellus was used only as a source of information about the Roman era.
Knibb claims that a Latin translation of the entire Book of Enoch may have existed at one time, and brings, as a reference, two examples, one of which from the 9th century:
Between the 9th and 15th centuries, as far as I know, there is no evidence that the Book of Enoch was used, directly, or through quotations, not to mention the expression egregor in Greek or in Latin.
Milik writes that "The existence of a book of Enoch kept by the Abyssinian church among the sacred books of their bible had been known in Europe, in a vague way, since the end of the fifteenth century" (p. V). He does not bring reference.
Pico Della Mirandola (end of 15th century) heard of Enoch: "It is probably of this type of work that Pico is thinking when he says that his practical cabala has nothing to do with the wicked magics going on under the names of Solomon, Moses, Enoch or Adam, by which demons were conjured by bad magicians ... from Pico's Apologia." (Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Frances Yates, U of Chicago Press, 1964, p.107 and note #2).
After the fall of Constantinople, (1453 C.E.) many texts of the Roman and Greek culture reached the West. On the other hand, the legend of the angelic uprising was known in the east of the Empire. A Bar Hebraeus (1226 - 1286) wrote an extensive chronography on the subject:
Thus, it is obvious that the legend of Enoch was assimilated in the Orient (and in the Slavonic world as well - there are Slavonic translations).
As far as the west is concerned, direct quotations from Syncellus could be found at the Chronography of all Times, the Thesaurus Temporum. This one was compiled and edited by Josephus Juste Scaliger (1540 - 1609). It is written in Greek, which I do not read. The book I saw was Reproductio phototypica editionis 1606 Thesaurus Temporum, Lugduni Batavorum, 1606.
Dr. Dee who knew Greek (he would write notes in Greek in his diary) died in 1608. However, his "angelic" activities took place in the last decade of the 16th century. Nevertheless, in the light of the proximity of dates, it cannot be ruled out that he had seen, read or owned a Chronography or a manuscript quoting the Greek Syncellus.
The Thesaurus Temporum was finally translated into Latin and published in 1652 ("Prodiit Parisiis a.1652, Typis Venetis revisum a.1729).
The Latin Chronology says:
It is obvious from the above that even though the Chronography is very concise, the word egregor is rather extensively used in its context. The translator, Goar, did not change egregor into "vigil".(from Greek into Latin). He also claimed that he used for his translation Scaliger's compilation as well as a Codex Palatinus by Syncellus, #246 in the Vatican Library, "Romae, Anno 1637" (p. 72)
In conclusion I would venture to suggest that Dr. John Dee could have come into contact with a version of the Book of Enoch; a Slavonic version perhaps, or the Greek excerpts by Syncellus. It would also account for the great secrecy under which this term was both kept, and preserved. Although the Irim, the egregors, are angels on both sides of the camp - fallen angels as well as faithful ones . This may not be quite so clear to a lay reader, or even to an occultist or a mystic, in our times, not to mention the religious atmosphere of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Post scriptum (2004 A.D.)
Always being on the lookout to increase my horizons, the readers will understand my surprise and pleasure when I chanced upon a new English word, camouflaging the Egregor to perfection with a cutting edge technology and a highly respectable godfather, no more no less than Richard Dawkings, the renowned scholar, who seems to have discovered or "rediscovered" this ancient entity. Observing it through his scientific binoculars, like a birdwatcher in Abstract Land, he stripped it of its metaphysical and magical connotations, endowing it with a biological moving to a sociological flowchart definition, as follows:
Thus, the ancient Egregor, and the 19th-20th century Thought Form concept, and a semantic spinoff variation on the word "gene" , are all perched peacefully side by side seemingly unaware of each other.
The modern definitions treat the egregor as a miniscule biological program, i.e. something that is in a sense alive. It should be noted that each of the definitions above uses the word "Idea", "Concept" "Thought". The meme is capable of spreading, of self replicating, of propagating, and of "parazitizing" people, in other words, my words, of possessing people.
The meme concept is adopted by hackers, who act in the underworld of the virtual world, a world of tremendous knowledge, ever growing and evolving, like Etz Hadaat - the mythical Tree of Knowledge in the Bible.
© 1998 L. S. Bernstein