The first book to explore the history and influence of egregores, powerful autonomous psychic entities created by a collective group mind
• Examines the history of egregores from ancient times to present day, including their role in Western Mystery traditions and popular culture and media
• Reveals documented examples of egregores from ancient Greece and Rome, Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, modern esoteric orders, the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Grant, and the followers of Julius Evola and Aleister Crowley
• Provides instructions on how to identify egregores, free yourself from parasitic and destructive entities, and destroy an egregore, should the need arise
One of most important but little known concepts of Western occultism is that of the egregore, an autonomous psychic entity created by a collective group mind. An egregore is sustained by belief, ritual, and sacrifice and relies upon the devotion of a group of people, from a small coven to an entire nation, for its existence. An egregore that receives enough sustenance can take on a life of its own, becoming an independent deity with powers its believers can use to further their own spiritual advancement and material desires.
Presenting the first book devoted to the study of egregores, Mark Stavish examines the history of egregores from ancient times to present day, with detailed and documented examples, and explores how they are created, sustained, directed, and destroyed. He explains how egregores were well known in the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome, when they were consciously called into being to watch over city states. He explores the egregore concept as it was understood in various Western Mystery traditions, including the Corpus Hermeticum, and offers further examples from Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, modern esoteric orders such as the Order of the Golden Dawn and Rosicrucianism, the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Grant, and the followers of Julius Evola and Aleister Crowley. The author discusses how, even as the fundamental principles of the egregore were forgotten, egregores continue to be formed, sometimes by accident.
Stavish provides instructions on how to identify egregores, free yourself from a parasitic and destructive collective entity, and destroy an egregore, should the need arise. Revealing how egregores form the foundation of nearly all human interactions, the author shows how egregores have moved into popular culture and media--underscoring the importance of intense selectivity in the information we accept and the ways we perceive the world and our place in it.
Chapter 5 The Lovecraft Circle Robert E. Howard and Conan the Barbarian
Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) wrote over a hundred stories for publication in a career that lasted twelve years. He is widely accepted as the father of the “sword and sorcery genre” with his creation of “Conan the Barbarian.”
In August 1930, Howard wrote a letter to Weird Tales magazine that would begin an active correspondence with H. P. Lovecraft. This exchange of letters, opinions, and literary ideas would initiate Howard into “The Lovecraft Circle,” where he was introduced to many authors of similar interests; each member of the group encouraged others to contribute to the various fictional worlds and mythologies they had created. This unique feature of the circle elevated it beyond what is often thought of as “networking” in modern business terms, or a writers' club, but into a magical operation wherein the thought forms it generated took on vigorous lives of their own--as can be seen by the longevity of the works created by its members almost three-quarters of a century after it was started.
In April 1932, Howard wrote to Lovecraft and detailed his most recent heroic character--King Conan the Cimmerian, also known as “Conan the Barbarian.” Howard later stated, “Conan simply grew up in my mind a few years ago when I was stopping in a little border town on the Rio Grande. I did not create him by any conscious process. He simply stalked full grown out of oblivion and set me at work recording the saga of his adventures.” He would later state to fellow “Lovecraft Circle” member Clark Ashton Smith, While I do not go so far as to believe that stories are inspired by actually existent spirits or powers (though I am rather opposed to flatly deny anything), I have sometimes wondered if it were possible that unrecognized forces from the past or present--or even the future--work through the thoughts and actions of living men. This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen--or rather, my typewriter--almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-telling.” (1)
Arthur Machen and “The Bowman”
One of the writers read by Howard and other members of The Lovecraft Circle was Arthur Machen. Machen’s greatest literary achievements were in the gothic horror genre. However, it is his often ignored involvement in a widely reported “paranormal event” that is of interest to shapers of mass consciousness and public perception.
In August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force was in retreat. The war--which was supposed to end in a few weeks--was going badly for Allied forces in France and morale was plummeting. Machen recalled reading the newspapers of the day describing the retreat of British forces, and stated that he fell into despair. Machen, who was then working as a journalist writing war reports and various propaganda pieces from the home front, wrote a piece entitled “The Bowman,” first published on September 29, 1914, in the London Evening News. The piece was a work of fiction, but this apparently was not clearly stated, as the story presented soon took on a life of its own. The story reports of ghostly apparitions appearing at a critical moment to protect the retreating British soldiers, with phantasmal arrows slaying advancing Germans by the thousands.
Desire for such divine (or at least supernatural) intervention was so strong amidst a population hearing of their army in retreat that it went from being not just the ghosts of English longbowmen--as Machen had originally written--but to angels under the direction of St.George, the patron saint of Great Britain. Churches and other religious bodies took up the story to inspire, comfort, and encourage their congregations, whose fathers and sons were fighting in France for reasons that were not always very clear. Soon, stories appeared of enlisted men and officers who claimed to have seen something miraculous on the day in question--but these were all after the fact, and none were ever substantiated. Machen would later write a letter of regret stating that it "was as if I had touched the button and set in action a terrific, complicated mechanism of rumours that pretended to be sworn truth, of gossip that posed as evidence, of wild tarradiddles that good men most firmly believed.”(2)
Over time, this event went from being divine intervention to wishful thinking, coupled with collective hallucination induced by the stress of battle. Yet the desire for supernatural intervention in our world, particularly that of St. George--the patron saint of the British egregore, if you will--was not enough. Many in the occult community saw it as a magical act, either intentional or unintentional by Machen, using the collective energies of the mass mind. Here, Machen was not simply raising the spirits of his readers during a time of despair; he was in fact raising real spirits, an army of them to do battle with very real corporeal enemies. While there appears to be no truth in this, the effect was nonetheless the same: a collective thought form had been created, it was attached to an egregore (St. George), and strengthened through repetition and religious rites.
Mark Stavish is a respected authority on Western spiritual traditions. The author of 26 books, published in 7 languages, including The Path of Alchemy and Kabbalah for Health and Wellness, he is the founder and director of the Institute for Hermetic Studies and the Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund. He has appeared on radio shows, television, and in major print media, including Coast to Coast AM, the History Channel, BBC, and the New York Times. The author of the blog VOXHERMES, he lives in Wyoming, Pennsylvania.
“Stavish gives not only theories but also facts and examples of these forces in spirituality, politics, news, and entertainment. More importantly, he explains how to recognize and free ourselves from their influences if we so choose.”
– George Noory, host of Coast to Coast AM
“Egregores: The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny marks a major turning point in popular esotericism, with Mark Stavish tackling head-on our society’s most pressing issue--the psychic and physical embodiment of ideologies and systems--with a penetrating and insightful text addressing the hidden life of thoughtforms as they emerge in our culture through mass movements, fundamentalist sects, corporate branding, and identity politics. Put down the fake news, pick up this book, and find out why Enoch warns us that the cosmic control system’s been put on divine probation!”
– David Metcalfe, editor in chief of Threshold
“It is a memorable day when the concept of the egregore enters one’s worldview. While these energy-complexes have been around as long as humanity, this is the first book to explain how they work and what to do about it. Mark Stavish’s clear writing and rich examples should convince any reader, whether schooled in esotericism or simply curious about their inner and outer world.”
– Joscelyn Godwin, author of Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World
“Every now and then, there’s a book that can change the way you see the world. This remarkable little book about enthrallment and freedom is one. Read Egregores--you’ll look at society around you in new ways.”
– Arthur Versluis, author of The Secret History of Western Sexual Mysticism and Sacred Earth
“This encyclopedic account of group consciousness as an egregore, a being conceived to have arisen from the mutual psychic activity of serious initiates, traces the egregore idea throughout the history of Western esotericism and even into the practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Butler, Evola, Masters, Lovecraft, Machen, the AMORC and the OTO, and many other sources are quoted so as to give their opinions about the functions and dangers of egregores. It is unlikely that a more comprehensive book on the subject will ever be written.”
– Stevan Davies, Ph.D., author of Spirit Possession and the Origins of Christianity
“Suddenly there is a lot of talk about egregores, but what are they? Mark Stavish introduces some fascinating examples of these mysterious thoughtforms as they appear in different contexts from Tibetan Buddhism to the world of modern pop culture. Stavish’s book is an important foray into what is still almost virgin territory for researchers.”
– Christopher McIntosh, author of The Rosicrucians
“While the egregore is a concept with which most esoteric students are at least somewhat familiar, it is unlikely you would find a commonality of definitions among them. It is very appropriate for this vaguely understood concept to be the subject of a more in-depth study, and I can think of no better person to do this than Mark Stavish, whose background brings both authority and depth to such a review. The book provides a historical understanding of the origin of the term and its use through the ages, the various types that may exist in passive and active form, and an explanation of them through profound personal experience. This alone makes the book valuable. However, chapter 7 should be required reading for anyone contemplating joining an esoteric order--or any group with a common objective, for that matter. Stavish writes in a comfortable and informative style, and one comes to the end of the book with new information and much to think about. An excellent primer on egregores.”
– Piers A. Vaughan, author of Renaissance Man & Mason
"The idea of egregores could inspire paranoia in a certain kind of personality, and of course that is unwise. But it is no doubt a good idea to remember that false idols can take the form of thoughts and ideas as well as objects. Stavish's book is a timely, intelligent, and enjoyable reminder of this truth."
– Richard Smoley, Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America
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