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Egrigore is an idea. System is a category in the world. That’s why they’re different.
What is the relationship between egrigores and systems?
With all this Chaos Magick discussion, this seems like a good time to bridge concepts.
Disclaimer: I don’t do Chaos Magick, so my understanding of egrigores comes from friends, blogs and wikipedia. Sorry if I get some details wrong.
The Short Answer
If you mentally substitute “egrigore” for “system,” you will be 90% correct. They are similar concepts, probably inspired by the same initial observation (that mages often channel outside forces). If I’d been familiar with “egrigore” when I coined the term “system,” I might have called it an “embodied egrigore” or something similar.
The Technical Answer
“Egrigore” = a collective concept (I think). “System” = a magickal force you can channel. Some systems are egrigores, and some egrigores are systems. But many are not.
“America,” “freedom” and “censorship is bad” are egrigores, but not systems. There’s no force to channel.
I’ve created systems that aren’t concepts. A system that shields the wearer of a piece of jewelry, for example. I think of it as performing a task rather than embodying a concept.
Within the egrigore of “psychic intuition sources,” there are many different systems, specializing in different types of questions and events.
A single system might represents a pantheon of gods (each one an egrigore), using the different associations to help you communicate your instructions.
And for any given pantheon, there are multiple systems that represent those gods, possibly in different ways.
System and egrigore both start from the same observation: Mages channel things, and we need a name for that. But neither is broader than the other. They are simply different.
The Reason Why
I think that whoever coined “egrigore,” in the modern magickal usage, started with an expectation (“Magick is driven by belief”), followed it to its natural conclusion (“Ideas that lots of people believe in are powerful”), and then used that expectation as the definition.
That’s a bad way of understanding how the world works. Sure, you always start with an idea, but it’s better to start with a description of how the phenomena behaves (“There are these forces we channel to do magick”), then explore more details of that behavior (“They read your thoughts; you get better results by aligning to the system’s signature; they respond to commands, and provide instructions if you ask for them”). It helps if you use a neutral name, like “system,” instead of a name suggesting “what it really is,” like “egrigore.”
That’s why the concept of “egrigore” is similar to “system,” but not the same: Both started with the same basic idea (“Mages channel forces”), but one jumped to an (incorrect) reason why (“These forces exist because lots of people believe in them”), whereas I proceeded more slowly, focusing on observation and behavior, rather than grand theories.
Sorry, I hate patting myself on the back. But this is one way that mages often go wrong: We jump to grand theories, rather than working through observations and behaviors first. Which probably deserves its own post.
Egrigores correspond to an expectation in your mind. Systems correspond to a category in the world. That’s why they’re different.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.