As the One Girl in All the World class finishes Promethea, begins looking at political and theoretical feminism, and looks toward The Hunger Games, I thought I'd throw out a little discourse on the word "egregore."
First, I'm borrowing this word for academic purposes from the world of the occult, which is only fitting considering the trajectory of Alan Moore's Promethea. So here's a bit of linguistic history:
"The" egregore might have been the father of the nephilim--the product of angelic and human sexual relations in the antediluvian world of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The word is translated as "watchers" which makes sense here. Up until the 19th century, the word more or less is used this way, though only in obscure texts. For instance, Eliphas Lévi, famous French occultist of the 19th century, thinks the egregore are "terrible beings" who don't even recognize that we exist (Le Grande Arcane ).
At the same time, other occult groups based on masonic organizations begin developing the concept of the egregore as a thoughtform, specifically a thoughtform created accidentally and through the unity of a group, especially one joined by ideas. This is the definition that most concerns us now. In this usage, each occult group would have its own egregore, a mystical entity that arises through the group's shared beliefs and rituals.
That's fine, but makes sense only if you start multiplying invisible entities (chipping Occam's razor, so to speak). The problem is that the concept was created because these thoughtforms, once created, have a life of their own, a will of their own, and can influence both the original group and the outside world.
Think of it like mass hysteria (or because that term has an unfortunate gender bias, mass paranoia, or mass nuttiness). Think of it like a meme--an idea that replicates itself the way genes do, traveling and accruing strength as each new thought adds to the aggregate thought avalanche.
So bringing this back to Promethea and feminism, we can see how the concept of Promethea is sort of an egregore birthed from our collective imagining of what an ultimate woman warrior might be. But so is, we argued, Wonder Woman. And as you continue reading, you'll see that even with the liberating beauty of being the Promethea incarnation, there are dire, fatal consequences that happen in the world of flesh and rock (I'm thinking the fate of Bill, here). And so I'd like to open the discussion onto the benefits and dangers of egregores, whether you think this is a useful way to describe the way things work, and whether (and how) we can actively manipulate egregores for equal rights or good, smart narratives. Use examples from Promethea and political history.
One of the reasons I'm interested in egregores--besides the fact that I think it's a useful concept for Promethea--is the sudden increase in public misogyny in light of the renewed debates about women's reproductive health insurance (also click here for more outrageous behavior). And also, as you research political feminism, you will find that ideology doesn't stay fixed for very long and that certain feminist ideas seem to have a life of their own that have interesting trajectories in light of how they were first introduced.