Egregores and Astral Constructs

In one of his many books on the occult, Colin Wilson tells us of a television show that featured a “created” ghost. The show was one of those psychic phenomenon shows that were very popular in the early seventies. This particular show explored the notion of mediums, seances, and communication with spirits across the Veil. Well, prior to the show, the sitters got together and decided to “make” a ghost. They came up with a name and an elaborate history for this fellow, and they put a good deal of time, effort, and energy into imagining what he would look like, how he might speak, and how he lived his life.

The purpose of this experiment was in part to see whether or not spirits were truly being contacted by the medium during such sittings, or if the details typically gleaned by a medium from a “spirit” were actually being telepathically picked out of the heads of those present.

The experiment proved inconclusive, unfortunately, because this created spirit did not limit himself to the details that sitters were thinking about beforehand. Instead, he proved quite lively, rapping and tilting the table and elaborating on details of his history the sitters had not agreed upon. In essence, he behaved just like a real ghost.

The results of this experiment of course raised the question for the paranormalists, “Is it possible to ‘create’ a ghost?” Most students of the paranormal, if they acknowledge the existence of spirits, assume that the spirit-world is populated exclusively with human ghosts. So the notion of a spirit that was created through the collective thoughts and focus of a small group lay out of the realm of what they could conceive. However, though the parapsychologists might find the notion puzzling, the creation of spiritual entities has long been known to practitioners of magick. With the proper focus, it is of course possible to “create” a spirit. In some traditions, such a created thing is known as a thought-form or an elemental. I tend to refer to them as constructs. Another more technical occult term for a created spirit is “egregore”.

People can make constructs intentionally, or they can create them accidentally by focusing a lot of energy on a particular thought form, force, imagined entity, and so on. A good example of an accidentally, but very real, construct, would be the “spirit” that haunts a certain house in Greenwich Village of NY, as cited by John Keel in “The Mothman Prophecies” (now a major motion picture). Anyhow, this spirit wears a slouch hat and a long flowing cape and goes stalking about the hallways with a sort of menace to his step. The spirit was well documented, but when people researched the history of the place, there was no one who had died there who even remotely fit the description of this thing.

However, as Keel notes, there was an interesting fellow who had lived there for several years. He was a writer, and he spent some of his most prolific years in that place. His name was Walter Gibson, and he was the creator of the Shadow — he “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

The Shadow, for those born too recently to know, was a dark and menacing figure who stalked about in a broad-brimmed hat and voluminous cloak (and no, the original was not Alec Baldwin).
Basically, by pouring so much energy, imagination, and intensity into his character, Walter Gibson has left behind an astral construct of the character, and this construct now perpetually goes through the motions of its created existence.

Constructs, from this example, are basically thought given form in the subtle reality. The more energy you put into them, the stronger they are. They can be created for many purposes. A lot of magickal workers create them as guardians. They are kind of like computers or robots in the fact that they function on a simple program and can be made to carry out basic functions — like the Shadow, who stalks around menacingly in keeping with his character. With a lot of effort and focus, they can be made to be more complex, though this often depends on the skill of the person or persons creating them.

Constructs tend to fade over time unless they are sustained. Some of the more complicated constructs can be self-sustaining and will feed upon energy just like any other entity in the subtle realm. Others will be sustained as long as you continue to put some thought and focus into them – whether you consciously intend to do this or not. Thought is energy, and the more you focus on something consciously, or in daydreams and nightmares, the more energy you provide to strengthen and sustain it.

Some really powerful egregores seem to achieve sentience over time, and these may become independent of their creators, essentially becoming indistinguishable from “true” spirits.

Of course, as constructs and egregores are typically used as what amounts to servants by magickal practitioners, this raises all manner of questions about ethics. If an egregore can achieve sentience, does that make it “real”? Do such entities simply follow programs and patterns that are worked into them, or can they achieve something akin to free will? And since we seem to be able to generate these entities both consciously and unconsciously through our focused emotions and thoughts, what does that say about our relation to them? Are we creating “life”? And if this is the case, do we then have any kind of responsibility toward our creation?

These are very sticky ethical questions that are beyond the scope of this short thesis. But they are questions that certainly bear consideration, especially before you sit down and decide to create an egregore to baby-sit your altar or guard your home.

Energy Imprints and Constructs

It is important to understand that our energy is not static. It doesn’t just glow around us like some kind of painted halo. Our energy is engaged in a constant exchange with the energy of the world around us. Our auras are more like a candle flame than you might imagine. Like the flame, they constantly radiate energy outward, and that energy is dispersed into the world around them. For the candle, there must be some kind of fuel, such as paraffin, to sustain combustion. However, the flame would not burn without additionally taking in a vital component from the atmosphere surrounding it: oxygen. Through this interaction, there is a constant exchange going on that feeds the candle flame even as it sends its heat and light out into the world. So it is with us, a constant and dynamic exchange. We are sustained by the energy naturally generated by our bodies, yet even as we are constantly radiating energy outward, so too are we taking energy in to continue the cycle.

A candle flame warms the air around it with its shed energy. We affect the world around us with our energy radiation as well. Spent energy constantly disperses from us, being shed in the process of our burning. This energy drifts off of us, settling like psychic dust in the subtle world. This trace of our passing will linger for some time until the energy is picked up by one of the currents of the subtle reality. Once it gets caught in one of the eddies or floes, the energy is moved and agitated, reduced to a neutral state again, and eventually recycled into the greater whole. However, it can also drift into stagnant places like the store room used as an example several chapters ago. In that case, the energy simply adds to the detritus already built up there, helping to create a very rank and oppressive atmosphere. As no currents move through places like this in order to clean them out, the energy will remain there until something comes by to consume it or until it is consciously stripped away.

Not all of the energy that we leave in the world around us is simply cast-off detritus. Some of the energy fingerprints we leave on objects and places are imprints that we very actively put there. By attaching special significance to certain places or things, we actually invest some of our energy into that location or object. Whether we are conscious of the process or not, the more attention and emotion we focus on something, the deeper an impression that we leave upon it.

Think of it like this: a candle lit in an empty room will burn regardless of whether anything is there to receive its warmth and its light. However, a flame can also be used to warm someone’s hands, or it can be used more directly on an object, to burn a mark into it. How close something is to the flame and how long it is exposed to its energy determines how deeply it will be burned. Some objects we merely scorch with our personal energy, but some things we practically brand with our individual signatures.

A Memory Ghost

Let us say that your grandmother has passed away. You’ve inherited her house and a good portion of her personal effects. Sad, but a little excited to be gifted with such tangible memories of her, you move in. You have one of her rings resized so you can wear it as a constant reminder of what she meant to you in life. You are very happy in your new home, but after a few weeks, you start noticing things that seem a little strange. For instance, every time you walk past the kitchen, it seems like you can see your grandmother standing over the stove. You catch the image just out of the corner of your eye, and of course when you look directly at it, there’s nothing there. But it seems like her presence lingers in the kitchen, even when you can’t actually see her. You also get a strong sense of her radiating from her favorite rocking chair. This is so strong that you unconsciously leave the rocking chair empty, almost as if you’re expecting her to sit down in it at any moment. And sometimes, when you’re sleeping, you wake up all of a sudden, and it seems like your grandmother is hovering over you, watchful and protecting. You can’t see anything in the darkness of your room, but the sense of her presence is almost palpable.

Now, you don’t get the feeling that your grandmother means you any harm, but the strength of the impressions has got you a little spooked. You hardly intended to be sharing your new home with a ghost. Feeling a little out of your water, you decide to do a little research. You check out a few books on the subject and learn that ghosts often linger due to unfinished business. Furthermore, they often appear to family members that they need to communicate with. You experimentally try talking to your grandmother, assuring her that you love her and, although she is terribly missed, she really needs to move on. Yet this is like talking into a phone that has no one on the other end. There is no response, and you do not even get a sense that the spirit is listening to you. The impressions of her presence continue, but always in the same places, and no matter how hard you try to communicate, she never responds.

In this case, it is very likely that there is no ghost and your grandmother has already moved on. The feelings and impressions that you’re picking up on in the house are simply lingering echoes of your grandmother’s energy. In the kitchen, for instance, she was always cooking, and a special way she expressed her love for her family was through her desserts and her food. It follows that a great deal of her energy was invested into the kitchen, and this energy residue is strongest near the stove. The rocking chair was somewhere she sat when she needed to think and ponder the direction her life was going, so of course a lot of her energy still lingers here as well. And whenever you wake up at night with the feeling of your grandmother’s presence nearby you, the ring of hers that you now wear is sitting on your night stand. If you really think about it, you realize that the impression of her presence is actually coming from the ring itself, a piece of jewelry that she always wore, for as long as you can remember.

We leave little echoes of ourselves in the places and objects that are important to us. Sometimes, we are half-conscious of this. For example, if we want a close friend to have a reminder of us, we often give them some piece of jewelry or some little object that was very precious to us. We usually even give it with the words, “Keep this close; it will remind you of me.” The reminder is not simply in the gesture of giving the gift. We could just as easily go to the store and pick out something expensive. But some of the most precious gifts we give to others are things that we’ve had with us for a while, things that we’ve attached a great deal of sentimental value to. Why? Because our energy is all over these things. When we give this to someone, we are giving them a piece of ourselves, and that energy, unique to us, will radiate out of the object, constantly reminding our loved one of what it feels like to have us near.

Emotional Imprints

It is possible to for us to leave traces of our energy on objects or places without having that energy resonate with our personal presence. Strong emotions can very easily imprint themselves on the world around us. Homes, workplaces, even hotel rooms can develop a distinct build-up of emotional residues. These residues linger in the subtle reality, affecting everyone who comes into contact with them on a deep and unspoken level.

Emotional residues, like our psychic dust, build up over time. Unlike psychic dust, however, emotional residues can linger for quite a while. Since we tend to associate places with the emotions we’ve experienced in them, we have a habit of experiencing the same feelings in the same places over and over again. The pre-existing energy of the place only encourages this, and so it creates a self-perpetuating cycle of emotion.

For example, a teenager almost always retreats to her room for sanctuary from the “unfair” world. Whenever this young person has a bad day at school or has an argument with her parents, she takes all her hurt feelings with her to her private space. Now, her original intention is to simply find some place that is separate and away from those things that seem to always be hurting her. And yet by constantly taking these bad feelings into her personal space, she imprints the negativity on the very walls. Over time this builds up, and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of negative emotions.

Given the tumultuous energy of a teen, this cycle can get pretty intense. Before too long, her room has become a kind of emotional pit, where anyone walking in can just feel the angst and anger dripping off the walls. A little bit of this negativity rubs off onto anyone exposed to it, inspiring similar emotions which then feed back into the pre-existing residue. Like breeds like where emotional residues are concerned, and every time the lingering impression inspires that self-same emotion in a person, that person’s emotional energy feeds back into the residue, strengthening it. So, whenever her parents come up to her room to comfort her, they find themselves instead inspired to a confrontation. They wind up yelling and arguing even more, unaware that a large part of their feelings are being influenced by the general feel of negativity radiating from her room. In such an atmosphere, it’s almost impossible not to react to the ambient emotion.

Negative emotions often leave the strongest lingering impressions, but not all emotional residues inspire bad feelings in people. We can invest objects with very positive impressions as well. Consider that favorite teddy bear you had as a child. You carried that thing with you everywhere, and for you it was the ultimate talisman of safety and security in an unpredictable world. When you went to bed at night, you knew beyond any kind of doubt, that that bear would protect you from all the monsters under your bed. You lavished love and attention upon it, so much so that it almost seemed to take on a personality of its own.

Once you outgrew the need for the teddy bear, you still kept it around, and eventually it was given to a very special child in your adult life. And the very first time that child held the teddy bear, he could feel the comfort and safety radiating off of it. Each time he took it to bed with him, he knew just by the feel of the bear that he would be safe. And his own feelings of comfort and security fed back into the bear, perpetuating the emotional impression.

Some day, at a much later time, the bear might end up in an antique shop, and the person who picks it up will immediately sense the love it was given. The impression of childhood trust and comfort breathes almost tangibly from the worn cloth of the toy. All of us have handled toys like that, little childhood talismans that seem to have taken on a life of their own. As children, our energy is unguarded and pure. We focus that energy into things without any kind of hesitation or reserve. And so the lingering impressions of childhood emotion are some of the strongest we can encounter.

Energy Constructs

There have been movies made about dolls invested with enough energy that they achieve a weird kind of life. Usually this is the stuff of horror films and nightmares, but let’s look back at the teddy bear example for a moment. Think about all the energy that a child puts into a toy like that. The child names the toy, makes up stories about it. The toy becomes in his mind a special friend, almost more real to him than the kid who lives down the street. How much innocent energy does it take to invest the toy with some kind of actual personality? Is there such a thing as a created spirit?

It is possible for enough energy to be invested into a residue that it takes on a life of its own. This process is very rare, but it can still happen with unintentionally. More common, although still far and few between, are intentionally created energy constructs. These are sometimes called elementals by witches and magickal workers. Another term for them is “astral construct,” because they exist entirely in the non-physical realm.

What is the difference between an energy construct and the impression of your grandmother lingering in the house? First and foremost, the construct is something which had no existence separate from the energy which makes it up. Your grandmother was a living person, unique and vital and very physically real. After her passing, a great deal of her energy lingered in her living space and on those objects precious to her. When you “saw” your grandmother in the house, it was an impression only, even though your mind interpreted it as her actual presence. A second spirit was not born out of the lingering energies she left behind. These were just echoes of her.

An energy construct, on the other hand, is created purely out of energy. It has no real existence in the physical world prior to or after its creation. It can be tied to a particular physical object, or even a place, but this serves as a focus only. The real existence of the construct is in the subtle realm. Such constructs are born of a continuous build-up of focused energy – either the energy of strong emotion, or the equally potent energy of a person’s intentionally directed will.

Intentional constructs can be invested with a limited amount of sentience – kind of like a spiritual program that dictates certain actions they should perform. Unintentionally created constructs usually play out a limited set of actions inspired by whatever created them in the first place. Thus, a construct that has developed in a home where there was constant anger and fighting will simply roam around, inspiring the same sort of feelings in others and feeding off of the energy those emotions produce.

The significant difference between a simple residue and a construct at this point is the independence it has achieved. The construct can move from place to place in the subtle reality much like any other spirit, while a residue is usually tied to the place where it was created until it is worn away or removed. The construct also actively seeks out the kind of energy that will perpetuate its existence, whereas a residue does this only passively. Finally, a construct will instinctively avoid anything that might harm it or bring about the end of its existence. This indicates at least a limited amount of sentience, a fact which is just a little unsettling, considering this created spirit developed from nothing more than a build-up of cast-off human emotion.