There’s a concept in magical group practice that’s relevant to discussions about schools and school design, which I’ve written about before.
That is the concept of the Egregore (or egregor).
For magicians, would-be magicians, charlatans and poseurs alike, the egregor is a critical part of any working group, be it a company or a coven of witches, or a schoolyard gang. It’s the energetic being that watches over the members of the group and their interactions with each other. And it’s the energetic governor of relationships between members. Egregor comes from a Russian interpretation of a Greek word meaning “Watcher”; they’re a class of angel, which is why the hymn speaks of “Ye watchers and ye holy ones, bright seraphs, cherub and thrones, raise the glad strain: Alleluia!” If guardian angels watch over individuals, egregores watch over groups of interrelationships, like the ones between members of a given law firm — and their clients; between members of a fencing team and their coach; and of course between the teachers, students and administrators of a school.
You knew we were going there the whole time, didn’t you?
In magical theory the Egregor is incredibly hard to challenge. It may be an invisible and intangible, but it has power nonetheless. If you were a member of a country club, it would be like going into the main dining room in a tshirt, shorts and sneakers when the dress code said jacket and tie. You wouldn’t be allowed to sit down, even if you were the club’s most important member, and your behavior would assure that you wouldn’t be the most important for long even if the staff DID let you sit down. The other guests would show their displeasure in ways both subtle and gross. At the other end of the spectrum, even the most jaded nightclub goer gets skeeved out by the older guy in shabby clothes who hangs outside the velvet rope trying to buy his way in while snapping photos of every half-dressed girl who goes in to dance.
These may not be the best examples. Teachers don’t often frequent nightclubs or country clubs.
Dress codes, behavior, activity, hierarchy, power sharing, membership, interactions between members, interactions with the outside world… The egregor watches over all these, and (again) in ways subtle and gross, reinforces the norms over and over again.
Moreover, it links up with the egregors of similar institutions, and these networks of association-angels moderate on the spiritual plane everything from how a foursome operates on a golf course to how the Country Club Association lobbies Congress.
What empowers egregors is the appearance of symbols. Put the same signs or images or icons in the same spaces and places; put the same word set and code of behaviors in place; put a particular set of ideas in the heads of the membership at any level, and the egregor appears. If the building has a square and compasses on the pediment, the Egregor of the Freemasons will have at least a passing interest in what happens in that building. If you man a certain kind of flagstaff at sunrise and sunset, or hang out the storm warning flags, the egregor of yacht clubs may come calling.
By now, the non-magical among my readers may be scoffing.
And yet, even from a non-magical point of view, isn’t it a little eerie how schools in Seattle look a lot like schools in Arkansas and very much like a school just around the corner from me here in Connecticut?
And isn’t it just a little bit freaky — just a little bit? — that all these institutions are so incredibly hard to CHANGE?
Food for thought.