Chindogyu World and Egregores

Chindogyu are relatively useless inventions. They are created to solve problems however they tend to be somewhat ineffective in actual use or even create more problems. The classification of chindogu was introduced to the English speaking world in the 1990s however Japan has known about these things for quite some time before that. The term was coined by Kenji Kawakami who was one of the authors of the book 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindōgu, which came out in 1995.

It was through that book that I encountered the fabulous world of Chindogyu.

The International Chindogyu Society has a website dedicated to these ideas to which you may submit your own inventions. The president of the society has described chindogyu as:

A tool that doesn’t quite improve our lives but it fun to look at because it’s really weird. “Dogu” is the Japanese word for tool and “chin” might be best translated as “really weird.”  from the President’s message

Some examples of chindogyu:


Here is Kenji Kawakami himself demonstrating some chindogu from the Pink Tentacle channel:


These kinds of things are not confined to Japanese inventions. 25 Ridiculous Inventions includes baby toupees, inflatable toast and paper email.

Here’s a couple of strange things that occurred to me recently that aren’t exactly chindogyu but maybe hover in that area.

Voodoo dolls for extreme fundamentalists so that they could take out their anger for heretics.

Add Urban Dictionary and an academic dictionary to all spellcheckers. This would save me a lot of work. [OK that’s possible with a little work]

Internet lie detection filter.

Shine in the dark mood shoes. This would save a lot of misunderstandings in bars and clubs.

Solar charging bricks. Just by building a house with them they interlock and connect to the grid. This may take nanotechnology to pull off.

Etch-a-Sketch walls. In technicolor.

Recyclable paper/wooden/bamboo carpet that comes in big rolls.

Self-cleaning Venetian blinds.

Passport chip implants with electronic visa information.

Something that may seem impractical but actually works.

image The Kashmiri kanger-this is a heating device that consists of a clay pot suspended in aimage basket that many Kashmiri people carry under their woolen cloaks. It is filled with charcoal that burns slowly and without smoke. The design of the cloak is such that air can reach the kanger and burning fumes can be expelled.  This type of device has led to the development of hand and body warming devices like instant heat packs that utilize chemicals or other methods.

Chindogyu world and egregores

There are a lot of things that seemed like a good idea as they developed but proved to be problematic in implementation. We have a hard time recognizing them when they are of a scale much larger than ourselves and involve whole populations. Social constructions such as religion are beginning to demonstrate this.

As a person who views Buddhism as a religion it’s something that I have to take note of now and again.

In terms of political philosophy I’ve found much that is useful in the explanations of Marxist writers however implementation has proven difficult. Same is true of what is occurring with western medicine and psychology.

What seems to happen is a kind of over development wherein the original purposes are lost. These lines of thought become bloated and self-serving rather than in service to the populations which developed them. It is as though, at a certain point, they become uncontrollable entities.

Egregores describe uncontrollable social entities. According to Wikipedia:

Egregore (also “egregor”) is an occult concept representing a “thoughtform” or “collective group mind”, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme.

We don’t have to buy into occult phenomenon to consider the concept of egregores. Social psychology has been considering the processes of “groupthink” and mob behavior for a long time. From the same article:

When these situations arise, trying to understand the group by understanding its members in isolation fails. The group can be understood by modeling the members’ interactions, but the human tendency to anthropomorphize may make it more intuitive to see the group itself as having preferences for a certain outcome, regardless of its members’ wishes.

We often don’t realize what is influencing or conditioning our behavior.

We can blame the egregores or we can become mindful of what we are doing.

By NellaLou

7 comments on “Chindogyu World and Egregores

  1. In the second video, around 2:40 – Mobile easy-chair with table? Neat! Looks like it could be an intriguing vehicle – transportation wise and as far as performance art – for an open-air mall like on Santa Monica Blvd. I wonder if it’s been patented in the US?

    Some invaluable comic relief, for the mind’s inventiveness. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. P.S. If a respondant may be so bold and disorganized:

    Passport chip implants – if someone hasn’t actually implemented that, they must be pretty close. There was something that I saw on PBS, a few years ago[1]. It was, essentially, an in-depth introduction about RFID technology. During the segment, they interviewed a fellow who had opted-in to have an RFID medical-ID “chip” pill surgically implanted. That chip was programmed with a medical ID – sort of an RFID dog-tag, in a way, but housing a more medical-system-specific identifier. The hardware could certainly be adapted to program the implant-pills with any other sort of identifier, and the software modified to read that out for some other purpose, were that deemed necessary.

    They also showed some new passport designs (with some attendant privacy concerns, albeit) such that the passport case would house an RFID chip containing passport info (probably just more numeric identifiers, but who knows) – to be used in a manner similar to some recent pass-and-go credit card technologies, really.

    It seems that some interchange could be made, in those two matters, were it not for concerns about privacy, though. I’m not sure how they may have addressed those privacy concerns, with regards to pass-and-go credit cards.

    As far as Chindogyu and Buddhism-as-religion, that is an intriguing perspective. I think I’ll have to think on that, myself. It’s kind of like an unwritten koan?

    As far as ergregore, a similar quality of “group mind” has been represented – as I believe I understand it – in the works of John Dewey – specifically, in Democracy and Education. I’ve lost any kind of page reference to that, I’m afraid, but I think it comes out early in one of the chapters – kind of a sense of active, group-participatory “mind”. I didn’t think it was so occult, in his rendition. I wasn’t aware of there being any broader concept of such, or none. (Of course, not being aware of as much, whether yay or nay, I assumed for the worst. I’m glad to be proved wrong, there. So, it isn’t such a strange concept, today?)

    As far as “group mind”, I think that the existence of such (as I believe it is) serves to indicate, at some not-exclusively-personal level, why it’s valuable to not be attached to illusions – the group can feed on one’s attachments, inasmuch. and yeah, sometimes that does scare me. Hard to map responsibility, in that, though.


    [1] Found it:

    • To make a correction on what I said, I see that John Dewey’s rendition of group mind was actually not the same as egregore, however approximate it could be said to be, in sense or feeling.

      As I understand Dewey’s rendition of group mind, it was such that he was discussing as, perhaps, to highlight the responsibilities of students and educators, as well as the active, participatory role that people naturally play, in as much. However, he never suggested it was any sort of an autonomous phenomenon. Now, I realize that that would be a crucial distinction.

  3. Nella – thanks for an interesting article as always – new vocab and concepts for the day!

    Sean – in Malaysia, we have passports with chips where we can just go through self-service immigration kiosks… makes immigration a breeze.. of course there are immigration officers overseeing…

  4. One teacher suggested that when we share a belief system with many other persons, it is difficult to step outside of it enough to examine it. When a belief system is shared and goes unexamined in a group, its easy to be an inmate of that belief and have it take us over–which is the opposite of vipassana.

    What some call an egregore, I would call an ideology or metaphor in which we are inmates, because we are incapable of stepping outside of it and recognizing how our emotions and thoughts are influenced by it.

    In drastic cases large sectors of our inner lives may be split off from our conscious awareness, yet still affect our thoughts and emotions, as the moon, hidden behind clouds can still influence the tides. Therapists would call this splitting or dissociation; maybe (Nella may know the vocabulary for this–some Buddhist texts might tie this with more subtle realms of sensation.

    If you want to see in terrifying form, what happens when people are inmates of the same shared obsession, get and read Among the Thugs by Bill Buford.

    Buford spent several years as a particpant observer in a British football club and participated in riots and was shamed to see how the horrible violence was strangely pleasurable.

    And Buford describes mob psychology in such a way that one has to recognize it is just as much an intoxicant as any drug.

    What Buford describes in Among the Thugs is what happens when a large group, shares a thought form, has zero insight and is prisoner of that thought form.

    Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to examine them.

    What others call an egregore, Id call a portion of myself or a group process that requires insight, not something that has a life of its own.

    We are interconnected in any case, so an egregore is not an inherantly separetly existing entity or essence.

    The solution is curiosity and steady attention which dissolve it into skandas and trace the chain of cause and effect.

    Fear and ritual just massage the bundle of obsessions and afflictive emotion that condense into whatever one would term an egregore or what I would call an out of control metaphor tied to a split off area of psychological function.

  5. Seems like the “enlightenment certificate” given out by some Japanese Zen schools is an excellent example of a chindogyu . . . causing countless problems for everyone concerned, and, at the same time, highly ineffectual.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s