Nature (the Art whereby God hath made and governes the World) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal… For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE (in latine CIVITAS) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection it was intended.
Back in the 16th century, right at the heart of the Renaissance, Europeans had rediscovered philosophical works from classical and ancient times. In particular, the Corpus Hermeticum had been translated and circulating among the intelligentsia. Hermeticism — or "alchemy", in more general terms — presented a late Hellenistic syncretism of Plato, Gnosticism, Judaic mysticism, and Ancient Egyptian wisdom. It encouraged a seeker to comprehend the divine by coming to understand the building of the world, as a means of joining in the process of creation. That was a purpose of alchemy.
One idea out of Hermetic alchemy concerned the creation of a servitor, a form which could take on dynamic behavior in service of the alchemist. This form was akin to the notion of a homunculus or "false human being" as Paracelsus described. It more closely resembled the Tibetan tulpa, the Arabic djinn, the Voodoun serviteur, the European pagan familiar, or Judaic golem. These constructions were intended to serve as proxy mechanisms, taking specific, difficult courses of action on behalf of the alchemist and thereby reducing risk to the alchemist. Unfortunately, these proxies sometimes "escaped" from the control of their masters.
Another concept from Hermeticism concerned the creation of an egregor, or self-perpetuating belief structure....An application of alchemy to create a socio-political structure that perpetuated particular beliefs would have seemed quite apt. Egregors also provided means for incorporating or "chaining" servitors, i.e., evoked demons, into their purpose and organization.
For instance, Schwitzgebel tries to demonstrate that a consistent materialism must grant consciousness to collective entities:
It would be bizarre to suppose that the United States has a stream of conscious experience distinct from the conscious experiences of the people who compose it...Yet it’s unclear by what materialist standard the United States lacks consciousness. Nations, it would seem, represent and self-represent. They respond (semi-) intelligently and self- protectively, in a coordinated way, to opportunities and threats. They gather, store, and manipulate information. They show skillful attunement to environmental inputs in warring and spying on each other. Their subparts (people and subgroups of people) are massively informationally interconnected and mutually dependent, including in incredibly fancy self-regulating feedback loops. These are the kinds of capacities and structures that materialists typically regard as the heart of mentality.
Scruton also notes that some corporate persons can be utterly malign, such as the Nazi and Communist parties. By my analogy, such corporate persons may be likened to damned and impenitent souls...A corporate person could instead be infallible, as Catholics claim the Church is. That doesn’t mean that the individual members cannot err, including the pope when he is not speaking ex cathedra. It means that the “mind of the Church” as a corporate person cannot fall into error, and the reason a pope cannot err when speaking ex cathedra is that in such an act he is giving definitive expression to the mind of the Church.
Scholars have long sought to understand the mechanisms by which groups of individuals accomplish collective action (1, 2, 26). This phenomenon has been studied in a variety of disciplines, from anthropology, social psychology, sociology, political science, management, communication studies, economics, animal behavior, and sociobiology, to computer science, statistical physics, and the emerging domain of computational social science (27⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–35). These disciplines are largely differentiated by methods, scale of organization, and whether they study aspects of contemporary Homo sapiens society.
But the bank is only made of man. No, you’re wrong there—quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it. – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.