I am an inveterate podcast listener. The job that puts bread on the table can, at times, be very repetitive, requiring little in the way of thought, so I often spice up my day by listening to one or the other of the paranormal podcasts on the Web. The other day I was listening to an interview with the noted paranormal author, Nick Redfern and the discussion turned to the place of tulpas in monster lore. I realized, as I listened to this show, that while I had referred to these beings obliquely in some of my posts, I have not dedicated a post to this subject.
First off, a point of definition. In my view a tulpa and a thought form are the same thing. The only difference is that the term tulpa originates with the Tibetan esoteric tradition while thought form is used in the Western traditions to describe the same process. You will also sometimes see Western magicians refer to a thought form as a servitor. While some people will quibble and say that each of these concepts is a slightly different thing, I am going to throw them all into the hash together and refer to them, from here on out, as thought forms.
So what is a thought form? Pared down to basics, a thought form is a being of desire, visualization and imagination (see Magical Use of Thought Forms: A Proven System of Mental & Spiritual Empowerment by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and J.H. Brennan). To create a thought form, the magician pulls an image from his or her inner storehouse of images (imagination), visualizes it powerfully and in Technicolor detail (visualization) and empowers it to perform a certain task or tasks according to his or her desire. Simple enough until one realizes how flabby human visualization skills have gotten since the advent of television and film. The other skill that the magician must master in order to work effectively with thought forms is the skill of placing limits on them and de-constructing them once their purpose is finished.
What can a thought form be used for? Almost anything. As I mentioned, some modern magicians refer to these creations as servitors because that is precisely what they are supposed to do – serve the will of the magician. Thought forms have been used for everything from helping a writer with inspiration for a project (no, I do not use thought forms for this purpose) to providing a soldier with actual physical protection in battle. In general, a thought form is not visible to the majority of people (some psychics can see them) but, if you read enough magical lore, you will find stories of magicians who created thought forms that were not only visible but were able to physically interact with this world. In chapter 3 of the excellent book I mentioned above, one finds the story of a Tibetan lama who, after considerable effort, managed to bring a yidam, a type of meditation deity, into physical manifestation as part of his movement toward enlightenment.
That chapter is instructive not only in telling the reader about the possibilities of thought form creation but also in bringing to the attention the knowledge that the process of thought form creation is not as easy as it sounds. In order to do this type of work, one really has to be able to make an image real in the mind and then be able to infuse it with all the force of desire, directed by magical means so that the being is limited in its scope. This is important since magical lore also tells us that a thought form created without proper limits can take on a sort of life of its own.
One of the best known stories in this regard also comes from Tibet. One of the early theosophists, Alexandra David Neel, journeyed to Tibet and, during her stay there, worked on the creation of a tulpa (thought form) in the image of a short, fat, jolly monk. After several months of meditation and practice, this tulpa manifested and was seen by David Neel and others. David Neel also reported physical contact from this thought form on a number of occasions. Eventually, though, the monk began to take on a darker aspect and David Neel was forced to learn how to take the thought form apart and re-absorb it. I suspect that this had to do with David Neel’s not having a clear desire for the thought form when she created it; the being was an experiment and so did not seem to have a distinct purpose other than to assuage her curiosity.
Now, how does the creation of these magical beings tie into the world of the paranormal? I think that an excellent example might be some of the Manwolf sightings around Native American mounds in the Wisconsin/Michigan area of the United States. Archeologists argue about what purpose the mounds served but they are agreed that these were sites of importance to the indigenous people of that period. I think it is entirely possible that some of the Manwolves reported in those areas are actually thought forms, created by ancient shaman as guardian spirits for the mounds. If such a thought form were created by a group of shaman, given the assignment to guard the mounds indefinitely and then turned loose to do that bidding, there would be no reason for the thought form to dissolve. Over time, it would take on a single minded life of its own and the only thing that would prevent it from doing its job would be a lack of energy. It would have gotten a powerful shot of energy in its creation and would have been “fed” periodically by its creators but when those people died or moved away, the thought form would have languished and dissolved unless it found alternate ways to feed itself – such as scaring the heck out of people and feeding off that energy.
As with all the theories I discuss on this blog, I do not think that thought forms constitute the universal field theory of the paranormal but, given what is known about them, they should certainly enter into the consideration of any paranormal investigator.