Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 13th, 2010

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, 1600-1602, (Hamlet, in Act I, scene v).

What are we to make of tulpas, the thoughtforms of ancient wisdom that have been transported hundreds of years into our modern times?

In the 2001 revised edition of John Keel’s 1975-authored book, The Mothman Prophecies, he deals with the tulpas right off the bat, on page 6, and then, now and then, throughout the text.

The most famous tulpa story comes from Alexandra David-Neel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929), which has been reprinted by Penguin and Dover Books in recent years. A lama of eastern Tibet told Ms. David-Neel:

“What becomes of these creations? May it not be that like children born of our flesh, these children of our mind separate their lives from ours, escape our control, and play parts of their own?” (pp. 147-8 of the Penguin edition).

Tulpa (Wylie: sprul-pa; Sanskrit: निर्मित nirmita and निर्माण nirmāṇa; “to build” or “to construct”) is a Vajrayana, Bonpo and Tibetan Buddhist upaya concept, discipline and teaching tool. The term was first rendered into English as “thoughtform” by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz in The Tibetan book of the great liberation, or, The method of realizing nirvāṇa through knowing the mind, (1954: p. 29):

Inasmuch as the mind creates the world of appearances, it can create any particular object desired. The process consists of giving palpable being to a visualization, in very much the same manner as an architect gives concrete expression in three dimensions to his abstract concepts after first having given them expression in the two-dimensions of his blue-print. The Tibetans call the One Mind’s concretized visualization the Khorva (Hkhorva), equivalent to the Sanskrit Sangsara; that of an incarnate deity, like the Dalai or Tashi Lama, they call a Tul-ku (Sprul-sku), and that of a magician a Tul-pa (Sprul-pa), meaning a magically produced illusion or creation. A master of yoga can dissolve a Tul-pa as readily as he can create it; and his own illusory human body, or Tul-ku, he can likewise dissolve, and thus outwit Death. Sometimes, by means of this magic, one human form can be amalgamated with another, as in the instance of the wife of Marpa, guru of Milarepa, who ended her life by incorporating herself in the body of Marpa.

“What goes around, comes around!” Ancient Unknown Buddhist Monk.

The Anomalist informs us of a new interview With Nick Redfern at “Ghastly Door” by Jason Whittle. During this exchange, Redfern gives his interpretation of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch question, including the possibility that the tulpas answer might be the right one. The interview is in transcript form.

Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman (this one, not that one) extended the concept of the tulpas into the high strangeness of the 1970s, by using the David-Neel story to illustrate our experimental planetary poltergeist theories in our first two books from Warner, The Unidentified: Notes Towards Solving the UFO Mystery (1975) and Creatures of the Outer Edge (1978), recently (2006) reprinted as a combined volume, with a new introduction, by Anomalist Books.

An anonymous writer at Wikipedia has captured the influence of these works this way:

Authors Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, in their writings for Fate Magazine in the early 1970s and their first two books, “The Unidentified” (Warner Books, 1975) and “Creatures of the Outer Edge” (Warner Books, 1978), modernized and popularized tulpas for a new generation of ufologists and cryptozoologists. The surviving “zooform” movement in the United Kingdom can be traced to Clark’s and Coleman’s reworking of the tulpa concepts. Coleman and Clark have since rejected the tulpa theories as the foundation to unexplained phenomena, and have written a new introduction to the combined republishing of these two works by Anomalist Books in 2006: The Unidentified & Creatures of the Outer Edge: The Early Works of Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman. (NY: Anomalist Books, 2006, ISBN 1-933665-11-4).

Yes, for those who have created an imaginary feud between myself and the Center for Fortean Zoology folks, you should realize that Creatures of the Outer Edge was the inspiration to a generation of thought-form/zooform Fortean CFZers, including Jon Downes, Nick Redfern, and several others, apparently. Any change in my thoughts on thoughtforms has not changed my respect for those who have considered these theories valid for their own worldviews. To each to their own sense of the phenomena, I say, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, 1600-1602, (Claudius, Act III, scene iii).


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P.S. This posting is not about the European/English sports bars that have existed for the last few years, named “Tupla.”

Update: Response link from Nick Redfern.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Tulpas”

  1. onihunter responds:

    This is a really deep subject, and a book could be written on it. In fact, Loren did. I personally believe, and I am the first to admit I could be very wrong, that we are witnessing an array of various phenomena that , somwhat intentionally, resembles each other. We will likely never have all the answers, but the chase sure is fun.

  2. springheeledjack responds:

    There are several incarnations of the philosophical thought centering on just that…that creation, even in imagination has validitiy:) And might that go a long way toward explaining a lot of Foreana? Add to that the latest ideas coming out of the scientific ideas of “String Theory” with the idea of multiple realities all laid out just out of sync from each other. With that idea, could there be bleed through from one reality to the other?

    Oh, who knows, but it’s all interesting. The world as we know it is expanding. On the other hand, that doesn’t really help cryptozoology–or apply. We’re focused…or should be on the here and now and what IS tromping around our world.

    Personally, I have no interest in chasing phantoms that I can’t anticipate…or at least actual creatures that are localized in a country or an area or a lake or whatever.

    Still, I don’t have a problem thinking about these topics:) I’m just glad the fact that I may give creative form to a shark in my bathtub doesn’t mean I have to worry about it:)

  3. LanceFoster responds:

    A tulpa is one type of thoughtform. It is an intentionally-created individual thoughtform, created by one person with the training to do so. One other modern example was when a group created a thoughtform as a fictitious ghost that began to “haunt” the property.

    Another type of individual thoughtform intentionally created by an individual is a servitor; in this case, it is a thoughtform created by a magician through ritual to accomplish a particular task or guard a location, treasure, etc.

    There are also inadvertently-created thoughtforms. One example is Clive Barker’s “Candyman.” I would think that many urban legends have become inadvertent thoughtforms. One thing that magicians caution when creating a thoughtform/servitor/etc. is to put a limit on the lifespan of such a thing, say a year, etc. If you don’t put a limit on such things, they become unruly and begin to develop a rudimentary independent existence and do things on their own (like “Candyman”).

    Egregores are group-created thoughtforms, generally made over long periods of time. Egregores can be created intentionally or unintentionally. I wouldn’t doubt that the Jersey Devil is a sort of egregore, or evil clowns or madgassers or Men In Black. I wouldn’t doubt that the chupacabras (whatever the original source/inspiration) is becoming/has become an egregore. “Curious Encounters” seems to indicate that the Loch Ness monster might be some kind of egregore as well.

    It may be possible that certain cryptids are actually thoughtforms- or manifestations of the cryptids. It may also be possible that entities “clothe” themselves in available thoughtforms, the way hermit crabs hide in the shells of other marine creatures.

    That is not to say there are no “real” biological Sasquatches or Lake Monsters. My own intuition is that, as with UFOs/mystery lights/etc., that several phenomenon are conflated into one label.

    A UFO might be a misidentified plane, star, satellite, earth light (piezoelectricity), ball lightning, meteor, optical illusion. But it may also be some sort of experimental aircraft or technology, or a hoax. Or it might be trooping fairies, an extraterrestrial ship, intradimensional entity, thoughtform/shell, or God knows what. ALL lumped together as UFO, properly, since all UFO means anyways is “Unidentified Flying Object.”

    It doesn’t necessarily HAVE to EITHER be a biological ape-man OR a hoax/delusion etc. There are other options. Maybe 5% of sightings are of some undiscovered biological anthropoid, while 95% can explained in other ways. But it can’t be dismissed. Meldrum has made too many good points as far as I can see.

    The scientific method can PROVE nothing. It can only eliminate alternative explanations through MULTIPLE working hypotheses. It is not healthy to invest in either Choice A or B; it might be Choice H or Choice R. And while laboratory science with its controlled conditions and repeatable experiments has a higher status and verifiability in the scientific community than field science, field sciences (like geology) are also scientific, IF proper scientific method based on deductive reasoning, etc. is followed.

    Science is the best we have to understand material reality. If there are realities that are not material, science may not be the suitable tool. Of course materialists deny anything outside the material is “real.” Most phenomena can be explained though conventional means, but not all.

    Who knows? The only thing that seems true is the deeper you go into this stuff, the curiouser and curiouser “reality” becomes.

  4. Drosselmeyer responds:

    I for one would be very interested to know what made Loren (and Jerome Clark) decide to abandon this particular theory. I know that attitudes toward the validity of certain theories will naturally change over time as you broaden your horizons, but Loren must have been very interested in this one to co-auther two books about it.

  5. bauctrian responds:

    I need the chime in on this one.
    First off I’m not certain this was the first reference…”The term was first rendered into English as “thoughtform” by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz in The Tibetan book of the great liberation, or, The method of realizing nirvāṇa through knowing the mind, (1954: p. 29):”
    I’ve read about this in books dating back to the 1890’s-1910’s. See writings of Theosophy.

    Oh and LanceFoster – You are stating things that are gone over very well in early theosophical writings. Specifically the thought forms taking on a life of their own if you will and running off.

    Reality is based on perception.

  6. Drosselmeyer responds:

    bauctrian: Evans-Wentz was the first person to bring the Tibetan concept of the Tulpa (not to mention the rest of Tibetan belief) to English-speaking countries. Nowhere does it claim that he was the first supplier of theosophy itself to the West.

    You may have read about similar ideas in books dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but I can assure you that those books never mention Tibet or Tulpas.

  7. wuffing responds:

    “What are we to make of tulpas, the thoughtforms of ancient wisdom that have been transported hundreds of years into our modern times?”

    From a scientific viewpoint there is nothing to discuss, beyond possible hallucinatory (i.e. not real) experiences often caused by contaminated food – e.g. ergot on rye.

    I don’t think anyone of sound mind and body is likely to be bothered by tulpas, ghosts or egregores.

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