What are thoughts – are they real, and once created are they things that exist independent of our minds? Are they constructs created by our soul’s mental and emotional faculties? If so, how do these faculties mould consciousness into the creation of thoughts? In many of the world’s religions, mystical and esoteric traditions there is a belief that once a thought comes into being it becomes a real entity that exists separately from the thinker.
The first time I became aware that our thoughts had a profound effect on our personal reality was as an adolescent in reference to Mark 7:15 in the Bible. In this passage Jesus says, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.” In explaining that we are not what we eat but what we think, Jesus was alluding to Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” It was during this time I began seriously contemplating what these two passages meant, but could not fathom their true implications.
In the late 1960s I began studying a Kabbalistic meditation known as pathworking and had some profound experiences in which I could visualise mythological figures on the lower paths of the Tree of Life. The questions I asked then was, am I creating these figures out of my own thoughts and are those figures real on some level? I had no answers.
Several years later I began studying a new method of meditation form – the Diamond Way tradition of Tibetan Buddhism – a form of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. In studying Buddhism, it became evident from their teachings the physical world we experience is created from our thoughts and our reality is an illusion. Trying to sort through the implications of what I was learning, I stumbled upon the writings of Prentice Mulford, one of the founders in the late 1800s of the New Thought movement. In his book Thoughts Are Things he explained how our thoughts influence our spiritual, mental and physical health. Our thoughts create sickness as well as wellness.
I was becoming convinced that our thoughts in some way were creating our reality. It was at this point I re-connected with the Kabbalah, this time magical Kabbalah. This led me into the many streams of magic, especially Renaissance magic and later Tibetan Buddhist magic. I soon discovered in the Western magical traditions the practitioner, through ceremonial rituals, moulds reality into their bidding through their thoughts and emotions. I also discovered this was true with Tibetan Buddhist magic as well.
I became very curious; do these rituals actually work? So I began an intense study of rituals from various Renaissance grimoires (magical books) and performed a specific ritual with a specific intention. To my surprise, within a few months I got the results I asked for. I asked myself, did I actually use my thoughts in the ritual to produce the results? And if so, was there a scientific basis for my experience? At the time I was a polymer researcher in the chemical industry and ordered a book on quantum mechanics from a scientific book club that added some clarity. It, too, presented a picture of reality similar to Buddhism in that reality does not exist until it is observed in some way, which means that through our thoughts we create the world around us.
On the heels of being exposed to quantum physics, I discovered two related concepts on reality creation, one from Jungian psychology on the imaginal realm and the other from the theosophical literature on thoughtforms. I discovered there is a reality that exists separate from physical reality called the imaginal realm. In the imaginal realm there exist animated beings that are created by our thoughts and emotions called thoughtforms and tulpas. Thoughtforms in general are created by our intentions both consciously and unconsciously. However, tulpas are thoughtforms that are created with conscious intention.
What are Thoughtforms and Tulpas?
The word thoughtform has various spellings. In some cases, it is spelled thought form or thought–form, but I have put the two words together as one word, thoughtform, reflecting a single construct. Thoughtforms and tulpas are created by focusing on a single thought and infusing that thought with intense emotions, becoming a separate mental/energetic thing. Once created, thoughtforms and tulpas exist in all spiritual realities and make up what is known as the imaginal realm. The imaginal realm interpenetrates all existence and is the repository of collective thought formations and energies. Thoughtforms and tulpas can be experienced physically, but in most cases they are experienced as apparitions. Nonetheless, they exist as separate entities manifesting both as physical and apparitional formations.
Tulpas are thoughtforms that have their origin in Tibetan Buddhism and the Bön religion. In these traditions tulpas are consciously created beings or objects. The word tulpa literally means to build or to construct. In Tibetan Buddhism those who create tulpas are naljorpas and tulkus. Naljorpas are ascetics possessing magical powers and tulkus are special lamas that consciously incarnate into their next lifetime as bodhisattvas (highly evolved spiritual beings). In the Bön religion, magicians known as ngagspas create tulpas.
According to Theosophists Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater,1 there are three classes of thoughtforms. The first class is “that which takes the image of the thinker.” The second class is “that which takes the image of some material object.” The third class is “that which takes a form entirely its own, expressing its inherent qualities in the matter which it draws around it.” To this list I will add a fourth class – that which takes the collective form of a group mind known as an egregore. Although there are four distinct classes of thoughtforms presented here, they nonetheless have overlapping qualities that will be evident in the following cases.
The thoughtform of the first class, taking the image of the thinker, is when a person intensely imagines and focuses that they are somewhere else, such as in another city, an area of the city or another country. With intense focusing they see themselves in another locale performing various activities. They have created a thoughtform of themselves that exists separately from them, has autonomy and mental awareness. In some cases other people can see and sense the thoughtform of that person as an apparition.
The Franciscan friar Padre Pio is one such case. He was able to be at the friary and then project the thoughtform of himself to various locales. People in those locales would see him or smell the fragrance of roses indicating his presence. In one documented case during World War II, Padre Pio projected his thoughtform appearance in the air over San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy. American bombers were getting ready to bomb the city when a brown-robed friar appeared before their aircraft and all attempts to bomb the city failed.
The possible explanation for this case is that Padre Pio, through intense prayer to keep the city safe, focused intensely on protecting his city. The intense prayer coupled with detailed images of how he would keep the city safe created a thought structure. Added to that thought structure were strong emotions solidifying the thought structure into a specific form. Once solidified, an image of Padre Pio split off creating a thoughtform of himself, which manifested before the airplane as the brown-robed friar.
In another case, the philosopher Michael Grosso2 reported an experience he had with a lover named Windy. He met Windy in London and they had an intense love affair. Michael had to return to New York and Windy was to join him there soon, but there were visa problems that prevented her from joining him. They could not get each other out of their minds. At times, in their intense imagination they could see, feel, smell and touch each other. One night, Michael in an intense imaginative love experience projected the thoughtform of himself to Windy.
Several days later Michael received a letter from Windy that read, “I’m writing this in haste before I go to work. A strange thing happened to me this morning. It was Sunday morning, about eight o’clock. I was lying in bed, half-awake, wishing I didn’t have to get up. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking I had to go to the loo, but I didn’t move. I was somewhere between sleeping and waking, when it happened. Believe me, I’m not crazy, and my life’s not so miserable that I have to make stories up. But the truth is, suddenly you were in bed with me. You were there! Making love to me! I knew it was you, I couldn’t see, but I knew it was you. I felt your body, recognised your voice. I knew I wasn’t asleep, it wasn’t a dream. I would appreciate it, philosopher, if you would explain this to me. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. It was very peculiar. I do hope this isn’t a prelude to my going completely mad.”
The possible explanation for this case is similar to Padre Pio. Michael in an intense love making fantasy created a detailed image with strong emotions of making love with Windy. The inner image coupled with intense emotions created a thoughtform of him making love in a real situation. The thoughtform of himself split off and was projected to Windy. That thoughtform took on some physical characteristics allowing Windy to know it was Michael.
The second class, taking the image of some material object, can be applied to the phenomenon called doppelgänger as well as tulpas. In these instances, the doppelgänger and the tulpa exist as separate material objects. In 1991 Debra Mann reported on an unusual case of the doppelgänger manifestation of George Hensley.3 George was heading back to college in Laramie, Wyoming and discovered the route he was taking through Telephone Canyon was blocked by snow and police were redirecting traffic onto another route. George decided he would take the route anyway because it was the shortest. He waited until the police left and started driving his jeep down the canyon. He noticed a hitchhiker along the road, picked him up and asked the hitchhiker if he wouldn’t mind driving because he (George) was very tired and needed to sleep.
The hitchhiker accepted the invitation, got in the driver seat and started driving. George noticed the hitchhiker looked like a younger version of himself even wearing his good-luck Eisenhower jacket that he wore during World War II. Unbeknownst to George, while he slept the middle of the canyon was completely blocked with snow, but somehow when he awoke the hitchhiker had made it through the canyon. Near Laramie at Bosler Junction, the hitchhiker got out of the jeep and later George discovered that Telephone Canyon had been totally blocked with snow. How did George get through the canyon and who was the hitchhiker?
I can only give a partial explanation for this case. George intensely focused on getting back to college going the shortest route. On some level, he knew the trip was fraught with danger. Knowing that danger, he created in his mind detailed images coupled with intense emotions for a safe route through the canyon. This created a thoughtform of himself as a doppelgänger. The doppelgänger was a split-off part of himself manifesting as a protective guardian angel thoughtform, smoothing out a safe route. In this case, the thoughtform was a solid physical manifestation that took on a life of its own. The part of the story that baffles me is how the material thoughtform manoeuvred the jeep through the blocked snow filled canyon.
The next case is that of Alexandra David-Neel4 the Tibetan explorer and the first female lama from the Western world. Alexandra studied the dubthabs rite5 that is used in Tibet to create Yidams, which are particular types of tulpas. In most cases, in Tibetan Buddhism, Yidams are deities that are created through intense focusing and imagination. Alexandra had heard that certain lamas could create tulpas, so she decided to see if she could create one as well. Rather than creating a Yidam deity, which she saw all around her in painting and statues, she chose instead to create a short fat jolly monk.
Alexandra shut herself in tsams, which means living in seclusion. In Tibetan tsams literally means a barrier or border, usually a tent, hut or cave. In some cases, tsams are non-material in which the lama isolates himself or herself in a state of meditation. While she was in tsams, most likely a tent, Alexandra performed the required thought concentration of the dubthabs rite as well as other rites. Within several months, the monk tulpa manifested and grew into a life-like figure becoming her companion. The monk became animated and visible even to others. At times, she could feel his robe and his hand touching her shoulder.
Over time, the monk began to change into a slender creature with a “sly malignant look.” He became so animated that she could no longer control him. At this point, she decided to dissolve him. It took her six months of constant struggle, but she finally succeeded. In reference to what she created, Alexandra wrote: “There is nothing strange in the fact that I may have created my own hallucination. The interesting point is that in these cases of materialisation, others see the thought-forms that have been created.”
The explanation for this case is similar to the creation of the doppelgänger. However, Alexandra consciously created the tulpa by using the dubthads rite, which means a method of success. In similar fashion as to the doppelgänger, Alexandra’s tulpa became a solid material object at times, took on a life of its own and manifested physically in which others could see it. Once animated and having a life of its own, the tulpa became a separate entity in which Alexandra was losing control. Eventually, she was able to reverse the process dissolving her creation.
The third class, taking a form entirely its own, expressing its inherent qualities in the matter which it draws around it. In this class, a positive or negative thoughtform is projected into an individual’s aura, the protective energy field surrounding the body. The mental and astral bodies of the soul create this energy field. The auric field is either strongly intact preventing outside influences from entering, or weak and diffused allowing unwanted influences to invade. There are cases where mothers intensely pray for a guardian angel to protect her child. She creates an angelic thoughtform using her energetic thoughts coupled with the energetic material of her child’s aura. Once created, the thoughtform penetrates her child’s aura and remains there to keep out negative influences.
In Western magical traditions there are protection rituals the magician uses to strengthen and protect their auric field. In the late 1800s the magical fraternity The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn used a specific ritual known as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to create a strong auric field to protect the magician from intruding influences.
In creating guardian angels and using the Banishing Ritual, the mental and astral bodies of the soul uses the energetic properties of the aura and surrounding energies to create the protective field as a positive thoughtform. However, there are cases in which the auric field’s thoughtform is not positive but negative. The following two cases pertain to the third class of thoughtforms and they come from my personal archives when I was a psychotherapist and paranormal investigator.
The first case is a male client I worked with around issues regarding his possessive mother. After the father died when my client was a child, his mother became over protective, fearing something would happen to him. She focused on protecting him with intense emotions to keep him safe. Her intense focusing intruded into his aura, setting up a strong symbiotic relationship in which her protective thoughtforms mingled with his auric energetic field. Their two mental and emotional energies merged creating an unconscious possessive thoughtform that prevented him from separating from her and maturing.
My client moved from the state of Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio to get away from his mother, but she still possessed him. He could constantly feel the thoughtform of her all around him and could see her image in his mind’s eye continuously. We used various imagery techniques and protective rituals to strengthen his aura. Finally, after a year we were able to cut the energetic stream that animated her possessing thoughtform. Once free of her possessing thoughtform, he continued daily protective rituals to keep his auric field strong.
The explanation for this case is my client’s mother had good intentions in trying to protect her child, but her own fears and insecurities got in the way. She intentionally created a protective thoughtform that went awry because unconsciously she infused her fears and insecurities into the thoughtform. Being a child when this happened, his auric field was weak and diffused allowing his mother’s thoughts and emotions to invade and use his auric energies along with hers to create the thoughtform. Her constant focusing on his safety allowed the thoughtform to become possessive as well as using the energies from his auric field to exist.
The second case is of a woman who contacted me regarding her haunted house. After working with her for a while, I managed to convince her to move. After she moved, the haunting activity ceased. Within a few months she contacted me again, the haunting activity had reoccurred and it was now more like a poltergeist. She moved again, only for the haunting activity to follow her. It became evident at this point that she was haunted and not the houses. As I dug deeper into the case, I discovered soon after her divorce was when the haunting activity began. It became evident that either she or her husband had created a negative thoughtform that had affected her auric field and was haunting her. Now being part of her auric field, the thoughtform followed her from place to place. With all the methods I used, including spirit releasement techniques, we were unable to free her from the thoughtform. It was this fact that persuaded me to believe she was the one creating the thoughtform and not her former husband.
The explanation for this case is my client created the poltergeist thoughtform out of anger and frustration over her failed marriage. She resented and hated her husband over the way he had treated her, but would not stand up for herself. Rather than releasing her anger onto her husband, she turned it inward affecting her auric field, which was already weak and diffused. Her negative thoughts and emotions created the thoughtform that remained attached to her and her anger and resentment kept it alive.
Egregores: Collective Thoughtforms
The fourth class is the collective form of a group mind known as an egregore. An egregore is a special class of thoughtforms experienced mentally as images, feelings, complete structures with or without animated beings. According to Gaetan Delaforge6 egregores are “created when people consciously come together for a common purpose. Whenever people gather together to do something an egregore is formed, but unless an attempt is made to maintain it… it will dissipate. However… (if) people wish to maintain it and know the techniques of how to do so, the egregore will continue to grow in strength and can last for centuries. An egregore has the characteristic of having an effectiveness greater than the mere sum of its individual members. It continuously interacts with its members, influencing them and being influenced by them…. If this process is continued a long time the egregore will take on a kind of life of its own, and can become so strong that even if all its members should die, it would continue to exist on the inner dimensions (the imaginal realm)…”
In this description, Delaforge is discussing egregores in general. However, when egregores are created through “spiritual or esoteric activities its influence will be even greater. People who discover the keys to tap in on a powerful egregore representing… a spiritual or esoteric tradition,” as described above, they can activate the egregore, gaining “access to the abilities, knowledge, and drive of all that has been accumulated in that egregore since its beginnings.”
Delaforge’s focus is creating egregores through conscious intention by group minds. However, as with all thoughtforms, egregores can also be created unconsciously by group minds such as political parties, organisations of various kinds, religious denomination as cited above, ethnic groups as well as a variety of inner world structures within the imaginal realm. These egregores exist separately and can be accessed consciously or unconsciously. If accessed, the energies and thought formations can have a profound influence on individuals and groups motivating them into specific directions and actions.
I have had several spontaneous experiences with egregores as well as creating four with conscious intention. There are two spontaneous experiences, I wish to discuss, one visual and the other emotional. Living in North Carolina I have made many trips to the coast driving on a road in the southern part of the state. On one occasion I was passing a cotton field I had driven by many times. I glanced over at the field and saw the cotton in bloom as I had seen many times before, except this time I saw many African Americans in period clothes picking cotton. I turned back to the road and then back to the cotton field, and this time I saw no one in the field just cotton in bloom. On that occasion, I tapped into the visual egregore of the slaves who had worked that field before the Civil War.
The second experience occurred when I took a retreat in a Trappist Monastery. I hiked up a small mountain to a large cross overlooking the monastery grounds. It was July and the day was very hot. By the time I reached the top of the mountain where the cross stood, I was exhausted. I sat down to rest leaning against the cross when suddenly my exhaustion was lifted; finding myself in a deep state of calmness and not at all tired, but energised. I was bathed in the sacred egregore energies left there by people who had meditated and prayed at that very spot.
After being introduced to the imaginal realm and egregores, I decided to create my first egregore in the mid-1980s. This egregore was a cave where a wise woman lived and was created specifically to help one of my psychotherapy clients. My second egregore was an inner temple based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. My third egregore was a special room in a large house which I used to contact those who have passed on. The fourth egregore I created recently and it is a combination of the special room and the inner temple. All of these egregores I created consciously and they worked for the purpose they were created.
Keep in mind the imaginal realm is the plasticised reality we mould through our thoughts, emotions, imagination and focused intention. The imaginal realm is that reality that exists between the physical reality and the realm of the light, which we experience at death. This landscape of the imaginal realm also includes our material reality as well.
Thoughtforms are created from the soul’s mental and astral bodies through imagination, desire, willpower and intention. In many cases, once thoughtforms are created they exist as real things separate from their creator. Thoughtforms are created from energised thoughts, and from this perspective thoughts are real things. Once created, thoughts exist as separate entities all on their own. The take-a-way lesson – beware of what you desire because you may actually create it.
- Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms, 1901, 26-30
- Michael Grosso, ‘Trans-Atlantic Sacred Sex: A Psi-Related Story’ Ecstasy: The Journal of Divine Eroticism, 1993, Vol. II, Num. 3, 5-9
- Debra D. Mann, ‘George Hensley and the Doppelgänger’, Fate Magazine, Feb 1991, 70-75
- Alexandra David-Neel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Dover, 1971, 306-320
- Alexandra David-Neel, Initiation and Initiates in Tibet, Dover, 1993, 91-99
- Gaetan Delaforge, ‘The Templar Tradition Yesterday and Today’, Gnosis, 1988, No. 6, Winter, 8-13
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