Tulpas, Elementals, Thought-forms and Redundancy

“The best ideas lose their owners and take on lives of their own.”—N. Bushnell (but nobody knows what the N stands for)


Tulpa is a Tibetan word for a being that has been created by mental discipline. Another definition is that it is an apparition created by thought, and that may be more accurate since two of the cases we will be taking a look at involve their creation by accident.

Tulpa, thought-form and elemental are terms used interchangeably by some, but naturally it isn’t that simple. The concept of elementals is particularly difficult since to some individuals or schools of thought, an elemental is a nature spirit. For some they are beings associated with the four elements of the alchemists. To others it is a lower level spirit being of no particular intelligence. Still others think of them as a more advanced type of thought-form. For the purposes of this missive, we will consider all three terms to mean pretty much the same thing unless otherwise noted, which is not to say that we won’t be dealing with the Gentry, salamanders or intellectually challenged spirits at a later date.

We will start with a case involving someone who should be quite familiar to us by now, and end with probably the most famous tulpa of all, which admittedly still isn’t all that famous.

The Vampire Demon

One case of a particularly nasty thought-form involves our old pal Aleister Crowley. He was feuding with “MacGregor” Mathers, one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Their gripes with one another are somewhat convoluted and not that interesting nearly a century later. Basically, they were two alpha dogs who both wanted the same bone: to be leader of the Golden Dawn. Their battle went on for years and was chronicled by reporters from SLM Mathersaround the world, or so some claim.

Mathers allegedly started the war when he launched some sort of psychic attack against Crowley which killed all of his bloodhounds and drove one of his servants mad to the point that he tried to kill Mrs. Crowley du jour and had to be restrained. Crowley responded by sending Beelzebub and his 49 demons after Mathers. I can find no record of how well that worked, but apparently it just made him mad. He retaliated by sending a thought-form vampire demon that it took him six months to create to kill Crowley. This creature purportedly rose up from out of Mathers’ solar plexus, a detail the importance of which we will see later on.

Being the superior magician, Crowley subdued the vampire by smiting her “with her own current of evil.” He reportedly made her even nastier and then sent her back to Mathers. Over the next year, Mathers’ health deteriorated steadily until he finally died in 1918. Curiously, his death certificate gives no cause of death, a fairly major detail to be left off of this sort of document. According to Dion Fortune, a friend of Mathers’ who we’ll learn more about as we go, he died of Spanish influenza. Others close to Mathers, including his wife, blame Crowley for his death.

By far the most interesting thing about all of this is Mathers’ description of the thought-form demon. Only the upper portion of its body was visible. There was nothing visible below the waist. It had only vestigial arms that resembled flippers. Its head was flat and sat on the shoulders with little or no neck. The eyes were set deep in the head and glowed coral, like smoldering coals. But its most interesting feature was its long, gray tube of a tongue. There was a mouth-like opening on the end and it darted continuously in and out of her round, lipless mouth like a snake. According to Mathers, this was her primary weapon and she was always trying to use it to strike and suck out his auric vitality. He also reported that it had a sickening habit of trying to cozy up to him like a cat, with its tongue probing for an opening in his defenses all the while. When it found one, Mathers said that the tongue would pierce his aura right down to the skin, causing a most painful sensation. His body and spirit would be weak and listless for weeks afterward.

Whether or not this vampire really existed on any level or what effect it had on Mathers health we will probably never know. That he obviously believed it to be real might have made it as dangerous as an actual vampire, even if he was just hallucinating. In any case, Mathers could have learned a thing or two about grudges and revenge and what they get you from his young protégé who we will turn to now.

Dion and the Wolf: A Bedtime Story for Children You Want to Scare the Crap Out Of.

In her book Psychic Self-defense, noted occultist Dion Fortune describes how she once created an elemental (which she distinguishes from a thought-form) purely by accident. For her, this was a cautionary tale about what can happen if your motives are less than pure and/or your control over your occult faculties is lacking.

The Fenris WolfOnce upon a time, a girl named Dion was relaxing in bed one afternoon. She was ruminating about a serious wrong that had been done to her by another when she began to drift off to sleep. As she contemplated taking revenge on this person, the idea of the Fenris Wolf of Norse mythology suddenly and inexplicably popped into her head. She then felt a sudden “drawing out” from her solar plexus, reminiscent of the emergence of the vampire demon created by Mathers, and then a large wolf materialized on the bed next to her. She reported that it appeared quite solid and that she could feel its weight on the bed as well as its back pressed up against her. She also said that it was both “grey and colourless,” from which I infer that there was something not quite “real” about it in the everyday sense of the word.

She knew that she had screwed up and had to fix it as soon as possible, so she jabbed her elbow into its ribs and pushed it onto the floor. The wolf then then changed into a dog and in one corner of the room the walls faded away and the dog ran out through the opening. She thought that this was the end of it, but the next morning it turned out that another guest in the house had dreamed about wolves that night and awoke to find a pair of wild eyes glowing at her in the darkness from a corner of the room.

Unsure what to do, she sought counsel from an occult mentor who advised her that she must let go of her desire for revenge. Her intuition told her that this was the right move. She believed that if she acted on her vengeful thoughts, her connection to the wolf would be severed and she would be unable to reabsorb it. What it might do then would be anybody’s guess.

That evening she summoned it and it appeared in her room looking both very real and docile. She could also see the silver etheric cord that connected them running from her solar plexus to its belly. She began to focus her will on sucking the energy from the wolf back into her as if the cord were a straw. As she did so, she was almost overwhelmed by the desire to go berserk and attack anyone she happened upon. She fought to maintain control of herself, and by the time these urges had subsided, she saw that the wolf was now only a formless gray mist which she also absorbed. And that was that. Dion had learned a valuable lesson about forgiveness and turning the other cheek.

The End

It’s interesting to note that this psychic creation occurred during the hypnagogic stage of consciousness. More practitioners and researchers of the occult have written more about the powers and possibilities of the mind while in this state than I can remember, let alone recount. In this particular case, Fortune said that she created the elemental during “the condition between sleeping and waking in which the etheric double readily extrudes.” Sounds right to me.

Fortune’s distinction between thought-forms and full-blown elementals is a bit tricky, so I’ll let her explain it. From her point of view, a thought-form

is the product of the imagination, and is in no sense self-existent. What the imagination has made the imagination can unmake…If what was taken for a thought-form resists destruction by this method, it is probably an artificial elemental. Now there are two such elementals, one kind being ensouled by the invocation of elemental essence into a thought-form, and the other by the projection of something of the magician’s own nature into it.

Got it now? Me neither – especially since the wolf didn’t seem to try to resist her attempts to destroy it at all. Sounds like a thought-form to me.

Finally, in contrast to the Tibetan idea of tulpas, Fortune asserts that the power of elementals will eventually drain like an old battery and that they will just fade away over time. If there are different levels or intensities of thought-forms, or whatever you want to call them, then maybe some of them do go away over time while some stick around forever, or at least a lot longer. From what I gather, the tulpa in our next case didn’t hang around all that long at all.

The Shadow Knows!

In the late 1940s, a small townhouse in Greenwich Village was the home of Walter B. Gibson, the man who wrote most of the stories about The Shadow, one of the first superheroes. He didn’t invent The Shadow. The character started out as a radio show and became so popular that the sponsors decided to branch out. They hired Gibson to be the official Shadow story writer. A few other authors chipped in here and there over the years, all writing under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant, but it was mostly Gibson doing the writing.The Shadow

The Shadow was a crime fighting vigilante with psychic powers. He wore a wide-brimmed hat, a cape and a red scarf over the bottom part of his face. I’ve never heard or read any of the stories, but some classify him as more of an anti-hero – someone who does bad things but for good reasons. My kinda guy.

After Gibson moved out of the house, the owner sold it to Frank Paris and T.E. Lewis. Years later, the new owners told paranormal investigator Hans Holzer about two instances in which two different people, a guest and then a resident, saw a strange man in the house. In both cases, the man was said to be wearing evening wear with a hat that obscured his face and a cape. In the second instance, the family dog was present and approached the man in a friendly manner, which is not typical behavior for dogs when confronted by an apparition. Both times the man just vanished.

Holzer brought in a psychic named Betty Ritter to see what she could find out. She described a series of events that took place in the house that sounded like they could have been plucked right out of a crime novel. On some level, she must have sensed that the impressions she was getting weren’t real, because she was the one who suggested that what the two witnesses had seen might be a tulpa. Holzer claims that she couldn’t have looked up any information about the house in advance as he hadn’t told her where they were going ahead of time. The odds that she would have known that the writer of The Shadow books and stories had lived there nearly a decade earlier seem pretty remote. She also told them that she thought that someone named Mary Ellen had lived in the house. Mary Ellen was the name of the previous owner who Frank and T.E. bought the house from.

The demand for Shadow material had been so great during the 40s and 50s that Gibson had written at least 282 of the 325 individual stories, some of them full novels. It has been estimated that he produced the equivalent of two books per month over a period of several years, making him one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. Could so much energy and dedication to producing so many stories concerning one fictitious personage resulted in the creation of a Shadow thought-form? It would seem so, at least in Ms. Ritter’s estimation.

The address of the house, by the way, was 12 Gay Street…in Greenwich Village. You can’t make stuff like that up.

And finally, our elemental celebrity…

Philip the Friendly Ghost

Perhaps the best known tulpa to Westerners is one that was created by a group of people just to see if they could do it. Their experiment became the “based on a true story” movie The Quiet Ones, which of course had nothing to do with what actually happened. I guess they think that saying that something is based on reality will sell more tickets, and maybe it does. Personally, I would have more respect for them if they would just admit that these movies were “based on crap that we made up.” Then at least the writers could get some points for creativity.

Anyway, in 1972, Dr. A.R.G. Owen of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) put together a group of people with the aim of seeing if they could create a ghost. The group consisted of Dr. Owen, his wife, a former chairperson (that means a woman) of MENSA, a sociology student, a housewife, an accountant, a bookkeeper, and an industrial designer. Psychiatrist Dr. Joel Whitton acted as an observer and attended many of the group’s sessions. Dr. Whitton is a very interesting person in his own right and someone that I’m quite familiar with. I’m sure that I’ll be talking about him much more at a later date in a completely unrelated article.

The group’s first task was to come up with a short biography for their nonexistent ghost. They named him Philip Aylesford and decided that he had been an English aristocrat living in the mid-17th century. He was a Catholic supporter of King Charles and was married to the daughter of a nobleman. Her name was Dorothea. It was a marriage of convenience and Dorothea was distant and cold. Phil was not a happy guy.

One day he happened upon a gypsy encampment and spotted a beautiful young girl there named Margo. He decided to fill the void in his life by filling the void in her at a love nest he set up in the gatehouse of his family home. How she felt about all of this isn’t mentioned.

Eventually, Dorothea found out about Margo and accused her of using witchcraft to steal her husband. Phil was too afraid to set the record straight at her trial and so she was convicted and burned at the stake. This upset Phil so much that he threw himself off of the wall of his castle and that was it for him.

PhilipThey even had one of the members who was also an artist create a sketch of Philip so that they would know what he looked like. With all of this in place, they were ready to begin creating his ghost.

They started off by just sitting around a table talking about Phil and meditating on him and waiting for him to show up. Naturally, that didn’t work. They were clearly very patient people because they did this for a year before they decided to change their strategy. (I wouldn’t have lasted a month.) So they started holding séances and it wasn’t long before a “ghost” that identified itself as Philip began communicating with them via raps on the table. He was able to fill them in on some of the details of his life and answered questions about his views on various subjects. He was even able to move the table and occasionally make it stand on one leg. He could also dim or brighten the lights and cause a cool breeze to blow through the room.

One séance was held in front of an audience of 50 people and was filmed as part of a documentary. Philip astonished the audience by rapping on the table, making various other noises from around the room and making the lights blink on and off. The table also supposedly levitated a half inch off the floor, but this was only visible to the group and film crew.

If this was all on the level, it’s a pretty impressive demonstration of how to create a thought-form, although they failed to achieve their ultimate objective. They were hoping that they could get Philip to materialize.

Aside from the usual suspects who claim that this was all a fraud, there are others who believe that Phil was something other than a creation of the group. They primarily fall into two groups: people who think that the manifestations were the result of unconscious psychokinesis by the participants, and those who think that “Philip” was actually some other spirit being pretending to be him.

Some cite as proof that Philip was a creation of the group the fact that, while he did have a fairly extensive knowledge of the people and events in England at the time, none of it was anything that members of the group didn’t know. One would assume that they had all done a fair amount of research on this during the year that they were sitting around waiting for something to happen. This argument is somewhat confused for me by the fact that there was one very important element of Philip’s story that was not historically accurate at all.

In America, and apparently Canada, we’ve romanticized gypsies as being mysterious and exotic. I spent several months living in Eastern Europe a few years ago. I saw gypsies (which is actually a derogatory term; they prefer to be called Roma) on a daily basis. Trust me, there’s nothing exotic or romantic about them. Most Europeans hold them in about as high regard as Arizona does illegal immigrants. I’m not saying that it’s right, but that is how it is. They usually live in camps on the outskirts of town that make tent cities look like upscale residential neighborhoods, so it’s pretty unlikely that an English snob would find them to be anything other than repulsive. They also don’t name their daughters Margo.

Did any members of the group become aware of this inconsistency with a major element of their story of Philip after it was too late? If so, wouldn’t Philip have pointed this out to them? Would some other spirit pretending to be Phil have known this even if they didn’t? This really makes me wish that they had done their homework a little better before they started.

Then again, it may not matter. The TSPR group went on to create a new “ghost” with a completely different background and got similar results. Other groups in other parts of the world also tried this experiment and they reportedly got more of the same.

So what happened to Philip after they were done with him? According to Tibetan tulpa theory, he should still be around. If anyone knows, they aren’t saying. Is he just wandering the streets of Toronto wondering why no one wants to talk to him anymore? Poor Phil. You can come hang out with me and Gef if you want. Mathers’ vampire isn’t invited.

So that’s four weeks in a row I’ve either written about Aleister Crowley or something related to him. I promise, next week’s offering will have nothing to do with him. Aleister who? Never heard of the guy.


and all the devils are here


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