Tulpas have been a part of Western supernatural legend since the 1970s. A tulpa is a fictional creature that develops a material existence and consciousness in modern paranormal discourse. Tulpas can be inadvertently produced by the ideas of many people or purposely produced by an individual’s deliberate action. The tulpa is still recognised as a Tibetan notion and was originally introduced by Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969) in Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929). The tulpa concept, however, owes Theosophy more than Tibetan Buddhism. This piece examines the idea of tulpa.


Theosophical Narratives

Theosophical Narratives

Evolution of the Tulpa Concept

In the 20th century, theosophists changed the Vajrayana concept of the emanation body into the concepts of “tulpa” and “thoughtform.” Theosophist Annie Besant classified thought forms into three groups in her book Thoughtforms from 1905: forms that assumed the form of the creator, forms that resembled things or people and may have been bestowed by nature spirits or the dead, as well as shapes that symbolised intrinsic traits from the astral or mental realms, such emotions. The term “thoughtform” is also used in Evans-Wentz’s 1927 translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The concept is also used to describe how magic is used in the West.


Atkinson’s Definition and Perspective

In his book The Human Aura, Occultist William Walker Atkinson defined thoughtforms as specific ethereal objects that came from people’s auras and were the result of their thoughts and feelings. He further explained in Clairvoyance and Occult Powers how skilled occultists can create thoughtforms from their auras that act as astral projections that may or may not resemble the person who is projecting them or as illusions that can only be perceived by those with “awakened astral senses.”


David-Néel’s Observations in Tibet

According to spiritualist Alexandra David-Néel, she had seen these mystical practices in Tibet in the 20th century. She described tulpa as “magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought.” A tulpa may have a consciousness of its own, claims David-Néel: Once the tulpa has acquired sufficient vitality to be able to depict a real creature, it tends to defy its creator’s authority.


The Autonomy of Tulpa

According to David-Néel, this happens almost automatically, right after the child leaves the mother’s womb when her body is fully developed and capable of supporting itself. She said that she had created a tulpa in Friar Tuck’s likeness, a happy monk, but it developed a mind of its own and had to be put to death. Despite her claim that others could see the mental forms she summoned, David-Néel argued that her experience may have been a hallucination.


In terms of the Buddhism Perspective

In terms of the Buddhism Perspective

There are considerable disparities in how Western mysticism approaches and interprets the term Tulpa and what it implies in Buddhism.


Indian Buddhism

The manomyakya or “mind-made body” capacity is mentioned as a path to a rich contemplative life in the Pali Samaaphala Sutta, an early Buddhist scripture. Other texts mention the “mind-made body” as how the Gautama Buddha and the arhats ascend to the heavenly realms. The Buddha multiplied his nirmita, or radiated form, into infinite bodies, filling the sky in the Divyavadana, demonstrating the same power. An enlightened entity like a Buddha could also do this feat.


As a side note, the “mind-made body” makes this seem more like e astral projection. The 4th–5th-century philosopher Vasubandhu claims that Buddhists can master the nirmita as a siddhi, or psychic skill. Others practicing Buddhism consider the nirmita or nirmana a supernatural delusion. According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, all of reality is an illusion known as nirmita and is, therefore, empty.


Tibetan Buddhism

Numerous words, including nirmanakaya, sprulsku, and sprul-pa, are connected to the word trikaya. The three bodies of the Buddha doctrine are a part of Buddhism. These are frequently the “emanation bodies” of celestial creatures, yet it is also known that “unrealized beings” like those that humans make exist.


Some supporters of the 14th Dalai Lama held the tulku belief that Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is Chenrezig’s emanation-reincarnation (tulku). Even the 14th Dalai Lama has publicly acknowledged that an emanation of his successor may manifest while he is still alive.


Tulpa: The Origin

Tulpa: The Origin

According to current understanding in the tulpamancer community, a tulpa is a sentient creature that manifests as an actual body through thought form. Although it differs significantly from modern tulpamancy, thoughtform has probably been used in Tibet for over a thousand years. Tulpa incarnations were frequently employed in traditional Tibetan Buddhism to work with fear or desire in the quest for emptiness.


For instance, practitioners would conjure up a Tulpa with a phobia (such as a rat or spider), which would vanish after the problem was handled. The Theosophical Society began investigating thoughtform to explore consciousness in the early 20th century, but they did not mention Tulpas (Besant & Leadbeater, 2001).


Following the 1929 release of the Belgian-French explorer Alexandra David-Néel’s book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, the term “tulpa” gained popularity in the West. After witnessing the practice in Tibet, the author claimed to have made her own Tulpa in the likeness of Friar Tuck. The phrase is frequently fully transcribed as sprul pa’i sku from the Tibetan! And refers to the physical body (Dharmakaya: Mind-body; Sambhogakaya: Speech-body; and Nirmanakaya: Physical-body), which can be rendered as either “emanation” or “incarnation.”


On the 4Chan Internet community for the My Little Pony TV show, Tulpas were discussed once more in 2012. Adult male My Little Pony enthusiasts, or “bronies,” got to thinking about combining meditation and lucid dreaming techniques to summon sentient imaginary friends in the shape of ponies during a debate about lucid dreaming. The concept quickly spread to other websites and message boards, leading to the formation of Tulpa.info and the Reddit page, where most modern tulpamancers debate their profession.


Tulpas And The Senses

Tulpas And The Senses

Most Tulpamancers, who tend to be drawn from the urban, middle-class, Euro-American adolescent and young adult demographics, report overwhelmingly positive changes in their personal and offline social lives and a variety of new, ‘unusual’ but largely positive sensory experiences. They also cite loneliness and social anxiety as motivations for the practice. These include auditory, tactile, visual, and olfactory sensations (in decreasing order of frequency). Along with other non-verbal, non-narrative modes of contact, “raw thought,” “intuitive thinking,” “speaking with no words,” and “communicating with images, feelings, and music” are also described.


For instance, one informant, a Caucasian-American student studying Cognitive Science at Midwestern University, claims to have been cold and underdressed while heading to class one morning. She explains that when the Tulpa noticed that her host was becoming cold, he removed his coat and put it on her shoulders, giving her a warm feeling and the definite impression that she was wearing another layer of clothing. These reports of Tulpas voluntarily assisting in social, environmental, and professional circumstances are numerous and appear to summarize the practice.


In the community, sexual and romantic relationships are contentious issues, with a rising consensus tending to converge toward a taboo on the latter. The question of mutual consent is essential since Tulpas are imagined, experienced, engaged with, and collectively acknowledged as sentient beings with mental states, propositional attitudes, sentiments, physiological sensations, biases, and preferences. As such, making a Tulpa for one’s own satisfaction is just as unethical as wanting any one-sided, power-imbalanced relationship. However, the widespread possibilities of tactile and multi-sensory experiences inherent in the practice suggest that the ‘taboo’ was implemented to create norms around a widespread practice or, at the very least, potential.


Tulpa Folk Theory

Tulpa Folk Theory

So-called psychological and metaphysical explanatory principles principally split the community. The preferred explanation in the psychological community is neuroscience, also known as “folk neuroscience.”  Tulpas are said to be mental abstractions that have attained sentience. According to the metaphysical theory, Tulpas are supernatural beings who communicate with their hosts from a place outside of their consciousness.


Of the 118 people who responded to the question, 76.5% said they believed in the psychological explanation, 8.5% said they believed in the metaphysical explanation, and 14% said they believed in a range of “other” reasons, such as a combination of psychological and metaphysical explanations.


Before learning about tulpamancy, several Tulpamancers (from the metaphysical and psychological sectors) claim to have had sentient imaginary acquaintances for up to many years. One of the informants said that her family had followed the custom for generations. When interviewed independently of their hosts, many Tulpas from the psychological tradition also assert that they were present in their hosts’ consciousness before their hosts became aware of them through tulpamancy.


In a survey of 73 Tulpamancers, 37% said their Tulpas felt “as real as a physical person,” while 50.6 % said their mental companions were “somewhat real – distinct from physical persons, but distinct from own thoughts.”  4.6% of respondents reported that Tulpas were “indistinguishable from any other agent or person” and that the phenomena were “genuine.”  Only 4.6% of people claimed to hear their Tulpas and saw them “outside” of their skulls. These responders had a one-year median amount of Tulpamancy experience. Higher levels of somatic experience were reported by tulpamancers with two years or more of experience.


Tulpamancers: Habit, Profile.

Habit and Profile

Profile of a Typical Tulpamancer

The most typical tulpamancer profile to emerge from the coding of qualitative interviews gathered in extensive surveys is one of a highly cerebral, imaginative, highly articulate, upper-middle class, formally educated person with many consistently pursued interests, talents, and hobbies but few opportunities for physical, social interaction.


Social Attributes and Interactions

The typical tulpamancer is self-assured in their abilities yet socially awkward and somewhat modest. They have a strong propensity for focus, absorption, hypnotisability, and non-psychotic sensory hallucinations, either naturally occurring or developing. However, there is no link between their lack of social life and social anxiety and lowered levels of interest in and empathy for other people. On tests of empathy and theory of mind, they receive average or above average results, demonstrating that their capacity to relate to people is either optimal or enhanced. (NB: I used my modified version of Baron-Cohen’s empathy and ASD quotients tests. More testing of implicit cognition is necessary because these mainly depend on logically verifiable explicit mindreading.


Assessment Scales and Results

Most accounts attribute Tulpas, characterized as the “most loyal” and “perfect” types of mates, to loneliness as a prevalent cause. Most of the 74 tulpamancers examined performed shyness scales worse than average and sociability scales worse than average for comparable population sets (note: I used my scales, amended from Asendorpf et al.). Largely, respondents acknowledged having social anxiety to some extent. Their ” happiness ” levels were measured using a range of qualitative interviewing techniques, and they were associated with the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Scale.


Intriguing Findings and Relationships

High scores on the Tellegen Absorption Scale (used to assess hypnotisability, synaesthesia, and ‘trance’ states) appear to be a function of both practice and predisposition. In other words, since learning tulpamancy, respondents claimed improvements in their capacity to focus, visualize, and have sensory “hallucinations.” One of the most intriguing findings is the inverse relationship between high empathy and low sociability. A moderate-to-high percentage of tulpamancers who identify with, or have been diagnosed with, Asperger’s syndrome is also revealed by further ethnographic findings from forum conversations and interview data. The two respondents who took the Theory of Mind exam in the initial survey had no significant evidence of impairment.


Tulpa Effect – Cryptids & Spirits

Cryptids & Spirits

Numerous Cryptid experiences, ghost stories, and even reports of Shadow People sightings could relate to the Tulpa Effect. When enough people hear the stories and believe them, it causes an entity to be created, even if it wasn’t intended. This collective belief has spurred the birth of a being or entity.


There have already been enough talks about how expectations of seeing a ghost might materialize and generate one, even when the local myths and history don’t support it. The most well-known of these would be the Slender Man rumors that were going around and the experiences that people said they had before the hype and the natural, fleeting internet media craze died down.


The ghosts of Sherlock Holmes and Watson were allegedly created because many believed they had been actual individuals and frequently wrote letters to imaginary characters, according to an actual Ghost Busters episode from the 1970s. It is clear how pervasive the idea of Tulpas, Thoughtforms, and Imaginary Friends becoming real is in mainstream culture, even within the constraints of a cartoon.


The idea of the Imaginary Friend or Tulpa coming into life by willpower has become a widespread motif in mainstream media, appearing in several shows and works of literature. Even if they didn’t use the phrase “tulpa,” shows like X-Files, Foster’s Home of Imaginary Friends, and the Netflix series Puss in Boots employ these beings as part of the plot for a sentient being that’s created.


It is sometimes stated that the difference between the two is that Tulpas can grow in personality and experience to become a being that cannot be controlled. At the same time, Imaginary Friends typically don’t last into childhood and can appear to fade away.


Fortean Phenomena

Fortean Phenomena

This raises another fundamental idea underneath these tulpas produced by belief and the collective unconscious. This idea is known as a “window area” in Fortean Phenomena, where these locations once had religious significance but are now unused and abandoned. A local deity or entity may have been created due to religious beliefs. Now that their former worshippers are no longer around, they may try to maintain their existence by engaging in paranormal activity. This would keep them fed and prevent them from disappearing.



Maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the Tulpas and Imaginary Friends concept is essential. Moving on to ghost stories, there is also a sufficient explanation of how anticipation of seeing a ghost might materialize and create one, even if the regional myths and history don’t fully support it.


Aphantasia prevents some people from seeing anything in their mind’s eye or imagination. Some people’s imaginations are extraordinarily vivid. Is there a being, actual, fictitious, or made up? or a person who has a mental illness like schizophrenia? Is it all it takes to visualize clearly and have a powerful imagination?


Furthermore, not every occurrence will be the outcome of a tulpa. But when using the process of elimination, it should be a part of the line of inquiry. Because whatever remains after removing the impossible, regardless of how implausible, must be the truth.