In late 2019, my good friend Danny B. Stewart (folklorist, researcher, and hipster extraordinaire) and I gave a presentation on thought forms, tulpas and ghosts at Pioneer Book in Provo, Utah. I thought it would be fun to share some of my observations –
Thought forms and ghosts in the modern age
What is your favorite, happiest memory?
Can you still see all the colors? Hear all the sounds? Feel the warmth, smell the air, sense the anticipation or excitement?
When you do, you are reliving that happiest moment – and it exists, at least for a moment, just as much a part of reality than anything around you.
This visualization is something used quite a bit, by people of all sorts. Albert Einstein and Nicola Tesla regularly performed what we would call today “thought experiments” – a phrase coined, I believe, by Einstein. Athletes today practice visualization as part of their personal routines for enhancing athletic performance, something Billie Jean King did in the sixties. Muhammed Ali put thoughts of defeat in the minds of his opponents before they met in the ring, as he felt that helped him defeat them before he even put on his gloves.
What is reality? Is it only what can be measured with a ruler, photographed, recorded, or passed around a room?
That is definitely one aspect.
Reality is also everything we encounter which forces a response from us – we are wired to react and interact with our environments. We can’t help it, we’re physical beings.
However, we are also mental beings. This is one reason why when athletes visualize activity their muscle memories improve, as do the conditioning of their muscles – the mental reality they recall or imagine is real enough it directly affects their physical bodies.
Have you ever felt your heart race or feel your blood freeze when you react to something you can’t see, only to have a cat jump out or a blowing piece of paper snap into focus? These are classic examples of a physical reaction not to the environment or actual event, but to the reality we are generating in our imagination.
When earlier we recalled that wonderful memory, our body was reliving the sensations we remember from that event, and it becomes for all intents and purposes real again.
Here’s a fun anecdote, of which I have heard many variations out of all sorts of really dismal environments.
In World War II, prisoners in concentration camps would share stories about the occasional brightness American GI’s could bring into such a terrible and dark place. My grandpa told me about one, in which an American GI had an invisible trained dog that would do all sorts of tricks – members of the audience would clap and laugh as the GI pretended to get the dog to perform ridiculous and amazing feats. With newfound interest in life, fellow prisoners would fashion implements for the dog to use and call out helpful suggestions for when the dog was timid, and would encourage him to perform ever more daring tricks. Finally, the German soldiers had enough and confiscated the invisible dog. So the GI switched to a troupe of invisible trained fleas.
Did you catch that? The German POW guards confiscated the imaginary dog!
But, this is an example of what I am leading up to – the creation of the thought form or tulpa.
We have seen that reality can exist and have a physical impact, even if that reality is “only” in our minds; the next step is, then, seeing if that created mental reality which affects us can affect the people around us.
In that example from my grandpa the German soldiers were most likely reacting to the unsanctioned fun the POW’s were having, and the hope those performances were generating. And no doubt a large part of the fun the POW’s were enjoying had to do with the German guards and their reaction to the American GI’s antics – or rather, their appreciation of his trained invisible dog!
However, our individual reactions, actions, and behaviors to something which does not exist outside of our imaginations – that can definitely affect the reality experienced by others.
When we teach our children to be polite and look for the best in people around them, we are training them to view the world in a certain way. The people they contact will generally pick up on that, and most people do respond to certain kinds of treatment in the way expected; for example, 99 times out of 100 if you extend your hand in a friendly shake, people will automatically and politely respond in the same way. Without them even thinking about it, you have in effect forced your own perception of reality into the experience of a complete stranger.
If you are in a group of people, you can also help alter their shared perception. In a documentary several years ago on how the mind and memory work, Alan Alda worked with Nova to explore a rather unnerving concept – short term memory can be significantly altered just by someone else making an observation with conviction. In one experiment, strangers were in a class room when one person’s bag was snatched. Without thinking, one participant immediately raced after the perpetrator while all the others sat in a state of disbelief – and interestingly, he was the only one who was able to correctly describe the bag-snatcher. While he was out of the room, one of the study leaders mentioned with disbelief how large the perpetrator’s nose was. Interestingly, when a few minutes later the people in the class were interviewed they were absolutely convinced the thief’s nose was significantly sized.
Try this sometime – when you are in a group of people larger than about 8 or 10, ask if anyone else heard or saw something specific. Because people have a tendency to want to please others, at least one person will say something like “Yes, I think so!” in an effort to be helpful. Others will most often chime in with agreement. This newly formed shared memory becomes a created reality which those involved are reacting to.
Does anyone remember hearing of James Alan Hydrick or Sum Chai?
He was a martial arts teacher and telekinetic wonder, practicing in Salt Lake City in the 80’s, who later confessed his psychic abilities were tricks. He could actually jump kick a basketball hoop, so not everything was fake.
In his gym he hung a heavy sandbag from a ceiling beam. He knew that at certain times of day the metal of the roof and supports would contract or expand with the heat from the sun, and he would time psychic meditation sessions so that when people were concentrating on getting the sandbag to move, the beam from which it was suspended would heat up or cool down – and change shape just enough for the bag to start swinging right on cue.
But things like that sand bag swinging on command, something mental having a material affect on the physical environment, is by no means all fraudulent.
Dr. Emoto of Japan has done significant research on how water crystals change shape according to the mental projections of observers during the freezing process. If that seems a little out there, something similar is noted in physics circles as the “observer effect” and is described in something called the “double slit experiment” on YouTube. The movement and placement of electrons is known to alter during their observation. Some theoretical physicists have even speculated that with the amount of actual matter in the universe being so limited – for example, all the actual matter of our solar system can be condensed into something the size of a pea – perhaps the reason so much behaves the way it does is related in part to observer expectation.
But thought forms, ghosts, and tulpas is what it said on the tin, and I’ve been rambling on about reality.
The big point here, is that reality is not just something we can measure or handle – it is something we engage with and react to. We react to things which, sometimes, aren’t even there.
Heidegger and Ibn Khaldun are two historical nerds who talked about this quite a bit.
Heidegger, the kindest and gentlest of Nazi philosophers, is credited by some as one of the parents of phenomenology. He spoke quite a bit about an odd sort of thing: whether or not something is still present in the physical world, many times we react to our memory of its presence. Those of us old enough to remember the haunted BYA can still be creeped out a bit by the new and beautiful library; who has ever driven by a field where there used to be a house in your childhood; or even in your new and improved remodeled home have you occasionally found yourself wanting to turn a corner which is no longer there?
Ibn Khaldun, a fourteenth century Muslim thinker and renaissance man, took a bit more metaphysical approach; he described how each of us carry a web of past experiences around with us wherever we go, and share portions of that web with those around us. We are all of us constantly affected by the lives and decisions of people who have come before us, and he described living in this web of human experience as walking through a river – a river of ghosts.
This has all been the setup, now for the reveal.
A thought form is something we build in our mind to which a physical body reacts. Remember Brother Hydrick using the sandbag? If we are in a house with wood planking floors, lathe and plaster walls, or hardwood stairs, the size and shape of each of those things will change as heat builds or dissipates. Isn’t it interesting that the popular “witching hour” is in the evening, as the air is cool enough for these items to start shrinking? When we hear rhythmic creaks and pops, it can become very easy to overlay non-existing patterns to the sounds and believe, even in the shortest of short term memory, that we are listening to footsteps. The shock or unnerving panic we can feel as a result becomes the manifestation of our very own thought form. I’m not saying all hauntings are thought forms – too much personal observation to be able to say that – but this describes one way we create our own “boogie men”, so to speak.
A tulpa is similar, but described from a more Eastern perspective. Since in many Eastern philosophies all existence is perceived as illusion, the thought form can be potentially much more than an interesting effect of the human mind. Sometimes a thought form can be so persuasively or carefully generated by an individual, or even among a group of individuals, that it takes on a “life” of its own. From disembodied sounds to sourceless lights, this type of thought form manifestation has been commonly observed. If what some theoretical physicists believe has merit – double slit experiment – we potentially could be living in a world of tulpas.
What about ghosts?
Among ghost hunters, that subset of the brazen and adventurous, there is a consensus of three general types of ghosts or hauntings – the environmental, the echo, and the aware.
The environmental haunting can be most easily characterized as a weird feeling. When the air is electrically charged, when smells are just a tad off with a subtlety only the subconscious picks up, or when infra sound or electromagnetic static emerges from old wiring or distant plumbing, our bodies react with pricked up hairs, nausea, and feelings of dread. Of course, when we are in a space like this there is sometimes a bunch of accompanying stories which helps our mindset as well. And often when we walk into a space with lots of living history, many of us can pick up on what the previous occupants left behind.
The echo haunting, or “stone tape”, sounds weird at first but seems to make sense. The quartz crystal watch works because quartz has the capacity to “remember” a specific frequency or charge, and in particular conditions is able to play it back indefinitely; the watch keeps time because the crystal “remembers” the length of a pulse. The echo haunting occurs in areas where there are elements related to the materials we use in quartz crystal watches, diodes, and other electronic “remembering” devices. As bio-electric beings each of us has our own resonating magnetic field, and the theory is that when an emotive experience is powerful enough the human resonating magnetic field discharge can record itself on physical materials in the environment. This type of haunting is typically indicated when a sound, smell, or observed activity is repeated without engaging the observer.
The aware haunting refers to when a ghost actually interacts with an observer. When a flashlight turns off or on at command, when EVP voices appear to answer direct questions, when an apparition looks at or engages with an observer. These types of ghostly experiences are tremendously personal and intense.
Although I cannot say that all hauntings are thought forms or tulpas, I’ve experienced too much to be able to assert anything of the sort, I can propose that our world is weird enough – and our minds our powerful enough – that we can and do engage in our own reality-building. We build thought forms and even tulpas more often than most of us expect, although I believe it happens enough that we condition ourselves away from being “weirded out” every time it happens.
Now, here’s an experiment everyone can do which shows how much power our minds have over our physical environments.
Gather together two matching pint jars, pencils, 8” strings, washers, enough water to fill each jar two thirds full, and enough salt to make a super-saturated solution. This can be done following directions online for simple science experiments, and I personally have repeated this experiment with over a dozen kinds of salt and water from all sorts of sources (spring, tap, river, etc.). The most important thing is to make sure you make a large enough batch of super-saturated solution that it can be used in both jars.
Tie the strings around their respective pencils and tie each washer to each string, matching knots and lengths as closely as possible. After making the super-saturated salt solution and letting it cool to room temperature – IMPORTANT!!! – carefully pour the same precise amount into each of the two jars and put the strings with the washers on the end into each of them. The pencil, of course, is to keep the string from falling all the way in.
Now, put one jar in an area you walk by every day, and constantly remind it how amazing it is. That’s right, shove all the positivity at it you can. Remind it daily how wonderful its salt crystals are, how big they’re growing, and how incredibly beautiful it is.
The other jar can be ignored, or if you’re ruthless, never pass up an opportunity to tell it how much it sucks.
These can be put in two different areas, or side by side – I prefer to separate them so the “good vibes” don’t spill over into the other jar.
Within a day salt crystals will start growing, and by the time all the water has evaporated you will notice something. Although the weight of each jar is identical, the jar with “happy vibes” will have larger crystals than the other. The only measurable difference is how you thought about them.
Something to consider – if thoughts have such an affect on the physical world, is it any wonder that people with a supportive friend and family network respond better to medical therapies?
In any case, you have created an actual, physical tulpa.
Think about that for a minute.