Friday, March 14, 2008

T is For Tulpa

Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green features a tulpa, who takes the shape of Rossignol, the young woman that John Taylor is trying to help, and causes much chaos and destruction as it is sent to kill John Taylor.
According to Wikipedia. org, a tulpa is based on the Tibetan occult mysticism concept of an object or being created through sheer willpower. Called a thoughtform, it is a thought brought to life.
Wikipedia quotes Mysteries of the Unexplained, stating that a tulpa can be an apparition that is a perceptible double of a person who is in a trance state, or a ghost that is called up by a magician or yogi of skill. It can also manifest due to the collective superstitious beliefs of a (group) village of people. Evans-Wentz is further quoted to say, that the mind can create any object that it desires. Personally, I find that to be a very scary thought. I don't want to have some of my black imaginations come to life! Evans-Wentz goes onto to say that a skilled magician can dissolve the thoughtform, effectively killing it, as easily as it is created.
Alexandra David-Neel helped to introduce this concept to the Western world in Magic and Mystery in Tibet, published in 1965. It can be explored on a more philosophical level, as one delves into the Tibetan religious beliefs, but that would be far out of the scope of this entry. The tulpa is quite a popular concept, and has continually been used
in fiction of various types. Here are some works that feature tulpas of various forms:
  • Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison (used by the main character to hold in her power during her spells)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (diety-like being are created through cultural belief)
  • It by Stephen King (the titular character is brought to life in various manifestations through the belief of the townspeople)
  • Outcast by Lynne Ewing (features a tulpa created by the main character, appearing in the form of his lost twin brother)
  • The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • Batman has a story arc called "Tulpa," written by Alan Grant that features a Tibetan man who creates entities to steal for him
  • Clive Barker's Candy Man character was created to be a tulpa manifested from a myth


  • X-Files episode Arcadia features a tulpa made from garbage that enforces the rules of the very exclusive community of the same name
  • Supernatural episode Hell House is about a tulpa manifested by thousands of website viewers in a supposedly haunted house
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends features living thoughtforms brought to life by the imagination of children

As you can probably surmise, the tulpa is a very complicated, but interesting piece of the folklorific, or religious pantheon. It frankly goes over my head, but I still found it worthwhile to write of in this blog. My thanks to Simon R. Green for invoking my curiosity, and thanks to Wikipedia, my major source of information about tulpas.


Tulpa- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 3 March 2008. Accessed 14 March 2008.

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