Sep 03, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Beware of the Things You Think Of: Thought-Forms, Tulpas and Slenderman

Born in 1868, Alexandra David-Neel had a rich and fulfilling life; it was a life that lasted for just short of an incredible 101 years. She was someone for whom just about every day was filled with adventure and excitement. She was a disciple of Buddhism, was strongly drawn to the concept of anarchy, and had a particular affinity with Tibet and its people, much of which is described in her acclaimed 1929 book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet. It’s a fine and entertaining tale of road-trip proportions and with a large dose of the supernatural thrown in. It was while in Tibet that David-Neel became acquainted – deeply acquainted - with the phenomenon of the Tulpa. Like so many people that came before her and since, however, she found herself in the icy grip of a thought-form that, when primed, activated and called forth, was determined to keep the priceless life to which it had quickly become accustomed. A perfect example today would be the Slenderman - a creature created out of the mind and that is now very much in the minds of many.

David-Neel used her very own experiences to demonstrate to her readers the extent to which one creates a Tulpa at one’s own eternal peril: “Once the Tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its makers’ control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as a child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother’s womb. Sometimes the phantom becomes a rebellious son and one hears of uncanny struggles that have taken place between magicians and their creatures, the former being severely hurt or even killed by the latter."

(Nick Redfern) When thoughts come to life

You would have thought all of this knowledge would have dissuaded David-Neel from following the path that so many trod earlier and paid the price. But, no. She was ready and fired up for the challenge.  David-Neel knew precisely of what she wrote way back in the 1920s – as well as of the inherent dangers. Indeed, on one occasion in Tibet she unwisely chose to create her very own Tulpa. She did so in the form of a rotund, beaming, jollity-filled monk. By the end of the experience, however, there was nothing fun-filled or even chubby about her strange creation. As David-Neel described it, she performed certain procedures and rites – all taught to her by her Buddhist friends in Tibet, and all designed to place her into a state of mind that would make the manifestation of the monk an all but guaranteed reality. It was a long and drawn-out procedure, one which lasted not for days or even for weeks: it went on for no less than months. Dedication was most definitely the order of the day.

Finally, the day came when David-Neel saw her creation – in her very own abode, if not exactly in what we would call the flesh. At first, at least, the monk was a character that could only be seen as a brief, shadowy manifestation of something barely recognizable. As time progressed, however, the monk became more and more physical and substantial. One can see this clearly in David-Neel’s own words. She said that he eventually “became a kind of guest, living in my apartment."  It was shortly after her monk was “born” that David-Neel temporarily left her apartment behind her and “started for a tour, with my servants and tents.” By now, the creature had a strong presence in David-Neel’s environment, to the extent that she no longer needed to focus on the monk to make him appear.

The monk would now materialize when and where he wanted to appear, regardless of what David-Neel’s plans might have been for him. This was far from being a good sign: the tables were slowly, carefully, and less than subtly, being turned. As its time in our world progressed, said David-Neel, so did the monk’s progression from a shadowy figure to that of a physical entity. And, to the extent that, on several occasions, she felt his robe brush softly against her. One time, she even felt his hand grip her shoulder. There was nothing playful about any or all of this, however, as David-Neel soon came to realize – and to her cost.

As time progressed, and as the monk became far less like a fragmentary thought-form and far more like a fully-formed person, something ominous happened. The Tulpa began to physically change. Its chubby form altered; it became noticeably slimmer and far more toned and lithe. A fat visage was replaced by sculpted cheekbones of the kind that an up and coming Hollywood star would kill for. His original, smiling and beaming appearance was soon gone. It was replaced by a slyly and knowingly evil face. The creature became “troublesome and bold.” Then, there was the most terrifying development of all – if “development” is the correct word to use. David-Neel said that the day finally arrived when her monk-of-the-mind “escaped my control.” The monster was now fully free of its moorings.

What had begun for David-Neel as an interesting and alternative experiment concerning the issue of what amounts to reality, was now a downright state of emergency. There was only one way to solve the problem, a knowledgeable lama told her, and that was for David-Neel to destroy her creation. It wasn’t quite so easy. Just like the unfortunate doctor in Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel of 1818, Frankenstein, David-Neel didn’t just come to rue the day she created her supernatural thing. She also found it extremely difficult to end its life. It took close to half a year, David-Neel said, before the manipulative creature was finally dissolved and forever wiped from the face of existence. It was far from an easy task, as David-Neel admitted: “My mind-creature was tenacious of life." Very much the same could be said of Eric Knudsen’s version of the Slenderman: it’s likely now relishing its lease on life. And, it scarcely needs saying that the Slenderman hardly seems to be the kind of character who would be willing to give up everything that he has now attained: countless numbers of eager followers, the ability to manipulate our minds as he sees fit, the means to create mayhem and death, and a sense of overwhelming power. 

(Nick Redfern) Beware of the things you think of.

Another perfect example of how the mind can create monsters that, when unleashed, can look just as real and corporeal as us, is that of a woman named Violet Mary Furth, who was born in Bryn-y-Bia, North Wales, in December 1890. She is far better known within occult circles as Dion Fortune – a woman who, at a young age, immersed herself in the worlds of the supernatural, the work of the renowned neurologist Sigmund Freud, tales of the legendary land of Atlantis (of which she had several extraordinary and graphic visions), and ceremonial magic. She also claimed regular contact with so-called “Ascended Masters,” powerful beings who were once human, but who, over numerous reincarnations, became something far more than human and who dwell in higher dimensions than those of our 3-D world. Fortune also claimed contact with the mysterious and ancient wizard, Merlin, of Arthurian lore and legend. She went on to write numerous books, including Through the Gates of Death, Aspects of Occultism, Sane Occultism and Psychic Self-Defense, the latter being undoubtedly her most well-known and influential title. 

It was in the pages of this particular book that Fortune told an astonishing story, one which may very well get to the heart of how and why the Slenderman has successfully achieved a strange form of reality outside of the barriers of the Internet. On the matter of how, on one occasion, she succeeded in creating a Tulpa, Fortune said: “The artificial elemental is constructed by forming a clear-cut image in the imagination of the creature it is intended to create, ensouling it with something of the corresponding aspect of one’s own being, and then invoking into it the appropriate natural force. This method can be used for good as well as evil, and ‘guardian angels’ are formed in this way. It is said that dying women, anxious concerning the welfare of their children, frequently form them unconsciously” (Fortune, 2011).

It was at an unspecified time in late 1928 that Dion Fortune created her very own Tulpa, one which was filled with malevolence – something which was almost certainly dictated by the fact that, at the very same time in question, Fortune’s own mind was in a distinctly negative, and anger-filled, state of flux. On the afternoon of the day in question, Fortune was lying on her bed, brooding and fuming deeply on how, then just recently, she had “received serious injury from someone who, at considerable cost to myself, I had disinterestedly helped, and I was sorely tempted to retaliate.” She certainly did that. From the way Fortune describes things, it sounds as if – while still on the bed – she did not fall completely to sleep, but was plunged into a distinctly altered-state of sleep-meets-wakefulness. It was a state which allowed her to create a mind-monster that leapt out of her dark and swirling imagination with truly incredible speed and ease. In that same altered-state, Fortune later recalled, “The ancient Nordic myths rose before me, and I thought of Fenris, the wolf-horror of the North."

Fenris – a centuries-old Scandinavian supernatural beast was a wolf of paranormal proportions, one that was perhaps far more a werewolf than it was a regular wolf, at least in terms of its sometimes humanlike appearance. Within Norse lore, it was said to have been the terrifying offspring of the Nordic gods Loki and Angrboda and the sibling of the serpent Jormungand and the underworld goddess, Hel. Mere seconds after thinking of Fenris in her state of semi-sleep, the beast put in an appearance. In fact, it materialized right next to her, on the bed. The appearance of Fenris coincided immediately with what Fortune described as “a curious drawing-out sensation from my solar plexus.” She went on to describe the creature as “a well-materialized ectoplasmic form. It was grey and colorless and had weight."

That the monstrous wolf had noticeable weight suggests that Tulpas are not mere ethereal specters, but entities which, under certain circumstances, can display a fair degree of physicality. This, you will recall, is something that Alexandra David-Neel reported, too: on one occasion, her supernatural monk placed its hand on her shoulder, something she clearly felt. At the time, Fortune had no real, meaningful, understanding of the nature or concept of thought-forms and Tulpas – it was only after her own experience that she chose to look into the matter to a deep level – and to what became almost an obsessive degree. It’s notable, though, that she managed to create such a perfect example of the phenomenon, and all without knowing how she achieved it – which may very well have a major bearing on why so many people, today, are seeing the Slenderman, but without fully understanding how and why such a situation could ever be. People are manifesting the Slenderman, but as Fortune’s experiences shows, you hardly need to be an expert to cause imagination to become reality.

Looking back on that bedroom encounter – bedrooms hardly being unknown to the Slenderman, it should be said – Fortune recalled: “I knew nothing about the art of making elementals at that time, but had accidentally stumbled upon the right method – the brooding highly charged with emotion, the invocation of the appropriate natural force, and the condition between sleeping and waking in which the etheric double readily extrudes." Just perhaps, what Dion Fortune achieved - with the manifestation of a thought-form-based version of Fenris - and that Alexandra David-Neel described in 1929,  has its modern day equivalent with the many and varied Slenderman encounters that have been reported. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun. It’s just the appearance that changes.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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