1st December 2020
I wonder how many people have heard of tulpas/tulpae? A tulpa, in essence, is an imaginary friend come to life, a "head mate" created by the imagination, using various techniques, including meditation, self-hypnosis, and talking to the tulpa. In this essay, I will briefly describe the phenomenon, its origins, the current landscape, and relevance (if any) to clinical hypnosis.
The first modern reference to tulpas is probably by the explorer Alexandra David-Neel in her book "Magic and Mystery in Tibet". She claimed to have observed the practice of Tulpamancy in 20th Century Tibet, as well as creating her own tulpa. Tulpas, or "mind forms" were also recognised by 20th century theosophists, who derived the practice from Tibetan mysticism. But it was not until the late 1990s that tulpas were popularised as a niche phenomenon, with influences from comic book fiction, and bizarrely, in particular the TV series "My Little Pony". Adult fans of the series created thought forms of their favoured characters using meditation techniques. Tulpamancy can be considered a subculture, and it is likely that most interaction between tulpamancers is through online forums, in particular Reddit.
Tulpas are brought to life, as mentioned by a process of mental exercises, including meditation, self-hypnosis, lucid dreaming, and talking to the imagined tulpa. The process can be broadly divided into two sorts: "active forcing" and "passive forcing". Active forcing involves consciously thinking of the tulpa through meditation or self-hypnosis. Some advocates also recommend drawing or painting the tulpa. Passive forcing means involving the tulpa in everyday life, by a process of "narration", which is simply talking to the tulpa, either by thinking, or talking aloud to them. There is a great deal of anxiety amongst some novice tulpamancers about whether the imagined responses from the tulpa is actually the tulpa, or the tulpamancer (or host) merely "parrotting" the responses. Doubt is the enemy of success in this regard, and the "parrotting" of the tulpa's responses, in their mind voice, can be likened to the stabilisers on a bicycle, as the tulpa learns to express themself as an individual. Some tulpamancers claim to experience their tulpa as a real being, that they can see, hear and touch. Others can only perceive a mind voice. Tulpas can appear spontaneously, and sometimes they take weeks, months, or years to come to life. Reasons for wanting to have a tulpa are, perhaps unsurprisingly, loneliness and social awkwardness. It is probable that tulpas can be a manifestation of a creative outlet, such as writing or painting. The comic book author Alan Moore claims to have briefly come face to face with one of the characters out of his fiction. Maybe there is more to Pygmalion than a myth...
All of this sounds incredible and fantastic, but I believe that there are undisputed related parallels in psychology, psychiatry, and dare I say religion. Although it is not thought that the tulpa phenomenon is directly related to traumatogenic dissociated personality disorders, I wonder whether there is a common link. Likewise, the auditory hallucinations experienced by people with serious mental illnesses (though not exclusively by this population) is further evidence of the mind's aptitude for conjuring up entities. The mind, in other words has a mind, or minds of its own. I also wonder whether prayer, a form of meditation, can also give rise to manifestations conjured up by worship and devotion? Did Joan of Arc create her own "God" tulpa?
I have deliberately left some questions unanswered' not that I have the answers. I wonder whether this is useful for BSCAH members. As a topic, a phenomenon, I believe it is worth investigating further, if only for the reported benefits of the positive effects on mental health. I have also considered that there is the possibility, however slight, that practitioners may, at some stage, come across a patient who divulges that they practice tulpamancy.
Higgs, J. (2017) "Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and its Ever Present Past" Weidenfeld and Nicolson
David-Neel, A (1965) "Magic and Mystery in Tibet" Mandala Books. London.
Linkzelda (2020) "Linkzelda's Ultimate Self Hypnosis Scripts for Your Tulpa Related Needs" https://community.tulpa.info
Reddit (2020) "Intelligent Companions Imagined into Existence" < www.reddit.com >
Tulpony (2020) "The Tulpamancy Guide I Wish I had" < https://tulpa.io/the-tulpamancy-guide-i-wish-i-had >
Vessiere, S. (2015) Varieties of Tulpa Experiences: Sentient Imaginary Friends, Embodied Joint Attention and Hypnotic Sociality in a Wired World < http://somatosphere.net
3rd December 2020, 8:16pm
Very interesting article and useful references. Ms David-Neel eventually had to unmake her tulpa by reversing the same techniques, which she said was just as effortful and difficult as creating him. He had become cynical and annoying, with too much independence from her. One could of course interpret this in terms of Parts Therapy or self-induced Dissociative Identity Disorder, though this would not explain the fact that Ms David-Neel's tulpa was at times visible to other people.