Thoughtform Theory and Its Innate Limitations

I didn’t expect to making this particular post, but something has been nagging at me to discuss for awhile, and I think it bears bringing up. However, before I launch into it, I would first like to say I hope everyone had a good Winter Solstice. My on solstice was a personal and introspective one, and I got a lot of of it. Hope others did also. With that said, I’d like to move into the next topic.

This topic is the occult belief, and its modern interpretation, surrounding thought forms and through them, eggregores. For those who are not familiar with these terms, I will give a brief and very shallow overview of them below.

The idea of thoughtform originates from Tibet, from Buddhist belief. A thoughtform or ‘Tulpas’ as they are known are described as a being, object or some other such form that is created through the application of both mental and spiritual willpower.

Alexandra David-Néel, a Belgian-French explorer and buddist was one of the first to record observations of these practices in the early 20th century. She wrote about how any human, divine, or demonic being may be possessed of the ability to create thoughtforms or Tulpas as described by Buddhist practice.

These creations usually begin existing solely in the mind of the participant, but may also begin to interact with the physical world around them and to start becoming physically manifest. Alexandras writings go on to explain and expand on this, not just detailing how these creations begin to exert influence on the material world outside of the mind of its creator, but also demonstrate external agency:

“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 maker’s control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as the child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother’s womb.”

This concept was taken onboard in Western Occultism, and eventually through logical expansion and extension of the idea, the concept of the Egregore was born within the groups such as the Golden Dawn. This concept was the logical extension of the thoughtform from an individual to a group. The most well known and documented group thoughtform / egregore is arguably GOTOS, created by the Fraternitas Saturni, as their group thoughtfrom. In the words of Stephen E. Flowers, this particular egregore was created for a particular purpose:

‘Through the experience of the GOTOS the Saturnian Brother or Sister is able to feel directly the qualities of personality that he or she is expected to develop as an initiate of the FS: compassionless love, willpower, resolution, severity (with him- or herself and others). These are developed in order to create the conditions for higher spiritual development through mastery of oneself and the environment. In other words, these are the characteristics of the Saturnian magician.’

In the above example, the egregore was created for a distinct purpose: to embody the ideals of the lodge. Egregores can be created for many reasons, Some even say that just like normal thoughtforms, they can even be created unconsciously and embody the group collective mind without their knowledge. Again, these can split off, appearing to eventually begin to exhibit independence and a life of their own.

gotos1

GOTOS Egregore of the Fraternitas Saturni, Artist Unknown

Whilst I believe that the concept of both Thoughtforms and Egregores is both useful, interesting, and even validated based on my own personal experience with personal thoughtforms, it is possible for one to take the above concept too far to the point that one begins to encapsulate and explain away a whole category and hierarchy of spirits as being thoughtforms rather than having a non human origin.

This is a particularly problematic when it’s taken to it’s absolute extreme. This is when materialist occultists (ie those believing all magick and the supernatural has a psychological origin) begin to explain all spirits, including the Gods, as memes that exist within a collective consciousness, rather than being external in both existence and action, to explain the effects these types of beings can cause, even the apparent external and independent actions that highly developed egregores and thoughtforms can exhibit.

By explaining the Gods and Spirits away in a purely psychological manner, one robs them of both their agency and identity – and lowers them to the same level as the human organism and soul. It also conveniently removes any responsibility one has to the world and spirits around them, due to believing they are entirely created by the human mind.

This is the position I have been seeing some in the Occult/Pagan community take recently when in discussion with them, and I find it alarming on multiple fronts.

Firstly, when we take a look at the Western Esoteric Tradition as a whole, especially the Grimoires, we see a very clear picture painted – these spirits are other, external to us, with their own values, qualities, and natures that are totally independent of any human being. This is echoed throughout, from the heavily Christianised forms, through to greek/roman practice, to Babylonia and Sumerian and all the way back to our earliest shamanistic practices.There is no concept of the thought form entity as being internal or even existent – spirits are stressed as being able to interact with the physical world, and have their own agency, and their relation to humans are as external entities. As such, all knowledge related to Spirits and the Gods that has survived in our own traditions heavily implore us to treat these beings with respect and caution, with folktales and occult teachings centred around humanities place within the spiritual hierarchy and how that affects the way in which we can work with the different classes of spirits.

Secondly, such a view also contradicts the traditional buddhist teachings on thoughtforms itelf. By trying to explain around or away the religious and spiritual approaches and teachings of buddhist teaching and the luggage that comes with it via psychobabble and pseudoscience I find distasteful, When it exists within its context thoughtforms as an addition to a complete worldview makes sense: when it it is taken out of context and every spirit is attempted to be shoehorned into being a thoughtform, problems arise. Buddhism contains within it its own hierarchy of spirits, and a distinction is made between these beings and thoughtforms, a fact which is usually conveniently discarded when thoughtforms are taken on its own as an occult idea.

Thirdly, from personal experience, this leads to a very magickally solipsistic world view, where the individual becomes so enamoured by their ‘internal’ world ie ego building they become trapped in their own self imposed hall of mirrors, unable to see how magick can be used to root them into the world around them and give them tangible means by which to influence and move through it. Thoughtforms and Egregores are an interesting phenomena and can be used to build secondary familiars – guides and helpers that can be perfect in helping with this, as long as we realise their place in the spiritual hierarchy.

But by  believing everything is a thoughtform, and therefore that all spirits and the Gods created solely by the human race are egregores, it is easy to incorrectly conclude that through simply being human we have all the keys to the proverbial castle – that we just need to ‘think it’ and that therefore it will be as it all exists within us or some other such nebulous statement. After all in such a belief system we OWN the Gods and Spirits, and can therefore do as we please. They are subject to our will and we can therefore model them into anything we damn well please. This is of course manifestly ridiculous – they defy such pidgeon holing, their voices speak through and reveal the cracks, telling us that they, the Gods and Spirit,s come from ancient external archetypes, older than the human race, carried in our physical genes, mental maps down to our own spiritual makeup. Thus they reveal the truth themselves in time: We are made up of them, rather than the other way around. In later works, we do come across a concept of the Collective Subconscious in works by famed psychiatrist Carl Jung, I believe this is often both misinterpreted to ascribe the Gods as Archetypes and thus ‘unreal’. Even if we were to believe that the Gods are identical to Archetypes, a claim itself which would require substantial proof, that would not suggest they are ‘unreal’ at all, but in fact just by circular logic prove that they are physical agents with the power to physically effect the world around us. Neither would it suggest that we created them as Egregores – more that they have always been, and we rely on them for some of our most fundamental make up at the spiritual/mental/physical level as human beings.

Collective Unconcsious

Collective Unconcious by Solongo Monkhooroi

It is also interesting to note that many that believe the Gods are all egregores somehow also believe that simply willing with these mental constructs in mind has the power to affect physical change without any way of explaining how a construct that lives entirely in the mind can affect physical change. This to me is quite telling. It is plain truth to state that will without means to exercise it is useless – and on top of this it is self evident from looking at wider society that simply being human confers no access to extraordinary occult power, ability, or even connection . All these have to be worked for, the correct, physical lines of access opened, through constant work, effort and striving.

As such, I believe that it is a mistake to assume all of the Spirits and Gods are explainable as thoughtforms. By describing the Gods and Spirits away by stating they exist solely within the human mind, one robs them of both their agency and identity – and lowers them to the same level as the human organism and soul. It also conveniently removes any responsibility one has to the world and spirits around them, due to believing they products of ourselves.

This can be dangerous, as it is then much easier to treat occultism and magickal practice as nothing more than some kind of imaginative play, that a child would engage in, without tangibly real risks and consequences. Gods and Spirits, when approached, have their own reasons, usually individual, for wanting and needing to interact with human beings. With the mindset that they are only mind constructs, we soon lose the ability to work with them in a meaningful and tangible way. Many will be offended, and may even turn against the practitioner in question in order to bestow upon them a harsh but needed lesson.

This is, ironically enough, even more dangerous when we consider thoughtforms and egregores as a class of spirit although being produced by a host being, capable of becoming an independent entity.. As soon as we begin to believe they are only psychological in nature, it is easy for people to wonder why once the budding process is complete, the construct is no longer under their complete control, If the thoughtform is causing issues and needing to be removed /.dismantled, it is highly like someone approaching it from the perspective of it all being psychological will be entirely unable to deal with the problem at large. It will become apparent very quickly that simply ‘willing’ the construct away is useless – has taken on its own external existence and effective means of exorcism will need to be applied to ensure it is properly dealt with.

By attempting to explain everything away in psychological terms, we create a disconnect going forward from ourselves and the world around us placing an artificial barrier between us leading to ineffective practice at best, and dangerous practice at worst. I just hope that others become aware of this, and think before trying to fit round pegs into square holes.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to thoughts and comments! It was a difficult one to attempt to explain.

~S~

5 Responses to “Thoughtform Theory and Its Innate Limitations”

  1. I do not know if everything originated from thought like many believe. I will not dispute or endorse it.

    People don’t realize that just because something was not created completely from thought doesn’t mean it didn’t start as a thought. Look around you right now. You are surround by thoughts in your house. Most of tangible things around us especially in technologically advanced societies started as a thought. The house you live in began as a thought in the architect’s mind. The table, sofa, computer, phone, vehicles, fork, plate all began as thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the article. It seems to me that egregores carry more credibility than outside spirits to explain “paranormal” phenomena. There is so much we don’t know about the mind, and the frontiers are enormous, whereas there is little to no evidence proving autonomous spirits or Gods. And if they claim autonomy, how would we know, being completely dependent on our minds? I would not be surprised if science validates thoughtform theory in the next few decades.

  3. Thanks for the replies everyone.

    I do believe thoughtform to be very useful, but as the entry states i also find the interpretation that it can explain all spiritual entities as a very anthrocentric theory.

    I think therefore it in some ways deserves challenging in its own assumptions that everything arises from our own thoughts.

    You state a good point Spirit. Alot of things do start out as thought – but I believe the dualistic way we approach mind/matter to be very limiting. I think its very much more fluid and less clear cut than that.

    However unfortunately it seems to be the fashion of the modern age to espouse a new age dualism. I personally believe that this accompanied with our modern day of living (in the west at least, as its the only place i have experience to draw from) leaves us very cut off from actual reality.

  4. ÄsruÞr Cyneathsson Says:

    Reblogged this on the Road to Asgard and commented:
    An interesting post on a topic very close to my own beliefs and views. Although I do adhere to the gods as being archetypes, I view these as being the precursive character traits in a similar manner to those of Vladimir Propp — the archetypes are the forms of which our own psychological essence is composed and mixed. To know your own dominant archetype is to find your god. I have a theory which expands this even further along a Hegellian/Cartesian/Jungian/Nietzschean thought process. That theory is not for the internet and the plebeian. Check out this original post and the interesting blog.

  5. Dear S

    before making a conclusion based on your personal conviction, you may want to look into what exactly a “thought” is.
    Thought is not just a something made up by human mind and bearing no influence on reality.
    Thought is result of omni present Consciousness. Everything is as is due to amount of Consciousness in it. Consciousness is one of the tree primordial originators of everything, known and not. It is the organizational principle. It organizes, so to speak, Substance into something manifested in Space.
    None of the three is known to humanity in manner referred to here.
    There clearly are two sides to everything – nature side and intelligence side.
    On the nature side, everything is comp[osed from units, conscious as their function only.
    On the intelligent side, every unit is conscious that it is conscious.
    A unit appears out of Substance and progresses through the nature side, ever increasing measure of Consciousness in it, performing ever more and more complex functions. At some point, unit of nature progresses to the point that it becomes self conscious, becoming a Conscious Self and, thus, crossing to the intelligent side.
    Nothing of this nature is created by god or gods. It is normal state of everything. In this respect, an omni this and that creator god does not exist and is product of human imagination that could not come up with something easier to digest otherwise.
    But here the key point. As everything has Consciousness in it, thought, as one of the Consciousness manifestations, has innate ability to influence Substance and, through it, manifested Matter.
    A thought is a plan, a design of a sort. It is marked with mark of one that issued a thought and stays with that one in its mental atmosphere. Only thoughts relevant to that of physical stay that way. Those are the thoughts that bind Self to physical and hinder its progression from physical into the Realm of Permanence.
    Lurking on the form plane of the physical world, thoughts await onto their resolution via manifestation in an act of some sort. It may be a physical act. It may be a psychic act. But when this happens, a thought is balanced and resolved.
    Thoughts of one are thus creating its destiny, as entire one’s life is continuous effect of such resolutions, or exteriorizations. This is how Self learns – from “practical experiences” caused by its own thinking. Not by some god or other external force imposing it onto that human.
    Thoughts also, as product of Consciousness, provide design material to the entire nature side. Everything in the universe as we know it is manifestation of human thinking, not a divine design. Without human thinking, nature would have been an amorphous blob of matter.
    On the intelligent side, as Self progresses in its development, measure of Consciousness in it increases, until it reaches complete development and becomes consciousness itself. But through this process of development, it goes through various stages of development, from human to Higher Intelligence.
    Every stage has its function, from being laws of nature to governors of the Great Spheres.
    I had to make this preamble to arrive at the point about egregore.
    Egregore is surely a product of human thinking. Where’s two thinking of same there’s already an egregore. Where’s more thinking of the same, there’s more of egregore. The more is there, the more powerful, so to speak, that egregore grows. There is reciprocity between egregore and its creators. It influences contributors as much as they influence it.
    Example is very simple, S. Look how you started your post. I had compelling desire to write about this. This is usually a clear sign of mind being influenced by egregore. A persistent, haunting idea, desire to do something. But let me ask you this, S. Say, you know nothing about egregores but you are a devoted Christian. I bet you will consider such influence a call from Holy Spirit. To a religious person, this comes naturally.
    Influence can be so strong, that it may cause a human to act in a manner it would have not ever thought of. Then it’s put on god a devil doings. Onto possessions and exorcisms performed.
    Egregors will influence thoughts on the form plane, as they are of similar nature, resulting in changes to one’s destiny. But then again, this will be seen as god’s will or devil’s doings.
    No, one can not control egregore, as egregore is a combined thoughtform. One may possibly control its own thoughtform, but collective egregores are too independant from each and every contributor thinking to be influenced by one. Only change in entire mass of contributors thinking will change egregore.
    But as we judge about god’s actions based on physical manifestations of what is happening to us, we easily mistake normal – I see them as normal – egregore influences as god’s will or acts.
    While there is no gods. Or devils. All spirits and deities are normal product of human thinking, some of them, like Spirit of Alcohol, being around for times untold. Some of them come and go, like some pagan gods that vanished with Christianity invasion.
    Be well and let The Light be with you

    IL

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