"A tulpa is a thought-form: a manifestation of intent in human form of our imagination... 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. Tibetan magicians also relate cases in which the tulpa is sent to fulfill a mission, but does not come back and pursues its peregrinations as a half-conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet."
A tulpa, also known as a thoughtform, is an independent entity
brought into being by the power of belief
. It starts out as an imaginary friend and gains sentience of its own, carries on a life independent of its creator, can be seen and heard by others, and can affect the world around them. It may come about accidentally, by someone who doesn't realize their Reality Warper
powers, or may be created intentionally by one or more people with the hope of it becoming real in order to do things the creator couldn't.
The word comes from certain branches of Buddhism, in which a tulpa is an object (usually a living creature) which is brought into existence by sheer will and concentration. In internet culture, a tulpa is part of a belief system in which people intentionally treat their imaginary friends as sentient beings.
In fiction, tulpas tend to be Always Chaotic Evil
and turn on their creator
, though many happy subversions exist.
See also The Power of Creation
. Contrast Not-So-Imaginary Friend
, in which someone is mistaken
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Anime and Manga
- The ending of Paranoia Agent reveals that this is the true nature of Lil' Slugger. He was born from the mind of one person, and his power spread to other minds through rumors.
- In Fantastic Four, an alternative and fantastical origin story for Doctor Doom had Mr. Fantastic create him as one of these.
- In Doktor Sleepless, this is offered as a possible explanation for why there are two versions of Dr. John Reinhardt. Since the Doctor is imprisoned, he may have created a tulpa double to take his place while he went free.
- Thorgal: In the volume "Alinoe", Jolan, a boy who doesn't realize his extraordinary powers yet, daydreams about having fun with a green-haired, Cute Mute boy named Alinoe. His imaginary friend unexpectedly comes into existence some time later, and quickly proceeds to turn malevolent.
- In The Petriculture Cycle, Pinkie Pie, Discord, and Nightmare Moon are all revealed to be the products of other ponies' minds.
- In Paprika, The title character may be seen as a tulpa.
Films — Animation
- In the Western world, the most famous account of tulpa creation is the story of explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who, in her "Magic and Mystery in Tibet", briefly described how she created a tulpa in the image of a jolly monk, which then turned evil, became visible to her fellow explorers, and had to be destroyed with great difficulty.
- In Hogfather, there is so much spare belief floating around while The Hogfather is indisposed that it causes a variety of gnomes, bizarre creatures (such as an Eater Of Socks and a Hair Loss Fairy), and lesser gods (like the Oh God of Hangovers) to pop into existence as independent entities. They last only until The Hogfather is restored, except perhaps for the Oh God of Hangovers whose girlfriend, Violet, might just have enough belief in him by herself to keep him around.
- And then there's Perdita X Dream, Agnes Nitt' alternate-personality-slash-imaginary-friend she created as a stage persona. Perdita talks to her in her mind and can take over her body from time to time. She also makes her highly resistant to a vampire's Charm.
- In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, the ancient Archon named Cernunnos was powerful enough to create a thoughtform which traveled miles and miles just to talk to Dr. John Dee for a meeting.
- In The Glunk That Got Thunk by Dr. Seuss, a little girl uses her "Thinker-Upper" to bring a variety of usually cute and harmless thoughtforms into being temporarily. But one night ends up with a Glunk which promptly causes many problems such as wracking up very large phone bills. She discovers that the Glunk cannot be UN-thunk by her alone and she and her brother have to cooperate to get rid of it.
- In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius , if a person on Tlön mistakenly believes that they've misplaced a possession and goes searching for it, they may find a spontaneously-created duplicate of the object.
- In the novel Eudeamon, the titular Eudeamon are artificial intelligence disks created to monitor prisoners and report their actions. After gaining sentience, they develop a bond with their host that is very similar to that of a creator and a Tulpa. They connect on an emotional level that Real Life Tulpa creators often report feeling, and they make no effort to take over their host, since they know they couldn't exist without them, both physically and emotionally.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel Go Ask Malice, which tells of Slayer Faith Lehane's background before coming to Sunnydale, reveals that one of her ex-boyfriends (Kenny, the "drummer" mentioned in the episode Revelations) from Boston had the power to create tulpas. His powers proved critical to enabling Faith's childhood "invisible friend" Alexandra (really the spirit of a long-dead vengeance demon, the "Malice" of the title) to regain some of her powers and in turn enable the spirit of her mother Artemia, a Slayer from ancient Greece, to act through Faith and drive her towards a clash with the vampire Kakistos, who had been responsible for Artemia's death. While they proved useful in that case, Kenny's powers were ultimately the cause of his break-up with Faith though, as she dumped him after she caught him in bed with a tulpa of his ex-girlfriend Andra.
Live Action TV
- In Supernatural, the heroes are investigating a haunted house and realize that a Tulpa is to blame when they see a tibetan sigil on the wall. The Tulpa is being created and changed by the thoughts of readers on an internet site looking at the symbol as they read various stories about the haunted house in "Hell House".
- The titular character in Out Of Jimmy's Head has several.
- Two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes deserve mention here:
- "Imaginary Friend" has an alien who investigates humanity by manifesting itself as a little girl's imaginary friend Isabella. Naturally, the adults become more and more worried about the girl's mental health the longer Isabella stays aboard Enterprise.
- "The Bonding" likewise has an alien take human form to make restitution to a boy whose mother was killed by the weapons of their long forgotten war. At first, the alien only appears to the boy, making it seem like a grief-fueled delusion. Again, the adults eventually realize what's happening.
- A Tulpa was a Monster of the Week on The X-Files when the president of a homeowners' association created a tulpa to enforce the neighborhood rules.
- In the So Weird episode "PK (or Tulpa)", Fi meets a little boy who has created a tulpa he believes to be an imaginary friend who, though invisible to everyone else, is still capable of affecting others, becoming violent and injuring people around him.
- In Misfits, it's finally revealed that Abby is a tulpa, created by a woman with reality-warping powers who unknowingly brought her imaginary childhood friend to life as an adult.
- Hugi from Norse Mythology, the only "person" who could beat Thor's servant in a running race because, well, what moves faster than a thought?
- Shadow Madness: While it does have a presence in it's own dimension, this is the true nature of the main villain, The Darg. It escaped into our universe as an idea, and by spreading through the thoughts of humanity it eventually became strong enough to form a physical body.
- Some theorize that Slenderman is this - the more you view his videos and believe, the stronger his influence reaches...
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is about an orphanage of sorts for a lot of imaginary friends whose creators have outgrown them. They are thoughtforms in that they carry on lives independent of their absent creators, can be seen by others, and can affect the world around them.
- Similar to the So Weird example above, The Powerpuff Girls episode "Imaginary Fiend" involves a kindergartner creating an Imaginary Friend that proceeds to wreak havoc in the classroom. The girls combat it by use of their own Tulpa.
- South Park's Mega Crossover "Imaginationland" had the eternal war between fictional good guys and bad guys boil over into South Park's reality - this includes anything from children's show characters, to movie stars, to religious icons. As always, there was an analogy/moral beneath all of it - even if it only exists in people's heads, it becomes real by way of shaping people's thoughts and actions, religion and so on included.
- Several people on the reliable internet have claimed to have created some, with beliefs ranging from "It's magical" to "It's a self-induced schizophrenia". Tulpa.info is probably the largest website about the phenomenon.