Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

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When Magic becomes mainstream (sort of): Tulpamancy

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The other day a friend pointed me to this link, where I ended up learning about Tulpamancy. Tulpamancy is essentially the creation of an imaginary friend who shares your body with you. The practice reminds me a bit of otherkin, only in this case instead of the person claiming they are some type of non-human entity, they instead claim that they are creating a spirit being and hosting that spirit being. Most of these Tulpamancers think of the tulpa as a psychological construct, though some ascribe metaphysical aspects to their tulpa. None of them, so far, as I know, seem to practice magic and this is only significant because they've taken a technique which is magical and applied it to their own lives without focusing on the magical aspects of the practice. 

The concept is actually a familiar one in occultism. The word Tulpa originates from Tibet and refers to the practice of creating a thought-form. Whether you know the concept through the label of thought-form, servitor, magical entity, or for that matter Tulpa, what the concept boils down to is the creation of an entity that becomes a spirit ally or performs a specific function for you. The main differences are that the magician typically doesn't house such an entity within themselves, isn't necessarily setting out to befriend such an entity, and may set up a deadline for certain task to be performed, or for the entity to be dissolved.

Actually there is another difference, which I found fascinating. In order to interact with a Tulpa, the tulpamancer has to create a wonderland, an artificial space, which is the home of the Tulpa. This actually reminds me of the mansion of memory technique that's been used by rhetoricians, where you create a mansion or temple that you place specific symbols into. Those symbols represent information you want to recall and when you go into the mansion, you use the symbols to pull out the content they contain. It also reminds me of some of the pathworking techniques I've seen used in hypnosis and magical work, where a person interacts with an imaginary space. I've actually done something that's similar, where I've created multiple avatars of myself, in a mansion of memory, with each avatar responsible for researching and processing information about a specific subject area, that can then be drawn upon and recalled by my main consciousness, whenever I need the information.

I'm not sure what to make of tulpamancy. Part of me wonders if it isn't just another fad, another case where people have found some occult concept or practice and tried to make it their own without fully understanding the implications of that practice. Another part is skeptical as to whether this is just some psychological trick these people are playing on themselves, in an effort to make themselves feel loved and accepted by something in this world. Yet another part is fascinated by what I think of as another form of experimentation with an occult practice and I'm curious to see what will happen with it.

At the same time, reading this article reminds me of a friend of mine who engaged in a similar practice, a few years before the tulpamancers came along. She created multiple entities that were her allies and friends. Then at some point some of those entities became much less friendly and my friend ended up having a breakdown and is still dealing with the fallout from that experience. While she still practices magic, that experience effected her creativity and artistic skills. My point in sharing that story is that while on the surface tulpamancy might seem harmless, there could be potential issues down the line. I suppose the point is moot at this time, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on and as any magic practitioner with some experience can attest to, magic can be dangerous if not done carefully.

Of course, tulpamancers may argue that they aren't practicing magic, but when you perform a practice that is for all intents and purpose a magical practice the same potential problems exist for you, whether you identify as a magician or not. And even if you argue that it's psychological vs metaphysical, the same issues still need to be factored in. On the other hand, I also sometimes think that a magician is a person considered by mainstream society to be crazy for believing in magic. As long as the crazy is functional, most people don't care, and of course mainstream ideas of what is functional or dysfunctional are themselves highly suspect.

I'll be curious to see what happens with tulpamancy, whether it continues to bloom into a subculture similar to otherkin, and for that matter what will happen when the tulpamancers encounter otherkin. I'll also be curious to see what issues come up, if any, as this practice continues. And for any inclined to perform such a practice, I do recommend doing some research into the creation of thought forms, magical entities, and the like so that you have a full understanding of what you might be getting into.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


  • Lee Pike
    Lee Pike Thursday, 25 September 2014

    Great article - it's interesting to note how ideas develop on Tumblr seemingly in (mostly) isolation and become paradigms unto themselves.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Thursday, 25 September 2014

    I could see how tumblr could be part of it though from the one article reddit also seemed to play a role.

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