Gate Crasher At The Ancestor Altar


Like most obsessed sorcerers I have several altars around my house. Sorry, according to Rinpoche I’m not obsessed, I’m “dedicated,” that sounds nicer. I’ve downsized recently, but I have my general and planetary altar, my chöd altar, my wealth altar, my Buddhist altar (okay a few of those), and my ancestor altar (recently just added a second one of those to discuss later).

Of all my altars my general/planetary and my chöd altar are my most “open” altars. When I do my morning prayers to the planetary angel while the offering is for them, it’s understood that what they don’t take/want can be taken by any spirit in the area. In chöd you go out of your way to call everyone you can to take the offerings. These altars are right on top of each other, so it tends to be, not surprisingly, where a lot of my random spirit activity occurs. My wealth and Buddhist altar(s) are semi-open, they’re dedicated to specific figures, but aren’t exclusive. I have trouble picturing a Bodhisattva getting annoyed that a random spirit is coming to take their offering. For the most part though since the work is directed to these figures no one else shows up.

Lastly there is my ancestor altar, which is closed in two ways. First it’s dedicated to my ancestors (imagine that) and anchored to them via photos, teacups, and art. Secondly it’s somewhat shielded. I wouldn’t say shielded or warded in the traditional sense, but it’s in my living room and I have it isolated from that space. While it is physically located in the living room, it’s energetically elsewhere behind a veil/shield, not for any super mystical reason, but as a genderqueer pansexual polyamorous sex-positive sorcerer my living room is often the scene of many things my very Christian ancestors might not approve of. (I may or may not be naked typing this within arm’s reach of the altar) So whenever I work with that altar, there is a stone I have to touch and “pull” the altar through that visual/sensory boundary.

One day, several weeks, back I opened the space, felt something off and thought nothing of it, and went about my weekly offerings. I lit the candles and incense as I chatted with my family about what had happened in the last week with the family and myself, I refilled their tea cups and noticed there was someone new in the space. Now every once and a while a new ancestor appears, it’s as if they talk from time to time, and someone says “Hey, your great-great-great grandkid is leaving us food and drink, come visit.” It’s weird, cause I don’t know these ancestors, my altar is for those I knew in life, but I’m not going to turn away someone just because they died before I was born. Anyways this new person didn’t feel right. There is a feel to ancestors, when the new people showed up I could feel the connection, I know they were family, and could even intuit roughly who they were (maternal/paternal and how far back). This new person didn’t feel like them in any way, he felt disconnected. It’s like when you’re in high school, there are 500+ students in your school, but you can immediately spot the transfer student in the crowd and tell they don’t fit in.

Before I could even address him, he asked for buttered tea. I asked who he was, and got no response, my awareness of him faded, so I left it. The next week he was there again, a bit stronger, I got a visual sense of him, he was an older white man, thick square glasses, and in a rocking chair, quite at home. Again he just suggested (cause asked implies too much communication) that he would like some buttered tea. This is odd, because buttered tea is a Tibetan drink, and that man is not Tibetan, and he didn’t strike me as someone who lived in Tibet or with the exile, he didn’t feel tied to Tibet/Tibetan Buddhism, he was just a strange old man asking for buttered tea. Again I asked who he was, and he faded out.

It sounds odd (because the rest of this story is so run-of-the-mill down to earth…) but I felt almost insulted by his presence. He wasn’t family, he wasn’t an ancestor, why is he inside my ancestor altar? I have two free-for-all offering buffet altars downstairs, why is he hanging around with my grandparents? As I’m overly polite with spirits (moreso than people most of the time) I decided to leave him be, I wasn’t going to cast him out, but I wasn’t going to indulge him without knowing who he is, or why he was there.

After several weeks of him occasionally showing up I got out a neutral coffee cup and made him buttered tea, which I served along with the drinks for my ancestors. The impression I got when I put down the tea for him? “Some apple crumble would be nice too.” It is amazing how someone seems unwilling to communicate, but still suggest/request to be fed in this manner. He got his tea, and no more.

It didn’t get rid of him, it wasn’t as if he wanted one last cup of tea before moving on, or anything like that. He’s a pretty “grounded” spirit, as solid as a stout ghost or ancestor that’s been worked with, he has presence and personality and awareness, which are really not common traits for wandering human spirits. Usually they’re weak, echoes, mentally dull, but not him. He still shows up, sometimes he’s an older man, sometimes he’s in his 40s-ish. He has the most unusual penetrating glance when his face prominently appears, as if his thick glasses are magnifying his sight, not just fixing it. I asked him to make use of the other altars for offerings, but he never showed up there.

I really have no idea who he is, or why he showed up, how he got into my ancestor altar and why he doesn’t go to any of the other ones.

This really is just to share some of what my magickal life is like, folks read my theorizing and my rants, but I thought I should also share some of what happens in my life. Also if you’ve had anything similar, or any ideas, I’m still trying to sort him out, so commentary is welcome.

He did lead me to creating two more categories of the dead beyond what my tradition held, but that will be discussed another time.

Social Media Round-Up


My internet presence is scattered, and often if you miss the first announcement or two about where I am, that’s it you’ve missed it. So I thought I’d put all of my various social media stuff in one place, so people can stalk me in multiple ways. Warning though, I’m semi-serious on my blog, but elsewhere not so much, if you respect me just stick to reading the blog :-p Seriously though, follow stuff and chat with me, I love hearing from folks…well…most of the time…well…occasionally…well…

Twitter: Blueflamemagick

Twitter, for better or worse, is probably where I’m most active. It’s filled with random quotes from my life or what I’m reading, a lot of pictures of cemeteries recently, and just whatever grabs my fancy. (This is especially the one not to follow if you want to continue to respect me)

Facebook: Evan Sabahnur

I’m fairly active here. It’s more of a rambly journal of what’s going on in my magickal practices. (I have a non-occult facebook too, but for career reasons that’s not public, which is why this one is almost all magick stuff, I am more well-rounded than that if just barely)

Ello: Blueflamemagick

I just got onto ello, don’t know what I think about it one way or another, but I’m there.

Goodreads: Blueone

More than anything this lets you stalk what I’m reading. I don’t generally review on it, or when I do it’s a terse sentence or two, as my real reviews are here or on Spiral Nature. Also don’t judge me for what I read, I have my reasons.

Librarything: Blueflamemagick

This lets you browse my most of my library. I find I like snooping people’s librarythings a bit too much.

Goal Dirt: Grounding Your Magick


Since my last post on dirt ran long I decided to split it into two sections. Previously I talked about grave dirt, this time I’ll talk about goal dirt. I wish it had a better name, but it’s simple and gets the point across.

Goal dirt is dirt from a place related to a specific goal. Need a loan, or money? Get dirt from places like your bank, or your city’s financial district. Healing? Dirt from hospitals and temples. Hexing someone? Get dirt from their property (can also be mixed with dirt from places like dumps, prisons, cemeteries, major highways, and unfortunate places). Want a job, dirt from the building. Your imagination is the limit, as is how you use the dirt when you have it.

Goal dirt is a great way to add a physical anchor to your working, how to link it into a place and concept, to target your working and connect with it. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of linking a spell that is tied to a place into that place through the physical foundation, the earth it rests on.

To collect the dirt you need the same three things mentioned for collect grave dirt: offerings, spoon, and container.

Now offerings can be a bit tricky depending on where you are getting dirt from. While it might be a touch uncommon for someone to light incense or a candle at a grave, or even bring food, no one is going to question it. If I sat down in front of my bank though and lit a cone of incense, I’d get weird looks. On one hand as sorcerous people we should be fine with being weird; on the other hand, we don’t want attention sometimes. In this case things we can make use of smaller food offerings, or water which can be poured out of a bottle, or my favourite stealth offering, cigarettes.

My Jovian offering case.

My Jovian offering case.

Now I don’t smoke (though most of the dead people on my altar of the Beloved Dead do), but a cigarette is a great burnt offering. No one pays attention to someone standing by a building with a lit cigarette (you can mime smoking it if you want to look more normal and just blow out instead of inhaling, because the cigarette isn’t for you). Depending on what it is for I might use regular cigarettes, or I might use clove cigarettes (which I understand aren’t really available in Yankeeland) because cloves are a great offering to Jupiter. Also I’ve lit a cone of incense, and sat down beside it holding an unlit cigarette near it, so it looked like the smoke was from my cigarette while I went through my communication with the spirit of the place.

You do pretty much the same thing as you would at a grave. You have the option of either trying to see if there is a spirit of the place you can talk to, as you did with the grave owner, or just work with the energy of the place. I prefer to find a spirit if I can, if not I just work with the flows of energy. Try to find a place, if possible, that is both out of the way, but also connected to the place. So maybe a side path to the building, or out by the sign rather than the door, but still where there is some dirt. Reach out to the spirit, or just gather in the energy. This works well while fake smoking if you take that route.

Again tell the spirit why you want the dirt, what it is for, even if it’s just the energy I find it helpful to clarify the intent out loud. Continuing the stealth sorcery here is where a cellphone comes in handy, cigarette or bottle of water in one hand, cell against your ear, you look completely normal, meanwhile you’re chatting up the spirit/energy of the place. Getting the dirt is a bit trickier. I’m sure you can figure out a way if people are around. One time after tying my shoe I “weeded” a dandelion near my foot growing out of the crack in the sidewalk, looked normal, tossed it in my pocket as I turned around, and then later just took the dirt from the roots. Other times if I just don’t care I reach down with my spoon, just take a scoop and walk off. It all depends on where you’re taking it, your comfort level, and things like that.

If you’re collecting dirt from someone’s place to use against them you might have to collect it quickly, and without asking the spirit of the place. It’s not as powerful, but you do what you can, and a spirit of place might feel protective of the person that lives there. (Usually the energy won’t have the same qualm, which is why meta-modeling is a good thing.)

Use the dirt however you want, mixed with other components, stuffed into poppets and boxes, combined with ink and paint for sigils, whatever.

Communion Breathing


This is a simple, but scalable, method of working with a figure in a devotional sense to help bring you closer. It’s not an invocation (oh no ey didn’t!) of them, but more of a way of melding their energy into yours. (Invocation and energy, two faux pas in one sentence) It’s less about a conscious-mental connection and more about blurring the lines between you and residing as them. This is loosely based on some aspects of tantric fascination, but isn’t a traditional representation of such. I don’t recommend this with any general spirit you’re trying to work with and call into your life, this has more of a devotion and communion sense. Myself while I’ve used it frequently it’s only for three figures with me: Kali, Yamantaka, and my HGA. I’ve done it for years in preparation for my work with Kali, and it is often my introduction to more serious prayers to the Asshole In My Head.

While not totally required this is far more effective when you have an image of the deity in front of you. Sit comfortably as you would for any meditation facing the figure. (Also, doesn’t have to be a deity, can be a saint, angel, whatever, I’ll just keep saying deity because it’s easier)

For this you’ll be using a variation of Square Breathing, or Fourfold Breathing, which is very simple. Breathe in for a set count, and hold your breath for the same count, breathe out for that count, and hold your breath out for that count, and repeat. In, hold, out, hold, all for the same lengths of time. You might want to experiment to see what pacing working for you.

Simplest version:
If the deity has a short mantra or prayer, use that, otherwise you can use their name repeated or something like “Io Evohe [Name]” or “Om Ah [Name] Hum.”

Begin the Square Breathing and focus on perceiving the energy of the deity, after a few rounds of breathing this way sync your breath with the mantra. It works best if you actually say it aloud in a whisper while breathing in and out, and mentally while holding your breath. Match the mantra to the breathing pace you’re comfortable with.

Now on the in-breath/recitation draw the energy of the deity into you with the breath. As you hold your breath saying the mantra mentally have it radiate through you mixing with your energy. On the out-breath/recitation send your energy (which is partially mixed with theirs) to them. As you hold your out breath see the energy radiating through them and mixing with their energy.

As you do this you will slowly incorporate more and more of their energy into your system, each time you draw in and mix, you become more and more of them. (Technically they become more and more of you too, but they’re so much “bigger” than you that it doesn’t really affect them. You’re a bucket of fresh water, they’re a chlorine pool, if you keep pouring a cup of water from one to the other, you’re going to be chlorinated, but you won’t noticeable de-chlorinate the pool.)

Intermediate version:
Same as above with two differences. See each syllable of the mantra leaving the mouth of the deity as a ball of light, if possible in an appropriate colour to them, and when you return the mantra see it again leave in the form of balls of light. Draw these energy balls into your solar plexus when you breath them in, and from there let them radiate outwards. When sending the energy out have it return to the solar plexus of the deity. Breathe in the balls of light into the solar plexus, hold your breath and have it spread from there, breathe out balls of light into the solar plexus of the deity, hold the outbreath as the energy spreads through the deity.

Advanced version:
Same as above with more detailed integration. How you do this exactly will depend on what model of the energy body you work with, and even within that it allows for increasing layers of complexity. When you breathe in the mantra, have it flow into your channels and throughout your body. This can be as simple as breathing it down the centre channel into your root centre and up the side channels to the top of your head, or into each centre individually and then down/up the leg and arm channels, or into each centre following out the energy pathways that radiate from there. In this case the mixing happens gradually as the lights move through your system. Slowly the lights meld with you as they travel through the channels radiating out the energy of the deity and drawing in your energy.

More Advanced version:
Because this one requires a lot more visualization/perceptive skill you can start off with the basic process again, of just breathing the energy in and defusing it through you in general, but ideally you should work back up to running it through the channels. This time for each syllable of the mantra the deity releases a tiny tiny version of themselves, which you breathe in and run through your system. When you breathe out you’re also sending out versions of the deity, but know that they’re composed of your energy, rather than the god’s.

If you do this for ten minutes you can really get a sense of the deity being embodied in you. It’s a great way to take in their energy and I find it’s less “fragile” than a lot of invocation styles. With a lot of things like assuming a godform and what not it’s fairly easy to “lose” the deity once your focus slips, but this way you’ve been running their energy throughout your system it is harder to lose in the same way and tends to fade out, rather than just dropping off. Use this before prayers, or magickal workings, or just as communion. There was a long time when I’d just do this every night before bed with Kali, no prayers, no communication, requests, or anything, it was just 10 minutes that I shared with Her for no reason other than to be with Her. Use it however you want, and as always: experiment.

A Basic Guide to Buddhist Initiations


Or What to Expect when you’re Empowering

I was asked recently about what all goes into a Buddhist initiation, and thought I would share it here. I went into my first one ignorant, and it made for some awkward moments, and I know people who take semi-advanced initiations when they’re public without knowing the system, and bite off more than they can chew. Hopefully this will help clarify things. This isn’t so much to explain the process, how it’s done, and the like, but more what you should know and consider if you’ve never had an empowerment before.

This can only be a general guideline for what you could expect. Depending on what figure you’re getting initiated into there will be different things done. Different lineages will do things differently, as will different temples, and individual teachers. There are some general things though that are most likely across the board, but lots of little nuances.

First off, what do I mean by initiation here? While there are a few things that could be initiations in Buddhism most people only think of the one in terms of Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism. An initiation, also known as an empowerment, a wangkur (dbang bskur དབང་བསྐུར), or an abhisheka (Sanskrit), is when a person is “introduced” to a deity. I usually colourfully refer to it as having a god shoved into my head. A lama will connect you to the deity, as my lama says he will “plant the karmic seed,” this allows you to contact them and practice their rituals. There is disagreement (as there always is, and more so in the Western spheres) as to whether or not you need an empowerment to practice, or how “deep” you can practice without one. While there is no consensus I would say it is generally wise not to practice (or attempt to practice) advanced techniques (can’t believe I have to say that, but, I do…), or Wrathful deities. The Peaceful deities (especially Chenrezig, Tara, and Medicine Buddha) are more likely to be forgiving if you do things wrong in the practice, or if you weren’t supposed to contact them at all…Wrathful, might not be so forgiving. (It is also sometimes argued in terms of mechanics, that without empowerments and training your mind/energy/body can’t handle the practice and it can be dangerous) Basically an initiation into a figure lets you work with them, otherwise they’re not something you can, or should connect with.

What to do beforehand?

First off, think about if you need and want this empowerment. Almost all initiations come with some form of commitment. It’s not just “here have a wealth deity,” the commitments are part of your side of the bargain. In the more Peaceful and “basic” initiations, they may be very little: a requirement to say the mantra 3,7,21 times per day, and almost always living by the Buddhist precepts. (Don’t kill, don’t steal, avoid sexual misconduct (whatever that is), don’t lie, don’t use intoxicants.) On the other hand more serious ones might include many hundreds of mantras a day, performing their ritual daily, performing monthly feast offerings, always carrying ritual tools with you, never wearing certain things again, having to say certain prayers before every meal. The thing is, most people don’t think about commitments, and they’ll collect the initiations (which as addressed before I have issue with), but not follow through with the commitments. Granted you can argue that it’s their issue, they are the ones ruining their karma (and if you believe the system breaking these commitments can be more serious than you’d expect), but part of it is just not being aware, not taking it seriously, or being disrespectful. The issues compound especially after you have many initiations, because these stack. Saying a mantra 100 times a day isn’t that bad of a requirement, but what if you have six initiations, that’s six mantras 100 times a day, and that starts to add up time wise, and that’s just mantras, which are the quickest and easiest part of daily commitments. Or twenty minutes of practice a day, not bad, what about if you have six such practices? That’s two hours, or what if you have a practice that has timed commitments, so the ritual have to be done before dawn, or at midnight, then it’s not just having the time, but making it at unusual times throughout the day.

Alright, you’ve decided to take the initiation anyways. Wear something comfortable. If you’re physically able, you’ll be required to sit (generally on a cushion on the ground) and stand several times, but you might also be required to prostrate (bow) or stand on one leg for a while. So make sure it is something you can move in. I’ve never had the issue, but I’ve seen a woman fussing with a skirt that didn’t allow her to stand in a certain pose. Also while by no means required a lot of people dress in the colour of the figure they’re getting initiated into. Vajrapani is blue, wear blue, Green Tara wear green, Dzambala wear gold/yellow. Make sure you wear something easily washed too, occasionally empowerments require you to be marked with stuff, and you don’t want to stain a nice shirt. (That one is a lesson learned the hard way, thank you very much Vajrayogini.)

Though not required, it’s good to have a mala and khatak. A khatak is a silk scarf given as an offering to the lama (and often given back), any Tibetan store has them, some temples sell them, but at very least when you’re there most people will let you borrow theirs when it is your turn.

Empowerment prep:

Some temples/events have an entrance fee, usually listed as a “suggested donation,” this is separate from the dana (offering) you give to the lama later. It is traditional (and arguably a requirement) to give an offering to the lama for the initiation, and now in the West, when temples are not, and haven’t been on the same spot for centuries, and have to pay mortgages and electricity bills many will ask for a donation to get in to help run the temple.

When you arrive it is traditional to do full body prostrations to the shrine, but if you don’t feel comfortable don’t feel forced into that just because everyone else is doing it. Either when you come in, or at a time before the ritual starts you’re required to purify yourself. You’ll be given a handful of saffron water to rinse out your mouth, and then spit out. Then you’re given a second handful, this you drink, and then rub your damp hands on the crown of your head. (This isn’t always explained)

When the lama comes in it is again traditional to do the full body prostrations, again don’t feel forced to do it, but you should at least do the bow, just watch what other people do.

Generally you will have some form of preliminary prayers. Some temples provide handouts or booklets with them, other ones just expect you to know them. (My first initiation I was expected to know them, so there was a good 15 minutes at the beginning of the ritual where I’m trying to mouth something that makes it look like I knew what was going on) If you want to know what you’re to say, you could try asking beforehand, send an email, ask the organizers if they know. Chances are the main things will be a Refuge Prayer (Palden Lama dampa namla…), a Mandala Offering (Sashi pushu…), and the Vajrasattva mantra (Om Vajrasattva samaya…). You’ll probably say more than those, but I’ve found those to be the most common.

Empowerment proper:
Depending on the temple/teacher, the empowerment might be the lama reading Tibetan at you (not really to you) for an hour or more, other times they’ll talk a bit about the myths of the figure, why you practice, how to practice, and in between sections they’ll read the Tibetan.

Often you’ll be blessed multiple times in the empowerment, at least three for Body, Speech, and Mind. These will often involve such things as the lama touching your head with a plate containing a ritual cake, touching their mala to you, sprinkling you with holy water or the like. Sometimes you’re anointed with an oil or coloured substance, or given something to eat or drink, but that’s less common.

When it’s all over you’ll go up to the lama one last time. You’ll be given an envelope some point to put your offering in. Place it in front of the lama and hand them your scarf, generally they’ll put the scarf over your head, to return the blessing to you, sometimes they keep it though.

As with the entrance it’s customary to prostrate when the lama leaves the room.

Most communities are pretty understanding if you don’t know a prayer, or mess something up, and they’ll explain things (usually, but not always) as you go along, these are just a few of the issues I thought people might not know or need to consider beforehand to make their first empowerment go smoothly.

Wednesday Webshare: Crowley, Curses, Charms, and Coincidences


Mercury WebRecently the earliest known Crowley document has been found. It’s his broken-heart love poetry after breaking up with Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt. As much as I really like Crowley, his poetry has never been his strong suit, and his earlier stuff even more so. Though the phrase “fiercer form than thirsty stallions amorous” will be hard to forget. (Also, I’ll make the totally false claim that Crowley thus led to the modern usage of thirsty to mean horny)

10 of history’s most fascinating sorcerers, including some I haven’t heard of, though there were a few I would have rathered be on the list. (Like me, do you know how fascinating I am? Wait, did I say fascinating? I meant egotistical and slightly deluded)

Old women in Hong Kong, will curse for money. What I found interesting in the article was the fact that it’s clear these women don’t believe in their magick, and it doesn’t sound like their customers do either, and yet they’re still popular. (Whereas some sorcerers for hire like me don’t get nearly that business, and I tend to expect results when I work :-p)

Ananael Qaa tackles the invocation/evocation battle which is popping up again. I agree with his point, the terms are largely synonymous historically, so I don’t see why making a slight distinction between them for different aspects of the same concept is such a huge deal.

An artist prints a selfie with his own blood. That sounds like it would be a fantastic magickal proxy for him.

Why is the ALS challenge so popular? Mainly because Satan is behind it. (Apparently this means Satan wants to cure ALS, and YHWH wants people to suffer from it and die)

Many great scientists have no issue with the potential of paranormal phenomena. I was glad to read this, because too often people assume scientists or scientifically literate people are anti-woogity shit, and they’re not. Some are, some aren’t, it’s almost like scientists are people too, and different from each other.

A 1,500 year old Christian amulet has been uncovered.

On the other side of the cursing question the Prime Minister of Thailand says he’s been targeted by the black magick of his opponents. Unfortunately my HGA told me explicitly that I can’t curse Canada’s Prime Minister. Plus, cursing a robot would get tricky I think.

What would happen if Lovecraft wrote the blurbs for porn movies? Wonder no more!

More on cursing, a church in Washington D.C. holds late night services were people come to battle demons, and black magick, and witches. Well, at least it’s refreshing to see Christians who still believe in demons and magick…

How well do you know your Bible? A simple 20 question quiz will let you know (only two options per question, so good odds)

Monks used to mummify themselves alive. Suddenly my practice no longer seems hardcore.

How to Make Magic, a write up on an amazing children’s book on magick from the 70s. Why don’t they write like this anymore. Maybe I’ll patch stuff together as my niblings get older.

Michael, from VSauce talks about “Spooky Coincidences” and how our brain filters and (mis)interprets(?) data to link things. It’s always important to think about these things as occultists, lest we see magick in delusion everywhere. As a friend of mine recently said “Not every dog fart is a ghost.” Selection bias, pareidolia, confirmation bias, and the link.

We used to think we were in the Virgo Supercluster. Turns out we’re actually part of another even larger supercluster, the Laniakea supercluster, it’s 500,000,000 light years across, contains 100,000 galaxies. I know not everyone thinks this is occult or magicky, but as someone who calls the ultimate divinity Cosmos and whose Abramelin was largely focused on how utterly awesome (in the literal and true meaning of the word) our Universe is, I thought I should share it.

Tulpa: Not What You Think


What’s the matter?
I have a headmate.
It might be a tulpa.

I’m sure everyone has seen the articles going around now about the “Tulpamancers.” The TLDR version is there is a group of people who are creating mental companions that reside inside their heads. They’re making personalities, entities that are separate from their consciousness, but also somewhat a part of it. If you’re familiar with plural/multiple parlance they’re creating headmates, though as far as I’m aware, and I totally admit I’m not looking into tulpamancers, no “tulpa” ever fronts, or takes control of a person.

Now I’m not here to criticise what they’re doing or their techniques. The articles talks about the emotional/mental benefit these people are getting from their mentally constructed companions, and as I generally say about magick, it’s about getting results and whether it benefits you. So a few people mentioned that their companion helped them through their depression, good for them, depression is horrible to deal with, and if it works then I’m glad for them.

While not the same I’ve used similar techniques to separate and control aspects of my personality, for those familiar with my Egoetia work, which at this moment I can’t remember if I’ve ever talked about on this blog. (And if I haven’t blogged about it, that just goes to show you should attend the classes and conventions where I yatter about this stuff) So again, not challenging techniques or results, I don’t know enough about them to make a well-founded evaluation, but there is something I can say:

It’s not a tulpa.

What is a tulpa? Well, that’s a kind of tricky question. Tulpa is a Tibetan term, and this is where the issues majorly comes from. You have a group of people misusing a term from a religious tradition in a way that really misrepresents and misunderstands what it actually means. Even aside from issues around cultural appropriation it just seems foolish and lazy to me. Tulpa (sprul pa སྤྲུལ་པ་) can be broken down into two pieces: tul, and pa. Pa is just a suffix that terms a verb into a person (agentive particle). So for instance I perform the ritual chöd, so I’m called a chödpa, and someone who transmits a lung (rlung རླུང, in this case meaning the “energy seed” of a text to simplify it) is a lungpa. Tul means basically created, incarnated, emanated. So it really just means an emanated person or emanation.

Now it gets a bit confusing because it linked with the term Tulku (sprul sku སྤྲུལ་སྐྱ), ku (sku) meaning body, so emanated body. This term gets used in relationship to a Tibetan Lama who is recognized as a reincarnation of a specific high lama, they are an “emanated body” of that lama. The reason this gets confusing is an older term for Tulku was tulpaku, the person who has emanated their body

Back to tulpa, so emanation, that could apply to these people and their creation right? Yeah, if you want to go by dictionary translation meaning rather than how a word is used and understood within the culture. A tulpa is something used all the time in Vajrayana Buddhism, though the word is almost never used. When performing a ritual where you’re calling a deity of some sort you create a damshig sempa (dam tshig sems dpa’ དམ་ཚིག་སེམས་དཔའ) meaning Commitment Being. It is basically a visualized form of the deity first. So if you’re calling on Chenrezig, before you actually call on him you visualize him in front of you, create him with your mind, create an energetic “shell” for him, that’s a damshig sempa. That is sometimes referred to as a tulpa but not often. Once this is created then you call on the yeshe sempa (ye shes sems dpa’ ཡེ་ཤེས་སེམས་དཔའ) meaning Wisdom Being, which refers to the “real” deity. First you make a shell, and then you call them into it.

I mentioned tulpa is a term rarely used though. In fact yesterday at lunch, knowing I’d be writing this article I asked my lama what a tulpa was. His response? “A what?” When I wrote it down he recognized the word from having read it, but never really heard it discussed. (It was my lama who told me the older form of tulku was tulpaku, which I confirmed at home with a dictionary) At home I grabbed my various books and texts. Some ritual texts, some academic, some glossaries. Do you know what word I wasn’t able to find? Tulpa. I have huge textbooks used for teaching University courses on Tibetan Buddhism that cover everything you can think of, no tulpa. I know where the word’s popularity comes from (and I’ll get to that in a minute) but I decided to check my non-Buddhist texts

It shows up in almost 30 texts I could find (note: I didn’t actually check too many, I just had a sense of where they’d be if anywhere). They’re all over the place; Kenneth Grant, Donald Tyson, in books on Ceremonial magick, and books on Wicca. What do they say about tulpa? They just say it means an energy construct or thought form.

So where do we get the term? Alexandra David-Neel’s classic book “With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet.” In it she heard about the term, and stories about it, but it sounds like she’s confusing a few different things.

Nevertheless, allowing for a great deal of exaggeration and sensational addition, I could hardly deny the possibility of visualizing and animating a tulpa. Besides having had few opportunities of seeing thought-forms, my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself, and my efforts were attended with some success. In order to avoid being influenced by the forms of the lamaist deities, which I saw daily around me in paintings and images, I chose for my experiment a most insignificant character: a monk, short and fat, of an innocent and jolly type.

I shut myself in tsams and proceeded to perform the prescribed concentration of thought and other rites. After a few months the phantom monk was formed. His form grew gradually fixed and life-like looking. He became a kind of guest, living in my apartment. I then broke my seclusion and started for a tour, with my servants and tents.

The monk included himself in the party. Though I lived in the open riding on horseback for miles each day, the illusion persisted. I saw the fat trapa, now and then it was not necessary for me to think of him to make him appear. The phantom performed various actions of the kind that are natural to travellers and that I had not commanded. For instance, he walked, stopped, looked around him. The illusion was mostly visual, but sometimes I felt as if a robe was lightly rubbing against me and once a hand seemed to touch my shoulder.

The features which I had imagined, when building my phantom, gradually underwent a change. The fat, chubby-cheeked fellow grew leaner, his face assumed a vaguely mocking, sly, malignant look. He became more troublesome and bold. In brief, he escaped my control.

Once, a herdsman who brought me a present of butter saw the tulpa in my tent and took it for a live lama.

I ought to have let the phenomenon follow its course, but the presence of that unwanted companion began to prove trying to my nerves; it turned into a “daynightmare.” Moreover, I was beginning to plan my journey to Lhasa and needed a quiet brain devoid of other preoccupations, so I decided to dissolve the phantom. I succeeded, but only after six months of hard struggle. My mind-creature was tenacious of life.

This is the origin of the tulpa as thoughtform in the Western sphere. In fact every reference to tulpa that you can find, traces back to this book, or is unsourced. Even the wiki article, while it includes other sources, everything that supports a tulpa as a construct traces back to this book. It also seems like a good source for at least some of the concern about thoughtforms gone wild. (Which really isn’t as sexy of a DVD as it sounds)

Now Alexandra David-Neel was an amazing woman. One of the first westerns to meet a Dalai Lama, a single female explorer who roamed Tibet (when it was illegal for foreigners to be there) and studied Buddhism with the lamas. While I don’t want to play a race card though, we have to understand that French explorer from a hundred years ago isn’t going to have the best understanding of Buddhism. So while her works are some of the most engaging and evocative accounts about Vajrayana, they also have a lot of issues, and the tulpa as a thoughtform is one of them.

Tulpas are an “energetic body” that you summon a deity into, they are not a thoughtform. You do not make a tulpa of just anything, in fact arguably you can’t, because it lacks the yeshe sempa. Visualized imaginations, and thoughtforms are something else altogether, tulpas are a very specific concept in a ritual process. They’re also, not even by extension something applicable to a personality that resides in your consciousness somewhere. So back to the tulpamancers, like I said, my issues with their technique and practice are none, but I do have problems with their terminology. We have words for things like that: constructs, egregores, thralls, thoughtforms, headmates. Hell English is a great language for building new words, or making up one. But don’t misapply a misapplication of a foreign word.


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