Since the 1970s, tulpas have been a feature of Western paranormal lore. In contemporary paranormal discourse, a tulpa is a being that begins in the imagination but acquires a tangible reality and sentience. Tulpas are created either through a deliberate act of individual will or unintentionally from the thoughts of numerous people. The tulpa was first described by Alexandra David-Néel (1868–1969) in Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929) and is still regarded as a Tibetan concept. However, the idea of the tulpa is more indebted to Theosophy than to Tibetan Buddhism. This article explores the murky origins of the tulpa to show how the concept emerged from a dialogue between East and West in which Theosophical metaphysics were combined with terms adapted from Tibetan Buddhism.
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