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Making Thought-forms Work: Magic Rabbits and Polar Bears

Paper i proceeding
Författare Adrian Parker
Publicerad i Proceedings of the 41st International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Psykologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord Thought-forms, hypnosis
Ämneskategorier Psykologi


Perhaps the most well-known example in Western culture of thought-forms is the imaginary rabbit in the film Harvey (1950). Harvey is a six foot-four white rabbit “pooka” from Celtic folklore who is an imaginary friend of an eccentric played by James Stewart. At first, Harvey is only seen by the eccentric but Harvey develops his own life and others begin to see him. The concept of independent thoughtforms even occurs in the works of Shakespeare where ghosts take on a dynamic of their own and become more than mere imagination. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character Puck has a Germanic-Celtic origin from “pooka”. Thoughtforms are found in several other cultures such as “tulpas” in Tibetan Buddhism and “jinn” (djinn) in Arabic culture. They are also part of theosophical beliefs. Finally there are even records of Western explorers experiencing an externalized form of consciousness as benign beings who accompany them and befriend them (Puhle & Parker-Reed, 2017). Such “thoughtforms” are believed to have the potential to develop their own identity and to be thereby not always benevolent in their actions. The Tibetan “tulpas” are said to be easy to create but become autonomous, empowered, and sometimes malevolent (Mammontoff, 1960; Mikles & Laycock, 2015). If consciousness has this property to divide and extend itself then this provides a context for understanding many of the otherwise bewildering aspects of poltergeists cases - such as the extreme phenomena occurring in the Rerrick and Enfield cases. (The former case was a well-documented case of apparent demonic possession and latter case seemingly involved spirit possession.) The concept provides an explanation not only for apparitional and possession entities but also to the entities occurring in medium trances, lucid dreams, transforming light experiences and even entities occurring in states associated with the use of DMT and Ayahuasca. If consciousness has a latent property to divide itself and produce forms that exist in a separate space-time then how pervasive is this capacity and does it facilitate what we recognise as psychic ability or psi? If so could the negative psi of the tulpa be identical with so-called "psi-missing" and even with the “trickster” that George Hansen writes about who bedevils the attempts to turn "psi in the wild" into “psi in the lab"? (Hansen 2001; Puhle & Parker-Reed, 2017). The "tulpa" can even appear as feature of hypnosis. Harvard educated psychologist George Estabrooks is a now almost forgotten but enigmatic figure. Yet the work of Estabrooks pre-dated Rhine with his attempts to bring psi in to the lab via card guessing ESP experiments (Mauskopf & McVaugh, 1980). Besides his parapsychological interest, Estabrooks was skilled with hypnosis and his sophisticated and multifactorial view of it is one which in many ways compatible with modern views of the subject (Estabrooks, 1962; 1971). As well as using hypnosis for clandestine military purposes, Estabrooks claimed to be able to produce group hallucinations such as conjuring up an imaginary polar bear on a hospital ward, who, like Harvey, developed his own existence and willpower (Estabrooks, 1927; 1957 p. 93-94). Despite the importance of these claims there is little research. The well-known Philip case is a singular exception but surely a good example of how scientific inquiry can begin to explore this area. Another method is to make use of the entities occurring in “lucid dreams” and in the use of psychoactive plant medicines. What are the broader implications of the concept? Some authorities in parapsychology now argue that the Rhine revolution has proven abortive as far its attempt to capture psi in the lab like any other human ability. In view of the above it might prove innovative now to regard psi not as an identifiable trait but as property of the thoughtforms of consciousness. The concept can certainly be stretched to cover much of what is (wrongly) called anomalous, but dare we experiment with it? Estabrooks, G.H. (1927) Two cases of induced auditory hallucination. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, July, 99-101 Estabrooks, G.H. (1957) Hypnotism. Revised Edition. New York: Dutton &Co. Estabrooks, G. H. (1962) Hypnosis: Current problems. New York: Harper & Row. Estabrooks, G. H. (1971) Hypnosis comes of age. Science Digest, April, 44-50. Hansen, G. (2001), The Trickster and the Paranormal: Magicians who have endorsed psychic phenomena (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Books). Mammontoff, N. (1960) Can thoughts have form? Fate, June, 41-46. Mauskopf, S.H. & McVaugh, M. R. (1980) The Elusive science. Origins of experimental psychical research, Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University press. Mikles, N. L. & Laycock, J. P. (2015) Research Note. Tracking the tulpa. Exploring the "Tibetian" origins of a contemporarty paranormal idea. Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 19, 87-97. Puhle, A. & Parker-Reed, A. (2017) Shakespeare's ghost live From Shakespeare's ghost to psychical research. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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