Where are all the Spider-Cats: Thoughts on tulpas, cryptids and atavisms
Having just got back from this years excellent Psychic Questing conference (1) organised by Andrew Collins in Avebury and also recently re-read Nick Redfern’s "Monster Hunting" series (2), I am all fired up with thoughts on crypto-zoology.
I enjoyed "Three Men seeking Monsters" very much and equally enjoyed the follow ups. Nick is a very informative and entertaining writer who makes reading a total pleasure. This is not hard-core occultism but an interesting and informative account of some of the stranger byways of weirdness. Nick is perhaps more famous as a ufologist rather than a monster hunter however he very much takes the paranormal entity rather than "nuts and bolts" view of this phenomena - a view I very much agree with.
There are a couple of themes in the book which are not explicitly discussed and are perhaps worth playfully discussing, these are that points of high strangeness occur and that many of the beasties encountered seem to have a human component such as the Mothman, Owlman etc.
Points of high strangeness occur.
The idea that UFOs are paranormal entities rather than physical spacemen such as portrayed in Star Trek is gaining a lot of ground. Traditional UFO lore, possibly influenced from 1950s American paranoia suggested that the UFO and alien abduction experiences are basically spacemen from Zeta Reticuli (or other places) visiting us, taking soil or DNA samples, mutilating our cattle and then flying off.
As a phenomena this started taking its current form in the late 1940s and 1950s which culturally were a very interesting time, especially in the USA where a lot of accounts influencing our popular culture derive from. There are however a lot of problems with this interpretation, not least of which is that there is not a single physical shred of evidence to suggest physical entities are visiting. However when we strip of the spaceman veneer we find that similar events have been reported throughout history; most prominently we find this in fairie-lore where experiences of lost time, going into the hill (modern UFO's allegedly park in underground bases), an interest in human sexuality, whether as a fairiewife or through alien DNA tests and stories of alien-hybrids. The description "little green men" seems equally apt whether we are describing aliens or leprechauns!
Part of this perception seems to be something imposed by ourselves when encountering these beings. A modern, scientifically oriented person in a growing technological environment such as 1950's USA, just after the Manhattan project, Apollo on the horizon or happening and computers rapidly becoming a reality would experience entities in this context. A person living in rural Ireland (say) at the turn of the century when Evanz-Wentz wrote "The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries" would perhaps perceive these in a way closer described in folk-lore. In Africa there are accounts which link unexplained lights at night with witches (more in the Skinwalker sense than Gerald Gardner’s derivative cult!) and of course many people have heard the Biblical accounts in Ezekiel of "wheels within wheels" which could be imagined as UFO like from the rather sparse description.
Things may actually be more complex than the fact that just our expectations shape these experiences however. Patrick Harpur in "Daimonic Reality" links this phenomena to the trickster and it may be possibly that we don’t actually have that much control over how these things appear to us. Entities seem to have a sense of humour and perhaps can impose upon us how these are experienced. Maybe they appear as spacemen now because this is something which those experiencing them will relate to the most, or maybe this is something which will key in an emotional response the most. Redfern in a recent Binnall or America podcast (3) suggests that these entities are somewhat vampiric and feed off strong emotions such as fear which they may actually stimulate within their lucky victims. This trickster aspect is very slightly disturbing in that the implication is that we don’t even have an unconscious control over how some things get perceived; but then perhaps it is a human conceit that we can control things.
This theme seems repeated with cryptids such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, with a lot of these cases where we have an apparent "fur and feathers" case, what a lot of crypto zoologists seem to gloss over is that these active locations also seem to attract other phenomena such as close encounters with UFOs, ghosts etc. If creatures such as Bigfoot were purely what they seem (simply as an undiscovered ape perhaps similar to a gorilla or orang-utan) it strikes me as strange that other phenomena would appear in their vicinity. Something very odd is going on if the same locations are hotspots for both UFO phenomena (whatever that is) and Bigfoot. The fact that these points of high strangeness occur is crucial and shows that all this phenomena is closely entangled.
Not all crypto-zoologists take the fur and feathers view. Please listen to the remarkable interview with Joe Fex regarding the Sasquatch (4) which takes the whole thing from a more esoteric perspective. From the interview I feel that it is important to note that Joe walks away with Bigfoot experiences. Researchers who step back and try to be truly scientific do not seem to get any results, those who jump into the phenomena do walk away with experiences which can be analyzed. I am reminded of the philosophy which Andrew Collins and Graham Phillips adopted with Psychic Questing, arguing that 100 years of psychic research trying to prove that psychic phenomena has produced nothing, however in assuming that it was real and then working with it, they achieved (and continue to achieve) remarkable results.
All this strongly reinforces the idea the we should be looking for many cryptids in the spirit world rather than under bushes.
There will probably still be some blurring with this idea. As well as Bigfoot, it has been suggested that Lake monsters and even some big cats are also energy beings or even perhaps a tulpa. However I do recall that in the in the 1970s a law was enacted preventing people keeping dangerous animals like tigers as pets (5).
There are numerous urban legends suggesting that rather than having their dangerous pets trapped in an inhumane zoo or put down people released them into the wild. To be honest that is certainly what I would do and places like the Yorkshire moors, Dartmoor or Bodmin in Cornwall sound like perfect isolated places where Spot the pet Bengali tiger or snowflake the puma could live and hunt in peace. Backing this up there is also evidence to suggest that some big cats leave a trail of hunted animals such as sheep etc. This suggests a fur and feathers explanations for some sightings and we must be careful with regards to assuming everything is spectral in nature
However there are also cases where creatures disappear without trace, leave no marks of their passage or remains of hunted prey. Other accounts have big cats stepping out of stone circles or seeing Bigfoot associating with UFO's. These cases are more intriguing. A common example is perhaps the Loch Ness monster. Whilst a part of me suspects that the early 20th century accounts were stirred up by Aleister Crowley whilst he was living in Boleskine (working on the Abramelim operation) several decades before the media jumped on the story. I also have to admit that their were cases of sightings going back to at least the time of Saint Columbia. The sheer length of time over which a large number of sightings have taken place suggest that something is going on, even if it is perhaps not a physical being.
However whilst it is easy to hope that it is perhaps simply a survivor of prehistoric times such as a plesiosaur I think that if it were the case that a small colony of plesiosaurs were surviving in the Loch (remember that cold blooded creatures in freezing Scotland wont be very comfortable) there would be more corporeal evident. Over the centuries why hasn't at least one corpse been washed up, more recent research find a sonar trails or even more frequent sightings which one would expect with a real creature. We should be seeing David Attenborough making a documentary if they were solid. It sort of suggests that Nessie is not physical or perhaps that Nessie lives in a different world which overlaps with this one.
This theme is taken up very well in a great book by writer Ted Holiday's "The Goblin Universe". It is pretty hard to find nowadays but well worth checking out of you come across a copy. I wouldn't go as far as suggest that all encounters with unexpected animals are brushes with the paranormal, but perhaps many which are assumed to be encounters with rare and supposedly extinct animals are.
I think that we must to be very careful with the word 'tulpa' which is one that Nick uses regularly. In it's most traditional sense this refers to the Monk like entity which Madam Alexandra David-Neel created whilst in Tibet. For a long time I was slightly worried by this as this example of a Tulpa is the only one which books reference and there appeared to be no other anecdotes regarding creating one outside of fiction; furthermore there is no clear manual which says how to make a tulpa, one does not find instructions in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" or within "Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines" for example.
I haven’t got as far yet as being able to create and sustain a tulpa. However initial experiments based upon the above suggest that this is the way to go and I am sure that I shall have more to say here in the future. For anyone wishing to experiment I will say that this seems to work best during a full moon which suggest quite a lot regarding the nature of the forces being worked with here.
More recently (2010) Alan Moore refers to a tulpa which Steve Moore (no relation) created in "Unearthing", a recently published piece of Moorian prose exploring the life of Steve Moore. Steve Moore as a devote of Selene created a tulpa as a vessel for this Goddess which was visible to Alan Moore on at least one occasion as described within the narrative.
Moore's Selene tulpa at least seems to be created using eastern techniques rather than western ceremonial and whilst Alan Moore is a bit coy about how to exactly go about creating a tulpa (I have high hopes for "The Moon and Serpent Bumper book of Magic" being written by both Moores and due for release over the next couple of years) we can read between the lines and begin to work out how one might go about his.
The key seems to be more than just visualisation which is often vaguely given by commentators describing David-Neels experience. The clues suggest that chakras are the important factor in creating a Tulpa. A magician starts by developing a set of energy centres such as the chakras (other systems such as the Qabalah has similar but not identical structures which are built up in a similar way) through breathing and visualisation. This may create and empower the chakras, or possibly just activate already present chakras, and whilst doing this one begins to develop a psychic awareness, experience out of body experience etc. Speaking from experience this really does work.
The next step is to begin to visualize the tulpa in front of oneself, visualise chakras within its being and then pass energy from ones own chakras into its chakras. This needs to be done repeatedly over many sessions until the entity starts to become alive and ones energies become enmeshed within the Tulpa. The converse, to pull energy from these points will be the process to break down the tulpa if it gets out of hand, and speculatively this is the process (or something similar) which David-Neel would have followed when her Monk slipped from her control. This process can take months, even years to refine to the point where the being beings to become real for other people.
A similar process is alluded to by Dion Fortune in "Psychic Self Defence". In the section where she discusses the wolf emanation from herself which got out of control, she speaks about having to pull its force back within herself.
Magicians and occultists often refer to thought forms in a very similar way to Tulpas although they do not seem to be created to visible appearance (a very convoluted concept anyway), but rather just to perform an action, so they are not quite the same as Tibetan Tulpas.
This process is markedly different from the process to create a Tulpa and is much more simple. There are a number of techniques to create an artificial elemental which can perform tasks, and like anything the more one puts into such things, the more one receives. However at its simplest the idea here is not to create a being, so much as to create a servitor which will be deleted when its task is finished (think of them as computer programs). Such entities are never (or at least rarely) created to visible appearance with the intention of giving them any persistence of being, they are real, but tenuous
This latter type of thoughtform is fairly common and occasionally occurs implanted within books sold as talismanic editions, one book I own by the late Andrew Chumbley has such an embedded entity within it which can be used to generate experiences, although sometimes it is best to leave sleeping dogs alone unless one was deliberately working the system.
The thing to keep in mind however is that these magical thoughtforms are fairly easy to create (see "Creating Magickal Entities" by David Michael Cunningham, Taylor Ellwood and Amanda Wegener) however generally have no persistence and are created in a different, more complex and time consuming way to true Tulpas.
When we come across entities in the wild, we need to ask whether they were deliberately created or occur naturally regardless of human intervention. I generally think the latter is the case so whilst they are certainly imaginal beings I don’t think that humans set out to create them, although (regardless of my trickster comments above) I think that human expectation or cultural templates certainly affects how we experience these entities, even if it is not the only variable at work here.
My comment above that I don’t think that imaginal beings are exactly the same as the tulpa as described by David-Neel perhaps deserves some expansion. Naturally nothing is ever as it seems and perhaps these are occasionally present too. Had David-Neel not gone to the trouble to erasing her Monk would he still be out there as a ghostly presence pestering travellers in the Himalayas? Anecdotal accounts suggest that a tulpa may survive the death of their creators. I do remember as a child reading fairy tales about what was called a dragon but described as a chimera-like beastie with the teeth of a lion, claws of a bear etc, This sort of account suggest to me as originating from a real account of a created tulpa, where the magician in question created a monster to visible appearance using the animal parts that he supposed were the most scary, i.e. lion jaws, bear claws etc.
If most (or practically all) imaginal beings are not therefore directly created by occultists creating exotic astral guard-dogs, we need to ask where these beings come from. This is a very big question which I will save for another post. However perhaps we need to disentangle our mindset of assuming that they are discrete beings similar to ourselves (as physical beings) and perhaps begin to think about everything as existing as a field, projections of which impose upon our perception of reality.
Perhaps we walk past paranormal projections all the time. If I walk past a tabby cat in the street I assume that it is real, but unless I stop and say hello to it I could never really know. The paranormal world is funny in that sometimes it likes to play the trickster and finds it hilarious to appear as Bigfoot in a UFO, at other times it seems to want to not attract attention to itself and hides on the edge of consciousness and perception, covers its presence and encourages people not to discuss the matter such as in encounters with the alleged Men In Black.
Chimeras and Therianthropes
The other point I would like to make regarding Nick's book (and many other accounts) refers to the numerous human/animal hybrids which appear. We see accounts of GoatMen, Wolfmen and Owlmen. John Keel has written extensively about the Mothman and there are numerous other examples.
Why do we see these as human hybrids but never see chimera's without human components such as Spider-Cats, Squid-Dogs and (thankfully) Slug-flies. Perhaps this is not quite true - in mythology there are hybrids such as Griffins and Cerberus which do not seem to have any human components, however such beasties do not seem to crop up
often, if at all in contemporary accounts.
Maybe as humans we can contact or experience chimeras with human parts more easily than those with purely animal parts. This seems to make sense. Of the top of my head I am thinking of purely animal chimeras in mythology and almost all I can think of contain (mostly) mammal components. Again it makes sense to me that we can contact close relatives easier than those which are more distant such as a reptile hybrid. All this brings to mind the idea of atavisms such as discussed by Kenneth Grant and Austin Spare. I think we need to consider the possibility that there is a relationship between atavisms buried inside ourselves and theriomorphs/chimeras we might encounter in the environment
Occasionally these ideas are put down to genetic memory (GM), and I must admit that I do have several issues with this as the explanation behind the phenomena (much as I do with the idea that GM is behind reincarnation). My problems with GM can be summarised as: DNA does not change through our lives so where are the memories stored - how can memories be stored within the unchanging array of our DNA?
There doesn't seem to be much evolutionary advantage in a GM to help creatures survive (assuming a Darwinian model). IF GM were real, memories can only be passed on up to the point where offspring are conceived. At that point the DNA is fixed. So parents could not pass on information concerning their death - yet a number of regressed subjects recall their deaths showing that whatever the source of this information it is not stored in their DNA.
It is possible to reach back into oneself and (say) pull out (the strength of) a tiger to use an example Austin Osman Spare once wrote about. However tigers are not human ancestors so whilst I do not doubt Spare's experience I think the information composing tigerness which he worked with came from elsewhere.
I think that rather than look to genetics to provide an answer, we need to look at a nonlocal explanation such as Sheldrakes Morphogenetic fields for insight as to what is happening here. I suspect that these fields exist in what we might call the astral or etheric levels and this is where the information is stored that presents itself internally as surfaced atavisms and externally an close encounters with entities such as Mothman or chimeras such as Cerberus.
I must admit I am not really comfortable with referring to these as "Morphogenetic fields" because I think due to the scientific approach Sheldrake took the ideas haven't been extended far enough yet to cover some of the possibilities which I am writing about. Having said that I do have a lot of time and respect for Sheldrakes’ work, I just want to see it taken further and so far it is all too left-brained for my thinking.
My first thought is to refer to these as information fields however that is still not really strong enough to become a movement towards a working hypothesis in that I suspect these fields possess a consciousness and quite possibly a sense of humour - the trickster again. In fact maybe we could say that many of the qualities we attribute to Gods and Goddess can be attributed to these fields.
I would like to add that we can only ever see a small portion of these fields at any one time so much as a four dimensional fractal can only be perceived piecemeal, if there is a connection between certain Gods and Goddess and certain entity-based phenomena. I don't think we are doing anything a disservice, merely saying that the universe is very strange and we are groping for answers by looking for patterns. I'll come back to this in another posting soon.
We also have the idea from many shamanic cultures of the idea of a Grandfather or template animal which is the guardian of that particular species. This also seems related to the field idea and the grandfather creature can be approached and worked with as a magical being in the same way to what we would work with any other entity.
Over the past couple of years my thinking has moved very much away from the idea that anything (including us) is actually a discrete entity and that what we are looking at are interactions within a sentient field of conscious. My belief is very much that our experiences are composed out of interactions with these fields (or field) which supplies the form and function of whatever entities are being encountered.
There does remain the question as to whether this field (if it exists) can be localised around a particular place or not. I rather think it does (at least partially). We have places such as Rendlesham forest where strangeness seems so deeply embedded that accounts have gone back centuries. Similarly the book "Hunt for the Skinwalker" discusses a location in Utah were similar phenomena can be encountered. If the book is to be believed - and it comes across as highly convincing - then the scientific investigators were as mystified by the events as the people living in the location.
It has been said that the universe is not only stranger than we image, but is actually stranger than we can imagine. I think that this is true and excited and happy that there is still so much mystery and wonder to explore and experience.
2) Nick Redfern's excellent monster books are:
• Three men seeking monsters: Six weeks in pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters,
Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs and Ape-men
• Memoires of a monster hunter: A five year journey in Search of the unknown
• There's something in the woods