What, therefore, is a tulpa? The term comes from Tibetan Buddhism and its acquaintance has chiefly been made by persons who have read the works of Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969). This intrepid Frenchwoman was a convert to Buddhism and visited Tibet twice, when that country was accounted a 'forbidden land' which did not admit foreigners.
Her definition was that a tulpa was a being generated by a concentration of thought. It would therefore seem to be translatable as 'thoughtform'. She also claimed that she had once generated such a thoughtform herself.
Presumably after much concentration, she claimed she had generated a tulpa in the form of a Buddhist abbot. This being, however, in due course began to develop a mind of its own. At first only she could see him, but then others started to do so too. The creature became somewhat unpleasant and David-Néel had at last to destroy him.
This episode, by the way, is elsewhere mistakenly attributed to Madame Blavatsky.
Just what lies behind this story, I cannot say. The fact that others saw the abbot would seem to preclude the possibility of hallucination. The fact that he developed a mind or personhood of his own is supposedly characteristic of tulpas. What the mechanics of such a process would be, I cannot say. Whether the whole episode was some kind of delusional memory or how it is to be accounted for, I do not know.
Some cryptozoologists are inclining to use the term with some frequency when commenting on certain kinds of anomalous creature. A creature that exists in an environment which should be unable to support it, for example, might be so labeled. However, the purpose of this article is to acquaint the reader with what the term denotes so, when studying cryptozoological literature, he will not be at a loss when he encounters it.