That interesting phase of occult phenomena, known as "thought forms," is so closely related to the general subject of the human aura that a mention of one must naturally lead to the thought of the other. Thought-forms are built up of the very material composing the aura, and manifest all of the general characteristics thereof, even to the auric colors. An understanding of the facts of the human aura is necessary for a correct understanding of the nature of the thought-forms composed of the same substance.
A "thought form" is a peculiar manifestation of mental activity on the astral plane. It is more than a powerful disturbance in the body of the human aura, although this is the place of its embodiment or birth in the objective world. It is formed in the following manner: A person manifests a strong desire, feeling or idea, which is naturally filled with the dynamic force of his will. This sets up a series of strong vibrations in the body of the aura, which gradually resolve themselves into a strong whirling centre of thought-force involved in a mass of strongly cohesive auric substance, and strongly charged with the power of the prana of the person.
In some cases these thought forms survive in the auric body for some little time, and then gradually fade away. In other cases they survive and maintain an almost independent existence for some time, and exert a strong influence upon other persons coming in the presence of the person. Again, these thought forms may be so strongly charged with prana, and so imbued with the mental force of the person, that they will actually be thrown off and away from the aura itself, and travel in space until they exhaust their initial energy—in the meantime exerting an influence upon the psychic aura of other persons.
A thought-form is more than merely a strongly manifested thought—it really is such a thought, but surrounded by a body of ethereal substance, charged with prana, and even carrying with it the vibration of the life energy of its creator. It is a child of the mind of its creator, and acquires a portion of his life-essence, so to speak, which abides with it for a longer or shorter time after its birth. In extreme instances it becomes practically a semi-living elemental force, of necessarily comparatively short life.
To those who find it difficult to understand how a thought-form can persist after separation from the presence of the thinker, I would say that the phenomena is similar to that of light traveling in space, long after the star which originated it has been destroyed. Or, again, it is like the vibrations of heat remaining in a room after the lamp or stove causing it has been removed, or the fire in the grate having died out. Or like the sound waves of the drum-beat persisting after the beat itself has ceased. It is all a matter of the persistence of vibrations.
Thought forms differ greatly one from the other in the matter of shape and general appearance. The most common and simple form is that of an undulating wave, or series of tiny waves, resembling the circles caused by the dropping of a pebble into a still pond. Another form is that of a tiny rotating bit of cloud-like substance, sometimes whirling towards a central point, like a whirlpool; and sometimes swirling away from the central point like the familiar "pin-wheel" fireworks toy. Another form is akin the ring of smoke projected from the coughing locomotive, or the rounded lips of the cigar smoker, the movement in this kind being a form of spiral rotation. Other thought forms have the appearance of swiftly rotating balls of cloudy substance, often glowing with a faint phosphorescence.
Sometimes the thought form will appear as a great slender jet, like steam ejected from the spout of a tea-kettle, which is sometimes broken up into a series of short, puffed-out jets, each following the jet preceding it, and traveling in a straight line. Sometimes the thought form shoots forth like a streak of dim light, almost resembling a beam of light flashed from a mirror. Occasionally, it will twist its way along like a long, slender corkscrew, or auger, boring into space.
In cases of thought-forms sent forth by explosive emotion, the thought form will actually take the form of a bomb, which literally explodes when it reaches the presence of the person toward whom it is aimed. Every person has experienced this feeling of a thought bomb having been exploded in his near vicinity, having been directed by a vigorous personality. This form is frequently found in the thought forms sent out by a strong, earnest, vigorous orator.
There are strong thought forms which seem to strive to push back the other person, so correctly do they represent the idea and feeling back of their manifestation. Others seem to strive to wind around the other person, and to try to literally drag him toward the first person, this form often accompanying strong appeal, persuasion, coaxing, etc., when accompanied by strong desire. A particularly vigorous form of this kind of thought form takes on the appearance of a nebulous octopus, with long, winding, clinging tentacles, striving to wrap around the other person, and to draw him toward the center.
The force of the feeling behind the manifestation of the thought form will often travel a long distance from the sender—in fact, in cases of great power of concentration, space seems to be no barrier to its passage. In striking instances of thought transference, etc., it will be found that thought forms play an important part.
The variety of shapes of thought forms is almost endless. Each combination of thought and feeling creates its own form, and each individual seems to have his own peculiarities in this respect. The forms I have above described, however, will serve as typical cases to illustrate the more common classes of appearances. The list, however, might be indefinitely expanded from the experience of any experienced occultist, and is not intended to be full by any means. All varieties of geometrical forms are found among the thought forms, some of them being of remarkable beauty.
In considering the subject of projected thought forms, moreover, it must be remembered that they partake of, and manifest, the same colors as does the aura itself, for they are composed of the same material and are charged with the same energy. But, note this difference, that whereas the aura is energized from the constant battery of the organism of the individual, the thought form, on the contrary, has at its service only the energy with which it was charged when it was thrown off—being a storage battery, as it were, which in time expends all of its power and then is powerless.
Every thought form bears the same color that it would possess if it had been retained in the body of the aura itself. But, as a rule, the colors are plainer, and less blended with others—this because each thought form is the representation of a single definite feeling or thought, or group of same, instead of being a body of widely differing mental vibrations. Thus the thought form of anger will show its black and red, with its characteristic flashes. The thought form of passion will show forth its appropriate auric colors and general characteristics. The thought form of high ideal love will show its beautiful form and harmonious tinting, like a wonderful celestial flower from the garden of some far off Paradise.
Many thought forms never leave the outer limits of the aura, while others are projected to great distances. Some sputter out as they travel, and are disintegrated, while others continue to glow like a piece of heated iron, for many hours. Others persist for a long time, with a faint phosphorescent glow. A careful study of what has been said regarding the characteristics of the various feelings and emotions, as manifested in the auric body, will give the student a very fair general idea of what may be the appearance of any particular variety of thought form, for a general principle runs through the entire series of auric phenomena. An understanding of the fundamental principles will lead to an understanding of any of the particular varieties of the manifestation thereof.
Finally, remember this: A thought form is practically a bit of the detached aura of a person, charged with a degree of his prana, and energized with a degree of his life energy. So, in a limited sense, it really is a projected portion of his personality.