Thought Forms, c. 1957

1957 Thought Forms

Emil Bisttram, Untitled (Thought Forms), c. 1957, ballpoint pen on paper, 10-¼ x 7-½ inches (image), Private Collection.

This work is one of a series that Bisttram executed structured around a loose grid. He made the following comment about a similar work, now in the Anschutz Collection: “The elements used are symbols of possible thought forms still existing in space.”

The existence of thought forms is a primary concept of theosophy, and in fact there is a book titled Thought-Forms by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, first published in 1901, which describes this phenomena. Besant and Leadbeater, disciples of H. P. Blavatsky, were both clairvoyant and so could see thought forms. They explain that each thought produces two effects, “a radiating vibration and a floating form.” Their illustrations and explanations are fascinating. Their book is essentially moral, encouraging people to learn to control their thoughts and feelings so that they don’t cause harm to others or to themselves.

Upon close examination, a few of the thought forms in Bisttram’s picture can be identified – an animal, a tree, a mother and child, a bird, two circles, and a person standing next to a large crucifix.

Besant and Leadbeater, like most theosophists, interpret the circle as a highly devotional image of the Logos.