‘Theosophy has a gospel for the Western world. It has to announce that there is no gloomy impenetrable abyss beyond the grave, but instead of that a world of life and light which may be known to us as clearly and fully and accurately as this physical world in which we live now.’
Thought-Forms (1901)
Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater
In Summary

Thought-forms are the creations of your astral (emotional) and mental bodies, and they continuously impact you and those around you. By understanding their colour, shape, and effect, you can better learn to control and harness their power for the good of yourself and others.


Science in the early 20th century was on the cusp of a revolution. In the field of physics, quantum mechanics and relativity theory completely transformed our understanding of the cosmos. In biology, Darwin’s ideas of our evolutionary origin were beginning to find general acceptance. In chemistry, the recent discoveries of the electron and radioactivity had ignited the scientific establishment. In every field, it seemed, the unobservable secrets of reality were being probed and identified. And according to the emerging Theosophical Society, this new power must now be extended not just to matter but to the mind.

Indeed, the first decade of the century marked a high point not only for mainstream science but for Theosophy. Its central principles were slowly becoming more mainstream, and its ranks would soon include many prominent figures, such as Thomas Edison, W. B. Yeats, and William James. Yet despite the prevalent surge in interest surrounding the growing influence of Theosophy, the scientific community at large continued to debate many of its key contentions. To combat this growing debate, two rising stars within the movement, Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant, wrote this book in an attempt to establish the truth of these principles. They did so via the empirical method of documenting specific experiences of trained clairvoyants.


According to Besant and Leadbeater, the topic of thought-forms is vital for understanding our growth and evolution as a species, but at the time they were writing their book, the field was still very much in its infancy. There had been little scientific data gathered on this phenomenon to date – worse yet, only the skilled clairvoyant was capable of translating their ‘visions’ into a dimension or platform that could be universally  accessed and understood. In this early stage, only baby steps could viably be taken to form the necessary foundations from which future research could be built. 

Besant and Leadbeater write that a thought-form develops from the joint effort of our mental and emotional bodies. The particular vibrations we emanate resonate with emotional and mental ‘matter’ to form an independent entity: a thought-form. As such, the more positive and selfless our thoughts and feelings, the more we surround ourselves and others with positive thought-forms. These surrounding thought-forms will, in turn, affect our various bodies and mould them into their image. In short, you become what you think.

Yet our thoughts are not ours alone. In fact, the thought-forms we project into the world affect those around us. If you think positive thoughts about others, you project that positive thought-form onto them. However, we can only receive what we resonate with. As such, no amount of positivity from others will assist the negative person. Similarly, no amount of cursing from a malevolent foe can affect you if you resonate only with selfless, joyful thoughts. 

The entire second half of the work is devoted to outlining how individual thought-forms appear to the clairvoyant. According to these observers, the colours of the form correspond to our individual feelings while the shapes indicate our intentionality. For instance, pink represents the colour of affection; when this affection is merely a vague feeling with no direct object, it will appear as a cloud. When it is directed at a person, it will appear more defined and pointed toward that individual. Other colours include blue for devotion, black for hatred, yellow for intellect, and red for anger. Our intentions will then shape these accordingly, such as forming hooks when we desire a particular object. By understanding these thought-forms and their effects on ourselves and the world around us, Besant and Leadbeater believe we can better learn to shape our thoughts and in turn learn to change our world. 


Despite its age, Besant and Leadbeater’s writings have proven remarkably resilient, and millions still glean lessons from these spiritual masters of old. Their clear writing style mixed with a wealth of information and illustrations ensures that even a century after their publication, their work remains some of the most informative, lucid, and succinct treatments of the topic. If you have ever been curious about thought-forms and their impact on your life, Thought-Forms may prove to be a worthwhile investment.

Further Reading By This Author

Besant and Leadbeater co-authored numerous titles together, including Occult Chemistry, Man: Whence, How and Whither, a Record of Clairvoyant Investigation, and Death, Life After Death & Reincarnation.

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