Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., Atlantic University
I recently participated in a conference organized by the Scientific and Medical Network, at Chesham, Buckinghamshire, close to London, that took place between August 24-26 of 2012. The Society, based in England, “an interdisciplinary networking forum and educational charity exploring science, medicine, philosophy and spirituality” (https://www.scimednet.org/). The conference, entitled, Scientific and Spiritual Perspectives on the Subtle Body, included five presenters, whose names and abstracts appear here: https://www.scimednet.org/subtle-body-conference/
My paper was entitled “The Double: Concepts of Subtle Bodies in the Spiritualist and Psychical Research Literatures.” As stated in my abstract the presentation was about “aspects of the spiritualist and psychical research literatures containing discussions of what has been referred to as the ‘double’. This term has been used to designate a hypothetical semi-physical replica of the human body said to interpenetrate the physical body and to be capable of separating from it, sometimes carrying consciousness. The concept is not very precise and has included different types of ideas about various subtle bodies.”
I focused on pre-1950 discussions of apparitions of the living, out-of-body experiences, experiments projecting doubles, exteriorization of sensibility, and deathbed observations. This included a contrast between the concept of the double held by figures such as Adolphe D’Assier and Alexander Aksakov, and Gabriel Delanne in contrast with the non-physical ideas of Society for Psychical Research leaders Edmund Gurney and Frederic W.H. Myers.
An influential book, which did much to popularize the concept of an “astral body” was Sylvan J. Muldoon and Hereward Carrington’s The Projection of the Astral Body (1929), in which Muldoon described in detail his out-of-body experiences and his perceptions of his astral body.
The work of Colonel Albert de Rochas was very influential in spreading ideas about subtle bodies. In an 1897 article he outlined stages of manifestation of what he referred to as the fluidic double, and related the double to the phenomena of materializations obtained with mediums, something that had already been done by others earlier in the century. These included: 1) Exteriorization of sensibility (layers around body); 2) “Coagulation of its effluvia in a sensitive double, but still not visible to ordinary eyes;” 3) Visible tangible materializations of parts of the body; and 4) Whole materializations of bodies.
Mention was also made of the projection of doubles from magnetized individuals of Hector Durville (http://carlossalvarado.edublogs.org/2012/07/04/historical-perspectives-on-out-of-body-experiences-and-related-phenomena-ii-hector-durville-and-phantoms-of-the-living/), cases of spirit photography concerning the living, the work of Julian Ochorowicz with medium Stanislawa Tomczyk (photographs of double hands), and the work of Ernesto Bozzano regarding the importance of convergent approaches to establish the existence of the double.
Finally, mention was made of those cases in which people have see, bodies, mists, and lights leaving the body at death. These phenomena continue to be discussed today.
These are only some examples of cases and observations relevant to the issue at hand. The history of this topic, as seen in other presentations at the conference (https://www.scimednet.org/subtle-body-conference/), also includes ideas from Theosophy and from Asian contexts, to mention only a few.
References and Bibliography
Alvarado, C.S. (2009-2012). Historical notes on doubles and travelling spirits. Paranormal Review, Nos. 50-62. (12 part paper)
Alvarado, C.S. (2009). The spirit in out-of-body experiences: Historical and conceptual notes. In B. Batey (Ed.), Spirituality, Science and the Paranormal (pp. 3-19). Bloomfield, CT: Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies.
Alvarado, C.S. (2005). Ernesto Bozzano and the phenomena of bilocation. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 23, 207-238.
Alvarado, C. S. (1980). The physical detection of the astral body: An historical perspective. Theta, 8(2), 4-7.
Davies, R. (1998). Doubles: The Enigma of the Second Self. London: Robert Hale.
Fodor, N. (1969). Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books (Originally published ca 1934) (Entry on “Doubles”)
Holms, A.C. (1969). The Facts of Psychic Science and Philosophy. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books. (Originally published in 1925) (Chapter on “Doubles”)
Shirley, R. (n.d./ca 1938). The Mystery of the Human Double. London: Rider.
Studies and Observations
Bozzano, E. ( 1937). Les phenomes de bilocation. Paris: Jean Meyer. (Originally published in Italian, 1934.)
D’Assier, A. (1887). Posthumous Humanity: A Study of Phantoms. London: George Redway. (Originally published in French, 1883.)
Delanne, G. (1909). Les apparitions materialisees des vivants & des morts: 1: Les fantomes de vivants. Paris: Librairie Spirite.
De Rochas, A. (1897). Les experiences de Choisy-Yvrec (pres Bordeaux) du 2 au 14 octobre 1896. Annales des sciences psychiques, 7, 6-28.
De Rochas, A. (1899). L’exteriorisation de la sensibilite (5th ed.). Paris: Chamuel.
Durville, H. ( 1909). Le fantome des vivants. Paris: Librairie du Magnetisme.
Gurney, E., Myers, F. W. H., & Podmore, F. (1886). Phantasms of the Living (2 vols.). London: Trubner.
Mattiesen, E. (1931). Der Austritt des Ich als spiritischens Argument. Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie, 6, 413-437, 481-494.
Monk, D. (1922). The process of dying witnessed by eight persons: Visible evidences of the spirit body. Light, 42, 182.
Muldoon, S.J., & Carrington, H. (1929). The Projection of the Astral Body. London: Rider.
Myers, F.W.H. (1903). Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (2 vols.). London: Longmans, Green.
Snell, J. (1918). The Ministry of Angels. London: G. Bell & Sons.
Stead, W.T. (1896). Two doubles I have seen. Borderland, 3, 24-36.