In old German mysticism, a person’s double or what some would call the spirit double, second self, specter, ego or body’s oversoul was known as a “Doppelgänger”, which dopple means “double,” and -gänger, meaning “goer” – “double-goer”. Today in scientific jargon, the doppelganger effect is known as heautoscopy which I will explain below.
According to the old German ways, all living creatures have a double who is invisible but identical to the living person. The word doppelgänger was first coined in 1796 by the author Johann Paul Richter, who wrote under the pseudonym Jean Paul. Doppelgänger became an even more popular term after it was used in German horror fiction stories such as the 1846 novel The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Die Elixiere des Teufels, 2 vol. (1815–16; “The Devil’s Elixir”), by E.T.A.Hoffmann.
The German authors portray the doppelgänger as being distinct from ghosts (which appear only after death), and sometimes they are described as the spiritual opposite or negative of their human counterparts. The Cambridge Dictionary describes the meaning as “a spirit that looks exactly like a living person, or someone who looks exactly like someone else but who is not related to that person.”
If we are to look back over the course of history, we will find that this German concept is actually taken from old Gnostic and Christian writings and just given a new spin which is always the case with most medieval and all modern writers. For example, if we examine the Gnostic literature, we will find that they claimed that there were only two spirits that were in control of all of humanity – the “Holy Spirit and the Counterfeit Spirit.”
The Apocryphon of John associates this spirit with the creation of humanity and the concept of fate with the power to enslave those who stray too far from the practices advocated in the text.
Counterfeit means – “made in exact imitation of something valuable or important with the intention to deceive or defraud” and carnal procreation is from Christian Latin carnalis, from caro, carn- ‘flesh’ and to procreate is the process by which an “organism creates others of its biological kind. (666 Beasts)”
This is why the doppelgänger is considered to be a “carbon copy” of the real person. It can be called the alter ego or the mirror image.
It is somewhat common for people to report leaving their physical body and looking down at it lying in bed. This is also known as an out-of-body experience (OBE) and is called an autoscopic phenomenon (from “autoscopy”; in Greek, autos means “self” and skopeo means “looking at”).
The doppelganger effect is different given the fact that the person is said to be actually seeing and interacting with their double self rather than people who report and out of body experience as leaving their physical body and seeing it from an outside perspective, say floating above a bed or hospital bed when someone is said to legally die and come back from the dead to report what they saw and heard.
Modern scientists like Peter Brugger, a PhD student in neuropsychology at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, have researched these paranormal experiences such as an out-of-body experience (OBE) and have attempted to offer scientific explanations. Approximately two decades ago, Brugger had been treating a 21-year-old man for seizures who had very nearly killed himself one day, when he found himself face-to-face with his doppelganger after the patient had stopped taking some of his anticonvulsant medication.
One day, instead of taking his medication and going to work, he stayed in bed and drank beer. After some time, he felt dizzy and stood up but saw that his body was still lying in bed. Apparently, he was aware and try to wake himself up to no avail. Eventually, he got so frustrated he jumped out the window and almost killed himself but ended up living to explain to Dr. Brugger what had happened.
“On the respective morning he got up with a dizzy feeling. Turning around, he saw himself still lying in bed. He became angry about “this guy who I knew was myself and who would not get up and thus risked being late at work”. He tried to wake the body in the bed first by shouting at it; then by trying to shake it and then repeatedly jumping on his alter ego in the bed. The lying body showed no reaction. Only then did the patient begin to be puzzled about his double existence and become more and more scared by the fact that he could no longer tell which of the two he really was.
Several times his bodily awareness switched from the one standing upright to the one still lying in bed; when in the lying in bed mode he felt quite awake but completely paralysed and scared by the figure of himself bending over and beating him. His only intention was to become one person again and, looking out of the window (from where he could still see his body lying in bed), he suddenly decided to jump out “in order to stop the intolerable feeling of being divided in two”. At the same time, he hoped that “this really desperate action would frighten the one in bed and thus urge him to merge with me again”. The next thing he remembers is waking up in pain in the hospital.”
Brugger claimed that man told him that he had jumped to “find a match between body and self”. After that man received treatment for his fall-related injuries, the young man underwent surgery to remove a tumour in his left temporal lobe, and both the seizures and the bizarre experiences stopped.
As I mentioned above, the doppelganger effect is also known as heautoscopy which is a term used in psychiatry and neurology for the reduplicative hallucination of “seeing one’s own body at a distance”.
Heautoscopy in association with seizures is well documented and is commonly accompanied by intense feelings of horror or despair which have also caused some people to commit suicide as the patient above had failed to attempt. The first non-fictional account of suicide as a consequence of heautoscopy may be the case of a man who day and night felt persecuted by his doppelganger until he shot himself to get rid of it.”
What’s interesting about this suicide revelation is that I also had tried to kill myself when I was at a dark time in my life. I was facing a lot of time in prison and while on bail, I developed a serious alcohol and drug addiction.
I clearly remember that day and night as if it were yesterday. It was like watching a movie of myself and I was two people. Really, it was surreal.
One person had taken control and said he was done with my wretched self and life. My time was up. It was time to die in that hotel room.
As I looked in the mirror at my pathetic self, I drank the bottle of whiskey and started swallowing handfuls of Xanex. All the while, my 5-year-old son who I thought was an angel was lying sleeping on the bed.
Later, in a drugged stupor, my other self seemed to try to regain control and started calling my ex-wife on the phone who then called my sister who found me at the hotel. There is much more to the story and maybe someday, I will tell it.
Looking back, I can say that I believe I had experienced the doppelganger effect and possibly my suicide attempt with my doppelganger than trying to save me meant that it wasn’t my time just yet.
It makes me think that I must have some work still to do in this carbon 666 double before the fungi in my body consumes my memory and light.
Moe is the founder of GnosticWarrior.com. A website dedicated to both the ancient and modern teachings of Gnosticism.