The etheric counterpart of the physical body which, when
out of coincidence, may temporarily move about in space in
comparative freedom and appear in various degrees of density
Donn Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
to others. The belief in the existence of the double, or astral
body, is ancient, and its modern use as a ‘‘working hypothesis’’
solves many puzzling problems in psychical research.
The Roman Catholic Church gave tacit approval to such an
idea in its consideration of the bilocation of several saints. St.
Anthony of Padua, for example, preaching in the Church of St.
Pierre du Queyroix at Limoges on Holy Thursday in 1226, suddenly
remembered that he was due at that hour at a service in
a monastery at the other end of the town. He drew his hood
over his head and knelt down for some minutes while the congregation
reverently waited. At that moment the saint was seen
by the assembled monks across town to step forth from his stall
in the monastery chapel, read the appointed passage in the office,
and immediately disappear. Similar stories are recorded
of St. Severus of Ravenna and St. Ambrose and St. Clement of
Rome. The best-known case is dated September 17, 1774. Alphonse
de Liguori, imprisoned at Arezzo, remained quiet in
his cell and took no nourishment. Five days later he awoke in
the morning and said that he had been at the deathbed of the
Experimental Findings
Though testimonies of seeing doubles and of out-of-thebody
travel experiences are numerous, rigid experimental
proof is scarce. Colonel Eugerne August-Albert D’Aiglun
Rochas was one of the first to attempt to furnish some. During
his experiments in the exteriorization of sensitivity he noticed
that in subjects in a state of deep hypnosis, the concentric strata
around the body—which he induced by suggestion—
condensed, right and left, into poles of sensitivity that finally
united in a phantasmal enlargement of the body.
This phantom form, which could be lengthened under the
order of the magnetizer and could pass through material objects,
became the seat of sensation. It could be modeled like
wax in the sculptor’s hands and when Rochas suggested that a
female subject give it her mother’s form, the suggestion was
successfully carried out. One of these experiments was made in
Paris in the presence of A. N. Aksakof with Elizabeth
d’Esperance as the seeing subject and a Ms. Lambert as the exteriorizing
Henri Durville was the next experimenter. By means of
passes he built up a double around his subjects Ninette and
Martha and observed that the double was capable of motor effects
at a distance of several rooms. Finally, from an effluvium
from the forehead, the bregma, the throat, the epigastrium,
and even the spleen, he saw a true phantom take shape at a distance
of 20 to 24 inches from the medium. It had the appearance
of the medium, became more or less luminous, and was
united with the medium’s body by a little cord at the navel, the
bregma, or the epigastrium.
The phantom could see through opaque bodies in the distance
and its objectivity was demonstrated by the increasing
brilliance of a calcium sulphide screen when it was asked to approach
it. The sensory organs of the medium were seated in the
phantom. When approached it produced a sensation of cold,
was humid to the touch, and made the fingers luminous in the
The experiments of Dr. Duncan McDougall of Haverhill,
Massachusetts, in weighing dying patients appeared to furnish
some confirmation. He found that at the moment of death the
beam of his scale would suddenly go up. Out of six cases the
weight lost at death averaged between 2 and 2.5 ounces, but
this might also be accounted for by changes in body fluids or
On the basis of some experiments in regression of memory,
Rochas believed that the double is only complete at seven years
of age and that the astral shape enters the body a little while
before birth and then only partially. Dr. Joseph Maxwell studied
a very sensitive young woman who was entrusted with bringing
up a child from birth. She saw at its side a luminous shadow
with features larger and more formed than those of the child.
This shadow was further away from the child at its birth. It
seemed to penetrate gradually into the body. At 14 months of
age the penetration was about two-thirds complete.
Photographic evidence for the double was presented in the
works of Gabriel Delanne, Rochas, Durville, Commandant
Darget, and Aksakof. The first such pictures were obtained by
William H. Mumler, the American practitioner of spirit photography.
He was promptly accused of fraud because it was the
photograph of someone dead that was expected to appear on
his plate. The double of Stainton Moses was photographed in
1875 in Paris by another spirit photographer, Édouard Buguet,
while the medium lay in trance in London. This picture,
however, was discredited by subsequent disclosures about
The experiments of Julien Ochorowicz on the radiography
of the etheric body stand in a class of their own. On September
11, 1911, he obtained the photograph of a spirit hand on a sensitive
film rolled up and enclosed in a bottle. The film, as it lay
rolled in the bottle, measured about three-quarters of an inch
in diameter. The bottle had an orifice of about two-thirds of an
inch. It was closed with the palm of Ochorowicz’s right hand.
With his left he laid it on his knee and held it there firmly. The
medium, Stanislawa Tomczyk, then placed her two hands on
the bottle between his. She seemed excited and exclaimed that
she wished that a small hand would appear. Then she said, ‘‘It
is strange! The bottle seems to enlarge under my fingers; but
perhaps this is an illusion. My hands swell, I cease to feel
them.’’ An attack of cramping ensued. The medium screamed;
a moment or two later Ochorowicz broke the bottle, developed
the film, and found on it the imprint of a large hand with the
thumb posed in line with the index finger, so that it had room
to appear on the film, which was 13 cm wide. The hand looked
like that of the medium.
In automatic writing the following explanation came
through ‘‘I crept in by a chink between your hand and the orifice
of the bottle. Then I slipped my hand flat between the folds
of the roll, and the light caused itself, I do not know how, I
merely took care to make the film opaque.’’ This communication
came from ‘‘Little Stasia,’’ Tomzyck’s control, whom
Ochorowicz suspected for a long time to be the medium’s double.
Continuing his experiments, Ochorowicz tried to discover
the thickness of the etheric hand. He found that, when materialized,
the hand was less than a millimeter thick, and that it was
at least very probable that it was flat, and could therefore find
room in a space too narrow for a normal hand. The same experiments
also assured him that the double could, by autosuggestion,
diminish the size of its hand if it met with obstacles (see
Projection of the Double
Supposed proof of the double is its experimental projection,
often described as ‘‘astral’’ projection, but now classified as
‘‘out-of-the-body’’ travel. Reportedly the usual method of such
experiments is to decide before going to sleep to visit someone
during the night.
One case, reported in Phantasms of the Living by Edmund
Gurney, F. W. H. Myers, and Frank Podmore (1886) is corroborated
by the testimony of Stainton Moses, the ‘‘Z’’ of the
‘‘One evening early last year, I resolved to try to appear to
Z, at some miles distance. I did not inform him beforehand of
the intended experiment; but retired to rest shortly before
midnight with thoughts intently fixed on Z, with whose room
and surroundings, however, I was quite unacquainted. I soon
fell asleep, and awoke next morning unconscious of anything
having taken place. On seeing Z a few days afterwards, I inquired
‘Did anything happen at your rooms on Saturday
night’ ‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘a great deal happened. I had been sitting
over the fire with M. smoking and chatting. About 1230
he rose to leave, and I let him out myself. I returned to the fire
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Double
to finish my pipe, when I saw you sitting in the chair just vacated
by him. I looked intently at you, and then took up a newspaper
to assure myself that I was not dreaming, but on laying it
down I saw you still there. While I gazed, without speaking, you
faded away.’ ’’
The Rev. P. H. Newnham, also quoted in Phantasms of the
Living, had a singularly vivid dream. He saw the family of his
fiancée, chatted with the father and mother in his dream, bade
them goodnight, took a candle, and went off to bed. The he
‘‘On arriving in the hall, I perceived that my fiancée had
been detained downstairs, and was only then near the top of the
staircase. I rushed upstairs, overtook her on the top step, and
passed my two arms round her waist, under her arms, from behind.
Although I was carrying my candle in my left hand, when
I ran upstairs, this did not, in my dream, interfere with this gesture.
On this I woke, and a clock in the house struck 10 almost
immediately afterwards. So strong was the impression of the
dream that I wrote a detailed account of it the next morning
to my fiancée. Crossing my letter, not in answer to it, I received
a letter from the lady in question ‘Were you thinking about me,
very specially, last night just about 10 o’clock For, as I was
going upstairs to bed, I distinctly heard your footsteps on the
stairs, and felt you put your arms around my waist.’ ’’
The methods of experimental projection are discussed in
Hector Durville’s Le Phantôme des vivants (1909) and in Charles
Lancelin’s Méthode de dédoublement personel (1913). Another contribution
to the subject is in The Projection of the Astral Body,
(1929) by Sylvan J. Muldoon and Hereward Carrington. According
to this book special exercises are necessary to retain
consciousness during projection. Reportedly projection nearly
always occurs in the dream state. Muldoon claims that ‘‘what is
thought to be an ‘aura,’ resting above sleepers and seen by
seers, is in reality the etheric body, out of coincidence a few
inches. As a rule, in normal persons, consciousness is lost before
this phenomenon begins.’’
The astral and physical bodies are joined by a cord that may
be the ‘‘silver cord’’ in Ecclesiastes (1216). According to Muldoon
and others who claim to have seen it, this cord or cable,
which is similar to a newborn’s umbilical cord, is attached at
various parts of the head or, according to some claims, at the
solar plexus; it is a whitish gray color, elastic, and similar to a
single strand of cobweb when extended.
Supposedly when slightly out of coincidence, the cord is the
diameter of a silver dollar, yet the aura surrounding it gives the
impression that it is about six inches thick. It is the conductor
of cosmic energy into the physical body, for which the astral
body acts as condenser. It delivers ‘‘the breath of life’’ while the
finer body is projected.
The awakening of consciousness during any unconscious
projection thrusts the astral body back into the physical. Adolphe
d’Assier’s Posthumous Humanity (1887) contains material
about repercussions in general and those claimed to have occurred
in witchcraft.
Spontaneous Projection
Supposedly in the majority of cases, the projection of the
double is involuntary and due to emotional stress. ‘‘Examples
have come to my knowledge,’’ wrote Jung Stilling, at an early
age, ‘‘in which sick persons, overcome with an unspeakable
longing to see some absent friend, have fallen into a swoon and
during that swoon have appeared to the distant object of their
Believers claim danger, anxiety, and mental agony are
causes of projection. In Phantasms of the Living more than 40
cases of apparitions of the drowned or nearly drowned are
cited. Sometimes they remembered seeing near relations who
experienced a visual or auditive sensation or felt sudden fear
coupled with the idea of their relative’s danger.
Mental preoccupation may also be sufficient to result in such
an apparition. According to J. G. Swift M’Neill, M.P., the double
of T. P. O’Connor was seen in 1897 in the British House of
Commons in his accustomed place, while he was on his way to
Ireland to visit a dying parent. There are other cases recorded
of members of Parliament being seen in the House of Commons
when actually elsewhere.
The so-called premonitions of approach belong to this
group. In a letter written from St. Petersburg in 1865 (published
in Mrs. Home’s biography, p. 240) the famous medium
D. D. Home told the story of how his own double was seen by
Count Alexis Tolstoy at the railroad station three hours before
his actual arrival. In the hotel he found a note waiting from
Count Tolstoy expressing joy at his return, and he was mildly
reproached by the countess, who also saw him, for not seeming
to know her at the station.
The following experience of the poet Goethe is narrated in
Phantasms of the Living
‘‘Wolfgang Goethe was walking one rainy summer evening
with his friend K., returning from the Belvedere at Weimar.
Suddenly the poet paused as if he saw someone and was about
to speak to him. K. noticed nothing. Suddenly Goethe exclaimed
‘My God! If I were not sure that my friend Frederick
is at this next moment at Frankfort I should swear that it is he!’
The next moment he burst out laughing. ‘But it is he—my
friend Frederick. You here at Weimar But why are you dressed
so—in your dressing gown, with your nightcap and my slippers
here on the public road’ K., as I have just said, saw absolutely
nothing and was alarmed, thinking that the poet had lost his
wits. But Goethe, thinking only of what he say, cried out again
‘Frederick, what has become of you My dear K., did you notice
where that person went who came to meet us just now’ K., stupefied,
did not answer. Then the poet, looking all round, said
in a dreamy tone ‘Yes, I understand . . . it is a vision. What can
it mean though Has my friend suddenly died Was it his spirit’
Thereupon Goethe returned to the house and found Frederick
there already. His hair stood on end. ‘Avaunt, you phantom!’
he exclaimed, pale as death. ‘But my friend,’
remonstrated Frederick, ‘is this the welcome that you give to
your best friend’ ‘Ah, this time,’ exclaimed the poet, with such
emotion, ‘it is not the spirit, it is a being of flesh and blood.’
The friends embraced warmly. Frederick explained that he had
arrived at Goethe’s lodging soaked by the rain, had dressed
himself in the poet’s dry clothing and having fallen asleep in
his chair, had dreamed that he had gone out to meet him and
that Goethe had greeted him with the words ‘You here! At Weimar
What! With your dressing gown, your nightcap and my
slippers here on the public road’ From this time the great poet
believed in a future life.’’
Supposedly sometimes the appearance serves a purpose.
James Coates quoted a story from T. P.’s Weekly, for which the
editor vouched, of a woman who was on her way to Cambridge
to meet her fiancé. At every station where the train stopped she
saw the apparition of her fiancé, beckoning her to get out. Finally
she told her traveling companion, a gentleman, what she
saw. He advised her to get out at the next station if she saw the
apparition again. The woman saw the apparition again. She got
out at once. So did the gentleman. Shortly afterward the train
wrecked and the car in which they had been sitting was demolished.
During the time her fiancé was sound asleep in the waiting
room at Cambridge, and did not remember having
dreamed anything unusual.
Sometimes it is a state of illness that facilitates projection.
Andrew Lang saw his friend Q. opening his garden gate and
coming up the path, which led toward the window where he was
writing, but when he got up to let him in there was nobody
there. The same day he learned that Q. was ill in bed at the time
his double was seen.
There are instances that indicate that projection may be the
result of an accident or a violent impact. William Denton quoted
the statement of a man who fell from the scaffolding of a
building ‘‘As I struck the ground I suddenly bounded up,
seeming to have a new body, and to be standing among the
Double Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
spectators looking at my old one. I saw them trying to bring it
to. I made several fruitless efforts to re-enter my body, and finally
Quite often there seems to be no known reason for the temporary
separation. A. N. Aksakof told of the story of Emilie
Sagée, a French schoolmistress in Livonia. For a period of 18
months her double was seen, sometimes at her side, making the
same gestures, sometimes out in the garden while Sagée was in
the room. The double did not always imitate her movements;
sometimes it remained seated while she rose from her chair. As
the double became clearer and more consistent, Sagée became
more rigid and feeble. She was always unconscious of what happened.
Seeing One’s Own Double
Dr. Paul Sollier in his Les Phénomènes d’autoscope (1903) gave
a summary of the cases of ‘‘vision de soi’’ of Goethe, Alfred de
Musset, Shelley, de Maupassant; of the experiences of Drs.
Lassegue, Féré, Rouginovitch, and Lemaitre; and of 12 of his
own cases.
Goethe’s experience was described in Aus meinem Leben,
Dichtung und Wahrheit (1811–22)
‘‘I rode now on the footpath toward Drusenheim, and there
one of the strangest presentiments surprised me. I saw myself
coming to meet myself, on the same way, on horseback, but in
a garment such as I had never worn. It was of light grey mingled
with gold. As soon as I had aroused myself from this
dream, the vision entirely disappeared. Remarkable, nevertheless,
it is that eight years afterward I found myself on the same
road, intending to visit Frederika once more, and in the same
garment which I had dreamed about and which I now wore, not
out of choice but by accident. This wonderful hallucination had
a quieting effect on me.’’
Comparing a large number of cases, Sollier found that the
apparition had many degrees—from the simple impression of
being in one’s own presence to a vision as if seen in a mirror.
Any disturbance would make it disappear. When the phantom
had different attributes—was smaller in stature, wore different
clothes—it might persist for hours in varying intensity. The apparition
appeared usually during the evening hours, in states
of deep meditation, self-concentration, or under anesthesia.
The distance at which it was seen varied from a few yards to
close proximity. Sometimes it walked before the subject and
vanished all at once; sometimes it turned about or moved to the
side and imitated his movements. In most cases it was silent.
Occasionally there was a dialogue and difference of opinion between
phantom and self.
Exchange of Consciousness
Sollier explained these experiences as hallucinations resulting
from a loss of sensibility. In discussing the question in the
Revue métapsychique (May–June 1930), Eugèn Osty states that
in some cases there is an exchange of consciousness, the double
becoming the thinking self.
Tradition says that a vision of self is a sign of approaching
death. Queen Elizabeth I of England was said to have been
warned of her death by the apparition of her own double. It has
been suggested that such cases, by a invention of time, may be
phantasmal appearances after death.
In a few instances on record, the double was apparently
solid; it could hold a hymn book in the church and could speak.
The double of Ophelia Corralès of San Jose, Costa Rica, was
heard to sing while the girl was somewhere far away and had
no knowledge of her appearance. However, this medium was
accused of fraud.
Memories of out-of-the-body travel experiences were reported
by many mediums. Emanuel Swedenborg, Andrew
Jackson Davis, D. D. Home, Stainton Moses, Elizabeth
d’Esperance, Gladys Osborne Leonard, and many others have
published descriptions. Cora L. Richmond was said to have remained
projected for many days. Supposedly she could perceive
and receive the answer to every question—even before its
complete formation in thought.
Materialization and the Double
The phantom hands and limbs seen in séances are often believed
to be the duplication of the medium. Paraffin molds
matched a materialized leg of William Eglinton and impressions
of a face and fingers in putty matched Eusapia Palladino
(see plastics).
According to occult philosophy, the double is to be distinguished
from the spirit or soul. The double is a vehicle of the
spirit and, like the physical body, will later be cast off and deteriorate.
Do animals have doubles Elliott O’Donnell in his Animal
Ghosts (1913) asserts that they do. He states that some friends
of his had a cat that was frequently seen in two places at the
same time; further, he affirms that there are phantasms of both
living and dead dogs in just the same proportion as there are
phantasms of both living and dead human beings. He claims
of a Virginia lady who had a horse that frequently appeared simultaneously
in two places.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the subject of the human
double and astral (or etheric) projection has been considered
under the designation ‘‘out-of-body experience’’ (OBE). The
British scientist Robert Crookall collated and classified hundreds
of cases of OBEs and various parapsychologists have conducted
experiments in the field, including Charles T. Tart and
Karlis Osis. In 1956 Hornell Hart made a survey of reported
apparitions of the dead, which he compared with apparitions
of living persons when having OBEs.
In 1932 Eileen J. Garrett, who established the Parapsychology
Foundation in New York, took part in a successful scientific
experiment that involved projecting her double from New
York to Iceland under test conditions. This case is described in
Garrett’s book My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship
In the 1970s psychic Ingo Swann worked with Karlis Osis at
the American Society for Psychical Research on a series of experiments
aimed at demonstrating the existence of the double.
Swann, seated in a chair and attached by electrodes to a monitoring
device, attempted to project his double to a hidden target.
The vision of the double, as opposed to simple clairvoyance,
was determined by the angle of vision at which the target
objects were viewed. These tests proved most successful and
provide some of the best data available on the existence of a
human double. Robert A. Monroe, also known for his OBEs,
has allowed himself to be tested on various occasions.
Battersby, H. F. Prevost. Man Outside Himself. London, 1942.
Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1969.
Black, David. Ekstasy Out-of-the-body Experiences. New York
Bobbs-Merrill, 1976.
Crookall, Robert. The Study & Practice of Astral Projection.
London, 1961. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1966.
Fox, Oliver [Hugh G. Callaway]. Astral Projection. London,
1939. Reprint, New York University Books, 1962.
Garrett, Eileen J. My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship.
New York Oquaga Press, 1938. Reprint, New York
Arno Press, 1975.
Green, Celia E. Out-of-the-Body Experiences. Oxford Institute
of Psychophysical Research, 1968. Reprint, New York Ballantine
Books, 1973.
Greenhouse, Herbert B. Astral Journey Evidence for Out-ofthe-Body
Experiences from Socrates to the ESP Laboratory. Garden
City, N.Y. Doubleday, 1975.
Monroe, Robert A. Journeys Out of the Body. Garden City,
N.Y. Doubleday, 1971.
Muldoon, Sylvan J., and Hereward Carrington. The Projection
of the Astral Body. London Rider & Co., 1929.
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Rogo, D. Scott. Welcoming Silence; A Study of Psychical Phenomena
and Survival of Death. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1973.
Shirley, Ralph. The Mystery of the Human Double. London,
1938. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1965.
Smith, Susy. The Enigma of Out-of-Body Travel. Garrell Publications,
1965. Reprint, New York New English Library, 1968.
———. Out-of-Body Experiences for the Millions. New York
Dell, 1968.
Walker, George B. Beyond the Body The Human Double and the
Astral Planes. London Boston, 1974.