A phenomenon that may be closely related to the projection of the astral self in out-of-body
experiences is that of the appearance of one's own double. Goethe (1749–1832), a German poet, had the astonishing experience of meeting himself as he rode away from Strassburg. The phantom wore a pike grey cloak with gold lace that Goethe had never seen before. Eight years later, as Goethe was on the same road going to visit Frederika, it occurred to him that he was dressed in precisely the same cloak that his phantom had been wearing on that earlier occasion.
In 1929, an archbishop wrote to Sir Oliver Lodge to tell him of a most peculiar incident which had occurred one evening when he had returned to his home feeling tired. He sat down in a favorite easy chair, and immediately fell asleep. Then, he wrote in the letter, he was sharply aroused in about a quarter of an hour (as he perceived by the clock). As he awoke he saw an apparition, luminous, vaporous, wonderfully real of himself, looking interestedly and delightedly at himself. After the archbishop and himself had looked at each other for the space of about five seconds, the ghostly self vanished for a few seconds, and then returned even clearer than before.
Such weird phenomena are termed "auto-scopic hallucinations." They appear to serve no dual purpose, such as providing a warning or disclosing valuable information, but only seem to present a projection of one's own body image. One sees oneself, as it were, without a mirror.
Dr. Edward Podolsky has compiled a number of cases of people who have reported seeing their own ghosts, and he recorded the experience of a Mr. Harold C. of Chicago, Illinois, who returned home after a hard day at the office with a splitting migraine. As he sat down to dinner, he saw, sitting opposite him, an exact replica of himself. This astonishing double repeated every movement he made during the entire course of the meal. Since that time, Mr. C. has seen his double on a number of occasions—each time after an attack of migraine.
As Mrs. Jeanie P. was applying makeup, she saw an exact duplicate of herself also touching up her features. Mrs. P. reached out to touch the double, and the image reached out to touch her. Mrs. P. actually felt her face being touched by her mysterious double.
There are two main theories about the cause of autoscopy. One theory regards the phenomenon as being due to the result of some irritating process in the brain, particularly of the parietotemporal-occipital area (the visual area). A more psychological theory sees in autoscopy the projection of memory pictures. Certain pictures are stored in the memory and when conditions of stress or other unusual psychological situations arise these memories may be projected outside the body as real images.