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Hoffman, E T A – BMJ Article by Dr Jean Lhermitte - Visual Hallucination Of The Self

Identifier

025299

Type of Spiritual Experience

Dream
Vision
Hallucination

Number of hallucinations: 1

Background

A description of the experience

BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL LONDON SATURDAY MARCH 3 1951 - VISUAL HALLUCINATION OF THE SELF BY JEAN LHERMITTE, M.D.  Honorary Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Paris

The "Double" in Literature

The phenomenon of the double as we find it in literature has long been considered to be a purely intellectual notion or the result of imagination. But in fact all we know to-day shows that nothing is created that has not been more or less deeply felt.

Many are the writers, novelists, philosophers, or poets who have used the image of the double in their work.

First comes Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of ancient Greece, who tells the story of a man who could not go for a walk without seeing his own image coming towards him. Wigan and Michea give similar examples of subjects permanently followed by their shadows or doubles.  I have already mentioned de Musset.  The double is also used in

  • Tales of Hoffman in (story of the lost reflection, for example),
  • The Classical Stories of Chamisso (Peter Schlemyl),
  • Hans Andersen's Tales,
  • Hesperus (Jean Paul Richter),
  • Le Dissipateur (Ferdinand Raimund),
  • Notturno (Gabriele d'Annunzio),
  • The Portrait of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde); also in
  • the Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (especially the singular one of William Wilson),
  • Steinbeck's Great Valley, and more recently
  • Robert Hichens.

All these authors have introduced the character of "the double " to give more colour to the tales and to stimulate the reader's imagination by showing him the strangeness of life and the complexity of the human mind.

Literary Genius and Mental Abnormality

No doubt one can object that if so many authors have indulged in a description of the phenomenon one cannot consider them all to be ill or insane. Although I do not want to generalize to excess, let me remind you that all the writers who best described the vision of the double were singularly abnormal.

Hoffmann, the son of a hysteric, used to see ghosts, and wake his wife so that she could witness his visions. He was tortured by the thought of death, his mind deteriorated, and he ended in general paralysis.

 

The source of the experience

Hoffmann, E. T. A.

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Doppelganger

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References