Lhermitte, Professor Jean - Visual Hallucination of The Self – 08 A Perception without Object
Type of Spiritual Experience
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
A Perception without Object
As I have told you, the first cases of autoscopy recorded were a psychological problem that the authors in the last century could not possibly solve.' 'For some, however, the apparition of the double meant a perturbation of that kind of sensibility by which we perceive with great difficulty the existence and the workings of our body. French psycho-physiologists have given the name of "cenesthesia" to this sensibility. It is only with the works of Henry Head and of Paul Schilder that one can begin to understand the phenomenon of autoscopy.
Henry Head and Gordon Holmes saw that in our sensorimotor structure it was necessary to take into consideration the postural attitudes, because it is to them we owe the knowledge we have of the position of our limbs, without which all voluntary action would be impossible. Making use of this knowledge, Paul Schilder wrote a small but very useful book called Das Korper Schema. As a matter of fact, this title was badly chosen, because it is not a body scheme we possess, but more exactly an image of our body. So when Schilder took refuge in the United States he revised his original work and called it in a more justified way " The Image of the Body," or " The Bodily Image."
What is clear from all the investigations relating to the body image is that we possess at the boundary of our consciousness the notion of our physical personality an idea, in the Greek philosophers' sense, of our body.
If this image can disappear or be distorted through various diseases of the nervous system, it can also release itself partly from its material frame to become a hallucination-in other words, a perception without object.
It is not necessary for me to add that the knowledge of autoscopy and its psycho-physiological mechanism has enabled us to understand the meaning of many psychic manifestations which remained mysterious to our predecessors, and that, thanks to clinical data, the inner psychology of a number of writers has been revealed.
Thus we come back to a basic principle to which I am fond of referring-namely, that all progress in our knowledge in psychopathology is also progress in our knowledge of man himself, which is the supreme aim of science.