Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
The topic of a double with physical properties was the main concept discussed by Adolphe D’Assier (1827–1889), once member of the Académie des Sciences de Bordeaux, and known for his writings about matters such as grammar and language. His book Posthumous Humanity: A Study of Phantoms (1887) was translated from the original French edition Essai sur l’Humanité Posthume et le Spiritisme (1883).
In the book, D’Assier speculated on the posthumous personality as manifesting with phenomena such as apparitions, and argued that during life there was a principle that could leave the body and that could continue after physical death. Some cases of doubling during life, the author argued, were remembered by the experiencer, but others were forgotten.
D’Assier speculated about this principle, which he believed had physical properties. He wrote:
“The child who comes out of the body of its mother is attached to her by a vascular system which brought it strength and life. It is the same in this doubling; the human phantom is constantly in immediate relation with the body whence it has wandered for some moments. Invisible bonds, and of a vascular nature, so intimately connect the two extremities of the chain, that any accident happening to one of the two poles reacts (se répercute) instantaneously upon the other (p. 51) . . . . The phantom possesses a circulatory apparatus as well as the body of which it is the double. Invisible capillaries unite the one to the other, and the whole forms a system so homogeneous, so closely connected, that the slightest prick received by the phantom at once reacts . . . on all the vascular apparatus up to the extremity of the chain, and blood flows immediately. . . .” (p. 57)
D’Assier presented many cases of apparitions in his book. In his view, the phenomenon of duplication “is observed only in some organizations exceptionally gifted in the matter of sensitiveness; and this explains its extreme rarity” (p. 250). The posthumous apparition, he believed, was the same entity manifested in doublings and apparitions of the living:
“The living spectre and the spectre from beyond the tomb, having the same origin, can present in their manifestation the same common characteristics. Such are the noises that occur in certain habitations, where the chairs, furniture, crockery, &c., are seen to change place or to shake under the impulse of an invisible hand” (p. 256)
This was reprinted with permission from the Journal of Scientific Exploration 2011, Vol. 25.