Metaphysical, medical and media representations of the Double?
September 30, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Looking for instances, whether fictional, religious or otherwise, of the idea of the "double".

Some examples might be the Tibetan idea of tulpas or Castaneda's of the dream body, or even popular entertainment representations like the Matrix. Accounts of people actually experiencing these sorts of phenomena, whether in a spirtual or psychiatric context, would be particularly welcome. Any format really, aside from journals without open-access. Thanks!
posted by Lorin to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Jose Saramago's novel The Double.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 1:28 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Doppelgängers and, if you're looking to be more specific, Vesuvan Doppelganger.

Doctor Who SPOILERS - Season 6

There are also something called Gangers in Doctor Who which might be related to what you're looking for (in this episode).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:29 PM on September 30, 2012

Dostoevsky's short story The Double.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 1:35 PM on September 30, 2012

Dostoyevsky's The Double is quite interesting. I'm pretty sure Philip K. Dick has some stories with doubles. There's also Nabokov's Despair.
posted by juiceCake at 1:41 PM on September 30, 2012

How about Charles Williams' Descent into Hell?
posted by UniversityNomad at 1:55 PM on September 30, 2012

Also, Alison Milbank has written on Dopplegaengers from an English professor perspective (her academic specialty is Gothic fiction, as I understand it). If you didn't want to read whole books, she's written shorter pieces on this that are publicly accessible, e.g. this one in the Guardian.
posted by UniversityNomad at 1:59 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's always The Man In The Iron Mask.
posted by bq at 1:59 PM on September 30, 2012

Der Doppelgänger by Franz Schubert, as sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Also related: the concept of the alter ego, best shown in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
posted by doreur at 2:02 PM on September 30, 2012

Scandinavian folklore has the vardøger or vardøgr, a "spirit predecessor" or phantom double of a person. Here's a modern-day account of one, from the Journal of Scientific Exploration.
posted by daisyk at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The 19th-century novel Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg involves a double. The context is both religious and psychological/psychoanalytic.

Another 19th-century novel is The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins. That kind of involves a double or at least the idea of doubles, but not as directly as the Hogg.
posted by désoeuvrée at 2:06 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Oops, didn't mean to post that yet.) It could be argued that in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the monster is Victor's double/alter ego. And the poem V. by Tony Harrison has a character who is actually the speaker's alter ego.
posted by désoeuvrée at 2:13 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

"William Wilson," by Edgar Allan Poe.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:13 PM on September 30, 2012

Aranofsky's The Black Swan
posted by dhruva at 2:14 PM on September 30, 2012

Best answer: Freud thought real-life narcissists always like to think they have a double, whether in the form of another person or as a split personality. Excerpt from Gry Faurholt's "Self as Other: The Doppelgänger":

"when referencing Freud’s influential analysis of the doppelgänger as ‘the return of the repressed’, it is important to note that he meant specifically the repressed self-love of primary narcissism, which returns in the uncanny shape of an identical alter ego as a symptom of the failure to invest one’s libido in ‘proper’ object-love (Freud, 1919).

This narcissism is suggested in the typical scenes in which a protagonist confuses his own mirror image with the identical doppelgänger, and in his fluctuating feelings of attraction and aggression towards the other self; a strangely intimate relationship, faintly homoerotic, yet increasingly antagonistic.

So, the Freudian approach might after all suggest a thematic divergence between the two types of doppelgängers where the identity crisis experienced by the protagonist is either due to a narcissistic erotic-aggressive tension in relation to his self-image, as in the case of the identical alter ego, or stems from an ambivalence about demonizing the socially unacceptable side of his self, as in the case of the split personality."
posted by doreur at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2012

In Japanese mythology, A kitsune can shapeshift to duplicate a particular human and take their place.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2012

In the book "Who censored Roger Rabbit?", toons have the ability to create duplicates of themselves to serve as stunt doubles for risky scenes. The doubles usually only last a few minutes and then collapse into dust.

Roger Rabbit is the murder victim in the book, but he leaves behind a double who works with Eddie Valiant to solve the crime. This particular double lasts a couple of days.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:31 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

This encyclopedia article considers under the heading "Bilocation" both the Catholic Eucharist and the mystical phenomenon of bilocation. It concludes that they are not really "doubling" in a strict sense, but certainly they are related to ideas of doubling.
posted by Jahaza at 3:01 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a very full area and there is a lot to read.

In the psychiatric context, you might want to read up on Capgras Syndrome, the psychotic delusion that everyone around you is a fake, for example that all your friends and family have been replaced by impostors who imitate them perfectly but are not them.
posted by grobstein at 3:49 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure if it is quite what you are looking for, and also a tad spoilerific. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin deals in part with the idea of the double as the shadow self. This gets quite explicit towards the end of the book.
posted by arha at 3:59 PM on September 30, 2012

Conrad's The Secret Sharer. The narrator calls the nameless other his "double".
posted by paduasoy at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2012

The inhabitants of the Black Lodge in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks":
The presence of doppelgängers, or "evil" aspects of a person's personality, is possibly the most unsettling feature of the lodge. Doppelgangers are identical to their real world counterparts, with the exception of glassy-colored eyes. The full function and position of the Doppelgangers in the Black Lodge is unknown, though there is a hierarchy implied for inhabitants of the Black Lodge: "inhabiting spirits," the strongest being BOB, and Doppelgangers who are represented by The Man from Another Place.
posted by Dean King at 4:17 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Student of Prague (1913 film)
posted by beyond_pink at 5:57 PM on September 30, 2012

Best answer: I can't believe no one put this here yet, but Lolita. William Wilson by Poe, other Nabokov novels, such as Despair. Tsitsi Dangaremba's Nervous Conditions; Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory; Ben Okri's The Famished Road; Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night. I can go on and on if you want specific titles. Please PM me if you do.

Conceptually, the Nigerian idea of the ogbanje is the spirit child that gets reborn over and over (with or without evil intention).

If you want a definitive read on variations of the double, check out Gordon Slethaug's The Play of the Double in Postmodern Fiction. The first chapter neatly outlines lots of the varitaions of this theme.
posted by mrfuga0 at 6:32 PM on September 30, 2012

I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the main character is married in the present to Frank Randall, but when she stumbles through a portal to the 1700s she meets her husband's evil ancestor Captain Jack Randall.
posted by kbar1 at 6:35 PM on September 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks very much, everyone. As my knowledge of the idea mostly comes from video games and pulpy books about the occult, I really appreciate the wide variety of suggestions.
posted by Lorin at 6:42 PM on September 30, 2012

3 of the 5 live-action Star Trek series have had episodes featuring the so-called "Mirror Universe," in which more or less all of the characters have "evil" doubles. The iconic ...erm, icon for Mirror Universe is the goatee, which is the only thing that separates Mr. Spock from Mirror Spock. Mirror Universe is one in which the only merit is the ambition for money and power, and the willingness to screw over anyone to get them. It was some 1960's writer's really subtle jab at capitalism, or maybe just Hollywood.

Mirror Universe was revisited on ST: Deep Space Nine and ST: Enterprise (which had a beautiful two-parter set entirely in Mirror Univ. that predicated the events of the Old Series episode, and included a hilariously dire alternative credits sequence) as well, but not TNG or Voyager.

Also, "The Secret Sharer" by Conrad, mentioned above, is one of a few twilight-zone-esque stories by Conrad, and has a slightly ambiguous title, and is also a wonderful read for any nautical fiction fan on that basis alone. Bless my soul, I wholeheartedly endorse this example.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:17 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed Hunter's Run by by Daniel Abraham, Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin.
posted by fullerenedream at 8:29 PM on September 30, 2012

There's also that famous line in Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal (and later T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land) "Hypocrite reader! My double! My brother!" (or alternately, "Hypocrite reader! My alias! My twin!," depending on the translation). I actually have no idea what it means though, or whether there's some kind of topos of the reader as a double, either in Baudelaire or elsewhere in literature. Maybe someone else knows about this.
posted by désoeuvrée at 2:03 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stephen King and Peter Straub's The Talisman is a great yarn that uses this idea to fairly original effect.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:33 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Daphne du Maurier's novel The Scapegoat features two characters that appear to be each other's double.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:41 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Wrong Man, North By Northwest, - Hitchcock movies which deal with mis-identified doubles.
posted by Gungho at 6:39 AM on October 1, 2012

The Wrong Man, North By Northwest, - Hitchcock movies which deal with mis-identified doubles.

And let's not forget Vertigo.
posted by grobstein at 12:55 PM on October 1, 2012

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