- The term autoscopy comes from the Greek words autos (self) and skopeô (I am looking at). It translates roughly as 'seeing oneself' and is used to denote the act of perceiving a hallucinated mirror image of oneself, viewed from the position of one's own body. The term was introduced in or shortly before 1891 by the French physician and mesmerist Charles Féré (1852-1907). But the phenomenon itself has been described throughout written medical history. Traditionally the book Meteorology by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) is regarded as the first known text to address the subject of autoscopy avant la lettre. As Aristotle wrote, "Air must be condensed to act as a mirror, though it often gives a reflection even uncondensed when the sight is weak. Such was the case of a man whose sight was faint and indistinct. He always saw an image in front of him and facing him as he walked. This was because his sight was reflected back to him. Its morbid condition made it so weak and delicate that the air close by acted as a mirror, just as distant and condensed air normally does, and his sight could not push it back." What is now called autoscopy was referred to by the French physician and psychologist Paul Auguste Sollier (1861-1933) as external autoscopy. Using the body's boundaries as a guiding principle, Sollier distinguished external autoscopy from *internal autoscopy, reserving the latter term for a * visual hallucination depicting the body's internal organs. In (external) autoscopy the resulting image is called an autoscopic hallucination. Sollier classified auto-scopic hallucinations (both internal and external) as variants of the group of * coenesthetic hallucinations. Today both are commonly regarded as belonging to the class of *visual hallucinations (although other sensory modalities may be involved as well, and the purported perceptual quality of autoscopic phenomena has been disputed by some) or to the group of * reduplicative hallucinations. The duration of autoscopic hallucinations tends to be short, on the order of seconds to several minutes. They may or may not be accompanied by other types of * visual hallucinations and/or *illusions. As an isolated symptom, autoscopy would seem to be rare. In accordance with a further subdivision made by Sollier, one may speak of * positive autoscopy in instances where the hallucinated image of a *double is present and of*negative autoscopy in instances where the individual affected is unable to perceive his or her mirror image when looking into a reflecting surface. Sollier drew up a subclassification of positive autoscopic phenomena, according to the degree to which the hallucination displays the physical characteristics of the person affected. He used the term * specular autoscopy to denote autoscopic hallucinations identical to the individual's physical appearance. He used the term * dissimilar autoscopy to denote a variant in which the hallucinated individual is intuitively identified as oneself, in spite of the lack of an exact resemblance to the individual's present physical characteristics (i.e. what is now generally referred to as * heautoscopy). A third and final variant of positive autoscopy was referred to as * coenesthetic autoscopy. However, the latter phenomenon would seem to fall outside the class of * hallucinations proper, being characterized by the sensed presence of one's * double rather than by its hallucinated presence. Pathophysiologically, autoscopy is associated primarily with aberrant activity in a region located at the temporo-parieto-occipital junction. Etiologically, it is associated with a variety of conditions, including epileptic seizures, migraine, infections, neoplasms, a clinical diagnosis of * schizophrenia, and a clinical diagnosis of * dissociative disorder. When autoscopy is attributable to an organic disorder it is referred to as * symptomatic autoscopy. It can also be idiopathic or self-induced, as seen in mystics such as the Spaniard Abraham Abulafia (12401291?). In the latter case the term * idiopathic autoscopy is used. There is considerable overlap between the literature on autoscopy and that on the *doppelgänger phenomenon. In the paranormal literature, autoscopy is intimately connected with the notion of bilocation, i.e. the alleged capacity of certain human beings to exist in two places simultaneously. In some versions of the bilocation hypothesis, the second body is regarded as a copy of the original physical body. In other versions, the second body is considered a so-called astral projection of the self, i.e. an 'ethereal' component of the self.ReferencesAristotle (1995). Meteorology .In: The complete works of Aristotle. The revised Oxford translation. Volume 1. Bollingen Series LXXI-2. Sixth printing, with corrections. Edited by Barnes, J. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Féré, Ch. (1891). Note sur les hallucinations autoscopiques ou spéculaires et sur les hallucinations altruistes. Comptes Rendues Heb-domedaires des Séances et Mémoirs de la Société de la Biologie, 3, 451-453.Sollier, P. (1903). Les phénomènes d'autoscopie. Paris: Félix Alcan.Staudenmaier, L. (1912). Die Magie als experimentelle Naturwissenschaft. Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft.Dening, T.R., Berrios, G.E. (1994). Autoscopic phenomena. British Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 808-817.Brugger, P., Blanke, O., Regard, M., Bradford, D.T., Landis, Th. (2006). Polyopic heau-toscopy: Case report and review of the literature. Cortex, 42, 666-674.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.