One person at multiple places at the same time. That doesn’t make sense in the natural laws that apply to our physical world. Yet our culture is populated with doubles or Doppelgängers. This applies both for film and literature but also for folk stories and the wide range of true stories, which tell an alleged truth.
The Master Of The Double: David Lynch
The double motive is overtly present in David Lynch movies. However, the use of doubles varies. That is helpful for a distinction between existing ideas of doubles, alter egos, and split souls.
The most overwhelming manifestation of a doppelganger is a person who can appear in different places at the same time. The Mystery Man in Lost Highway tells the main character, Fred, that he can be both at a party and his house at the same time. If it wasn’t the Mystery Man scary in itself, it is this quality which makes him terrifying.
The double, which can appear in different places, is one of the most common motives in horror. It is not a projection, not a fantasy and not a misunderstanding. One of the most horrifying ideas is if you discover that you have a double that does things without your knowledge. The idea of having a dopplegänger that leads an autonomous life is a disturbing revelation.
Apart from that, we have variations of conception of doubles and alter egos. Sometimes, it’s two people, which seem to be one and the same, or persons which resemble each other. There is a mysterious connection between people, we can’t easily grasp. Again, David Lynch’s movies and series are a good source for research: Alice and Renee or Fred and Pete in Lost Highway. Betty and Diane or Rita and Camilla in Mulholland Drive are further examples. Twin Peaks is populated with doubles and Alter Egos. In Twin Peaks – The Return, the world seems crowded with doubles. Kyle McLachlan, has three roles: Agent Cooper, Dougie and the dangerous Mr. C. Whereas Mr. C is a doppelganger of Agent Cooper, the paddington-like Dougie is a tulpa.
Tulpas are thought forms. They are real in a way, but they are not humans. Tulpas can be created. Lynch and writer Mark Frost borrowed that concept from Buddhism, mysticism and theosophy: It means a human form often created through spiritual practice or concentration (Wikipedia) but also unintentionally. The tulpa is more than a spectre, “it is capable of independent action, with a persistent personality and identity” (wiktionary)
According to Tracking the Tulpa (University Of California Press) “the tulpa was first described by Alexandra David-Néel (1868–1969) in Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929)” The origins are a bit murky and it exists mostly in Western paranormal lore. Not much evidence here is available. If it would be easy to create a doppelganger tulpa we would have seen certainly many criminal cases where a perpetrator used a tulpa as alibi.
The deeper dimension of the Doppelganger motive.
The unexplainable leads us to deep existential and philosophical questions. There is, of course, a psychological dimension here too. There are many doppelganger reports in personal accounts. When people see themselves, it might be an autoscopic hallucination. That might happen in extreme circumstances or as a psychological illness. Maybe the double appears as a sort of warning. Or it could be a split in personality.
In religious or superstitious belief, a doppelganger is a shape-shifter or a trickster demon imitating yourself.
The most fascinating aspect is what it tells us about reality itself. We need to make a choice. Do we stick to the laws of nature and explain it away psychologically, or do we believe in the soul?
If we have a soul, there must be higher realms beyond ordinary reality, and the doppelganger motive has a much deeper meaning.
There could be circumstances where we lose our soul or parts of our soul and the other half of the self tampers around zombie-like.
In my story, The Forest Dark, a person loses their soul deep in the woods. Could it happen in real life?
There is not a big chance to come by with a sort of proof. We have to stick with concepts which are familiar to many people. One idea is the concept of a higher self which is not identical with our physical self or ego. From the hindu philosophy comes the idea of Atman, an universal self, that is “identical with the eternal core of the personality”. In that philosophy the individual soul is the jiva-atman, which is also eternal but trapped in the physical body. The interesting question is does the individual soul recognise the universal atman? The idea of that philosopher is that atman is the opposite of ego, “a false center”, “the product of sensory experiences”. In personal development it might be possible that the individual discovers that other self, that universal self. Why should this not look like a doppelganger experience at first sight for the individual?
The Atman-concept stems from Eastern thought. However, a lot of Eastern philosophy has either counterparts in the West or have influenced Western thought. C.G. Jung borrowed a lot of ideas from Hindu and other Eastern philosophy, for example the higher self.
But the interesting thing here is that we find a split between ego, physical-self and some sort of a higher self in many places in our culture. One idea is the Avatar as seen in the film “Avatar” by James Cameron. The real person is not at the same place as the person which experiences the physical journey.
Similar to that in a way are Alter Egos. Alter Egos are sort of a double existence too. Alter Egos are second personalities within a person. It might be the super hero Superman which is Clark Kent in ordinary lives but there are endless possibilities for Alter Egos. The Alter Ego can become “another self” which is separated from the person. That idea become popular in the 18 century with Anton Mesmer’s hypnosis experiments. He claimed he can separate a person’s alter ego. In literature “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” explored the concept of the ego and it is a popular idea til today.
There is nothing supernatural in the concept unless we introduce the idea of the multiverse or higher dimensions. In a more multi dimensional world we would find alternative versions of ourselves leading an independent existence on their own. An idea which was explored in the Star Trek Trek: Discovery.
Thus it might not take too much imagination that doppelgängers as seen in the David Lynch series have some serious background. It might be a glitch in reality or a strange personal development or even more sinister ideas that a doppelgänger can be created.