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Speaking With One's Self: Autoscopic Phenomena in Writings from the Ecstatic Kabbalah

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Immediate experience localizes the self within the limits of the physical body. This spatial unity has been challenged by philosophical and mystical traditions aimed to isolate concepts of mind and body. A more direct challenge of the spatial unity comes from a well-defined group of experiences called 'autoscopic phenomena' (AP), in which the subject has the impression of seeing a second own body in an extrapersonal space. AP are known to occur in many human cultures and have been described in healthy, as well as neurological and psychiatric populations. In this article we investigate the phenomenology of AP as described in the writings of the ecstatic Kabbalah of the thirteenth century, and search for similarities and differences with respect to AP from these and other populations. The article discusses potential common research areas between cognitive science and the science of religious experience.

Keywords: autoscopic phenomena; ecstatic Kabbalah; mystical experience; neurology; phenomenology; temporo-parietal junction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain-Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland ., Email:

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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