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The doppelganger is a phenomenon that defies explanation – the apparent appearance of a double of a person either imitating their movements or even moving on their own. Some appear to even be a glimpse into the future or a portent of death. But what is bilocation? And what is its connection with the doppelganger phenomena?
For many people, the doppelganger phenomena and that of bilocation are very much the same category but when you examine stories of the two, there are a number of clear differences. Bilocation, sometimes even multilocation, is the appearance of a person or an item in two places at the same time whereas the doppelganger tends to be close to the real person.
Bilocation was known to early Greek philosophers as well as shamans for a number of religions, in occult and in religions such as Hinduism as well as mystics of both Christianity and Judaism. In more recent times, the phenomena has become connected with New Age, mysticism and spiritualism.
One of the best documented cases comes from the 1620s. In 1622, Father Alonzo de Benavides was sent to what is today New Mexico to convert the Jumano Indians at the Isolita Mission. Though they had never met French or Spanish people before, they already knew the Roman Catholic rituals and liturgy and carried crosses as well having altars. The Father wrote to both Pope Urban VII and King Philip of Spain to inquire who had been to convert the Indians but the answer was that no-one had been sent.
When quizzed, the Indians said they learned about Christianity from a young ‘lady in blue’ who was with them for a number of years and taught them the new religion in their own language. She had also told them that the white skinned people would come soon. The Indians said she came ‘down from the height to us’ stayed to teach them then said to make the arrivals welcome when they came and went away.
The Father was baffled. He showed the Indians a picture of the nuns of Poor Clare, as he knew they wore blue habits to which he was told the dress was right but not the woman in the painting – she was on the portly side while their woman had been young and beautiful.
Finally, Father Benavides returned to Spain, trying to solve the mystery there. The Poor Clare nuns were a cloistered order who never left their convent, much less travelled across the ocean so how had one taught the Indians? His investigation led him to Sister Mary of Jesus in Agreda, Spain. She claimed to have converted the Indians without leaving her convent, with her Mother Superior confirming she had visited the Indians ‘not in body but in spirit’.
Sister Mary regularly went into a cataleptic trance and recalled dreams where she travelled to a strange, wild land and taught gospel to the people there. She gave highly detailed descriptions of what she saw including the clothing and customs of the Indians, who had only just been discovered by Europeans. When asked how she knew their language, she said she did but that ‘God had let them understand one another.’
A number of religion figures are credited with the ability to bilocate. St Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Franciscan friar was in Limoges in France on Holy Thursday to give a sermon when he remembered he had also promised to chant prayers with his fellow friars on the other side of town. He promptly stopped his sermon, knelt and pulled the hood over his head. At that moment, he appeared in the chapel and conducted the prayers across town. When he was finished, he vanished from the chapel, raised his head and carried on with his sermon.
St Alphonsus Liguori was a bishop of St Agata dei Goti, near Naples in 1774. At the time, the Pope Clement XIV was dying in the Vatican in Rome. The bishop went into a trance in his home, appeared at the bedside of the pontiff and remained with his until he died them awoke at home to describe what had happened, without leaving the room.
Even politicians it seems can make use of this strange talent. Sir Gilbert Parker was a British MP in 1905 and during a debate, noticed Sir Frederick Carne Rasch across the hall in his normal spot. Parker was shocked by this as he had spoken to members of Rasch’s household who confirmed he was very sick and in bed. Yet he also appeared in the chamber, keen to hear the debate.
Vladimir Lenin was another who had the ability, according to stories passed down. In October 1923, he was in his home in Gorki, critically ill yet at the same time was reported in his office in the Kremlin in Moscow, sorting through some papers.