Telepathy and Twins: The Supraliminal and Subliminal Self in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

When Roger Luckhurst described F. W. H. Myers’s telepathy as “the transference of ideas or sensations from one conscious or unconscious mind to another, without the agency of any recognized organs of sense,” the concept of twins immediately sprang to mind. It has been my experience that twins, either fraternal or identical, have the uncanny ability to finish each other’s sentences or know what one another is thinking at precisely the same moment. According to Joseph E. Moore, author of “Is there anything to mental telepathy?,” some significant studies done on pairs of twins were “interpreted by […] authors as being evidence for the existence of extra-sensory phenomena.” There is much debate amongst scholars and scientists, alike, as to the existence of telepathic abilities in twins. What I find more interesting, perhaps, are twins who are so incredible opposite from each other. In Robert Louie Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Henry Jekyll describes his ‘subliminal self,’ that is, Edward Hyde, as “more wicked, tenfold more wicked,” than himself, but an aspect of his character that “braced and delighted him like wine.” In some strange way, Edward Hyde is Henry Jekyll and vice versa, for the ‘subliminal self,’ Myers explains, is the consciousness below the threshold of ordinary awareness. By looking at the two entities from a twinning perspective, one can deduce that Henry Jekyll is “radically both” himself and Hyde. Likewise, twins who seem outwardly dissimilar, may simply represent one aspect of each other’s personality more blatantly than another.

When I was younger, I knew a set of twins. People often could not tell them apart and, although they relished in this as children, they eventually began to resent their similarities. As they grew older, they rebelled against their mother’s wishes to dress them in the same outfits, for example, and began to repress aspects of their personalities that made them similar. This notion of repression in twins reminded me of Henry Jekyll’s represssion of Edward Hyde, his more primitive and savage counterpart. Eventually, Jekyll acknowledges that “in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins [himself and Hyde] should be continuously struggling.” Although he might attempt to house his two personalities in separate bodies, they are ultimately one and the same. This is not nearly the case for actual twins, but observing twins in your own life offers an interesting insight into the world of telepathy. For, if we examine Henry Jekyll, he appears to be the conscious mind, transferring ideas and sensations to the unconscious mind, Edward Hyde. On the other hand, one could argue that the truly conscious mind is that of Hyde, who exercises all his brutish and primitive desires without questioning himself.

Ultimately, the point that Stevenson seems to emphasize is that the unconscious and conscious minds are “bound together” and cannot be separated. When Jekyll tries to separate his surpraliminal self and his subliminal self, he is unsuccessful because, he learns, they work together to comprise a whole. Although it would be an insult to suggest that twins, those who complete each other’s sentences and finish one another’s thoughts, are two parts of one whole, the temptation is there. Perhaps, instead of suggesting that they are two parts of a whole, it would be more appropriate to say that “in the agonised womb of consciousness,” twins who portray some aspect of extra-sensory phenomena represent the supraliminal and subliminal self in us all.

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