This term, as I understand it, refers to the body that transcends time and space. The capacity for our gestures to reach past their logical perimeter. The social body. No one is allowed anymore to say, “as I understand it,” because such a phrase is predicated on how difficult it would be at that moment to verify one’s understanding through physically going to a library and looking in a book that is, in any case, not shelved in open stacks, and given that, we’ll proceed with this provisional understanding. Before Google, we were allowed that suspension between the apprehension of one’s blurry understanding of something and the (ostensible) resolution of it.
This is what a Google search turned up for this term, from a paper called “Memory and The Long Body” by William Roll:
The Self and the Other
I have suggested [Research in Parapsychology 1987, pp. 131 – 134] that the human self is not restricted to the body studied by physiology and behavioral psychology. The experienced self is a larger self, a “long body” to use a Native American metaphor [Aanstoos, Theta, 1986, 49 – 51], that includes significant other people, places, and objects. Psychoanalysis gives a similar description. Freud proposed that parents, siblings, and others with whom the person identifies are incorporated into the ego and superego. This provides an extrasensory link between self and non-self in the unconscious and leads to a theory for telepathy: “Psychoanalysis by inserting the unconscious between what is physical and what was previously called ‘psychical’ has paved the way for the assumption of such processes as telepathy” [Freud, “Dreams and Occultism,” in J. Stracey (Ed.) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth, 1964, p. 55].
When you pick up the phone just as your friend is calling, that’s The Long Body at work. Or when you are five and dream your grandmother has died and your mother delivers this news to you the next morning. These kinds of things are so common, and in some way, everything I tend to notice or want to talk about has something to do with this concept so I want to explore it some more. For now, I’m just laying out this theme, in deference to the need for sleep in this precinct of The Long Body.