A Theory of Deja Vu

Deja vu is the sensation that one has already experienced events that are happening in the present.  There have been times in my life when I have experienced that feeling very powerfully.  For example, I have had conversations in which I suddenly felt seized with conviction that I had already had the discussion before and thus could predict with complete accuracy what the other person was about to say.

Some think that it is just a trick of the mind, misfiring neurons or something like that, but I don’t buy that.  How can one explain a moment in which one briefly becomes capable of predicting the course of the next 30 seconds or so?

I have come up with my own explanation of this phenomenon.  Maybe time is not linear, even though we experience it that way.  Maybe everything has happened, is happening, and will happen all at the same time.  All of time already exists, but we are only capable of perceiving it as past, present, and future.  If that is the case, it seems possible that the me now could potentially access what the me in the future knows.  Somehow, this notion links up with the concept of eternity.

What I can’t explain is why it never happens with anything big.  The times I have had deja vu, it has related to knowing ahead of time things like people’s odd movements (a stumble, twist, or gesture), or a water fountain spraying up in someone’s face, or the next few turns of a conversation.

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5 thoughts on “A Theory of Deja Vu

  1. “But even now it is manifest and clear that there are neither times future nor times past. Thus it is not properly said that there are three times, past, present, and future. Perhaps it might be said rightly that there are three times: a time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future. For these three do coexist somehow in the soul, for otherwise I could not see them. The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present is direct experience; the time present of things future is anticipation. If we are allowed to speak of these things so, I see three times, and I grant that there are three. Let it still be said, then, as our misapplied custom has it: ‘There are three times, past, present, and future'” (Augustine, Confessions 11.20.26).

  2. Just theorizing from the hip, but I suspect your brain, knowing the characteristics of said fountain, or person, or whatever happens to trigger the sense of deja vu probably makes a subconcious projection (similar to the known purpose of the forebrain) of the likely result of all the important current variables in a Newtonian situation. Because such calculations are complicated, and accuracy is lost as the extrapolation is increased forward, it would make sense for the brain not to bother with big moments of deja vu. I just don’t think it is responsible reasoning to employ time shifting when more mundane explanations could very well exist. I enjoy reading your blog posts, by the way.

  3. A tornado is a big enough event…I could swear it happened twice.
    that was my year for intense deja vu. I go with the theory of repetition. So much of life is repeated day in and day out that we are bound to experience deja vu now and then. I mean really, what are the odds? I find these experiences very unremarkable. especially after 2006, my deja vu year. After that tornado I asked everyone, “didn’t we already have that same tornado last fall?” Okay, look at me crazy. I swear they rebuilt Saint Patrick’s church the first time. I swear I witnessed them doing it….eh? Now it’s way back there. All is well 🙂 Saint Patrick’s Church moved to the far East side of town after holding services at Regina School for a time. Nothing like that has ever happened since.

  4. I’ve often felt that if we take the reality of God’s transcendence seriously we must recognize that he created time and is not contained within it. The paradox of God’s sovereignty versus our free will seems to be a corollary of trying to force God to be bound by linear time. What if God can observe all eternity as a single instant while simultaneously (a temporal word, but perhaps the best a language developed by temporal beings can offer) experiencing every single instant as an eternity?
    How does this relate to the concept of Deja Vu? When I’ve experienced it the almost overwhelming impression I have had is not that I know what is about to happen. Nor is it that this has happened before. Rather, it is that what is in the process of happening is a unique reality that I can somehow fully perceive prior to the completion of its historical occurrance.

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