What is Déjà Vu?
Who can experience it? Is déjà vu a paranormal, or a physiological occurrence? What does it really mean? These are just some of the questions I frequently hear and often am asked around this subject. Is this something new? Or has this been around as long as mankind has? What is the difference between precognition and déjà vu? So many questions. Is it as in the image from the movie the matrix above (people who have seen the movie will recall the black cat déjà vu Neo has), a glitch in the matrix?
Firstly what is déjà vu?
Déjà vu is a French term that literally means already seen and has several variations, including:
- déjà senti – already thought
- déjà visité – already visited
- déjà entendu – already heard
- déjà lu – already read
- déjà vécu – already experienced
French scientist Emile Boirac, one of the first to study this strange phenomenon, gave the subject its name in 1876.
Have you ever visited a place or event for the first time and had it feel really familiar? Or maybe you’re deep in conversation with a friend and you suddenly get the feeling that you’ve had the exact conversation before, even though you know that you haven’t? If you’ve ever found yourself in either of these situations, or similar you’ve experienced déjà vu. Sixty to 70 percent of us can admit to getting this feeling at least once in our lifetimes.
What is déjà vu like?
My first vivid recollection of an enormous déjà vu, happened to me when I was about 20 years old, and for me it was actually life altering cause it helped me to waken to this area of interest. I had just completed my nurse’s training and was acting in a play in Wellington, for one of the early fringe festivals. We had a cast party. I was about to eat something, a meatball with herbs in it. I remember this clearly, when all of a sudden, I realised I had seen / experienced this all before. It shook me actually, and it was the first time ever in my life I had meatballs or herbs – so I know I had not experienced it before. Mum was a very plain cook. I must have had a shocked look on my face, because someone asked me what was wrong. So I told them, then someone piped up and told me what it was. I had never ever heard of the term before. Since then I have had déjà vu experiences on and off over the years.
In his book, Our Old Home-A Series of English Sketches, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) related his déjà vu experience, in visiting the kitchen of the English manor, Stanton Harcourt. Upon entering the place, Hawthorne was struck with the eerie feeling that “somewhere or other I had seen just this strange spectacle before.” The kitchen was huge, taking up all of a 70-foot tower and Hawthorne described it as a “vast chimney” that held the “reminiscence of the fires and feasts of generations that have passed away.” Although certain he had never before seen the room or any room similar, he described the sensation as “that odd state of mind wherein we fitfully and teasingly remember some previous scene or incident, of which the one now passing appears to be but the echo and reduplication.”
One of the team members Di, actually had a huge one at one of our first team meetings. We were all sitting talking, when all of a sudden she gets this stunned look on her face and she told us that she was having a déjà vu moment, that she had experienced this before. So cool. Which actually brings me to another question that I am often asked:
Is there a difference between déjà vu and precognition?
Yes actually, they are quite different, even though they may engender the same sort of feeling on the actual experience. The easiest way of explaining it is that with precognition you are seeing the event for the first time, whereas with déjà vu you are experiencing it again.
There is a school of thought that explains déjà vu as being a function of the brain – and I have linked a very good, short video below this blog that explains the scientific perspective and déjà vu itself in a very clear manner. Myself, I am not so convinced that it is entirely scientifically explained. But there is much about the human brain and it’s functions that remain a mystery to this day – and not everything can be explained by science, although many would debate that.