Could Deja vu Be Evidence of a Hidden Physical Reality?
Explanations in Physics and Psychology Combined May Give New Insight Into Deja vu
Have you ever had the experience of walking into a room where you’ve never been before, and noticing that the surroundings seem strangely familiar, or meeting someone for the first time and feeling like you’ve known them for ages? These experiences of déjà vu are actually quite common. There are two generally accepted theories of what is actually happening when someone has a déjà vu experience. Both of them, however, are probably wrong. A more accurate view on what the experience is might be arrived at by synthesizing a combination of the two opposing camps.
The hard scientific idea of what déjà vu is has been discussed by the popular physics professor and writer Michio Kaku, and makes reference to the multiverse theory. The multiverse theory suggests that there are an infinite number of physical universes existing in parallel dimensions and constantly branching off from one another as actions and physical events take divergent courses. Michio Kaku describes this as a process of decoherence, where the atoms that make up larger physical systems like the entire multiverse itself, eventually vibrate at different frequencies creating numerous new offspring universes in the process.
These universes, because of their frequency or phase incompatibility, are no longer in direct contact with each other, and this is compared to familiar events like radio signals, where you can only “tune in” to one radio station at a time to listen to the music. Déjà vu in this respect therefore is some sort of supra-conscious memory you have of events in a universe that you were once in contact with. That familiar room or person you are meeting for the first time now, is somewhere or someone you met in another time and place, in another universe in fact. Michio Kaku himself discounts this idea as a true explanation for déjà vu, instead choosing to believe that these experiences are random bits of fragmented memory stored in our brains that give us that vague sense of familiarity as we reencounter them in slightly new and different settings.
The popular medical explanation for déjà vu experiences involves the limitations of memory storage in the human brain. This prosaic explanation of the phenomenon says that it occurs because of a conflict between short term and long term memory recordings of events. Basically, as you experience an event in real time and it is stored temporarily in your short term memory, this memory can conflict with a related memory in the long term storage region of your brain. These two similar memories therefore interact and the mind, (which is always looking for patterns in nature), compares the two and finds them oddly similar. So the old event is compared against the new experience in a vague, limited mental processing form of brain activity, making the new experience seem strangely familiar.
What if déjà vu however involves both of these phenomena? If it involves the ability to experience multiple parallel universes, and the mind’s propensity for storing fragmentary memories at the same time, deja vu seems to have a deeper, more meaningful sense for our daily routines. To explore this further, we have to first understand that the idea of multiple parallel universes is often exaggerated for effect by popular fiction.
In TV series like Star Trek or Fringe where parallel universes are the theme, the main characters who travel to such alternate realities usually immediately recognize differences. When Kirk, Scotty and Uhura traveled to an alternate Star Trek universe, they found a Spock with a beard, and a Federation that was a brutal dictatorship, decidedly different from the peaceful Federation of Planets they were familiar with. In Fringe, when FBI agent Olivia Dunham met her alternate self in another reality, she had red hair instead of blond, and a decidedly more sinister and primal nature than "our" blond Olivia.
If we were able to travel to alternate universes is it at all likely we would be able to notice such differences? The odds are strongly against it. If the multiverse theory is correct and there are an infinite number of parallel universes, then those immediately in proximity to ours are likely to be virtually identical to what we are familiar with. Extremely small differences would exist, such as gravity being one ten millionth of a percent weaker on Earth, that high rise down the street from your office being an ever so slightly lighter color of tan, or the fire hydrants being placed a millimeter closer to the curb than what is the standard in your universe. Variations would be random and infinitesimally small for the universes that would be most accessible to us. With reality being so complex and multifaceted, its unlikely we would be able to spot any differences at all.
The local branch of universes next to ours would also be infinite in number (even a subset of an infinite whole is still an infinity) creating a perhaps insurmountable buffer zone for us to get to uniquely different universes. The vast majority of these "local" universes then would likely be indistinguishable from one another by ordinary human senses within our lifetimes. This very condition of the law of averages suggests that travel between parallel universes may in fact be a common and continuous occurrence that takes place without our being aware of it at all.
The multiverse theory then may in fact be true, and nearly impossible to verify from a limited human perspective. This does not mean however that our minds would not be aware of it on some level. The inability of our minds to process such minor differences in real time, as we go about our daily routines, might instead build up in long term memory as a form of vague familiarity that would surface now and then, déjà vu.
Fragmentary memories in the mind therefore may not be false memories or false recollections at all. They may in fact be the only direct evidence we will ever have that we have visited other realms parallel in development to our own. The ability to leap from universe to universe therefore may be a trivial and intrinsic one, a fundamental yet hidden aspect of nature that takes place all the time. It may be a natural side effect of self-awareness for sentient beings, as the greater multiverse we live in continually self-divides along divergent lines.
How then, would it be possible to visit a parallel universe with decidedly distinct and different characteristics to our own? If déjà vu is evidence of our natural, unconscious tendency to move from parallel line to parallel line as the multiverse sub-divides, could we then consciously choose to move toward a universe of our choosing? Could we for instance visit a universe where John F. Kennedy was never assassinated, or where the course of events were so different that we could meet a uniquely different version of ourselves and compare notes on the life decisions we’ve made?
The most obvious and direct way to move to a strongly divergent universe in such a case would be to start making life decisions that go entirely against your instincts, and continue this indefinitely until you noticed that your surroundings had changed dramatically. This concept is presented in a Seinfeld episode where George Constanza realizes that every life decision he has made up to that point has been wrong, or has failed him, and he decides from then on to do the exact opposite of what his instincts tell him to.
It may in fact be the case that we are to some degree “preprogrammed” in our lives to follow a certain course of events however, events that are natural for the timeline we are living out in our current universe. The only way to free yourself from such a path would be to violate all your conditioning and interests, choosing instead to be someone completely different. This is not an easy task, and if you accomplished it and were able to slip into a parallel yet uniquely new universe, its likely it would be a one way trip with no chance to return. This is because of the vast number of universes that would exist parallel to where you currently are. Finding your way back would be vastly more difficult than moving forward into a new realm.
Following George’s plan might be ill-advised for other reasons as well. Such action could take you to somewhere you really don’t want to go, a fact only realized upon arrival. A universe with very unfriendly characteristics would be a prison of your own making, as both Kirk and Olivia Dunham soon found out.
A more targeted approach to parallel universe travel would be to actively make use of your experience of déjà vu. When a positive déjà vu experience occurred, you would try to perpetuate the circumstances of it as much as possible. If you wanted to live in a more benign universe for instance where J.F.K. lived a full and meaningful life, you would choose to focus on all déjà vu feelings of familiarity that were peaceful and lofty in nature. It might take you a lifetime of flipping from universe to universe, but eventually you could find yourself in one where the ideas of Kennedy had continued to grow, the Peace Corps had brought prosperity to Africa, the exploration and human colonization of space had taken place, and nuclear weapons had been eliminated from the Earth.
If you haven't driven yourself insane by this point through focused mental flipping from universe to universe, you would have arrived in a near-paradise of your choosing. In the science fiction TV series Sliders, we saw the psychological strain that built up on the sliders as they went from alternate reality to alternate reality. In using deja vu and the Modified Constanza Method (MCM) to do so, you'd be traveling alone, with no one to verify your experiences with, and no way to communicate back to your original universe.
Déjà vu may be our window and opportunity for travel among a vast plain of realities that continuously form moment by moment. It may be operating all the time in the background of our lives while we are totally unaware of it. As a mental discipline it is currently beyond our conscious control. If we could learn to focus and channel the ability, it might offer us a level of freedom and fulfillment we never imagined was even possible before. It’s a ludicrous idea of course, especially if you don’t give it a try.
Statistics say that at least 70% of people have had a déjà vu experience, so this likely includes you. Why not use such experiences to your advantage from now on? The next time you feel deja vu, learn from it, and change everything you do. Follow where it leads. This universe is getting rather crowded anyway, and if several people decided to move on to other parallel ones using MCM, it might make life a lot easier for the rest of us who choose to stay behind.