It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again
Chicago Literary Club
April 25, 2011
I would first like to thank Arthur Diers for his superb introduction and drink a glass of water.
It’s déjà vu, all over again.
It was September 28 1951 at Yankee Stadium. Ninth inning. Ted Williams was at bat and Yogi Berra was catching for the Yankees. Allie Reynolds was pitching a no hitter and two were out. The count was 2 and 2. Reynolds pitched and Williams popped up. Yogi got under the ball and … dropped it! Reynolds pitched again. Another pop up. Yogi caught the ball this time and the no hitter was Reynolds’s and the pennant was the Yankees’.
The second popup must have been a déjà vu for Yogi and perhaps the origin of the phrase attributed to him “It was déjà vu all over again”. Dramatic as this was, it was eclipsed five days later by Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world at the Polo Grounds.
Others have attributed Yogi’s comment to the result of watching Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hitting back to back home runs frequently.
That strange feeling that you are experiencing something you have experienced in the past, lasting for a brief period, knowing for that brief period what will happen next is quite common. It was the basis for a Rodgers and Hart song Where or When:
“It seems we stood and talked like this before.
We looked at each other in the same way then.
But I can't remember where or when...
Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again." - 1937
One of the eeriest experiences I have had transposed me from one participant in the event to another, over a period of several decades. When I was 11 years old in summer camp I was on a horse for the first time and was in back of the pack going down a Connecticut dirt road. My horse was named Sunspot, perhaps for his unpredictability or his ability to influence strange effects around him. While the other was riding briskly, Sunspot was taking his time inspecting the leaves beside the road. The fact that I had on sneakers rather than more solid shoes prevented him from responding to my kicks to have him move forward. Quite suddenly a speeding car came up behind us. This stimulated Sunspot beyond my imprecations and he started a swift trot, not quite a canter that left me lying in the road, fortunately uninjured, and the car screeching to a sudden stop..
It’s now over 30 years later. I am driving with my wife over the same country road to see my old camp for the first time since there. There in front of me are 7 campers on horseback- I slow down anticipating myself on the last horse- not quite but almost in the twilight zone. Not quite déjà vu but an eerie coincidence.
The phenomenon of repetitive experience was exaggerated to the extreme in the movie Groundhog Day. However, in the late 1930’s, Morris Bishop, a Cornell historian and poet, published a poem in the New Yorker about such experiences, which he entitled “ We Have been Here Before”.
I think I remember this moorland,
The tower on the tip of the tor;
I feel in the distance another existence;
I think I have been here before.
And I think you were sitting beside me
In a fold on the face of the fell;
For time in its work’ll go round in a circle,
And what is befalling befell.
“I have been here before” I asserted.
In a nook on a neck of the Nile.
I once in a crisis was punished by Isis,
And you smiled. I remember your smile.
I had the same sense of persistence
On the site of the seat of the Sioux;
I heard in the tepee the sound of a sleepy
Pleistocene grunt it was you.
The past made a promise before it
Began to begin to begun,
This limited gamut brings you again. Damn it,
How long does this have to go on?
This feeling could have been attested by Nathaniel Hawthorne who in 1863 visited Stanton Court, a 15th century manor near Oxford, who stood by the enormous late medieval kitchen. He was gripped by a strange sensation. To quote him:” I was haunted and perplexed by an idea that somewhere or other I had seen this strange spectacle before, The height, the blackness, the dismal void, before my eyes, seemed as familiar as the decorous neatness of my grandmother’s kitchen.”
Another experience that is akin to this is the feeling that you have been to a place before even though you are visiting it for the first time. For example, in The Moon and Sixpence, Somerset Maugham describes the situation of an English doctor of Jewish descent who visits Alexandria for the first time. To quote the author:
“It was like a thunderclap…a revelation.”Something seemed to twist his heart, and suddenly “.he felt exultation, a sense of wonderful freedom. He felt himself at home, and he made up his mind that he would spend the rest of his life in Alexandra”.
“I thought I would go to a Greek hotel.. [and] I knew where to find one. And you know, I walked straight there, and when I saw it, I recognized it at once”.
I do not speculate that he could have been there in an earlier life although it has been such a possibility has been proposed not only by Morris Bishop but also by CS Lewis. Jack Lewis as he was known to his friends was an Oxford fantasist and his novels and short stories were replete not only with déjà vu but also time travel, parallel universes, out of body experiences, of which we will discuss in a more general way.
At this point I will describe another of my experience that caused a revelation. This occurred in 1992. My wife was oversees studying and I decided to take a little vacation in California. Renting a car I felt compelled to driven north. After stopping for the night in Mendocino, I proceeded further north and found myself driving through a forest of sequoias called the Avenue of the Giants. I felt that I HAD been there before and drove through the 20 miles of forest, and turned back, deciding to stop for the evening at a motel several miles south. Something was pulling me and I drove back and parked in the middle of this forest, compelled to walk around a circular path of about a half a mile several times, and sensing something akin to exaltation. Never before had I had that experience and never again.
Déjà vu, or the sense that at least for a few seconds you are experiencing something again with an inexplicable sense of familiarity, has been experienced at least once by most people. The term was coined by the French philosopher and researcher Emile Boirac in the late 19th century, and has been described metaphorically as a breeze blowing through the conscious mind, more common than ESP experiences. Boirac himself was deeply involved in research into what has been described as paranormal experiences or sensations and also coined the term metagnomy- knowledge acquired without the senses- the early term for extrasensory perception (ESP).
The term déjà vu of course is French for already seen and a multiplicity of other phenomena have also been described, all with French terms such as jamais vu, never seen, a familiar situation not recognized by the observer, and déjà visité, already visited but never really been there, as was described by Hawthorne and as we shall see with the ladies at Trianon. In each case there is a subjective sensation of an “inappropriate familiarity of the present experience with an undefined past”, the accepted scientific definition of déjà vu credited to psychiatrist Vernon Neppe, who has described a total of 21 types of déjà experiences other than vu itself. These experiences have been themselves classified among several causes including disorders of memory, disorders of the ego state, recognition disorder, manifestations of epileptic firing, and so forth.
One example of a vivid déjà vu experience was described by someone many years later who was 11 years old at the time of his experience. To put it in his own words, on a trip to Washington DC and Williamsburg, Virginia, “we made a brief stop in Monticello...We had taken the tour of the house and the garden and were left to do our own thing for a few minutes…I wandered to the far side of the garden where there were a couple of out buildings that were used for storage and greenhouses during the colonial period. When I walked into the first building I immediately recognized everything inside. Everything from the walls, floors, and windows to the antique tools hanging on the walls were instantly familiar. …I ‘knew’ that I had been there before”. This was experienced by the technical director of the Arkansas Paranormal and Anomous Studies Team who had not visited Monticello before.
I myself must credit much of the information for this talk derived from the book. The Déjà vu Enigma by Marie Jones and Larry Flaxman, psychologists who are into paranormal experiences. Of course, experiences of the paranormal are always intriguing but we will limit this talk to aspects of déjà vu and other experiences of memory and time.
Both Freud and Carl Jung had their comments on déjà vu. Freud associated the phenomenon with the mother’s genitals indicating that “there is…no other place about which one can assert with such conviction that one has been there before”. Jung believed that there was a collective unconscious of which such experiences were derived, and that déjà vu was derived from accessing a repository of the memory bank of humanity.
There are more prosaic suggestions about the possible causes of déjà vu. As an anomaly of memory it is possible that there could be a neurologic overlap for a few seconds between short term and long term memory so that something that is visualized or perceived for the first time may seem to have been experienced before. This could be explained by a short circuit by which the event is stored in the memory bank before the conscious part of the brain perceives it and reflects the information from the rapid memory bank. This is analogous to pain from a lower extremity. There is a drawing away of the extremity from the source of pain before it is even perceived through the action of fast sensory nerves and then the feeling of pain sensed by way of the slow sensory fibers.
There is another theory that is based upon the possibility that one eye can record the event an instant before the other eye, interpreted by the brain as a fast recollection of a previous vision. However, déjà vu has been experienced by one eyed persons so that the theory may not apply universally.
The idea that some of our experiences were indeed vestiges of past lives has been found in fantasy literature, and back to Jack Lewis. In his unfinished novella, the Dark Tower, a group of Cambridge dons are discussing the possibility of time travel and affects on experiences. One of the characters brings up the actual experience of two English ladies early in the last century while visiting Trianon, an estate of Marie Antoinette. They presumably saw a whole scene from a part of the past long before their birth. These real life ladies published a book in 1911 called An Adventure in which they described the appearance of the palace and gardens on 10 August 1901 exactly as they believed it would appear to Marie Antoinette in 1792. In regard to this deposition, Lewis has one of his characters remarking that “ it might have dawned on you that there is a great deal in your mental picture of, say, Napoleon or Pericles, which you can’t remember in reading in any book…”.
Apparently, the ladies of Trianon were able to find other objective checks that proved the accuracy of their visions of the past.
The Dark Tower, from which this previous quote was drawn, involved a parallel universe inhabited by duplicate individuals who could exchange places through a portal called a chronoscope.
The idea of parallel universes has many authors. A physicist, Hugh Everett, proposed in the 1950’s that in using some of the concepts of quantum mechanics, there are many other worlds existing in parallel in space and time. It is speculated that although we may cease to exist in one universe, we may continue to exist in other universes, thus affording the ability of a human to live out a new life after death in this universe.
Another speculation relates to the concept of “dark matter”, invisible matter that may occupy 80% of our universe. Dark matter particles could form invisible counterpart earths that co-rotate and share the same gravitational field of the visible Earth, based upon computations in 2008 by scientists at Princeton and the University of Arizona that a dark matter biosphere the size of Jupiter could be present coupled gravitationally with the Earth. In this dark matter biosphere, dark plasma life forms could have evolved. There is further speculation that dark plasma life forms could have formed symbiotic relationships with the carbon based bodies of humans, with continued existence in the dark biosphere when the carbon based bodies die.
Here also we find a reflection in the works of Jack Lewis whose character, Professor Ransom, meets creatures in his travels to Mars called eldila, who “do not eat, breathe, or suffer natural death, and to that extent resemble thinking minerals…they regard space as their true habitat and the planets to them are not closed world but moving points.. perhaps as interruptions”.. in their system [from Perelandia].
Although déjà vu is a common experience, there are some bizarre experiences reported that are susceptible to scientific explanation. One of these is termed the Out of Body Experience. This term was coined in the 1940s and has referred in many instances to astral travel. Here again Jack Lewis has utilized this phenomenon as early as 1944 in his book Perelandia where his protagonist Ransom travels to Mars and Venus to do the bidding of the good eldils against the bad eldils using a coffin-like structure propelled by a good eldil. This is somewhat different in conception than the OBE where person feels that he or she has left the physical body and travels into space. These experiences frequently are the result of drug use or extreme mental or physical trauma. As with many other apparent paranormal phenomena, the experience can be induced by stimulation of the right temporal-parietal junction of the brain. The OBE experience involves various stages in the following order: inward attention with withdrawal from the environment, a stage of immobility of the body, a sense of being pulled away from the body, the beginning of space travel where the mind feels free of the body, although there is frequently a sense of a thin cord still attached to the body, and finally re-entry. The sensation of the experience is NOT the feeling of a dream but a reality. Other stimuli to this condition involve extreme physical effort such as marathon running or high altitude climbing. In both situations, there is a sense of bilocation, being both on the ground and above visualizing yourself from below.
The explanation for this phenomenon, suggested by neurologists, is a mismatch between visual and tactile signals. Although this phenomenon appears bizarre, in fact about 10% of people experience at least one such event. OBE’s may be part of a near death experience. More on the latter later.
As you may expect, psychologists and other groups have international meetings about these phenomena and scientific studies are presented and discussed. One of the problems with such studies is that surveys conducted to determine incidence depend frequently on a self-selected group of participants, such as internet users or persons especially susceptible to suggestion. For example, in 1999 there was a survey presented based upon responses from internet users in regard to OBEs. Of the first 1000 or so responses, 85% reported having an OBE experience, 45% indicating self-induced OBE’s. Also, 38% reported being able to move through physical objects such as walls during their experiences. Needless to say, these phenomena can keep some neurologists in business conducting studies of brain arousal.
As you may gather, many of these experiences reach hyperbolic extremes. For example, a book by a Preston Dennett entitled Out-of-Body Exploring: A Beginner’s Approach describes the experiences of someone who indicates that he had hundreds of OBE experiences lasting from seconds to hours. Among his travels through time and space, he met with spirit guides and saw the presence of a Higher Power represented by a Light, similar to Jack Lewis’ eldils..
At least one investigator, Dr. Bruce Goldberg, suggests that OBE’s are travel in a fifth dimension where all time is simultaneous and one can travel into the past or future. One wonders that if this is so, can you influence history? One science fiction writer in a short story had a time travel company that could get people to go back in time, but only keeping to a pathway that would not disrupt the environment. Sure enough, one visitor accidently stepped on an ant and when returning to his future time found the environment radically changed.
Let us suppose that you could travel back in time and could change things. What would you do? Perhaps bet on the results of sports activities or get the battleships out of Pearl Harbor before December 7th. I am sure that if you contacted the Navy Department in 1941 and told them about the necessity of doing so the only persons to heed your request would be the FBI or the local asylum. One thing I would do if I were back in 1951 is send a message to Chuck Dressen not to put Ralph Branca in for Don Newcombe. In 1941 I would urge Hugh Casey not to throw a spitball to Tommy Henrich.
There are of course books and plays about time travel. One of the interesting ones I read was Time and Again, by Jack Finney that was published in 1970.The government has a secret project headed by a Dr. Danziger to develop time travel to various periods and the hero, Si Morley, who works as a draftsman, is recruited to go back to 1882 in New York. He is established in an apartment in The Dakota, on Central Park west and 72 St, which was opened around that earlier time, outfitted in clothes and journals from that period and provided similar meals from that period to get him adjusted, and one snowy night in an experiment goes out into Central Park across the avenue. It is a veritable blizzard and the only vehicle he sees is a horse drawn carriage. He returns to his apartment and the next day his researchers from the government office grill him about his experience and he is unable to establish that he went back in time (examiner: damn it didn’t you check the street lights?) until Morley adds that after he came back to the Dakota he looked out the window and saw the Museum of Natural History, 7 blocks north. Of course, in 1970, there were large buildings obscuring the Museum from his apartment and his trip therefore a success. He repeats his trips and finally spends time in the Manhattan of 1882, getting used to the archaic horse drawn busses and the faces of the people (they look different). There are many anachronistic slips as when he starts talking about Czechoslovakia to his dinner partners at a time when there was only the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He finally decides to stay in old New York which to him was an easier time when the air was cleaner and the rivers flowed fresh. Going back, he encountered the man and woman who would become the mother and father to Dr. Danziger, the head of the future government time travel project and contrived to prevent them from meeting for the first time and thus there would be no Dr. Danziger and the future and no time travel project.
There are of course several centers concentrating on consciousness raising especially developed to OBE. One such center is located in Portugal and is named a Projectarium, where in an igloo-shaped building persons with OBE experiences are evaluated. The official description of the site is “a self-experimentation laboratory of the International Academy of Consciousness”. For the experience of 25 acres of oak and cork tree groves in a pleasant location of Portugal, it may be worth the trip alone and perhaps most of the consciousness raising may be produced outside the igloo.
The neurologic evaluation of OBE has even been distinguished by appearance in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, which is very careful in publishing investigations of the highest scientific quality. The article was from the Department of Neurosurgery of the University Hospital of Antwerp Belgium and dealt with an OBE repeatedly elicited during stimulation of the right superior temporal gyrus which mediates self perception, suggesting the activation of this region at least as the neural correlate of the disembodiment associated with OBE associated with co activation of another area that integrates body orientation in space.
If you will recall the movie American Beauty, the Kevin Spacey character is shot and killed but for seconds after the shooting his whole life is spread before him in an expansion of time. This portrayal comes from the hypothesis, that when we are very near death, we relive our lives over for the actual extended period of our lives and in fact never die in our own experience, a sort of extended Groundhog Day.
We have all heard the cliché about your life unfolding during an experienced crisis. This situation has been of special interest in persons who experience what is termed near death. Of course those who have died cannot bear witness.
We have discussed the conjecture that people live in separate universes and that death in the present universe may still allow a continued life in alternative or parallel universes to which we also belong. A psychologist, Raymond Moody, Jr, has worked with several hundred persons who had clinically died but survived and from information derived from these experiences developed a series of stages of what is now termed near death experience (NDE). It is common initially for the participant to hear the pronouncement that he or she is dead or something to that effect, followed by an auditory sensation associated with deep peace or a movement through space that feels like travelling at a rapid speed through a dark tunnel. Following this is a sensation of rising upward out of the body, then meeting dead relatives or guardian angels near the tunnel’s end. Following this is the meeting with a spiritual being, masked in a brilliant light who goes through the person’s life events and leads to a feeling of compassion and peace, or as TS Eliot ended the Waste Land, Shantih Shantih Shantih- the peace that passeth understanding. Since the person survives he or she then returns to the body, however reluctantly. Thomas Mann, whom we would consider a rational person not usually persuaded by such testimonials offered a similar experience in Buddenbrooks about a child dying of typhoid that in his coma contemplated the choice of a peaceful death or the return to a less salubrious life and chose death.
One of the conundrums about such situations is whether consciousness resides in the brain. Although it seems logical that such is the case, nobody has ever isolated consciousness as an entity and although we see life from the top of our head, who knows whether our streams of consciousness might actually be located in nether parts, although we can eliminate the limbs and most of the organs in the thorax and abdomen. It has been postulated that the experiences surrounding near death may be due to shutting down of neurotransmitters, endorphins secreted in the brain under these circumstance that lead to a “high” m stimulation of the temporal lobe, the influence of lack of oxygen on the development of hallucinations, or the reliving of the experience of the birth canal- cf Freud. For the record, about 70% of Americans believe in life after death.
In regard to the Moody classification of near death experiences mentioned above, Dr. PMH Atwater, another psychologist who has done research on NDE with over 3000 subjects, records the feeling of a black void or a purgatory like state before the transcendent state of the heaven-like experience. It is unfortunate that Dr. Atwater did not have a chance to interview Dante on his researches into these states. Or perhaps, she should have asked her subjects whether they had ever read the Divine Comedy. We can go even further back to Plato’s Republic in which a mythical soldier is described who experiences near death leading to the sense of an afterlife and reincarnation.
At present there is a large study being undertaken in 25 US and UK institutions involving 1500 heart attack survivors to determine whether an out of body experience can occur in those with transient cardiac arrest or virtual absence of brain activity. The principal investigator, Dr. Sam Parnia, does not use the term near-death, rather indicating that these patients have to all accounts actually died. As of this date there is no record yet of a publication of this study. However, an earlier pilot project resulted in the evidence that, to quote Dr Parnia, “mental and cognitive processes continue for a period of time after a death has started”. At least one case of an out of body experience has been recorded at a time of the temporary absence of electroencephalographic activity.
An intriguing theory about the experience of near-death was proposed related to the strangeness of the concept of near death to the living person- causing the individual to experience memories from the prenatal period onward- and in fact many such individuals report memories that were long lost. The question arises whether all memories are actually retained in our long-term memory banks.
The result of near death experiences is physiologically increased activity of our friend the left temporal lobe and changes in personality and outlook. These personality changes include higher self esteem, value of life and compassion for others and greater ecologic sensitivity. Is there some way that a controlled intervention of this nature could be implemented in certain congressmen?
We have all had the experience of time dragging on, and a sleep of several hours can seem like minutes. In situations of danger such as combat, time slows down. On the other hand, driving over distances that are somewhat boring can lead to long stretches of time passing by rapidly. Unlike situations of danger in which there is a focus on a specific visual stimulus such as a gun pointed at you, these long stretches of boredom lead to a lapse in conscious awareness. Reported bizarre experiences involving time lapses include that of a woman driving from home to hear a lecture several miles away. The woman was perfectly relaxed but to her an apparent few minutes was actually two hours and she found herself still driving and many miles from her destination. She had no recollection of what happened. The experience of missing time involves a sort of autopilot by the brain in which the individual continues to function efficiently although unaware of his or her surroundings. Another situation involved a group of explorers in a wooded area who were only about 100 yards from their vehicle and walked back to it but found that 2 hours had elapsed by the time they reached the vehicle. This was not one individual but a group of them. There was no way that this incident could be explained rationally as involving one brain malfunction.
Neurologic research using MRI suggests that the brain has a default network that activates during day dreaming or boredom accompanied by increased activation of an executive network, both of which participate in continue the undertaking of routine activity during the boredom off driving or daydreaming.
Somewhat akin to this is the phenomenon of the time storm or time warp. Individuals involved in this type of experience appear to enter a vague foglike environment and exit it hours later in the same spot. Others find themselves hundreds of miles away. In some cases people have been shown to disappear from security cameras and turn up hundreds of miles away. Is it possible that there are black hole phenomena on earth or local Bermuda triangles? No rational explanation for this of course.
Several documented examples are found in the book Time Storms by Jenny Randle, in which the common factor was a peculiar cloud that could transport people and even vehicles possibly into an unknown dimension. Randles explains it in terms of quantum physics, a rather complicated subject but one in which there is evidence that subatomic particles can disappear and reappear- a quark of nature so to speak.
The effects of quantum mechanics on subatomic particles are fascinating and challenge the concepts of progression through time. First of all, a particle like an electron can exists in several places at the same time and at different energy levels. Not only that, but a subatomic particle can behave like a particle or a wave and a particle meeting an anti-particle of similar characteristics can cause one of the particles to move backward in time. So at least for small particles, time travel may be possible.
I provide several examples from Randles’ book Time Storms to allow you to refute these experiences at your leisure:
“In Oxford Maine in October 27. 1975 in a wooded area at 3 AM two young men heard a strange sound. They got into their car to investigate and it was soon enveloped in a colored glow. The two instantly found themselves a mile away with the car pointing in the opposite direction. They subsequently suffered severe disorientation.
In Linhares Brazil in April 20th 1981 a representative of a chemical company left his home to travel a few miles to a meeting. He never arrived and his car was found on a side road a few miles from his home. Five days later his wife received a frantic call from him- he said that a strange white glow had enveloped his car and he became disoriented finding himself on a strange road 5 days later – April 25th- about 600 miles from home.”
These are perhaps examples of what are termed fugue states where the person has a temporary blackout of memory function and may find themselves in a different location under a different name. The characteristics of a fugue state are three: sudden and unexpected travel away from the usual environment with no recall of the past, assumption of a new identity or confusion about a person’s identity, and severe stress or neuropsychological impairment. This indeed happened to Agatha Christie in 1926. She apparently vanished and appeared 11 days later at a hotel 100 miles away under an assumed name and she herself was unaware of the intervening time interval and had no idea how she used that name- but she was able to drive to the hotel and spend over a week presumably with normal activity but without an iota of memory about the time interval. Her stress may have been due to her husband’s alleged affair.
Déjà vu is somewhat different from a paranormal state termed precognition, which may be even more common. Whereas déjà vu involves living through a familiar scene for apparently a second time, precognition involves watching a scene, perhaps in a dream or daydream, and then living the event at a future time. Obviously, it is difficult to attest to the validity of precognition unless the person reports the scene before the event takes place in reality. This indeed happened at least one in 2001 where a woman called into a radio call-in talk show describing a precognition of an airliner crash with some specific details. Six hours later, an airliner crashed in an extremely similar manner. Unfortunately, she failed to describe the identifying number on the airplane’s tail beforehand.
Clairvoyance is unlike precognition in that there is a vision of a scene in a distant location at close to the same time. This has been observed especially in close relatives such as twins or siblings. The poet Wilfred Owens’s brother Harold had such an experience while on board a warship sensing the death of his brother at the end of World War I. On Armistice Day, about a week after Wilfred Owen was killed, Harold was on a cruiser off the coast of Africa and as he reported:
” I drew aside the door curtain and stepped inside and to my amazement I saw Wilfred sitting in my chair. I felt shock running through me…looking at him I spoke quietly: ‘Wilfred, how did you get here?’ He did not rise and I saw that he was involuntarily immobile’. ..He did not speak but only smiled his gentle smile...He was in uniform and I remember thinking how out of place the khaki looked amongst the cabin furnishings. With this thought I must have turned my eyes away from him; when I looked back my cabin chair was empty…I felt terribly tired… and went into a deep oblivious sleep. When I woke up I knew with absolute certainty the Wilfred was dead”.
Somewhat coincidentally, the ship that Harold Owen was aboard. The Astroea, was launched the day Wilfred Owen was born.
One of the most remarkable documented experiences of clairvoyance occurred in 1883 when Byron Somes, a reporter for the Boston Globe, was in the office sleeping off a hangover. He awoke from a terrifying dream but seemed so real that like a good reporter he wrote down the details. The dream involved earthquakes and explosions with huge mortality. After finishing his notes he wrote the word IMPORTANT on his notes, left them on his office desk and went home to sleep. It so happened that on that very day a disturbance occurred in the Straits of Sunda in the Eastern Pacific which turned out to be the eruption of Krakatoa. Another reporter found the notes on Somes’ desk, assuming that Somes had some knowledge of an important event otherwise not yet reported in the United States. The Globe printed the story which was picked up by other newspapers although the news of the Krakatoa eruption had not been communicated. When Somes appeared he indicated that he had derived these notes from a nightmare, a very realistic one, but had otherwise no idea what was happening in the Far East. The newspaper was about to print a retraction when news came from California about tsunamis hitting the coastline and causing the disruptions very closely described in Somes’ original report.
Then there are the strange disappearances. You have perhaps heard about Judge (aptly named) Crater, who stepped into a taxi in 1930 and disappeared. That remained a mystery for several years. Of course he could have experienced a fugue and changed his identity but an observed disappearances can be even more bizarre. We go back to a bright sunny afternoon of September 23, 1880 in Tennessee. David Lang is walking across his front yard near his wife and children. A carriage is arriving with a guest. David turns to greet his guest and after a few steps vanishes. This is witnessed by 5 people. His wife screams and become hysterical. At the site of his disappearance there is no trace. He never returns. The following Spring at the site a circle of yellow grass is found 15 feet in diameter. On a quiet evening at around that time the two children playing nearby seem to hear their father’s voice calling for help over and over and finally fading away. Of course, it is always possible that the visitor, the carriage driver, David Lang’s wife and his two children did away with David and hid the evidence. However, the visitor happened to be a judge and judges don’t usually get involved in such activities. Incidentally, it had not been ascertained that the judge was the disappeared Judge Crater who went back to an earlier time.
In regard to our own experiences in time I have postulated that our perception of time is based upon our visual sensation of objects and that the movement of objects, especially small ones, with short time spans cannot be observed by us. For example, if we could magnify or expand a time interval so that we could see changes in mega-seconds it is possible that we would have an entirely different experience of the environment around us. To make this concept clearer let us say that we can contract time so that within what we consider second a million years go by. We would see mountains growing and diminishing and other changes that we cannot perceive in our own time frame. Similarly if we travelled close to the speed of light time would slow down so that it is possible that what we perceived as an hour might take several decades and our appearances would change. This reminds me of a limerick appearing in the book One, Two, Three…Infinity by the astrophysicist George Gamow:
There once was a fellow named Fisk
Whose fencing was exceedingly brisk
So fast was his action
The Fitzgerald contraction
Reduced his epée to a disk.
In regard to the seemingly inexplicable disappearances of people perhaps if we could expand time we could understand how someone could conceivably disappear by some mechanisms that works in mega-seconds, a time frame too small for our perception. Our problem is that we sense a comfortable Newtonian universe, but actually. beyond our senses, a more disorderly universe where there are warps in times and space, and I might add, with strings attached. It is hard enough for us to gather in fully what is available to our senses without the ability to comprehend what may indeed be a universe of dark matter or even separate universes. In quantum mechanics, we define the state of a small subatomic particle by measuring it in one state but the object at the same time might be in several states, only one of which can be perceived. Do we not also perceive the universe in a state we can only measure with our limited senses? With extrasensory perception of the kind that can perceive time warps, mega-seconds, and higher dimensions we might better be able to explain some of the mysteries of the paranormal experiences.
Finally, to conclude,
I would first like to thank Arthur Diers for his superb introduction and drink this glass of water.
It’s déjà vu all over again.
Joes MD, Flaxman L. The Déjà vu enigma. New Page Books. Franklin Lakes, NJ 2010.
Lewis CS. The Dark Tower & Other Stories. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. New York and London 1977
Lewis CS. Perelandra. ANovel. MacMillan New York 1944 (Sixth Printing 1955)
Stallworthy J, Wilfred Owen. A biography. Oxford University Press and Chatto and Windus London 1974 p. 287
Finney J. Time and Again. Scribner paperback edition. Published by Simon and Schuster. New York 1970.
De Ridder D, Van Laere K, Dupont P, Menovsky T, Van de Heyning P. Visualizing out-of- body experience in the brain. N Engl J Med 2007; 357:1829-1833.
Bishop, M. We have been here before. The New Yorker Oct 29 1938 p. 28
Freedman DH. Time travel redux.
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