Deja vu. The sense that something you’ve just witnessed, something you’ve just felt happened to you before.
I’ve suffered from this feeling. I’m sure every one of you reading this has as well.
I can even tell you what deja vu likely is — the brain’s visual cortex gets out of sync and processes the information from one eye a fraction of an instant before the other eye’s information.
And maybe that’s what it is.
But maybe, just maybe, deja vu is something else entirely.
No, not a glitch in the Matrix. (I didn’t enjoy The Matrix; sure, it was a technically proficient film, but I’d read far too much Philip K. Dick in my teens and twenties to find anything original in the story.) That’s too mundane.
Deja vu could be a moment when the present syncs up with a genuine premonition. It’s not impossible; you simply have to assume that the reality of time doesn’t match with our conception of time, and just because time proceeds from our perspective in a linear path from past to future through the present, it doesn’t mean that time actually flows in that linear path and past, present, and future could coexist simultaneously.
But even that’s too simplistic for deja vu.
You see, I think it’s a glitch in the multiverse.
Follow me down this rabbit hole and I’ll explain…
The multiverse? What?
Consider the works of Michael Moorcock, Larry Niven ("All the Myriad Ways"), DC Comics, the Star Trek episode "Mirror Mirror," and many others. All positing that the universe we inhabit is not a singular thing, that there are multiple universes and multiple timelines, some slightly different, some vastly different, all coexisting with ours.
Consider the human brain. The best guess is that it’s a quantum computer, and some of its functions exist in an uncertain, Schroedinger-like state that can’t be modeled precisely but could be solved if they existed in multiple states, precisely what a multiverse would allow.
The meat hardware of the human mind, then, would transcend the universe and exist in multiple universes simultaneously. Think of it as a neural network, all of the same mind, existing in multiple iterations in multiple universes. To function, the human consciousness would have to filter out the competing perceptions and lock down on the "real" universe.
In deja vu, the filter "glitches" and perception from another universe slips through. The mind’s consciousness recognizes the "wrongness" of the perception, and that causes the feeling of deja vu.
At least, that’s my theory. Impossible to prove, of course.
The worst deja vu experience I ever have — and it happens on occasion, as recently as a few days ago — give me the feeling of being dead. It’s as if my brain is suddenly in a place where there’s nothing there, and the feeling that comes over me is horrifying.
The more common deja vu experience is much more sedate. I feel like I’m slapped in the face by the universe, and usually I feel convinced that I’ve lived this moment before. Usually, I stop whatever I’m doing and go off and do something else just to settle the mind. Usually, I also notice that my eyes have changed color.
That’s the weird thing about deja vu moments. It’s not just the mental weirdness, it’s the physical weirdness.
It’s what it is.
There you have it. My theory on deja vu. A glitch in the multiverse.
Philip K. Dick would be proud.