Suspended Realities: Déjà vu & Dreams

The occurrences of the phenomena of deja vu are due to a chemical imbalance in the brain – temporary – such is the common understanding of neurologists etc. When deja vu occurs the subject on occasion does not know if he has genuinely experienced the situation before or whether it is a new experience, tainted so by the chemical imbalance. Everything seems familiar, stunningly so sometimes – this is perhaps dependent on the duration of the effect.

When one experiences deja vu they will often relate it to a previous memory, when, I posit from personal experience, they also experienced deja vu. This linkage between memories with their common factor being deja vu infers an altered state of consciousness – or perhaps a parallel reality, or one that the mind has temporarily been shifted into – that’s in effect for the duration of the deja vu occurrence. It might be suggested that two or more realities are being experienced here; the normal reality we are acquainted with during ordinary states of consciousness, and an alternate reality – a different plane of consciousness, whichever terminology best suits, for the two may well be equivalent – when deja vu is in effect: during the latter we are suddenly subjected to all the experiences, thoughts that had been ongoing at that previous occurrence of deja vu – they’d been suspended, like actors ready to resume their roles on a set, while normal reality was in play, and then they set themselves in motion within the subject’s mind when the imbalance occurs.

Like I put it to a friend once (in the context of dreams, that I am to come on to and, as we’ll see, are in my view inextricably linked to experiences of deja vu), paraphrased, “It’s like walking into a room you haven’t visited in a while and finding all the items in the same places you’d left them.” One reality lies in wait while the other plays itself out; the conscious slips into the other and resumes its previous activity there.

During times of waking these states are temporary, as the material surroundings and sense perception of normal reality are too prominent and over-powering to allow space for any alternative perception of events. Sleep however is a different prospect. Dreams may also be seen as being an alternate reality -certainly another mode of perception – where recurring dreams can of course by definition be revisited, the same events unfolding. ‘Normal reality’ is suspended; indeed during non-lucid dreaming the sleeper is unaware that a normal reality exists. My key point here:

A recurrence of a dream can be made equivalent to: an experience of deja vu where the subject, as well as experiencing the delusion that their current activity has happened before, remembers a previous occurrence of deja vu – both represent alternate realities or modes of perception.

It might be said that one reality (that of the waking world) is more valid, as we can remember dreams (however briefly) during waking and are aware of their existence, while in (non-lucid) dreaming, no awareness of the ‘outside world’ exists. Indeed it seems the simple and rational explanation that perceived reality is a more legitimate reality than that of dreams.

Very well. Leaving aside the idealist conception that all of reality is experienced inside the brain anyway (surely verified at least on logical principles?), I would suggest that this seeming favourable balance for material ‘real’ reality is due to how the human mind is configured to perceive sense data. We are configured to perceive reality in terms of spacetime, our consciousnesses being the overseers (perhaps only the observational tools) of perception of the apparent universe. Our minds are ‘directed’ to view material reality as that whose sense data are readily available to us for mental processing; the dream world is something that lies within us at a level less easily accessible, and upon entering is more confusing and out of line with the common, rational explanations of material reality – its bounds are not known to us, do perhaps not follow the waking mind’s preset configurations of understanding the universe in terms of spacetime, perhaps only captures some of that configuration (which may be what gives dimensional depth to our dreams).

The phenomenon of lucid dreaming should raise interest in this area to a considerable degree. In such states the mind is aware of the material reality yet is able to remain in the dream; effectively, the subject’s dream reality draws closer to the definition of his material reality. He is able to perform extraordinary feats – suddenly invested with the knowledge of his position and how extraordinary things ordinarily outside of the grasp of the dreamer are now available to him – and the dream may take on greater clarity, vivid imagery and longer lasting memory of it once he’s awoken.

It is a given that time and space do not function in the same way – if they can even be defined as such – in the dream world, as we are able to perceive it, as they do in the waking world. Yet exploration of dreams and a particular focus given to them during waking and just before sleep heightens the chances of a lucid dream. If one captures this and, if he is lucky, experiences a recurring dream, he may be able to find those items that he left there and, one would hope, in the same place he’d left them.

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