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We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time—of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances—of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remembered it! – Charles Dickens
Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. It is, in itself, a testimony that beareth witness to the existence of a world that is contingent, as well as to the reality of a world that hath neither beginning nor end. Behold how the dream thou hast dreamed is, after the lapse of many years, re-enacted before thine eyes. Consider how strange is the mystery of the world that appeareth to thee in thy dream. Ponder in thine heart upon the unsearchable wisdom of God, and meditate on its manifold revelations… – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 161.
I had my first déjà vu experience, a dream re-enacted before my eyes, when I was ten years old.
My Déjà Vu Dream of the Future
My father and I had gone fishing, to a remote mountain lake near the Canadian border in Washington State, a place neither of us had ever gone before. We arrived near dusk, and walked into the little store and ranger station near the lake to get a campsite for the night. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I knew—absolutely knew, without any doubt—that I had been there before. Everything was familiar. I knew exactly where the bait rack and the soda machine and the little pot-bellied stove would be–before I looked. I knew what the man behind the counter would be wearing, and precisely how he would tip his faded blue hat to greet us. I knew how my father would respond before he spoke. I knew that a black Labrador retriever would get up from behind the warm stove and come over to say hello.
As I stood there with that friendly black Lab nuzzling my hand, astonished at this overwhelming feeling of precognition, I remembered my dream of going fishing with my father. Three years past, when I was seven, I had dreamed about this very spot vividly, and had stored it in my mind in great detail. I recalled the dream and saw that it matched the reality. As soon as I realized that I had dreamed this moment years before, a shiver went down my spine. I knew, suddenly, that somewhere in the strangeness of the past and present colliding, I had discovered something profound. Since that first instance of déjà vu, I’ve had a few more, always when I least expected, and always catching me completely by surprise.
How Common Is Déjà Vu?
Have you ever had one of those mysterious kinds of predictive dream experiences?
Apparently, most of us have—in fact, it turns out they’re quite common. Polling across many different cultures indicates that between 66-96% of people report having at least one déjà vu experience. That probably shouldn’t strike us as strange, because it’s so universal. The French phrase déjà vu simply means “already seen,” and usually refers to the strong sensation that you’ve somehow pre-perceived or formerly dreamed about a current occurrence.
These experiences aren’t considered “paranormal” because they’re so common–they happen to children and adults in every type of society, and have been reported throughout history. Neuroscientists have proposed many theories about the déjà vu experience, but none have ever been proven. Writers and researchers have offered mystical explanations.
What Do These Dreams of the Future Mean?
The Baha’i teachings say that these kinds of dream-to-real-life replications can and do indicate the existence of more than just this one familiar world:
Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it.
This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world.
Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of Divine Wisdom have been treasured. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 151.
So, as Baha’u’llah suggests, let’s meditate on the phenomena for a minute. What could it mean?
Could déjà vu indicate that time—as the physicists know, a flexible concept based on gravitational force—is more fluid and mutable than we think? Could it mean that our minds and spirits can, in some instances, somehow see beyond the present and into our futures? Or could it mean that multiple worlds exist, with the occasional connection between them revealing itself in our consciousness? I don’t pretend to know the answer—but I do know my own déjà vu and dream experiences have convinced me that a spiritual reality lives beyond the everyday reality that my puny powers of perception can understand.