Trip to a déjà vu place
The term déjà vu is French and means, literally, "already seen". I’m sure that all of you have experience this at least once or have felt you have witnessed a current situation before, although the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain or perhaps imagined. This experience is usually accompanied by a compelling impression of familiarity, and a sense of "eeriness", "strangeness", or "weirdness". The phenomenon is rather complex, and there are many different theories as to why déjà vu happens. I’m telling you this because some years ago I went to Laos to give a public lecture. I crossed the border at Mukdahan (Thailand) and went to Savannakhet Town, founded around 1600 and colonized by the French between 1893 and 1953. I can tell you that you feel the French influence in the air, in the historic buildings, in the streets where there’s a mix of Vietnamese and Chinese citizens. Right away, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu, an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn't be familiar at all, because, at least in this life, I had never been there before. I went to Talat Yen Plaza, a long rectangular shape surrounded by old colonial houses, to the Catholic church, to the Theatre “Lao Chaleun” – someone explained to me that “chaleun” means “civilization” in Lao – with it’s façade in the Art Deco style that spread throughout the world between the 1910s and 1930s, and suddenly it seemed to me as if I had been in that very spot before.
After the lecture, some of the other panelists and I decided to go for a drink at a local pub. A beautiful girl dressed in red came and stood nearby, starting to talk in French and touching my leg very softly. I invited her to dance and was intending to take her with me when she said: “Don’t act like an elephant in a forest! You can’t touch a girl while you are dancing!” I slept alone that night. Next day, I took Route n. 9 and saw the dramatic contrast between the peacefulness of the area today and what it must have been in the past, as evidenced by the craters left by air bombing. I travelled in the direction of Ban Sepon Kao, a few kilometers east of the current Sepon. The little village is located on a riverbank and still bears the wounds of war. The shattered entrance to the local bank is an eloquent witness to the past. Again, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu. Some years ago, I made a regression, and seemed, in a past life, to have lived somewhere in Laos or Vietnam. You may not believe in such things, but I can promise you that – for sure in this life – I had never been in those places before. Swiss scholar Arthur Funkhouser would describe this incidence as déjà visité ("already visited") or déjà vécu ("already experienced or lived through"). I know that I am not the only one to have had this feeling – at least 70 % of the world population reports having experienced some form of déjà vu. I also know that there is much speculation as to how and why this happens. Several psychoanalysts attribute déjà vu to simple fantasy or wish fulfillment, while some psychiatrists ascribe it to a mismatching in the brain that causes the brain to mistake the present for the past. Many parapsychologists believe it is related to a past-life experience. Do you agree?