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Observations placeholder

Boirac, Professor Emile - Revue philosophique de la France - Deja vu



Type of Spiritual Experience





A description of the experience

Please note that the translator is unknown for this, but the site was French

Without having examined the facts described in the article, I will report on an illusion of memory which to me, resembles the same type.

It happened when I first saw a monument, a countryside, a person, which made me all of a sudden realize, and in spite of my judgement, I had already seen what I was seeing.  Impossible to say where, nor when: the memory, like the sensation of deja vu was none the less ‘very alive’ and ‘very clear’.  This did not disappear upon reflection, but to the contrary, seemed to increase.  I had principally observed this in me, when I arrived to reside in a city as of yet unknown to me. -I already had recorded this (experience) with my reading: suddenly, for no apparent reason, I recall having read that page, these lines, these same words printed with their letters; and the particular taste of the mental state where I had found myself then, comes back very freshly. It goes without saying, that it is imaginary, and that I have never read that very book. – Other times, taking part in a conversation, in a situation then altogether insignificant, I happen to recognize a falseness (unreality), by a sort of sudden reflection, a combination of words, movements, feelings where I believe, I am witnessing this for the second time- I had heard it said to several people, that they also know from experience, this memory illusion .

How to explain this phenomenon? – Must we assume like imagination, the memory has its own hallucinations?

Until (there is) something better, I venture to propose a psychological explication. I am only giving this as a hypothesis to study. 

Recognition’s subjective condition (nature) is perhaps (due to) the presence, under a current perception, residuals of same type perceptions: these are reborn perceptions that are aging the present perception.  They combine, they merge with it,  to the point of escape from consciousness.  This instant, and unconscious fusion of sensations, and images is a very general fact -which could include many examples.  As at the Opera, the listeners who were in front of the libretto could hear distinctly, despite the blending of words sung, that were rendered indistinguishable, in virtue of this merger, the sung words were for all others indistinct.  The hypothesis consists of admitting  that when the merger operates spontaneously, with an unconsciousness promptness and sufficiency, it produces recognition.  Now, under the law of similar associations, new perceptions can excite and spontaneously absorb the residues of prior perceptions (that are) more or less similar:  these old perceptions are increasingly unable to revive (resurface) alone,  in part, because they are more distant, as they are already more intimately fused together, despite their differences, during a long interval where they have ceased to appear in our brain.  However, they are sufficient to produce the senior illusion.  – In certain cases (probably because the residues do not have sufficient intensity), for the merger (fusion) to completely take place, the new perception must repeat a certain number of times.  The residue it leaves, then unites much easier with the oldest.  –  When changing your environment, If the illusion is more frequent, there is more chances that old and forgotten perceptions are evoked by mixing with unaccustomed objects, and without being recognized, new perceptions age.  This is perhaps another element of explanation.

We can admit that all sensation, all special representation, especially when the mind is not yet accustomed, it is single feeling (in English relish) and we could also name this its stamp, an emotional nuance

In the case which occupies us a now, a new object can excite the mind perhaps with the same undefined feeling, as the older unnamed object that it does not necessarily resemble, and that has been long forgotten:  or a recognition of an already known mental disposition, in effect,  an impotent effort to resurrect the original perception that it was part of.

² I come now to the facts described in the note (‘souviens du souvenir’ experience). It does not seem to me very clearly explained, I’m not quite sure on the exact process. If I am not mistaken, this is what it is

All memories that come back to the brain are accompanied by this remark  that it was preceded by another memory on the same object, backwards, so to speak, this same object in a so distant memory that it seems out of the boundaries of present life……


The source of the experience

Boirac, Professor Émile

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