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What is Deja Vu?

What is déjà vu? Psychologists are exploring this creepy feeling of having already lived through an experience before

LEDE: Have you ever had that weird feeling that you’ve experienced the same exact situation before, even though that’s impossible? Sometimes it can even seem like you’re reliving something that already happened. This phenomenon, known as déjà vu, has puzzled philosophers, neurologists and writers for a very long time.

Starting in the late 1800s, many theories began to emerge regarding what might cause déjà vu, which means “already seen” in French. People thought maybe it stemmed from mental dysfunction or perhaps a type of brain problem. Or maybe it was a temporary hiccup in the otherwise normal operation of human memory. But the topic did not reach the realm of science until quite recently.


Occultism in America - May 5 at 1pm - Free Program

YIVO is offering a free lecture on May 5 at 1pm on B. Rivkin  on Occultism in America. You can register here.

“WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM TELL YOU?”: B. RIVKIN AND YIDDISH OCCULTISM IN AMERICA

The writer B. Rivkin (Borukh Avrom Weinrebe, 1883–1945) is known to scholars today as an important anarchist thinker. Less known is that Rivkin was also a firm believer in the occult who attended spiritualist séances and speculated about the possibility of telepathic communication. Over the three decades of his literary career in the United States, Rivkin published hundreds of articles on occult topics, edited a short-lived Yiddish journal devoted to the development of latent inner powers, and published a weekly psychic dream interpretation column in the newspaper Der tog in the early 1940s that analyzed dreams submitted by readers. In this talk, Sam Glauber-Zimra will uncover this forgotten side of Rivkin’s literary career. Utilizing materials preserved in Rivkin’s archive at YIVO, he will trace the significance of the occult for Rivkin and his Yiddish-speaking immigrant readers as they navigated religious change and the crisis of the Holocaust.


About the Speaker

Samuel Glauber-Zimra is a PhD candidate in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His dissertation, “Occult Modernities: Hidden Realities in East European Jewish Culture, 1880–1939,” examines the various expressions of modern occultism within the popular culture and religious thought of Eastern European Jewry and its diaspora in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His most recent article, “Writings on Spiritualism from the Archive of R. Eliyahu Mordekhai Halevy Wolkowsky” appears in the journal Kabbalah, and he is the co-editor of Hillel Zeitlin, In the Secret Place of the Soul: Three Essays (Jerusalem: Blima, 2020) [Hebrew]. He is the 2021-2022 recipient of the The Rose and Isidore Drench Memorial Fellowship and the Dora and Mayer Tendler Endowed Fellowship in American Jewish Studies.

 


Forms of Prediction

Martin vaTarot reader 1n Creveld is Professor Emeritus of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world’s most renowned experts on military history and strategy. He has compiled a list of some of generally known the forms of divination.

Here is his list. How many do you know?

1. Shamanism.

Shamanism is widespread all over the world, particularly among societies made up of hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists. Tribes without rulers, as I have called them in another book. Imported into modern cities, especially those of the so-called Third World, in many places it is active even today. At the root of shamanism is the assumption that, to look into the future, it is necessary first of all to leave the “normal” world by entering into an altered state of consciousness (ASC). The methods used to do so vary enormously from one culture to another. Among the most common are music (especially drumming), dancing, prayer, solitude, fasting, long vigils, sexual abstinence (or its opposite, engaging in orgies), breathing exercises, alcoholic drinks, hallucinogenic drugs, and many others.

In each of these cases, the objective is to embark the shaman on a mysterious voyage which will take him into a different country, realm, or reality. One in which the difference between present, past and future is eliminated and the last-named becomes an open book to read.

 Prophecy Update

2. Prophecy.

Also known as revelation, prophecy of the kind many of us are familiar with from the Old Testament in particular is little but a more institutionalized form of shamanism. The difference is that it is not the spirits but God Himself who supposedly reveals himself to the prophet and speaks through his mouth. Sometimes, as in the famous case of Jonah, he does so even against the prophet’s will.

Whereas shamans were almost always illiterate prophets tended to spend their lives in societies where either they themselves or others were able to read and write. Often the outcome was a more detailed, more cohesive, idea of what the future might bring.

Shattered Dreams

3. The interpretation of dreams.

Like prophecy, the interpretation of dreams goes back at least as far as the Old Testament. It, too, rests on the assumption that, by entering upon an ASC, people will be enabled to see things which, in their waking state, they cannot.

As the Biblical story about Joseph shows, dreams were supposed to deliver their message not in simple form but with the aid of symbols. Lists of such symbols are known from ninth-century century BCE Assyria and continue to be published today. Note, however, that interpreting the dreams and relating them to future events was the task, not of the person who had them but of specialists who approached the problem in a cool, analytic manner. Before delivering their verdict, they often took the dreamer’s age, sex and personal circumstances into account.

A Sybil

4. The Greek oracles.

Oracles were extremely popular in Greece and Rome. To use the example of Delphi as the most important one of all, it centered on the Pythia. She was a woman who, sitting on a tripod in a dark subterranean abode, came under the influence of foul gasses emanating from a split in the earth. Going into a sort of trance, the Pythia let forth confused gibberish which was supposed to contain the clue to the future. Next, a special college of priests interpreted her words. Oracles, in other words, resembled the interpretation of dreams in that prediction was divided into two stages, each of these was the responsibility of a different person or persons.

5. Necromancy.

The best-known case of necromancy (from the Greek, nekros, dead, and manteia, divination) is the one described in the Old Testament. King Saul, wishing to learn the outcome of a battle which will take place on the next day, asks a witch to raise the spirit of the prophet Samuel from the dead. Whereupon Samuel tells Saul that, tomorrow, he and his sons too would be dead. Necromancy also occurs in Greek and Roman sources. Virgil in particular has Aeneas visit the underground abode of the dead where he is shown the future of Rome over a period of about a millennium, no less. The basic assumption underlying necromancy is that the dead, having crossed a certain threshold, know more than the living do. Even today in some cultures, procedures for raising the dead and consulting them concerning the future are commonplace.

Astrology

6. Astrology.

Along with shamanism, astrology is probably the oldest method for trying to look into the future. Its roots go as far back as Babylon around 3,000 BCE. That is why, in Imperial Rome, it was known as the “Chaldean” science. At the heart of astrology is the proposition, so obvious as to be self-evident, that the sun and moon (which, before Copernicus, were classified as planets) have a great and even decisive impact on life here on earth. Building on this, its students try to make that impact more specific by also taking into account the movements of the remaining planets, the fixed stars, and the relationships among all of these.

Even today, almost one third of Americans are said to believe in astrology. True or false, that does not change the fact that, unlike any of the above-mentioned methods, it is based not on any kind of ASC but on observation and calculation. Of the kind that is practiced, and can only be practiced, by perfectly sober people in full possession of their faculties. So mathematically-rooted was astrology that it acted as the midwife of astronomy, helping the latter become the queen of the sciences. This position it retained right until the onset of the scientific revolution during the seventeenth century.

A glowing crystal ball held in two hands

7. Divination.

As Cicero in his book on the topic makes clear, neither the Greeks nor the Romans ever took an important decision without trying to divine its consequences first. Both civilizations also maintained colleges of specialized priests who were in charge of the process. The most important types of divination were the flight of birds on one hand and examining the entrails of sacrificial animals on the other.

Like astrology, but unlike shamanism, prophecy, dreams, the oracles, and necromancy, divination did not depend on people becoming in any way ecstatic, mysteriously travelling from one world to another, and the like. Instead it was a “rational” art, coolly and methodically practiced by experts who had spent years studying it and perfecting it. Today the same is true for such techniques as numerology, Tarot-card reading, etc.


Reincarnation - What Are the Signs?

I recently had a long discussion about reincarnation and past lives and then located this interesting video that lists eleven signs that you have been reincarnated.

While I would love to believe that I have had past lives, I don't really feel that there is any concrete way to prove it. In astrology they say that you can read about your past lives in your birth chart. Possibly so, but as for me, I remain a bit skeptical.

Here is the video. See if you match any of these important signs:

 

If you want to learn more, check out these interesting books:

Reincarnation: Exceptional Cases of Past Life Memories (past lives, reincarnation, spiritual, past life regression, past life memory, many lives)

Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives

My Reincarnation

Reincarnation: Afterlife: Life After Death - What Happens When You Die? Rebirth or Game Over? (Wheel of Life, OBE, Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, Buddhism, Hinduism Book 1)

 


Do Dreams Predict the Future?

Dream analysisThere is the thought that dreams actually help us predict the future.

Here is a very interesting article on the subject.It is worth reading the full article but the conclusion is that after we wake from REM (dreaming) sleep, we are able to discern better patterns to make decisions. And here is a small excerpt of the article -

Perhaps the most famous dream prediction comes from the Bible. Pharaoh dreams of standing by the Nile. Seven sleek, fat cows emerge from the river, followed by seven scrawny, ugly cows that eat the plump, succulent ones. But what does it mean? There’s a pattern, isn’t there? Good is followed and overwhelmed by bad. And seven comes into it. Pharaoh summons Joseph, who interprets the dream – seven years of abundance will be followed by seven years of famine. The input is valuable. Now Pharaoh can anticipate and conserve for the bad years. But if Pharaoh can predict, why doesn’t he just dream of seven plentiful years and seven starvation years? What’s with the cannibalistic cows? Do these cows represent an associative pattern in Pharaoh’s experience? And how would identifying a pattern enable prediction, anyway?

It has to do with the way the brain works; it doesn’t passively receive information about the external world but, rather, actively interprets that information and looks for patterns in it. If everything were random, there would be no patterns, and prediction would be impossible. You can predict only by discerning a pattern in your experience (or knowledge, which is a sub-set of your experience). Are there regularities or sequences in events? Do some events generally occur with others? If there are associative patterns in events, they can be used to help predict what will happen next.

Some patterns are deterministic and logical. For example, day follows night. Day and night are, therefore, associated as a sequence in the human mind, and we can predict that day will occur after night. Another example: traffic is worst at commuter times, and heavy traffic is associated with commuting. This isn’t an association determined by natural law but, without human intervention to stagger commuter times or alter traffic flows, you can still predict the bad traffic around 8am.

Some patterns are much less obvious. We call them ‘probabilistic’ because they are based on events that have a tendency only to co-occur, so we cannot be as confident in predicting them. Predicting the behaviour of living beings, human and animal, is a probabilistic task. Based on their past behavior, you know it is likely that they will do certain things but you don’t know for sure. Their behavior is not random but neither is it determined. Living beings can always surprise you.

For example, I am a research academic with limited teaching hours. Most of my time is spent writing papers at home. It is not easy to predict when I will go into the university. The most obvious logical predictor is if I have teaching, but I will swap teaching if I have a research engagement. Another predictor is a booked meeting, but if an urgent research deadline looms I will skip the meeting. So although being at the university has a tendency to co-occur (and be associated) with teaching and meetings, it is by no means determined by them.

A less obvious predictor is an invitation to have coffee with an interesting colleague. If I am scheduled to teach and attend a meeting and also have the chance to join a colleague for coffee, it is very likely that I’ll be on campus – but it is still only a probability, albeit a strong one. On the other hand, I could be at the university just to have coffee with a colleague or because I am moving from one office to another, though these are much less likely to co-occur. That said, having coffee with a colleague on the same day I am moving office are probabilistic predictors of me being at the university.

What has all this got to do with dreaming?

Familiar people, places and events appear in our dreams but, with the lateral prefrontal cortex deactivated, we hardly ever experience them as they are in reality. Instead, people, places and experiences are recombined to render the familiar unfamiliar and often bizarre. I argue that the familiar becomes bizarre because in a REM dream we do not experience memories per se. Instead, we form an image that associates with memories of experiences. A dream image is bizarre because it portrays a pattern created by combining associated elements of different people, places or events. Our brains in REM sleep are primed to identify remote associations or non-obvious patterns between people, places and events in much the same way that, following REM sleep, we are better able to associate the word ‘star’ with ‘falling’, ‘actor’ and ‘dust’.

While we can’t say that dreams come true, we can say that they predict. I don’t believe that I will ever walk along a suburban street, see a house smothered in sand, and feel afraid. But I do think that my dreams identify probabilistic patterns in my experiences that, in the past, were used to predict experiences at ‘landmark’ places. And if you think about it, dreams can also predict how I will act in certain situations because I unconsciously anticipate their consequences. For example, you now know that if someone I love is thinking of buying a house a person has died in, I will want to say: ‘Don’t buy that house.’ If you knew what the associations I make in dreams mean, you would be able predict things about me. But if you don’t share my experiences, I don’t think you can interpret my dreams.

 

 


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