Dunne’s method is to concentrate on a book which one is about to read (so as to provide a future anchor for associations) and note down whatever images come to mind — rejecting all images which pertain to the past. The next step is to actually read the book and see if any of those images appear in it — or in one’s outside life around the time of reading the book.
For my first organized experiment in this type of precognition, I chose the Kindle edition of the Townsend translation of the poems of Giacomo Leopardi. I chose an e-book so as to be sure that I hadn’t flipped through it and seen something before beginning to read it. I chose this particular work because I had downloaded it pretty much at random, never having read a review of it, had it recommended to me, or anything like that.
(I had just read Evola’s Ride the Tiger followed by Williams’s Place of the Lion, so simple logic — the same logic that makes me keep The Green Knight, The Black Prince, and The Red Queen together on my bookshelf — dictated that my next book ought to be something with a leopard or jaguar in the title. Not being in the mood for Salman Rushdie, I searched Gutenberg for leopards and came up with Leopardi. I sent it to my Kindle but didn’t actually read it until just now.)
Looking at the title page — and only the title page — I concentrated on the author’s name and got the following images and words:
- a pointed spiral seashell — something along the lines of a turret snail or a horn snail (I sketched it in my notebook)
- very long green grass waving in the wind
- a man vaulting over a long, narrow black table — pressing his palms down on the table and jumping with his legs spread out gymnastics-style; I didn’t see his face, only his hands and legs
- a young white woman (late twenties, probably) wearing a bright red dress (very slightly orange-ish), shaking something out of her long wavy light brown hair
- a left hand writing with a white quill pen
- a long black worm with a dry cord-like appearance, disposed in a sine-wave-like shape on a light-brown wooden surface; I noted very clearly that it was definitely not a snake
- the word “sapphire”
- the phrase “then shall we know”
- something which I didn’t hear very clearly, but which sounded like “terms of tray”
- the phrase “black words” — pronounced with a strong stress on the first word, so it sounded like the word “backwards” with an l-sound interposed.
I noted down these images on Wednesday, April 24, and then immediately started reading the book. Since I only read it for several minutes each day, I didn’t finish it until April 30.
Here are the results I got:
- Leopardi’s poem “The Ginestra” contains a reference to “waving fields of golden grain.” Since the greenness of the grass was one of the most salient aspects of the image I saw, and since Leopardi puts similar emphasis on a quite different color, I don’t think this can be considered a hit.
- On Saturday, April 27, I went to a movie theater with my wife, niece, and nephew to watch Iron Man 3. At the theater I saw a young white women, probably in her late twenties, with long wavy light brown hair, and wearing a bright scarlet strapless minidress. She would have been eye-catching in any context, but all the more so in Taiwan, where white people are exceedingly few and far between (I often go for weeks without seeing a single one), and where extremely casual dress is even more the norm than in America. She didn’t shake anything out of her hair, but she did toss it about in that horse-like way that some women have. (Not until the next day did I make the connection with my Leopardi images; my immediate thought, reinforced by the fact that she was accompanied by two men in black suits, was that she looked like the woman in the red dress from the Matrix.)
- On Tuesday, April 30, I arrived early for an English class which I teach in a conference room at a manufacturing company, so to kill time I pulled out my Kindle and read some Leopardi. Then, while I was reading, I suddenly noticed the table I was sitting at: a light brown wooden surface exactly like the one I had seen. A laptop was sitting in the middle of it, and the black cord of its mouse was disposed in a sine-wave-like shape. There was not the slightest doubt that this was the image I had seen on the 24th and mistaken for a worm (though, as I had noted at the time, a “cord-like” worm). However, I teach in this room — with that same tabletop, laptop, and mouse cord — every week and have been doing so for months, so this clearly can’t be considered a specifically precognitive image.
- One of Leopardi’s poems is called “The Last Song of Sappho” — phonetically similar to “sapphire.” Since I had heard the word “sapphire” rather than seeing an actual sapphire, this seems like a near-hit.
All in all, I’d say this experiment was a wash. The woman in red is the only one that seems even a little bit impressive.
One mistake I made was that I tried to pick up many different images as quickly as possible, rather than lingering over each and trying to pick up more details. As a result, many of the images are so common or vague that they would have been of no value as evidence even if they had come true in every particular. Next time around, I will insist on higher-quality images rather than simply jotting down every vague thing that pops into my head.
The next book I will be trying this with is The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, Vol. II — selected at random so as to minimize the chances of my having had any past exposure to it. (The selection method was as follows. First I asked random.org for a random integer between 1 and 5000; it gave me 3312. Then I looked up entry 3312 in Davies and Gardner’s Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English, which gave me the word admire. Finally, I typed admire into the Gutenberg.org search box and chose the last result on the list. Since the results are ranked by popularity, choosing the last one is a way of avoiding very popular books, again with the aim of minimizing the chances of past exposure.)
For the benefit of any readers who may wish to try this kind of experiment themselves, here are five other titles, all available free from Gutenberg, selected by the same method:
- Robert Green Ingersoll. Hell.
- Archibald Makellar. An Investigation into the Nature of Black Phthisis.
- Edward Everett Hale. If, Yes and Perhaps.
- Knowles King. The Wesleyan Methodist Pulpit in Malvern.
- Tappan Wentworth. Report of the Hoosac Tunnel and Troy and Greenfield Railroad, by the Joint Standing Committee of 1866.