Moses contemplating a human skull

I dreamed that I was reading a book by a New Age author who claimed to have telepathically received a series of striking images. The book consisted of reproductions of those images — pen-and-ink drawings done in a style reminiscent of Tom Baxa‘s — each with an accompanying paragraph giving the author’s interpretation of its meaning. (As the introduction of the book made clear, the images themselves were “received” but the interpretations were the author’s own.)

One of these images — the only one I spent any time looking at in the dream — showed a young Egyptian man looking at a human skull which he held in his hand. (The Egyptian’s hand was not visible in the picture, but it was understood that he was holding the skull.) The scene was shown from such a perspective that the skull loomed huge in the foreground, grinning at the reader, occupying almost the entire right half of the picture. The Egyptian was in the background, on the left side of the picture. The skull faced directly out towards the reader — so the Egyptian was apparently looking at the back of the skull. Every detail of the skull was clearly visible, and it appeared to have a strange texture, almost as if it were made of tiny Legos.

The author had given this picture the title “Moses contemplating a human skull” and written the following commentary: “He asked himself, ‘Did you, O Moses, come from yon human skull?’ — and he concluded that he had, and that only he had.” (Yes, I know that’s an incorrect use of “yon.” The New Age guy in the dream wrote it, not me.)

In the hypnopompic reverie following this dream, I interpreted this as follows: The skull young Moses was contemplating was that of a Hebrew slave, and he noticed that he — and he alone, of all the people in the pharaonic court — had a similarly shaped skull. This was when Moses realized for the first time that he was of Hebrew, not Egyptian, parentage; and this realization marked the starting point of the trajectory that would lead to his role as liberator of the Hebrews. (Once I had fully woken up, though, I no longer thought that interpretation made sense. It seems unlikely that two closely related Middle Eastern peoples would have any noticeable craniometric differences; and if they did, those differences would surely have been accompanied by outwardly visible differences which Moses would have noticed long before, without having to look at a skull.)


The dream was on Wednesday night, and it’s clear where many of its elements came from. On Wednesday nights I lead a conversation group for students of English, and our topic that night was “Africa.” We talked about various historical figures from Africa, including Moses, and there was also some discussion of hominid evolution in Africa, including Leakey’s discoveries in the Olduvai Gorge. So that’s obviously why my dream featured Moses (and specifically Moses qua Egyptian), as well as someone contemplating a skull and considering whether he had “come from” it.


The Friday morning following the dream, I was browsing an online discussion board, and someone had posted an inspirational quote incongruously illustrated with a picture of “He-Man” cartoon villain Skeletor.

Clicking on the picture out of curiosity, I found that it came from a blog featuring dozens and dozens of such “Skeletor Affirmations.” The third one on the page caught my eye.

This is exactly the same layout as the picture I saw in my dream: a huge skull, staring directly at the viewer, occupying the whole right half of the picture; and in the background, a man staring at the skull. The ghost guy in the Skeletor picture is not an Egyptian, but the shape of his helmet, together with the horizontal stripes below his chin, does suggest the stereotypical Egyptian headdress seen, for example, on King Tut’s mummy case. (I am not entirely sure that the Egyptian in my dream was wearing such a headdress; I just know that he looked obviously Egyptian.) Skeletor himself, with his hood and his blue-and-yellow color scheme, reinforces the King Tut image. And while the Skeletor picture is not black-and-white, it is a cartoon line-drawing with extensive areas filled in with black, and to that extent it is similar in style to the picture in my dream.


This, like my other recent precognitive dream (of a beast with many eyes), demonstrates the following points:

  • Dreams mix elements from past and future, combining them in such a way that they are impossible to separate out except in hindsight. (Dunne mentions this as well in An Experiment with Time.)
  • So far, all of my strong precognitions have been of images, not ideas, and the meaning associated with the image in the dream is generally completely unrelated to the meaning of the image when it appears in waking life. (This most recent dream seems almost to make that point explicitly; the author of the book of images explains that, while the images themselves were revealed to him, the interpretations are his own.)
  • None of my precognitions so far have been of anything that could even remotely be considered important or meaningful. The dreaming mind (my dreaming mind, anyway) appears to draw on experience (past and future) quite indiscriminately, without regard to whether or not it means anything.


Filed under Dreams, Precognition / Prophecy

3 responses to “Moses contemplating a human skull

  1. “None of my precognitions so far have been of anything that could even remotely be considered important or meaningful.”

    That is what I find most disappointing about your explorations of this issue over the past couple of years. They all seem so pointless! – that it is hard to believe such a faculty would either have evolved, or been a divine gift or attribute.

    The only explanation I can come up with is that these are epiphenomena of something which is important or fundamental – in the way that most dreams seem to be epiphenomena of something bigger and more important going on during ‘REM sleep’.

  2. I think the pointlessness must be a clue to what kind of phenomena we are dealing with.

    I think we can rule out the possibility that these dreams are direct revelations from God; obviously, God would have no reason to reveal information about cheesy Internet memes and Keanu Reeves movies. It is slightly more believable that precognitive ability generally could be a gift from God, one that I am intended to develop into something useful, which I have so far failed to do. (This is my wife’s take.) I don’t think this is probable, though.

    Nor can precognitive ability be considered an evolutionary adaptation, since virtually no one is able to use it in a way that would increase inclusive fitness.

    I think the most likely explanation is that precognitive dreams are just an “unintended” side effect of the way things are. This is Dunne’s theory — that due to the nature of time and of human consciousness, this kind of thing just happens, and that asking why it happens in a teleological sense is like asking why we see reflections on smooth surfaces. There’s no divine or evolutionary purpose behind it; it’s just how the physics works. I have some serious doubt’s about Dunne’s theory of precognition, but I do think that something like that (rather than an evolutionary or religious explanation) must be correct.

  3. Andrew

    I’ve only had one similar personal experience that I actually recall, but was rather meaningful. My dream involved my Grandfather grabbing his chest in pain, and a couple days later I found out he was in the hospital from a heart attack.

    My wife quite frequently (weekly, sometimes daily) will have waking instances. For example, she might think about a person hasn’t heard from in a couple years, then receives a letter or phone call from the same person that day. Most common seem to be the apparently meaningless things, similar to yours though waking, where she starts talking about something related to an image that popped in her head and then we see an instance of it. This is usually very inane, yet the imagery weird enough that it is apparently real – like talking about hot dogs and seeing a “Weinermobile” a few minutes later. She also has very frequent and very real/specific “Deja Vu’s.” Her folk-belief from this is that everything is to-a-large-degree fated and she is just receiving occasional glimpses of how events will play out.

    However, even if her interpretation is correct, events could be to a large degree locked-in (the Norns weavings becoming tighter?) going forward even several hours in advance but still leave ample room for individual free will and choice.

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