Category Archives: Precognition / Prophecy

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A beast with many eyes

On Friday night (actually, very early Saturday morning), I dreamed that I was watching TV and saw an image of what I interpreted as being a whale with many eyes, though I only saw its face. It was blue in color, with a row of eyes on the left and a row of eyes on the right — perhaps eight eyes in all. It also had feelers on the sides of its mouth like a catfish. I dreamed that, after seeing this, I got on Wikipedia to do some research, trying to find out if whales with many eyes actually existed. I found information about a particular gene (with a Latin-sounding name which I no longer remember), rare but not unheard of (comparable to albinism), which manifests sometimes in whales and other animals and causes them to have several pairs of eyes. Now that I knew the name of the gene, I ran a Google image search on it and found several pictures of animals with it — several blue whales, killer whales, and other cetaceans, as well as a couple of tigers. As I did this online research, I had the feeling that I had learned about this gene once before but had forgotten about it. My reaction was, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That gene.”

So much for the dream.

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On Saturday evening, I watched the DVD of the film “47 Ronin” — a fantasified version of the Japanese historical incident, with monsters, demons, a fox-spirit “witch,” and Keanu Reeves thrown in.

In an early scene in the movie, Reeves and a group of samurai are chasing down some sort of giant beast — think qilin-meets-gigantelope. For most of the sequence we don’t get a clear view of its face, but then it stops, turns to face Reeves, and opens its eyes — of which we now discover for the first time that it has six. Here is a screenshot:

47ronin-beast

This image jolted me with a shock of recognition. Aside from the fur, horns, and nostrils, it looks exactly like the many-eyed “whale” I saw in my dream.

This is one of the clearest instances of apparent dream-precognition I’ve experienced yet. The dream even correctly portrayed the beast as being something I saw on TV. And after watching the movie, I did go online (using Wikipedia and Google image search, among other resources) to try to find out whether the beast was based on some actual Japanese legend — but that’s something I chose to do after experiencing both the dream and the movie and recognizing the connection between them, so it can’t really be counted as a “fulfillment” of the dream.

*

I enjoyed “47 Ronin,” by the way, despite the uniformly negative reviews it has been getting from critics. It undeniably has its awful aspects, the most obvious of which is the concept itself. Imagine if a Chinese studio made a King Arthur movie in which Lancelot had some made-up Chinese sidekick who was actually Guinevere’s true love and the greatest knight of them all — and in which the rest of the cast, all British, had to speak their lines in Chinese — and you’ll get some idea of how ridiculous and even insulting this movie must seem to the Japanese. (Also, the 47 ronin actually lived in the 18th century — more Queen Anne than King Arthur — far too recent for monsters, demons, and other fantasy elements to be appropriate.) I also admit to groaning when the fox-spirit unaccountably transformed into a dragon — which looked like the seraphic Chinese/Japanese variety but behaved like the evil fire-breathing Western version.

I’m not Japanese, though, and have no particular attachment to the original story they were butchering, so I was able to enjoy the movie on its own terms. It was visually engaging, and I thought it did a good job of communicating the stern, stoical samurai spirit (or, at any rate, what this relatively uninformed Westerner imagines to have been the stern, stoical samurai spirit).

One of the most provocative aspects of the movie, to me, was the portrayal of the tengu — forest-dwelling bird-demons of Japanese folklore — as Buddhists.  Not as bird-demons who also happen to be Buddhists, mind you, but as Buddhists plain and simple. Although they do look very slightly different from humans (no ears, strange nostrils), their religion is their chief distinguishing characteristic. They’re still demons, to be sure — cold, cruel, nihilistic, and possessed of magical powers — but their demonic nature is portrayed as being part and parcel of their Buddhism. I thought it was a pretty gutsy move to literally demonize a major world religion other than Christianity, but oddly the filmmakers don’t seem to be getting any flak for it. Although Buddhism obviously has its good aspects like any other religion, it does certainly have a very strong current of inhuman/anti-human “demonic” nihilism running through it — something that becomes more obvious to me the more practicing Buddhists I meet — and I thought the portrayal of the tengu was brilliant and rang true. Since the samurai ethos can also seem superficially cold and inhuman, the tengu provided a very effective contrast which helped bring out the essentially human, noble nature of bushido.

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Minor precognitive dream

A couple of days ago, my morning alarm interrupted a very vivid dream in which I had taken a small bucket of water and splashed it out onto the dining room floor. Muddy cat footprints had appeared in the water, though no cats were visible.

Upon awakening from the dream, I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and that sort of thing, and while I was in there I heard a loud clattering sound downstairs. When I went downstairs, I found that one of my cats had upset his water dish and spilled water all over the dining room floor. There were muddy pawprints, but the cats, presumably having been spooked by the sudden noise, were nowhere to be seen.

The noise made it clear that the water was spilled a few minutes after my dream, ruling out the explanation that the dream had been inspired by sounds I heard while sleeping. (I suppose it’s conceivable that cats knocked down the dish while I was sleeping and then later bumped it again and made another sound. However, I don’t think this is likely. The clatter I heard was very loud and was clearly the sound of the dish falling from its stand to the floor, not just moving around on the floor.)

I’ve been keeping cats for about four years now, but they’d never knocked over their water dish before.

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Waking precognition experiments: postmortem

I’ve now completed five experiments in waking precognition. In each experiment I tried to foresee the contents of a randomly selected book before reading it, and for each book I came up with 10 potentially precognitive images. The five books I used were:

  • The Poems of Giacomo Leopardi. Translated by Frederick Townsend.
  • The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton. Vol. II.
  • Edward Stewart White. The Westerners.
  • Laura Lee Hope. The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms.
  • Max Pemberton. The Man Who Drove the Car.

The table below shows the results for each of these 50 images. The number 0 indicates a miss; 1 indicates a weak similarity to something in the book or in my life during the book-reading period; 2 indicates a moderate similarity; 3 would have been used to indicate a perfect hit if there had been any. One of the images is marked N/A because it was fulfilled by my seeing something which I had seen many times before and can therefore not be considered specifically precognitive.

 

Leo. Nel. White Hope Pem.
1. 0 0 1 0 0
2. 1 0 0 0 0
3. 0 1 0 0 0
4. 2 0 0 0 0
5. 0 0 0 0 0
6. N/A 0 2 0 0
7. 2 0 0 0 0
8. 0 0 0 0 0
9. 0 0 0 1 0
10. 0 0 0 0 0

 

So 84% of the images are complete misses, without even the slightest resemblance to anything in the books; and there is not a single instance of clear and unambiguous precognition. As for the smattering of ones and twos, it’s impossible to evaluate them in any statistically rigorous manner, since there is no control group and no way of determining how many such results ought to be expected to occur by chance under the null hypothesis that there is no such thing as precognition. However, my common-sense interpretation is that I have not demonstrated any precognitive abilities and that I have failed to replicate Dunne’s results.

I will not be doing any more of these book experiments, since my results thus far give me no reason to expect anything interesting to result from them.

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Fourth experiment in waking precognition: The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms

I’ve just completed another precognition experiment, in which I tried to obtain precognitive images of what I would read in the novel The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms, by Laura Lee Hope (selected at random using Gutenberg’s random book feature).

I got my precogs on May 15 and finished the novel on May 20. Not a single one of the ten precogs “came true” either in the novel or in my extraliterary life.

The closest thing to a hit — and it’s not really very close at all — was the 9th item on my precog list, “plaid skirt blowing up — shoe stuck in the mud, coming off foot.” There is a scene in the novel in which one of the male characters gets stuck in quicksand, and the titular moving picture girls tear their skirts into strips in order to make a rope to pull him out. Aside from the juxtaposition of a skirt being destroyed and something being stuck in wet earth, all the details are different. The skirts in the novel are not plaid but khaki, and the man does not lose his shoe.

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Third experiment in waking precognition: The Westerners

I’ve just finished reading Stuart Edward White’s novel The Westerners, chosen via Gutenberg.org’s random book feature. (It actually turned out to be a pretty good story.)

On May 5, just before beginning the novel, I looked at the title page, concentrated on the title, and tried to pick up precognitive images of what the book would contain. I did this until I had a list of ten such “precogs,” all reasonably detailed. I finished the novel on May 15. Of the ten precogs, eight were complete misses, and neither of the remaining two was fulfilled very precisely.

My first precog, as recorded in my notebook on May 5, is “man smiling & scratching left side of black mustache.” The novel contains the following sentence: “Jack Graham, his hat on his knees, twisted his little moustache and smiled amusedly.” It refers to a man touching his mustache and smiling, but the other details (color, scratching, left side) are absent. I suppose there are a quite a lot of books that mention someone touching his mustache and smiling, so this match isn’t worth much.

The sixth item on my precog list is “a woman (in a white sun hat?) lowering her face (eyes still up) & covering her mouth w/ one hand to hide a smile.” The novel has this: “The little woman’s cheeks burned, and she lowered her head until the sunbonnet hid her face. . . . And she suddenly looked up into Jim’s honest eyes with an imploring gesture.” A few lines later, “She looked up suddenly with a blinding smile.” This match is slightly better than the first one — woman, sun hat, face down, eyes up, smile — but the bit about her covering her mouth with one hand is a miss.

So, still nothing terribly impressive or conclusive. I’ll try this with a few more books just for the sake of thoroughness and then call it quits.

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Second experiment in waking precognition

I’ve just finished my second experiment in waking precognition, following the same method as the first one. The book I used was The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, Vol II. With a Supplement of Interesting [sic] Letters by Distinguished Characters — and I got no positive results whatsoever.

Before reading, I made a point of getting only high-quality images which would be of value as evidence. I rejected several because they were too vague; and several others because they were too obviously nautical or military in nature, and it would have taken no special precognitive ability to predict that they might appear in a book about Nelson. I got a list of ten “good” images, each with a sufficient degree of detail to make coincidental matches unlikely. But none of them turned up in the book — not even the “obvious” naval-themed ones I had rejected!

The fact is, Nelson’s letters to his partner in crime are stupendously dull, with virtually no concrete details. Security concerns naturally precluded his describing his military activities in any detail, and he never describes scenery, relates amusing anecdotes, or anything of that nature. Even love, which has been known to bring out the poet in even the most prosaic of characters, did not move him to say anything figurative or otherwise visualizable. The other “interesting letters by distinguished characters” aren’t much better. About the only vivid, concrete image which a person precognitive faculties might have foreseen is Lord Hamilton’s account of hunting with the king and slaying vast numbers of wild boars. If I had foreseen that, that would have been evidence of precognition; but aside from that, there just wasn’t anything to work with.

Aside from the lack of visualizable details, the very boring nature of the letters may have worked against effective precognition. Events which arouse powerful emotions are the ones that stick in the memory, and we might speculate that something similar would be true for the postulated “pre-memories” which these experiments are dealing with.

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Nor did any of my potentially precognitive images (or “precogs”) come true in my life outside of the book, though one did find a very faint echo in another book I was reading at the time. The third item in my list of precogs is “a stack of rough gray stones, one atop another.” This was written down on May 1, and then on May 3 I read the following in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “It was a great grim slab of grey stone supported on four upright stones.” The details are sufficiently different that I can’t consider this a hit, and in any case I had read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before.

*

I intend to do five more of these experiments, but I will have to modify my method of selecting books slightly. Fiction and poetry are, I think, the only acceptable genres, since only they can be relied on to contain a sufficient number of concrete, visualizable images. Since I’ve just discovered that Gutenberg has a random book feature, I will obtain my titles that way, rather than using the more convoluted procedure described previously. All non-fiction books will be excluded, as will all books, authors, and subjects with which I have any familiarity.

Here, then, are the five books I will be using:

  1. Stewart Edward White. The Westerners.
  2. Sir Max Pemberton. The Man Who Drove the Car.
  3. Sir William Magnay. The Hunt Ball Mystery.
  4. Laura Lee Hope. The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms.
  5. Rupert Hughes. What Will People Say?

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