Category Archives: Precognition / Prophecy

Waking precognition: a trial run

Having already attempted to duplicate J. W. Dunne’s experiments in dream precognition, I am now making a similar attempt with regard to waking precognition.

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:

  1. a pointed spiral seashell — something along the lines of a turret snail or a horn snail (I sketched it in my notebook)
  2. very long green grass waving in the wind
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. a left hand writing with a white quill pen
  6. 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
  7. the word “sapphire”
  8. the phrase “then shall we know”
  9. something which I didn’t hear very clearly, but which sounded like “terms of tray”
  10. 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:

  1. nothing
  2. 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.
  3. nothing
  4. 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.)
  5. nothing
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. nothing
  9. nothing
  10. nothing

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.

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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:

  1. Robert Green Ingersoll. Hell.
  2. Archibald Makellar. An Investigation into the Nature of Black Phthisis.
  3. Edward Everett Hale. If, Yes and Perhaps.
  4. Knowles King. The Wesleyan Methodist Pulpit in Malvern.
  5. Tappan Wentworth. Report of the Hoosac Tunnel and Troy and Greenfield Railroad, by the Joint Standing Committee of 1866.

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Dunne’s experiments in waking precognition

All quotations below are taken from the 13th chapter of J. W. Dunne’s Experiment with Time, in which he discusses experiments he conducted to determine whether or not the sort of precognition he had observed in dreams could also occur in waking life.

A little consideration suggested that the simplest way to set about a waking experiment would be to take a book which one intended to read within the next few minutes, think determinedly of the title — so as to begin with an idea which should have associational links with whatever one might come upon in that future reading — and then wait for odds and ends of images to come into the mind by simple association.

Obviously, one could save a lot of time by rejecting at once all images which one recognized as pertaining to the past. Also, since the images would be perceived while awake and with one’s wits about one, one might rely more upon one’s memories of them than one could when the memories were formed sleeping, and thus save a vast amount of writing. A brief note of each image should suffice.

In my own attempt at waking precognition (qv), I did not follow this method of beginning with an image which could be expected to have associational links with future experiences. I simply tried to pull images out of thin air. At this I was reasonably successful, but it seems probable that for most people most of the time, such an attempt would generate primarily past- and present-associated images without the aid of a future-oriented associational anchor of some kind.

Actually, the anchoring image needn’t be specifically future-related. Any image which is not obviously associated with one’s past experiences should do. One might choose an image which is timeless and iconic but not commonplace — a tarot card, for instance. I know that many tarot readers use the cards in precisely that manner, as starting points for an associational network of images. Rather than “translating” the cards in a straightforward way, using the conventional divinatory meanings given in the “little white book,” they concentrate on the images themselves and see what comes to them. (Of course studying the LWB and other commentaries on the cards still has its place, since the effect of such study is to create an ever thicker and more intricate network of associatons centered on the cards. One wants to cast one’s associational net as wide as possible.)

As for Dunne’s idea of using the title of a book one is about to read, caution would be necessary, since one’s ideas may have been “contaminated” with past exposure to the book in question. It is not common to buy or borrow a book without first flipping through it a bit, and words and images encountered in that way might stay in the mind after their source has been forgotten. (E-books might be useful in this regard, since it is not convenient to flip through them.) And of course one may also have read reviews of the book, heard discussions about it, etc., and these experiences, too, may leave traces in the mind after the experience itself has been forgotten. It would be best to steer clear of classics and bestsellers.

On the other hand, precognitive images associated with a book title may not necessarily come from the book itself — especially if one is in the habit of reading on trains, taking books on vacations, etc. I know that when I reread a book after many years, my reading often triggers memories of things that were going on in my life at the time of the previous reading, and the same principle could work for future experiences. Dunne’s first book experiment is a good example of this.

The first experiment was a gorgeous success — until I discovered that I had read the book before.

It was interesting, however, as showing the tremendous difficulty the waking mind experiences in freeing itself from its memories. I spent by far the greater part of the time in rejecting images of the past and starting afresh with a mind comparatively blank.

Apart from the items which related to the book (already read), I got only a few ideas, mostly concerning London and the exterior and interior of clubs. The only exception was the single word ‘woodknife‘, which drifted into my mind, seemingly, from nowhere. A little reflection satisfied me that I had never in my life come upon such a word, so I jotted it down.

Two or three days after this I moved, quite unexpectedly, to London. On my arrival, I went to my club, and having for the moment nothing better to do, proceeded to the library, picked out a newly published novel, and tried a second experiment. Result — nil. In fifteen minutes I got only eight images, which did not clearly belong to the ‘past’ half of the associational network. One of these eight related to a kangaroo hunt in Australia — riders and hounds chasing pell-mell after the leaping animal. Another comprised the single word ‘narwhal‘. There was nothing in the book that fitted, and presently I threw it aside.

I then drifted into a little inner library, which is an excellent place for a nap. I chose a comfortable armchair, and, for appearances’ sake, equipped myself with another volume — R. F. Burton’s Book of the Sword, opening this in the middle.

Immediately my eyes fell upon a little picture of an ancient dagger, underneath which was inscribed ‘Knife (wood)‘. I sat up at that, and began to dip into the book, turning back after a moment to page II. There I came upon a reference to the horn of the narwhal. Reading on, I found on the succeeding page the words ‘The “old man” kangaroo, with the long nail of the powerful hind leg, has opened the stomach of many a staunch hound.’

In the above experiment, none of the images which later “came true” actually appeared in the book Dunne was using as an associational anchor, but in extraliterary life (London, clubs) or in other books (woodknife, narwhal, kangaroo hunt).

Dunne goes on to relate several cases in which he successfully foresaw some of the contents of books he was about to read, but these are mostly inconclusive. His most impressive book-related precognition was, again, fulfilled outside the context of the book.

Here I altered the procedure. I opened the book at the beginning, and found the name of one of the characters, being careful not to glance at any other page. It seemed to me that a name which would be likely to occur in close association with many of the incidents of the story would provide a better associational link than does the mere idea of the book’s title. . . .

I then tried a book of Snaith’s, taking the heroine’s name as an associational link. Here I failed completely. But, in the middle of this experiment, I got one very curious image.

It was of an umbrella with a perfectly plain, straight handle, a mere thin extension of the main stick, and of much the same appearance and dimensions as the portion which projected at the ferrule end. This umbrella, folded, was standing unsupported, upside down, handle on the pavement, just outside the Piccadilly Hotel.

I happened to pass that way in a bus the next day. Shortly before we got to the hotel I caught sight of a most eccentric-looking figure walking along the pavement in the same direction, and on the hotel side of the street. It was an old lady, dressed in a freakish, very early-Victorian, black costume, poke bonnet and all. She carried an umbrella in which the handle was merely a plain, thin, unpolished extension of the main stick, of much the same appearance and dimensions as the portion which projected at the ferrule end. She was using this umbrella — closed, of course — as a walking-stick, grasping it pilgrim’s-staff fashion. But she had it upside down. She was holding the ferrule end, and was pounding along towards the hotel with the handle on the pavement.

I need hardly say that I had never before in all my life seen anyone use an umbrella that way.

So it does appear that it can be effective to use an unread book — either the title or the name of one of the characters — as a starting point from which to generate potentially precognitive images. However, results which are found in the book itself may be suspect, for the reasons discussed above; the most convincing precognitions will relate to incidents occurring outside of the book being used.

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Dream experiment postmortem

A couple of years ago I attempted to duplicate the “experiment with time” described in J. W. Dunne’s book of that title. The experiment involves keeping detailed records of one’s dreams for a period of time and noting any resemblances between dream events and waking events which occurred shortly before or shortly after the dream in question. The higher the ratio P:F (the number of past resemblances to future resemblances), the stronger the evidence that apparently precognitive dreams are mere coincidences; the lower the ratio, the stronger the evidence that dream precognition is just as real as dream retrospection.

I posted the dream records I kept during the experiment at experimentsintime.wordpress.com. Relatively few of my dreams turned out to be discernibly connected to specific past or future events, and none of the resemblances I did notice were sufficiently strong to be truly compelling. Of the 23 dreams I recorded (or 23 nights’ worth of dreams, rather; I made no attempt to separate a given night’s dreaming into distinct dreams), 8 exhibited resemblances to specific past events (6 weak, 2 moderate), and 5 resembled specific future events (3 weak, 2 moderate). Thus my experiment would seem to be consistent with Dunne’s thesis that dreams are constructed from a roughly equal mixture of past and future components. (If all future resemblances were coincidental, we would expect past resemblances to outnumber them by at least an order of magnitude). However, the small number of resemblances noted, together with their overall weak quality, means that my experiment cannot be regarded as conclusive either way.

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Apparently I am not a “good” dreamer in the sense that the experiment requires. That is, the raw materials from which my dreams are constructed tend to be integrated to a degree that it becomes difficult to identify the specific experiences on which the dreams are based. Dunne touches on this in his appendix to the third edition of An Experiment with Time.

It is a commonplace of psychology . . . that most structures of the imagination are ‘integration’ — blends of several images associated with several different waking impressions. And it is accepted generally that dream-images are mostly of the same character — certainly, it is very rarely that one comes upon one of these exhibiting an unmixed, photographic resemblance to any scene of waking life. Now, the possibility of discovering in one of these composite structures an element distinctive enough to be recognizable as pertaining to a chronologically definite incident of waking life depends, mainly, upon what may be described as the coarseness of the blending. The more intricate — the more fine-grained — is the integration, the more difficult becomes its analysis. And, with practice in constructing dream-images, just as with practice in waking imagery, the integrations become more fine-grained, more beautifully blended, and, so, less easy to associate with any chronologically distinctive waking incident, past or future (p. 137, Hampton Roads reprint).

I suppose I ought to be pleased that my dreams are so “fine-grained” and “beautifully blended” — that my dreaming self exhibits a high degree of creativity (in the Einsteinian sense of knowing how to hide your sources) — but mostly I am disappointed at my inability so far to evaluate Dunne’s thesis conclusively from my own experience.

Individuals apparently vary widely in the relative “coarseness” of their dreams. In an experiment involving six Oxford students, one of the subjects recorded 21 dreams, of which 18 resembled waking incidents, 6 of those resemblances being judged “good” or strong. Another recorded 16 dreams without finding a single resemblance of any value. It is my bad fortune to be closer to the latter end of the scale.

Another factor may be the regular — not to say boring — character of my day-to-day life, which would reduce the chance that anything in a dream would resemble a distinctive waking event belonging clearly to either the future or the past. Not wanting to burden a holiday with the troublesome task of keeping daily dream records, I ignored Dunne’s advice to carry out the experiment during a break from one’s usual routine — preferably during a vacation in an unfamiliar locale — and instead conducted it during a perfectly ordinary period of time. I shall probably be going to Australia next year for the first time, and may attempt a second experiment during that trip.

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Some months after the end of my experiment, I did finally have a dream which bore a conclusively strong resemblance to a specific future event.

In my dream, I had the idea that I ought to write a book entitled Pineapples and Apple Pies. It would be an English textbook for use in Taiwan. The title was perfect because it illustrated the rules of compound formation in English: pineapple and apple pie were made up of the same two components (sic) but in a different order; also, pineapple was written as a single word with the stress on the first element, while apple pie was written as two with the stress on the second. I was delighted to have discovered two such common words which were thus related — much more natural than such strained pairs as songbird-birdsong and housecat-cathouse. As an added bonus, a pineapple was something typical of Taiwan, while an apple pie was a well-known symbol of America. (Upon waking, I naturally realized that the elements of the two compounds were not identical after all, that pine and pie were not the same.)

The day after the dream, I was teaching E., a child whom I tutor privately. At each of our sessions, he has to sign a record sheet, and, with a young child’s normal love of nonsense, he often writes a random word or two (often ghost or pig) on the paper after signing his name. This time, the random “word” he wrote was — applepine. When I said, “Applepine? What’s that?” he said, “You know, like pineapple but the other way!” Of course I had never in my life encountered the “word” applepine before, and the odds of running into it by chance the day after my dream are effectively zero. In fact, E.’s choice of that word is so bizarre and unaccountable that I’m almost more inclined to consider it evidence of mind-reading on his part than of precognition on mine.

Unfortunately, even this does not really count as conclusive evidence, since it occurred outside the formal experiment. The key thing is the ratio of clearly precognitive dreams to clearly retrospective ones, and I wasn’t keeping any records of the latter at the time. However, it did serve to keep me interested in the question, and I shall probably conduct further experiments in the future.

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Dunne also describes similar experiments in waking precognition, something I may try in the future, since my dreams seem to be of such poor quality, and since I have experienced some success with waking precognition in the past, before I ever encountered Dunne’s ideas. The following is taken from an email I wrote to a family member.

Here’s an experiment you can try. Go somewhere dark, roll your eyes up and to the side like people do when they’re trying to remember something, and “try to get something.” Just try to pick something up, like tuning a radio — easier done than explained. When I tried this, the first thing I “got” was the nonsense words “wudder-wudder-wudderfly” followed by a rapid succession of mental images: a green parrot viewed in profile; a short, wide, yellow tin; and something else which I no longer remember. Hours later, at work, one of my coworkers who had just come back from abroad (the Philippines, if memory serves) gave me some snack food from that country — in a package decorated with a green parrot in profile. Another colleague, a Japanese teacher, was doing some sort of cooking activity with her students and has brought some kind of Japanese bean paste or something in a yellow tin like the one I had seen. I can’t remember now what the third image was — this was years ago — but it also “came true.” (Nothing came of “wudder-wudder-wudderfly,” though.) I haven’t tried that particular exercise again — partly because I didn’t know what I was “tuning in” to and it seemed a little creepy, and partly because I didn’t want to ruin the magic by trying it again and not getting anything.

Given that, against the background of Dunne’s theories, precognition no longer seems “creepy” to me, I may try an organized experiment in waking precognition in the near future. Of course it will be impossible to calculate a ratio of precognitive to retrospective images, but if the results are sufficiently striking they may be conclusive anyway.

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The dream experiment is up and running

I’ve begun my Dunne-inspired experiment in dream precognition and will be posting my dream notes (records of dreams, together with notes on their connections with my past and future waking life) on this site. The notes on a given dream will not be published until one month after the dream itself, but I started the experiment just over a month ago, so a couple of dreams are up already. You can read more details of the experiment here.

I’ve found several links between dreams and future events, but so far nothing impressive enough to cast serious doubt on the null hypothesis that dreams do not contain precognitive elements.

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Dream experiment methodology

In thinking about how to carry out my Dunne-inspired experiment with precognitive dreams, I’m bothered by two things.

First, there is no control group. Anyone with sufficiently sharp pattern-recognition instincts will be able to find apparent connections between events even when the events are completely unrelated and the similarities are mere coincidence. What we want to know is not whether we can find connections between dreams and future events, but whether we can find significantly more such connections than would be expected by chance — and to know how many chance connections to expect, we need a control.

But what could that control possibly be? Other dreams of mine can’t be used as a control, because the hypothesis is that any of my dreams may have a non-chance connection with any of the events in my life, past or future. One possible control would be to have two dreamers do the experiment together and see whether dreamer A’s dreams match future events in dreamer A’s life more often than dreamer B’s dreams do. This won’t really work, either, though, since naturally my dreams, more so than anyone else’s, will tend to be about the kinds of things that are in my life (sugar gliders, English classes, etc.), making even chance matches more likely.

Even if a suitable control group could be found, experimenter bias would be an inescapable problem. All the pattern recognition is done by the dreamer, who knows which events are from his own dreams and which are from the control group, and he may subconsciously try harder to find links in the one case than in the other.

As far as I can see, there is no solution to these problems. The experiment will simply have to be done without a proper control.

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The second thing that bothers me is that deciding whether a particular dream event is meaningfully connected with a particular real-life event requires a subjective judgment call, again leaving the door wide open for subconscious bias.

I think I have a partial solution for this one — not perfect, but probably the best that can be expected given the circumstances. The fact that only one person has any access to the relevant data — dreams and personal experiences — makes it impossible to devise anything like a proper double-blind experiment, but we can get as close as we can.

Here’s what I propose to do: For each dream I log, I will try to come up with and record as many connections as possible with both pre-dream and post-dream waking-life events. Then I will type up an account of the dream and append, in randomized order, accounts of each of the relevant waking-life events. However, each of these events will be described as having occurred prior to the dream. If I write, “Three days before the dream, . . .,” what follows might (for all the reader knows) really be an account of something that happened three days before the dream, but it could just as well be a description of an event which occurred three days after the dream. (The actual temporal distance of the event from the dream — a day, three days, a week, etc. — will be given, but always as if in the past rather than the future.) Also, for each event, I will provide some indication of how commonly events of that sort occur in my life.

I will then send these reports to a few third parties for evaluation. (Since people who are privy to the actual details of my life would be disqualified, I will probably recruit these people online.) Each evaluator will read the account of the dream and the events and will give each event a rating between 0 (no real connection; almost certainly just a coincidence) and 3 (so obviously tied to the dream that I would be astonished to hear that the dream had come first). Averaging the various evaluators’ ratings for each event, I can get some semblance of an objective measurement of which events are closely connected to the dream and which are not. If future events get high ratings about as often as past events do, I would consider that to be evidence of precognition.

This methodology is obviously far from ideal, but it’s the best I can come up with given the slippery and subjective nature of the subject matter. If anyone has any suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment.

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As an example of how this would work, here are two more real-life events which I consider to be possibly connected with the snake dream recounted in this post (read it now if you haven’t already, or reread it to refresh your memory). Rate the events in the comments, and after I have a few ratings I will reveal whether each of them happened before or after the dream.

Event A: About a week before the dream, I was playing with the three-year-old daughter of a friend. (Her mother pays me to do this for half an hour every week, and to speak to her in English while we play.) We were playing with salt dough and sculpting various things. I tried to get her to make different things — bowls, snowmen, etc. — but she was only interested in making two things again and again: eggs and worms. Often she would give me a big worm and tell me to “make it a snake” by sculpting a head to put on it. (Cf. the worm/snake in the dream, which looked as if it were made of dough.) As I said, I play with this girl regularly, but this was the first time we used dough or clay together; aside from this, I haven’t sculpted anything in a very long time.

Event B: About a week before the dream, I went to feed my mealworms and found that nearly half of them were dead (probably from overheating, since there was a sudden heat wave at that time). Live mealworms are a golden-brown color, but when they die they quickly turn black (cf. the little black worms in the dream). I usually find a few dead mealworms in the dish every day, but this was the first time I’d ever seen so many of them die at once.

For good measure, here are two more dreams, each with a connected waking-life event:

Dream C: I dreamed that I was about to go outside, but when I opened the door I saw a huge Diatryma stalking about just beyond the front porch. (A Diatryma is a huge flightless prehistoric predatory bird, something like a cross between a secretary bird and a T-rex. They are often depicted eating the dog-sized ancestors of horses. The bird is called Gastornis now, but I still think of it as Diatryma.) I quickly closed the door and went back inside. I went back several times and looked out the glass door, but every time the Diatryma was still there, and I was afraid to go out.

Event C: The day before the dream, I was tutoring a grad student in her living room, and her 9-year-old son was also there, drawing pictures on scrap paper on the coffee table. He showed me one of his pictures and explained it to me. It was “a picture of birds,” but the birds had no wings and were shown walking on the ground. They were not ostriches, though, but round-bodied birds with short necks. One of them was chasing some kind of small quadruped. When I asked him what it was, he said it was a horse.

Dream D: I dreamed that I was teaching a large English class, including one of my real-life students (I’ll call her Joan). I had just started the class, when loud music started to come from my bag. I searched through the bag and found a little travel-size alarm clock (just like one I owned years ago, before I had a cell phone), which was making the noise. I tried to turn it off but couldn’t. Finally I took out the batteries. I started the class again, but someone came in and told me I had to go to a training program right away. I apologized to the students and walked out of the class.

Event D: I was teaching a small group of Taiwanese English teachers, including “Joan.” I had just started the class when I got a text message on my phone, which made an audible beep. I checked it and found that there was an emergency at home and that I had to leave right away. I apologized to the students and walked out of the class.

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Please leave a comment rating the four events as described.

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What counts as a precognitive dream?

I’m preparing to attempt to replicate J. W. Dunne’s Experiment with Time (as described by Bruce Charlton here and here), but before I do so, I want to try to set some kind of standard for what dreams can reasonably be considered precognitive. For example, here’s a dream which I had recently. Should it be considered prophetic?

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I raise mealworms at home and feed them, among other things, stale bread which I keep in a plastic bag in the freezer. I dreamed that I took the bread out of the freezer to feed them and found that it was crawling with worms which had somehow survived in the freezer — not mealworms, which are rather handsome and clean-looking as larvae go, but short black maggoty things which really looked horrible. Most of them were quite small, but there was one larger one, striped with blurred bands of black, maroon, and deep blue, which was slithering through the bread with a motion similar to that of an aquatic snake. This big worm also looked like it had a strange texture, like marzipan or Play-Doh; its appearance and movements made me think of claymation.

I was disgusted by the wormy bread and just set the whole thing, bag and all, down in the wide shallow dish where I keep my mealworms. “There are worms in the bread,” I told my wife.

“You mean mealworms?”

“No, little black worms, and one big worm that looks like a snake but isn’t a snake.” The big worm, very big indeed now, was out of the bag and slithering very quickly, astonishingly quickly, around the house, head and neck raised off the ground cobra-like.

My wife said, “Actually, I think it is a snake.”

“No, it looks like a snake, but it isn’t.” As we spoke, though, it was starting to look more and more snakelike.

“I think it’s an O.A.M.,” she said.

I understood to be an abbreviation for some particular species of mamba. “A mamba. So it’s poisonous. It’s a dangerous snake.”

At this point, two very old people whom I thought of as “mom and dad” (though they didn’t look much like my actual parents or in-laws) came in, and I warned them to be careful of the snake. Ignoring me, and without saying a word, one of them (not sure which) stepped down hard on the snake’s tail, pinning it to the floor. I thought for sure the snake would turn its head back and bite, but instead its whole body straightened out like a rod, its head still up off the ground, its mouth agape in an expression of cartoonish surprise which made me think of a frilled lizard. Then the other member of the old couple stamped down on its head, killing it. The two stamps came in immediate succession — just one-two, and the snake was dead, as if efficient snake-killing were almost a reflex for them. I though to myself, “It seems cruel, but it was necessary. It was a dangerous snake.”

*

The day after the dream, I went to get some mealworms to feed the gliders, and I noticed that one of the worms — a big one — had escaped from the dish and was crawling around on the floor — rather quickly for a mealworm, I thought, and taking a closer look I saw that it was actually a little black venomous centipede. This was only the second time I’d encountered a centipede in Taiwan, despite having lived here for over six years. The gliders would surely attack it if they found it, their instinct being to jump on anything that looks even remotely wormlike, and a centipede bite could conceivably be fatal to such a small animal. Not wanting to take any chances, I decided to kill the thing. It had crawled under the worm stand by now, so I picked up the stand and moved it, saw the centipede scurrying around, and stepped on it, crushing it. I don’t normally step on pests, preferring to use my hands or a bug zapper, but it was moving fast and I had to get it.

*

In real life, as in the dream, there was a fast-moving, dangerously venomous, black worm-shaped animal which I at first thought was a worm; I found it near the mealworms; and it was killed by someone stepping on it. Many of the details are different, of course, but would you consider the dream to contain a garbled anticipation of actual events?

I’m guessing that most people would probably say no, that the similarities are too inexact to be worth noticing, that what we have here is perhaps a mildly interesting coincidence but not anything that could reasonably be considered evidence for precognition.

But suppose instead that I told you that the centipede incident had happened the day before the dream, not the day after, and offered it as evidence that dreams sometimes contain garbled memories of recent waking-life events? Would your reaction be any different?

Because that’s what really happened. I described the dream as precognitive as a thought experiment, but in fact I killed the centipede on Monday evening just before going to bed and dreamed about the worm/snake that night. When I woke up and recorded the dream, I took it for granted that of course it had been inspired by the centipede incident. In fact, most of my dreams (the ones I can remember, anyway) contain obvious references to or distortions of recent experiences, books I’ve recently read, etc. If the dream had come first and the centipede incident second, though, I doubt if I would even have noticed any connection.

This is exactly what Dr. Charlton (summarizing Mr. Dunne) describes:

Anticipate that the waking mind will resist associations between a dream and subsequent event – therefore read the dream records with care. Associations between dreams and the past will be obvious and acceptable to the mind as obviously causal; but there is an inbuilt reluctance to recognize associations with the future – to do this is more like a process of pattern recognition, and the experimenter tends to become distracted by stories and meanings. Even apparently trivial or tenuous associations need to be properly followed-up and evaluated.

So perhaps this is a reasonable question to ask yourself when evaluating a possibly precognitive dream: If the sequence were reversed — if the waking events happened first and the dream came after — how confident would you be in concluding that the dream had been influenced by memories of those events?

*

This post was originally going to end with the previous paragraph, but, after spending so much time thinking and writing about this dream, it occurs to me that, in addition to its obvious connections with the past, it did also contain some hints of future experiences.

On Monday afternoon, the day before the dream, I stopped by a bookstore and picked up Hemingway’s hunting memoir Green Hills of Africa, which I had never read before. I glanced at the back cover in the store but didn’t even open the book until Wednesday. I’m about halfway into it now. The plot so far consists of Hemingway, his wife, and a few friends traipsing around Africa shooting various large animals, occasionally for meat but mostly just for the hell of it. Hemingway and his wife are always called Papa and Mama, respectively, by their hunting companions, and Hemingway himself always refers to his wife as P.O.M. (for “poor old Mama”). This is interesting because of the “mom and dad” in my dream, who were clearly not my actual mom and dad, and who showed up to casually kill a large animal. The use of the abbreviation O.A.M. for the snake also seems to have anticipated my reading about P.O.M. (Actually, the excerpt on the back cover, which I read before the dream, includes a mention of P.O.M., but it gives no indication of who that is or what the letters stand for. In the dream, I didn’t know what O.A. stood for, but I assumed that the M stood for mamba — pretty close to Mama.) There is also a passage early on in Green Hills in which Hemingway vividly describes his fear and hatred of snakes.

None of this, I admit, sounds very impressively precognitive. But I ask myself, if I had read the book before having the dream, would I assume that the one had influenced the other? — and the answer is yes. If I’m going to do this experiment properly, I need to get used to thinking this way.

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Filed under Anecdotes, Dreams, Precognition / Prophecy

Move over once, move over twice: 9/11 prophecies

This is a collection of poems, song lyrics, etc., which were written prior to September 11, 2001, and which can be interpreted as prophecies of the terrorist attacks that took place on that day. Most of these were identified by William John, but some of them are my own.

(Update: See here for more of these, also from William John.)

Nostradamus:

Quatrain 10.72 from Nostradamus’s Centuries reads as follows:

L’an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois,
Du ciel viendra vn grand Roy d’effraieur.
Resusciter le grand Roy d’Angolmois.
Avant apres Mars regner par bon heur.

“In the year 1999, seventh month, from the sky will come a great king of terror….” It’s very evocative of 9/11, but the date just isn’t quite right. Several people have noticed that “sept mois,” while literally referring to the seventh month, July, also suggests September, abbreviated as Sept. — but the year is still wrong. William John, though, has pointed out that we get from sept (July) to Sept. (September) by adding two. If we do the same for the year, adding two to 1999, we get 2001 — a perfect match. This is, as we shall see, an important pattern. Several other 9/11 prophecies also require adding two — and, like Nostradamus’s quatrain, they contain internal hints (like Nostradamus’s ambiguous sept) that adding two is necessary.

The Beatles:

The Beatles song “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” contains the following lines:

Didn’t anybody tell her?
Didn’t anybody see?
Sunday’s on the phone to Monday,
Tuesday’s on the phone to me

Sunday plus two days is Tuesday, so the Sunday-Monday-Tuesday sequence fits the add-two pattern established by Nostradamus. September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. “On the phone” is also a hint, since 911 is the emergency phone number in the U.S. Furthermore, the word Monday sounds like monde (world), implying, “The world hears Sunday, but I hear Tuesday” (because I know to add two).

Another Beatles song that fits the add-two pattern is “One After 909”:

My baby says she’s trav’ling on the one after 909
I said move over honey I’m travelling on that line
I said move over once, move over twice
Come on baby don’t be cold as ice
I said I’m trav’ling on the one after 909

If you start at 909 and “move over once, move over twice,” you end up at 911. This one’s not quite perfect, though, because we’re actually starting at the one after 909 — i.e., 910 — so moving over twice takes us to 912. It’s still highly suggestive, though.

The Beatles song “I Am the Walrus” also alludes to 9/11 — “stupid bloody Tuesday” — but it doesn’t require adding two.

The Rolling Stones:

“Ruby Tuesday” might be the same as “stupid bloody Tuesday,” rubies being blood-red, and the line “Still I’m gonna miss you” could refer to the way the prophecies tend to “miss” the day in question, requiring the reader to add two.

Cat Stevens:

“Tuesday’s Dead” fits right in with “stupid bloody Tuesday” and the others. Cat Stevens also recorded a song called “Sun/C79”; add two, according to the prophetic formula, and Sun. 7/9 becomes Tues. 9/11 (not sure what to do with the C; maybe it’s the Muslim crescent?).

They Might Be Giants:

In the song “The Guitar,” first they sing, “In the spaceship, the silver spaceship, the lion takes control.” This sounds like a hijacking, and the name Osama means “lion” in Arabic. Later in the song, we hear, “The lion’s on the phone.” Just as in the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” the phrase “on the phone” is an allusion to 9/11 by way of the emergency phone number 911. The music video cuts to footage of buildings collapsing right after they sing “on the phone.” This song is from the album Apollo 18. Apollo suggests Apollyon, the demon mentioned in Revelation 9:11, and 18 plus two (move over once, move over twice) gives us 20 — that is 9 + 11.

Also of interest is the TMBG album “Mink Car,” which was released on September 11, 2001, and which begins with the word “Bangs!” — that is, explosions, plural. The lyrics to “Bangs” also include the line “Blow my mind, your royal flyness” — an echo of Nostradamus’s king of terror who comes from the sky.

Osama, by the way, though it means “lion” in Arabic, also happens to mean “king” in Japanese. (Actually, o means “king,” and sama is an honorific suffix, like san only more so.) The Japanese, of course, were the ones who pioneered the tactic of crashing airplanes into enemy targets.

U2:

If 9/11 is “stupid bloody Tuesday,” and if the add-two rule means Sunday can refer to Tuesday, then of course the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” comes to mind. I can’t find any internal hints about adding two, though, unless it’s the name of the band itself. Just as Nostradamus’s sept uses the seventh month to allude to the ninth, the name “U2” — that is, a double U — uses the 21st letter to allude to the 23rd. Move over once, move over twice.

If you can think of anything else to add to this list, leave a comment.

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Filed under Coincidence / Synchronicity, Precognition / Prophecy