"People like us, who believe in physics, know that
the distinction between past, present and future is
only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
Can we see the future in our Dreams?
It's over fifteen years since I began to record my dreams regularly and systematically. During this time I have been amazed at the
insight, and sometimes the humour, that dreams can provide. On occasions it has felt like a dream has originated from a source
outside of myself, especially if the images of the dream feel foreign to me. But that's only served to show me that there's a part of
myself that's incredibly creative and contains a huge reservoir of untapped potential. The majority of dreams can be easily assigned to
present situations, fleeting conscious thoughts or current anxieties but what continues to fascinate me is the seemingly precognitive
elements contained in many dreams. Because these elements are often insignificant, and sometimes will involve the wrong people in the
wrong place, the claim that they are predictive can never be proven. This, of course, is the trouble with dreams. It is very difficult to
subject them to rigorous scientific testing. From my own experience, however, I am certain that many dreams contain elements from
the past, the present and the future and that this can provide an explanation for the feeling of de ja-vu experienced by most people at
one time or another. It may be the case that the future elements are nothing more than possibilities but this in no way lessens their
importance or usefulness. Perhaps the subconscious plays out different possible outcomes for current situations and so it's only the
things that actually happen that seem to be precognitive. These elements may simply be "what if" scenarios, stimulated by an actual
waking event. For instance: an actual waking event could set off a chain of events that may/will lead to the events in the dream thus
acting out the Law of Cause and Effect.
So, if A represents an event or decision or meeting, B C D E may represent crossroads or places where free will can operate and decisions can be
A ----------- B------------ C------------ D------------ E may lead to the most probable end result (E). But consciously you may choose......
A------------ B----------- C1----------- D1----------- E1 leading to a different end result (E1). Or even........
A------------ B----------- C1----------- D2----------- E3 leading to an end result (E3) which may have seemed improbable at the outset.
This is undoubtedly a gross over-simplification but, if this were the case, you would expect to have dreams, (perhaps anxiety dreams), whenever you
made a decision or took action that led you away from that pre-determined path, or a precognitive dream that suggests a different end result; i.e.
perhaps your subconscious is continually updating the most likely outcome from the data input. However, this assumes a direct connection between
cause and effect and cannot explain non-interactive events or random occurrences. For instance; I may dream of a bank robbery and witness a similar
event the following day. Most of us have had experiences like this which prompt us to declare, "Ah, that's just broken my dream." It is likely that the
explanation lies beyond our current knowledge and that currently we are trying to provide a blanket explanation for what are actually different
There are of course those that believe that thought really does have form and our dreams are the creative process that will eventually form our reality,
in which case it is not precognition at all. But is this putting the chicken before the egg, or the cart before the horse?
Whilst conducting experiments into telepathy in the 1960's at the Maimonides Research Centre, Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner observed that
precognitive elements cropped up in their subject's dreams with surprising regularity. In 1969 they decided to pursue this line of research and
conducted a series of experiments involving Malcolm Bessent. The experimental method they came up with at first sight seemed rather bizarre, but it
was designed to eliminate all subjectivity from the judges and also to exclude the possibility of "sensory leakage". This was done by choosing randomly
selected target words and associated pictures the morning after the dream report. All the studies from Maimonides are reported in numerous scientific
papers and journals and show far more successes than could be accounted for through chance alone. It has, however, proved difficult to reproduce
their high success rate, not least because funding for such research is very hard to secure. It is very expensive to set up and man a sleep laboratory
and therefore research into precognitive dreaming usually needs to be privately funded. Some sceptics remain unconvinced and to them I would like to
make just one point; it's important to bear in mind that science accepts that elements from the past occur in dreams but the fact is that these past
elements are rarely an exact replica of the actual past event. Why then should we expect precognitive elements to be an exact account of what will
manifest in the future? If past, present and future are merely an illusion, as Einstein suggested, then perhaps dreams simply reflect the memories of
events both past and future. If this is the case, we cannot expect resemblances to the future to be anymore striking than resemblances to the past,
and this is indeed what is found. Unfortunately, most sceptics are only satisfied with a detailed, blow by blow precognitive account of an improbable
event recorded well in advance of the real event. These accounts are rare; purely and simply because the precognitive elements are often mundane,
distorted and uneventful and, of course, because most people don't record their dreams.
However, there is a glimmer of hope that dream precognition may be taken seriously in the future. Harry Bosma set up an innovative Dream Registry; a
website where anyone can post their precognitive dreams. He also runs regular "Precognition Games" in which participants incubate precognitive
dreams - dreams and results are posted every fortnight. So if you've had what you think might be a precognitive dream, registering it on this site is a
good way to get it time stamped and, thus, authenticated if it does indeed turn out to be precognitive. (PLEASE NOTE: there seems to be a problem
with the Dream Registry site at the moment and I have removed the link).
The fact that dreams do not usually reflect real events accurately will continue to be a stumbling block. The reason may be beyond our current
knowledge about the brain and the nature of mind. Perhaps we connect to events on a subconscious level in terms of their energy rather than their
visual appearance. This connection, when presented to consciousness, being formed from abstract information meas that all we can do is sift through
our memory stores to find similar energy patterns. Inevitably this will introduce highly subjective symbolism and interpretation of the energy we have
The studies at Maimonides described in the previous paragraph were examining the dream events that were manifesting within a few hours of the dream. I
have observed from my own dreams that these apparently precognitive elements manifest in my everyday reality at varying intervals and there seems to be
no pattern to this; at least none that I have yet discovered. Sometimes the event will happen within 24 hours, sometimes within 2 or 3 days. John Dunne had
a theory for this phenomenon. In his book, "An Experiment with Time" published in 1927, he put forward an interesting theory about the nature of time that
could provide an explanation. Not so easy to explain are the longer time lags, sometimes as long as 5 years, (or in some cases even longer). It is true that
the longer the time lag, the less significant are the results because the probability that the dream event will happen obviously increases quite substantially
with the passage of time. However, when the time lag exceeds one year, I usually find that the event occurs at the same time of the year as the dream took
place, often during the same month, i.e. a precognitive element in a dream from October 1997 may occur in reality in October 2000. Perhaps in the future,
as our knowledge of cosmology and quantum mechanics increases, a very clever person will suggest a hypothesis for this effect !!
|Is the time lapse between dream and event significant?
Copyright J. C. Harthan, PhD
|"Nothing ever happens without it first having been previewed in our dreams"