Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The "ghostly affinity" of human and animal
Carol recently posted a moving account in a comment on this blog of how she previewed the death of a beloved family dog and saw him living a happy new life in spirit, frisky as a puppy. She was able to share this dream with family members she visited on the day the dog passed on, and they all received comfort and the sense of blessing from this.
The famous Victorian writer H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon's Mines, She, and other grand tales of adventure, was also a psychic researcher and an active dreamer. He sent the Times of London a long letter recounting his own foreknowledge, through a dream, of the death of a dog he liked. Rider Haggard's most interesting account adds to the voluminous data bank of recorded instances of psychic dreaming. I trust that at some point the dossier will be so vast that those sleep researchers and academics who persist in dismissing the evidence for such phenomena as "anecdotal" will be obliged to recognize the facts of dreaming, as active dreamers have always known them:
On the night of Saturday, July 9 , I went to bed about 12.30, and suffered from what I took to be a nightmare. I was awakened by my wife's voice calling to me from her own bed upon the other side of the room.
I dreamed that a black retriever dog, a most amiable and intelligent beast named Bob, which was the property of my eldest daughter, was lying on its side among brushwood, or rough growth of some sort, by water. In my vision the dog was trying to speak to me in words, and, failing, transmitted to my mind in an undefined fashion the knowledge that it was dying. Then everything vanished, and I woke to hear my wife asking me why on earth I was making those horrible and weird noises. I replied that I had had a nightmare about a fearful struggle, and that I had dreamed that old Bob was in a dreadful way, and was trying to talk to me and to tell me about it.
On the Sunday morning Mrs. Rider Haggard told the tale at breakfast, and I repeated my story in a few words. Thinking that the whole thing was nothing more than a disagreeable dream, I made no inquiries about the dog and never learned even that it was missing until that Sunday night, when my little girl, who was in the habit of feeding it, told me so. At breakfast-time, I may add, nobody knew that it was gone, as it had been seen late on the previous evening. Then I remembered my dream, and the following day inquiries were set on foot.
To be brief, on the morning of Thursday, the 14th, my servant, Charles Bedingfield, and I discovered the body of the dog floating in the Waveney against a weir about a mile and a quarter away. On Friday, the 15th, I was going into Bungay when at the level crossing on the Bungay road I was hailed by two plate-layers, who are named respectively George Arterton and Harry Alger. These men informed me that the dog had been killed by a train, and took me on a trolly down to a certain open-work bridge which crosses the water between Ditchingham and Bungay, where they showed me evidence of its death.
This is the sum of their evidence: It appears that about 7 o'clock upon the Monday morning, very shortly after the first train had passed, in the course of his duties Harry Alger was on the bridge, where he found a dog's collar torn off and broken by the engine (since produced and positively identified as that worn by Bob), coagulated blood, and bits of flesh, of which remnants he cleaned the rails. On search also I personally found portions of black hair from the coat of a dog. On the Monday afternoon and subsequently his mate saw the body of the dog floating in the water beneath the bridge, whence it drifted down to the weir, it having risen with the natural expansion of gases, such as, in this hot weather, might be expected to occur within about forty hours of death. It would seem that the animal must have been killed by an excursion train that left Ditchingham at 10.25 on Saturday night, returning empty from Harlestone a little after 11. This was the last train which ran that night. No trains run on Sunday, and it is practically certain that it cannot have been killed on the Monday morning, for then the blood would have been still fluid. Further, if it was living, the dog would almost certainly have come home during Sunday, and its body would not have risen so quickly from the bottom of the river, or presented the appearance it did on Thursday morning.
From traces left upon the piers of the bridge it appeared that the animal was knocked or carried along some yards by the train and fell into the brink of the water where reeds grow. Here, if it were still living--and, although the veterinary thinks that death was practically instantaneous, its life may perhaps have lingered for a few minutes--it must have suffocated and sunk, undergoing, I imagine, much the same sensations as I did in my dream, and in very similar surroundings to those that I saw therein--namely, amongst a scrubby growth at the edge of water.
I am forced to conclude that the dog Bob, between whom and myself there existed a mutual attachment, either at the moment of his death, if his existence can conceivably have been prolonged till after one in the morning, or, as seems more probable, about three hours after that event, did succeed in calling my attention to its actual or recent plight by placing whatever portion of my being is capable of receiving such impulses when enchained by sleep, into its own terrible position.
On the remarkable issues opened up by this occurrence I cannot venture to speak further than to say that--although it is dangerous to generalise from a particular instance, however striking and well supported by evidence, which is so rarely obtainable in such obscure cases--it does seem to suggest that there is a more intimate ghostly connection between all members of the animal world, including man, than has hitherto been believed, at any rate by Western peoples; that they may be, in short, all of them different manifestations of some central, informing life, though inhabiting the universe in such various shapes.
The matter, however, is one for the consideration of learned people who have made a study of these mysterious questions. I will only add that I ask you to publish the annexed documents with this letter, as they constitute the written testimony at present available to the accuracy of what I state. Further, I may say that I shall welcome any investigation by competent persons.
I am, your obedient servant, H. Rider Haggard. [published by The Times on July 21, 1904]