I am considering a stream of reports from dreamers who feel they may have foreseen the terrible earthquake and tsumani that have overwhelmed Japan, exciting the compassion of the world and concern for the nuclear fall-out. On March 1, ten days before the catastrophe, one dreamer recorded a dream in which she saw cars floating and knocking against each other in a violent rush of water. The day before the disaster, another dreamer noted three elements in a dream: an earthquake, a giant wave, and a friend who lives in Japan.
From my observation and experience, we do dream the collective future. We are connected with the rest of humanity, and with Earth and sea, and in dreams we are often more in touch with their deeper movements than in everyday awareness. We dream news headlines that won't be broadcast for days or months. We dream into the situations of people on the other side of the world.
As I discussed in an article prior to the Japan catastrophe (you'll find it here) a dream of a tsunami -or any other natural disaster - may be both personal and transpersonal. It may symbolize overwhelming stress or emotional drama in your life and also contain a vision or preview of an external event. We always want to look at a disaster dream from at least two angles: as a possible metaphor for something that will blow up with that force in our personal life and as a possible glimpse of an external event.
I find a model for careful retrospective study of dreams that may have previewed disasters in my work with an active dreamer in my New York school who brought me a journal report from December 22, 2004, two days prior to the terrible Asian tsunami triggered by an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. In her dream, she was with her dog at the beach in an unidentified foreign country. A gret wave came rushing in, overwhelming people and buildings. The dreamer was calling to people, "The ocean is coming in!", warning them to head for safety. Unscathed herself, she then watched her dog take a copious crap on the beach. She was embarrassed that she had nothing to scoop the poop up with. She then noticed that the beach was now covered with excrement, which was starting to stink. The dreamer woke with a sense of detachment.
She brought me this dream, a week or so after the 2004 tsunami, concerned to know if I thought she had dreamed the disaster in advance. I seized on a critical detail: the poop on the beach. I had heard a radio interview with a medical expert who talked about the tremendous health risk from feces that are not being collected in the devastated areas in Asia; he said the risk of disease being spread from feces is even greater than from unburied corpses. And in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, there was no way of picking up the excrement.
The uncontrollable “crap on the beach” in the dream was clear evidence (for me) that the dreamer had dreamed true – not only about the tsunami but the source of another potential wave of devastation (through disease) beyond it.
The dreamer's feeling of detachment about the dream on waking is often a marker that a dream is about a situation at a remove from the dreamer.
The nearness or remoteness of an event may be tagged in other ways. Thus before the Japan tsunami, a dreamer in Vancouver B.C. saw a giant wall of water that stopped, suspended in mid-air, at a cedar fence. When the disaster struck, the authorities in British Columbia issued a a coastal tsunami warning. When it was lifted, the Vancouver dreamer saw the dream image of a giant wave suspended on the other side of a cedar fence as an apt image for a preview of a danger that did not reach the Pacific Northwest.
For a model for how to use dream previews of coming collective events, we can turn to the example of the Andaman islanders. They are a shamanic dreaming people who saw in their dreams - and in the behavior of animals - that the 2004 tsunami was coming, and moved from their seasonal fishing villages on the coast up to the highlands to get out of its way. I describe this in my Secret History of Dreaming. In my new book, Active Dreaming, I explain how we can develop a model of community dreaming from this example.