"Isn't there something called consecutive
dreaming, that goes on night after night?"
This is one of the most
interesting questions that can be asked about dreams. Here it is posed in the
voice of a character of H.G.Wells, in his remarkable short story "A Dream
of Armageddon," first published in 1901.
The story starts on a train with
a sick-looking "man with a white face" striking up a conversation
with the narrator because he is reading a book about dreams. The
white-faced man has no patience with dream analysis because - as he says - his
dreams are killing him.
He describes how he has been
dreaming a life in a future century, in which he is a great man - the leader of
a great party - who gives up his power to live his consuming love with a
younger woman on the island of Capri, which is now one gigantic resort hotel.
The descriptions of Capri are wonderfully beautiful and vivid, the slope of
Monte Solaro, the natural arch in the rock called Faraglione that the sea
washes through. The dreamer has never been to Capri, in his present life, but
the narrator has, and can confirm many of the details. In this way, we are led
to believe the reality of the extraordinary story that is
In his current life, the dreamer is a solicitor in Liverpool. He
wonders, as he works on the details of a building lease, what his clients and
colleagues would make of his second life, which often seems more vivid and real
to him than the life he is living now. He remembers awakening to that second
life when he felt the warmth in the air because a lovely woman had stopped
fanning him. He admired her as she leaned over their balcony. "Her white shoulders were in the sun, and all
the grace of her body was in the cool blue shadow."
Each time he wakes in this future Capri, he forgets his life in
England at the end of the nineteenth century. The idyll of love and beauty is
fast falling apart, however. After dancing in the pleasure palace, he is
approached by a grim envoy from his own Northern country who beseeches him to
go back and take charge before the brute who succeeded him brings about a world
war. To do this would involve leaving
the woman he loves, and he chooses his heart over his duty to the multitude.
For three weeks, night after
night, the solicitor is thrown into scenes in which his future self is present
at the collapse of an island paradise and of a future world. War is threatened,
and Wells describes squadrons of fighter planes wheeling over the Bay of
Naples. World war breaks out, and the future life ends in global disaster and
personal tragedy; the dreamer sees his lover shot through the heart and
experiences his own death.
As he tells this story, he seems
at the end of his tether.
"It could have been only a dream," Wells' alter ego
tries to comfort him.
"A dream!" he
cried, flaming upon me, "a dream--when, even now--"
For the first time he
became animated..."One thing is real and certain, one thing is no dream-
stuff, but eternal and enduring. It is the center of my life, and all other
things about it are subordinate or altogether vain. I loved her, that woman of a
dream. And she and I are dead together!
The story ends when the train
stops at Euston station. No moral, no reflection, no analysis. Just so.
I find this one of the very best of H.G.Wells' stories. The
framing device is familiar from other "scientific romances" he wrote,
including The Time Machine. Events and scenes that many
readers might consider fantastic are told by a traveler who claims to have
visited other times or other worlds. Wells again demonstrates his ability to
envision the shape of things to come. He describes "flying boats" and
warplanes shaped like spearheads without the shafts, years before Kitty Hawk,
and almost a century before Stealth aircraft. He has his characters travel
comfortably around a building complex on a "passage with a moving
floor", a preview of our moving walkways.
Yet the prophetic elements in the tale are burdened by pessimism
and fatalism. In his tremendously active life as novelist, journalist, educator
and social reformer, Wells worked tirelessly to promote a "happy
turning" for human evolution. He sometimes said that he published dark
visions of the possible future in order to goad humans to prevent them from
playing out, and escape the future Earth described towards the end of The
Time Machine, where monstrous crab-like giants have inherited the planet
from a human species that split in two and lost any semblance of humanity. Yet
he was sometimes unable to roll back a black tide of despair; we see that coming
in, unstoppable, in his very last work, Mind At the End of Its Tether.
Back to the question of "consecutive dreams". A dream sequence of this kind may awaken us to the fact that we are living more than one life, in the multiverse.
For Wells' white-faced solicitor, this means serial dreams that carry him forward, night by night, in the events of a life being lived in another time and place. Time seems to run differently in Liverpool and the future Capri. For four nights, he does not remember dreaming of Capri, but when he returns it seems that months have elapsed since he was last there. In a few hours of sleep in his regular body, it seems that he can live days, possibly weeks, in his second body. Otherwise, time in the dream Capri moves as it does in Liverpool, linear and unidirectional. It's worth noting that in Capri, Wells' character does not remember his life in Liverpool, though in England, he can think of little else.
In my own dream life, as in the dream lives that others share with me, we may not only have "consecutive" or serial dreams, but may enjoy much more room for maneuver. In "consecutive" dreams, we may have the experience of returning, again and again, to a life being lived somewhere else. We may find, like Wells' dream traveler, that events in that second life have moved along since our previous dream visit. The second life may be remote from the present one, for example, in a past or future historical period, or in a different world altogether.
Or the second life may be quite similar to the current one. It may be a life, for example, in which events are playing out as if we had made a different choice and are now living with a different partner, or living in a different country, or doing different work. Such dreams can give us first-hand, experiential knowledge of how we may be living parallel lives in parallel universes, which leading physicists say is likely bit can't demonstrate as lived experience. While you are doing what you are doing today, a second self is still living with the partner you left, in the old place, and doing - for good or bad - what you might be doing under those circumstances.
We are all time travelers and interdimensional voyagers in our dreams. We travel to past and future, as well as to parallel worlds, and it is likely that we do this on any night of the week, even if we fail to remember our dream travels. It may be that, while our body here is asleep, a second - or a fortieth - self in another time or another world wakes up, with memories of our present existence, fast fading, when he remembers his dreams.
Wells' white-faced dream traveler is the captive of an evil future he believes is dead and done and cannot be changed. But conscious dreamers know that the multiverse is more flexible. Any future we can perceive, for starters, is a possible future; the odds on the manifestation of any event can be changed.
When we wake up to the fact that the only time is Now, we may discover that the events of "past" lives are also far from dead and done. In the mind and body of a personality in another time, we may be able to do some good, suggest some other moves, sow some new ideas - and also return with gifts of knowledge and energy from that other self. I suspect that one of the keys to success in this fascinating arena is for us to retain the memory of both lives (and perhaps a perspective above and beyond both of them) as we step in and out of different worlds.
I've had some consecutive dreams of being in dark and dangerous places, in parallel realities and in other times, but typically I don't find myself bound to a set course of events in these situations, and usually I retain some memory of who I am in my 21st century world. Nor do I feel oppressed after these adventures, though sometimes I return with the sense that my presence is still needed, urgently, in a drama unfolding in another world. So I have chosen to go back, of my free will but also with some sense of obligation, to try to fight the good fight or correct things.
As Active Dreamers, we learn to interact consciously with our counterparts in other times, retaining memory of our current lives and the awareness that Now is always the point of power. That changes everything.