"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 unfolding.
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
As he tells this story, he seems at the end of
"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.