Monday, November 1, 2021

The Flashlight and the Mail Drop: Two Modes of Dream Precognition

I make a practice of asking of any dream, Could any part of this be played out in the future, literally or symbolically? I am then alert for any follow up to the dream in ordinary reality. Over decades now my journal has been, in addition to all else, a log of precognitive and premonitory dreams. The hundreds of match-ups between dreams and subsequent events that I have tagged confirming that we have the ability to visit or receive glimpses of the possible future.

I scanned two dream reports in the early hours this morning putting that question, Could any part of this play out in the future? 

Eastern Blessing Ritual

In the first dream I lead a procession in an Eastern country around a holy site, perhaps a cemetery. We are clad in simple white and yellow garments. I receive inner guidance that we must address our request for blessing to three revered figures, one a prophet or saint, another a statesman. We pause at a place where I kneel and touch my forehead to the ground as I solicit blessings from these ancestors. My words are chorused by the group. 

Turkish Airline Official Gets Ahead 

In the second dream I need to sort out a return flight at an airport in Turkey. The airport is oddly deserted. Only one person is ahead of me in line and I expect to get quick service. However, the airline agent leaves his post at soon as he finishes with the customer ahead of me. He turns into an outsize, bronze-colored head hanging on a wall. It seems this is how he likes to take his breaks. I wave and call. When I get his attention, he is apologetic and respectful. It takes a while to go through the details of itinerary, seat selection and documentation. 

Neither dream stirred strong emotions. I enjoyed the mystery and exotic elements in the first dream. It felt like a vividly real experience in a place otherwise unknown to me, in this world or another reality altogether. It seemed most improbable to me that I would find myself there in the future in ordinary reality, except perhaps in the pages of a book or via a screen. You are very unlikely to see me in that posture of prayer. 

After recording my dreams, I checked my email. At that moment, A new message came in from, a site for scholarly research that sends me an unsolicited recommendation with a link to an academic article every day. The title of today’s recommendation was “The Blessing Ritual of Assam”. I would normally have deleted the message – I have to ration my reading time – but because of my dream I downloaded the pdf. 

The article, by a postgrad at the University of Delhi, describes how in the northeast state of Assam people seeking a blessing kneel, heads lowered, before their intended benefactors and place their hands on their feet. The formulas of the lead speaker are chorused by the group. I don’t recall any placing of hands on feet in my dream, and I don’t know that the location was Assam. Still, I had never received a message about a blessing ritual before, and the resemblance to my dream was strong enough for me to feel that the dream previewed the article. Did the article arrive in my dream inbox before it arrived in my email? Without the dream, would I have read the article? (Probably not) Without the dream, would the article even have arrived? 

I turned my questions to the second dream. I have traveled to Turkey several times and might possibly visit again. So I marked my second report “PC” for “precognitive” (more precisely, possibly precog) despite the anomalous part where the airline agent becomes an outsize head on a wall. This could be a visual pun for someone who wants to get ahead or is swollen headed. The transformations of the airline agent were less surprising to me than the state of the airport. Even in the midst of pandemic or revolution, it is hard for me to imagine that Istanbul airport- where I have waited in the longest lines I have ever seen - could ever be as empty as that. 

My dream catch this morning was small fish. Nothing of much importance going on here, no high emotions aroused. However, it’s fun playing games with dreams for the sake of the play, even more so when this turns into valuable data, the data of state-specific science. In writing about dream precognition in his excellent 1964 book Man and Time, J.B.Priestley observed that the difficulty in assembling evidence involves  “the trivial and the terrible”. People tend to disregard dreams they find trivial and run away from dreams they find terrible. The way forward is to decide – if the game appeals to you – that you will record all dreams in a journal and revisit your reports after the passage of time to see whether waking life caught up with the dreams. 

My little dream reports from last night may be examples of two modes of dream precognition, which we can call shining a torch and checking the mail. I am quite certain we have intuitive radar that scans our environment across space and time, reading the land and locating challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This is part of our human survival kit. This kind of intuition comes especially alive in dreams, when we lay aside our cognitive inhibitions. 

In his pioneer study An Experiment with Time, J.W.Dunne compared dream precognition to walking along a path in a darkened landscape holding a flashlight in front of you. My Turkish airport dream may be this sort of experience, though I won’t know that until I return to air travel. I don't expect the scene to be reproduced in every detail, not only because of the bronze head but because dream memories are often mixed. Details blur as we retrieve them, we mix up bits and pieces from different scenes, and our takeaways may reflect our reactions and feelings around a future event rather than the event itself. 

It takes no effort to see that my Blessing Ritual dream fits the model of checking the mail. Our future self may send us messages back across time. I picture this as the heap of mail I used to find when the mailman pushed letters through the slot in the front door. In the dream state, we go through the mail and pick out a few items. As we surface from dreams, our half-awake editor, true to what Aldous Huxley called the "reducing valve" of the brain, selects a smaller number of items. or censors them altogether.

There are other ways of understanding dream precognition. The one I like best is the most ancient: that dreaming is traveling. On any night soul or consciousness may travel across time as well as to other dimensions. “Dreams are the news that is told to us by the souls when they come back,” a Kwakiutl shaman told Åke Hultkrantz. So we might see our dream images as postcards from a journey, which could be to another time or another world.

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