An Incomplete Mystical Experience
Psi and Psychedelics

One for Aficionados of Precognitive Dreams

Lawrence Brennan got in touch last weekend to talk about a dream he thought might be precognitive. It’s happened to him a few times, as he described interestingly in Paranormalia a while back. The imagery in this particular dream seemed to suggest a runner in the Grand National, so he had a punt.

Then a thought struck him about what the dream might really signify.

Long story short – no fortunes were made. But the episode underlined some interesting points, which Lawrence has identified and analysed in some detail. Here’s the correspondence, lightly edited.

Lawrence to Robert, Wednesday April 2   I was going to offer this to you so you could be a witness, should I prove successful in finally using this purported ability to predict something before it happens (my success rate so far being zero.) And I was full of hope this could be the one.

Instead it may have just turned into an example of why these things are so damned elusive.  I feel like Scully in the X Files ... there’s always a get-out.

I discovered by accident a few nights ago that I could determine the content of that night’s dreams by telling myself (two or three times, eyes closed, just before drifting off, as if hypnotising myself) what I was to dream about.  I say by accident, as what I was actually instructing myself to do was to have very clear, very precise and well remembered precognitive dreams that night.  Seemed worth a go.

As far as I know or recall, nothing I dreamt about did indeed come true.  However, to my surprise, each of the night’s dreams referenced the subject of precognitive dreaming as part of their plot.   That was interesting.   Did this suggest I could consciously shape the contents of my dreams before sleep? I decided to test it the next night by instructing myself in the same way to dream about a particular individual. Sure enough, I did.   Well this could be handy!   A way to potentially make use of this newly realised ability occurred to me the next day, Monday.  Sometime during the day a nagging half thought started tugging at my mind.. a forgotten something I was struggling to get hold of. I had a notion that I’d had a dream some time recently that was related to the Grand National. What dream, or even if there was one, or when it had happened, I still don’t know.  I just felt James Dean – whether the man or his name – had something to do with it.

This annoying niggle in my mind prompted a related idea.  Why not tell myself to dream about the Grand National, and see if I emerge from my slumbers with a name that matches with a real horse in the race?  So on Monday night I did just that. Instructed myself to dream of the National and get the name of the winner ...  

I had no dreams involving races or horses.  Ah well. Still I decided to Google this year’s race, find out what horses were listed and if their names meant anything to me. First read through – nothing.  Read it again five minutes later and ... hold on ... “Vintage Star”.  James Dean reference?  Could be.  Hmm..  Five minutes later it hit me. I’d had no dreams about horse racing the night before, but what I had dreamt about was: Vintage black and white photos of old Hollywood stars followed by another group of veteran elderly movie actors in period costumes.   Oh my!  Vintage Star!  The name describes all parts of these dreams, including the earlier James Dean half-memory.  It has to be.  Vintage Star to win the National.  If my dreams didn’t foresee the winner they sure as hell foresaw me zoning in on the name of this horse.

  I placed a free bet online and stand to win several hundred pounds if it wins, and I told half a dozen friends individually as witnesses to my ‘prediction’.    This was when I was also going to write this email to you: if it wins you’d have a story, if it doesn’t, ho hum, and who need ever know? As I’ve always said, I’m not psychic.  

But then this morning ... damn and blast. I did something I immediately regretted and which, if nothing else, is an object lesson in the sheer impossible-to-grab-hold-of nature of this stuff.  By way of promoting and cheering on my prediction for the coming event I dug out two photos of myself and a friend in front of giant black-and-white pictures of Clark Gable and Rudolf Valentino – pictures very much like the ones in the dream -  posting the former as my Facebook cover photo and sending the latter to him.  As soon as I’d done so I wanted to kick myself.  Perhaps you’ve already worked out why?

  If we take seriously my central premise that the dream imagery was taken from near-future events and experiences, how can I know it referred to the horse race and not, say, my posting of those photographs?  The latter in fact is more literally reminiscent of the content of the dream after all.   Like Planet of the Apes this would be mind-bogglingly circular. I only posted the photos because I had the dream and now face the possibility I only had that particular dream because I was going to post those photographs.   I started off all but convinced I’ve successfully foreseen the winner of this year’s Grand National, but may instead have triggered a temporal paradox.  And don’t you just hate it when that happens?  

Robert to Lawrence, Saturday April 5, 2.18pm

lol !   Well, I agree with your reasoning. But it’s always good to have a reason to back a horse at 50-1, so I’ve a little punt too.   Here’s hoping!

[For non-Brits I should explain that it’s normally insane to bet on the Grand National, a notoriously dangerous steeplechase in which most of the horses fall over. A rank outsider is always in with a chance – this year’s actual winner was priced at 25-1.]

Lawrence to Robert Saturday April 5, 4.38pm

Bah humbug!  This is why I gave up that tent on Blackpool pier.   There was something else I didn’t mention before:   First I reasoned my way out of the time-loop problem by deciding that I chose the horse because of the (slightly less convincing) James Dean connection ... and that this therefore was the reason I was always going to choose it, always put up those photos, and therefore had the precognitive dream triggered by the latter act.  Paradox resolved. 

Then on Thursday night I woke between dreams for a few minutes and tried sleepily, but consciously this time, to ‘foresee’ the result. Jockeys’ silks appeared vividly in my mind’s eye.  Yellow and Green quarters.  Next morning the sweepstakes in the papers included little graphics of each rider’s colours.  Two of the forty had the yellow and green quarters design. And one of them was .... Vintage Star.

Once again I had personally convincing evidence I’d ‘seen the future’, but had no way to know whether I was foreseeing the colours of the horse that was going to win ... only that I was foreseeing the colours of the horse I had already decided to follow!  Which is useless, and means the predictive proof of precognition that might satisfy other people remains as elusive as ever.  

In the light of this experience Lawrence later sent this link on classic and recent examples of people dreaming the winners of horse races. He analysed the cases as follows:

The first thing of note in each incident described is very significant ... that in each case the precognitive dream actually showed literally what it was about. That is, it involved horses in a race and the announced winner. In other words, no interpreting signs or metaphors are necessary at all. That’s a strong clue as to their qualitative difference from my attempts, and a reminder that I keep making the same mistake over and over ... seeing hidden meaning in my dreams where none exists. 

However there’s a second characteristic of the stories that belies my own experiences and observations (which I’m going to list) in the cases above, as reported at least. This is a clear suggestion that the individuals only pay attention (and indeed seek out) the precognized event because of the dream. Which suggests that either someone or something was planting the dreams in their mind, or else that we’re back to time loops.  Either way, it’s not how it appears to work in my own experience at all.  

So what do I know - perhaps others would say ‘believe’ - about precognitive dreaming, as far as my own experiences go?

  1) Such dreams relate to utterly trivial and seemingly random matters.  There are no ‘messages’, warnings or other intentions behind them. I’ve yet to experience anything that suggests future events, of a particular emotional impact or significance, are likely to show up in a dream.  

2) The plot is irrelevant, and almost always pure nonsense/fantasy.  Trying to read meanings or symbolism into it is fruitless.  The precognitive aspects relate only to visuals ... TV or movie scenes, news headlines, photos, unusual surroundings, peculiar actions ... and will appear pretty much as themselves within the otherwise unrelated plot. Unless the image in question is novel or confusing, in which case it may be distorted to make sense within the story.  I have identified no rule or quality that makes any particular object or incident turn up rather than another.

  3) The future-relevant visuals that do turn up are inspired by one’s own experience of witnessing/reading/hearing about those incidents. They are not objectively inspired by the incident itself (eg, it’s the experience of receiving the news of a plane crash, with all its errors and conjectures, rather than the plane crash itself, that would fuel the content of the dream).  If I’m not going to see it in real life, in some sense, then it’s not going to show up in my dream.  

4) The dreams cannot ever be used to make a prediction.  You only notice they referred to the future after it happens. The only way one might predict, that I can currently conceive of, is to say ‘X’ turned up in the plot of my dream, so ‘X’ is likely to turn up in my personal viewing/reading etc in the next day or so.

    5) The elements of a dream that are taken from the future rather than the past or from pure fantasy, are not qualitatively distinct or identifiable.  Having said that, I have noted in the past that where a new face or object imposes itself upon another in the recall of the dream (eg. what was originally ‘John’ somehow mid-action turns into ‘Mike’), then the latter  - the interloper - often seems to be the thing that turns up, particularly the next morning.  

6) The passage of time seems to be somehow simultaneously relevant, and irrelevant to the precognized imagery.  That’s to say, the fact the great majority of foreseen images happen within the first several  hours, or perhaps days, after waking from the dream suggests nearness in time to the event is relevant. And yet I’ve noticed striking correlations between a dream and events that occurred five months later ... which suggests there is no such time limit at all.

It also might suggest that far more material from one’s dreams than is ever noticed will turn up in future ... but the time lapse prevents you recalling the dream (even if you recorded it at the time) or spotting the connection!

  7)  I now have two personal anecdotes that suggest the period just after waking from slumber is conducive to consciously trying to foresee a specific thing in a ‘remote viewing’ kind of way.  However, setting out in advance to repeat the exercise the following night seems to be counter-productive, and may suggest lazy spontaneity is required.  

8) My newly-observed ability to decide what I would dream about equally only lasted two nights, and I’ve not been able to replicate it since.

Lawrence concludes:  

So these are my own observations of how it works for me and, I’m fairly confident, for the other 95% of the population who don’t claim special powers.  I leave 5%, because I’ve now read two books by people who have PDs, and in each case they seem utterly sincere, yet describe experiences far beyond any I recognize ... ones where their visions do seem directed and directable, and often involve spirit encounters and OOBEs etc.  These perhaps are the people who see plane crashes rather than scenes from tomorrow’s episode of Frasier. So if they’re not making it up, I can only surmise that they differ from me in that they are indeed ‘psychics’ or mediums.

Perhaps their dreams are being used as means of communication. I know mine aren’t, or I’d now be claiming 800 quid from an online bookie.  


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The best overview of precognitive dreams I've found is Brian Inglis' 'Coincidence: A Matter of Chance or Synchronicity'.
I call it the best because it best fits in with my experience of precognitive dreams. Such dreams are accurate except in detail and don't always have an obvious purpose - other than that suggested by Jung in relation to synchronicity. They are an indication that we are on the right track - assuming the right track means the most beneficial to us in the long run.

As events unfold, there's an element of humour; it's as if the cosmos is playing a practical joke. I'll offer an example:

A few years ago my daughter and husband were very keen on amateur steeple chasing, mostly point-to-point racing. On one occasion we were planning to attend the Doncaster bloodstock sales to buy a horse suitable to win the Bar point-to-point. My daughter was set to ride my thoroughbred, 'Freddie Freeloader,' but my husband didn't have anything suitable at that time. A few days before the sale, my husband and a couple of racing friends leafed through the catalogue, marking suitable horses that we might be able to afford, in preparation for the auction.

The night before the sale I had a very vivid dream in which I was working an old-fashioned printing press. When I awoke remembered the dream in detail and it occurred to me how strange that I should dream about something that would be more likely to interest Fred Dibnah.

Anyway, to cut to the chase (no pun intended), we set off for Doncaster on the morning of the sale. As we were travelling along the East Lancs Road, I noticed a Rolls Royce car with a distinctive registration number travelling across a roundabout and I pointed this out to the others in the car. At the sales the horses were bringing high prices and those earmarked earlier as suitable were getting priced out of our reach. Feeling somewhat discouraged, I went to the cafe to buy coffee for everyone, and when I got back my husband and daughter had bought a horse. It wasn't one that they had rated, or even noticed, in their earlier permutations but it wasn't a bad prospect and worth a go since it was within our price range. Its name was Printer, and it won the Bar point-to-point with my husband that year. (Freddie Freeloader came third.)

The only other synchronicity of the day was that the same distinctive Rolls Royce that we saw on the outward journey crossed that very same roundabout in front of us as we travelled home.

This post really made me smile, and perhaps gave me a new way of seeing my recent dream.

Two nights ago I dreamed I was wearing the kilt of a man I know who has Scottish ancestry, and indeed has a kilt he wears when playing bagpipes etc. I was amused by the dream and was analyzing it in the typical Freudian, did I feel part of his clan etc.

So, last evening my husband and I were in the car driving to our local contra dance here in Vermont and I was telling him about my dream and wondering how I had come up with that particular scenario, mulling over my Freudian interpretations.

Now for the funny part - We walked into the dance and imagine my surprise when I looked at the man across from me and HE WAS WEARING A KILT! (I have NEVER seen this at a contra dance before.) I just pointed at him while I looked at my husband and deadpanned, "Kilt."

I'd like to add one small note - and that is that in the USA one rarely sees a man in a kilt. Perhaps it is different there in England, but here, it would be only for very special Scottish-themed events. Certainly not at a contra dance on a Saturday night!

It's quite rare in England too, Kestrel.

Come to think of it, it's not actually that common in Scotland either.

Also during the period when my family were point-to-point racing, I remember one morning when, a few days before a scheduled race, my husband and daughter travelled two horses early one morning to use a local racehorse trainer's all-weather gallops. My daughter was, again, riding my thoroughbred horse, Freddie Freeloader, whose stable name was Muffin.

I was still in bed when I heard the horsebox going down the drive on its way out just before 6.00 am. I went back to sleep and woke again at 7.30 am. when the alarm went off. I'd been woken from a vivid dream in which my daughter had been riding Muffin around the National course at Aintree. I dreamt they'd fallen at Beecher's and Muffin had become cast upside down in the ditch. In the dream my daughter ran towards me shouting, "Mum, come quickly! Muffin's cast!"

I got out of bed, dressed and as I went downstairs to the kitchen I heard the horsebox return. Five minutes later my daughter opened the back door and shouted, "Mum, come quickly! Muffin's cast".

Apparently, Muffin had been returned to his stable after the journey and, being almost 100% fit, had decided to roll inside immediately rather than wait until free exercise in the paddock. He chose to do so too close to the wall and thus got himself into an upside-down position from which he couldn't get sufficient purchase on the wall with his hooves to right himself. It took all three of us with a stout rope around his legs to pull him back over.

It was all most bizarre - especially as we had only ever once before had a horse cast and that was many years before Muffin was even born. But the precognitive dream - which is typical of several that I've had over the years - fits well the
description given by Brian Inglis in 'Coincidence' of the way that such dreams tend to differ only in detail from the actual events they foretell.

Ps. @Kestrel: Your dream seems to fit the Inglis stereotype too.

Thanks to your suggestion, Julie, I have ordered the book.

I would like to start trying to remember my dreams better. I had another dream I remembered that seemed precognitive - I dreamed about a couple I rarely see, that they lived a few doors down from me, and I was happy our children could run around and play together in the back yards. The next day I ran into them at the grocery store - the first time I had seen them in about a year - and the first thing I said to them was, "OH! I just dreamed about you last night!"

That's Inglis' essential point. Many such dreams appear to be of no real consequence - other than their novelty and surprise value, Kestrel.

In my experience these things tend to occur spasmodically in groups of events. Some years ago I went through a phase of winning the first prize in every raffle I entered. The feeling was one of such certainty that I would tell my companions that I was going to win. They thought I was joking . . . . . . . that is until I actually won! I don't know how I knew that I would win, I just did.

Also, there are times when I can visit the races and know at a glance which horse is going to win. Indeed I once predicted the winner of all seven races at a point-to-point meeting with big fields a few years ago. After each win we thought it was a matter of chance and that it wouldn't happen again . . . . . . . but it did - all seven times! Had we had more faith we would have won considerably more money.

But as time goes by, this ability gets less and less frequent. I believe the reason for this is that after a while one can't help but consciously attempt to time the buying of the raffle ticket or choose the horses by applying concentration. I suspect that unless one has particularly strong psychic powers, and/or a particular type of mentality, these phenomena are beyond individual control. For me, such intimations have to come completely out of the blue, as it were, and all I can do is to recognize them when they occur.

Ps. Hope you enjoy the book, Kestrel. It's one of my all-time favourites.

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