I used the example of JW Dunne's book An Experiment in Time to comment on Richard Wiseman's ideas about precognitive dreaming in the Guardian earlier this week. Now Andrew Paquette writes to tell me about his own experiments in recording dreams. He has a book out called Dreamer: 20 Years of Psychic Dreams and How They Changed My Life.
A point that Dunne makes, and which seems generally borne out by other anecdotal evidence, is that 'future' dreams aren't necessarily about big events like aircrashes, but more often the mundane events that occur in daily life.
I had a peek at Paquette's book on Amazon, and he too has examples of this nature. It's only when one takes the trouble to start recording one's dreams that one notices the effect, he suggests, and they are just as good as tragedies for making comparisons. 'Most offer details that, while not as newsworthy, are so ridiculous that when they do correlate with something else, they can be even more remarkable than a public disaster.'
His journal captured things that otherwise would have been lost. For instance he dreams of a talking egg in a sock that gets smashed into the wall. The next night, October 21 1989, he sees a skit on Saturday Night Live about a talking egg in a sock that gets thrown against a wall.
I've also seen the point made - whether by Dunne or someone else, I can't recall - that it's the dream images that match the event, not necessarily the interpretation that the dreamer makes of them. That seems to be an issue in mediumship as well. Again, Paquette makes the same observation. He once recorded dreaming news snatches of food shortages causing riots and the overthrow of the Latin American government, also of a large crowd clamouring to get into a McDonald's in that country. Short afterwards the evening news carried separate stories about the invasion of Panama and the opening of a McDonald's in Moscow, with a large crowd outside.
If I had written what I had seen, instead of drawing inferences from it, then my dream journal record would have matched what I saw later on TV, including the fact that the McDonald's was in Moscow. I saw that in the dream, but because I could not reconcile Moscow with the strong images of a Latin American city, I combined the two. The "food riots" comment was added as a logical explanation for the crowd outside the McDonald's.
Paquette also notes that precognitive images relating to different future incidents often merge into single dreams. One night he dreamed that an art director he knew was giving him a commission and that George W. Bush was smoking a hookah. The following day he was hired by the art director and later on television he saw a comedian impersonating Bush smoking a hookah. This is reliable enough, he says, that if two separate images occur in a dream, and one later occurs in reality, then he can confidently expect the other to be fulfilled also.
As someone who doesn't experience anything like this it seems rather fantastical. But I'm bound to listen to what people describe about their own experiences. Dunne seemed to think that anyone could do it if they recorded their dreams, and proved the point by getting friends and relatives to do it: some were reluctant at first, insisting that they didn't dream, but once they started keeping records found that actually they did, also that the dream images were sometimes acted out the following day. His book created quite a stir in the 1930s, and many readers described trying it out and finding it to be true.
Actually Paquette looks to be quite unusual in this regard. He later describes a long and involved dream as a 17-year old which appeared to precognize his relationship with his wife some way into the future. I wasn't able to read more than a few pages of his book, but it looks like a good read. He also has a website here.
[This post first appeared on Paranormalia.com on February 26 2011]