A special function of dreams is the so-called “rehearsal for the future”: some dreams are simply related to our future and provide us messages not only about ourselves, but about our friends, family or colleagues.
Practically, very often our dreams prepare us for the opportunities and challenges of the near or far away future – sometimes that means days, weeks or months, but sometimes it can take years (or even decades) until “reality” catches up with the dreams.
Precognitive dreams are more common than you think: if you ever had the feeling of déjà vu, most likely you have experienced a moment that you already dreamed about. Déjà vu is French for “already seen” – even the name of this “phenomenon” gives us a clue.
Parapsychologists use the term “precognition” to designate metaphysical perceptions that are linked to a future event. Some authors speak about various precognitive visions: those that occur during a state of trance – reported by sorcerers, shamans or nowadays mediums; premonitory dreams – whereof stories abound; premonitions, when the prediction is felt as an emotion; or things that gifted people with precognitive abilities simply “see” wakefully in the most common circumstances.
Often these glimpses of future reality are felt like warnings, announcing the emergence of unpleasant situations.
All ancient traditional cultures (Aboriginal, Native Americans, Celts, Egyptians, Tibetans and so on) knew the function of dreams and they actively used it for practical and spiritual purposes. The literature of all major religions of humanity is full of stories and examples of precognitive dreams.
In fact, some indigenous peoples argue – and pass on these teachings, from generation to generation – that we dream EVERYTHING that will manifest in the physical reality BEFORE it happens. From this perspective, as Active Dreamers, we realize not only that we can foresee the future, but also that we can be present at its creation too.
First of all, by being aware of the fact that what we see in our dreams can be a possible future, not something that will happen inevitably.
This also depends on the way we act – or miss to act! – after a dream that we had.
J.W. Dunne tried to give us an explanation:
„Time is eternal present, the past, the present and the future are happening all at the same time.”
It’s difficult to understand, but what the researcher is trying to explain is that one who „reads” the page of the present is aware of it that time alone, but the other pages of the book – the past and future – exist simultaneously.
If we could read the pages of the book at the same time, we would understand what it means to live simultaneously the present, the past and the future.
Dunne also said that during the waking state, people perceive the time as being linear – as a flow of time, in a straight line, from past to future. During sleep, on the other hand, the brain works differently and is able to perceive the time „simultaneously.”
Consciousness becomes free to wander in the present, past and future. In light of this theory, we become able to have these precognitive dreams – the consciousness touches the spot by chance, learning about a random story from the future. Thus, the brain is experiencing this in its own way, turning perception into a dream more or less explicitly.
Famous precognitive dreams
Those who have studied dreams found some interesting cases that became famous in history.
It seems that two weeks before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln had a dream in which a coffin appeared inside the White House, and when he asked about the person in the coffin (again in the dream), he was told that it was the US President.
Otto von Bismarck, the German Chancellor, said at one point in 1898, that if there will be any war in Europe, it will be caused by who knows what mistake from the Balkans. And so it was – WWI was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, Sarajevo, by a Serb nationalist fanatic.
But was it really a precognition?
Bismarck, who was always in the midst of political and military events of the continent and who controlled the European politics for more than three decades, knew many details of Europe’s situation at that time and understood very well its complex mechanisms, so that he could have anticipated the evolution of this situation, without any paranormal implication in his prediction.
Mark Twain claimed to have dreamed a funeral, with his brother in the coffin. His brother died a week later.
The sinking of the Titanic is also closely related to precognitive dreams. After the ship sank, many people stated that they should have been on board, but canceled their trip after they dreamed a sunken ship. Of course, chances are that a person who has never traveled by sea could dream about a sinking boat out of fear.
Premonition in skeptic vision
For any phenomenon categorized as paranormal, there are two perspectives: that of those who believe in these phenomena and that of skeptics, who refuse occult explanations and try to explain every phenomenon, no matter how mysterious it seems to others, from a scientific point of view, trying to find „natural” explanations based on what is known so far in physics, biology, psychology … So what do the scientific skeptics say about premonition, precognition, foreboding and precognitive dreams?
In general, they think if it’s not fraud, then we are dealing with misinterpretations of some phenomena and/or about the peculiarities of the human psyche influencing the objective interpretations of the facts. The human memory tends to remember rather the coincidences; we are all impressed by coincidences, but we all forget to mention the numerous occasions in which premonitions were not confirmed.
In other words, we only see the „success” and disregard „failure”. If we had a dream that was a „bad sign”, and the next day something bad happens, we associate this with the dream and say: „See? I knew something bad would happen because last night I had a strange dream.” But what if nothing happens?
And what about nightmares about unpleasant situations that occurred in reality – traumatic events of the past, some of which we are not even aware, stories that our mind has locked somewhere deep within the subconscious? If we imagine that these dreams refer to future events, we get it all wrong, we misinterpret them.
Precognitive dreams studied by researchers
In 1930, at Duke University in the US, there was a Parapsychology Laboratory where two researchers, Joseph Rhine and Louisa Rhine, studied the phenomenon of precognition. In 1967, psychiatrist J. A. Barker has established a scientific institution in the UK – British Premonitions Bureau – dedicated to a practical purpose: gathering information from people who were experiencing various forebodings about disasters. All data collected was used to set up an innovative system for predicting disasters.
It seems that Barker even managed to track down some people that appeared to be endowed with a variety of sensitive antennas and whose hunches were confirmed by reality. Unfortunately, however, these people could not provide the exact moment when disaster would strike, thus failing to locate it in time. Therefore, the warning system could not function.
In 1979, Princeton, one of the most prestigious American universities, set up a specialized laboratory – Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) – intended to study the interactions between the human psyche and the reality using modern technological means. A multidisciplinary team – psychologists, engineers, physicists and so on – studied various phenomena related to the vast sphere of parapsychology, including precognition. The laboratory was closed in 2007.
In 2010 a research called “Feeling the Future”, conducted by Prof. Daryl Bem at Cornell University, presents some rather compelling empirical evidence that in some cases — and with weak, but highly statistically significant accuracy – many human beings can directly perceive the future.