Do Dreams Tell the Future?

I just finished reading An Experiment with Time by J. W. Dunne. First published in 1927 and reissued in 2001 with an introduction by physicist Russell Targ, An Experiment in Time argues that some of our dreams reveal the future. This precognition is not the ability of a limited number of psychic adepts, but according to Dunne is the birthright of all humanity.

Dunne gives a number of examples of precognitive dreams from his own experience. Then he brings his scientific training (he was one of the early aeronautical engineers) to bear on developing meaningful tests and experiments for whether dreams can indeed foretell bits of the future. Much of the book is devoted to relativity theory and the nature of time in an effort to show that time—including the past and future—are not fixed in the way that our day-to-day awareness would expect.

To be meaningful, the correspondence of images between the dreaming and waking states would need to have statistical significance. J. B. Rhine devised experiments for telepathy from which statistically significant results could be derived. Dunne’s experiments have elements of subjectivity that makes such statistical significance elusive and, at best, uncertain.
Another challenge to the book is why dreams must be harnessed to such a practical purpose as foreseeing the future. The purpose, and value, of dreams will be a topic for future blogs.

Ariadne by Giorgio de Chirico, Metropolitan Museum of Art, photograph by wallyg, used by Creative Commons license.

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