A few nights ago, I had a dream that the bears were our guardians and would come at night and protect the humans from other predators. For the most part humans were not aware of this going on, but we owed our survival to the bears. I texted my esteemed colleague, Paul, the next day relating this to him. In typical fashion, he commented only that people were not ready to hear the truth.
This morning, Paul posted to the RHE Facebook page a story about a boy who had been missing in North Carolina for two days, and had been found safe. The boy claimed that he had been hanging out with a bear. Paul did not make a connection with this to my dream until I reminded him of it. It turns out the night I had the dream was the night the boy was found, Thursday night, but I didn’t know about the story until this morning.
We could have a very interesting discussion speculating about what actually happened to this boy. Certainly, we here at the RHE are happy he is safe and well. But for the moment, I only want to draw upon this as an example of a precognitive dream and use it to stimulate a discussion about time.
J.W. Dunne used these kinds of dreams as an Experiment with Time in order to demonstrate that the subconscious mind possesses bits of information from both the past and the future and uses both to construct dreams. Thus, we can use the information obtained in dream to demonstrate retrocausality, the idea that events in the future can cause events in the past. From this basis he developed a complex theory of time called Serialism. (If there is anyone else out there who has wrestled through all of his work, please let me know. I need someone to discuss it with. Drinks are on me.)
Humans have probably known that we have precognitive dreams since humans have been dreaming, but one important aspect that Dunne brought out in his work was that what we are precognizing is not the event itself, but our learning of the event in the future and our reaction to it.
Assuming it was not random coincidence, Dunne’s interpretation would be that my dream of the bears was not caused by the ordeal of the boy in NC, but by my seeing the news article about it. This is supported by the fact that, in all likelihood there were no bears involved in this story and yet that was what I dreamed about. What this suggests is that we are not connecting with the future of the external world, but rather sharing knowledge through time with past and future versions of ourselves.
Dunne provides many examples to show that this interpretation is a better fit to the data. This is also consistent with the findings of remote viewing experiments that the success rate is much greater when the participants get feedback later on their target after the fact. In other words, you cannot predict something unless you will know of it later.
Recently, Eric Wargo has added an interesting element to this literature in his book Time Loops by highlighting the looping causation of (at least some of) these events. These loops occur when we have precognitive knowledge, often in dream, of a future event that then occurs as a result of the precognition of it. For example, you have a dream about seeing a street with a certain name and turning down it to find a friend of yours. The next day, you happen to drive by a street of that name, and because of the dream, you turn down it and see your friend. The dream was precognitive to be sure, but the interesting part that Wargo adds is that you would not have turned down the street if you had not had the dream. So, the event the next day “caused” the dream, but at the same time, the dream “caused” the event to occur.
Wargo gives many examples of this throughout the book, and his case is strong. In my own experience, I have personally had many experiences that fit this model, and heard many stories from others that also support it. Wargo’s book has made me rethink many experiences I have had, and I don’t need precognition to foresee many more nights staring into a campfire reviewing experiences within this framework.
In the case of my dream about the bears, this kind of looping quality would be present if Paul had posted the article because he remembered my previous dream and found it an odd coincidence. Then, my dream would be caused by Paul’s post, which was only made because of my dream. Savvy? However, in this case, Paul did not consciously recall my dream when he made the post. It could always be argued that he subconsciously remembered it and that is what led to his finding the story interesting and posting it, but such hypotheses are untestable. It is true that my emotional response to the article was influenced by the dream however.
The most troubling aspect of the time loop theory is that if we were to believe that all experience is looping in this way, it seems to point directly to a deterministic universe and eliminate free will. Wargo is OK with that. I am not ready to accept this. And I don’t think it is due to a desperate clinging to the illusion that we have freedom, although maybe it is and I am just in cognitive dissonance over it. I am willing to consider this, but in my own experience, it seems like a big stretch to fit determinism to much of the data.
Philippe Guillemant proposes a different idea in The Road of Time. While he also believes in retrocausality, or more specifically, dual causality from both the past and the future, it does not lead him to forsake free will. He gets around it by adopting the view that although the future already exists, all possible futures already exist. What free will allows us to choose is which one of the possible futures we will experience. Guillemant interprets synchronicities, the term Jung created for meaningful coincidence, as marking junctures that connect our present with the future that we are being drawn to experience.
Like Dunne, Guillemant proposes an experiment in his book, one in which we generate our own synchronicities. In this experiment, we plant the intention in the future of experiencing some bizarre coincidence that we will recognize as a signal that our experiment worked. As a scientist himself, he sets a protocol and criteria for evidence of success (the kind of thing we would determine by “statistical significance” in data work).
While reading his book, I decided to try the experiment just as Guillemant laid it out. Many of his synchronicities described in the book have to do with the reoccurrence of strings of numbers, so this is what I was targeting as my signal. The very next day after planting my intention to create a synchronicity, I broke the axel on my lawn tractor – a departure from my daily routine, which is one of the elements Guillemant proposes as necessary for synchronicities to occur. I went to a Tractor Supply store looking for parts. While they did not have specific parts for my model, the guy at the counter found a part in the supply room that looked like it would work. I proceeded to the check out, where I was behind one woman in line. When I got to the register, the cashier rang my part up to $15.11. Then he said “that’s weird.” I asked him why and he said that the bill of the woman ahead of me had also come out to $15.11.
OK, so here is a very unlikely coincidence of numbers happening about 12 hours after I had intentionally attempted to create this very thing. Strong support for Guillement’s hypothesis in my book. Can we explain this in the time loop framework? Certainly it is true that the coincidence of numbers was only given meaning because of the intention I had set the day before. But to put a retrocausal element on it, we would have to assert that my sitting down the previous day and sending this intention into the future was caused by the incident the following day. And since it was Guillemant’s book that led me to perform the experiment, my reading of the book was also caused by the coincidence of prices at that register. This seems like a big stretch to me. It is one thing for the future to plant information in a dream. This does not require intention. But to believe that the only reason I suddenly decide to do something very odd like sit down and try to create a future coincidence is because that coincidence is going to occur seems like it requires too much of a stretch.
In our own book, I write about my experience of a “time loop” in the most literal sense. I was running a loop trail in the woods and found myself running over the same area twice without completing the loop to come back to where I was. Could the time loop hypothesis explain this experience? Possibly. One could say that my experience of running that section of the trail stretched backward in a retrocausal way and planted the memories of the trail in my mind in an earlier part of the run. Most of the time, these precognitive visions come in dreams, but maybe the meditative state created by running opened the door to the subconscious enough that I “premembered” (a Wargo term) the part of the trail I would run later.
I can’t rule this out, at least not in retrospect. But normally when we have a precognitive dream, we remember it as being such – a dream. In this case, the way I experienced it was as two separate physical runnings of the trail. If I had checked my watch at the time and seen that time passed in a linear way as I did both runs of the section, I might be able to distinguish the truth. But unfortunately, I was not aware that I was involved in an experiment at that point. There are, however, many reports of people who do check their watches during such events. Some find that there is a gap of missing time. Others find that they have traveled a great distance with no time passing. Something else is going on in these cases. And there are many other paranormal events that just don’t play nicely with time.
My studies of time continue. I feel that if we can get a better handle on what time is, or even what it isn’t, we may be able to make much better sense of many phenomena. My current position on time would be “all of the above and more.” Dunne is correct – dreams do hold traces of the future. Wargo is correct – synchronicity and precognitive events do often seem to have a looping, self-causal quality. Guillemant is correct – we can intentionally create synchronicities, and by implication modify the future. But all of these theories still seem to me like the blind men feeling different parts of the time elephant. All of them are correct about the part they are feeling, but none of them captures the essence of the elephant in the rabbit hole.
Note: no bears, elephants or rabbits were harmed in the writing of this blog post.