An Experiment with Time
J. W. Dunne
J. W. Dunne
byThe laboratory evidence from more than one hundred years of parapsychological research makes it clear that we sometimes obtain information about the future which is not available to us by normal means or through logical inference. This observation of precognition or paranormal foreknowledge has puzzled thinkers since the time of the Oracle at Delphi. However, mystics have known from the earliest Hindu Vedas of 2000 B.C. in India that Ã¢â‚¬Å“separation is an illusion,Ã¢â‚¬Â and that our consciousness transcends our ordinary understanding of both space and time. In The Sutras of Patanjali, 400 B.C., we are given detailed instructions for looking into the distance and the future, in a manner strikingly similar to recent decades of ESP research practice at laboratories such as Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) and Princeton University's Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory.
The fact that the future can make itself known to us at an earlier time indicates that we misapprehend both everyday causality and the nature of the very space and time which we take so much for granted. The existence of precognition is a serious problem for contemporary science, as well as those who interpret their experience in terms of linear time. But the data are overwhelming.
An Experiment With Time, written in 1927 by aeronautical engineer John William Dunne, has long been considered a milestone in precognition research. It presents the detailed chronicling of the precognitive dreams of a careful and serious-minded mathematician and engineer who is trying to make sense of his experiences with vivid dreams which come true with shocking regularity. One of the important findings that Dunne reports is that, although he may have a very clear dream of some distant or future disaster, it often turns out that what he has recorded in his dream journal is the newspaper report that he later reads describing the event, rather than what actually occurred. It is as though the feedback he receives at a later time is the source of his dream.
This agrees with our SRI findings, in which people are asked to psychically describe photographs of interesting places that they will see at a later time. We have found that it is the feedback photo that they describe, rather than the actual place, which may have changed since the picture was taken. However, laboratory data show that feedback is not essential for the occurrence of precognition.
Precognitive dreams are the most common psychic event to appear in the life of the average person. These dreams give us a glimpse of events that we will experience in the future. In fact, it appears that the precognitive dream is caused by the experience that we actually will have at a later time. If you have a dream of a hearse passing in front of your window and wake up the next morning and find a funeral procession led by an hearse going down your street, we would say that last night's dream of a hearse was caused by your experience of seeing the hearse the next morning. This is an example of the future affecting the past. There is an enormous body of evidence for this kind of occurrence.
What cannot happen, we believe, is a future event changing the past. It appears that nothing in the future can cause something that has already happened, and is known and agreed upon, to not occur. This is the so-called intervention paradox, illustrated by the example in which you, in the present, kill your grandmother when she was a child, and you therefore cease to exist. That kind of thing is interesting to think about, but there is no evidence of its occurrence.
To know that a dream is precognitive, you have to recognize that it is not caused by the previous day's mental residue, your wishes, or anxieties. We find, rather, that precognitive dreams have an unusual clarity, but often contain bizarre and unfamiliar material. Dream experts like to speak of Ã¢â‚¬Å“preternatural clarity.Ã¢â‚¬Â These are not wish-fulfillment or anxiety dreams. For example, if you are unprepared for an exam and dream about failing it, we would not consider that to be precognition. On the other hand, if you have had hundreds of uneventful plane flights, and then have a frightening dream about a crash, you might like to reconsider your travel plans. One could ask, Ã¢â‚¬Å“How can I dream about being in a plane crash, if I don't actually get to experience it?Ã¢â‚¬Â The answer is that you dream about the real crash, and then dramatize the events to include yourself in it.
A true case is one in which a good friend of mine had a dream about being in a plane crash, and then after cancelling his flight, got to see a plane crash at quite close range the next day. Since he was supposed to have been on that very plane, he had no trouble putting himself on the plane in his dream the previous night. We would say that the frightening crash that he experienced in the afternoon was the cause of his earlier dream. This is called retro-causality, and it may be the basis of most precognition. There is obviously no law against precognition, and it is important to note that it is a common occurrence, and in the laboratory it works exactly as well as real time ESP.
In a summary of research data from 1935 to 1989 for what we call paranormal foreknowledge, Charles Honorton and Diane Ferari studied 309 precognition experiments that had been carried out by 62 investigators.Ã‚Â¹ More than fifty thousand participants were involved in more than two million trials. Thirty percent of these studies were statistically significant in showing that people can describe future events, where only five percent would be expected by chance. This gave overall significance of greater than 10Ã‚Â²Ã‚Â° to one, which is akin to throwing 70 pennies in the air and having every one come down heads. This body of data offers very strong evidence for confirming the existence of knowledge of the future that cannot be ascribed to somebody's lucky day.
A very comprehensive laboratory examination of precognition was done by Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne, and Roger Nelson at Princeton University in the 1980s. They conducted 227 formal experiments in which a viewer was asked to describe their impressions of where one of the researchers would be hiding at some pre-selected later time. They discovered, much to their surprise, that the accuracy of the description was the same whether the viewer had to look hours, days, or weeks into the future. The overall statistical significance of the combined experiments departed from what you would expect from chance by a probability of one in a hundred billion! Their findings are so strong that it is hard to read about their work and not be convinced of the reality of precognition, even though we don't understand the mechanism.Ã‚Â²
The most exciting research in quantum physics today is the investigation of what physicist David Bohm calls quantum-interconnectedness or nonlocal correlations. It has now been demonstrated repeatedly that quanta of light sent off in opposite directions at light speed maintain their connection to one another, and that each photon is affected by what happens to its twin many kilometers away. This surprising coherence between distant entities is called nonlocality. In writing on the philosophical implications of nonlocality, physicist Henry Stapp of the University of California at Berkley says these quantum connections could be the Ã¢â‚¬Å“most profound discovery in all of science.Ã¢â‚¬Â Nonlocality includes both time and space. This is very reminiscent of the data dealing with identical twins, separated at birth and reared apart, who nonetheless show striking similarities in their lives, wives, and professions beyond what one could reasonably ascribe to their DNA.
The data from dream research like J. W. Dunne's and from remote viewing research provide evidence that our minds have access to events occurring in distant places and to the future or past. In this book, Dunne proposes an elaborate theory of Ã¢â‚¬Å“serial time,Ã¢â‚¬Â in which our consciousness has access to time's many dimensions. This geometric approach is very much in line with physicist John Archibald Wheeler's statement that our understanding of physics will Ã¢â‚¬Å“come from the geometry, and not from the fields.Ã¢â‚¬Â Immanuel Kant teaches that space and time are modes of human perception, and not attributes of the physical world. These modes are filters of our own invention.
We know from the experimental data of psi research in our own laboratory at SRI, that a viewer can focus his or her attention anywhere on the planet (or off it) and reliably describe what is there.Ã‚Â³ We know also that this same viewer is not bound by present time. In contemporary physics, we call this ability to focus attention on distant points in space-time nonlocal awareness. From data of the past twenty-five years, we believe that an experienced viewer can answer any otherwise answerable question about events in the past, present, or future. Bohm thinks that we greatly misunderstand the illusion of separation in space and time. In his physics textbook, The Undivided Universe, he defuses this illusion as he writes about the quantum-interconnectedness of all things. Bohm says: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The essential feature of the implicate order are that the whole universe is in some way enfolded in everything, and that each thing in enfolded in the whole.Ã¢â‚¬Â This is the fundamental statement of a holographic ordering of the universe. It says that, like a hologram, each region of space-time contains information about every other point in space-time. And our data indicate that this information is available to human awareness. Bohm continues:
...all of this implies a thoroughgoing wholeness, in which mental and physical sides participate very closely in each other. Likewise, intellect, emotion, and the whole state of the body are in a similar flux of fundamental participation. Thus, there is no real division between mind and matter, psyche and soma. The common term psychosomatic is in this way seen to be misleading, as it suggests the Cartesian notion of two distinct substances in some kind of interaction.
In the holographic universe of David Bohm, there is a unity of consciousness, a Ã¢â‚¬Å“greater collective mind,Ã¢â‚¬Â with no boundaries of space or time.
The familiar river of time model makes precognition seem less magical. Generally we know that the river flows downstream Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that is, causes come before events. However, if we look closely at the fine structure of the stream, we will see some eddies in the flow. There may be a boulder creating a wake downstream with the cause clearly coming before the effect. But up-stream we may see a great whirlpool - a kind of advanced wave. Where does that come from? It comes, of course, from the boulder downstream. This is a case where the effect may be experienced before we see its cause.
We are also familiar with the idea of a premonition, in which one has inner knowledge of something that is going to happen in the future Ã¢â‚¬â€œ usually something of emotional significance. There is also an experience called presentiment where one has an inner sensation, a gut feeling, that something strange is about to occur. An example would be for you to suddenly stop on your walk down the street because you felt Ã¢â‚¬Å“uneasyÃ¢â‚¬Â only to have a flower pot then fall off a window ledge and land at your feet, instead of on your head. That would be a useful presentiment.
In the laboratory, we know that if we show a frightening picture to a person, there will be a significant change in his or her physiology. Their blood pressure, hear rate, and skin resistance will all change. This fight-or-flight reaction is called an Ã¢â‚¬Å“orienting response.Ã¢â‚¬Â At the University of Nevada, researcher Dean Radin has shown recently that this orienting response is also observed in a person's physiology a few seconds before they see the scary picture! In balanced, double-blind experiments, Radin has demonstrated in his fine book The Conscious Universe that if you are about to see scenes of violence and mayhem, your body will steel itself against the insult, but if you are about to see a picture of a flower garden, then there is rarely such strong anticipatory reaction. Fear is much easier to measure physiologically than bliss. We would say that this is a case in which your direct physical perception of the picture, when it occurs, causes you to have a unique physical response at an earlier time. Again, your future is affecting your past.
It is as though we live in an interconnected spiderweb of space-time, in which the future is an attractor pulling the present toward itself. Since we are nonlocal, the past may also act as such an attractor. It appears that the universe cannot be causal in the usual sense. That is, the likely future is already determined, to the extent that our precognition is successful. What this means for us is that we do not lose our free will, but rather, we can use our premonitory information to make even more informed decisions about what we should be doing.
In An Experiment With Time, John Dunne demonstrates an early awareness of the profound questions raised by these data.
Ã‚Â¹ Honorton, Charles and Diane C. Ferari, 1989. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Future-Telling: A Meta-Analysis of Forced-Choice Precognition Experiments.Ã¢â‚¬Â Journal of Parapsychology, 53:281-209.
Ã‚Â² Dunne, B. J., R. G. Jahn, and R. D. Nelson. 1983. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Precognitive Remote Perception,Ã¢â‚¬Â Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (Report).
Ã‚Â³ Targ, Russell and Jane Katra. 1989. Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Preface copyright Ã‚Â© 2001 by Russell Targ
Studies in Consciousness / Russell Targ EditionsSome of the twentieth century's best texts on the scientific study of consciousness are out of print, hard to find, and unknown to most readers; yet they are still of great importance. Their insights into human consciousness and its dynamics are still valuable and vital. Hampton Roads Publishing Company - in partnership with physicist and consciousness research pioneer Russell Targ - is proud to bring some of these texts back into print, introducing classics in the fields of science and consciousness studies to a new generation of readers. Upcoming titles in the Studies in Consciousness series will cover such perennially exciting topics as telepathy, astral projection, the after-death survival of consciousness, psychic abilities, long-distance hypnosis, and more.
-----------------------------------Preface copied with permission.