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Related to precognition: Precognitive dreams


Psychol the alleged ability to foresee future events
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Precognition literally means “to know beforehand.” Precognition is paranormal knowledge of future events, an impression that something specific is going to happen. There are many examples, such as Jeane Dixon’s precognition of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Another example, though without knowing all the details, was when Colin Macdonald, a 34-year old marine engineer, refused three times to sign on as the second engineer on the Titanic, because of precognition that there would be a terrible disaster connected with the ship. Laboratory examples of precognition are seen in the results of extrasensory perception tests, where a person knows beforehand what card will be drawn by the Sender.

There is a very fine line between precognition and premonition. Precognition implies a more certain knowledge of coming events, while premonitions are vague feelings without the specifics.

Precognition happens most frequently in dreams, where the dreamer “sees” an event in the future that later turns out to be true. Such scenes are also experienced in trance, visions, hallucinations, and even in the waking state. Precognition can be brought about through various forms of divination, such as scrying, and by mediumship.

The vast majority of precognitive experiences deal with death, dying, and other negative events. During the two World Wars and in other wars, there have been innumerable examples of mothers, fathers, spouses, and others knowing when someone was about to be killed, even though that person was hundreds or even thousands of miles away. These impressions came strongly and, usually, within a matter of hours or even minutes of the actual event.

In the Welsh village of Aberfan, on the night of October 20, 1966, a nine-year-old girl named Eryl Jones had a dream that there was no school the following day. She didn’t just dream that there would be no classes, but that there would be no school in existence. The next morning she told her mother that “something black came down all over it.” But she went to school anyway. Shortly after nine o’clock that morning a half-million-ton mountain of coal waste, saturated by days of unrelenting rain, slid down over the village, burying houses and the entire school. Nearly 150 people, most of them school children and including Eryl Jones, were buried and died. Many other people all over Great Britain had similar dreams before the tragedy. Some saw an actual mountain of coal slag pour down the mountainside onto the village.

In his book Foreknowledge (1938), H. F. Saltmarsh suggested that different kinds of time are accessible to different states of consciousness. At the level of general awareness our experience of time is not constant, since time can seem to fly or it can seem to drag. He concluded that we are living in what he termed the “specious present,” where the time we perceive is of short duration. For our subconscious, however, the “present” is stretched out so that it actually includes part of the future. In his book he talks about a case published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research which gave details of precognition exhibited by John H. Williams, an eighty-year-old Quaker. On May 31, 1933, Williams woke up at 8:55 a.m. with vivid memory of a dream in which he had heard the radio commentary on the Derby horse race, to be run at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. In the dream he heard the names of four horses, including King Solomon and Hyperion, and certain details of the race. Williams told both a neighbor and a business acquaintance about this. Although personally uninterested in horse racing and betting, Williams made a point of listening to the commentary when the race was run later that day. He heard the identical commentary, with mention of the same horses, which he had heard in his dream. The other two people he had confided in later confirmed all he had told them.

Stuart Holroyd, in The Supernatural: Dreamworlds (1976), gives the details of a scientific experiment that seems to prove very conclusively that effects can precede causes, thus upsetting one of the basic laws of science and of common sense. Drs. Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner ran a series of closely controlled and very complex tests on British psychic Malcolm Bessent, at the Maimonides Medical Center. The idea was to keep track of what Bessent dreamed and to see if it was the same as an incident that was going to happen to him. They did this by first using EEG to monitor his brain rhythms and REM (Rapid Eye Movement; the indicator that a subject is having a dream) and then immediately waking him to record the dream. This was carried out by one team, who woke him after four separate dreams then filed away the details of those dreams. The following morning, a second team sat down and decided on a target word. In this case it was “corridor,” one out of 1,200 possible words. Around this word they were to construct an elaborate multisensory “happening” for Bessent. Krippner selected Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Hospital Corridor at St. Remy as the target picture. The “happening” was started when two men, dressed in white hospital uniforms, burst into Bessent’s room and forced him into a straight jacket. They took him out and led him down a darkened corridor, while eerie music from the movie Spellbound was playing in the background. There was also the sound of distant hysterical laughter. The men took Bessent to an office where Krippner, seated at a desk and laughing wildly, forced him to swallow a pill and swabbed his face to “disinfect” him. Obvious, on the wall of the office, was the Van Gogh painting. Krippner then turned off the lights and showed Bessent slides of weird drawings done by mental patients.

When the dream records were opened and studied, they showed that Bessent had had recurring visions of a mental hospital, a large concrete building, doctors and psychologists in white coats, and the theme of a female patient disguised as a doctor trying to escape down a corridor toward an archway. The dreams were all characterized by a feeling of hostility. This was an amazingly accurate series of dreams, dreamed before the events took place and all done under strict laboratory conditions. It would seem to be conclusive proof of precognition in dreams.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004
Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune–Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991
Holroyd, Stuart: The Supernatural: Dream Worlds. London: Aldus, 1976
Saltmarsh, H.F.: Foreknowledge. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1938
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


A form of extrasensory perception involving foreknowledge of a future event.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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