In all the years of writing for this blog, I have never had a driving urge to convince skeptics of the existence of anomalous experiences like precognitive and telepathic dreams. I’m simply more interested in the transformational aspects of dreamwork and consciousness studies. Admittedly, I’m also skeptical of a lot of paranormal claims–due more to a grumpy temperament than a philosophical position. I most likely wouldn’t believe in psychic dreams at all, if not for the inconvenient truth that I have these experiences myself.
My wife laughs every time I tell her about a strange experience and then go about deconstructing it. “You’re the most psychic person I know,” she laughs, “so why do you fight it?”
That’s a good question. Why do I fight it? It’s embarrassing, but I guess I fight it because I don’t understand it. And that, folks, is why the scientific worldview—as a belief system, not as a method of inquiry– is a conservative force that must be checked by open dialogue and a willingness to look into the murky corners of perception.
Slowly, in my own life, a crack in the dam has emerged. Today I want to share a story of the dam bursting open–literally.
The Case of the Flooded Basement
About a month ago, I dreamed that I was in the attic of the house, and a pipe burst in the wall. The water was flowing out like a faucet. In the dream, I went downstairs to look for help, and on my way down, ran into my brother-in-law.
That morning, my brother-in-law (who shares a house with my wife and I) told me he just had a dream about me coming down the stairs carrying buckets full of water.
Huh, that’s interesting.
But more to the point, I knew instantly what had to be done.
You see, a week prior, I had discovered moisture seeping in on the basement floor. I hadn’t told my brother-in-law about it, as he has been out of town all week. With my pipe dream (ha) and his synchronous dream of me and the buckets, I knew we better spend some time in the basement prepping for a possible flood. So we spent several hours that same day getting all our belongings off the basement floor onto shelves and pallets.
Six days later, during a heavy rainstorm, the basement flooded. Water poured through a crack in the wall like a spigot was turned on full-force. The image was shockingly similar to my dream. Yet the cause was clearly rainwater seeping out of the ground and coming through a crack in the foundation. I remember joking about how my dream of the broken pipe in the attic got the details wrong.
However, when the plumber came, he diagnosed the situation as a rusty pipe from the roof. Huh? Turns out, our row house—which was built in the 1890s—has a typical feature for homes of that era: the gutter collects water from the roof, and then the pipe enters the house again, connecting the rain gutter with an outgoing water pipe in the wall that then goes out to the city sewer. The pipe probably had never been replaced, and eventually corroded, first causing seepage, and then the flood.
So my dream wasn’t that wrong after all: a water pipe in the wall burst, with water originating from above the living space. Was this precognition after all?
I’m not particularly convinced, as I knew already about the moisture problem in the basement. A reasonable explanation is that I was at unconsciously working out the potential flood. Dreams, after all, showcase past, present, and future possibilities.
But when you add my brother-in-law’s dream to the mix, I have to give up my “rational” defenses. We both dreamed we saw each other on the stairs: In my dream, I am seeking help to deal with the flood above; in his dream, I am carrying buckets of water. Is that telepathy on his part? Mutual dreaming? I don’t know, but it’s pretty uncanny.
Uncanny enough to take action, anyways.
The value of pragmatism
I don’t know how one could, “rationally speaking,” disregard these dreams. It would have been more unreasonable to scoff and tell myself, “what a crazy random happenstance. Clearly, a explanation that values meaningfulness here would just be based on a personal history of selection bias.”
From a doggedly pragmatic perspective, the most important aspect to this story is that we honored our dreams, and quickly focused our waking energy on preparing for a potential disaster. And because we did, we didn’t ruin all of our stored possessions, which include clothes, hundreds of books, and an irreplaceable archive of letters, notes and photographs.
If I would have let my skepticism (which is important) prevent further inquiry and action (which is sadly what happens in the scientific community), I’d have a lot of wet stuff down the basement right now.
That’s the dreamwork, y’all. Honor the dreams. They aren’t all about our lost childhood self or our fears of death and the everlast. Some dreams just warn you to keep your powder dry.
This essay is derived from my ebook Big dreams: Lucid Dreaming, Psi and Borderlands of Consciousness.
First image: Cracked concrete by kungfubonanza
Joan Harthan says
A little skepticism is healthy of course but unfortunately the suggestion that some dreams are precognitive (or that all dreams contain some precog elements) can easily be dismissed because our dreams inevitably contain personal symbolism, which often has a psychological basis.
However, my dreams are full of precognition as I’m sure everyone’s are – it’s just that most people don’t notice because they don’t record their dreams. I believe it’s something to do with time being relative and our perception of cause and effect. Perhaps, in dreams, we pull memories from the past, the present AND the future. We may even be creating the future in our dreams. Maybe we co-created the Universe! Wow – imagine that! I’m confident that one day science will explain the phenomenon in a way that doesn’t include the word ‘coincidence’ – but maybe that’s a task for a generation of scientists not yet born.
Ryan Hurd says
memories from the future… that’s cool.
I like the idea of “honouring the dream” – nice phrase! It is always so gratifying to have a dream where you can wake up and go “I know what I can to do with this”. I rarely get these kinds of dreams:(
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Lisa. Dream honoring is an ancient and a useful way to work with dreams, and it gets results. Robert Moss also works this way with his “Active Dreaming” as well as the DreamTending methods of Stephen Aizenstat.
But what if YOU caused the flood by honoring the dream? Once you delve as deep as dream precognition, you must delve even deeper, grasshopper.
Ryan Hurd says
dang, you’re probably right. I need to start honoring my lottery winning dreams.
Alan Jones says
Ryan, Thank you for sharing.
It is a pleasure to hear stories like yours.
Ryan Hurd says
I appreciate it. it’s funny how exposed I feel after telling this story. But I realized I was exerting a lot of energy NOT telling it.
Call me that “conservative voice” you talk about. I’m a skeptic about precognition, and anything else we don’t yet understand. I’m one to say “coincidence” only because, statistically, this is 1 in 1000 dreams where precognition “happened”. What about the other 999 where it didn’t? I’m also the first to say “we understand nothing of our own minds” – so trying to explain the unexplainable is a lesson in frustration (and argument) … I prefer the scientific cop out which is “I don’t know”.
This was a VERY interesting instance, though…..
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Doug! yes, I am also skeptical by nature, we need our skepticism! However the “statistical” argument you laid out is not very rigorous, as its not really based on real dream accounts but conjectures. One the other hand have you read about the dream telepathy studies of Stan Krippner and Montague Ullman at the Maimonides Medical center? Strong methodology, and with positive results with odds in the order of 5000-1. Their work has been replicated a few times, with some successes and some non-successes. It’s worth exploring. There is a new movement in statistical psychology (especially in Europe) to renew these sorts of experiments.
Considering we are only ‘conscious’ of a relatively small amount of ‘reality”, it would be easy to believe that your subconscious, your access and honoring of such, had something to do with these events.
Ryan Hurd says
thanks for commenting Everett, yes, I totally agree.
Bill Pautler says
Ryan. This makes sense to me because I believe as spiritual beings bound in bodies, we are also bound in a linear time paradigm. But there are times when we pass through the veil and become less bound by the parameters of time and have access to the future, past and present simulataneously. Jung coined the term synchronicity to label the serendiptious nature of you and your brother having similar dreams. Since dreams are always beneficial the universe was trying to get you alls attention. 🙂
Ryan Hurd says
hey Bill! I’m attracted to the position you lay out – especially the idea of different sorts of time working on us simultaneously. I suspect much of psi phenomena is not about a special ability but rather an artifact of time-space wonkiness.
James Kroll says
I meant to reply to this yesterday Ryan but didn’t get around to it. As a little bit of precognition or synchronicity, whichever you prefer … I had a dream the night before this post came out that various locations in out kitchen walls had cracked and water was flowing in and flooding the house. A highly unusual dream scenario for me. So thanks for the dream – but I will offer than I am equally greatful that it WAS only a dream 😉
Ryan Hurd says
get out of my head man! 🙂
Why did you delete the question which I posted here yesterday? I put a lot of time into writing out my concerns to you, and, for no apparent reason, I am rudely disregarded like this. That is not acceptable. I cannot see how there was anything remotely inappropriate in what I wrote.
Ryan Hurd says
relax, you just posted the same comment to this page and on a sleep paralysis article, so I deleted the copy here. your comment still stands there: http://dreamstudies.org/2010/01/22/sleep-paralysis-treatment-wake-up-cant-move/
Enemy of Sleep says
Even if one believes in precognitive dreams, one can’t take stuff like this too seriously. Case in point: I had a dream one night, the events and symbolism of which pointed to an obvious interpretation as a precognitive dream of my mother passing away. If I was hell-bent on believing in precognition and acting on it, I would have been a nervous wreck for the next several weeks and would probably have insisted on driving my mother to the ER for all kinds of tests. She’s still with me, but she did require a very serious surgery on her lower back, which had a huge impact on her health and her outlook on life. For a while, it was like she became a different person. Maybe that’s what my dream was hinting at, but the symbolism of the dream definitely spoke of outright death. Our dreams may have messages for us, but I think everything should be taken with a grain of salt.
Ryan Hurd says
So true… thanks for the reminder and for your account — I hope she’s feeling better now.
it’s important to not be fundamentalist about dreams in any direction — in other words, when you say “dreams ALWAYS mean this or that.” We have to live our lives.And it’s important to look at how imagery can still be interpreted (as all our thought forms are multi-leveled, not just dreams).
How strange that the two of you had a similar dream on the same night! Do you spend a lot of time together? Dr. Amit Goswami mentions a study in his documentary “Quantum Theorist” where two people who meditate together later show similar brainwave patterns when the two people are now in separate rooms. This is a terrible explanation of the study, and I don’t have a direct citation but this link (http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_psycho08.htm) mentions a similar study. I’ll have to watch the documentary again to find the article. But, I wonder if this study relates to your experience?
Ryan Hurd says
Hey Alicia, thanks for the link. there’s a lot of brain synchrony work coming out lately, including synchrony when one person thinks about the other in another room (can’t remember if this was Persinger off the top). But to answer your question we do hang out together but interestingly this dream occurred after he has been out of town for a week and I had barely seen him at all the day prior. that’s what made the case so interesting to me as I had not mentioned a basement-moisture issue to him at all.
Hi, Ryan, I cannot apologize enough for my rudeness a few days ago. I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety recently, but, of course, that isn’t any excuse for the obnoxious comment I left; I was completely out of order. Thank you very much for your reply to me on the other page – you’re a great guy.
Ryan Hurd says
don’t sweat it. I know what it’s like to pen an important comment only to see it never get published. I appreciate the apology tho!
Desiree Singh says
hi ryan, I am thirty one years old and the first memory I have of a psychic dream is in the fourth grade. I dreamed of who my teacher would be for the new school year the night before my mom signed me up. even at such a young age it freaked me out a little. there has also been some small moments in my life that reoccurred after my dream that tripped me out so much I got weak. the second time you see the “scene” its just like watching a movie. it often leaves me so overwhelmed trying to figure out if I just have head issues or is something else going on. and at other times I have prayed to god to stop me from dreaming and with his hand they would seas. I should get to the point of my rambling and reason of posting. Within the past week I have had three dreams of flooding, the first one the whole town flooded and I was just like damn, the weather man was right. the second one was a flood from a storm where it took all my strength to keep me and my daughter afloat and awoke me feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. the third one I was alone and it was just a huge powerful flood that was taking everything away. And then today we realized a pip under the house had been leaking for about a week. Is it stupid to wonder if your dreams could cause this if filled with wild emotions, or the same as your situation?
don salmon says
Hey Ryan: Great dream. As for skeptics, I have a proposal:
(1) Imagine we are a lucid dream right now, all of us together.
(2) Accept what Richard Wiseman concluded in 2009 – that the evidence for psi (by which he meant “the big 4” – remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis and telepathy; though i’d add retrocognition which actually has stronger evidence than precognition) is as good as the evidence in any other area of science, including physics. Add to this the 1994 study showing that if you made the standards for replication in physics as stringent as they have made it in psi research, most physics experiments would fail to be replicated – which means psi evidence is stronger than for most of physics!
Accept these 2 – just for fun, if you’re intransigently skeptical – and think through whatever you know about evidence for the big bang, the “emergence” of life and consciousness, the random/purposeless/directionless nature of biological evolution, the relationship of “mind” and brain”
1: See what, if anything, changes in scientific experiments.
2: See if it’s necessary at all to hold a materialist or physicalist (or whatever the name de jour is) view.
If it’s not necessary (which I think, if you do this experiment carefully enough, you’ll see) then ask yourself – why do I hold this view, and why do I cling so strongly to it?
You may make some very interesting discoveries!! (for more google “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”