The hypothesis

This blog documents my attempts to test the hypothesis that future events can influence the content of dreams — that is, that dreams can in some sense exhibit precognition. J. W. Dunne claimed to have demonstrated as much in his book An Experiment with Time and claimed that anyone who repeated his experiment would get similar results.

The claim is not that dreams can be used to tell the future, but merely that future events can turn up in dreams in the same way that past events do — that is, usually in distorted form and mixed up with a lot of other irrelevant stuff.  If I watch a documentary about sharks and then dream about a shark that night, the connection between the waking event and the dream is clear enough, but if all I told you was that I had dreamed about a shark, you wouldn’t be able to infer with any confidence that I must have watched a documentary about sharks the night before. In the same way (it is hypothesized), precognitive dreams can generally be identified and understood only in retrospect, after they have already been fulfilled.

“What’s the use of that?” you ask. Well, I suppose it isn’t of any practical use at all. However, if dreams do in fact have this property, it seems like a very important thing to know, because of what it implies about the nature of time, the powers of the human mind, and so on.

The experiment

I keep an open notebook and a pencil on my bedside table, and when I wake up I immediately note down any dreams I remember, jotting down as many concrete details as I can before they fade from my memory. Later, using the notes as a memory aid, I write up the dream in full sentences and note any connections between dream events and waking events prior to the dream, trying to think of anything in my life that could possibly have inspired the various details of the dream. The focus here is on concrete details from the dream which match concrete details in my life, not on Freudian-style symbolic interpretations.

From time to time — a day after the dream, a few days, a week — I reread my record of the dream and see if I can find any more connections with events in my waking life — including events which occurred after the dream. The more links of this kind I can find, and the more impressively unlikely they are, the stronger the evidence that dreams can be precognitive.

In practice, it’s not always possible for me to write down dream notes immediately after waking. If circumstances don’t allow me to take notes within a minute or two of waking up, I don’t include the dream in the experiment. Dream memories fade away or become distorted very rapidly, and every second counts.

The blog

I put my dream records, together with notes on pre-dream inspirations and post-dream fulfillments, on this blog, but not posting a given dream record until one month after the dream itself. During that month, I do not share or discuss the dreams with anyone at all, the idea being to minimize the self-fulfilling prophecy effect.

The date given for each dream record is the date when I woke up, not the date when I went to bed (though they are usually the same, since I rarely go to bed before midnight).

When people from my real life appear in my dreams, I generally refer to them on this blog by false names, though I make an exception if phonetic or other properties of the name itself seem to be relevant.

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