I HAD THE STRANGEST DREAM..
Have you ever had recurring dreams? Those of the sort where you find yourself in the same place and time, the same situation, where the same things happen, time and time again? What might such dreams have to tell us- about our past, our future..and indeed about the nature of time itself?
I've been involved in a very lengthy, in-depth discussion these past few weeks, with a fairly new but quite learned acquaintance, and one of the topics that arose was that of the nature of recurring dreams, and their possible interpretations..and naturally I became curious enough to further consider the topic, and to share those considerations with you.
I do have reasons of my own for my interest in the topic, and I'll get to those in a moment. Of course I have my usual par-for-the-course questions too; the all-important why, how, and what if.. but those can wait for a little while..
Firstly though, I think it probably necessary to tell you a little about my own reason for my curiosity regarding recurring dreams.
A VERY ODD DREAM, MANY TIMES OVER
There is a strange dream I've experienced, quite a few times, over the course of many years..it began when I was in my mid-twenties, and occasionally recurs to this day. This in itself may not seem unusual, but the nature of the dream is somewhat distressing, to say the least, as it concerns the physical death of my "dream-self".
There's also another element of interest for me here too, which is the strong fascination I developed for a topic I'd not been previously interested in; a fascination which began at the same time the dreams began..which of course gets me curious as to whether or not there may be some correlation between the two..
To describe the dream, each time I have found myself standing in a white canvas tent, with a dirt floor. I look down at my attire, which seems to consist of pale-coloured britches (or breeches, as they are often termed), long black boots, and a double-breasted jacket with brass buttons. Oddly enough, I can never remember if the jacket is red or blue in colour, but those two alternatives seem to be the only ones that have ever sprung to mind. The garb in which I'm clad in the dream also gives me the impression that my dream-self, in this case, is male.
Outside the tent in which my dream-self stands, I can hear the voices of quite a few men, and the sounds of horses too- the snort of their breaths, and their hooves shifting restlessly. It seems that, for some reason, I'm quite inactive at the point in time from which my recurrent dream commences, as I'm merely standing there; that "dream-me" appears to not be doing anything in particular..
A very short time afterwards, I feel an arm wrap around my upper torso from behind me- and the cold, but somehow oddly painless, course of a knife as it is drawn across my throat. It seems I fall to my knees, and then look down, or perhaps my head slumps due to various nerves being severed..but I can see the coursing of my blood as it flows from the wound in my throat..and then I wake up.
Often I do so grasping my throat, such is the vividity of the dream-experience..
The experience of that particular dream is odd enough in itself, and its recurrence over the years is even more so, but as I mentioned previously another factor came into play at the same time as when the dream first occurred- a very sudden, and very strange interest..
For no apparent reason whatsoever, I found myself suddenly and completely fascinated by something I'd never given a great deal of consideration to before- the history of the period of time in America which led to the Civil War, and also the war itself. I found myself seeking whatever information I could find, and whatever documentaries I could view or articles I could read, on the aforementioned war. Often, I found myself moved to tears by what I read, or viewed..which I found quite unusual in itself, as I had felt no emotional connection to the topic prior to the first dream..
The explanation here is fairly short, I guess..but the explanation is really only the beginning of any equation..I've only given you "this"..now, perhaps we should move on to "this, plus this, may equal..this?.." in other words, the how, why, and what if..
A LIFE ONCE LIVED?
We've all heard mention of past-life experiences and reincarnation before..in the theories of many religions, such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, our essence- our energetic selves- our souls if you like, are a continuum over many lives, and carry within them fragments of any previous existence they have ever lived; even though we, as our current selves, are not necessarily directly aware of who we were, some "traces" remain of every previous existence we've lived.
A belief in such possibilities was also apparently held by many other prominent minds of the past, including Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato; to these ancient Greek masters of thinking, it was called "metempsukhosis". The word has its etymological root in the ancient Greek language, and is itself a conglomeration of three words; "meta" (expressing change), "en" (in), and "psukhe" (soul), which was then translated into its Latin form, "metempsychosis", in the 16th century.
Metempsukhosis was one of the fundamental beliefs of a religious movement called Orphism, which originated around the 6th century B.C. in ancient Greece.
Orphism was founded upon writings ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who was said to have descended into the Underworld and then returned. It differed from other popular ancient Greek religions, most relevantly in its belief that the human soul was immortal but was destined to be housed, time and again, in a physical body, as the body and the soul were bound by a sort of contract.
This contract could be dissolved by Death, but only temporarily; the soul would repeatedly be returned to a body until, having purified itself through living a succession of ascetic lives, it finally completes its journey around the concentric "wheel" of life, and is rewarded with immortality.
This concept is found in other religions too, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, where the appropriate word for it is "Samsara". In Kabbalistic mysticism, it is termed "Gilgul Neshamot". Basically, it all points to the one thing, though- the concept of an immortal soul, accumulating "fragments" as it passes from life to life.
A great deal of more modern research on reincarnation has been conducted too, and some case studies have provided correlation to a small degree with my own experiences, in that dreams were involved.
One extremely interesting, and very well-known case from more recent times involves a boy by the name of James Leininger, born in San Francisco in 1998, whose possible past life memories, fueled or triggered to a degree by recurring nightmares, provided not only interesting matter for a long-running investigation and a bestselling book ("Soul Survivor", Bruce & Andrea Leininger, 2009) but also perhaps gave pause for thought to many who had not truly considered the possibility of reincarnation before.
From an extremely young age, James was noticeably interested in, and unusually well-informed on, the subject of WWII aircraft. Shortly after turning two, he began to have recurrent nightmares about being trapped in a plane that was on fire and was crashing. James further informed his parents that he’d been shot down in a plane near Iwo Jima, had been based on a ship named "Natoma", and had a friend named Jack Larsen.
These details, amongst others, were put to scrutiny in a lengthy investigation conducted by Dr. Jim B. Tucker; a child psychiatrist and investigator into children's past life experiences at the University of Virginia's Division of Perceptual Studies. Tucker found that fifteen of James' statements corroborated to a significant degree with facts about the life (and death) of James Huston, Jr., an American pilot based on a ship called "Natoma Bay" who was killed in action near Iwo Jima in March 1945 (for further details on the case, read here).
Some of the most well-known research on reincarnation in more recent times was conducted by Jim Tucker's predecessor Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918-2007). Stevenson was the founder and director of the Division of Perceptual Studies, and also helped found the Society for Scientific Exploration.
In a research career spanning almost half a century, Stevenson traveled the world extensively, and collected around 3,000 spontaneous (unsought) case studies detailing children who had past life recollections. He wrote fourteen books, and around 300 papers on the subject.
Stevenson detailed in his 2003 book "European Cases of the Reincarnation Type" a case study where dreams were also seemingly partly responsible for what could be termed "data recovery" regarding the possible previous incarnation of the experient.
David Llewellyn was born in Chester, England, in 1970. From a very young age, he began complaining of repeated nightmares involving deep holes filled with bodies, the stench of death, and people with guns. Often he would wake in panic and run to his mother, describing dreams of camps, guns, and dying people. Stevenson was initially contacted by David's mother, Susan, in 1982, and after a period of correspondence he traveled to Chester to meet David.
Of further interest in the case was David's innate knowledge of Jewish customs from a young age, his initial preference for writing from right to left (when first learning to write),a practice customary to Hebrew language..and his strong aversion to the colour yellow, the symbol of the Star of David, the word "camp", and German people.
As David was unable to discern any vital details such as the name of his previous incarnation, the case could not be historically validated, and thus could not be concluded as having shown exceptionally strong supporting evidence for reincarnation, but the details are fascinating nonetheless; they do seem to perhaps correspond with the possible life experiences of a Holocaust victim..
Can one say the cases illustrated above provide inarguable evidence for reincarnation? No. But if we are to consider the possibility of a soul- an "energetic being"- we must therefore consider the possibility that it is housed within our physical selves, but exists only symbiotically with those; the body gives the soul a way in which to express its intent- carry out its purpose, physically- and the soul gives the body the fuel via its intent, causing neurochemical changes in the brain, and thus driving the body's physical actions and responses.
It therefore seems appropriate to consider also the possibility that said energetic being- soul- could survive the death of our physical selves, and continue on, somewhere, in another medium or dimension of existence, and also appropriate to consider the possibility that this energetic being may thus occupy numerous physical bodies, over spans of time well beyond that of one of our mortal lives.
Getting back on topic, the most important comparison to be drawn with my own strange dream and the two cases above is the initial existence of those strange and repetitive dreams, often involving the death of the exprient's dream-self, and the fixed fascination with particular topics, periods in time, or individual incidents.
Have my own dreams occurred due to some unconscious process of accessing those memory fragments that have been accumulated from a previous existence I lived?
Who can say with any certainty- certainly not me..but in trying to answer the questions "how" "why" and "what if", we must of course consider numerous possibilities.
On to the next of those, I guess..
THAT "T" WORD AGAIN!
There have been many formal studies conducted upon the possibility of telepathy existing in dreams, the 1889 experiments by Italian psychical researcher Giovanni Battista Ermacora being amongst the earliest.
Ermacora worked with a medium by the name of Maria Manzini, and, using her as a sender, attempted to induce telepathic dreams in the chosen receiver, Manzini's 4-year-old cousin Angelina. Few safeguards and controls were applied in the experiments though, which means they are often overlooked in this day and age of rigorously controlled scientific study, and remain of historic importance only.
Before Ermacora's experiments, the groundbreaking 1886 book "Phantasms of the Living" by S.P.R. founders Edmund Gurney, F.W.H. Myers and Frank Podmore mentions 149 instances of possible dream telepathy; interestingly, 79 of those suggested or represented death. Several chapters were devoted to various accounts of these dreams.
From more modern times there are the influential and extensive series of experiments undertaken at the Dream Lab at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York by Montague Ullman, Stanley Krippner, and Charles Honorton in the 1970's and 80's, where an awake and alert agent would attempt to influence the dreams of a sleeping experimental participant (or percipient) with "target" images they had viewed (in the form of pictures chosen from a series of prints of famous works of art) and had then focused upon sending telepathically to that percipient.
At a time when an Electroencephalograph (EEG) attached to the percipient indicated via its readings that they were dreaming, the experimenter would wake them up, and conduct a brief interview regarding what they had been dreaming of.
These initial studies by the Mamoinides team into dream telepathy were promising enough in their content that they were funded for 10 years to continue their research, and many more experiments were conducted, including a pioneering experiment lasting six nights, where around 2000 nightly audience members at a series of Grateful Dead concerts were recruited to act as telepathic "senders" to two sleeping "receivers".
Telepathy in dreams has been considered as a possibility for a much longer period of time than has been expressed via studies or experiments, though; as far back as
2000 B.C., the Ancient Egyptians practiced "dream incubation"; spending the night in a tomb or a temple in order to receive divinatory dreams. This in turn influenced other ancient societies to practice similar customs; ancient Gaelic, Greek and Hebrew cultures being amongst them.
So, let's return to the basic concept of dream telepathy in context with my recurring dream..Studies have shown that it seems possible for a dreamer to discern non-local information provided by an agent or sender. If telepathy were the case in my dreams, the question then must be raised as to from where that non-local information might have originated.
Are these dreams due to retrocognitive telepathy? Am I discerning, from the mind of a now-deceased agent, a glimmer of something which occurred in the past, in an existence they once lived, to which I am unconnected? Or could it be that the agent is still living, and I am receiving information on a previous existence of theirs? As telepathy can involve "degrees of separation" between agent and percipient too, am I perhaps then discerning information from another percipient, one separated from the original agent to a lesser degree than I?
Again, one can never truly say..if there is an agent involved, I would imagine their transmission of information to be an unconscious act..and their identity would thus remain unknown to me.
There's another possibility I think is perhaps worthy of consideration- one more "what if"..let's look at that briefly..
MANY WORLDS, MANY LIVES
"When we are asleep in this world, we are awake in another"
The possibility of the existence of multiple dimensions and universes has been a favourite point of discussion for both theoretical physicists and paranormal investigators for quite some time..as with the other possibilities- the "what if's" I've raised- this is (of course) purely conjecture..but it presents interesting food for thought nonetheless.
It has been theorised that if multiple dimensions or universes do exist, they may be quite similar to our own world, with a few small adjustments..
There may exist, for example, a world where Hitler won WW2, or a world where there never was a WW2..a world where your life is almost the same, but for a few small details- the possibilities as to what these other worlds may be like are practically infinite.
To speculate a little further on that concept, and to perhaps add a dash of non-linear time into the recipe, what if there existed a world where it is still the 18th or 19th century, and war was still raging in a then-young America?
Could the content of my dream imply telepathic access to this particular realm? Am I seeing, in dreams, the last moments of existence of a "me" that existed in that other dimension or universe? Or perhaps I'm receiving, via dream telepathy, information from another individual entirely- one with whom I may or may not be linked in some way in that particular realm..perhaps a friend, a spouse, a family member of the individual whose death I've witnessed so many times?..sort of a dream version of a "crisis apparition"?
Again, who can ever say for sure? this is all purely conjecture, after all..but the possibilities, and the exploration of each, certainly provide one with some interesting avenues to traverse!
Have you had recurring dreams of a similar nature? What do you think they mean?
Do feel free to share your thoughts in comments, as I'm always interested in hearing them!