Larry Dossey, M.D. explores the taboo subject of “reading the future” in his new book, The Power of Premonitions. I’m pleased to say that I’ve read the book and enjoyed it. Praise for Larry Dossey’s came from several of my favorite authors, including: Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson. Their praise (on the back of the book) was one of the reasons I decided to buy it (or maybe it was fate that I was meant to find this book lying in the stack of used (buy one – get two free books). Physicians usually don’t undertake unmentionable subjects such as premonitions. Dossey had the courage to do it.
Dreams (sometimes) foretell the future, but sometimes dreams are just dreams. It could be a clear dream that shows exactly what will happen. An example is the case where a person has said to have revealed winning lottery numbers in a dream. Symbols or signs may be revealed in the dream, which have significant meaning. These symbols or signs may be revealed to the person in real life, too. An example is the concept that seeing vultures is a sign that something is dead or about to die (usually a small animal) that the vulture plans to eat. But, it could mean a sign that a person may pass away (as discussed in one section of Dossey’s book). Intuition or gut-feelings could help a person to perceive what is about to happen, too.
Premonitions aren’t a new concept. They’re biblical. The Holy Bible has stories where people have received foreknowledge of the future through dreams. Joseph (in genesis) interprets dreams for a butler, a banker, and pharaoh. These are shown in the two of my favorite Disney DVDs: Joseph: The Prince of Egypt and Joseph: King of Dreams.
Witch trials were once popular. It’s a common belief today that we know there is no such thing as witches. I personally feel empathy for the people who were trialed. I’m certain many of these trials were based on false accusations. Were there cases where a person revealed the future (through dreams or symbolism) which ultimately happened? In this case, the person may have been called “a witch.” How else would that person have known?
Stories in the news today also reveal premonitions. USA Today had reported on a cat that can predict deaths in a nursing home. Oscar, a cat will curl up on the bed of a patient who is about to die. Animals are often known for having strong senses than humans. They’re known to see and hear better. Dossey believes they’d also have a strong ability for premonitions, too. Dogs are known to have the ability to sense when a person is about to have a seizure and they can even sniff out cancer cells. (See my course Therapeutic Outcomes for Using Dogs as a Pet Therapy Approach) for more information on pet therapy).
Evolution has developed our premonitions
Premonitions could be based on evolution. Survival was necessary for our ancestors during the hunter and gather periods. Ancestors who had the ability to foretell the future would have had a better chance of survival than those who didn’t have this ability. Even today, we, have intuitions about dangerous situations. Knowing this can help us change our route (or path in life) and do something different. Here’s an example: I can predict that that something bad is liable to happen to me if I go to four and half alley in Huntington about midnight on a Friday night. So, I avoid situations and places like that. I can predict that going to a local bar that has had many shootings could be dangerous, too, so I avoid places like that. Other people who don’t have these types of premonitions may go to these places and are more likely to get shot or hurt. Ancestors who didn’t have intuition and premonitions were more likely to die early and not pass on their genes to the next generation.
Complete knowledge of the future has pros and cons. Dossey argues that evolution hasn’t give us that in order to protect us. Here are some examples that Dossey explains. If a crook could predict that he could not get caught then he’d commit a crime. Many unethical people may do things if they were able to see-ahead and know they wouldn’t get caught. Gamblers would be able to bet ahead of time knowing they’d win. Our complete society would fall apart if all people had complete knowledge of the future.
Not knowing the future is beneficial. Dossey explained how mice that completed new unfamiliar mazes were more likely to live longer and be healthier than the mice that didn’t complete new mazes. These studies prove that not knowing is beneficial. Here is an excerpt from Dossey on the importance of not-knowing:
Women who regularly engage in mini-mysteries – reading books, doing crosswords, jigsaw puzzles and taking on novel experiences that get them out of a familiar routine – preserve their mental faculties later in life to a greater degree than women who stick to familiar habits (p. 198).
People wouldn’t engage in these types of activities if they already knew the outcome. There wouldn’t be any reason to see a new movie or to do an activity if you knew the outcome. Dossey argued that sports could become obsolete. People wouldn’t complete if they already knew the outcome.
Free will verses fate debate
Free will is my personal belief. I think we have the power to create our own futures. Some people argue that everything is already pre-determined and that fate will happen regardless. If this were the case, people wouldn’t have to take any self-responsibility. They could just argue that it was “meant to be. Fate had it that way.” I’m personally disgusted by lack of self-responsibility. Dossey said, “free will does not envy premonitions, but is its friend.” He says this because a premonition doesn’t tell us what is going to happen for certain. It tells us what could happen and then we take responsibility to change our course of action to prevent something. Of course, the “fate-people” would argue that the event was still “meant to happen,” because what didn’t happen – just didn’t happen (even if we took a pre-action to prevent it).
I recommend Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Timequake. In this novel, there is no freewill. People’s lives are predetermined. A timequake sends people back in time. However, people can’t do anything differently. They make the same actions they did the first time. Everything is the same. People continued to do things even if they knew it would be disastrous. They had no control. It was almost robotic. Finally, the people reach the point in time where they were at first (a point which they do not know the future). People had become apathetic by this time. They stopped taking actions by that time. Car crashes happened.
How to develop premonitions
Dossey explains how to develop this uncanny ability. I found his suggestions to be in alignment with The Einstein Factor: A Proven New Method for Increasing Your Intelligence by Win Wenger Ph.D., Richard Poe. Dossey says:
“Dabble in poetry, play with metaphors, shun literalism. Avoid habits, ruts, and routines. Make a place for variety, risk, novelty, playfulness, generosity, and mystery in your life (p. 137).
Dossey argues that some people should not try to become premonition-prone. People with severe psychiatric disorders should think twice before trying to develop this ability, such as: hearing voices or having other hallucinations. This reminds me of the movie, A Beautiful Mind, which is based on a true story of John Forbes Nash, Jr (who was born in West Virginia). Nash was a mathematical genus and he won the Nobel Prize. The U.S. Government asks Nash to help break a Soviet code. Nash becomes obsessed with it, grows paranoid and turns his life upside down.
My personal experiences with premonitions
I’ve had many premonitions throughout my life, which I’m skeptical about sharing. This isn’t something that I’d ever discuss with my patients at work.
Here are a three examples for your enjoyment:
a.) Monday, November 16th, 2009, I woke up and took a shower. While taking the shower I decided I’d go to the mall. Instantly, I got this gut-feeling that said, “No, Interstate-64 is dangerous.” I wish I would have posted my promotion on that date. Tuesday, on my way home from work, I hear an announcement about a bad accident on I-64 on the radio. I had goose-bumps as you can imagine. Wednesday, I saw a picture in the paper. I believe my ability for premonitions has been enhanced from reading Dossey’s book.
b.) Recently, I found myself thinking about a woman, Joy, who I knew from college. I did a Facebook search about a month ago, but couldn’t find her. Two weeks ago, I took a shoe box with brochures and pamphlets to work for some patients. Amazingly, I discovered a letter from Joy dated about 2001 from her. I was shocked to find it after recently thinking about her. Last week, I change my routine and go to the post office during my lunch break and I run into her. Finding her previous letter and envelop could have been a symbol that I’d see her at a post-office. We catch up with each other. I learn she is now married.
c.) In high school, I had a dream that this girl would ask me out. I didn’t even know her name at the time, but I knew what she looked like. Amazingly, I ran into her and we got to know each other in school one morning when classes were combined. I never asked her out (mostly because I was shy at the time). She did ask me out and we went out a couple of times.
Dossey, L. (2009) The power of premonitions: how knowing the future can shape our lives. Dutton: New York