The Soul and Personal Experiences
One night I had a dream which so impressed me that it was in my mind all day, something very unusual as regards my dreams, so I made notes about it. In my dream I was outside the front of our house on the lawn near a rose bed and I was aware that it was night with a brilliant moon shining. As I looked towards the wicket gate my attention was drawn to a light patch just beyond it and I felt very afraid; I began to walk towards the curious patch in a great deal of dread; my fear deepened as I became aware that all objects were indistinct as though viewed through frosted glass. I was not conscious of turning a corner but in the next instant I was gliding at right angles to the wicket along a path beside our garage. I was now in a panic and as I turned the next corner I met my wife face to face and she seemed terrified at thus meeting me and at once turned and fled to the back door of the house. I tried to call to her but as I did so I was suddenly conscious in bed with my wife waking me from sleep, my stifled attempts to shout and my movements having awakened her. She was soon asleep again. Were that all this would be no more than a boring account of a vivid dream of no particular interest, but there is more.
I lay fully awake feeling weak and ill in a strangely familiar manner, this feeling having occurred on many occasions before in the middle of the night but without my being aware of any impressive dream or experience similar to that I had just had. After a time I heard a sudden clear sharp sound from the direction of our children’s bedrooms, as though some object had been dropped on the floor. I got up and visited each of the children and looked in all the rooms in the house but I found nothing which would account for the sound. This is relevant to my dream because in wandering about I noticed that outside it was bright moonlight. At about 2.15 am the next night I heard exactly the same clear sharp sound and again on searching found nothing to account for it.
The evening of the day following my dream, after dark, I went outside to stand on the same spot on which I had stood in my dream. The sky was clear with a brilliant moon and, to my intense surprise, there before me was the exact scene of my dream, including the light patch beyond the wicket, but now everything was much more clearly defined and the nature of the patch was at once evident from where I stood and completely so on walking towards it. Everything was exactly as seen in the dream; I was intensely impressed.
Did “I”, in my dream, leave my body in bed and go outside – an Out of the Body Experience? As I moved I seemed to be gliding, not walking. Had my wife followed me on sensing my distress and had our imminent awakening summoned us back, hence our rush inside? Alternatively, was the dream a precognition of my going out the following evening and seeing the scene as it then was (but at the time of my dream the night was also brilliant)? Also, when I saw the scene in reality there was no mystery, no fear or feeling of panic. I reject the possibility that the whole story was no more than a figment of my imagination but I can offer no explanation of my experience or of what was the connection, if any, of my hearing the time-associated clear sharp sound which was repeated at about the same time during the following night.
It is probable
that déjà vu is a common experience;
with me it has been a familiar occurrence since my youth, most especially then.
If this phenomenon is an aspect of precognition then the foreknowledge is
spanning only a second or so in time. A more impressive example of precognition
would be if one “saw” beyond a longer period and especially so if one could
take action as a result of the fore knowledge. On two occasions I have had a
subjective vision of a subsequent event. The first one was when I was on
holiday in Scotland with my family using a motor caravan. Late one afternoon we
drove slowly along a minor road by a lake looking for a place to park and stay
for the night by the lakeside. We noticed a place which looked just about
suitable but in case there was a better spot further along we did not draw on
to the area but stopped on the road for my wife
to set up tea for us all while I walked on to look round the next corner where
we thought there might be a more satisfactory place for the night. I found no
likely spot so I returned and as I did so I had a clear vision of a car coming
from the same direction as we had done and turning into the space we had
thought satisfactory for us, and parking there.
It is probable that déjà vu is a common experience; with me it has been a familiar occurrence since my youth, most especially then. If this phenomenon is an aspect of precognition then the foreknowledge is spanning only a second or so in time. A more impressive example of precognition would be if one “saw” beyond a longer period and especially so if one could take action as a result of the fore knowledge. On two occasions I have had a subjective vision of a subsequent event. The first one was when I was on holiday in Scotland with my family using a motor caravan. Late one afternoon we drove slowly along a minor road by a lake looking for a place to park and stay for the night by the lakeside. We noticed a place which looked just about suitable but in case there was a better spot further along we did not draw on to the area but stopped on the road for my wife to set up tea for us all while I walked on to look round the next corner where we thought there might be a more satisfactory place for the night. I found no likely spot so I returned and as I did so I had a clear vision of a car coming from the same direction as we had done and turning into the space we had thought satisfactory for us, and parking there.
This was so clear and realistic that I hurried back to warn my wife that we should move at once to “our” spot but she pointed out that we couldn’t do so immediately because she now had crockery spread and the tea prepared, kettle on the stove, etc, so I sat on a rock at the roadside in unreasonable agitation. Soon after I had sat down the car I had already “seen” came in sight and turned exactly as in the vision and parked on the coveted space. I was dismayed.
I had a similar vision one day when I was walking along the wide west side pavement of Great Portland Street in London. I ‘saw’ a large van mount the pavement and come head on towards me. This vision set up a train of thought about accidents involving bus queues, reports of one such having been a recent news item, and of bystanders on a pavement being run down by swerving vehicles. While in this reverie, perhaps half a minute after the vision, a large van swerved on to the pavement and drove towards me, coming to rest just in front of me, giving me quite a fright.
Did I, having witnessed the happening only think I had foreseen it? I couldn’t refute this suggestion as the explanation in the case of the van on the pavement, but it doesn’t explain the episode with the motor caravan where I acted on the vision before its fulfilment, albeit ineffectively. Had we forestalled the other vehicle the vision would then have been inaccurate – the age-old problem in such matters.
Another curious experience involving a motor vehicle is in some respects similar but involves premonition without a vision. I had noticed for some time that the ignition switch on the vehicle I was driving became hot for no reason I could discover and as I drove home one evening I had a sudden premonition that the engine would fail as I crossed the heath I was approaching so I stopped before reaching the narrow road to see if I could discover anything wrong: the only thing was the slightly warm ignition switch so I drove on only to stall exactly as feared at a place where I could not draw off the road. Had I acted on the premonition and remained where I examined the car this would not have happened, the premonition then being false – the old difficulty.
A common factor between each of these three
incidents is the short period between the vision, or premonition, and the
actual event. While in each case it is longer than in déjà vu the two phenomena are similar. Perhaps the ability we
possess which accounts for the one does so also for the other and even for the
more spectacular examples of clairvoyance recorded in the literature.
Recording these events carries me naturally to the numerous experiences I have had where noteworthy coincidences have been between people, especially so between my wife and myself. These often happen when neither of us is, or has been, concerned for or thinking of, the other. A typical example occurred when I decided to go to the local town after my wife had already left to visit friends so on return I was interested to notice that I arrived home less than a minute after her. On another occasion I had been on a day’s lone walk and I had been home only one or two minutes when my wife appeared from her own absence. On neither of these two occasions had we had any discussion with reference to the time we were planning to return from our separate outings. These are two typical examples of innumerable similar coincidences where neither of us has had the other in mind and certainly neither of us has been in any way anxious about the other.
I am impressed by another type of situation where one of us thinks of something and the other does so at the same time. A typical example occurred when the two of us were working together in the garden and, for no particular reason I asked her when her sister was expected. There had floated into my mind that she had, a few days earlier, mentioned that her sister intended to visit us one day this week but the subject had not again been raised. Before answering, my wife asked why I had put the question at that particular moment because, she said, she was about to say, ‘I wonder which day Pam (her sister) will come’. I have heard others recount similar coincidences, a good example being a person phoning her aunt to invite her to visit her and, although she had never before phoned the aunt, this call interrupted a conversation with a friend during which the aunt had been saying how she wished to visit her niece.
These two examples illustrate anticipation of speech between people but action can also apparently be influenced by thought. One day I was dressing for work and as I did so I remembered that the next day I would need a suit I rarely used so would ask my wife to check it for me during the day. She virtually never came back to our room at this time, being occupied in the kitchen, but on this occasion she came in saying she thought she would collect my best suit so that she could check it ready for me tomorrow. Her doing this was startling because it was just as though I had called her.
Many years ago I became aware of this apparent influence on others to such an extent that I began to write notes as each occurred and did so over a period of two years during which the details of 73 such occurrences were recorded. Many of these related to my interaction with colleagues some of whom worked in distant establishments and in some instances it was possible to make a reasonable calculation of the probability that the coincidence was not random and in some of these the probabilities of non randomness were surprisingly high. It might be of interest to give a few examples from this series.
I had been involved with possibly persuading a colleague to return from the USA, where he had been working for twelve years and had the security of the not common distinction of a research life fellowship at a prestigious centre of learning in New England. Efforts were being made to obtain research grants in this country and one afternoon I was informed of the success of one of these, but as this was, for the present, confidential I did not tell anyone. Within a few minutes of my secretary passing the information to me the colleague (who was by no means a particular friend) phoned me from Massachusetts, something he had never done during the whole time of his being in the USA. He was very concerned to know whether he would be able to return to a suitable position in this country and he had gathered that I was to some extent involved, but that he should get in touch at this particular moment was remarkable especially as we had not corresponded or otherwise been in touch during the whole period of his twelve year stay in the USA. Had he phoned even a short time earlier I would have had no information to give him.
Another incident occurred at one of my weekly staff meetings. It was usual for me to write down before each meeting a reminder of the subjects I intended to discuss and on this occasion I had included a note to tell my colleagues that a report of interest to them was about to be published by the Department of Health. The content had not been a topic for discussion at any of my staff meetings; it was only me, personally, who had been involved with the production of the report so I was surprised when one of my staff asked if I had any news of the fate of this report. What impressed me was that the reminder note was already written.
Another record in this series mentions that my wife and I had talked about the pros and cons of sterilization and some weeks later, on the day to which the note refers, I was walking to the hospital in which I worked when, for no reason, this conversation crossed my mind and I decided I would arrange to talk to a colleague and friend of mine who was an obstetrician so that I could be brought up to date on the current orthodox view on the sterilization of healthy women. As I entered the hospital I was accosted by this colleague and during the conversation I noticed in his hand a booklet with the title Sterilization. When we had dealt with the subject about which he had stopped me I pointed to this booklet and so was able casually to ask my question. At that time I don’t think I had seen that colleague for two months and had certainly had had no conversation with him for much longer. That I should think of a subject that had not been in my mind, then decide to talk to him about it and then meet him within a few minutes when he was carrying literature on the topic is remarkable.
A further note records that I had been preparing a lecture and had wished to include a copy of a slide made for one of my staff now working in Bristol. He had promised to give me the serial number so that I could ask our medical illustration department to make a copy for me and, in addition, I hoped to talk to him to clarify certain points before I delivered my lecture. I had been conferring with a colleague who had supervised his research while the doctor in question was working with us. I returned to my room and found him waiting to see me so my anxiety was at once relieved.
It is apparent that distance separating the subjects of these hypothetical ‘mind to mind’ influences is irrelevant but a common factor in many of the examples is an emotional involvement: anxiety, desire, etc. On the few occasions I have tried consciously to influence someone where only curiosity was present, I have failed.
These accounts are only a few illustrating a life-long sequence of experiences suggestive of awareness not being confined to environmental stimulation of the sensorium. They suggest that there is ‘something’ not of the physical world responding to influences and are consistent with the idea of a soul capable of separating from the physical body but are inexplicable in terms of mental images or archetypes.
An out-of-the-body experience is an obvious example of the dissociation in space of the soul from the body, but if the coincidences of which I have given a few examples are, in fact, the result of a direct effect upon the mind of another person then this also suggests dissociation, the soul acting on the mind of the other, often distant, person.
That the soul dissociates from the body is fascinating, but it appears also to be unbound by the time vector – ‘the arrow of time’ – and this has remarkable implications. It suggests that the soul is extratemporal. I am not here attempting to survey the literature on these matters and, confining myself to my own experiences, it appears that the soul usually dissociates from the time vector only by a tiny amount, foreknowledge being only slightly ahead of current time, but there have been exceptions to this.
The sound apparently heard repeatedly as an auditory hallucination during my childhood and heard in reality many years later may suggest that ‘time distance’ is as irrelevant as physical distance as far as the soul is concerned but this is only one suggestive example to set against the numerous examples of only small time distances being travelled. Accounts of historical events being seen as ghostly re-enactments are suggestive that the soul of the observer travelled backward along the time vector. If this is so it is apparent that retrotemporal distances can be huge and that temporal distance is no more relevant to the soul than is spatial distance.
I have had only one experience of retrotemporal travel possibly associated with an apparition. I saw a ‘full form’ ghost of a person I had known only slightly and for only a short time before he died and he appeared to me in his own house standing characteristically smiling. The episode could be accounted for by supposing that my soul had travelled back to the time when he was still alive and seen him then. Of course, other explanations would more usually be offered.
None of this sheds light on whether or not the soul, in spite of it being able to dissociate both from its normal location in space but in time as well, is immortal: that remains a matter of belief.