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A Review of J.W. Dunne’s

An Experiment with Time

Steve Carter

Lubbock, Texas


First published in 1927, Dunne’s now classic book describes his personal experiments with dreams exploring the possibility of precognition and the nature of "time" and "perception." What initially sparked Dunne’s interest in precognitive dreams was a dream he had in 1902 in which he foresaw the eruption of the volcano Pelée on Martinique which killed 40,000 people. After having had several dreams that he felt were precognitive, Dunne decided to test himself to see if he regularly dreamed of future events.

"Was it possible," he asked himself, "that these phenomena [precognitive dreams] were not abnormal, but normal? That dreams—dreams in general, all dreams, everybody’s dreams- were composed of images of past experience and images of future experience blended together in approximately equal proportions?" Probably anyone who has kept a dream diary or journal has asked a similar question, for if one has recorded dreams for any length of time, one has undoubtedly experienced many seemingly precognitive dreams.

Dunne began recording his dreams along with his daily experiences—being careful to keep the two separate—and then checking to see if the events pictured in the dreams, or some form of them, did actually occur later. He found enough evidence to maintain his interest; and the more closely he examined his dreams, the more evidence he discovered. He concluded that it is much easier to connect dreams with past events than with future events. Connections with the future do not become clear at once; rather, as he says, "the resemblance dawns on one piecemeal."

His description of his various experiments often reads like a good detective story. As he seeks to explain the mystery of precognitive dreaming, he mentions a number of ideas about dreams and techniques which are useful in remembering and recording dreams. About remembering dreams, for example, he suggests: Try to remember what you

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