John W. Dunne wrote about his theory of serialism in his 1927 book, An Experiment with Time. He noted how in a dream he had foreseen a volcanic eruption on a French speaking island, and that 4,000 people would become victims to its deadly effects. His prediction became eerily similar to reality when an eruption did occur in 1902 on Martinique, the French speaking birth place of Frantz Fanon, but the dream had no impact on the island. So why are we shown such dreams, and can we do anything about them in the first place?
Interestingly, when Dunne saw the initial newspaper report he misread the real death toll of 40,000 as 4,000, leading him to convey his theory of serialism – that we are able to pass messages to ourselves back and forth through time, and, in this particular case, he was able to relay information obtained through misreading a news article in the future, back through time using his dreams. He then altered his point of view to believe that it was spirits who passed on these kind of dream messages to us.
To start trying to understand his dreams it must be noted that a spirit or God would surely know a more precise figure to pass on to Dunne, rather than the fairly broad figure given to him through the newspaper article. If Dunne were passed this message by spirits as he later thought, then we must ask why the estimated death toll was almost exactly the same as in the newspaper article and not more precise.
It could be argued that it may not have been easy to pass on such precise dream messages (or any other messages for that matter) from the other realm to the dreamer, and it might require a lot of effort on the sender’s behalf (see my article Why We Dream in Code). Nonetheless, when natural disasters occur, initial death tolls seen in the news are only estimates. Surely, perhaps 40,023 had died, rather than 40,000, or even 42,000, such are the roughness of such initial estimates. Whilst at first glance, this appears to show that his theory of serialism is closer to the truth, I believe that his dreams were passed to him by God and/or the spirit world in order to show him that another world exists.
These kinds of dreams are hints that life is more meaningful than it appears on the surface – rather than to simply prevent the incident occurring in the first place. If we were meant to know about a future event then why wouldn’t the message simply be written in the sky? Why send the message to an Englishman thousands of miles away? Despite the problem with these figures, it was the recognition of the real life event as being related to his dream that was important.
This point of view is supported further still when we consider the feasibility of Dunne being able to effectively warn people of the eruption. Was there a way John could have known from the information in his dreams the ‘where’ and the ‘when’ in order to give a valid warning to the people of the island? In the internet age, gaining information on 1) how many French speaking islands there are, 2) how many of these have active volcanoes, and 3) how many of them have a population of or above 4000 is (supposedly) much easier to find out today than during J. W. Dunne’s time. The distance between these nations and the time it would have taken to pass on a warning would have also been a much more time consuming obstacle than they are today, with many potential gate-keepers along the way who could prevent the passing of the message. He would certainly have had other, albeit slower means of research and communication at his disposal.
Today it would have been easier for him to find a location and to make contact with at least some islanders, but the matter of warning authorities and getting people to believe him, without any exact date of an eruption, is again something that would have been problematic.
It is clear that J. W. Dunne did all in his power to prevent fatalities in regards to his predicted volcanic eruption. He told people he knew about the event and warned that a French-speaking island would need to be evacuated – I’m sure he would have done even more if he knew without a shadow of a doubt that his dream would come true. From my research into the spirit world and psychic detectives it seems that spirits or God (whoever passes us these messages) can often know precise details about future events. These kind of details have included the dates of events such as when a dead body will be found.
Yet, if the future is known, then so too would the actions taken in the future of those that receive the dreams. Surely, if a different action were needed from the dreamer in the ‘real’ world they would receive more specific details in order to get them to relay the message faster. Perhaps even people of influence could receive these dreams so they could stop the events – the President of a given country, someone in the media, or people involved with evacuation procedures who could directly organise pilots and others to be on standby. Maybe these people in positions of authority are less perceptive to dreams.
It is plausible that Dunne had been given the correct death toll but he had forgotten it. But either way, if it were meant as a warning, an island evacuation would still have had to occur on the correct date, and without this nobody would take the warning seriously. Even if Dunne had the correct date and island, would French-speaking authorities have taken this well-to-do English-speaking chap seriously? I don’t think it would have been feasible for Dunne to have saved any lives but for his own if he were there on the island at the time.
All in all, not only could Dunne have not saved lives, but due to the perceived fact that God or spirits sometimes seem to know what will happen in the future because of the information they have passed on, we can only argue that the dreams were meant to jolt Dunne into a new life of dream interpretation and to show him God. By Dunne giving out the warning about the eruption himself, he would have had to have had a tremendous amount of faith in the truthfulness of his dreams – especially because many people would have laughed at his claims. His dreams could also have been a test from God. By talking about his dreams Dunne broke a variety of moral codes that help support a top-down hierarchy in the United Kingdom – his acts were revolutionary.
After I dreamt of the terror attacks in London and Manchester, I can say that there is no way I could have known to send warning. Not only did I have other information in these dreams which did not take place and made it difficult to differentiate between which dreams contained real information pertaining to real life and which did not, but information was quite vague. This information was only useful really after the fact. To make things more complicated, I am now aware that when I dream of some dramatic incidents, such as a nuclear explosion, it can be symbolic, meaning in this case the end of something and the start of something new – much like the death card used in tarot which can have literal or symbolic meaning. One thing I can say about this point is that dreams which show dramatic events in the future have a heavier intensity and feel to them than other seemingly mundane dreams. However – in my opinion, there are no mundane dreams.
Despite the fact that we are constantly being contacted through dreams and the future is known, not everything that happens on earth appears to be God’s will. If it were, then why would God attempt to bring murderers to justice after their victims have been killed, by messaging us through our dreams and by using signs around us? Why do spirits of the dead still want justice after they die? Why do spirits want to alleviate the suffering of those left behind? On this earth it is clear that our pain and suffering matters. What isn’t clear is that if justice seems to also matter, then does this mean that nasty people such as Jimmy Savile may not be punished in an afterlife?
It should be concluded that the dream in question opened the eyes of John W. Dunne by giving him a figure that he would immediately recognise upon opening the newspaper – even if he had initially misread it. I believe that God or spirit knew that John would misread the death toll figure but it was Dunne’s initial recognition and linkage of his dream to the real life event that would lead J. W. Dunne to pursue his journey into spiritualism and open his eyes to his true path set by God. Therefore, dreams about the future are not always about changing a particular event’s outcome, but can also be about belief and faith, self-development, alleviation of suffering, and justice. It seems that not everything that happens on earth is God’s will, however, it is clear that a serious point emerges from this discussion which was highlighted by an X-Files episode when Scully says: ‘I’m afraid that God is talking but no one is listening.’