... in beautiful dreams

Last night's dream made me remember a book from my parents' library. It was a disintegrating Faber & Faber paperback with an orange cover called An Experiment With Time by J. W. Dunne. Whether the 1927 original edition or, more likely, the 1945 expanded edition, I'm not sure ... it disappeared long ago now, gone to dust. I read it in my mid teens I think and got very excited. Dunne was a British engineer, perhaps an aeronautical engineer, and a mathematician. He travelled a lot, was in South Africa during the Boer War. He was subject to vivid dreams, particularly dreams of disasters - volcanoes exploding, ships sinking, planes crashing - and at some point began noticing correspondences between his dreams and real events. Sometimes these were events that had occurred before his dream of them, but which Dunne himself, usually via a newspaper, only found out about afterwards. Being of a sternly scientific mind, he refused to believe in the possibility of astral travelling and such like, preferring to concentrate his attention upon working out a methodology by which he could study this apparently precognitive phenomenon. He trained himself to remember his dreams and began keeping meticulous records of correspondences, not just with future events, but with past ones too. What he discovered astonished him: that in his and others' dreams (he later extended his inquiries to his family, friends and associates), there was a measurable proportion of dream events with a relationship to real events and that this proportion was the same for both future and past events. His conclusion was that during dreams our consciousness literally expands, so that the present as we perceive it waking, a kind of momentary continuum through which we move, becomes day wide, or week wide, or wide enough to encompass events a year either side of where we are. This stretching of time in dreams, like the widening of a lens, naturally includes the past as well as the future in its ambit. As I recall, the later part of the book became too abstruse and technical for me and I seem to remember Dunne asserting that his theory of regression was itself a mathematical proof of the existence of God; but I've carried with me ever since his notion of the widening consciousness of dreams, not as dogma but as working hypothesis. For that dream last night told me more than I have yet dared to say ...

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