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Herbert Greenhouse on Louis Agassiz - The dream that helped him find a fossil



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Premonitions: A leap in to the future – Herbert Greenhouse [1971]

In the case of the naturalist Louis Agassiz, the dreaming mind became an artist who sketched on one canvas a scene from past and future. Agassiz had for two weeks studied the impression of a fossil fish on a stone slab, but the image was so blurred that he could not decipher it.

He finally abandoned the project, but a few nights later he dreamed that he saw a sketch of the entire fossilized fish. He rushed to the museum but the impression faded and the fossil was as indistinct as before. The following night the dream-artist again drew for him a clear picture of the restored fossil, but once more it faded from his mind when he awakened.

The next night, before retiring, Agassiz placed paper and pencil at his bedside. At dawn the dream-artist returned and again drew a sketch of the fish. Agassiz woke up and immediately traced the image as he had seen it in his dream. Then he went back to sleep, and in the morning examined the sketch he had made. It had clearly defined features he had not thought possible in the fossil.

He hurried over to the Jardin des Plantes and began to chisel on the surface of the stone, with his drawing as guide.

The layer of stone fell loose, revealing the fossil in excellent condition and identical to the one he had seen in his dream.

The source of the experience

Agassiz, Louis

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming