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Observations placeholder

Dunne, J. W. - An Experiment with Time – Dreams of events that mirror the stories in books and prophecy an invention



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


In the hope of obtaining additional data, I recommenced experimenting upon myself, the immediate object being to ascertain whether there were any observable differences between the images which related to the future and those which related to the past. As it turned out, the most careful observation failed to bring to view any such distinguishing features.

In the course of these further experiments, however, I came upon three dreams of a specially illuminative kind, and these, perhaps, had best briefly be described.

Dream 1

The first afforded a fairly clear example of an associational chain running from "past" to "future'. The connecting link was the idea of spilled ink, which idea entered into both the related waking experiences.

Waking experience (i) : before the dream. — Watched a friend seated at a table filling a fountain-pen, and thought he was going to spill the ink.

Waking experience (2) : after the dream. — Read a French detective story. The detective seemed to be unusually incompetent, and, towards the end of the book, I began to wonder when he was going to exhibit some sign of the skill with which the reader had been asked to credit him. In the denouement he pretended to stumble, and, in so doing, upset some ink over a table at which the villain was seated. The latter, to save his clothes, threw himself back in his chair, raising his hands above the flood. Whereupon, the detective seized one hand and slapped it down first into the ink and then on to a piece of blotting-paper, thus obtaining a set of finger-prints. He then triumphantly denounced the criminal.

Dream: between the two waking experiences . — A famous detective was going to give us an exhibition of his skill. We waited a long time, but he seemed quite incompetent. Finally, he pretended to stumble, and, in so doing, spilled ink from a fountain- pen over the criminal, whom he then triumphantly denounced.

Dream 2

The second dream exhibited a similar associational chain, but in this case the link — shooting dangerous game with a revolver — was much clearer.

Waking experience (1): before the dream. — Saw pictures of a lion-shooting expedition. My brother was thinking, at the time, of joining such an expedition, and I began to wonder what guns he ought to take. While considering the merits and demerits of various weapons, was reminded of an enormous seven-chambered revolver I had seen in a Paris gun shop, which apparatus was supposed to be part of the equipment of any up-to-date hunter of lions. Wondered, with some amusement, what lion-shooting with a revolver would be like.

Waking experience (2) : after the dream. — Read Ethel Sidgwick's "Hatchways." Two chapters are devoted to the episode of a leopard, which has escaped from a menagerie. It has appeared near a country house where a sort of children's school treat is in progress, and has killed a goat. Later on, the hero is saved from the animal by a retired explorer, who arrives in the nick of time and kills the beast with two shots from a borrowed revolver.

Dream: between the two waking experiences. — Looking from the windows of a country house, saw the head and shoulders of a lion moving through a cornfield. It was known in the neighbourhood that this lion had escaped from a menagerie, and that it had killed a goat. Wondered if I could hit it from the window with my revolver, but decided that the range was too far. Decided to lie up alongside the track in the cornfield, and wait till the beast repassed. Felt, however, that I should prefer to be armed with something better than a revolver. Went out to try to get a rifle.

Dream 3

The third dream provided an example of a perfect integration, the component parts of which were related to impressions received before and after the dream.

Waking experience (1): before the dream. — Saw in the garden of an hotel where I was staying the bottom, minus the sides, of an old, small, flat-bottomed boat.

Waking experience (2) : after the dream. — My sister persuaded me to go with her to one of the Olympia motor cycle shows, as she wanted my opinion on a small " scooter " which had caught her fancy. It was a neat-looking little thing called the " Unibus," and it was entirely different to the other scooters in the show, inasmuch as it was built on motor-car principles, with shaft, gear-box, etc. It was equipped with a little seat of curious shape (on all scooters that we had seen hitherto, one stood on the base-board). Also, it was fitted with a shield for the protection of ladies' dresses. I pointed out the advantages of this last feature, and added that in ordinary scooters she would get her feet horribly wet and muddy. As I said that, there flashed through my mind the old curious conviction : This has happened before. Knowing what that meant, I set to work and presently revived the lost memory. It belonged to a dream, and what was more, a dream which I had recorded. On my return home I looked up the notes, and found that they had been made two years before.

Dream: between the two waking experiences. — Saw my sister coming down a street, sitting in an extremely curious little motor-car. (I had made a sketch of this machine, which was simply the "Unibus," without its shield.) Called out to her something about getting her feet wet. Saw water in the roadway up to the level of the low, oval platform. The notes stated that the platform of this tiny car was the piece of a flat-bottomed boat I had seen nine or ten days before.

The source of the experience

Dunne, J. W.

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming