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Observations placeholder

Dunne, J. W. - An Experiment with Time – Dreams of the flying machine and its design he would invent twenty years later



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


Since we have got on to the subject of long-range association with a dream in the middle, I may as well describe the most perfect example of the kind I have ever experienced. The gap between dream and future event was about twenty years.

Waking experience (1) : before the dream. — When a small boy, between twelve and fourteen, I read with enormous interest Jules Verne's " Clipper of the Clouds." Readers of that book will probably remember the illustrations of the author's idea of a flying machine. These showed a long, dark hull of about the size and shape of a modern " Destroyer' except that it had a ram bow. This thing, which looked as if it had got off the sea and into the air by mistake, was supported solely by a cloud of tiny screw propellers mounted on a forest of thin metal masts. There were no wings, or anything of that sort.

Waking experience (2): after the dream. — Some twenty years later, in 1910, I made the first decisive flight in the first aeroplane which possessed complete inherent stability. It was a rather exciting episode. The thing got off too soon, bounced — and, when I recovered my scattered wits, I found it roaring away over the aerodrome boundary, climbing evenly, and steady as a rock. So I left well alone, and allowed it to look after itself. This it did till the engine gave out (usually a matter of three minutes in those days). The sensation was most extraordinary. The machine, like all those of my design, was tailless, and shaped, as viewed from below, like a broad arrow-head minus the shaft. It travelled point foremost, and, at that point, there was fitted a structure like an open (undecked) canoe, made of white canvas stretched over a light wooden framework. Seated idly in this, and looking down over the sides at the cattle scampering wildly around three hundred feet below, the whole of the main structure of the aeroplane was away back behind the field of vision, and the effect produced was that one was travelling through the void in a simple open canoe.

Dream: between the two waking experiences. — A few days after I had read, as a small boy, Jules Verne's book, I dreamed that I had invented a flying machine, and was travelling through space therein. It must be borne in mind that I had never heard of, or conceived the possibility of, any flying machine different to the great metallic, screw-supported "clipper of the clouds.”  Yet in my dream I was seated in a tiny open boat constructed of some whitish material on a wooden framework. I was doing no steering. And there was no sign of anything supporting the boat.

I may add here that the boat-like nacelle of the " Dunne " biplane had not been added on account of any lingering, unrecognized memory of the dream. The earlier machines had no such feature. This had been attached as an afterthought, simply in order to reduce the " head-resistance " of the pilot, which resistance, at that particular place, was believed to exercise a detrimental effect upon the stability of the apparatus.

I never forgot that dream, and recalled it with amusement when, in 1901, being on sick-leave from the Boer War, I set to work in earnest to devise some " heavier-than-air " contrivance, which should solve the great military problem of reconnaissance. But it seemed to me a dream natural enough for a boy, and I did not then perceive the significance of the appearance of the dream-machine — indeed, I could not do so, for the related constructional development did not come till ten years later. By then I had dismissed the dream as of no importance, and it was only recently that I realized that the corroborative detail of the little, white, open boat classified the whole as an "anticipation" of "future" experience.


The source of the experience

Dunne, J. W.

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming