( Originally Published 1918 )
IT may be urged, quite legitimately, that some of these dream-coincidences now to be related may happen by accident. Out of the immense number of our dreams it is to be expected that some of them will represent some real fact not normally known to the dreamer, without any supernormal agency being concerned. The dreams which miss—it may be contended—are forgotten; those that hit are remembered, and consequently count for more than they ought. The point is obvious, and in various ways its logic has been recognized from antiquity. Cicero quotes, for instance, the remark of Diagoras the Atheist, when shown the votive tablets in the temple of Samothrace, placed there by those shipwrecked mariners who had been saved from drowning. He was bidden to note how many had been saved by the power of the gods. "Yea," said he, "but where are those commemorated who were drowned?" Like dreams which miss, there is no record of them.
But, even after giving due weight to this objection, all careful investigators are agreed that a chance explanation of all veridical (truth-telling) dreams is quite unacceptable. It sounds plausible in general, but it breaks down on examination. Most dreams are mere medleys, without any predicative or supernormal claim. Often they are absurd re-presentations of memory, as when Ben Jonson saw the Carthaginians and Romans fighting for a whole night on his great toe—a restricted battleground, Jonson's great size notwithstanding. We may ignore this kind, devoting our attention to those dreams that definitely state a fact not normally known or believed. And there is often a peculiarly vivid quality about supernormal dreams, differentiating them sharply from the vague romancings which are the ordinary product of our sleep mentation; a vividness and reality which lead the dreamer to write down an account, or to tell someone about the experience, before any verification comes. This feeling of reality often gives complete certitude that the dream has brought truth and that it is a unique or almost unique experience; for few people have many of them in a whole lifetime. This instinctive differentiation between the true and the "ordinary" dream seems akin to the instinctive power, which a genuine clairvoyant usually has, of distinguishing between the work of his own imagination and messages really coming supernormally. And whether the verdical dreams are few in any one person's experience or are fairly frequent, as with the percipient whose account I quote first, it is a fact that in many cases the correspondence between the dream details and the actual facts is too close to be reasonably attributable to chance. But it is very important, in view of the untrustworthiness of memory, that people who have these experiences should record them and place the record in some other hands before verification. It is mainly through lack of this pre-caution that my cases are not up to the evidential standard of the Society for Psychical Research, and have, therefore (as I have said), to be presented in my own more irresponsible pages.
"I venture to offer you a brief account of several psychic or telepathic experiences, one of my father, and the others of my own.
"I have frequent premonitions in dreams, but these which I relate are the most striking. I am a healthy, normal woman, of cheerful disposition, and have never dabbled in things psychic, but feel that if I once relinquished self-control I would be quite carried away.
"My father was a North of Ireland man of Scottish ancestry, totally devoid of superstition, and a rock of common sense. He was in charge of a large police district in Central Queensland many years ago, when he was thrown from his horse and received serious internal injuries. From these he made a partial recovery and was granted a lengthy term of leave of absence. He was strongly advised to go to Sydney and consult a famous doctor there. This, however, was not an easy matter for him to undertake, as in his weak state he could not travel alone, and my mother had five tiny children, one only a few weeks old, so could not accompany him.
"He was very worried, trying to plan for the best, and also for financial reasons. One night he woke my mother and told her that he had just seen his father, who had been dead for twenty years, and that he had said: `Don't go to Sydney, George, for you will be dead before November.' This was early in July, and he died on September 8th following. My grandfather had been a medical student, but gave up his studies and entered the Army.
"I was once staying at the seaside and occupied the same bed as a girl friend on New Year's Eve. She woke me to ask why I was crying so bitterly. I told her that I dreamt I saw my brother Charles lying senseless on a rough bush track and a dead horse lying near him. Later she again woke me to ask the same question. I then told her that I dreamt I had received a newspaper by post and that my former dream appeared in it in a conspicuous paragraph, and that, on looking at the date of the paper, I found it was a month old.
"Next day my brother George came to see me, and on relating the experiences of the previous night he warned me to say nothing about it to my mother. After returning home I received a letter from Charles telling me that, just a month ago, on New Year's Eve, he had a bad accident. He and a friend were spending the Christmas holidays on a cattle station when their horses got out of the stockyard and got away with some wild horses up a mountain. In galloping after them his horse fell and broke its neck, and he was found insensible, just at the time I dreamt it, and exactly the same length of time elasped before I was told of it as occurred in the dream.
"On another occasion I dreamt that an old friend who was in England with her husband would return a widow. This was verified within twelve months.
"A very old friend, one hundred miles away, had an apoplectic seizure. We were all deeply attached to the old gentleman, and just at dusk I became very restless and anxious to know his condition. Sitting quietly in the gloom and thinking deeply of him, I felt everything seem to slip away from me. Presently the stars at which I was gazing became blotted out by a thin mist which rapidly became thicker and darker and began to take a rough human form. I came suddenly to myself with a feeling of terror and rushed into the house. Soon after came word that he had passed away."
K. B. ELSWORTH.
We cannot lay much stress on the premonitory dream regarding Mrs. Elsworth's father's death, for various reasons. One is that a dream of that kind may act as a suggestion and may bring about its own fulfilment, if the person accepts it. Another reason is that our subconsciousness almost certainly knows more about the state of our health than our normal consciousness does, and consequently a premonitory dream of death may be due to subconscious inference from the known state of an organ. But, this notwithstanding, the form of the dream is rather significant. It was the dreamer's deceased father who gave the warning. Now I have had a good deal of evidence—of which some is given in my book "Psychical Investigations"—to show that relatives and friends come to meet dying people; and the form of this dream, therefore, fits in with what I have learnt by other methods. Consequently, while not regarding the dream as evidentially strong, its internal structure disposes me to look favourably on the face-value explanation.
In dream number two the brother seems to have informed his sister of his accident telepathically. He was insensible at the time, and there is reason to believe that such a state favours the production of telepathic phenomena, the spirit being partly liberated. And his sister, being asleep, was in a state specially good for reception. The predictive element introduces a more difficult question regarding the metaphysics of Time; but perhaps this part was just an accidental shot of the dreamer's subconsciousness, as dream number three may have been. The fourth experience, which cannot with certainty be called a dream, seems to have been an incipient phantasm of the dead, the freed spirit manifesting its presence to his friend.
Returning to the meeting idea, friends and relatives not only meet, but also stay with their loved ones a while after the crossing, helping to nurse them into consciousness on the higher plane; for there is reason to believe that we are born into the other life in a rather helpless state, somewhat as we are born into this; or that, at any rate, we need more or less attention, though usually only for a short time. My next case illustrates this idea. The father saw his daughter's grief, found the man who had been killed had perhaps been with him from death—and could link them up again in his daughter's sleep when her spirit was partially free from the prison of the body.
" I lost a very dear friend at Neuve Chapelle. In my great distress I prayed that I might see where he was ; and that night I dreamed that I saw him, in a kind of hospital, looking very ill and tired, like one recovering from an illness. But what to me is the strange thing is that my father, who died nine years ago, was with me and took me into this room to see my friend. Now I had not been thinking of my father at all. I was entirely absorbed in the great grief I felt on learning that my best friend had been killed. Do you think all this was just an ordinary dream? It seems far more to me."
The next case is long and curiously sequent. It was published in the Occult Review for February, 1917, and I have to thank the editor and publishers for permission to reprint. Mrs. Guthrie is a lady of position and education, and I regard her testimony as good and credible in any ordinary matter. Her psychic sensitiveness seems to have now nearly gone, for she has had no more experiences of the kind.
"In February, 1914, I became acquainted with a Captain Stuart, an Army man who had been through the Boer War. We saw little of each other, but each felt almost at once a strong sense of kinship and friendliness. As a matter of fact —though this may not be the cause—there is a very slight relationship, through a common ancestor several generations back. In July, 1914, before I had any idea of the European war-cloud which was soon to burst, I was presiding at a tea in camp, not far from my home. It was a bright, sunny day, and everybody was in high spirits except myself. I found myself inexplicably depressed. The thought, `Oh, the pity of it, the pity of it!' filled my mind without any reason. Captain Stuart was there, but I did not specially associate my feelings with him or any-one else. I went home to bed and wept miser-ably without knowing why.
"In July, 19.15, Captain Stuart's battalion sailed for Gallipoli. We corresponded regularly, and I sent him parcels. I felt no special apprehension. On the night of December 9th, 1915, I went to bed at 10 P.M., but could not sleep for some time. When I did, I had a horrid dream of muddy water and awoke in great discomfort and uneasiness. The room was in absolute darkness, the blinds down, and heavy curtains across the window. But presently I was surprised to see a big, bright light on the wall opposite my bed and moving very rapidly. It then disappeared, reappearing on the next wall, then on the wardrobe by my bed. I was frightened, and screamed for my friend next door. She was in almost instantly, white and trembling, and saying, `The Light ! the Light ! What is it?' For she had seen the same light in her room also, on the door of communication. The blinds were down, and heavy curtains drawn, in both rooms ; moreover, we were on the third floor, and no explanation by a light outside was possible. We spent the remainder of the night together.
"Four days later, on December 13th, came the news that Captain Stuart was wounded, but no details. And, since he was on the Staff, we hoped it was nothing serious. The absence of `dangerously' or `seriously' was reassuring.
"That night, Monday, December 13th, 1915, I dreamt that Captain Stuart was standing by my bedside. I saw him as plainly as I see the writing I am doing at this moment. His uniform looked very worn, and he had grey hairs in the black. His face looked wan, worried, harassed, troubled, lined, and he was very thin in the body, and his uniform was splashed. One hand was on my counterpane, the other was pointing to Heaven, and he was singing `Jesus, Lover of my Soul.' Then I awoke. When my maid came in, the first thing in the morning, I said I felt sure that Captain Stuart had gone West, and told her my dream. The letters came in, and there was one from a relative of his saying that a wire had been received from the War Office announcing his death. He had been wounded on December 6th and died on December 9th. I went over to see the relative, and mentioned my dream and the hymn, asking if it was a favourite of his. She said she had never heard so.
"About a month after-during which time I constantly saw the light, only now always there was a second light close behind it—this relative wired for me over, and I went. On going into the room she greeted me with unusual gravity, saying immediately afterwards : `What was the hymn you say Colin sang that night you saw him?' `Jesus, Lover of my Soul,' I replied. She then gave me a letter which had arrived that morning from one of the senior Staff officers giving the details. Captain Stuart was rendered unconscious by a shell-wound on December 6th, and died at 2 A.M., December 9th, without re-covering consciousness. He was buried, wrapped in the Union Jack, at 4.45 A.M., with full military honours; and the hymn sung was `Jesus, Lover of my Soul.'
"I had never discussed religion or hymns with him. And I had never dreamt of him before.
"Some, time afterwards I either had a dream or a vision—I don't know which—of my friend standing by my bedside. One hand had hold of one of my wrists, and he was urging me to go with him. He was in khaki, but it looked brighter and more cared for. I gave a cry, and woke or came to, to hear someone moving round the room to the door, which I distinctly heard open; footsteps (a man's, with jack boots and spurs clanking) going downstairs; the front door open and shut; and the clock struck five.
"Very early the next morning my friend came into my room very upset, and asked me if I had seen the light. I said `No'; and she said that something had wakened her, and she had seen a large light on the communication door between our rooms, though the room was in pitch darkness ; then it moved along the wall towards the door; as it did so she heard something moving in my room, then heard my door open, footsteps as of a man in jack boots with spurs clanking downstairs, the front door open and shut; and the clock struck five.
"A few weeks later I was at my mother's, where Captain Stuart had never been. My maid slept with me. She had never seen Captain Stuart. On the third night, January 7th, 1916, I dreamt that he had come into my room and was bending over me with a smile and looking awfully well ; and he seemed to want me to go with him. Then a shriek woke me or brought me to, and I heard my maid crying: `The man, the man! No, no; you must not go!' It took me a long time to pacify her. She then told me that she had been awakened by hearing the door open, and, to her astonishment, in came a man in khaki. The extraordinary thing is that though the room was in absolute darkness she saw everything quite as plainly as if it had been broad day-light. The man, who she saw was an officer, came to her side of the bed and looked down at her. She stared up at him, too astonished to be frightened just then. When he saw her he looked angry and turned on his heel to go round to my side of the bed, and she saw that when he leant over me a change came over his face, the angry look giving place to a smile. She thinks I then said, `Coming!' Then she suddenly realized that there was something strange, and screamed (and she did scream). Then I woke or came to. Some days afterwards I showed her a photo of Captain Stuart. She recognized it without hesitation as being the man she had seen that night.
"I never saw the light or lights again.
"My next and (up to now) last experience was on the night of September 14th, 1916. Be-fore going to sleep I had been thinking of Captain Stuart and wondering if it were possible to see him. The next thing I found myself in a narrow, lofty, whitewashed walled passage, with slate tiles, all beautifully clean as if just washed. At one end was a door, slightly ajar, evidently of some occupied room, for I could hear movement, voices, and laughter occasionally.
"Suddenly, in front of me, just across the passage, appeared an elderly woman whom I had never seen before, short, full figure, dress as of very bygone times such as I had never seen but had heard of ; the real old garibaldi fastened in to the big waist with a patent leather belt, and the garibaldi blouse and skirt were in pepper-and-salt colour. She had a white turned-down collar on, black hair parted down the middle and done up in an old-fashioned chignon, complexion pasty to yellowish, good-shape nose, bright black eyes. She spoke. `Captain Colin Stuart is passing by and wishes to see you,' she said ; and immediately a thousand voices seemed to echo her. I was frightened and did not speak. `Are you ready to see Captain Colin Stuart when he passes by?' she asked; and a thousand voices echoed again. I could not speak, and she gave me a very serious look, saying, `You must not keep him waiting when he passes'; and the thousand. voices echoed this, too. Then she vanished, and there was silence, and I waited in fright as to whether I should see him as an awful apparition.
"I had not much time for fear, for from that room, where I had heard voices and laughter, there appeared Colin. I heard his footsteps, and in a moment he was beside me, and he gave a jolly laugh. Sacred and serious as this subject is to me, I cannot describe that laugh as anything but jolly. And, taking hold of my hand in one of his—I saw the other was occupied—he led me down the passage and into a small, beautifully clean, three-cornered room with white walls, slate-tiled floor, huge old-fashioned fireplace, but no fire or furniture. It was cool, but not unpleasantly so. It was the room next to the one he had come out of. We only went just inside the door. Colin twisted me round in front of him so that I could see him well, and let go of my hand. It was then I saw that he carried a suitcase and travelling-rug in his occupied hand, which he never let go of once. He was in what I should call a lounge- or smoking-suit, beautifully cut and tailored, of Copenhagen blue, shirt cuffs and collar beautifully white; and as for Colin himself, he looked just splendid. He carried, his head up, proudly and grandly, his hair was beautifully cut and trimmed, also his moustache. And his face! He had no lines, and there was no sign on that face of either care or fatigue, or worry, or pain, or as if he had ever known anything evil or trouble of any kind. He looked just as if he had had the most perfect long rest possible, and had had a splendid bathe. I was so delighted (no word had thus far been spoken between us) that I clapped my hands!
And I came to, with the sound of that happy laugh in my ears.
"I have given you my experiences, which have all come quite spontaneously. I have been to no seances or mediums. They may or may not be of interest to you, but to me they have been a great comfort. I am firmly of opinion that my friend is doing useful work on the other side and is all right. 'I do not believe in death, and have a great horror of the word for what it has been made to imply. I pray for my friend in the present tense.
"On each occasion when I have come to, there has been a feeling of intense fatigue which was unaccountable on any physical grounds, for I lead a placid and restful life, and besides, it is not like fatigue after walking or dancing. It is not only bodily fatigue, but the nerves feel done, absolutely tired and worn out. I had the same feeling when my father and brother died."
Some of the foregoing, admittedly, is not "evidential" in the strictest sense. There is nothing surprising in anyone dreaming that a friend is dead when he is known to be wounded, or in dreaming that he is going away. But, on the other hand, there are points which are strongly evidential, i.e., which suggest the co-operation of some mind external to that of the dreamer. The light, seen by both Mrs. Guthrie and her friend, appeared for the first time on the night of December 9th. And, as it turned out, it was on that day, December 9th, at 2 A.M.,—twelve hours before the dream, etc., allowing for difference in time—that Captain Stuart died, though Mrs. Guthrie did not then know that he was even wounded.
And as to the next incident, Mrs. Guthrie had no normal knowledge on which inferences could be based, for she had never talked with him about hymns. The almost unavoidable ex-planation is either telepathy from some soldier present at the funeral, or the actual operation of the mind of Captain Stuart himself.' On this latter hypothesis he must have been consciously present at his own funeral, listening to the hymn sung. And there is nothing incredible about that. I know of various incidents which suggest that this often happens, and the Japanese seem to believe something of the sort. Apparently Captain Stuart came and sang it before the news could arrive normally, as a test message proving his real presence.
Then there is the queer fact of the maid having a waking vision which corroborated Mrs. Guthrie's contemporaneous dream—if it was a dream, for her state on these occasions does not seem to have been quite like ordinary sleep. There was no spoken "suggestion" from one to the other; each spontaneously perceived the same thing at the same time. I have obtained the maid's signed account, corroborating.
Further, there is the continuity and the steady improvement in the spirit's condition. This to me is significant. Mrs. Guthrie has no knowledge of spiritualism or mediums, but her experience is in line with what I have learnt in my own investigations. After passing over, there is usually no sudden transition to supernal realms of glory ; no transmutation of man into seraph or even ordinary angel. No; he remains himself, and for some little time he remains very much in the state of mind last experienced; exemplified by Captain Stuart's splashed and worn khaki and wan and troubled look when first seen, four days after his death. Soon, with rest and attention and care, the spirit gets over the shock and pain incidental to its last hours in the body, attaining gradually a state of fine and perfect wellness. It will be noted how Captain Stuart, in his appearances, looked first "brighter and more cared for," and finally on September 14 was evidently in the most splendid form and ready for work and progress, as symbolized by suitcase. and travelling rug, and by his jolly laugh. It is all in line with knowledge gleaned through other sources, and it is helpful to get this corroboration through a private person who knows nothing of the traditions or conventions of the subject. It may be said here that Mrs. Guthrie is, as she has said to me herself, "a Celt of the Celts," as is also Captain Stuart. Perhaps this has something to do with the experiences, for the temperament which we call Celtic certainly seems more open to psychical experiences than the stodgy Anglo-Saxon build, which happens to be my own.
Mrs. Guthrie also seems to have power of the "physical-phenomena" kind. I quote the following from a later letter of hers. After mentioning a desk in which are some of Captain Stuart's letters, she says :
"... the last letter he ever wrote me, which
was on the day of his wounding—December 6,—will never stay in the pocket with the other letters, and on one occasion when I went to this desk during this summer I had a shock, for not only was the letter out of the pocket where I had put it, but the envelope was in one corner with the two sheets placed very tidily just be-low it, and two little notebooks, which had never been taken out of their different pockets in the desk, were at the other corner on the pad, very tidily packed on top of each other. The desk is kept locked, and I have the only key.
"Captain Stuart was very precise and tidy. This last letter, which reached me a month after his death, was different from any he had written me before. He was ordinarily very particular and courteous ; this letter was cheery and flippant. . .. Did I tell you that about a month ago the room in which he slept during his one and only visit here is now a sitting-room, and one night just before we all went to bed (the others were tidying up the room, the door of which, opposite the fireplace at which I stood, was open) my attention was attracted—why, I don't know —to the door? First I saw a kind of nebulous grey cloud which revolved into the half of my friend, and he was wearing the suit in which he came to us in July, 1914. I saw him only for a moment, and the others saw nothing.
"Some six weeks after my last dream of Captain Stuart I had a dream of my father, of whom I had previously only dreamt in the vaguest way, as it was ten years ago when he passed, a broken old man; but when I saw him in this dream he looked glorious, like Captain Stuart
so fresh, bright, clean, no trace of sorrow or suffering, beautifully dressed and groomed. And he also carried a suitcase—an extraordinary coincidence. He was coming out of a passage exactly like the one I had been in with Captain Stuart. Papa was coming out, and I was waiting at the entrance with a lot of women and children. We were on a beautiful rich plateau with herds of sheep, oxen, and goats, and the women and children were dressed in flowing white robes ; one woman had a crook, and there was a child with very golden curls. Suddenly someone said, `He's coming!' and out of the passage came my father. He looked splendid, glorious; they crowded round him, he greeted some of them, and then said : `Where's Flora?' `Here !' they answered, and I was pushed forward. Papa kissed me, then held me back from him, and said: `You have done a splendid work, Flora.' He drew me to him, kissed me again very tenderly, gave a happy laugh, and I awoke."