You have dreamed the future. You say you don’t remember? Think again. Surely you’ve had the experience of déjà vu. The cat crosses the street in front of you, the tall guy steps into the restaurant, the light shimmers on the water or on your new lover’s hair just so, and you know you have been in this scene before. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t felt a tingle at a moment like this, a shiver that brings with it the knowledge that the world is deeper than we have been taught.
What has this got to do with dreaming the future? Everything. In French, déjà vu literally means “already seen”. The phrase begs the question of how we can possibly have “already seen” something we have not set eyes on before. In nearly all cases, what is going on when we experience déjà vu is this: an event we once dreamed is now manifesting in waking life. We may have forgotten the dream, but now that it is playing out in the physical world, we remember something. If we wanted to describe the phenomenon more accurately, still borrowing from French, we would call it déjà rêvé, “already dreamed”.
What comes back to us, in déjà vu, is a memory of the future. We traveled ahead of ourselves, in a dream, and forgot the trip until we found ourselves back in the same place.
The sporadic experience of déjà vu is just our entry point here, just a way to establish that we are talking about something that is common, if not universal, human experience. To get better at remembering the future, we need to become active dreamers. In dreams, we are time travelers. Released from the laws of Newtonian physics and the consensual hallucinations we harbor in our everyday brains, the dream self travels into past time, future time, and alternate realities.
I have the impression that every night, my dream self is traveling ahead of me on my possible roads into the future, scouting the ways. He brings me memories of the future, the way you or I might bring back postcards and souvenirs from a trip abroad. Part of my daily practice is to scan every detail that I remember from my dreams with this in mind, asking: is it remotely possible that any of this could happen in the future, literally or symbolically?
Memorias do futuro. Memories of the future. I once saw that sign on a bar in a dusty town in the northeast of Brazil. If we truly have memories of the future, does that mean that the future already exists?
Yes and no. Any future we can foresee is a possible - not inevitable – future. When we wake up to the fact that we have access to memories of the future, especially in dreams, we can start drawing on this data bank to change things for the better. We are not condemned to stay on a particular event track unless we have totally forgotten where it leads, and refuse to consider switching to a different line. We can use souvenirs of the future, delivered in dreams, to avert an unwanted future event, or to bring a happy future event into manifestation.
To do these things, we need to grow our understanding and our practice. For simplicity, we can distinguish several modes of knowing the future:
Through precognition, we see events and circumstances ahead of time, as they will be played out. A precognitive dream may be literal, or symbolic or both. For example, a dream of a twister might turn out to be both a preview of a literal disaster and advance notice of an emotional storm that will hit with the force of a tornado. Once you have confirmed your ability to see – or rather remember – the future in this way, you are ready to do much more interesting things.
In dreams and intuitive flashes, and through the play of coincidence, we may receive an early warnings of a possible future development we may not want – a crisis at work, the bust-up of a relationship, a health problem, a car accident.
If we read the clues correctly, we can use such early warnings to avoid a possible future problem by taking preemptive action.
Our dream self returns from his night excursions with tips about coming opportunities. These tips require action if we are going to manifest a future we’ll enjoy.You remember a dream in you are in your ideal home, or doing the work that nourishes your soul and your bank account, or you are with your soulmate, who is someone you have not yet met in the regular world. You need to take physical action to get yourself, in your physical body, to where your dream self has already been.
Choosing Alternate Event Tracks
Dreaming, we discover and inhabit the true nature of time, as it has always been known to dream travelers and is now confirmed by modern science. Linear time, as measured by clocks, and experienced in plodding sequences of one thing following another, always heading in the same direction, is an illusion of limited human awareness, at best (as Einstein said) a convenience. In dreaming, as in heightened states of consciousness, we step into a more spacious time, and we can move forwards or backwards at varying speeds.We not only travel to past and future; we travel between alternate timelines. With growing awareness, we can develop greater and greater ability to choose the event track – maybe one of infinite alternative possible event tracks – that will be followed through a certain life passage, or even the larger history of our world.
This may be a case of the observer effect operating on a human scale. It is well understood that at quantum levels, deep within subatomic space, the act of observation plucks a specific phenomenon out of a mass of possibilities. It may be that, when our dream selves observe something of the future, we select a certain event track that will begin to be manifested in the physical world. By a fresh act of observation, through active dreaming, we can then proceed to alter that event track, or switch to an entirely different one.
For much more on the practice of working with dreams of the possible future, please read my book Dreaming True and/or chapter 6 of Conscious Dreaming. For the importance of dream premonition and dream prophecy in history, please see my book The Secret History of Dreaming.