JW Dunne's "An Experiment With Time" (1927)

Professor Solomon, author of the indispensable How To Find Lost Objects and a history of Coney Island, now introduces us to JW Dunne, an Irish aeronautical engineer who in 1927 published a curious essay titled "An Experiment With Time." The gist is that the past, present, and future are all happening simultaneously. But the core of the book is Dunne's description of a simple experiment he performed involving his dreams to test his theory. Interestingly, the book seems to have been quite influential, having been referenced by everyone from TS Eliot and Aldous Huxley to William S. Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, and CS Lewis. From Professor Solomon:


Dunne had been bewildered by a series of precognitive dreams. In one of them, he had dreamt of the eruption of a volcano on a French island and the death of 4000 islanders. When the newspaper arrived, it headlined the eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique and a death-toll of 40,000. Seemingly, the horrifying dream had been prompted by his later reading of the newspaper account. Of his predictive dreams, this one was the most dramatic; but all were perplexing. They seemed to violate rules far more fundamental than those of contract bridge.

His experiences led Dunne to make a study of the relationship between time and dreaming. He went to sleep each night with a notebook and pencil under his pillow. And in the morning he quickly recorded his dreams, before they faded from memory. When he compared their images with the occurrences in his daily life, Dunne made a startling discovery. Generally, a dream derived its imagery from vivid or unusual happenings within a space of 24 hours—24 hours in either direction.

"Professor Solomon on An Experiment With Time"

JW Dunne's "An Experiment With Time" (Amazon)