Mind Shadows      Seeing Into The Future & Common Sense: PMH Atwater & Future Memory

No scientific experiment could verify it or repeat it. It is not a matter of everyday experience. It defies common sense. Yet it happened to me. I am by nature a skeptic. I doubt everything until convinced otherwise, and am always cautious of being hoodwinked. I may not know for sure, I tell myself, but I will doubt claims until I have evidence to the contrary. Yet it did happen to me.

Several times in my life I simply knew what would happen next before it in fact occurred. It wasn’t an intellectual knowledge. I felt it to the marrow of my bones. I knew. Each time I was right. As I said, a scientific experiment of my predictions would fall flat. It could not be empirically and statistically verified, but I clearly saw into the future. I know, not believe, but know, that what we call normal is merely a convention created by the senses and society. Common sense is surrounded by mystery. ( If you don’t believe me, read a book on quantum physics on quantum indeterminacy or the Heisenberg Principle. ) Yet, I remain a rationalist and empiricist, mainly to avoid the tomfoolery that gulls true believers in the paranormal. I don’t doubt that we are, in a sense, sleepwalking through this world; it’s just that, as much as possible, I like to avoid banging my shins against chairs and fire hydrants. Reason and daily experience provide good guides.

Prescience is the word. Looking ahead in order to know what may happen. In my case, not planning, but actually seeing. This prescience raised a question for me. If I knew something was about to happen, did it mean that future events cannot be avoided? When the two jetliners exploded into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, was that a fixed event? Did Jewish mothers and daughters have to be herded naked into the gas chambers at Auschwitz? Philosopher George Santayana said that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Does learning do any good? Will repetition happen anyway?

I have no answer, and do not find this avenue one I want to follow as a field of inquiry. Still, here is one person’s response to the question. As anecdotal evidence, it does not provide a scientific reply. Nonetheless, she has experience to confirm her account.

At eighteen a woman was attacked by a stranger who held a knife to her throat. She was raped. “ Hysteria began to well up inside her as she realized that she would probably die and never see her parents again. At that moment, her mind sharpened to crystal clarity, and she floated out of her body to view her attacker from a point above him. All pain and hysteria ceased, and all concerns dissolved. In this detached state, she lived a future segment of her life in great detail. In this segment, she experienced herself as an older woman telling stories to children gathered about her feet while she sat in an antique, black lacquer chair, carved exquisitely in an oriental design. The paintings on the wall and each detail of the house where she lived at this future time were clear and precise, as were her thoughts, each physical movement she made, every smell and taste, conversations, emotions, plus each minute sensations of daily living.

"She later forgot about the futuristic episode she had just ‘lived through,’ when she convinced herself the whole thing was a device created by her brain to ensure that she relax and submit to her attack. Police confirmed that because of this man’s history of violence, any struggle on her part would have meant death.

The woman married five years later and "moved into a house her husband already owned. There she discovered the antique black lacquer rocking chair carved exquisitely in an oriental design, and the paintings, and the wallpaper, and all the details previously encountered in her near-death experience. The jolt of seeing these items surfaced a memory of having ‘lived’ this segment of her life previously. "

Of this discovery she said, “I really believed back then [during the rape] that my experience was just an hallucination, part of the instinct for survival. But, when I walked into the door of my husband’s new house . . . I did a double take. This forced me to realize that what had happened to me earlier was in actuality my real future.”

As to free will, she has this to say. “Because I divorced, I proved to myself there really is free will, that no matter what life brings we can still make a new choice from any one of many possible futures.”

The example is from Future Memory, by P.M.H. Atwater. As the title suggests, her book is about memory of the future as well as the past. As I said, this field of inquiry entails too much speculation, and offers no fruitful purpose in my eyes. It borders on the metaphysical for which I have little use. Here, I mean the field of inquiry; I have no reason to doubt the account, because of my own experiences. I know this, that a few times in my life I was absolutely certain of something about to happen.

That was enough for me to accept that a chasm exists between inside and outside, between consciousness and so-called objectivity. Chairs, airplanes, paper clips, are mental images, correlates to what is thought to be "out there." And, indeed, they provide remarkably good correlation for our vaunted common sense. But they are correlates for all of that. I can't explain how I knew what was going to happen. That was inside, something indefinable. What happened outside--a ringing telephone followed by a move that changed my life, a public announcement that altered history, the sudden death of a loved one--confirmed the "inside," but this person I call myself remains wrapped in mystery.


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