Eleanor Sidgwick published the first survey of precognitive cases from the files of the Society for Psychical Research, in 1888. She reviewed some 38 first-hand cases of premonitions, of which 24 were dreams.
Sidgwick began her review by adding the caveat that despite the cases she reviewed being the very best, none were good enough to judge the case for precognition made. An example:
In the year 1859, I was with a medical man here as a student. On the night of June 9th, in that year, I dreamed a dream, and when I awoke in the morning I could not recollect the details, but the date, June 9th, 1864, was forcibly impressed on my memory.
I went to the surgery and told the assistant surgeon of my dream, and I said “Look here, I will write the date on the underpart of this mantelpiece, ‘June 9th, 1864, J. F. E.,’ and if you are here you will see that on that day I shall die, or a calamity will overtake me.” I wrote as above; time went on. I left the profession, went into business. In 1863, June 9th, I married, and on June 9th, 1864, my wife died, and only on the evening of that day did the recollection of my dream (five years before) come back to me.
The end of that month I took two friends up to the old surgery, and there was my memo : “June 9th, 1864, J. F. E.” (p. 318)
Mrs Sidgwick engaged in correspondence with the percipient of this tale, to obtain more information. In the reply many of the same details were given, although there was some confusion regarding the date of the dream (where the second time it is given as 1858 instead of 1859). Importantly, this particular example would seem very much to rely on the dates being exact. That there is a discrepancy between the two retellings of the experience surely brings the entire account into question and reduces its evidential value.
Sidgwick concluded that given the evidence and the many and varied potential normal influencing factors, that the possibility of a paranormal precognitive ability had nowhere near the standard of evidence required to be accepted, even as a ‘working hypothesis’ by the scientific world.
Yet, nearly 120 years on from the publication of Sidgwick’s survey, the evidence is not substantially better.Go Top