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An Experiment with Time (Studies in Consciousness) Paperback – February 1, 2001
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What this reviewer regarded as "mind-boggling philosophical statements" I found to be charming intuitive gems:
"Evolution has worked for possibly eight hundred million years towards the development of the brain. Today, as Professor McKendrick points out, nearly all the functions of our bodies are operating towards the end of the adequate nutrition of the grey matter. And it now appears that, apart from its self-sustaining and self-developing activities, the brain serves as a machine for teaching the embryonic soul to think."
My opinion of the book is best summed up in a preface written for the second Spanish edition by Jorge Luis Borges. It can be found in BIBLIOTECA PERSONAL (Emecé;, 1998). Borges later wrote an essay incorporating elements of the preface called "Time and J.W. Dunne" (1940), which is included in his SELECTED NON-FICTIONS (Penguin, 1999).
Since the essay can be found easily enough, here is my translation of the preface, written in 1934:
"A literary historian may one day write the history of a most recent genre in literature: the title. I recall none more admirable than the one on this volume. It is not merely for show; it ignites our interest in the text and sure enough the text does not disappoint. It is conversational in character and opens up marvelous possibilities for our conception of the world.
J.W. Dunne was an engineer, not a man of letters. Aeronautics is indebted to him for an invention which proved its efficiency in the First World War. His logical and mathematical mind was opposed to all things mystical. He arrived at his strange theory via a statistical study of his nightly dreams. He explained and defended the theory in three volumes that provoked a clamor of polemic. H.G. Wells accused of him of taking the first chapter of his "The Time Machine" (pub. 1895) much too seriously; Dunne responded in a note to his second edition, which is now in print. Likewise, Malcolm Grant refuted him in A NEW ARGUMENT FOR GOD AND SURVIVAL (1934).
Of the three volumes that constitute his completed work, THE SERIAL UNIVERSE is the most technical. The last, NOTHING DIES (1940), is downright popular science, meant for radio dispersal.
Dunne proposes an infinite series of times that flow in and out and because of one another. He assures us that upon our death we shall be handed the happy reins of eternity. We shall recover all of the instants of our lives and compose them in whatever manner is most pleasant to us. God and our friends and Shakespeare shall collaborate in this."
And the closing line of the essay:
"So splendid a thesis makes any fallacy committed by the author insignificant."
More, I have had dreams, or actions, which coincided with the event. As a result of this I am sympathetic to Dunnes hypothesis, but find it a bit difficult to swallow un-questioned.
Dreaming about the past, or modifications of the past, I can accept. Dreaming about the future seems to defy all logic.
However Dunne has put forward his possible explanation. That, and "Deja Vue", are open to a great deal conjecture, but no real explanation is available to this day.
No visible signs of damage or wear was new as expected.
The premise of the book is that in our dreams, we see the past and the future. When we see into the past, we call it "memory." When we see the future, we call it "a strange dream." Dunn says that usually, our dreams are an odd mixture of past and future events, which is why we so often fail to recognize the future events when they occur.
So Dunne proposes an experiment to help you record your dreams, and notice the future events we dream about when they actually occur. I half-heartedly tried the experiment for a few days, and did actually dream of one future event, which happened the very next day after I dreamed of it.
In this regard, the book is quite fascinating, and Dunne may be right. However, the book is extremely difficult to read. Most of it is like trying to swim through mud. You cannot read a sentence or two without getting lost. Some of this might be because the book was written about 100 years ago, and Dunne was an aeronautical engineer.
But all of these difficult parts to read are his explanation for why and how we can "see" into the future. If you don't care about the scientific "how" and just want to replicate the experiment, the book pretty clearly and simply explains how to do it on your own.
If you do try the experiment, and see results, I would love to hear about them!
Most recent customer reviews
Clear style, interesting ideas even after 60 years.