The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives

Review by Victor S. Sierpina, M.D.
Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas
Published: Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. July/August 2009; 5(4): 255.

That investigative sleuth of the unconscious body is at it again. After books on spirituality, prayer, non-local healing, and of quantum effects in the realm of mind, The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives adds a new layer to the life work of Dr. Larry Dossey. In this latest scholarly tour de force, the mind of Larry Dossey has created a new understanding of the phenomenon of premonitions.

Where he comes up with his materials, data, cases, stories, and all the other elements of his broad range of essays, speeches, and books like this one has always mystified me. He has called Samuel Johnson an informavore, apparently someone who devours information. I now realize, this is a perfect noun describing Dossey himself. Some people eat food, he eats information and translates it into amazing energetic structures like this latest book.

Dossey’s keen intellect seems always ready to look at the world from a non-conventional perspective. This allied with his apparently insatiable quest for knowledge, his prodigious reading, web capabilities, metaphorical and analytical skills all conjoined with his highly readable, enjoyable, writing style continue to make him one of our generation’s most popular and respected authors.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advanced, pre-release copy of The Power of Premonitions signed by the author at a dinner meeting in Washington, DC during the Institute of Medicine Summit on Integrative Medicine. So I am excited to share with you my brief review of this latest Dossey book.

Did you ever feel or sense something was about to happen and it did? Maybe you just had an uneasy feeling, a hunch, perhaps a dream, or an image mysteriously floated into your mind. Likely, you didn’t know what to make of it but, if you are like some people described in this book, you acted on it. And this premonition, followed by your action led possibly to….your survival.

The book starts with startling cases and stories, the kinds of things that have become urban legend, but in Dossey’s skilled hands, represent accurate and meticulous scientific reporting. What is the common element among the people who didn’t go to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the ticketed passengers or seamen who decided at last moment not to board the Titanic, people who anticipate, some dimly, others highly specifically natural disasters such as a mining town accident, a tsunami, volcano, or other disasters? This is the mystery of premonition.

In addition to a cornucopia of fascinating cases, Dossey also reviews a wide range of scientific studies that address the premonition phenomenon. The studies come from a diverse scientific fields: as expected psi research, but also physics, biology, medicine, mathematics/statistics, geology, anthropology, and psychology as well as extensive historical, literary, cultural, and spiritual/religious citations. These help the reader grok the depth of consciousness and premonition-related studies, from the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory, Rhine’s Duke University lab, HeartMath research, the studies of Dean Radin, Stephan Schwartz, and numerous other researchers. In classic Dossey style, the entire book is made more interesting and readable because of an infusion of insightful, relevant quotes from scientists, philosophers, and sages.

He poses interesting ethical and epistemological issues in later sections on why should we want to cultivate premonitions and how would we do it, if we desired to. Using premonition for predicting the stock market, weather, and specific upcoming events in our lives turns out to be a highly unpredictable art. Selfishly oriented motives also seem to run off the powers of premonition.

If the teleological “purpose” of premonitions is to enhance survival, there are significant moral, societal, and theoretical reasons for people to enhance their premonitory skills. Paradoxically, it seems the harder we try, the more “directive” or goal-oriented our attempts to tune into our premonitions are, the less likely we are to be able to connect with them.

In fact, an interesting array of characteristics seem to be reflected by those who have higher premonition skills: absorption, belief in the transcendent, a sense of the unity of all life, compassion and empathy, intuition, comfort with chaos and disorder, external locus of control, meaning, interest and positivity, respect for the unconscious, personality type, common sense.

A closing appendix collects quotes from renowned physicists whose comments address a range of mind, consciousness, time and space considerations that serves as a nice brain tickler to finish the book. Extensive notes and references help the interested reader review the sources of Dossey’s information and conclusions.

In all, this is a forward thinking compendium of the literature on premonitions and the space-time warp that this topic implies. Be prepared “to go where no man has gone before.”


For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.