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.”

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