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Ferdinand's Assassination

Dreamed 1914/6/28 by Bishop Joseph Lanyi

BACKGROUND

This is one of the best-documented psychic dreams in history. The dreamer, Bishop Joseph Lanyi (of Grosswardein, Hungary) had been the tutor of the young Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Years later, his pupil grown, the old bishop suddenly dreamed about him...

THE DREAM

Bishop Lanyi went to his desk to look through some letters. On the top was a black-bordered letter bearing a black seal with the coat of arms of the archduke. Lanyi recognized the handwriting as the archduke's, and opened the letter. On the upper part was a light blue picture, somewhat like a postcard, which showed a street and narrow passage. The archduke and his wife were sitting in a car with a general facing them. Another officer was sitting by the chauffeur. A crowd stood on both sides of the street. Suddenly, two young men jumped out from the crowd and fired at the archduke and his wife. Accompanying this picture was the following text:

Dear Dr. Lanyi,
I herewith inform you that today, my wife and I will fall victims to an assassination. We commend ourselves to your pious prayers.
Kindest regards from your
Archduke Franz
Sarajevo, the 28th of June
3:45 A.M.

THAT DAY

Lanyi jumped from bed with tears streaming from his eyes. The clock read 3:45 A.M. He immediately went to his desk and wrote down all that he had seen and read in the dream. About two hours later a servant entered and found him saying his rosary. The bishop then held a mass for the victims, attended by his mother and a houseguest, in the chapel.

Then the bishop drew a sketch of the assassination scene, because he felt there was something peculiar about its imagery. He had his drawing certified by two witnessess, then sent an account of the dream to his brother Edward, a Jesuit priest. Appended to the letter was a sketch of the narrow passage, the car, the crowd, and the murderers jumping toward the car and firing the shots.

Later that day, a Serbian nationalist gunned down Duke Ferdinand and his wife before a crowd in Sarajevo. The scene resembled the sketch--the car, the arrangement of passengers, the narrow street, the crowd. There was one discrepancy: witnesses saw only one assassin, not two as in Lanyi's dream.

SOON AFTER

Questions were soon raised as to whether the bishop thoroughly recorded all these details immediately on June 28th. A reporter from the Wiener Reichspost examined the drawing and talked to the two witnesses, who confirmed the story; the editor and writer Bruno Grabinsky questioned Bishop Lanyi's brother Edward, who also confirmed that he received the letter and sketch.

NOTES

The Archduke's assassination turned out to be the event that precipitated World War One, so the dream and its corroboration had (and still have) more than personal significance. Yet notice that it never asks the bishop to try to prevent the assassination. Nor did the bishop do so, which he could have, unasked; instead the victims "wrote" as if they had already died, asking only for spiritual assistance, which is what the bishop gave. Yet other reactions to such a dream were possible--telephones and telegraph offices did exist in Eastern Europe in 1914.

Whether we take Lanyi's dream as (1) his own perception of the future cast into a familiar form, as a letter, or (2) a message from the archduke's own dreaming mind as he foresees his death, both the dream and the dreamer seek only a mass for the souls of two friends who at 3:45 were still alive!

Sally Rhine Feather's 2005 study of premonitions and predictive dreams, The Gift, makes it clear that such failure to act on premonitions is common, even when they're as explicit as this; but in the over 100 cases she found in which action was taken, it was usually effective: even disasters presented as fact can be changed--if one doesn't assume fate is fixed. This is not a new problem--all right, "phenomenon"--I admit my own culture, America, is prone to action. Over-prone, perhaps; but I do wish the bishop had tried to warn his friend. He might have failed; the archbishop might not have listened; or he and his wife might have avoided one assassin only to fall to another, or lived to see their world destroyed in a Great War starting from another flashpoint. But maybe not.

The bishop's attitude is not new: it goes back all the way to Greco-Roman ideas of graceful resignation to fate. Here's Achilles Tatius:

It is a favorite device of the power above to whisper at night what the future holds--not that we may contrive a defense to forestall it (for no one can rise above fate) but that we may bear it more lightly when it comes.
But he's wrong. A "defense to forestall fate" often works. And you won't know unless you try.

CREDIT

The account of the dream and assassination is drawn from Robert Van de Castle's superb book "Our Dreaming Mind"; he in turn cites The Analysis of Dreams, 1958, by M. Boss.



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