the Future Influencing the Present
Four examples of an odd sort of emotional precognition:
by Dr. A (1960?),
by a Cambridge man (c.1948),
by a London girl (c. 1916),
and by a Midlands mum (August 1958),
as reported by J.B. Priestley
In 1963, writer J.B. Priestley put out a request on a BBC show for examples of strange experiences with time, whether waking or dreaming. Over a thousand responses came: predictive dreams and visions of varying clarity, accuracy and credibility.
Among the miscellaneous non-dreams were a small group of odd experiences--neither foretelling, foreseeing or foreknowing, exactly, but forefeeling, in which the predictive sense was pure emotion. He called these FIP: The Future Influencing the Present. As he points out in his convoluted introduction, reports of these are rare for a reason: you can only spot them after the fact. Still, here are four examples; and the last is startling.
Somebody is in a queer state of mind, perhaps behaves oddly, and no reason for this can be discovered at the time. Later--a month, a year--the cause of this effect reveals itself. Because of where or what or how I am now, I behaved in such a fashion then. (Dreams do not come into this at all; we are concerned now with our waking selves.) And though I describe this effect in terms of the future influencing the present, it can never be understood in the present that is being influenced by the future; it can be understood only when the effect is well into the past and the future that influenced it is now in the present or the immediate past. It has now to be discovered in retrospect, and this makes it less dramatic and memorable, much harder to trace, than the precognitive dream. That then is the future-influencing-present effect; and, to save trouble and be in the fashion, we will call it FIP. We hear or read very little about it just because it has to be discovered in retrospect and easily goes unnoticed by the memory, and very few people are FIP conscious. Moreover, it is apt to work for intimate relationships that most people prefer not to discuss.
1: Dr A
Here is an example, from the private lives of two people I know very well.
Dr A began to receive official reports from Mrs B, who was in charge of one branch of a large department. These were not personal letters signed by Mrs B, but the usual duplicated official documents. Dr A did not know Mrs B, had never seen her, knew nothing about her except that she had this particular job. Nevertheless, he felt a growing excitement as he received more and more of these communications from Mrs B. This was so obvious that his secretary made some comment on it.
A year later he had met Mrs B and fallen in with her. They are now most happily married. He believes--and so do I after hearing his story--that he felt this strange excitement because the future relationship communicated to him; we might say that one part of his mind, not accessible to consciousness except as a queer feeling, already knew that Mrs B was to be tremendously important to him.
Oddly enough--reversing the usual intuitive situation between the sexes--she shared none of these apparently inexplicable feelings, and indeed regarded him with some disfavor until they had met several times. But from his point of view, this seems to me an admirable example of FIP. And I suspect that if a great many people examined their memories, innumerable other examples would come to light.
2: A Cambridge Man
Now here is one of the letters. The writer is clearly an intelligent man. Toward the end of the war, when he was on active service in the East, he had a breakdown, followed by several relapses while he was at Cambridge University after the war. Then he married and he feels he owes his final recovery to his wife, a woman considerably older than himself and already the mother, by a husband she had divorced, of two children in their teens. But she "was one of the brave and inspired ones and she baled me out firmly"; he had no more breakdowns; they are happily matched, and have a daughter of their own about to enter her teens.
Now for a year before he met his wife or knew anything about her, he used to pass the gate of her country cottage on the local bus. And he never did this without feeling that he and that cottage were somehow related. FIP was working.
3: A London Girl
Here is an example of a different kind. During the First War a girl out walking at night in London found herself looking up at a hospital, quite strange to her, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Some years later she set up house with a woman friend and they remained together for 25 years. This friend was then taken ill and she died in that same hospital at which the girl so many years before had stared through her inexplicable tears.
Coincidence? But why the tears then? It is possible that my correspondent unconsciously steered her ailing friend into that hospital. It is possible that the crying long ago may really have had nothing to do with the building the girl was staring at. But we cannot accept both possibilities: it would be either one or the other; and in my opinion neither is likely. It looked like FIP from inside the experience, and I think my correspondent is right...
4: A Midlands Mum
In July 1958 the writer left her home in the Midlands to stay with a friend in London. During Matins at St. Martins-in-the-Fields, she began to cry and could not stop. Nor could she explain this either to herself or to her friend. Two days later, on the train from Euston to her home, she found herself crying steadily, now with a sense of foreboding. When her husband and her son met her at the station, she knew that in some way her increasing misery had to do with her son. "Three weeks later," she continues, "this bright, loving, and dearly loved boy was taken ill, and within five months he was dead. He was 19."
What follows in the same letter is not the FIP I have in mind, but it is worth quoting. "On the third day of his illness he said to me, 'A dog is going to bark from a long way off.' A few seconds later I caught the first faint bark coming across the fields. Less than a quarter of a minute afterwards, he said 'Something is going to be dropped in the kitchen, and the middle door is going to slam.' Within seconds, my aunt, who was working in the kitchen, dropped a pair of scissors on the tiles, and the middle door slammed. My doctor arrived a little later, and while it was fresh in my memory I related this to him. He said he had not known of this happening before, but plainly my son's brain was working just ahead of time."
Now experiences "just ahead of time" are mentioned in scores of these letters. Somebody between sleeping and waking sees or hears something, then becomes properly attentive, only to discover that the something is not happening, has not happened, but then does happen within the next minute. I have had these experiences myself, nearly always when dozing during the day, often lying on an hotel bed at the end of a longish journey.
What the boy said to his mother, however, suggests quite a different experience. He tells her that a dog is going to bark, that something is going to be dropped in the kitchen, that a certain door will slam. Now if he has already heard these sounds, how does he know that his mother has not heard them yet but will hear them? (The fact that these sounds are of no importance in themselves seems to my mind to increase, not decrease, the value of the scene. I will explain this when we return to precognitive dreams.) If he has not heard the sounds but has knowledge that within seconds they can be heard, what form does this knowledge take? Or, putting it another way, how is he aware of the gap between his time and .his mother's time? He does not say "A dog is barking a long way off," leaving his mother to discover, when she hears the dog, that his time is ahead of hers. No, he tells her in effect that she is soon going to hear a dog barking.
This suggests that he is somehow aware of two times--his own and his mother's. If, to use the doctor's phrase, his brain is working just ahead of time, then his brain is also working not ahead of time--otherwise he could not tell his mother not what she is hearing but what she is going to to hear. He knows in fact that he is, let us say, 15 seconds ahead of his mother, and from his position in his mother's future (for this is a future even if it only amounts to 15 seconds), with knowledge acquired there, he is able, because he is also sharing his mother's present time, to tell her what will shortly happen.
I offer no explanation here; I am only demonstrating the Time complications in this little scene...
Source: J.B. Priestley, Man and Time, 1964, pp 200-203. Titles and section numbers are mine. --C.W.
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