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'Dreamed' 1918/9/12-14 by a Marine from New York, reported to the Rhine Institute

I was in France in 1918 with the Sixth Marine Regiment--with the Seventy-fourth Company, to be specific. I had seen the worst kind of bloody service during June, July and August, and had been hearing many men tell of a hunch that their numbers were up. In each case these fellows were unfortunately right about their 'hunches.' I was prone to take such hunches seriously.

About September 12, 1918, I was one of the few left in my company who were of the original personnel to go into battle. I was completely exhausted and feverish. I had gotten gassed earlier but had determined to stick it out. In this state I was of little use, and to help things out I 'knew' that unless we were relieved next morning I was in for a 'hit.' I tried to shrug it off but it just wouldn't shrug. When we were ordered forward the next night I was not resigned to my fate, but like a rat in a corner, I tried to push it off with all my will. Finally, when I couldn't shake the foreboding, I began to hope that I would not be crippled in such a way that I would be useless and a burden (it did not occur to me that I might be killed). In my mind, I rejected wounds in this and that part of my body, until, at last, I settled for a flesh-wound in back of my left shoulder.

In the gray of the morning of September 14, 1918, we awoke to the realization that the company had been moved into a salient where there was little natural cover. The Germans were no better off than we, except that they were dug in and therefore were in a much better position to inflict damage from their unexposed positions. We were practically face to face with them. I commanded a 'Suicide Section' and was instructed to move it into a position on a small knoll. When I looked at the spot I 'knew' that this was the place where I was to be wounded!

We got settled. A German machine gun was spraying my position till I could hear the air waves ringing on my helmet. While I was hugging the earth, a shell glanced over my body, barely missing hitting me directly. It burst just beyond my feet and into the faces of several of my gunners. I felt a hot searing pain in my left shoulder. I wriggled back off the knoll and noticed that I had a flesh wound in the rear of the left shoulder! Actually, the wound was caused by a piece of shrapnel rather than a shell fragment, but not by a machine-gun bullet. I am convinced that my wound was 'in the cards' and that it could not have been avoided. Maybe it was God's way of granting me a rest when my poor body and mind were about to the limit of their endurance.


Louisa Rhine used this case to illustrate a very pure form of apparent ESP: bare predictive knowledge, without imagery. Not a vision or dream or voice, not even a blind urge to do something, but pure certainty that turned out to be accurately predictive.

That's interesting, but I include it here for quite a different reason. Our soldier bargains with his stark sense of fate. He's sure of injury, but what kind seems negotiable, so he pushes for a wound that will get him off the front long enough to recover from his run-down condition, yet not maim or disable him. His final sentence phrases this as if he's a lucky but passive recipient of grace--"Maybe it was God's way of granting me a rest"--but his actions belie this pious explanation. He tries on different injuries, shapes his future. And though he didn't know how to do it, he succeeded.

What's going on here? What muscles do you use to alter your fate? Is it willpower, visualization, or persuasive haggling with some superhuman being? Can we shape fate only at times, at forks in existing paths, or is every moment a potential miracle?

Well, given this man's success, both at predicting the unpredictable, and at shaping it, we should also take seriously his sense of limits. He fine-tuned his future injury (what do we call this, preautotelekinesis?) yet couldn't just skip it.

Action within limits! How weirdly mundane.

Note that this man's experience contradicts three popular worldmodels.

1: Most physicists would say events like the exact paths of shrapnel may be unpredictable to a human observer, but they follow laws you can't bargain with. Wishin' don't make it so. This man can't have predicted his wound, and even if you imagine some way ESP could see the future, he couldn't change it.
2: A minority of physicists propose a many-world model: all possibilities happen, and we follow one path of many, blind to roads not taken (ah, but do we drift or do we swim?) Prediction's imaginable; you might even steer your consciousness toward a desired path. But if all possibilities happen, why couldn't our soldier avoid injury entirely?
3: The religious model: time is managed, by some superhuman awareness--god(s) or guardian angels. 'Ask and ye shall be answered', 'with God all things are possible'. Well, apparently not all things. Why not?
Let me propose a fourth model.
4: Picture a skeletal many-world model like a leafless tree, a sort of Tinkertoy world of paths and forks. Some stretches of time are linear or fated (maybe they're not, really, but maybe the billions of mini-forks in these peaceful stretches are perceptually indistinguishable. My bed could be in a zillion energy states; in all but a few, it'd just sit there. Only a few longshot permutations would make it levitate. Life looks to me like an amplifier of such odd states. We do much less likely things than, say, rocks. We're objects change shape, run uphill, fly to the moon!) But twigs do fork, and at forks we have true choices--macro-choices. Haven't you, at key moments in your life, had a sense that you face a vital and irrevocable choice? Yet at times, you know you're in slack water--doesn't matter so much what you do.

In this model, ESP peers beyond our moment--behind, sideways, ahead--helping us navigate toward the best path the next fork offers. These optima can look pretty strange from outside, such as this man's perverse feat of somehow aiming future shrapnel into his own shoulder! Feats our physics call impossible and our religions call miraculous and common sense calls... stupid.

But what if it's not impossible, miraculous OR stupid? If choice is possible, but limited to the forks available, our tired Marine may have gotten the best deal he could--or the best this guilty survivor felt he could take.

--Chris Wayan


Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa E. Rhine, 1961, p. 66-67. Account untitled and author's name witheld; I added 'Wound-Bargain' and 'Marine from New York' to aid searching and indexing.

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