Visions of the Future

Keith Hearne. Visions of the Future; An Investigation of Premonitions. Aquarian Press, 1989.

In order to evaluate premonitions we need to examine material which was undeniably in the public domain before the predicted events came to pass. There is little of this in Dr Hearne's book, much of which consists of anecdotes by people who believe they are psychic. Often these anecdotes are of a personal nature not subject to verification, or whose verification lies in the memories of friends and relations, whose memories are liable to the same distortions as the percipients, and are in any case unlikely to contradict the word of a friend or loved one in a letter or telephone conversation with a stranger.

Memory can rearrange facts. For example a woman who took a day's leave from work to meet a friend from America in Liverpool on the day of the tragic Henderson's department store fire. The ladies were going to Henderson's when the percipient reported a feeling that 'we should not be together', and made the excuse that urgent work had come up and went to her office - where indeed there was urgent work. Later that afternoon her friend came to meet her, white and shaking. She had strolled around the city centre after they had parted, and arrived at Henderson's in time to see people jumping out of the windows. Is one being over-sceptical in suggesting that the original reason for the parting was that the percipient had found out about the urgent work after organising her day's leave, and her conscience got the better of her? No doubt memory changed after hearing about the close shave.

Just how vague the connection between premonition and the alleged event can be is demonstrated in the case of a woman who had a dream that "she was in a squarish old car ... like an old Austin". In the car with her were two men in German SS uniform. A limousine type car was approaching. A man with a 'pock-marked face', identified uncertainly on waking as Trevor Howard, was getting out of it. The two SS men got out of the old car and one of them drew a pistol from his holster and fired several shots at the actor, who fell. The SS men dashed back to their car and drove off. A man was left sitting in the other car. This somehow becomes a prediction of the assassination attempt on President Reagan, because he was an ex-actor, and his would-be assassin Hinkley had been a member of the US Nazi party for a brief time. The more sceptical will see it as a memory of some war film which has affected the percipient - there must be several in which Trevor Howard confronts SS officers.

In other cases the premonitions appear to be related to the psychological problems of the percipient, but as real names are used it is probably not a good idea to comment to any great extent, though the personality profiles Hearne gives suggests they have similar personality structures to some abductees. Rather more interesting are cases in which people believe they have experienced precognition of newsflashes of dramatic events. Again, the difficulty lies in finding non-memorate evidence that the events did take place as described.

Hearne makes an interesting suggestion: that premonitory ability is commonest amongst women of childbearing age, and is part of an evolutionary survival mechanism. However, as Hearne then proceeds to explain premonitions by a rather paranoid form of idealism in which the whole universe is seen as a dream, which is being manipulated by who in order to fool us. The Prisoner, cops? I'm sorry, Hearne, is searching for omens and coincidences in order to blow the gaffe (How does Hearne know that his readers are not part of the illusion?) -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 34, October 1989.

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