Have you ever had a premonition? It’s the feeling that something good or bad is about to happen to you, often with specific details, that is often so strong that you just can’t get rid of it. I like to think it’s your hunch on overdrive. In the book The power of premonitionsLarry Dosse describes them as follows:
A premonition is literally a warning. It is a glimpse of the future, a feeling or sense that something is about to happen. They can warn us of something unpleasant, such as impending danger or a health crisis, or announce something totally pleasant, such as what the winning lottery numbers are or where to find a parking space.
The most dramatic cases of premonition involve major disasters. There are many stories of people who had visions of the 9/11 attacks or who suddenly felt they shouldn’t board a plane that then crashed. Premonitions can also occur during everyday events, such as thinking of a friend or acquaintance from your past and suddenly receiving a text or phone call from that person.
Where do these premonitions come from? Are these just coincidences? ESP? Messages from God asking us to act? Or is the cause of the premonitions rooted elsewhere?
Members of the religious community seem mostly wary of premonitions. While people like Thomas Edison thought we could tap into a higher intelligence (which some call God) for guidance, a more common theme among Christian websites is that they can’t be trusted. As one site puts it, “To know God’s will, we must study the Word, pray, and pursue a deep, personal relationship with God.” Edison believed he simply needed to sit in a dark room to achieve this relationship.
Another weirder theory about premonitions comes from the scientific community: it’s the idea that all time already exists – past, present and future – but that the human brain is only able to recognize the present moment. Maybe it’s because too much knowledge would simply overwhelm us. Yet every once in a while these glimpses of the future creep into our consciousness and result in what we call premonitions. Dossey explains it this way:
The past, present, and future are simultaneously present, arranged in what physicists call a block universe. “Knowing the future” would be a misnomer because the future and the present actually exist at the same time.
A similar concept is that premonitions are rooted in a universal consciousness that we can all tap into. David Bohm, considered “the godfather of modern physics”, declared that “at bottom, the consciousness of humanity is one”. His fellow physics expert, Henry Margenau, believes that “every individual is part of God or Universal Mind…all things and processes – past, present and future – are within his reach”.
But how do you know if a premonition is legitimate as opposed to a paranoid or delusional thought? Dossey has compiled a list of 4 ways to judge our premonitions, a selection process that can help you know whether to pay attention to what the future is telling you or ignore it.
4 premonitions you should pay attention to
#1. Watch out for premonitions that come with physical symptoms.
Dossey thinks physical symptoms can alert us to premonitions that need to be seriously considered. Something as simple as a headache that accompanies our premonition should make us stop and take notice. I remember the story of the man from New York who told his wife a series of premonitions of his impending death. The morning of September 11andhe had a sudden, severe attack of vertigo, but insisted on entering the office, only to die when the second plane slammed into the Twin Towers.
#2. Pay attention to premonitions if they are intrusive and insistent, as if demanding attention.
Dossey tells the story of the great psychologist Carl Jung who, returning from abroad by train, had the overwhelming image of someone drowning. The image was so strong that Jung couldn’t concentrate on the book he was reading. When he reached his estate, his grandchildren ran up to him and informed Jung that one of the boys had fallen into the depths of his lake and nearly drowned.
#3. Pay attention to a premonition when it points to death, no matter how blurry the details may be.
Dossey writes of psychologist Jerome S. Bernstein, who described many premonitions that preceded tragedies, and believes that a premonition is “a literal message to act, because we may not get a second chance” . For example, a few years ago there is a story of a woman in Utah who, while at work, had a premonition that her husband was in grave danger. She rushed home to find him pinned under the SUV he was working on, arriving just in time to save his life.
#4. Pay attention to premonitions when they seem intensely real.
This often happens in dreams, when the dream is so intense and realistic that you feel like writing it down or sharing it with others. I once had a very real dream in which a friend’s wife was standing in front of an old western courthouse, waiting to see a judge. In the dream, my friend had passed away and his wife was waiting for the courthouse to open so she could collect his will. It was later the same day that I learned that my friend had died a few hours earlier in a tragic accident at work. Should I have warned him of my premonition?