Some of my favorite references are the following books:
And the following articles:
When skeptics talk about premonitory or precognitive dreams, they usually evoke one or a few logical explanations similar to the following ones:
- Future events may be foreseen through subconscious mental activity. That is a scientifically acceptable explanation as it is demonstrated that while we sleep we are by no way inert bodies, but rather there is important mental activity going on in our brains. For example, some dreams may help us to become aware of incipient pathological states in our organism while others may help us see or understand more clearly current or past situations and thus anticipate related future events.
- Coincidences between real and already dreamt events may be just that, mere coincidences. That is feasible. Who hasn’t experienced that funny moment of hearing on the TV or the radio a word exactly the same moment when reading it in a book, or a magazine?
- While having some unusual experience one may have the feeling of having already lived the same experience or having dreamt it. These are rather common phenomena named déjà vu and déjà rêvé respectively. Psychologists argue that this could happen due to some sort of mental confusion, producing in a person the wrong belief of having already experienced a moment.
- A person may tend to invent stories, especially if suffering some form of schizophrenia.
All of these are valid possibilities. Among them, number 1 has certain precognitive value, as it really anticipates the future, and what’s more, it does it in a scientifically ratified way. However, this can hardly be considered premonition. Options 2, 3, and 4 have no precognitive value, as they suggest that the dreamer believes there is a logical connection between a dream and a real event when in fact there is no such connection.
By definition, premonition lies out of the scope of such logical explanations and assumes that there is some other unknown or scientifically unproven mechanism. Therefore, to identify a premonition, one should be able to exclude all the logical explanations like the above ones.
One can easily discard number 4 by having a medical check and number 3 by keeping a dream diary. What about numbers 2 and 1? The former is a matter of probabilities while the latter is a matter of logic.
Expanding upon the example from explanation number 2: the occasional coincidence in time between two words out of a commonly used English vocabulary of about 5000 words is surprising but hardly can be considered supernatural, especially having in mind the constant flux of thousands of words we hear and read every day. Now imagine that you hear on the radio an entire phrase exactly at the same time while you are reading it. This sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
Going even further, imagine that you write down an absurd but grammatically correct plot (perhaps under the influence of some drug) and then you don’t just hear it but watch it represented exactly the same on TV at the same time and imparting the exact same feelings that your plot did. That probability should be infinitesimal, right? Well, these are the kind of things that actually happen with dreams! Moreover, such dreams are much more frequent than most people think.
Therefore, we should aim at discarding any possibility of conscious or subconscious anticipation of a real event and any possibility of a mere coincidence to occur. This involves rejecting dreams full of trivial actions and/or elements and looking instead only into dreams containing extremely odd and even apparently impossible scenarios. My experience has convinced me that as strange or impossible as a dream may seem, real events can match it with astounding precision within weeks or even simultaneously, often occurring long-distance away.
There might be a certain degree of symbolism in a precognitive dream, which may give rise to some doubts when interpreting it, but often the dream events will occur in real life almost unchanged.
These are the main clues, but there are some others too. Our dreaming mind uses several tools to attempt drawing the attention of our waking mind to important information, especially one related to the future. It is like a movie director that uses everything that is in his/her hands to cause the maximum impact in the audience and to impart a clear and unforgettable message to them.
Recapitulating, while we may have premonitory dreams indistinguishable from normal ones, certain dream features can be interpreted as unambiguous signs of forewarning. Including some of the “movie director’s tools” that others and I have noticed, the main signs of a premonitory dream can be resumed as:
- Really odd events and/or characters
- Crystal-clear and impressive imagery
- An intense feeling, such as fear, horror, sadness, surprise, etc.
- Stunning inflection points
- A clear message or a moral