The Science of Premonitions

Ever had a feeling something was about to happen, and then it did? You're not alone, says author and scientist Dr. Larry Dossey.

By Adam Hunter, New York, New York

As appeared in

Amanda, a young mother in Washington State, stands with her husband in their child’s room, stunned by grief. A large chandelier above her baby’s crib has fallen, crushing the child to death. A storm rages outside, rattling the windows. The clock on the dresser reads 4:35 a.m. 

Amanda awakes. Just a dream. Outside the weather is calm. Still, she runs to the baby’s room and takes her sleeping child into her bed. Hours later, there’s a loud crash. She and her husband discover the fallen chandelier. A storm rages outside. The time on the clock–4:35 a.m. 

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It’s a true story, and one Dr. Larry Dossey loves to tell. For the past 30 years, his work has explored subjects often deemed too out there by other researchers–precognitive function, shared consciousness, even ESP. But he’s no kook.

A decorated surgeon in the Vietnam War, one-time chief of staff for a Dallas hospital, an advisor to the National Institutes of Health, former executive editor of a leading peer-reviewed medical-research journal, and best-selling author of the book The Science of Premonitions, Dr. Dossey is a cutting-edge thinker on, well, mysterious ways. 

How did you become interested in these phenomena?
I was raised a Baptist, but when I went to college and fell in love with science, there was a real collision with my religious beliefs. I became an agnostic, and then a spiritual seeker. Then something happened that really shook me up.

In my first year of internal medicine practice, I had the most vivid dream. The four-year-old son of one of my medical colleagues was on a table in an exam room.

When a white-coated technician tried to give him an electroencephalography examination of his brain, the child went berserk, violently resisting any attempts to calm him. The next day, his parents told me that’s exactly how it played out.

Here’s the thing...I hadn’t even known that their child was there having a procedure! I began to pay serious attention whenever my patients reported precognitive dreams about their own illnesses. 

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One patient in Dallas came to my office without an appointment, very upset. She said, “I need your help. I know I have ovarian cancer.” The night before, she’d had a vivid dream. She saw three little white spots on her left ovary. She just knew it was cancer.

This was a respected attorney, not in the least bit flighty, not a hypochondriac. So I did a pelvic exam, which came out normal, but to satisfy her I sent her for a sonogram. Sure enough, she had three little white spots on her left ovary.

Fortunately, they were benign cysts. Nevertheless, she knew about something in great detail that she had no business knowing. 

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Your Comments (18)

Mysterious Ways but not His Mysterious Way?? Better watch out... Where was God and His direction?
I am sad about Guideposts change/ subtle tho it may be! Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. .. God and His direction in our lives!!

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. Honest conversation is the surest path to understanding. Our new Mysterious Ways brand endeavors to tell stories from people who have had mysterious experiences brought about by the hidden hand of God--in our stories the God of the Bible. For nearly 70 years Guideposts has been a non-profit, Christ-centered media and ministry organization that reaches out to people of all faiths and even no faith. We offer true stories of hope and inspiration from people who use faith as the cornerstone of their daily lives. -Edward Grinnan, Editorial Director

Thank you for this article and all others. Do not stop printing them. I do not think you are leaving the Christ path or whatever some of the comments have implied. As for not mentioning Christ, etc in the article what about the sentence "Back in biblical days they were called prophets" So if they read the bible and believe everything in it then why not what is in this article. God talks to everybody in many different ways not just to the narrow minded telling them "This is God speaking". And isn't the theme of these articles called: Mysterious Ways? I think one common idea of the article was "to open your mind to hear God". Again thanks and do not stop.

I've had several of these dreams in my life that turned out to be real. One time I had a dream about a good friend named Patty. She was a bad epileptic, she had to have her medicine regularly or she would have grand maul seizers. In my dream I saw her empty pill bottle in a garbage can and Patty convulsing in a seizer, on her bed, knocking her phone that she was trying to reach on the floor way out of her reach. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. hearing plain as day a voice saying loudly "Pray for Patty, pray hard!" So I did. Patty had a young son 8 years old who slept so hard it very hard to wake him, his room was on the other side of the apartment, and he never woke up during the night. Patty was unable to call out loud enough to wake him or her neighbors. Patty told me that thankfully, out of the blue at 3:05 a.m. She was watching her clock trying to use calming breathing techniques she'd been taught by her doctors. Out of the blue he comes running into her room and seeing her picks up her phone off the floor and dials "911" and told them she was having a bad seizer, luckily an ambulance had been called out on what turned out to be a prank call and was less than two blocks from Patty's apt. These EMT's had helped Patty before and recognized the name and address, and had the right medicine with them. The dispatcher had told Patty's son to wait on the line until he seen the ambulance and then open the door for them, the landlord came as soon as she seen the ambulance, and the EMTs bringing Patty out on the gurney and made sure she knew she'd take care of her son. At 3:30 a.m. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, and was able to go back to sleep. The next day I went over to check on Patty because of the intensity of the dream. Her landlord told me she was in the hospital, so I went up to see her and ended up getting her medicine then bringing her home. They had just kept her overnight to make sure she didn't have another seizer. But other than being tired and sore from the convulsions she said she felt fine. After we gotten back to her apt. and picked up her son, I told them about my dream and she said that was weird, she had knocked her phone off at 300 a.m. when she had reached for it. And she ask her son why did he wake up, he said someone shook him on the shoulder waking him up, and told him to get up and go help his mama, she ask him who, he said he didn't know he couldn't see them when turned over, but he could hear his mama chocking. So he went and helped her call 911. The ambulance had left for the hospital at 3:30 a.m. God does work in mysterious ways.

To the Naysayers comments below: I have a question. Didn't God send a messenger about the impending birth of the Christ Child? And didn't Joseph get the message to take Mary and the Baby and leave town as they were in danger? Isn't that a premonition?
I was raised in the 40's and 50's. We did not have a phone. When a relative became seriously ill or died, my mother would have "one of my feelings" she would worry, pace the floor and couldn't sleep until a few days later when she received a letter telling her the news.
I consider this as a gift that I received from my mother, that when I have had "psychic" dreams of family in trouble and a few times dreaming about a patient that I had yet to meet, and the issue they were dealing with. Because of mom's feelings, I didn't feel weird about this. I was more accepting than I might have been otherwise. I am a highly educated, professional woman and know there are more things true in the universe that we DONT know than the things we DO .

To the Naysayers comments below: I have a question. Didn't God send a messenger about the impending birth of the Christ Child? And didn't Joseph get the message to take Mary and the Baby and leave town as they were in danger? Isn't that a premonition?
I was raised in the 40's and 50's. We did not have a phone. When a relative became seriously ill or died, my mother would have "one of my feelings" she would worry, pace the floor and couldn't sleep until a few days later when she received a letter telling her the news.
I consider this as a gift that I received from my mother, that when I have had "psychic" dreams of family in trouble and a few times dreaming about a patient that I had yet to meet, and the issue they were dealing with. Because of mom's feelings, I didn't feel weird about this. I was more accepting than I might have been otherwise. I am a highly educated, professional woman and know there are more things true in the universe that we DONT know than the things we DO .

I KNOW that premonitions are true. I lost my son, someone ran him over on his motorcycle in his own lane. We experienced many oddities including premonitions in the form of "knowing", dreams, and other sychronicities.

This is my second child death. I am unsure if even with these premonitions, if we could have changed anything. W are all born again Christians, introduced to Christianity through Billy Graham. My son lived his faith in trueness. I trained at New Tribes. This is what made these incidences so out there, I would have never expected them and the people around me were naysayers in this type of stuff. I am paying the cost though, in some ways my grief is more complicated, was I supposed to catch on to something but failed? Or was it simply a notification from GOD? For those of you who don't know, many people have received premonitions, especially involving death or sudden death. So, all I can say, after burying my son and seeing him there in that cemetery, I really wish that I would have taken them and acted upon it even more so than I already was trying to do.

Premonitions are very real. Now my life is lived in sorrow just as Noami in the bible...and will remain so until I pass.

No one with any common sense would sleep under a heavy chandelier nor put a crib with their baby under something like that which could potentially fall on them, with or without a storm or an earthquake.

The red lights went up when I read this. Not because of the premonitions. They are part of life. But let's be careful: This universe is not jut good! Being one with everything and everyone else may sound romantic, but do I want to be one with those men who kill my fellow christians in the Middle East? With liars and mafiosi, those who abuse women and children? Probably not. There is evil, and there is good, and if we dare advance into the unseen world beyond what the Lord allows to us, we may hurt ourselved as well as those entrusted to us. Let us not forget that the devil loves to show off as an angel of light.

Thank you for this article about Dr. Dossey's work on shared consciousness. I've read other highly respected authors who share his view and am inclined to agree with them. The possibilities of God's creation are endless and infinite.

Extremely disappointed in the direction Guideposts and Mysterious ways specifically has taken.. This entire article discusses premonitions based on "one minded-ness" , "multiplicity of minds" and "inseparable quantum interconnectedness", but no mention at all of our all knowing, all seeing, Creator God, who was, Is, and Shall Be. Very, very sad. The Guideposts magazine has been drifting further and further from actual Christianity for years now. Generic,"inspirational" stories are no substitute for sharing the good news of God's salvation, and His mighty role in all things here on earth, His creation. I guess it's finally time for me to say "goodbye" and go back to reading some of my old issues from 30 years or more ago. Just very sad at this loss.

It is with sadness previously mentioned that I do find the "Feel good" stories now being the focal point if Guideposts have taken a direction that causes me grief and a sense of loss. No longer does God appear to be glorified in the stories or the outcome. Perhaps inspirational but without acknowledgment of the Lord's involvement . I too, reread old issues from years past and experience a great sense of loss with current issues. I am undecided regarding keeping my subscription-- I no longer send gift subscriptions. I have expressed these concerns to the magazine staff.

I kinda thought the same things at first. Especially when I came across the meditation part because I was raised Apostolic and we do not believe that opening our mind to for anything to come in is a good thing. Just the word yoga is practically taboo.
But I kept reading and in the end I just decided that sometimes it's good to know what all is out there so that we know how to arm ourselves.
The Bible says to retain the good and let go of the rest and I intend to do just that.
The part of premonitions is true...I believe we've all had a little voice instruct us at some point or another, and the part of the elephants raised some questions. But overall, if we are all connected to God and he is in us then to some extent it makes sense that mankind is now finding out that we are of one mind.
Don't give up on Guidepost. I love Guideposts and especially His Mysterious Ways, because when it comes by email it gives a good jolt of realization of who is in charge and who loves me unconditionally. Don't let the enemy take that away.
Take care and God bless.

When I was 10 yrs old I had a premonition that three things would happen to me. At age 12 I would get a horse, at 19 my life would change in some way and at 40 I would die. At 12, I got a pony, not a horse. At 19, I met my only child's father. At 40, I was in a horrific car accident that left me disabled for life with a T.B.I. My daughter passed away less than 2 months after she turned 30. Why couldn't I have foreseen that so I could save her?! She asked me to move with her, but my roommate said I couldn't come back; I'm not from this state so I had to tell her no. I'll never forgive myself. Why Lord?

It's a tragic thing what happened indeed.
But let me assure you, God has many reasons for what he does, and we may not know them at the time.
I don't mean to stick my nose into something that's none of my business. But I want to comfort you in anyway that I can.
It's not your fault though.
Nor is it God's fault. Though,
God is the only one who really knows the future. Like I said, God has his reasons for many things. We may not know what they are at the time of grief.
But one day we'll all know.
Like I said I don't mean to stick my nose into something that's none of my business. But I want to comfort you in anyway that I can.

God bless.
He still loves you by the way. Don't ever forget it.

Hope Guideposts will always remain firm and true to God's Word alone.Anything extra or less is going to lead to confusion.

I read the entire article but honestly felt myself getting uncomfortable. There was no mention of God and talking about "one mind" reminds me of New Age thinking. One thing that I always tell people is that Jesus saved me from 1) myself and 2) New Age/self-help misguidance. I don't disagree that one can have premonitions, but God is my guiding light.

Thank you, Jane, Julie and Glenda,for expressing my identical thoughts. Less and less homage toward God is being expressed as the Source of all that is good in the more recent life stories presented in Guideposts. I did read the entire article, but the terminology used by the author reeks of New Age thinking as well as spiritual beings that are not from the Creator and Sustainer of Christian life. Editors, I hope that you are paying attention to long-time subscribers' comments. Your magazine has taken a turn toward derailment.