The author of, Dreamer: 20 Years of Psychic Dreams and How They Changed My Life, discusses his psychic and precognitive experiences.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview discussing precognition and the psychic dreams of author Andy Paquette. During the interview Mr. Paquette discusses the differences between real life precognition expereinces and labratorty experiments on ESP like those of Dr. Daryl Bem, “Well, the funny thing about asking me a question like that is that while I am aware of some of those things, I became aware of them after I already knew that precognition happens because it happened to me in much more dramatic ways than was ever recorded in the lab. On the other hand, the reason he is studying it in the first place is because there are people like me who’ve had more dramatic examples of precognition. We’ve recorded them or passed them on to other people and this eventually makes researchers curious.”
Paquette continues, “Now the problem with testing in the lab as I see it, is that you’re trying to duplicate an effect that has a very specific reason for coming into being without knowing what that reason is and without having any way to recreate those conditions because you don’t understand the reason to begin with. This, in my mind, is the reason why laboratory results tend to be very weak. It’s because they’re not really duplicating the right circumstances that cause these kinds of things to happen. So what happens is they kind of nick the edge of this thing that they’re researching, and even that little tiny slice they get is enough to support a hypothesis of precognition. However, it’s not as dramatic as the kind of real-life, spontaneous examples such as the ones that occurred with me.”
Help pilot Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s telepathyexperiment.com
Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris.
Before we get started with today’s interview I just want to make a quick little announcement here. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, whom many of you know through his work, his many books, his very interesting website, and his appearance on the Skeptiko show, is launching a telephone telepathy experiment here, available in the U.S. and Canada. He’s looking for some folks to help him pilot this study.
So if you’re interested in doing some telephone telepathy experiments and helping out in getting this project off the ground, please visit telepathyexperiment.com, or you can visit the link on our website and hear more about that.
It’s actually a slight bit of a lead-in to today’s interview because today we welcome Andy Paquette, whose book Dreamer is a fascinating account of his experience with precognitive dreams and all the associated strangeness that goes with them. Andy is a frequent contributor to the Skeptiko forum and if any of you visit there I’m sure you’ve read some of his posts. But this book of this I thought really deserves the only kind of attention we can give it in a full episode.
So here’s my interview with Andy Paquette.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, this book of yours is really quite amazing. I found it very, very interesting but also challenging. It reminded me of reading the autobiography of a Yogi many years ago. I walked away thinking that either this guy, Yogananda, is a complete liar and that seemed quite unlikely, or that this personal account was going to radically shift how I thought about the world. So I kind of felt the same way with this book, in a way.
The way I want to try and pull it apart in this interview is to go down two paths. They’re the two paths that we’ve been exploring on this show and one is the “Is it real?” path. Does precognition really occur and maybe more specifically, did it occur in your case? The second path is “What does this mean?” What does this mean personally; what does this mean for you? What does it mean spiritually in the broadest sense?
So precognition, then, is something that’s been explored in the lab for a while. It’s more-or-less–I don’t want to say a mainstay of parapsychology because that’s like a contradiction in terms, but this notion that we might be able to tap into the future in some way that we don’t totally understand has been around for a long time.
What are some of the experiments, the science foundation that you look to, that you find most interesting as evidence that precognition is something that really happens?
Andrew Paquette: Well, the funny thing about asking me a question like that is that while I am aware of some of those things, I became aware of them after I already knew that precognition happens because it happened to me in much more dramatic ways than was ever recorded in the lab.
So for instance, Dean Radin has a very interesting book called, The End of Materialism, where he talks about some of his precognition experiments. He has people looking at sequences of images and he just records-I forget exactly what it is that he’s recording but he’s recording some kind of an emotional response by using electrodes that are attached to their skin or something. He’s able to detect changes in these mechanical recordings he’s making based on the images.
The strange thing is that it’s based on images that they haven’t seen yet. So the response that he’s recording is offset in time by a few seconds, where the response actually comes before the stimulus does. To my mind, that was actually a fairly interesting way to study the whole idea of precognition. On the other hand, the reason he is studying it in the first place is because there are people like me who’ve had more dramatic examples of precognition.
We’ve recorded them or passed them on to other people and this eventually makes researchers curious. They try to put together experiments that test this in the lab. Now the problem with testing in the lab as I see it, is that you’re trying to duplicate an effect that has a very specific reason for coming into being without knowing what that reason is and without having any way to recreate those conditions because you don’t understand the reason to begin with.
This, in my mind, is the reason why laboratory results tend to be very weak. It’s because they’re not really duplicating the right circumstances that cause these kinds of things to happen. I’m not going to pretend that I know, either, but I do think that there are reasons that they are specific and it’s very difficult to produce these in a laboratory situation.
So what happens is they kind of nick the edge of this thing that they’re researching, and even that little tiny slice that they graft is enough to support a hypothesis of precognition. However, it’s not as dramatic as the kind of real-life, spontaneous examples such as the ones that occurred with me.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me interject because you brought up a couple of interesting points. I think that book, End of Materialism, is actually Charles Tart but he references Dean…
Andrew Paquette: Oh! You’re right. I’m sorry.
Alex Tsakiris: Oh, that’s okay. But he references Dean Radin’s work which you did a pretty nice job of summarizing. I’d add just a couple of points. One, on a minor technical detail there-you know that experiment now has been replicated, I think going on 22 to 25 times in laboratory work and the odds against chance are just astronomical.
But the other point that you kind of touched on which I think is somewhat interesting-and I don’t want to dwell too much on this because I think there are many other topics here that are more interesting-but that issue of “Is Radin’s work and other parapsychologists, are they just chipping away at the edge of this, rather than hitting it straight on?” That was really a frustration for me for a long time.
I remember speaking with Dr. Radin about this and he had a really interesting perspective on it that I guess I just hadn’t seen. He said, “Look, sure, if we’re just interested in piling on more evidence that this stuff really happens, then yeah, maybe we should get the most extraordinary people there are doing this.” You know, the Andy Paquettes of the world. But I think what I heard him say was, “I’m kind of interested in moving past that and saying that I’m trying to understand the fundamental nature of consciousness as it exists across the largest population of people as a better insight into what’s going on.”
Andrew Paquette: Well, I agree with Dean there as well as you. In fact, it’s actually one of the reasons why I find his research to be interesting. The same thing goes for Stanley Krippner, Rupert Sheldrake, and Charles Tart, who I accidently did not give credit for his book. Sorry there, Mr. Tart.
I’m actually curious about how this stuff shows up in the general population, as well. In fact, when it started happening to me, my initial reaction was, “Oh well, this must be what happens with everybody then. The reason I’m noticing it more is because I’m a freelance artist without a regular job so I’ve got the leisure to pay attention and to write these things down.” I found that they tended to evaporate rather quickly if I didn’t write them down.
Alex Tsakiris: So before we hear about some of Andy’s amazing precognitive dreams, I asked him to talk about some precognitive experiences he’s had in his waking life.
Andrew Paquette: This is the one incident that in my mind completely changed everything, okay? I’d had some other things happen until then but when this happened, it was just-it was astonishing. So I’m playing backgammon with my wife, Kitty. We lived in Vermont at the time in a little place called Putney. We were way out in the country. It’s quite a while to get into town. It was a dirt road without a name and another dirt road without a name. It was way out there.
Anyway, we occupied ourselves in that cold winter by playing backgammon sometimes. Actually fairly regularly. I think just about every night we played. So this one night we were playing backgammon and I suddenly had this-it was like an impression came to me that if I said a certain thing that it would then happen. The thing that I was supposed to say was, “Kitty, we are now going to roll matching descending doubles from sixes to ones.”
In other words, I was to make a prediction that we were going to make a succession of very specific rolls that would match that description. And my initial reaction to this idea when it came to me, and I did feel like it was coming to me externally, although at the same time it’s very difficult to distinguish those kinds of things from one’s own thoughts. I thought, “This is ridiculous.” And I also thought, “If I say this and it doesn’t happen, I’m going to feel pretty silly here.” But then I thought, “What the hell?”
And I went ahead and said it. I said, ” Kitty, we are now going to roll matching descending doubles from sixes to ones.” So she went ahead and rolled her dice because it was her turn, and she got a pair of sixes. She thought, “Well, that’s amazing.” And I was pretty much in accord with her on that. And then I rolled a pair of double sixes, which already was pretty amazing. We were sitting there just looking at those dice thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty incredible.”
She then proceeded to roll a pair of double fives; I rolled a pair of double fives; she rolled double fours; I rolled double fours. She rolled double threes, threes on my end. Twos on her end; twos on my end. So now we’re up to 20 rolls in a row that matched the description that I gave of what we were going to do, when suddenly the overwhelming mathematical improbability of this kind of hit me in a wave. Actually, I have to tell you it was a little frightening, okay?
And I said to Kitty, “We’re not going to get those ones.” It was her turn again. She did not roll matching numbers. And I don’t remember if either one of them was a one. But the original prediction was a 24 number sequence, the numbers 1 through 20 were exactly as predicted. Then when I had a specific feeling that we weren’t going to get the rest, and actually it wasn’t because of a failure of the prediction but because of a failure of courage on my part, then that also happened.
But the odds against this are just huge. I’ve worked them out a number of different times. They’re always working out to the same number. It’s about 3.6 quadrillion to one.
Alex Tsakiris: Andy and I talk about his precognitive dreams, including his dreams of 9/11.
Andrew Paquette: Okay, so I think I’ve had four or five 9/11-related dreams. They’re in the book. They’re all from about 1989, 1990. Lots of people have had precognitive dreams about 9/11. I happen to think mine are interesting but you can see those in the book.
What I’d like to start with is a dream I had when I was living in Amsterdam for a few months back in 1985. This is the first dream that really made me wonder whether precognitive dreams were even possible. The funny thing is I came out of it thinking no, they weren’t, but I later had a chance to re-evaluate my opinion. Now what it was is it was a highly realistic dream, more than anything I’d ever experienced up to that point.
I was walking down a certain street in Amsterdam, a street that I hadn’t been on for a while but I recognized. It was morning and suddenly there was a guy behind me and a guy to the right of me and they wanted my money. They pushed me down the street and into an alley on the left, talking with me all the while. Then when I got into this alley, I was sitting there and I was thinking, “Okay, these guys have a gun between them and they just want to take my money, so I’m just going to give it to them and I’m going to leave.”
But then I saw what looked like a corpse on the ground and I thought, “Oh my gosh, these guys have killed someone. They’re going to kill me, too. They’re not just going to take my money.” So that made me very afraid of these guys and I started panicking. Basically I sank to my knees in fear and when I did that I realized that while these two guys were talking, the person who was holding the gun on me was holding it rather casually and was close enough to me that I could reach out and grab it if I wanted to. So I decided to go ahead and try and do this.
I was doing it very furtively, very carefully, very slowly and so when I actually managed to get my hand up to the gun and touch it, I was just about to grab it and the mugger saw me do this. He gave me this look like “Oh boy, that was a stupid thing for you to do, wasn’t it?” And then he shot me in the neck.
When he did, I felt this just explosion of pain like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I had all this warmth of blood pouring down my chest. I could feel the ragged outlines of my throat as the skin flapped in one direction or another and then got stuck to itself. I knew I was dying.
I tried to get out of the alley. I just was crawling and I could feel my legs slipping away with every-not footstep, but I was pulling myself with my hands-but with every couple of feet I managed to make towards the end of this alleyway, I felt like I was dying that much more.
And then, to my total surprise, I felt my spirit leave my body…
Alex Tsakiris: This is all in your dream. In your dream you’re mugged, you’re killed, and then you have an out-of-body experience in your dream, right?
Andrew Paquette: Yes. So then I’m thinking about my girlfriend, who later became my wife, and I wanted to see her and I was feeling rather badly because she’d left to go back to Manhattan after being with me in Amsterdam for a little while. I really loved her and I wanted to be with her and I wondered how I was going to get the news to her that I’d been killed.
So in that moment that I was thinking all these things, I was there in her mother’s apartment watching her at her mother’s kitchen table drinking some tea. I wanted to shout at her. I was looking at her from above. I was at the ceiling level and I wanted to shout at her, “Hey! I just got killed in Amsterdam! I’m dead now!” But no matter what I did I couldn’t get her attention. I tried talking to her and she just wouldn’t pay any attention to me. It was like I wasn’t there at all.
And so I was thinking, “All right. Well, this is what death is.” I was wondering what I was going to do next. I was sitting there just looking at the ceiling, thinking “What on earth is after this?” As I was looking at the ceiling I got kind of fascinated with a couple of colors I saw up there, this pink and blue, because it looked familiar. It was like the colors that I’d seen on signs outside of my apartment in Amsterdam.
Then when I lowered my gaze, I saw the sign. I realized that I was in Amsterdam; I was awake; I was alive; I was in my cot. I didn’t have enough money for a bed. I was kind of a poor student at the time. And I was actually on my knees, upright in my bed, with my eyes open. They had been open when I was looking at the ceiling, the whole time I thought I was dead.
And by the way, just in case any of your listeners are curious about this, I do not drink or take drugs and it was tough living in Amsterdam because those kinds of things are acceptable there. I was there because I liked paintings and I’d go and I wanted to see what that country looked like.
In any event, I was wide awake and I was fine, so I was thinking, “Great. I’m alive. Terrific.” I was very happy. In fact, I was so happy and so filled with a desire to talk with Kitty, my girlfriend, that I went out and called her up. It was four o’clock in the morning in Amsterdam but it was like nine o’clock or so in New York. I said, “You know what? This is just getting to me, living my myself out here. I want to come back to New York. Let’s live together.” And she said, “Fine.”
So we worked out some arrangements and two weeks later I had gotten rid of all my stuff. I’d cleared out my bank account, which was like $1,500 in cash, and I bought a ticket back to New York. I’ll explain later what I think happened, but anyway, buying that ticket put me on that street from my dream. As I was walking down it, I was thinking, “This is strange. This looks like my dream.”
While I’m thinking this, this big muscular arm comes around my neck from behind me and another guy walks up to me on my right-hand side and they start asking me about my money. They say, “All right, so you’re American. How much money do you have? Is it in dollars?” And while they were doing this…
Alex Tsakiris: So this is real-life now, Andy. This is live. This is a mugging. You’re walking down the street and two guys approach you and one guy grabs you in what would appear to a bystander as maybe a friendly way but really he’s locked you in and he’s sizing you up. They’re ready to mug you, right?
Andrew Paquette: Oh, absolutely. And keep in mind, by the way, I’m not exactly a person of large dimensions. I’m fairly skinny and I’m a really short person. Back then I was only 19 years old. To say that having a giant, muscular arm suddenly locking me in a vice-like grip by the neck, with another guy flanking me, talking about my money, would make me feel comfortable is just a real stretch of the imagination.
I was scared to death when that happened-not only that, but I had just been thinking this street is the same one from my dream. And then the next thing I know, I’ve got two guys on me just like in my dream. And yes, I was freaking out. I was sitting there thinking, “This is impossible. The guy is talking about my money, how much money do I have on me.”
I knew these guys were the ones from the dream, okay? In my gut that’s what I was thinking but in my mind I was thinking, “This is impossible. This can’t be happening. And besides, there’s no alley on this street, right? In my dream there’s an alley. Well, there’s no alley.” I knew there was no alley. I’d been down this street a few times before.
So they’re pulling me down and they’re talking and it’s turning into a blur in my mind because it’s kind of bad Dutch, heavily-accented with I think Jamaican, or Haitian accent or something like that. I’m looking at the people on the street thinking, “These are the same people in my dream. Were they arranged like this on the street? Was it the same time of day?” and all this kind of stuff. I’m trying to sort out if the dream is actually related to this event somehow. This is the first thing that comes into my mind.
So then I look down the street, and what do you know? There’s an alley. There’s all this scaffolding on the street right next to it and then I remember all this time–the last time I’d been there and all the times before, I’d only been in Amsterdam for a few months-that area had been blocked with scaffolding. So I had never seen this alley. But now the scaffolding was gone and that is exactly where they were heading for.
So I was thinking, “All right. I don’t care if the dream is related to this or not. I don’t want to take the chance. I’m getting out of here somehow.” Now in the dream, I passively went into the alley with them in order to give them whatever they were asking for. Then I figured I would get out.
But of course I didn’t, so I’m thinking, “Fine. I’m not going to do it that way this time.” So I was trying to figure out what to do because they were way too strong for me. So I thought I’d confuse them by just talking in Dutch because they were thinking of me as an American and although I hadn’t responded to them yet they kept on talking to me that way.
So I decided to confuse them into thinking I had gilders because that seemed to be their focus, was on American dollars. They wanted my American dollars. So I yelled out at them in Dutch-very, very bad Dutch by the way-that I was an Amsterdamer and that all my money was in gilders. It confused them and that’s all I wanted. I just wanted the guy to loosen his grip because he didn’t understand what I was saying. And that’s exactly what happened.
When I yelled out that nonsense Dutch, he loosened his grip just enough that I could slip my head out from under his arm and run across the street. I was safe after that. Those guys just took off in the other direction like a rocket or something. They were going pretty fast.
But the thing is that that experience-that dream was so vivid, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was so vivid it actually convinced me to move from one country to another. And then on the basis of that, I actually found myself on that very street in my dream, in the same situation as the dream.
Alex Tsakiris: The other thing that’s remarkable about that is that at the same time, Andy, is then you say that even though this dream is so vivid and so convincing in a way, and in another way your rational mind didn’t want to totally bring it in and accept that kind of new reality that it brought you to. I think that is, in a way, so interesting as it relates to how all of us deal with these kinds of events or incidents in our life that challenge our worldview in such a fundamental way.
Andrew Paquette: If you think it’s something to be able to deny that, the backgammon example I just told you about a little bit ago? I had another backgammon example. It was much more striking than that one that I ignored in exactly the same way.
I had a reputation for being phenomenally lucky with dice in backgammon games. As a result, I had this one particular co-worker who was always complaining that I won completely based on luck and I had no strategy and every move I made was completely stupid and he just didn’t understand how I could win so many games. Anyway, I thought he was pretty funny with the way he reacted.
So one day we were playing and I said to him, feeling rather cocky-and this is me as maybe a 13-year-old kid who wanted to be a scientist someday and did not believe in psychic stuff-I said to him, “I am now going to look at the board from the first roll all the way to the last one and I’m going to decide what is the best possible roll for me and the worst possible roll for you. I’m going to tell you what it is before I roll it and before you roll it. And it will match every single time.”
That is exactly what happened. We went through the whole game like this. I said, “I want this.” It wouldn’t necessarily be doubles or anything. I’d look at the board and based on the configuration of the pieces, I decided what was the best possible thing I could get. That’s what I’d ask for. And then I’d look at it and make the same determination for what’s the worst thing he could get. And that’s what he got.
It just drove him bananas. He picked up the board and threw it into a plate glass window. That’s how the game ended.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s use that ability that we have to deny, to try to force our experiences into the cultural model that we have because it’s so comfortable and we fit in so well with all the rest of the people we’re around normally. Let’s use that as the way to bridge into the second track that I wanted to talk about which is what do these accounts mean? What do they mean for you, personally, spiritually?
And one of the things that’s really pretty profound about your book, and we haven’t talked a lot about because we didn’t want to scare too many people off, but you really go from a rather ordinary, understandable but still fantastic experience with precognition to a really extraordinary account of God and heaven and Jesus and meeting other spirits that are either sleeping or are out of their bodies in some other ways. So what do these accounts mean?
Andrew Paquette: The thing is this business of religion and spirituality and these psychic things and how they all mesh together creates a very tangled kind of painful, knotty problem to look at. I find that parapsychology tends to try to separate itself from the religious or spiritual aspects of the things that they’re researching.
Alex Tsakiris: Totally. It’s so annoying.
Andrew Paquette: Yeah, and then religion-for instance, I went to a church for a little while, primarily because of this dream I had that just make me think, “Okay, I’d better get to church right now and see what that’s all about.”
So I go to church and I’m with all these Christians and they’re talking about all the supernatural stuff they’re all excited about, all these things that happened 2,000 years ago. And then it’s like, “Well, how did you come to be at this church?” Well, what am I going to say? The only reason I’m at the church, literally the only reason is a certain dream that gave me the inspiration to do it. And that certain dream happened to be a precognitive dream, a very powerful one, that involved some very strong allusions to God and things that Christians would normally find very interesting.
So I found that while there were some Christians who are very open to that, quite a few of them were not. They were, in fact, quite hostile and antagonistic to it. As far as they were concerned, this stuff is from the Devil. I was actually accused of being manipulated by the Devil, being demon-possessed, all this kind of stuff, yet these people are the ones who are supposed to have the secret key to spiritual understanding, okay?
And there they were, shutting the door in the face of someone who is having some experiences that are actually very similar in a lot of ways-I would say identical-to the kinds of things that they’re so happy with. So what’s the difference there?
And then on the other end you go to the New Age groups who are very much into the non-specific type of spirituality and they’re annoyed with the religious people. They’re accepting of the parapsychology, but what if there really is something to these major religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism? Because I think there really is. My dreams are pretty clear on that.
I do not think that I’m having some fantasized version of Abraham and God coming to me and getting information about Jesus just because that’s my culture because I’m an American. I’m a very unusual American in that I’ve moved over 50 times in my life. I never really formed the kind of social bonds people are accustomed to forming because of this.
And my mother never brought us to church-no, I can’t say never-she brought us like four or five times when convinced that she had to by a couple of friends. Those were Christmas Mass three or four times in my life and I ignored it all. So I really didn’t have a Christian upbringing and I didn’t pay attention to Christian stuff because I thought it was really annoying. The same thing goes for all religions. So I did not have a religious upbringing and I didn’t know any of this stuff that I was dreaming about. So to say that’s where it comes from just doesn’t make any sense to me.
The other thing is I’ve gotten convinced that I’ve had so many of these things turn out exactly the way they should have if they were real, that I’m disinclined at this point to reject every single thing that I can’t prove. Do you see what I’m saying?
Alex Tsakiris: Of course.
Andrew Paquette: It’s like I trust my wife. I’ve lived with her for 26 years now and she’s always been honest to me. If tomorrow she says something unusual I’m going to be inclined to trust her because she’s established credibility with me. That’s basically what my dreams have done with me. I dream about these figures that really do resemble the kinds of figures that you see represented in the major religions. I find it very difficult to reject them simply because it makes me sound nicer to some people who think about these things in a New Age, ambiguous spirituality kind of point of view.
It’s the same way when I talk to people like my colleagues who are very scientific in their orientation because of the kind of work they do. When I talk to them, they only want to hear about the vertical stuff except they don’t want to hear about that, either.
So I’m sitting here and I’ve got a body of experience that bridges these three areas, which I think is something kind of unique. I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything like it before. It ties them together in a way that I think is actually critical to understanding any of them. If you’re going to understand paranormal events, you kind of have to know the spiritual or supernatural underpinnings that are causing these to happen, because they are really just the tip of the iceberg and are in many ways completely normal.
Alex Tsakiris: Tell us a little bit about the book, when it’s coming out and what you hope to do with it.
Andrew Paquette: Well, it’s coming out in January and it’s being published by O-Books out of the UK. I understand that it’s going to be released simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom. The book is called Dreamer. I was originally going to call it something else, but Charles Tart already had that title so I couldn’t use it.
It’s about my dreams and how I came to recognize the spiritual reality that we exist within and interact with whether we realize it or not. The fact is that many of the very small decisions we make every day are oftentimes guided by non-physical things that we’re not really even paying attention to and are quite important. They guide us in rather striking ways.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s a fascinating book and I can’t wait to get my hands on the hardcover copy because I’m tired of reading it online. So I’m looking forward to that. Thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko, Andy.
Thanks again to Andy for joining us today on Skeptiko. If you’d like more information about this show, including a link to all our previous shows, please visit the skeptiko.com website. You’ll also find links to our forum and email and Facebook links to me. There’s a place where you can leave comments directly about the show you’re listening to.
That’s going to do it for today. I have several interesting shows coming up. Stay with me. Until next time, bye for now.