Some writers have demonstrated uncanny prescience (and you’re about to read some stunning examples). In other words, their writings seem to have somehow predicted (or dictated?) the future. On other occasions, they apparently accessed an intuitive knowledge about things they couldn’t otherwise have known.
We’re not just talking about vaguely accurate ‘visions’ of the future here, like George Orwell’s 1984, or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. We’re not even talking about spookily accurate guess-work, like Jean Raspail’s novel The Camp of the Saints, which predicted the Mediterranean migrant refugee crisis some 30 years in advance of it happening. We’re talking about specific details given in advance.
That writers were sometimes capable of doing this sort of thing first hit my radar back in my early twenties. And when this sort of thing happens, putting it down to ‘chance coincidence’ no longer satisfied me as an explanation. But how on earth does it happen? Prescient writers apparently tap into some latent psychic or manifesting ability. The most notable examples are writers of fiction—probably because they’re accessing the imagination rather than rational, deliberate thought.
Our imaginations are much freer. They aren’t limited by assumed facts or shaped by any prejudice of what’s possible. When writers get ‘in the zone,’ time goes out the window, too. They’re so focused on what they’re doing that worldly details and the ego effectively disappear. With all such obstructions and distractions removed, the human imagination can become an open door for timeless ‘genius.’ Not the ‘extreme intelligence’ kind of genius us Moderns usually think of, but the kind of genius the ancients described.
To the ancient Romans, a person’s genius was an inspirational spirit that followed them through life and at times connected with them: something like an artist’s ‘muse,’ or a helpful Arabian genie. The Greeks called the same thing a ‘daemon.’ This spirit could possess the individual and speak through them, whether they were an oracle, an inspired poet, or whatever. In this day and age, we might think of such a channeled spirit as an angelic being, or as our own ‘higher self’ (Self as opposed to self).
The 'genius' of Alexander, depicted by Marie Louise Elisabeth
Regardless of whether we think of our ‘genius’ as being something autonomous and external to us, or as an unconscious part of who we uniquely are, or as a bridge that somehow spans the gap between our finite selves and the Infinite, when we’re able to connect with our ‘genius,’ strange things can happen . . .
The most famous example of a prescient writer is probably Morgan Robertson. His novel Futility is about a ship named the Titan. He describes it as being the biggest ship of its day, a marvel of engineering that’s hailed unsinkable. With great celebration, it sets off on its maiden voyage, crossing the Atlantic in mid-April. Tragedy strikes when it collides with an iceberg. There aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board, so most of the passengers and crew are lost with the ship.
Obviously, it sounds as if Robertson’s describing the Titanic here. There are so many striking similarities, including the size of the two ships (the Titanic was just 25 meters longer), and their matching top speeds of 200 knots. Astonishingly though, Robertson wrote Futility in 1898—over a decade before the Titanic was conceived of and built, and fourteen years before it sank.
Robertson also wrote a short story in 1914 called Beyond the Spectrum. In this work he describes Japan amassing a huge naval fleet and crossing the Pacific. American naval crews are struck with a mysterious blindness. Before any official declaration of war has been made, the Japanese carry out a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor and cripple the American fleet. Their submarines then attempt to invade the American mainland at San Francisco. Apart from the blindness, that’s pretty much what happened decades later in 1941. The Japanese actually did bomb Pearl Harbor and plan to invade the American mainland via San Fransisco.
School girls with cherry blossoms wave goodbye to a kamikaze pilot.
Another amazing example of a writer’s prescience is found in Edgar Alan Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. In this novel, the starving, surviving crew of a stricken ship catch and eat a turtle. This isn’t enough to sustain them, so eventually they cast lots to decide which of their number is to be cannibalized. They kill and eat the cabin boy, whose name is Richard Parker. In a grisly scene, Parker gets stabbed, decapitated, and consumed by his shipmates.
Edgar Allan Poe
Some years after Poe penned this story, a yacht named the Mignonette foundered as it attempted to sail from England to Australia. Four of its crew ended up drifting on the ocean in a lifeboat. They caught and ate a turtle, but they went so long without food after that that they eventually killed and ate a seventeen-year-old whose name, amazingly, was Richard Parker.
These astounding coincidences seem more like synchronicity than random chance. According to Carl Jung, “synchronicity represents a direct act of creation that manifests as chance.” Were these writers engaging in ‘a direct act of creation’ when they imagined and wrote their stories? Were they actually manifesting future events by focusing all the energy of their psyche into the creative act?
The writer and self-styled magician Alan Moore would certainly think so. According to Moore, “magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness ... Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world … to a shaman.”
It’s possible that prescient writers are entering a trance-like state, similar to that of a shaman, when they’re entirely absorbed in the act of writing. Perhaps Moore is onto something here.
Could a creative ‘medium’ be the answer to transcending the limits of time and space, and accessing the details of distant events?
Copyright HTR Williams Feb 2016