Precognitive and Visitation Dreams

Last week I wrote about basic Jungian dream interpretation:

The vast majority of our dreams are “basic,” in that they’re messages from our unconscious minds to our conscious selves, regarding aspects of our ordinary waking lives. In the next few essays, I’ll explore some dream topics that go “beyond the basics.” Today, we’ll look at Precognitive and Visitation Dreams, to be followed by essays on Disembodied Voice Dreams, and Waking Dreams.

Precognitive Dreams


Precognition — Knowledge of a future event, especially when this comes from a direct message to the mind, such as in a dream, rather than by reason. — Cambridge Dictionary

Precognitive dreams are actually fairly common. What makes them seem rare is that the majority of our dream-glimpses into the future don’t reveal “big events” — you dream of a plane crash, cancel your ticket, and the plane you would have been on crashes. Those kind of dream-warnings do occur, and when they appear you should take heed. But most precognitive dreams involve inconsequential, and therefore unmemorable, events. By the time they play out in waking life, you’ve forgotten the dream ever happened.

In her Sounds True talk Beginner’s Guide to Dream Interpretation, Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes shares a dream where she was in a dentist’s office, arguing with the receptionist over a number. The next day, in waking life, she had an appointment with her regular dentist. When she arrived, a new receptionist insisted she had to provide her social security number in order to be seen. Estes refused, as she was already an established patient. An argument ensued. Nothing came of it, and there was no personal meaning to the encounter. It was simply a scene that played out first in a dream, then more or less verbatim in waking life.

But consider — If the distance between the dream and its occurrence had been a year instead of a day, would Estes have remembered the dream and made the connection? Probably not.

I’ve seen these minor precognitive dreams offered as an explanation for Déjà vu:

Déjà vu — The strange feeling that in some way you have already experienced what is happening now. — Cambridge Dictionary

We all dream five to seven dreams every night, 365 nights a year. We forget almost all of them. Over the course of a lifetime, we likely have thousands of precognitive dreams regarding life’s minutia that never reach our consciousness awareness, or if they do, are quickly forgotten. Years later, when they play out in waking life, we’re struck by the scene’s familiarity. We think, “I’ve been here before…” “I know that couple…” “I’ve had this exact conversation…”

And we have. In a dream.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us:

Dreams seem to take their material from the past in our lives, from the present, in our current life, and also from the future, almost as if the dreammaker has no time-space relationship that is shared with our mundane reality, but rather can travel in any direction, past, present, or future.

The main takeaway here is that precognitive dreams are real. Don’t let the skepticism of others convince you to ignore your own.

There’s even been some recent neuroscience in support of precognitive dreaming:

Visitation Dreams


My grandmother spent the last years of her life bedridden in my mother’s home. My mom cared for her to the end. I was in my late twenties, living in another state, and single-mindedly focused on my own life. I loved my grandmother, but I’d be lying if I said I thought about her much during those years. I certainly was not thinking about her the night that she died.

That night, I was alone in my apartment, fast-asleep in my bed. I was awakened by the sensation of weight pressing the end of the mattress. I opened my eyes, and there was my grandmother, sitting on the end of the bed, watching me. A tremendous wave of peace and comfort washed over me. On her way to the afterlife, she’d stopped by to assure me that death was not final, and need not be feared. This was communicated within the cascade of feeling. No words were exchanged. Then she faded away and was gone. The next morning, my mother called to say Grandma had died during the night.

Was I visited by my grandmother’s ghost? Or was it “just a dream?”

This leads to an important point about dreams. When people say “just a dream,” they typically mean that the experience in question is unreal, unimportant, and can be casually dismissed.

Jungian psychology holds a different view.

In Beginner’s Guide to Dream Interpretation, Clarissa Pinkola Estes states unequivocally that, yes, this sort of visitation from a dead relative is a dream, even if we dream it sitting up in our beds with our eyes open. But that’s in no way a judgment of the “unreality” of the experience.

She reminds us:

The Holy Scriptures in every religion across the world are filled with visitation dream stories, where so-and-so is wandering and lost and suddenly an angel appeared to them in a dream. Or so-and-so felt skeptical and felt that they were not on the right track, and suddenly an angel appeared to them in a dream and said, “Oh, yes you are.” Or they were wandering in some godforsaken place and they didn’t know which way was out, and suddenly a divine presence appeared to them in a dream and told them which path to take. Historically, those kinds of dreams have been with us forever.

If you are inclined (as I am) to believe that angels and other divine presences can simultaneously be real and appear in dreams, why would you give your grandmother’s departing soul any less credit?

On what reasonable grounds should I reject my grandmother’s gift of peace, comfort and freedom from the fear of death simply because that gift came wrapped in a dream?

One lesson working with dreams will soon teach you is that the term “dream reality” is not an oxymoron.

This kind of simple, brief encounter with a deceased loved-one is by far the most commonly-reported type of visitation dream. Should things get more complicated — say a conversation ensues, or deeper revelations unfold — in Jungian psychology, those elements would be analyzed in the same manner as any “basic” dream.

Next time: Disembodied Voice Dreams

Thanks for reading!