Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

The Spacetime of Dreams

Christopher White

Vassar College

March 5, 2018, 5:30pm-7:00pm
Common Room, Center for the Study of World Religions, 42 Francis Ave.

Abstract

This talk examines the higher-dimensional time theories of the British aviator and writer John Dunne, whose widely-read Experiment with Time (1927) offered anecdotal evidence that dreams and other visionary experiences allowed people to perceive events from the future. Dunne had several dramatic precognitive dreams and these dreams, together with ideas cobbled together from Einstein and other scientists, enabled Dunne to develop a theory of time in which human consciousness contained multiple “observers” that perceived reality from different dimensions. Dunne’s view that human beings transcended time and space in dreams reverberated throughout popular culture in Europe and America, inspiring writers seeking ways of transcending the terrors of the world wars or triumphing over suffering and death, including H.G. Wells, the British broadcaster and novelist J.B. Priestley, and Christian writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Developing these notions in sermons, articles and fictional works, these thinkers used dreams and higher-dimensional theories to argue that human consciousness was more powerful and free than most people suspected.  

About the speaker

Christopher White received his MTS from Harvard Divinity School and his Ph.D. from Harvard’s Committee on the Study of Religion. He studies religion and science, modern spirituality, unchurched religion, media and U.S. popular culture. His first book, Unsettled Minds: Psychology and the American Search for Spiritual Assurance (University of California Press) examined how modern Europeans and Americans used psychological and medical insights to fashion new, more scientific ways of testing, analyzing and sometimes even fostering religious trances, visions and experiences.  His second book, Other Worlds: Spirituality and the Search for Invisible Dimensions(Harvard University Press, 2018), examines the cultural and religious history of the idea that the universe has hidden dimensions, spaces and worlds.