The Crystal Ball by John Williams Waterhouse, 1902.
My wife Christine and I were driving along I-205 near Portland yesterday afternoon and I was muttering about psychics’s visions of the future, saying it seems most want it both ways ~ they say they see the future and in the next breath say we can change it.
So which is it, I wondered, a fixed future or a changeable one? If it is subject to change, then how can it be perceived with any certainty?
Then, last night, my email inbox contained Dr. Joseph Mercola’s daily newsletter, with an interview he recently conducted with Dr. Larry Dossey about his latest book, The Power of Premonition: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives.
Larry Dossey is a former chief of staff at Medical City Dallas Hospital and has lectured in medical schools and hospitals throughout the U.S. and abroad. He is author of the best-selling Healing Words, and The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine.
Lo and behold, one of the questions Dr. Mercola asked Dr. Dossey was:
If I can see the future, doesn’t that mean it is already in place and is fixed? Don’t premonitions do away with free will and freedom of choice?
And here is Larry Dossey’s answer:
No. Just because you glimpse how the future is likely to unfold does not mean you can’t act to change it. When Amanda (from an earlier question) dreamed that the chandelier fell and crushed her sleeping infant, she removed the baby from the crib. The chandelier did fall, but the baby’s life was saved. She exercised her freedom of choice, and it made a life-and-death difference. There are thousands of similar examples.
Philosophers often argue against premonitions because they say premonitions destroy freedom of choice. But people who have premonitions usually don’t see it that way. Like Amanda, their personal experiences with premonitions say they do have a choice.
They can act, and they do, to change the future they’ve glimpsed.I agree with the idea that the future is probable, not fixed. According to this view, the future is fluid and subject to change. So a premonition is not inevitable.
Probability varies, of course. This means that some futures may be easier to change than others. It was easier for Amanda to act on her premonition and remove her baby from danger than for an individual to prevent an earthquake she dreamed about. Some futures may be so probable they will happen; others, perhaps most, are malleable.
This line of reasoning is what many people believe has averted prophesied earth changes and similar apocalyptic visions of some soothsayers. The visions are experienced, then publicized, causing many people to pray they won't occur, and so they are averted.
If that's the case, it's good enough for me.