July 13, 2013
In the course of my research on the unexplained human abilities, more than 150 people have told me about an experience that I had never before seen discussed. To their surprise, they thought about a friend or acquaintance for no particular reason, and then shortly afterward met that person.
No one thinks it strange if he meets someone he was expecting to meet, or someone he encounters frequently. It is with unexpected meetings that the phenomenon is so striking. For example, Andreas Thomopoulos, a film director from Athens, was visiting Paris with his wife.
“Walking through the streets, we thought of a close student friend of mine in London. We wondered how he was nowadays since I hadn’t seen him for over twenty years. Shortly after, on going around a corner, we bumped straight into him!”
Mary Flanagan, of Hoboken, New Jersey, had a similar experience:
“Walking down the street, I was thinking of someone I had not seen or spoken to for three years and who lives in a different city. I met her on the street about ten minutes after I started thinking about her.”
Anticipations of meetings even seem to occur with vehicles, rather than specific people. David Campbell had a job during the school holidays working on a construction project in County Durham, in the north of England.
“We traveled to the site in the company’s van, and for no good reason I memorized the registration number of the van, I can still remember it. Anyway, the job finished and I went back to school. A couple of years later I was out with the local cycling club one Sunday morning when for some inexplicable reason I started thinking about this builder’s van and its number plate. About half a minute later the van passed me going in the opposite direction!”
Some people also anticipate encounters with animals. Some hunters and wildlife photographers seem to anticipate meetings with animals they are trying to hunt or to photograph.
Some anglers have had similar experiences. Paul Hicks, for example, used to be an avid angler and would sometimes camp out by the water’s edge for days on end.
“There were instances I knew for a fact that within a minute or two I was going to catch a fish. It was uncanny when that happened. It wasn’t just because the weather was good, or the time of day was right or whatever, it was just a knowledge that something was going to happen.”
Are all these cases just coincidence and selective memory? Perhaps. But perhaps there is more to them, and only further research will be able to settle this question. For a start, people who have such anticipations quite frequently could make a note of them, and then see how many were followed by actual meetings. A statistical analysis should be able to reveal whether their anticipations could in fact be explained by the coincidence hypothesis.
There is a superficial similarity between anticipating meetings and anticipating telephone calls. But in fact the two situations are very different. In the case of telephone calls, one person thinks about the other and forms an intention to call. This intention is directed toward the other person, creating appropriate conditions for telepathy.
By contrast, in the case of unexpected meetings, the person thought about is not usually intending to meet the other person, or thinking about him or her. The anticipation of meetings therefore seems more precognitive than telepathic.
In addition, the anticipation of phone calls usually happens with people to whom a person is closely bonded, favoring the telepathic explanation. By contrast, the anticipation of meetings happens with mere acquaintances, or even with vehicles, or with wild animals.
If you have had an experience like these, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
I discuss these and other unexplained human abilities in the new edition of my book The Sense of Being Stared At: And Other Unexplained Powers of Human Minds, which has just been published in the US.
Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and 10 books, including Science Set Free, called The Science Delusion in the UK. His website sheldrake.org has links to many articles, audio and video recordings.
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