Sleeping With Specters 

Kevin Kovelant believes that the dead visit us when we're asleep.

A 16th-century Chinese dream-interpretation manual, Chen Shiyuan's Wandering Spirits, includes the exhortation: "Any dream interpreter who doesn't acknowledge the possibility of ghosts has no business interpreting dreams." Key battles in ancient Chinese history were waged based on information allegedly imparted to the living in dreams by the dead. Medieval Sufi philosophers, too, wrote extensively about "visitation dreams"; in his book The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife, Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali wrote that sleep "signifies the quieting of the senses so that they convey nothing to the heart," which "allows the veil" between the living and the dead "to be raised up."

In 1925, a North Carolina man awoke from a dream in which his late father — looking very much alive — instructed him to "find my will in my overcoat pocket." Checking the pocket, the dreamer discovered a note leading him to a certain chapter in the family Bible. Between two pages in that chapter, the will was cached, according to 1927's Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.

Such dreams have peppered world literature for thousands of years, notes consciousness researcher Kevin Kovelant, who teaches at John F. Kennedy University and will discuss visitation dreams at the Fremont Main Library (2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont) on Saturday, October 31.

"Lucretius devoted an entire paragraph of On the Nature of Things to dreams of the dead," Kovelant says. "And even though his point was that these dreams were nonsense, clearly it was such a popular topic in ancient Rome that he felt it was worth mentioning."

Some psychologists say that dreams of the dead are merely the mind's way of grappling with grief and guilt: of seeking reassurance and striving for final good-byes. But having studied the history of visitation dreams and written extensively about them, Kovelant believes that many if not most are actual encounters with departed spirits.

"The potential exists. I can't say with 100 percent certainty how it works." He suspects that quantum physics plays a role, "but if we're going to be scientific about this, your guess is as good as mine."

A few years ago, his late grandfather appeared to him in a dream. "He died when I was eight, and one of my big regrets was never really having gotten to know him. It was actually a very long dream. We went and saw a Bruce Lee movie. It was — well, like spending the day with my grandfather. When we were saying good-bye, he said, 'Kevin, if you want to know more about me, read my letters.' At the time, I didn't have any of his letters." But when Kovelant's grandmother died soon afterwards, he found among her possessions "a three-inch stack of letters that he had written to her during World War II." From these, he learned a lot — just as he'd been promised in the dream. 1:30 p.m., free. ACLibrary.org

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