Mark A. Schroll (real name) has a Ph.D. in Psychology, with training in philosophy of science, transpersonal psychology, and ecopsychology. He is currently associated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since receiving his Ph.D. his research has included transpersonal psychology, shamanism, psychedelics, psi phenomena, and ecopsychology. His account, from his childhood, is based on a chapter in his book, Toward A New Green Earth, and is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher. What is especially interesting about his account is the enormous amount of pressure brought to bear on him to invalidate his own experience. This kind of pressure and the negative consequences it has on many people’s psychological development is one of the main reasons I created this TASTE site.
Personal Encounter With Paranormal Dreaming
Mark A. Schroll
In the fall of 1964, my life was transformed dramatically because of a telepathic and/or a precognitive dream. This dream had a profound affect on me, awakening my interest in the interplay between science and religion, which today has coalesced into the field of transpersonal psychology. This dream concerns the need for medical treatment of a female classmate of mine that I was emotionally very close to. I first publicly discussed this dream, as an example of what a genuine transpersonal experience, is on May 16, 1989, with several graduates from the Center for Humanistic Studies in Detroit, Michigan, who were completing their doctoral requirements in clinical psychology at The Union Institute. This account is an excerpt of Chapter 6 of my book Toward A New Green Earth: The Call For An Integral Science, which invites us to explore the limits of EuroAmerican science.
The dream unfolded with my first grade class taking a field trip to the Homestead National Monument, near Beatrice, Nebraska, which comprises several acres of wooded grasslands: as is customary for primary school children of that age, we were paired off as partners. We then began a walking tour of America’s first homestead.
At a certain point in this dream, my female companion began complaining of stomach cramps, saying she could not walk any more. I stopped to let her rest, while the other members of our class began to complain about our lagging behind and encouraged us to keep up. So we started walking again, but eventually the pain forced my friend to collapse. I sat down with her, empathizing as best I could with her agony. Her cramps finally became quite severe and I noticed she had now begun to bleed abdominally. At this point I knew she definitely needed medical assistance. Still none of our classmates seemed to notice what was happening. Instead, they continued to scoff at us for playing such a silly game.
Sometime that next morning I awoke early and recalled the former dream in vivid detail to my parents, imploring them to call my friend’s home because I knew she needed medical attention. My parents responded by telling me that dreams are not real, although they sometimes seem real. I disagreed, saying that this dream was somehow different and that my friend really needed to see a doctor. Continuing to assure me that everything was “OK,” my parents said I should get dressed and go to school. In a final attempt to reassure me, they added: “When you get to school and see your friend, you’ll see that she is OK and realize that this was just a dream and not something real.”
So I got dressed and walked the mile to school, telling my dream to all my classmates whom I saw along the way. After arriving at the school yard, I continued to tell my dream to anyone who would listen. My classmates all laughed at me; repeating my parents response, that “It was just a dream.” Eventually I went to my teachers and told them my dream. They too replied: “Mark, you really have an over-active imagination. We think you have been reading too many weird books. You’ll see it was just a dream and not reality when your friend gets here on the bus.”
I waited for the bus to arrive. On arrival, I waited for my friend to step off the bus. To my dismay she was not on it, nor had the bus driver seen her that morning. Once again I became frantic, saying to my teachers and classmates that something was wrong and that we should call her home to find out what had happened to her. Again my teachers attempted to reassure me, saying: “Now Mark, she just missed the bus. Her mother must be bringing her to school today.” So I waited for her mother’s car to arrive . . . until the school bell rang. The school yard cleared, as another school day was about to begin. Eventually I too left the school yard as the final tardy bell rang. The concern for my friend continued to weight heavily upon my thoughts. Entering my classroom, I continued to make a fuss about calling her home until my teacher finally told me to stop talking about it, as I was disturbing the class. . . . I was restless all morning.
Following our lunch break as our class re-convened, the first thing my teacher announced was that during the night my missing friend had been taken to the hospital for emergency surgery, because of something called an appendicitis attack. This explanation put my mind at rest, having confirmed my conviction that my friend really had been in need of medical attention. In response I said something to the affect that “my dream had been real.” My teacher did not acknowledge my comment, but acted as if she could not hear me. Perhaps she felt that by not answering me, my interest in this dream would become a passing fancy and I would soon forget about it. Much to the contrary, my teacher’s strange silence and reluctance to discuss my dream (and its apparent verification with the announcement that my friend had actually needed to be hospitalized) was, instead, a great source of mystery to me, and too psychologically moving for me to forget.
I had wanted to visit my friend in the hospital, but the law at that time forbid minors to enter unless they were visiting their parents or close relatives. When my friend returned to school, I told her about my dream. At first she was open to discussing it as well as her own near-death experience. During our first conversation she told me that the night her appendicitis took place she was taking swimming lessons under the direction and guidance of her sister. When she began to complain of cramps, her sister (familiar with my friend’s laziness and ability to stretch the truth) believed this was simply a story made up to get out of completing her lessons.
That night at home, following her lesson, my friend again complained to her mother about cramps. Her sister convinced their mother that this story about cramps was simply being repeated as a way to gain sympathy, and to get her older sister in trouble. This explanation also seemed to their mother to be the more convincing story, concluding that my friend’s complaint of cramps was not real, which resulted in her being sent to bed. Fortunately enough for my friend, her father was a medical surgeon and took the time to investigate my friend’s complaint of cramps when he came home from the hospital that evening. Diagnosing his daughter’s condition as an acute appendicitis, my friend was rushed to the hospital, where emergency surgery was performed. Had my friend’s father not been a physician and been able to diagnose her condition in time, she probably would have died that evening from a ruptured appendix.
On completing her story, I felt my dream had been further vindicated. I expressed the concern to my friend that I was very interested in finding out how I had been able to predict her illness in my dream. On my friend’s second day back in school, she was more reluctant to talk to me, having been influenced by her mother, teachers, and peers to ignore my questions. She herself began to doubt my story. By the third day, my friend’s opinion had hardened into full agreement with the consensus view that I was just making up some kind of fantastic story, no doubt to get attention. In fact, from this day on, she absolutely refused to explore the possibility of my heartfelt experience. My friend also refused to further discuss her own close encounter with death, as her mother, teacher, and peers had advised her that she should try and forget her close confrontation with death.
Still curious about my experience and, hoping to learn more about it, I eagerly shared the account of my dream during my Sunday school class. Here again my dream was laughed at by my peers. My teacher responded by saying that “There were some things we were not meant to know,” which provided the introduction to her lesson about the “evils of science and technology.” Following class, my Sunday school teacher suggested I stop reading so many weird science books and start reading the Bible more often.
What continued to puzzle me was I wasn’t reading any “weird science books.” I was reading books about space travel and dinosaurs, but these had nothing to do with the content of my dream. What sort of “weird books” were they talking about? And why, if these books talked about experiences like the one that I had had, were they supposed to be “weird science?” Continuing to reflect on my dream for the next few days, I eventually concluded that I had had some kind of “religious” experience: that I had been called to investigate experiences of this kind and, somehow, explain them. How I reached this conclusion is difficult to truly know, yet something inside me demanded that I give this problem my full attention. Although my ability to formulate any kind of sophisticated hypothesis was limited at this time, I reasoned (using less precise concepts and language) that this experience was religious in the sense of a deeply mystical (what we now refer to as transpersonal) experience, which somehow allowed me to transcend the space-and-time between me and my friend.