NABOKV-L post 0005980, Wed, 23 May 2001 09:46:10 -0700

Subject
[Fwd: J. W. Dunne]
Date
Body
------------------
Dear list,


does anyone happens to know more about J. W. Dunne, author of "An
Experiment
with Time", which had strongly influenced Nabokov and Borges alike?
First
published in 1927, this book about dream precognition and a new
understanding of time was widely discussed, then, but seems to be almost
forgotten now, due perhaps to the fact that Dunne, as it appears from
the
book, was an outsider and never hold an official university-chair as a
philosopher. One knew, by reading Borges and Nabokov, that Dunne had a
strong point on precognitive dreams. But only after reading his book,
which
is worth to be rediscovered, one remarks that in fact dreams are not
everything. Beginning with an empirical and more or less story-telling
part
about future-anticipating dreams and the technique to catch them, the
author, in a second step, develops in purely logical operations, and
with
many complicated diagrams, a new theory about the infinite regress of
observers related to russian-doll-like levels of multi-dimensioned Time.
At
the end of those logical explanations, he does not less than stating
immortality - as having been proved by his double, empirical and
logical,
approach. He writes (on page 183 of the 1973 edition by Faber and
Faber):
"We must live before we can attain to either intelligence or control at
all.
We must sleep if we are not to find ourselves, at death, helplessly
strange
to the new conditions. And we must die before we can hope to advance to
a
broader understanding."

It goes without saying that all this is intimately close to Nabokov's
private metaphysics. Dunne's influence seems to be undervalued. Funnily
enough, you even read in his book that the dream-observing business
risked
to lead to insomnia. As we know by Boyds "American Years", Nabokov hold
such
a dream-diary, as described by Dunne, to watch for future-anticipating
ones.

Does anyone know more about the life of Dunne and his work as considered
by
professional philosophers?


Thanks for listening,
Michael Maar
----------------------------------
EDITOR'S COMMENT
I have read Dunne's _Experiment with Time_ but not very carefully. I
did not know about the Borges tie-in. Dmitri Nabokov has read excerpts
from VN's dream diary of the late sixties and mentioned the possibility
of an edited published edition. I recall that Dunne published a second
book. I don't know anything about Dunne himself. This is a subject worth
looking into.