Lincoln's Death Dream

  Lincoln's Death Dream  April 15
Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago today.
Larry Dossey, prominent physician, best-selling author, and lecturer in places like the Mayo Clinic and Harvard, has written several books about the power of consciousness. I quote him in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, where I argue that Jesus’ miracles really happened.

Dossey tells the story of Lincoln’s death dream, which is well-known, but I had not read the entire account as told by Lincoln’s law partner.
The rest of this post is from Larry Dossey’s Be Careful What You Pray For…: You Just Might Get It.

One of the most celebrated examples of the precognition of death took place in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Shortly after he was nominated for the presidency, Lincoln began having frightening dreams in which he saw himself dead. He revealed them to his wife and his most intimate friends. Ward Lamon, his former law partner who subsequently served as marshal of the District of Columbia during Lincoln’s administration, wrote an account of these death dreams in his biography of Lincoln.
[T]he most startling incident in the life of Mr. Lincoln was a dream he had only a few days before his assassination. To him it was a thing of deadly import, and certainly no vision was ever fashioned more exactly like a dread reality. . . . After worrying over it for some days, Mr. Lincoln seemed no longer able to keep the secret.

“About ten days ago,” said he, “I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping.

“I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts were about to break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of this?

“Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully.”

‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers.
‘The president,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’
“Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”
‘That is horrid!’ said Mrs. Lincoln. ‘I wish you had not told it. I am glad I don’t believe in dreams, or I should be in terror from this time forth.’
‘Well,’ responded Mr. Lincoln thoughtfully, ‘it is only a dream, Mary.”

Lincoln's Death Dream  2,  April 23
Lincoln’s dream illustrates the finger of God in daily life. For those who don’t believe in God, I’ll put it in different terms. Lincoln’s dream illustrates the existence of an Inner Realm. And the way Lincoln’s dream story happened to become my post last week illustrates guidance from the Inner Realm.

On Wednesday, April 15, I wrote another post and then something urged me to transcribe Dossey’s account of Lincoln’s dream in preparation for a subsequent post. I took a lunch break, turned on MPR, and heard that it was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. Immediately I became grateful for the “something” that urged me to write what became the post for April 15.
Such nudges from the INNER happen frequently but most in our culture fail to notice or insist it’s just coincidence. That’s a shame because such assurances from what we call “God” can sweeten life and in tough times make life bearable.

While I was writing this, the phone rang—a friend who has a house nearby but spends more time in Minneapolis where work takes her. I told her what I was working on and immediately she said, “synchronicity,” and gave an example of her own.

She had to drive to St. Cloud to pick up a folder and, as long as she was in the area, decided to check out a motor shop. Her front bumper needed replacement; it has rust and a big hole in one end, making it unsightly. The rest of the car looks nice and she can’t afford a new car. She figured a new bumper with labor would cost about $900. The motor shop just happened to have a used bumper on hand that just happened to be the right color for only $300 to $400, half the cost.

HERE you’ll find an explanation of synchronicity and more examples. One happened to a person now discredited, but this does not discredit the inner nudges and strange connections that science cannot explain.

A certain Chris has been commenting on recent posts. Accurately he points out that orthodox Christianity does not make the claims to which I object. This is precisely the reason I still call myself Catholic. I do not object to the “simple devotional” faith he deems “appropriate.” I object to literal interpretations of doctrine, which are not appropriate, especially if imposed on others. Literal interpretations produce intolerance, which produces conflict and in extreme form can produce violence.

Taken literally, the creedal phrase, “ONLY son of God,” demands belief in our religion being the exclusive, privileged avenue to God, the one true religion. Theologians in the past went on about “the scandal of particularity” and Chris comes up with the interesting term, “ground zero of Divine descent.” He believes in it; I don’t. I do not believe that divinity in the universe is limited to one man. I believe that Jesus was a spiritual master or spiritual genius who happens to be the inspiration of our tradition.

I invite Chris and others to read God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky and poke around in my blog index to learn what I really say about divinity in Jesus of Nazareth.

 April 10, Beyond science & religion
At a time when church attendance is down, Bible movies and Bible TV programs attract American viewers. Why the interest?  I think because questioning of religious creeds and institutional religion is growing. Instead of going to church, Christians examine the stories they were raised to believe. What about the claim that Jesus is God? And what about God, now sometimes written, “god” or “gawd”?

I’ll briefly state my beliefs for readers unfamiliar with my views. Spirituality guides my days and I cherish the religion of my childhood, but I reject literal interpretations of religious teachings. I don’t believe that what we call “God” is a humanlike individual or set of 3 individuals.
I like what my neighbor said when we were talking about the various religions, each claiming to have The Truth. He said, “They’re all right.” Yes. And atheism is right in rejecting a god or limiting Divinity to a particular image of divinity. Atheism is not right in denying the existence of spiritual reality.

This is how I state my beliefs at this time. I would have put different words to a statement in the past but, . . . As I reflected on this just now, I expected my beliefs to have changed over the years, but they have not substantially changed, only become clarified, and I have become bolder in expressing them. You, dear readers and listeners, have helped me by interacting with my writings.

When I was trying to deny spiritual reality by being a good atheist, I noticed something comical about myself. I’d be reading, say, a newspaper, perusing headlines and deciding what stories would be worth reading. If I saw the word “Catholic” or “Christian” or “religion,” my eyes instantly became riveted to that story, and my interest would be intense.

We live in a time of religious ferment. Frequently I happen into conversations with people who have moved away from childhood beliefs—questioners and scoffers at religion. The latter don’t interest me much. Thoughtful people take religion seriously and know that religious violence and corruption do not touch the most fascinating aspect of religion—its role as mediator between the visible and invisible worlds. This draws us whether or not we accept a creed.

If not traditional, institutional religion, what? Among my friends and acquaintances, “what” takes expression in love of nature and environmental activism, appreciating and making art, writing poetry, volunteering for social organizations, or church shopping, that is, looking for a spiritual community that suits them. I can suggest Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, even though I left it as an active member. Today we are free to find our niche.

My passionate interest is grabbed by reading and discussing. I love seeing evidence of spiritual power independent of religion, showing the presence of invisible forces. I love hearing stories ordinary people have and I love reading them.
Larry Dossey, a medical internist in Dallas and bestselling author, writes captivating accounts coming out of his medical experience and research. He cites examples collected by a neurologist, Berthold Schwarz:
A man and his wife were attending a football game in Berkeley, California. He got up suddenly in the middle of the game and said they had to return home at once because their son had been hurt. When they arrived home, they discovered the boy had shot a BB into his thumb, which required emergency surgery.

A woman suddenly doubled over, clutching her chest in pain and said, “Something has happened to Nell, she has been hurt.” Two hours later she learned Nell had been in a car accident and had died on the way to the hospital.

A mother was writing a letter to her daughter in college. Suddenly her right hand started to burn so severely she could not hold the pen. She received a call from the college telling her that her daughter’s right hand had been severely burned in a laboratory accident at the same time her mother had felt the burn.
Schwarz collected 300 such stories.
My mother exhibited similar psychic sensitivity. When an older sister of mine was working in Mexico for VISTA, a Catholic aid program, she contracted Hepatitis B. Before we learned of it, Mother experienced pains resembling the symptoms of Hepatitis B. I remember the incident for its mysterious quality—Mother was mystified by the pains.

Another older sister, Verna, had a brain tumor when Mother was in a nursing home, sunk in dementia. Mother was disturbing Koronis Manor with her determination to leave the place and rescue her baby. They tied her to a chair and she dragged the chair across the room, frantic with worry about her baby. Around that time, Verna was diagnosed as having a non-malignant brain tumor. During surgery to remove the tumor, she had a devastating stroke that left her severely incapacitated. The connection between Mother’s concern and Verna’s stroke seems obvious.

Eagerly I devour literature showing spiritual connections unexplained by either religion or science. The world calls them “paranormal.” They boost my kind of spirituality—generic, secular, atheist spirituality. I’ll keep writing about this, about powers of our consciousness often beyond our knowledge or control.

Thank you to the reader who said that when he reads my stuff he enters into (unspoken) dialogue with me and with himself. I induce him to become introspective.  GREAT!  That’s exactly what I want to do.

* For more stories, click on topics in my blog index under PARANORMAL.
* Larry Dossey’s article was in a Unity magazine article, not available online.


Chris said…
Hi Jeanette,

As I have stated in previous posts, I think your efforts to move beyond a parochial and anthromorphic religiosity is to be applauded. Indeed, God is not a "man" in the "sky" nor is He "three guys". But here is the rub- orthodox traditional Christianity does.not make that claim and it never has. Your criticism of Catholicism is like someone objecting to evolution because they reject the notion that a monkey cannot give birth to a human child. You're basically attacking caricatures.

Having studied theology yourself, why do you speak as if Catholicism has nothing to say about positive and negative theology. You are always talking about the "limitation" of such and such a God concept, not realizing, of course, that you yourself are engaged in the very SAME enterprise. By denying "limitations" you have, in effect, erected another limitation. It's like saying that there is no Truth. If that's true, then it is false! Apophasis and cataphasis depend upon one another- going too far in either direction is the problem, not the one or the other.

The fact that many religious people practice a simple
and devotional faith is not really objectionable, in fact, it is completely appropriate. I, like you, have an intellectual slant, but that should make us MORE wary of spiritual pride and help us recognize that affirmative language about God is central to devotional forms of spirituality.

As far as exclusivity of Truth is concerned, again, I share your concerns. There is something strange about the idea of one true religion. It strains our modern egalitarian sensibilities and brings out the scandal of particularity in stark relief. Nevertheless, the possible fact of one true religion is not logically problematic and could easily be interpreted as a kind of "ground zero" of Divine descent.

As a Catholic, I really think it would be profitable for you to re-examine the Fathers and to remind yourself that even ancient Christians interpreted scripture on different levels- the literal being only one "rung". Question- do you reject the divinity of Christ because of His claimed uniqueness, or do you reject the notion of a human person being Divine as such?

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