Conscious Dreaming and Jared Loughner

Dreams have been great sources of wisdom, inspiration, and discovery throughout human history. Never before have I heard of a case like Loughner’s where lucid dreaming is pointed to as a possible reason for committing mass murder.

A lot of people trying to wrap their minds around the motives of Jared Loughner — the Tucson shooter who murdered six people Saturday at a Safeway and wounded many more — are puzzling over the latest information to emerge: he was a “conscious dreamer.” Before a misunderstanding starts, let’s find out what that means.

I’m writing a book about dream interpretation and am personally familiar with conscious dreaming, which is simply the ability to “wake up” during a dream and continue dreaming while conscious but asleep. In my experience, it’s a rare ability but one that can be developed by just about anyone, to experience at least a few conscious dreams. Also known as lucid dreams because of the lucid awareness of the dreamer, conscious dreaming is something like Neo in the Matrix, with the ability to create reality — or an illusion of it.

Neo
Neo stopping bullets

A friend of Loughner’s said that the shooter became increasingly disconnected with everyday reality as the dreaming world took over his life. Sounds kind of dangerous, right? Like something you wouldn’t want your kids to do. Something that could be isolating, or even forbidden (and indeed, conscious dreaming is forbidden by some fundamentalist sects, under pretense that the source is demonic). In Jared’s case though, he learned the wrong lessons in his dream world.

Instead of gaining greater appreciation for life like most people do after lucid dreaming, Loughner grew to discount it, even to deny the existence or relevance of the material world. The jarring contrast between the real world and his fantasy land where he could create anything he wanted sent him further into his imagination. He learned to fly like Superman, a friend of his reported, and probably did what most people his age would do and created a fantasy sex partner. The experience of sex — like everything in the land of lucid dreaming — is a full sensory experience, in many ways better than the real thing.

Some people react to discovering the ability to lucid dream by experiencing everything they’ve ever wanted, going anywhere they want and doing anything. The creative potential is unlimited. Want to live in your own universe? You can. But just know that living in this universe and having to learn how to get what you want from it can be more difficult the more it is avoided. That is the risk — overindulgence always has a price.

Another approach to lucid dreaming is allowing the dream to take the conscious mind into its world for a guided tour. That requires listening to and learning from everything that emerges. It also requires engagement with life and the world on a higher level while awake.

Dreams have been great sources of wisdom, inspiration, and discovery throughout human history. Never before have I heard of a case like Loughner’s where lucid dreaming is pointed to as a possible reason for committing mass murder.

The Mother Jones article I used as a reference quoted one of his friends as saying the shooter was trying to “wake people up” by being a cog in the machine, a glitch in the Matrix. Again, he failed to learn an essential lesson from lucid dreaming: everyone deserves the right to their own reality, to their own dream. If people want to be sheep, let them be sheep. If they want to sleepwalk through life unaware of the deeper layers, of the hypocrisies and abuses and contradictions, so be it. In the Matrix, the betraying character just wants to rejoin the ignorant masses, where he can eat a steak and be someone important. But to do so he has to betray his comrades and take from them what’s most valuable to everyone: their lives, and that is the worst betrayal.

Life provides the potential to “wake up” and uncover the deeper layers Loughner experienced in his dreams. But it is an individual choice, and often difficult to do. All of reality — this universe — is built from something that when examined closely enough seems to disappear. Many mystics and religious ascetics report the same sort of blurring of the lines between our world and the soil it grows from. And a few great souls have reportedly attained the ability to affect reality in this world much the same as it can be created in a lucid dream.

I suspect that the purpose is to teach us all how to be responsible creators. If one learns to lucid dream and goes about it humbly, deeper meanings are uncovered and more power is given to the dreamer to affect reality in the waking world. However, I know of a few cases where dreamers overindulged and their ability to lucid dream disappeared like a gun locked safely away. In the wrong hands….

Which is exactly what appears to have happened with Jared Loughner.

For more about lucid dreaming, the best book I’ve read on the subject is Conscious Dreamer, by Robert Moss.

Or start with these short Youtube videos:

Mass Murder in Tucson Strikes Close to Home

Everyone with public influence knows to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested.

You can imagine my surprise when checking the news Saturday and seeing that mass murder had been committed in front of a place where I get my hair cut. Next to the Safeway at Ina and Oracle in Tucson is a Great Clips — been there three times, last time about a year ago. I can describe the interior of the Safeway from memory.

It’s now a graveyard.

A friend’s mother drove past that Safeway just before the shooting. She was going to drop in to buy something, but decided at the last moment to go home instead. She’s curious about politics, and might have been among the crowd when the shooting started.

To come so close to tragedy is a disconcerting feeling.

Having watched this story with particular interest, I have something to say about the debate that’s ensued regarding poisonous political rhetoric. Various pundits are trying to poo-poo this tragedy and deny that it’s connected to calls for actions against politicians like Gabby Giffords. Technically, they might be right: The shooter was obviously a disturbed young man who might have never seen Sarah Palin’s Hit List, and hey, crosshairs are a common symbol, sometimes used in politics. Did Palin actually say she wanted someone to go kill Gabby and five other people?

She didn’t have to.

Palin left those crosshairs on her Facebook page until the moment people started dying. That tells us everything we need to know about her intent. Her “condolences” to the families of the people killed and injured sounded to me like a Twitter message. To Sarah, collateral damage is just another bump in the road to the White House.

(Can we now officially rule her out as a viable presidential candidate? Good leaders don’t make irresponsible statements then try to hide from them. With Alaska’s former half-term governor, the buck stops somewhere far away.)

Palin’s Hit List was irresponsible, to say the least. But it’s disingenuous to ask for a direct cause and effect between violent rhetoric like hers and violent actions that ensue. Responsible leaders with public influence know to be extra careful with what they say and how they say it. They know to be mindful that some members of the public are armed and crazy, or are suggestible, even delusional, and could react to statements like Palin’s by carrying out her wishes — whether spoken or suggested. All it takes is a young man with an Oedipal fixation on her for a tragedy to happen like the Safeway shootings in Tucson.

Book Cover
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Pretending otherwise is just pure ignorance to human nature, and a poor excuse after the fact. To the many bloggers and pundits decrying the usage of this opportunity to talk about the connection between violent language and violent actions, I say grow the fuck up. Six people are dead, including a judge and a schoolgirl born on 9-11-2001, and some people have the nerve to complain when fingers start pointing? When the public demands answers and the easiest to find are on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and tea party Republican websites?

When an anti-abortion fanatic killed Dr. George Tiller in a church, right-wing pundits played the same game of covering over the fact that Tiller had been on Bill O’Reilly’s Hit List, mentioned on 29 episodes, often as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

It’s not enough for an O’Reilly or a Palin to explain after the fact that they didn’t actually want someone killed. The coy game of inciting the public then dodging the consequences ends with mass murder. No more excuses.