Dream Gates

Dream Gates


Dreaming without conscience: Raskolnikov comes to Tucson

posted by Robert Moss

crime & punishment.JPGWe have precious few clues to just what was going on in the disturbed mind of the young man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrelle Giffords and killed several others in a horrific crime in Tucson on Sunday. While we pray for Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery, I want to respond to news reports that the killer boasted of being a “conscience dreamer” and that he was going to show the world what this means. He apparently posted this self-description in a MySpace profile where he also declared that “conscience dreams were a great study in college” and that his favorite reading included both Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto.

It’s been suggested that by “conscience dreaming” he was trying to say “conscious dreaming”, and one of his classmates has told reporters that he was obessed with trying to “control” and “manipulate” dreams.

I don’t know whether this young man ever came upon a copy of Conscious Dreaming, but if he did he could not have comprehended a single word. In that book, as in all my work, I explain why it is crazy to seek to control and manipulate dreams. Our dreams are often a corrective to the delusions of the ego, and give us perspective that we desperately need, so we need to listen to them carefully and seek feedback from others, in a careful and respectful process of dream sharing, so that we can be helped to see things we may otherwise miss. As I wrote recenty at my website, using the term Active Dreaming that best describes my overall approach::

As a method of conscious dream navigation, Active Dreaming is not to be confused with   approaches that purport to “control” or manipulate dreams; it is utterly misguided to seek to put the control freak in the ego in charge of something immeasurably wiser and deeper than itself.

Clearly, the shooter was not “conscious” in any sense that matters. Nor – to take his own strange phrase – was he a “conscience dreamer”. He appears to be the very opposite: a person driven by delusion and deaf to the voice of conscience as it speaks to us through dreams.

There is a literary model for this kind of psychosis. It was given to us by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, his magnificent study of a young man who becomes a murderer because he will not listen to his dreams..

Before Freud and jung, iIn Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky developed a depth psychology that suggests that becoming fully conscious of what dreams can bring is an antidote to madness and delusion. The central character is the novel is a mentally unstable former student who plans a murder which he justifes by a weird egomaniacal philosophy.

The relevance of the novel to our understanding of the recent tragedy – and perhaps many others – is that if the killer could only hear the voice of his dreams, also the voice of conscience, he would be absolutely unable to commit his crime.While Raskolnikov is planning his crime, he dreams that he is a boy again, on a bridge, weeping and protesting as a brutal driver flogs his mare to death, insisting all the while that he has the right to do what he likes to the animal. Raskolnikov is shaken by the dream, which puts him in sympathy with the victim rather than the abuser. He receives multiple dream warnings, which show him, with ever-sharpening focus, the madness of his waking intentions and the consequences of acting them out. In Dostoyevsky’s vocabulary, the dream as an authentic experience (son) is the corrective to fantasy (mechta), here the product of a diseased imagination. But Raskolnikov spurns his dreams. It is as an unconscious dreamer that he moves, like a sleepwalker, to kill his victim.

After his crime and his confession, as he lies ill in a prison bed, he dreams that the world has fallen victim to a horrible plague caused by a new strain of infectious trichina that are actually spirits with minds of their own. Plague victims become insane, yet believe themselves to be in possession of the ultimate secrets of science and life itself. This is the very image of his own form of mental illness.

It seems that, in Arizona as in Dostoyevsky’s Russia, we are groping to understand what happens when a disordered personality casts adrift not only from daytime rationality but from the wisdom of dreams. Such a personality develops a deranged philosophy that seems to justify murder. As violent wakeful delusions grow stronger, night dreams offer a corrective, holding up a mirror to the brutal insanity of those fantasies. But the madman refuses to look look in that mirror of dreams, and so the terrible evil fantasy is played out. .

We may call this pattern the Raskolnikov Syndrome, and it may be this that came to roost in its black horror in Tucson at the weekend. . 



  • http://www.wandaburch.com Wanda Burch

    In an interesting twist in this strange and horrific tale, other messages left by the shooter were about his mistrust of the current government, stating mind control and brainwashing “on” the people. His description of control was equally peculiar – the control method was grammar. So, although he sought to manipulate his dreams, which, as you say, indicates he veered away from the wisdom of his dreams, he claimed, in his own madness, to despise what he saw as manipulation by others. One wonders if he transferred this strange definition of grammar – or language – into the “grammar” of his dreaming, making it impossible for him to recognize wisdom in any language.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    from Susan M (posted at her request due to log-in problems): I hold the Hope that this will ( with time) give us another opportunity to remember that it is our dear Dreams that bring truth and sanity to a sometimes crazy world. This is an example of our times, that shows ( tragically) how upside down and inside out our world can be right now. Truth is twisted. But we know in our hearts what is good, and that is what we hold onto in trying to understand the horrific.

  • http://www.wandaburch.com Wanda Burch

    As a follow-up, I made an excursion, via the internet, into the latest attempts to fathom the life of the shooter. A blog entry by an EMT noted that “conscience” dreaming had been a term used by shizophrenics as their term for day-dreaming or walking dreaming. Coincidentally, the shooter posted rambling YouTube videos, providing a glimpse of himself as a sleepwalker who is not responsible for any act committed in his sleep state, who hates government, hates illiteracy, and hates manipulation. His descriptions of creating a currency and creating a new grammar [his antidote to illiteracy] by replacing one letter of the alphabet with another make little sense to me but seem, in his own mind, to be related to what he terms “conscience” dreaming, the inspiration, he says, for his political information. “All conscience dreaming at this moment is asleep,” Jared states. “Jared Loughner is conscience dreaming at this moment. Thus, Jared Loughner is asleep.”
    In an attempt to justify his act of terrorism, he devises a convoluted mind ratio game in which he equates acts committed while sleep-walking in that state of non-responsibility as “dreaming with the alarm clock turned off.” He tells his listeners that he is “conscience dreaming” at that moment, and is essentially issuing a warning. In the next sentence he defines himself as asleep. The next sentence stands starkly alone: Terrorist. So, following his peculiar ratio game, he can commit acts of terrorism because he is asleep – a sleep-walker – with his inner voice, his alarm clock turned off.
    I was chilled by the phrase, dreaming with the alarm clock turned off! Conscious dreaming is a gift of self awareness that allows us to connect with the imaginal realm in such a profound and wise way that we are able to find healing, to make good decisions, to check inappropriate behaviour and to be alert to small and large dangers in our waking reality. The alarm clock is on in conscious dreaming and becomes the wise messenger in the light of day that grounds us in wise intercourse with our surroundings.
    Robert’s gift to the world is his work in Active Dreaming. Stories such as the one out of Tucson remind us of the importance of conscious dreaming to re-invigorating a true dreaming culture in tune with Soul.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Wanda – Thanks for your efforts to follow the twisted logic of this deranged imagination, and for your affirmation of our approach to conscious dreaming and conscious living in the cause of healing and community. This stuff about sleepwalking has a chilling historical resonance. Hitler said that he moved through life – to the murder of tens of millions – with “the confidence of a sleepwalker”. Dreaming, as we practice is, is about WAKING UP.

  • Nina

    I am very sorry to hear about this tragedy and I hope for the best for all people involved, especially for all victims and their families and friends. For me it´s very hard to say anything about the young shooter who strayed so far from his own sanity and in his utterly disarranged statements used even some terms connected with dreaming. I agree that he fell a victim to his egomania and it´s obvious that he didn´t have the slightest idea about the conscious dreaming. If he had had, he or someone from his close fellows would have found a healthy and peaceful way to deal with his mental disturbances and anxieties. What he did, it´s without any doubts horrid and brutal and he will suffer from consequences sooner or later. On the other, in such extreme cases of violence I always take to my heart the words of the Buddhist monk who witnessed the young man murdering his victim. His immediate words were: “I´ll pray for you because you´ll have a difficult life.”
    So let´s hope and pray that both, innocent victims and perpetrator, will receive a real healing from their gracious Self.

  • Anne

    I am still stunned by this senseless act of violence. My sincerest condolescences go out to the families – and I pray that the senator recovers.
    The little bit that I did read, including your article Robert, I couldn’t get past his choice of words. As a former mental health worker, I have pretty much concluded that he may be psychotic, perhaps schizophrenic. My experience has been that people with schizoprenia have a hard time distinguishing between waking life and dreams. If he is truly mentally ill and unmedicated, his symptoms of schizophrenia/delusional thinking etc would be so real to him that it would be so hard to reach him, give him a reality check.

  • Carol Davis

    What this murderer did has nothing to do with conscious dreaming, conscience, civilized community. His opinions are invalid rantings. His actions have brought destruction. I hope that those of us who care about healing and life can carry and create dreams of life and love for the benefit of all.

  • Jeni Hogenson

    Thanks Robert and Wanda for that look into Jared’s world. So sad. My first thought is, “What a waste”. A waste in terms of the lives of fellow human beings, a waste of a young man who is tragically misguided by life and circumstance. But in so many ways these kinds of events aren’t a waste, they do prove to wake us up to the greater story of our nation and our collective conscience at this time. Of course that brings us back around to ‘consciousness’ – assuming many have woken up in some sense to this this appalling dream theme in our collective lives..what can we ‘do’ about it? To be ‘conscious’ is to be aware. i like this ‘archaic’ definition; “knowledge or awareness of an inward state or outward fact”. In my mind ‘both’ are necessary to be functional human beings. What I enjoy about ‘Conscious Dreaming’ and all that I continue to learn about it is that it requires being awake to more than inward states and outward facts, it asks me to take a broader, deeper look at my waking dream of life via the story that I tell myself about it AND it also gives me the authentic viewpoint of my dream self that’s tapped into the larger stories in the world and within all of us. I sometimes find them elusive, but at this point, it’s the intention to look for them and to expect to find them in my life that keep me alert to the river of collective mind or consciousness that flows underneath sad stories like this one.

  • Your Name

    Hmm. maybe you can help me understand where a young person is supposed to get help in this culture for their delusional, schizophrenic ways? I have worked with young people for more than 20 yrs. and the only solution from the mental health professionals thus far is to medicate. An immense lack of creativity! Once the young ones have the medication in their system there is no hope for me to reach them. In some of the indigenous cultures of West Africa, the psychotic/schizophrenic are seen as the ones who are on the brink of a transformative shamanic/healer initiation. The only problem is that no one of this colonized mind set has the capacity to hold such a one without seeing him/her as being “nuts” They are in DESPERATE need of a mentor! Personally, because I have studied with the shaman folk of West Africa, I see them as healers and I tell them so. It is amazing how quickly they become interested and once again, “functional.” I have no chance whatsoever when they are medicated. They are vacant, alone and marginalized beyond retrieval. What intrigued me about the description of this young man was that he was a “loner”. Yep, no one could potentially accept him, or embrace him, or know him fully. Don’t get me wrong, what happened here was horrendous! I wept when I saw the faces and names of the victims and I was angry. My anger mostly consisted of an acknowledgement of how I saw the lost earth plane potential of all these beautiful people who lost their lives in such a shocking, horrific way and also this young man’s potential ruined or unacknowledged or met in any meaningful way, and so he saw the act of violence as the most tasty form of connection, however twisted it may seem.

  • Savannah

    Thank you for drawing the line between dream and delusion… hard to give credibility to the deluded ramblings of someone deeply lost, and perhaps impaired by mental illness. I find Hitler’s phrase, “the confidence of a sleepwalker,” particularly telling, and chilling. My hope would be that beyond condemning actions clearly only worthy of condemnation the conscious community might eventually come to a better understanding of the conditions and kinds of soul loss that would allow someone to switch off the alarms of higher awareness and conscience in the first place, including those that go off in dreams. Maybe there are no clear answers, and I also do wonder if and when comes the point of no return when someone loses touch with their own humanity and that of others, which would be a sad thought indeed.

  • Yiskah

    This situation is so deeply troubling– for the loss of life, the acts of horrendous violence, the loss of self.
    To me, “Conscious Dreaming” is a spiritual path. It is about seeking guidance from the dream time- from my higher self. It is about writing down my dreams, and writing from my dreams. “Conscious Dreaming” is all about honoring the dream- its messages, its delivery.
    “Conscious Dreaming” is meaning-making and story-telling and appreciation of the great gift of our lives.
    Clearly this man was far from a “conscious dreamer”.

  • Mike B

    There can be little doubt our culture needs to have more and varied ways to help the mentally ill. The psychotic expression of “conscience dreaming” is in direct opposition to what I know as conscious dreaming as practiced within Active Dreaming. Active dreaming practices enhance our understanding of our place in culture. Active dreaming asks us to live our life in a more conscious manner to the benefit of all. What a different outcome it might had been if our culture was a dreaming culture along the lines suggested by Active Dreaming and others had made time to hear this man’s dreams, identify his condition, and had taken action to get him the help he needed. I hope this sad incident can somehow help all to better understand why our culture needs to honor dreaming once again. We need to do so for our own personal health, the health of our society and ultimately for the health of the larger world too.

  • Mogenns Gilmour

    Many young people/adults have lost connection to community and to family and little is done to help reunify them. As a conscious dreamer myself, I have spent many a dream night effectively re-knitting my past lost selves with the present self so as to heal the multiple personalities that like to take over. Conscious dreaming has one main goal and that is wholeness, unification and expression of the true self. If a soul is so fractured that it can’t make sense of fantasy vs. reality vs. dream time then the person can be a danger to themselves and others. As a society we have yet to develop the skill set to diagnose and heal soul loss effectively. My own intuition says that this young man was so deprived of his own soul that he had to take/steal those of others to help him awaken from his delusions. Soul loss is probably our widest most prolific disease/plague we have at this time in our world history. It’s probably why we are such a violent race and conscious, active, primal and joyful dreaming is and always will be the fast track to wholeness.

  • Robyn Johnson

    Such an interesting use of the word “conscience” here. Indeed, if the young man had actually been engaged in either conscience or conscious dreaming, he could have received the help and guidance his tortured soul so desperately needs. Conscious dreaming is anything but controlled, directed, or manipulated dreaming. Why would we want to put our little egos in control (just look at where THAT has gotten us!) when we can tap into the deepest wisdom, guidance, perspective, and courage that comes from our highest selves, our ancestors, and the gods however we know them. To thwart the seduction of denial and to gain clarity in the face of these hard times I depend on my dreams and my friends to help me see clearly into the mirror of my soul. This is not easy but once the denial is stripped away, it gets easier. My commitment is to face what I need to face and have the courage to participate in my destiny. I depend on my dreams to keep my feet on the ground and my heart in the infinite mystery of life and death, held in love. And to join in community with others who are so committed. To hold the love, to feel the constant flow of love, to see the questions and seek the creative “third way” to the apparent dilemmas of our time. Conscious dreaming develops our conscience–and if conscience isn’t about kindness and love and courage then it’s not conscience.

  • Monique

    What you write here Robert, and the comments that follow inspire me to realize that there is much to be thankful for. There are many of us who have realized the true meaning of being alive at this time, and have taken the initiative to work towards a positive situation. That is why the manifestation of this kind of ‘misguided loss of soul’ plagues us so. With so many enlightening beings among us doing such good work, how could this tragedy happen? It reminds me of John Lennon’s death, and the incomprehensible circumstances that led to that loss. So many of us now understand and have been touched by that “immeasurably wiser and deeper source”. So, let’s stay positive and focus on the ‘task at hand’.

  • http://www.thedreamstudio.org Karen McKean

    Thanks, Robert for the insights into the writings of Dostoyevsky. I really enjoyed reading. I think you have aptly identified and named a true syndrome. It is a shame that dreamwork is being thrust in front of the public eye now in such a negative light due to Jared Loughner’s ignorance, hatred, violence and probably his insanity.
    In our dreamwork and as you teach it, ethics play a strong role. In the dream school we do learn methods of accessing multi dimensional realities through dreams and the powers available in these dimensions of consciousness hold potential to be used in many ways….. perhaps for good or for evil. In an analogous way, a knife in skilled, educated hands, can be used to make fine cuisine but in ignorant and selfish hands has potential to cut and harm…… even to kill. You can pick up a knife by the handle or by the blade with very different results.
    I appreciate the careful, skillful and respectful principles you have promoted for doing real ‘Conscious Dreaming’. For me there are three major reasons of importance that I chose to practice Active Dreaming. The first is the cultivation of awareness for the ethical purpose of doing dreamwork. We always focus on a useful and helpful intention for dreaming. It is so important to determine to what ends the dreamwork will be directed and to listen and be open to what the dream brings. The second element I have particularly appreciated is the instruction (and promise) to ‘above all do no harm’ through the practice of dreamwork. The third element of guidance offered is to honor the sacred identity and sovereignty of each individual person…..in dreamwork and in life. This reminds me somewhat of the non-interference doctrine from Star Trek. In Active Dreaming we are advised that the meaning of each person’s dreams (and lives) is to be determined by the dreamer. We are constrained from dictating to others what their dreams mean or what their lives mean.
    I think these practices of positive intention, harmlessness and non-interference create a space that invites the soul with all of its beneficent, healing attributes to move right into a person’s life and psyche. I can imagine how history in Nazi Germany could have been changed through the public application of even one of these ideas: that it is not wise to allow others to unduly determine your thoughts and beliefs. It is sad to realize that German citizens in that time had been taught and therefore sincerely believed that they were doing good, creating utopia by following the party line. How many of the sleep walking, sheep-like followers of the Third Reich might have gained the ability to see more clearly what they were supporting?
    Whatever Jared Loughner’s sick mind was thinking, it had nothing to do with ‘Conscious Dreaming’ as we know it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Karen – thanks for your eloquent explanation of our approach to conscious dreaming and conscious living in our wonderful community of active dreamers, and for your affirmation of how our practice supports healing for both communities and individuals.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Monique – You are right. In the wake of terror, in the midst of despair, our human calling is to affirm life and walk in the paths of light and creation.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Robyn – thank your for your rousing commitment to use dreams to “keep your feet on the ground and your heart in the infinite mystery”, and to join in community with others who are committed to using these amazing tools for conscious living, peace and healing.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Mogenns – You are entirely correct. Soul loss is the source of so much harm that people do to themselves and others. When people lose a part of their vital energy and identity (through trauma or addiction, for example), other things tend to come in that can make them instruments of evil. We need the shaman’s understanding of soul loss and the necessary treatment, which may include both soul retrieval and spiritual cleansing.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    To Mike, Anne, and the anonymous student of West African “shaman folk” – Yes, our culture needs to expand its therapeutic approach to those diagnosed as mentally ill. There are case in which there is no alternative to medication, at least as short-term treatment, because the individual is physically dangerous to himself and others. More generally, we need to grasp what shamanic practice has to offer in the cause of mending a broken self and bringing the authentic soul parts back together. We also need therapists who are dreamers and have the courage and the skill to go into the dark forests of a crazed imagination and seek a way to bring that troubled person out into a clear space.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Yiskah, Savannah, Jeni and Carol – Thanks so much for your comments, and the depth of experience and compassion from which you speak.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Nina – thanks for your comment, and your prayer.

  • Tamara Murray

    I was intrigued by Dostoyevsky’s description of “a new strain of infectious trichina that are actually spirits with minds of their own”.
    I wonder if this is a literary precursor to the current theory of “memes”. “A postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.” Raskolnikov suffers from an interior “disconnect” but perhaps he also suffers from an illness that is a cultural transmission.
    Is terrorism a meme that flourishes in minds governed by cultural and personal patterning that is disconnected from their own deep sources of knowing and being?

  • JaneE

    This confused, tragically ill soul didn’t realize he was in search of a conscience. By using the term “conscience dreaming” he articulated a classic Freudian slip, revealing a search for help his unconscious was crying out for, for guidance and healing, for a conscience. I pray for the victims and their families.
    “Conscience dreaming” is a dangerously delusional term for something that doesn’t exist. Conscious dreaming, on the other hand, does exist and it is about having the courage and conviction to properly become conscious of, trust in and actualize the true deep wisdom and guidance found within us. It’s about finding assistance through dreams and the imagination to discern and live your best life and your highest potential, in connection with and to serve the greater good of all people. It is about finding compassion, strength, and wisdom so the connections to one’s community and to one’s self are strong enough to sustain one in hard times as well as easy times. It is about empowerment, finding answers and being inspired. It is ultimately about love, of self and others.
    My own life has been informed and clarified, healed and energized by learning about and practicing Robert’s Active Dreaming techniques. Conscious dreaming has made all the difference for me, leading to healed relationships, personal wholeness, healed trauma, physical vitality, and excitement and inspiration at just being alive and more awake than I was before.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Tamara – That is a very interesting idea, and you may well be right. Scary to think that memes are as infectious as plague bacilli, and moving at fantastic speed in a “wired” society where many are disconnected from nature and spirit.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    JaneE – Thank you so much for your eloquent statement about the nature and the gifts of Active Dreaming, and thank you for your wonderful work as a dream guide for others, in many parts of the world. You are quite right to tag the delusional killer’s phrasing as a Freudian slip.

  • David Jodrey

    Robert, thank you for your article and for pointing to Dostoyevsky’s novel, which I read decades ago and now feel an urge to read again.
    Back in the 1980s I kept a dream journal for several months and was able to have a very few lucid dreams (I had read LaBerge’s first two books), but when I read the shooter’s YouTube postings a few days ago I did not understand that his phrase “conscience dreaming” was an approximation (and perhaps, indeed, a Freudian slip) for “conscious dreaming.” The account by his friend made that clear.
    I concur with the general opinion that the shooter meets diagnostic criteria for paranoid schizophrenia. I wonder how much his plight and actions result from bad choices, from his social history, from brain dysfunction…
    In any case, this tragic event is producing an uptick of interest in “conscience/conscious dreaming” – and I wish you success in helping make clear its actual use and real potential.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    David – Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It seems we are indeed dealing with a “broken mind” in the case of the shooter. It also appears that his cracked imagination was fed by some undigested notions of lucid dreaming as a program for controlling and manipulating dreams that absolves the dreamer from any responsibility for his actions. In my own approach, I have firmly and consistently opposed all programs for “controlling” dreams. It’s also my position that we are responsible for our actions in dreams, as in all orders of consciousness and being. .

  • Connie Cox

    Robert,
    I am glad you wrote this piece about the distinction between Loughner the egomanic manipulating his dreams and the appropriate method. I have been reading and dreaming for a little while now, although still a baby in all this. When I first heard in the media that this young man was a Conscious Dreamer my first thoughts went to how society needs appropriate people to share and grow the dream with; mirrors correctly providing feedback such as the willingness to record your dreams and then truly see what they are saying. But in the case of serious Brain Disorder, and bifurcated political times, the sacredness of dreaming goes out the window. Loughner is part of the Great Dream and he is a teacher about how it can all go wrong and a reminder of such. Interesting that mein kampf was his favorite; Hitler, too used esoteric methods for his twisted schemes.

  • Pingback: Jared Lee Loughner e il sogno cosciente - Look 4 Europe Digital DE|Generation|

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