Monday, July 04, 2011


    by Gina Sestak

Happy Independence Day to you all!

Although I spent the last part of June attending the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams at Rolduc, a medieval monastery in Kerkrade, Netherlands, this will not be a "how I spent my summer vacation" kind of post.   It will focus instead on a hot topic of conversation at the conference, the role dreams sometimes play in criminal activity.

Ten years ago, the dream community was appalled to learn that dreams played a role in the 9-11 attacks.  This year, British Social Anthropologist Iain Edgar presented on his new book:

Here's a summary, from's Product Description:  
The war in the Middle East is marked by a lack of cultural knowledge on the part of the western forces, and this book deals with another, widely ignored element of Islam-the role of dreams in everyday life. The practice of using night dreams to make important life decisions can be traced to Middle Eastern dream traditions and practices that preceded the emergence of Islam. In this study, the author explores some key aspects of Islamic dream theory and interpretation as well as the role and significance of night dreams for contemporary Muslims. In his analysis of the Islamic debates surrounding the role of "true" dreams in historical and contemporary Islamic prophecy, the author specifically addresses the significance of Al-Qaeda and Taliban dream practices and ideology. Dreams of "heaven," for example, are often instrumental in determining Jihadist suicidal action, and "heavenly" dreams are also evidenced within other contemporary human conflicts such as Israel-Palestine and Kosovo-Serbia. By exploring patterns of dreams within this context, a cross-cultural, psychological, and experiential understanding of the role and significance of such contemporary critical political and personal imagery can be achieved.

Dreams have been implicated in individual acts of violence as well as organized terrorism.  Jared Loughner, the man who shot 19 people in his attempt to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona, is a lucid dreamer.  A "lucid dream" is one in which the dreamer becomes consciously aware that it is a dream while the dream is still in progress.

Some speculate that Loughner's lucidity practice may have blurred the boundaries between dream and waking reality (although his waking-life planning for the assassination attempt seems to contradict this).

So, what do you think?  Does this sound believable to you?  Have you ever used dreams to motivate characters?


Joyce said...

Sorry. I don't buy it. I think people who commit heinous acts use dreams as a convenient excuse. Jared Loughner is clearly schizophrenic, but even that shouldn't be an excuse. Others with the same illness don't go around shooting innocent people.

Patg said...

I find it difficult to comment on any of that as it seems to be just another sudo-scientific variation on yet another mind set for religious nonsense.
Night dreams, IMHO, are just something that deters a good night sleep.

Gina said...

Oh, Patg! Night dreams do much more than that . . . Research indicates that dreams play a critical part in forming memory (processing and storing things learned while awake), for example.

One of my favorite current theories is that dreams go on 24/7 and it's only at night, when our waking senses are receiving minimal input, that we become aware of dreaming . . .

As for 9/11, I don't think dreams are so much being used as a convenient excuse. It's my understanding that the idea of flying planes into tall buildings came to one of the conspirators in a dream. The choice to act it out in real life, of course, is one for which he (and the others involved) have to bear personal responsibility.

C.L. Phillips said...

Muhhahabbaawwwww (does that sound like a sinister laugh?)

Who says the waking part of the day isn't the dream?

Now there's a plot twist!

Gina said...

That, C.L., has been debated for centuries. Where lie the boundaries between dreaming and waking life?