The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

The Dream/Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is an etching by Francisco Goya created in 1799. It shows the artist with his head on his arms, sprawled across a desk asleep. Above him are bats and owls, and to his side is a cat staring at him. The side of the desk has the words: ‘The Dream/Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.’ Aldous Huxley comments on this are as follows: “It is a caption that admits of more than one interpretation. When reason sleeps, the absurd and loathsome creatures of superstition wake and are active, goading their victim to an ignoble frenzy. But this is not all. Reason may also dream without sleeping, may intoxicate itself, as it did during the French Revolution, with the daydreams of inevitable progress, of liberty, equality, and fraternity imposed by violence, of human self-sufficiency and the ending of sorrow…by political rearrangements and a better technology.” - Aldous Huxley, “Variations on Goya,” On Art and Artists, Morris Philipson, ed., (London: Chatto and Windus, 1960), pp. 218-19. I have a different interpretation of it, which I hope will become apparent below.

Two things lead to this article. The first was a blog entry Midnight Freemason Founder Todd E. Creason put up recently. Read it HERE. The second was that I caught myself acting unmasonically towards Todd E. Creason today. I disagreed with a social media post and initially replied emotionally. Luckily, I made use of a lesson that we are taught in Freemasonry, to subdue our passions. I was able to edit my reply to use facts and reason, instead of emotion. Unfortunately, I see many brothers on social media forgetting this lesson. Many of us are not able to subdue our passions. It made me start to think why this might be. All of it leads back to some of the points that Todd made in his article. However, Todd’s main focus is the negativity of journalism. I think it needs to be expanded to all media, but especially electronic media. The negativity Todd touched on is only part of the issues I have with it. Yes, we are going to witness good acts, and there are still good people in the world performing these acts. Not everyone is crazy, but I think that it’s easier now for someone to go from normal to insane and then back to normal. We are all our own personal Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think that many of us are abusing or addicted to electronic media. I think this is to blame for the madness we see all around us. Todd does make the same conclusion that I reach. We need to disengage from electronic media in order to see the beauty in the world. Luckily, I think if we use the Masonic lessons that we’ve been taught, we might be able to do just that.

Here are my reasons for thinking that we need to be weary of electronic media.

1. It does something to the brain.

The impact of electronic media (Smart Phone Apps, Videogames, Internet, Social Media, Television, and Movies) on the human brain, our subconscious, and our society has been studied with varying results. There have been studies done about television viewing, advertising and how watching it creates different stimuli and psychological responses. (

There have been studies about how the use of cellphones before bed impacts your brain and sleep patterns. ( There have been studies regarding how cell phone use stimulates glucose metabolism in our brains and how the impact of that is unknown. (

Studies show Social Networking Site addiction alters brain anatomy. ( Studies show that Social Networks shape how the brain responds to social exclusion. ( Those are just a few examples, I could easily fill the article with links. Most of us have developed an unhealthy codependent relationship with electronic media, and some of us have become addicted to it. Think about how often you check your phone, or watch a news channel even though they keep repeating the same information over and over, or how you might rush home to play a videogame. My point is, we’re engaging in an activity that we don’t fully understand the repercussions of when it comes to our brain, and I think that’s dangerous.

2. We’re substituting electronic interaction for social interaction.

Every hour we spend on electronic media is an hour we could be playing with our family, creating something, learning something new by reading, or engaging in face to face conversation with our family or friends. Instead we communicate via text, even if our family member is in the next room or same house or same table. How many of you have been out to a restaurant to see a family all on their devices instead of speaking to one another? We’re not even taking the time to enjoy things with our own eyes. How many of you have been to a concert or another public event and didn’t see anyone holding up their phones to record it? We scroll through Facebook, Reddit and Twitter mindlessly. We waste hours on television, the internet, social media, and video games. This is time we will never get back. Worst yet, we are allowing our children to mimic this behavior. How many of your children actually play outside? We’re substituting the beauty of the world for the glow of a screen. I’m guilty, you’re guilty, and we all are guilty of this behavior at one point or another.

3. Electronic media programs us with negativity, creates unrealistic expectations, creates feelings of inadequacy, and poisons our belief systems.

Watch the News, Dramas, and Comedies on television and there’s nothing redeeming about them. Most every program also promotes or sensationalizes violence. On top of this, try finding a video game that isn’t violent. Even back in the day, Space Invaders allowed you to kill aliens, Pac Man ate ghosts, etc. Almost every video game, television program and movie has violence. 

Video games have now added nudity, adult language, and promotion of criminal behavior to be able to compete with other electronic media. Just about everything on television is also negative. Much of Social Media is negative. Go on Facebook or Twitter and try to find a post/tweet with no negative responses. The internet is filled with hatred. Bullying online is rampant. No wonder we’re so hostile to each other. We’re absorbing negative energy almost all of the time.

Couple this with the images we see in electronic media. Every image is altered in some way. We already know that television and the movies are guilty of this. Video games, television, social media, the internet and movies create an altered reality. When’s the last time you saw a picture or selfie of someone without a snapchat filter or filter in general? On top of that, we’re presenting a fake version of ourselves to the world. Have you ever seen a teenage girl take a selfie? They can’t just take one, they take several and then choose the best one for their Facebook or Instagram page. What you see as a final product has been heavily altered or edited. This in turn creates unrealistic expectations of each other and ourselves. We’re conditioned to worry about the exterior instead of focusing on the interior. We’ve become too concerned with each other’s outward appearances, and not focused on the quality of each other’s character.

Since everything is edited to show how awesome everyone’s life is, we develop feelings of inadequacy. We start to compare our own lives with the Instagram account of the celebrity we follow, our friends on Facebook, and in some cases, television or the movies. On top of that, you can’t go anywhere without seeing an advertisement for a product that will supposedly make you feel better about yourself. Of course, the advertisement is designed to show you how awesome the product is, and how meaningless your life is without it. The constant bombardment of the picture perfectness of everyone else’s lives leads to us not being happy with our own lives. When we feel inadequacy, it turns to more anger for our own shortcomings, followed by hostility. Instead of being content with what we have we’ve been conditioned to consume. We want the things we can’t have, and it’s driving us mad.

All of this is poisoning our belief systems. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction in electronic media. It takes a lot of effort to research things to see if they are true or false, or if we’ve been given all of the facts. Many of us don’t take the time to do this. Instead we repost things on social media that conform to our personal philosophy. We absorb news that we are fed by television, social media or the internet and accept it as the truth. A recent study done by a group of political scientists showed that over 22% of Fake News visits were funneled to Americans by Facebook. Of the 2,525 Americans studied, 1 in 4 of them visited a Fake News site from October 7-November 14, 2016. (

So we’re absorbing all of this negative energy and information, and it’s very easy for us to react emotionally or instinctually. When we allow our passions to drive our behavior, we fail to treat each other according to the golden rule. On top of this, we are being bombarded with images that don’t represent reality which in turn has conditioned us to covet things we don’t have. Almost every religious, secular or humanist group has a code of conduct that is being violated by this behavior.

How do we combat this? I’ve already mentioned subduing one’s passions. If we do not control our emotions and desires, then will rule over our reason. When reason is not in control, we behave unmasonically. We regress to an animal state. This is how I interpret the Goya etching. When our reason is not in control, we behave like monsters.

If our passions are subdued, then we are able to improve ourselves by using the other working tools of Masonry. We are able to use the 24 inch gauge to manage our time so that we can guard ourselves against any intemperance or excess when it comes to our consumption of electronic media. When we have guarded ourselves properly, we are able to use it to make time to use the gavel to turn the rough ashlar into the perfect one. We are able to pursue the pursuit of the study of the seven liberal arts and sciences as we have been instructed to do. We are able to be industrious like we are taught to be when we learn about the beehive. We are able to have time to serve God, and practice the Golden Rule. We are able to act like a Mason should act, by the plumb. By acting by the plumb, we are able to be Free from all of the negative energy that electronic media pushes into our lives. So do yourself a favor, and put aside time every day to unplug, and do something to improve yourself or to help your fellow man.

As Manly P. Hall stated in his lecture: “How to turn off the TV and live happily ever after”, ‘So it seems that one thing we have to do to get away from this hypnosis of the tube is to realize that we have faculties within ourselves that do not need to be subjected to this continual negative conditioning, that we are certainly capable of thinking rather than merely watching the antics of someone else.’ He later states: ‘So if we want to really have a great history, we can study our own inner lives, if we want great theatre, we can be both the audience and the cast, if we want any of the inner understandings which make for philosophy, mysticism and so forth, they are all available inside of ourselves. 

The only thing we have got to do is bring it out, and we bring it out by dedication, it gaining strength in the inner life just as an athlete gains it by daily discipline; by the proper mental emotional disciplines we can become healthy individuals in terms of our minds, our emotions, our hearts and our jobs. These are the things we've got to work for and if it means that we must do it, we can with one quick twist of the wrist get rid of most of the corruptions of society and face the fact that these are imaginary corruptions. We’ve got plenty of real ones; we don’t have to build them up that way. What we have got to do is find out what corruptions are still lurking in us and correct them, and as soon as we correct the mistakes within ourselves, we begin to see better values in other people, because we see in others usually what we are ourselves focused upon. 

So, don’t let the great Big Bad Tube get you, be very careful about it and when uncertain – TURN IT OFF and you will find as you turn it off to do something interesting, beautiful or wonderful, you'll never miss it again.You cannot turn it off successfully, however, until there is something you want to be, or something you want to do, right then and there, that is more important than the tube. If you think it out that way, I think it will all work out alright in the end.’


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at

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