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Reply To: Dune: Breakthrough as Breakdown of the One,” with Norland Telléz, Ph.D.”


Thank you so much Robert for your rich contribution, which is, as always, out of the top shelf of mythological studies. And thank you for bringing us back to Dune and the Mythblast as I remain endlessly fascinated by Dune, its mythology, and its fandom. I hope you were able to enjoy reading it as much as I had writing it!

Stephen and I can easily go down the rabbit hole of TLOTR and GOT, but each of these epics is so rich in its world building, so intricate in their manifold of characters, there is no way to continue to talk about all three of them without losing our minds! I’ll have to go back to each of these franchises in future Mythblasts so Stephen and I can do them justice.

You are absolutely right, “it is not clear whether Herbert read the book before completing Dune.” I don’t think he read it at all. Herbert’s “environmentalism” seems to come more from a direct “mystical” experience of desert dunes than from any ideological conviction on the matter—although later on, one could argue that he did become a kind of environmentalist.

I think you would agree then that the affinity between Silent Spring and Dune is not due to direct diffusionist contact but rather to the constellation of the collective psyche as a whole, both conscious and unconscious, during their time.  Now you also write:

“It is worth noting that the Kwisatz Haderach is, in part, of intentional design, the accomplishment of this being due to the intentional crossing of bloodlines done over centuries by the Bene Gesserit. One wonders if the result we see in Herbert’s novels would have been improved had this being emerged naturally.”

You are referring to the eugenics project of the loveless Female Cult that secretly controls the politics of the Dune universe? Yes, that is a deeply symptomatic mythic structure with problematic ideological implications. Although I don’t think the narrative suffers from its inclusion; on the contrary, this piece of genetic engineering of the One is perfectly consistent with the mythological bent of the Dune universe. In a way, it reminds of the Promethean theme of Mary Shelly’s Frankestein. Nevertheless, if you had said that is unfortunate that the notion of a genetically engineered superior race of men, of One capable of a superior “race consciousness,” has to play such a central role in the mythogenesis of Dune—I would certainly agree with that too.

This brings me to the question of Dune’s fandom, of the way a myth functions in its own proper historical and ideological context. There is an interesting article in the LA Review of Books by Jordan S. Carroll, someone who specializes in literature, which first brought my attention to the fact that “Fascists love Dune.”

Now, please don’t be upset with me. I know you’re not a fan of the LA Review of Books nor of the ideological bent of a professor of literature who also studies the social and class dynamics of fascism in literature. But speaking of fascism and great literature, we could also take up the same sticky problematic with Nietzsche and Heidegger respectively—not to mention Jung who for a while became an outspoken supporter of fascist racial theories during the rise of the Third Reich. In each of these cases, including Herbert, we are dealing with authors of great imagination and depth of insight who at the same time lend themselves to fascist appropriation. I don’t think we can ignore or dismiss this fact as pure meaningless accident or liberal “left-wing” rubbish, for there is a kind of synchronicity also at work here, a meaningful coincidence.

We know, for example, when the Nazis took to book burnings, it was Freud’s books that ended up on the bonfire (and not only because he was Jewish); whereas Jung wanted to step in as the one with the “right” kind of psychology that would defend and prop up the neo-pagan unconscious of the Nazi movement. We don’t need to go too deep into Jung’s dirty laundry, something for which he later apologized and tried to make amends; it is enough to note that such a “mystical” fall into fascist ideology can happen even to the best of us.

I also bring this example to show that there are indeed books and authors whose internal mythological universe and structure are hateful to fascists. This is also not by accident either. I certainly would be worried if, for example, my mythblasts were being promoted in white supremacist sites or other places in the dark web! Although we know it is all “projection,” even Jung admitted that projections must always “hang” on kernels of truth.

Although we cannot be entirely responsible as authors of the way our work is received, of the ‘fandoms’ it generates, it is within our power to write in such a way that would make such appropriation very difficult or even impossible for internal reasons.

For example, there are definite reasons that make Jung’s work, with its emphasis on higher Meaning and spirituality, much more congenial to the mindset of religious fundamentalism than Freud’s work, with its emphasis on the central role of the union of sexuality and love, could ever be. But just look at the sexual scandals of the Church and other religious communities! Or take look at the sexual scandals of Jung’s own life!

Now, you should know that I am the last person to dismiss a Nietzsche, Heidegger, Jung, or Herbert by branding them as “fascists” authors. I even have heated debates with my liberal friends who would like to throw their books—especially Heidegger’s—into the bonfire of infamy. Even Jordan S. Carroll is quite clear that the fascist appropriation of Dune is a distortion. He does not argue that Dune is fascist or that everyone who reads it and enjoys it must be a cryptofascist. That would be pretty stupid, or another mindless example of the so-called cancel culture. Sweeping aside all such nonsense, Carroll also points to the fact that there are many elements in Dune that have to be overlooked, or that fascists have to struggle with, in order to make them fit into their white supremacist framework.

And yet…

We know this is the difficult to do, the ability to hold opposites in hand, and yet it is essential for the interplay between Philemon and Ka, as Jung put it in the Black Books. Although, to my mind, this interplay goes beyond the simple dualism between spiritualization and materialization. Given his Gnostic bent, Jung often falls into such dualisms or splits despite his better efforts at doing the opposite. As you may know, I much prefer to see it in the slightly less obscure but more complex dichotomy or interplay between myth and history. For you will find there that myth can be the material side of history and that history can be the spiritual component of the human race. In other words, Philemon and Ka are interwoven together—not in dualistic opposition to one another—on either side of the hyphen of mytho-history.