This is mainly a response to the essay. Let me begin with some information on the publication of Dune. Long before the novel was published in 1965, Frank Herbert had written an outline for a novel called Spice Planet, but this was shelved and never written. And it is unknown when this outline was penned. An early draft for Dune was completed in the spring of 1963, and the completed story was published in parts in Analog (Magazine) entitled Dune World from December, 1963 to February, 1964. Frank Herbert began researching Dune from at least 1960, though likely earlier. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in September, 1962, and it is not clear whether Herbert read the book before completing Dune.
In the novel, I appreciate Liet Kynes’ father’s observation that “No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero,” reminding one of this notion on a biblical level: Hebrews 10:31 – “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Such a fearful thing applies to many different forms or representations of such immense and profound energy/numinosity – leaders, heroes, gods, prophets, ideas, movements, money, nations, -isms, etc.
Now, let us consider the Lisan al-Gaib (Fremen for prophet or messiah). I found it interesting that there is at least one point in the film where this term stands for *both* mother and son. One wonders if through the wisdom of the mother the fearful impact of the Kwisatz Haderach would be lessened – that the suffering which results in following such an overwhelming being might be lessened to some degree.
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.
With respect to the concern of fixed ideas, I am reminded of Jung’s confrontation with the unconscious in the Black Books, and to two specific figures with which he maintains a long substantive dialogue – Philemon and Ka. Of these, Jung wrote:
Philemon gives formulation to the things within elements of the collective unc [collective unconscious] … Philemon gives the idea (maybe of a god) but it remains floating, distant & indistinct because all the things he invents are winged. But Ka gives substance & is called the one who buries the gods in gold & marble. He has a tendency to misprison them in matter, & so they are in danger of losing their spiritual meaning, & becoming buried in stone.
There, Jung stresses the dangers of either too much substantiation or too little: “Ka must not be allowed to produce too much – you must not depend on substantiation; but if too little substance is produced the creature floats.” Thus, what is required is balance between Ka and Philemon – balance between substantiation and the freedom of indistinctness in the form of ideas, hints, etc.
It is interesting to see the lifecycle of heroes or of religions. In the beginning there is life and the diversity of form, but over time that can congeal into rigid lifeless substantiation unless certain renewals take place. In such a lifecycle, one sees the dynamics and the positives & negatives of substantiation and of freedom.
Having a story where the Kwisatz Haderach brings things to their ultimate (or logical) conclusion, I think, is invaluable. The suffering this causes raises an awareness in us of the need for the mysterious – those compensatory dynamics of unknown origin whose teleology is at first unknown, but which is later seen as necessary for health. A lack of compensation and the immense suffering this brings provide clarity to the advantages and disadvantages of the type of qualities we see as being part of a messiah, or even the very idea of a messiah.
It is instructive to read Jung’s Black Books which detail his raw experiences during his confrontation with the unconscious 1913-1932. There, Jung makes some very specific choices. He chooses neither good nor evil, neither upper spirit nor lower earth (neither the heavens nor the earth). Instead, he chooses something in the middle – life itself. And he chooses not to be a prophet, but instead to meet the balance in being – being his deepest inner self and at the same time being with community and his fellow human beings. These choices did not happen in 1913, at the beginning of his confrontation. Instead, they were a product of growing maturity, psychological strength and balance, and deeper connection with powers beyond himself. It is clear that the Kwisatz Haderach in Herbert’s books made very different choices.
The immense powers available to the Kwisatz Haderach requires that choices be made, and the life of that figure and the effect of that life on both him/her and that on the outside embodies (some of) the implications of those choices. Crucially, to see the Kwisatz Haderach carry their project to completion brings immense clarity to those choices. For example, if the figure were thwarted in their project, the fullest effect of their choices becomes clouded. For me, seeing the messiah carry their project to completion is like taking a mathematical statement or any human thought and bringing it to its logical conclusion, seeing whether it collapses of its own contradictions or whether it somehow thrives. Here, I think of Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics and how these laws, which at first seem quite reasonable, break down.
So, whether or not Herbert’s story is a “cautionary tale” is not my main interest. My main interest is on the choices Herbert has the messiah figure make, whether they seem reasonable, and whether/how they reveal themselves in the fullness events which follow.
—Robert E. Juliano, Ph.D.