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

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    Mythologist Norland Téllez, Ph.D., joins us again in COHO, this time to discuss Dune: Breakthrough as Breakdown of the One” (click on title to read), his thought-provoking analysis of the theme of Frank Herbert’s classic novel (an idea inspired by the recent release of a film version of the first half of the book). If you have not read this week’s MythBlast, click on this link – then come back and join the conversation.

    I’ll open the discussion, but this is not an interview. Please engage Dr. Téllez  with your own thoughts, observations, comments, and questions about his essay, the movie, or the book, in the discussion below.

    (Also, though we will try our best to be circumspect, if you have not seen the movie nor read the book, please assume that “Here Be Spoilers!”)


    The film Dune – even before we get to your essay, all I can say is wow!  After what, at least to me, seemed the failure of the uninspired David Lynch version in 1984, I did not have high hopes – so much of the novel explores the interior life of Paul Atreides and other characters, which is difficult to capture in a cinematic presentation. So far, director Denis Villeneuve and his cast have exceeded my expectations. (As an aside, I really appreciate Jason Momoa as the charismatic Duncan Idaho – not only is his portrayal pitch-perfect, but seems he is having a hell of a lot of fun playing the part).

    What is also apparent from this version is how much other sci-fi movies – including Star Wars – have borrowed bits and pieces from Herbert’s work. (It’s one thing to chuckle at the weak-minded Stormship Troopers who are told “These are not the droids you are looking for” – but the first time I heard – and felt“the VOICE” in Dune, I almost jumped out of my seat to obey!)

    Turning to your essay, I believe you make a compelling case for both Dune and The Lord of the Rings calling for a re-examination of, well, hero worship (if I can be allowed a pun). I’d also include the books that birthed the eight seasons of Game of Thrones in that mix; seems part of George R. R. Martin’s intent was to subvert the traditional hero’s journey story arc – which he did, for a time. And thank you for pointing out Frank Herbert’s skillful yet subtle approach to undermining the traditional concept of a heroic savior figure not by attacking it, but leaning into it and letting it play out to the extreme. Frankly, that had not occurred to me.

    Of course, we have yet to see how well that theme translates to film, considering the movie covers only the first half of the original novel, breaking off right where I remember the story starts to get really interesting. And it takes the other two books in the original trilogy, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune; to fully realize the author’s vision. (Frankly, my interest petered out partway into the fourth volume, so it is somewhat affirming to learn the complete story that Herbert had originally imagined spread out across those first three novels.)

    However, I’d say the filmmaker is off to a great start. I have high hopes.

    My take-away from your essay, for what it’s worth, is that, indeed, “The Hero” in the sense of the One (“only I can fix it” the refrain from recent years echoing in the back of my head) is indeed dangerous. Herbert nails that – as does Tolkien by opposing “the One” with a collective hero, that fellowship of the ring, and Martin by demonstrating that even if The Hero has the best of intentions, we cannot count on that hero to save us (e.g. Ned Stark, the King’s Hand, losing his head in the 9th episode of GoT season one, or the Red Wedding that culminates the 9th episode of Season Three, where we bid a forever farewell to Robb Stark and his mother Catelyn).

    However, I’d suggest that applies to a specific expression of the Hero archetype, telegraphed by Herbert’s use of the term “superhero” in his essay on the genesis of Dune: the Hero as Savior. Even when that type of hero intends the best, there is a dynamic to that trajectory; as Joseph Campbell notes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the successful hero often morphs over time into the Tyrant Holdfast.

    Though there is overlap, there is a difference between being seized by that archetype, possessed by a messiah complex (the opposite of self-aware), and actually becoming conscious of the dynamic in play, partnering with that pattern and embracing that energy as a vehicle of transformation:

    If you realize what the real problem is—losing yourself, giving yourself to some higher end, or to another—you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness. And what all the myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness of one kind or another. You have been thinking one way, you now have to think a different way. (Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers)

    It’s not so easy, though, slipping the bonds of ego, for the Hero as Leader.

    As you point out, Tolkien and Herbert do challenge the conceptualization of the traditional Hero: the latter in a cautionary tale where one sees the hero played out to the extreme, and the former with a tale of a collective hero – hobbits and elves and dwarfs and wizards and men, pursuing a singular goal. Nevertheless, characters in both stories follow the stages of the hero’s journey that Campbell finds in myth.The Lord of the Rings, in particular, has lots of individual hero’s quests that intersect and overlap, braided together in one whole.

    And even in the Game of Thrones, all major protagonists play out the hero’s journey, from Ned Stark to Daenerys Targaryen to Jon Snow to little, tenacious Arya Stark and others; heroes do tend to follow the map, it’s just that sometimes they do not reach their destination. Campbell makes clear not every hero journey succeeds (“There is always the possibility of a fiasco” – Pathways to Bliss 133)

    There is something persistent about the motif of the hero’s journey across narratives, whether myth or fairy tale or story or novel or movie or song, a pattern that stretches back into prehistory. Definitely seems embedded in our psyches. When ego identifies itself as the hero – whether my ego, your ego, or Donald Trump’s ego – that’s when Frank Herbert’s alarm bells ring true. To me, the question is how do we encourage, in oneself and in others, that shift in perspective, so that the Hero does not become the goal, but a catalyst for transformation.

    I know that’s not so much a question as an observation – just what your insights, along with my experience of the fictional titles mentioned above, evoke in my mind. Feel free to latch on to whatever sparks a reaction, yea or nay, and go wherever that takes you.

    And, or course, thanks for coming to play with us in COHO. I look forward to other readers’ reactions to both your essay, and the film (or novel – good as the movie is, the book was a life-changing experience.)


      Thank you, Stephen, as always, it is a great pleasure to engage with you and our readers. I love your opening remarks and your inclusion of Game of Thrones into the mix of mythologies that show or even celebrate archetypal heroes in their naked brutality.

      So the question remains, as I put it at the end of my blast, do these epics succeed in tearing down or glorifying hero worship? If you allow me to turn the tables for a moment, what do you think about this?

      After all, there is a considerable gap between the intention and the execution of a work of art or a speech act—the difference between what an author “means to say” and what is actually said despite the author’s best intentions. This is a theme that fascinates me endlessly. Because the greatest artists always say a great deal more than they consciously intended. That indeed is where the power of myth comes in. But this is also true in everyday speech notwithstanding any Freudian slips.

      You could say that only mediocre artists or propagandists can say no more than what they intended to say. But even they can’t help telling the whole truth unconsciously.

      So one way to answer this question, whether these mythologies subvert or prop up hero worship, is to look at the way a myth functions in its social and historical context. When we jump into a particular fandom or belief system, we should always take a look around and see who we’re getting into bed with. It’s kind of funny, you can find out a great deal more about the nature of what you believe when you meet a bunch of others in established communities that profess to believe as you do, than when pouring over the esoteric contents of the belief system itself.


      Have to admit that is delicious to ponder, Norland. You ask

      So the question remains, as I put it at the end of my blast, do these epics succeed in tearing down or glorifying hero worship?

      Let’s take them one by one. Lord of the Rings by no means tears down the edifice of Hero Worship. Quite the opposite. Though it may pose the Many (the Fellowship of the Ring) to the One (Sauron), no reader considers Sauron a hero.  And even though the first book is a collective adventure, that breaks down as our fellowship splits apart, with individuals, pairs, or small groups veering off on specific quests – all supporting the ultimate goal  with multiple parallel yet distinct hero journeys, a fugue formation that to a crescendo.

      There is much to be gleaned about teamwork and the collective ethic from this epic; nevertheless, it does follow the trajectory of the hero’s journey, over and over again – with one major difference from traditional myths. The heart of the story are not Superheroes but Hobbits, whose reward is not glory. When I read LOTR in college, for all the wisdom of Gandolf and prowess of Aragorn, it was Samwise who moved me most – in many ways, the real hero of the sage, someone ordinary who achieves something extraordinary, gives himself to a vision something greater than himself – then, deed done, like Cincinattus goes home and fades into the mundane world.

      This meant I could be a hero, not through feat of arms or special talents , but with a simple heart that’s true

      . . . not that I consciously thought that, but that’s what “the feels” were.

      I don’t think LOTR fostered over the top hero worship (I could be wrong – might be hordes of hobbits roaming the halls at Comic-con for all I know), but it did equate heroism not so much with glory, but duty and service and sacrifice – doing what must be done for the greater good.

      Game of Thrones, on the other hand, has, I suspect, fostered hero worship – though at the same time, “Man’s in humanity to man” is on full display – violent, and bloody, where life is brutal and painful, even at its best. Though it’s fantasy, there is a sense of realism to it. Nevertheless, the audience, myself included, booed the villains and cheered our heroes, no matter how flawed. Martin, and the show runners on the small screen, did their best to subvert the hero archetype, but their heroes still follow the trajectory Campbell identified, and those we wanted to come out on top in the ned mostly did – particularly the Stark lan, as opposed to an individual, who over the arc of the series suffered a great fall, ordeals, magical helpers, death, resurrection, and come the final episode a restoration of fortune over the arc of series.

      And yet, Daenerys – Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Annals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons – and, clearly, my intended soul mate – ultimately failed in her hero quest . . . at least in the televised tale (still to be determined in the book series) .

      And what was the public reaction to that failure, as she followed a path Campbell warned of, morphing from Hero to Tyrant? Disappointment and outrage – a reaction in stark (no pun intended) contrast to the jubilation that greeted Arya’s unexpected slaying of the Night King three episodes prior; at least Arya followed the trajectory of the traditional hero’s journey, though with buckets more blood and gore than disneyfied heroes: Arya slays – hooray!; Daenerys disappoints – down with the dastardly show runners!

      Now is that because the writers, directors, and powers-that-be did a poor job, or because the the hero’s journey is etched in our psyche, perhaps even embedded in our DNA? Hard to say, but we will not be denied our heroes.

      Which brings me to the question you pose in your essay:

      Did not Dune end up inadvertently strengthening and propping up the very thing it was supposed to take down: the naturalization of an imperialist ideology?

      I do not know. I would say the jury is still out on that. All over the internet there are blogs, critiques, and commentaries on the Lord of the Rings and the Game of Thrones that tie these works rather tightly to Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey. Fair enough in one sense – all, even Dune, follow that pattern (not that Tolkien could consult his pocket Hero with a Thousand Faces for guidance, considering Joe hadn’t written it yet, any more than Homer used it for a reference – the Hero’s Journey just seems to emerge almost naturally from a tale well told . . . which may be why it takes such hard, often unsuccessful effort to subvert it).

      But there doesn’t seem a lot of reflection, at least on the internet, and in more than a few academic papers, that are prompted by those works to question the Hero.

      The same doesn’t hold for Dune. Yes, it follows the HJ story arc, and if all one does is read that first novel of the trilogy (which was conceived as one complete, massive work by Herbert), it’s easy to think this is the standard tale. But those who read beyond, through Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, what you’re expecting is not what happens. I recall finding that unsettling, but I was not up in arms about it the way so many were with the abrupt ending to HBO’s GoT series. Rather, I did a lot of thinking.

      On the other hand, maybe my loss of momentum as I attempted God Emperor of Dune, essentially an afterthought to the original series, was because the trilogy left a bad taste in my mouth.

      However, even though there is plenty of material in cyberspace that lauds the use of the Hero’s Journey in Dune, much of that comes from superficial fan blogs and reviews. There are also many deeper analyses that acknowledge what Herbert was trying to do. The fact that came through makes me think that maybe Herbert has struck a chord, or at least a discordant note that cannot be ignored.

      I’d say the jury is still out. A successful film reaches so many more people than a complex, science fiction novel; based on the this first film, I suspect it is taken by most as a traditional, albeit somewhat darker, version of the Hero’s Journey. We’ll have to see where the director takes that in the sequel, which will only bring us up to the end of the first novel; if there’s enough commercial return to green light further sequels, we may have the opportunity to see if Herbert’s themes translate to the big screen, and whether they strike a chord with the movie-going public.

      At this point, I have my doubts – but time will tell.



      Robert Juliano

        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.


          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.


          Hello, my 2 cents worth:

          The fact of my life and most people is that we do extraordinary things, like saving lives, but that does not make us special, or better than others. What you do and what you accomplish may be amazing and extraordinary, like saving lives, but the thing is anyone can, for the most part, do that as well. They only need to choose to step up and do it. But the sad fact is that most do not. I speak not of emergency responders, but ordinary people who step up when there is a need to do so. Sometimes stepping up saves people’s lives because you noticed and you acted. Something as simple as driving someone to the hospital when you saw the need and knew it would not be met unless you acted. Not a hero doing heroic things, just a human doing humane things. The trick is to not let the ego run with the notion that acting with humanity and saving a life somehow elevates you to someone extraordinary. Yes, you did something special, but nothing better or more so then what anybody else could or would do. Perspective. I find one must always realign our perspectives of ourselves to avoid the trap of self-aggrandizement.


          Robert Juliano


            Thank you for your response. Some comments.

            With respect to the Bene Gesserit project, my concern was not so much the eugenics, which may or may not be the proper lens with which to judge this. Instead, my concern was on the fact that they appeared to ignore the deep mystery from which the miraculous emerges. Where is the notion, for example, of the kairos? Or the notion of the Hermetic correspondentia?

            The rest of my response is about what you had written on Jung. Let me begin with your claim of sex scandals regarding Jung. While I am aware of such claims about Jung, the claims I have seen have largely been ill-informed. This is not to say that Jung made uncontroversial choices regarding his relationships and that these choices did not cause significant suffering. However, a great deal of nuance and proper information are required here. One of the works which I consider to meet such a high standard is Dr. Lance Owens’ Jung in Love: Mysterium in Liber Novus (see enclosed link [A]).

            I should also say that two of the individuals Jung had a relationship with, Maria Moltzer and Toni Wolff, both of which is covered in Dr. Owens’ book, also figure in Jung’s Black Books. Jung’s Soul talks about them a number of times. In fact, Toni Wolff was instrumental in helping Jung through his confrontation as she had already traversed the terrain he was walking on, and she was even able to speak with one of the figures Jung encountered – Ka. Thus, Jung’s relationships are exceedingly complex and multi-dimensional and extreme nuance is required.

            With respect to Jung and fascism, antisemitism, and Nazism, we likewise must be exceedingly careful and nuanced here. To be clear, Jung did not “apologize” and attempt to “make amends.” It is unclear why he would think he needed to do so. However, there is much here to be explored. For example, his short 1936 essay Wotan (CW 10) contains some very complex ideas, the ramifications of which few have explored. For example, Jung writes not only about the god Wotan, but also a distinct archetype Wotan. This archetype is not universal, but cultural – it is the specifically German archetype of the Self. And in 1936, before it was known what Nazi Germany was doing and planning, Jung held open the possibility of either complete destruction or the possibility of spiritual transformation on a culture level. An excellent work which explores this is Dr. Carrie Dohe’s Jung’s Wandering Archetype: Race and Religion in Analytical Psychology (see enclosed link [C]). It also explores the problematic nature of the intellectual traditions Jung drew from. One more thing – we learn in the Black books that Jung himself, like Nietzsche, had encountered Wotan.

            The issue of Jung and antisemitism is extremely complex. It is so complex that, in 1989, there were at least two conferences held to discuss this issue, a book which covers this being Jung and the Shadow of Anti-Semitism: Collected Essays (see enclosed link [B]). I should note that there was a text published just this year which is worth reading – Anti-Semitism and Analytical Psychology: Jung, Politics and Culture by Dr. Daniel Burston (see enclosed link [D]).

            I think you misunderstood what I said regarding Ka and Philemon and what they represent. First, you said that Jung had a “Gnostic bent.” This certainly is not true when he first experienced Philemon (as magician in 1914 and as spiritual teacher in 1916), and Ka in 1917. This is because it was only in 1915 when Jung discovered that it was the Gnostics who had experienced the unconscious as he was at that time. Jung would go in to study the Gnostic works over the next decades and arrive at the conclusion that it was the beginning of a lineage which led through medieval and early modern Latin alchemy and connected to his Analytical Psychology.

            But, in the Black Books, Jung is careful to choose neither Philemon nor Ka, neither the spirituality of the heavens nor the concreteness of the Earth. As I said, he instead chooses life itself. And neither the Gnostics nor Jung were dualists. On the contrary, the syzygies and opposites are seen as grounded in an underlying unity. This unity is imagined by the Gnostics as the Pleroma, by the Latin alchemists as the unus mundus, and by Jung as the psychoid unconscious. It is through the coniunctio oppositorum that the creative unity is either seen or manifested. Thus, in Liber Novus, the opposites that Philemon and Ka represent along with the opposites of the anima, is represented as a quaternio, the center being the quinta essentia which unified the opposites.

            — Robert E. Juliano, Ph.D.


            A. Jung in Love: Mysterium in Liber Novus by Dr. Lance Owens


            B. Jung and the Shadow of Anti-Semitism: Collected Essays

            C. Jung’s Wandering Archetype: Race and religion in analytical psychology by Dr. Carrie Dohe


            D. Anti-Semitism and Analytical Psychology: Jung, Politics and Culture by Dr. Daniel Burston



            First, I have not yet seen “Dune,” or read the series. But after this essay, I am intrigued. At least that’s a good starting place hopefully!
            And I also agree, it would be very easy to wander other roads into other worlds and realms/stories  as mentioned in other comments above.

            So I have a different perception/angle to add to the mix. And it might be a risk but I’ll take it and take the chance I’m coming out of my ears (laugh) or am too far in left field.


            Norland you write:

            On a broad philosophical level, there is a striking similarity between the Dune saga and The Lord of the Rings trilogy: they both affect a kind of “transvaluation of all values,” a fundamental critique of the mythology of the One and its hyper-masculine heroic attitude. Where the masses are programmed to worship superheroes and bow before “the One,” both of the greatest epics of fantasy literature are there to warn us against the dangers of Its rise.


            Herbert wants to allow all the disastrous—indeed, genocidal consequences that follow from the One’s brutal imposition upon the collective.

            The last half of the first paragraph, which concerns “programming the masses to worship superheroes and bow before the “One,”

            And Herbert’s emphasis of as you say “the genocidal consequences that follow One’s brutal imposition upon the collective,”

            stand out to me.

            And here’s the odd angle or thought:

            Sometimes, I wonder if the One uses the Collective against itself?
            Yes, I could see as in other tales mentioned above the divide and conquer strategy, which can be effective.
            If the One (or any Dark One) makes dark and cruel mischief alone, that’s one thing.

            But isn’t the greater power of the one derived from an attending Collective?
            That it is Collective power (collective underneath the One of course) that the One often seeks and desires? And NEEDs?

            And as you suggest Norland that to me would be exactly a used and abused Collective and blind one, which is conditioned to serve one cause in this case a Dark One’s cause. And no doubt illusion brought them there.
            Maybe even with a promise of a “Greater Good,” which is anything but.
            It seems like a lot of these One’s are darkly clever that way.
            But what do I know? Heh heh.
            It would be interesting to see how Dune plays out. And then maybe I’ll have different thoughts.
            I do love the idea of people (individuals with different backgrounds and stories)  coming together, working things out, sharing, helping each other and celebrating life. It’s a much happier collective place to be and much saner (at least to me) than the idea of a dark collective under a (One?) which I imagine would be built on fear/anger promises and illusion (the real test.)

            Thanks as always for an interesting read!




            Stephen when you mention the hero myth as something deeply ingrained in the human psyche. I wonder if something else could be at work or play there?

            Maybe something, which points back to the horizon?
            IF it is not misunderstood or misused?
            And maybe there is a need for the horizon or a larger or different view to bring awareness and realization.
            And come back to that old saw of gods and men pointing beyond themselves.
            And thus come to the realization of being a part of something larger than oneself or even one’s village.

            Seems like the myths take one and all beyond many borders. Both “real” internal/external  and “metaphysical.”
            As well as beyond emotions (anger/fear/judgment)  and that trickster, “Ego.”

            To me, they Invite Awareness of The Aha moment, that both might bite into the psyche and set free.
            Not by harm or control but by Awareness.
            Sorry if this is a bit disjointed. Wrote something longer and decided to replace it with something short.
            So maybe there is some need  to look to the Horizon but our psyches at times play this out as hero quests? Until we perhaps come to realization the Awareness is available to all, each and everyone?



              Thank you Robert—and thank you in particular for the links to source materials! They’re going to be a fascinated read—again thank you so much!

              As mentioned in my reply, I didn’t necessarily want to make our conversation about Jung but I have no doubt the matter of his brief involvement with Nazism is extremely nuanced; so are his extra-marital affairs with patients, and in particular, his—what shall we call it?—polyamorous or polygamous relationship with Tony Wolf as second wife—all these “realizations of the Self” have great amount of nuance and detail. I was merely trying in cursory manner to state the basic facts.

              I do think you’re right though. Jung never formally apologized for his brief opportunistic involvement with Nazism. But that doesn’t help his cause, does it? Heidegger didn’t either, he never issued an apology, but his silence was even more deafening. I was thinking of the personal apology Jung allegedly gave to a rabbi friend of his, seated next to him at a table in Eranos, to whom he admitted about the Nazi affair that he had “slipped”—an account given by Laurens van der Post, I believe… But now you’re making me doubt; I wonder if perhaps I am misremembering this scene in an attempt to give him more credit than he deserves.

              About Gnosticism. I too was shocked to learn that, outside the Jungian bubble, Gnosticism is generally acknowledged to be a dualistic religious creed. Of course, everything is more complicated and nuanced, but it is important to understand the common, as Heraclitus would say. And what is more common than a simple look at Wikipedia?

              “Gnostic systems postulate a dualism between God and the world, varying from the “radical dualist” systems of Manichaeism to the ‘mitigated dualism’ of classic gnostic movements. Radical dualism, or absolute dualism, posits two co-equal divine forces, while in mitigated dualism one of the two principles is in some way inferior to the other.”

              Of course, I don’t think Wikipedia can count as a primary source on Gnosticism, which is indeed more nuanced and complicated than that, but we should be able to establish some simple facts about it before we can go any further.

              I don’t mean to belabor the point but with regards to the complexity of every thing, this is an opportune moment to reflect on the point of the art of thinking itself. As Nietzsche put it so well:

              “THE THINKER.—He is a thinker: that is to say, he knows how to take things more simply than they are.” (JOYFUL WISDOM 194§189)

              In the realm of Art this is even more obvious. It is easy to make things complicated—for things in reality are indeed complicated! We know from our student days how easy it is to get mired in complications. But the real Master work, the work that characterizes a real Master, consists in making it all look so simple and easy.

              The same reason we should be leery of “mystical explanations,” as Nietzsche again explains in a beautifully simple way:

              Mystical explanations.–Mystical explanations are regarded as profound; the truth is that they do not even go the length of being superficial. (JOYFUL WISDOM 169§126)


                Thank you Lilith, I love your direct experiential—and therefore poetic—response to my thoughts on the One through the lens of Dune. And you got the message. I love how you locate heroism in our everyday lives, which may be literally saving lives—like my friend Carl who is now a nurse in NYC and deals with critical situations of life and death everyday.

                And perhaps heroism is the bridge between life and death which every individual takes…

                But, you’re right, that doesn’t make me special. It is what makes me like every other human person on earth. I am not the One by myself. Without others who see me as the One, I am no one to myself. Even as the One, I am with others caught in a web of mutual recognition and a dependency on that recognition.

                How can a king be a King without subjects that look up to it?

                How can Gods be a Gods without those who worship them, who would invoke them, those who would make them manifest?

                And you’re right, in a beautifully simple way, it is finally about the trap of inflation that the One falls into, the way it attempts, like the sandworms of Dune, to swallow the sands of the collective. It is Paul Atreides as Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” and his apocryphal saying: “I am the state” (“L’état, c’est moi.”)

                Jung termed this stage of the individuation process as the stage of the “mana personality”, where the ego falls into an identity with the contents of the collective unconscious. It is obviously a pathological state, a false sense of union with the archetypal One, which amounts to a full-on daemonic possession!


                NT, thank you for your kind words.

                I agree, it is hard to be full of one’s self with out an audience. But then again a true narcissist sees mirrors all around reflecting back to them, human or not. It is not so much the reflections that are important, but the perspective that one is the center of the universe, and all of reality.

                I think getting caught in the hero or superhero trap, though containing aspects of ego centric narcissism, with the love of reflected adulation, is somewhat different. It’s more hierarchical rather than hub and spokes (as in narcissism, as in being “the state”, the center of all that is). At least in my mind it is. Subtle, but different.

                A sun king, who is the state, the center of all that is, sees others not as real, but as a form of supply that confirms their perspective, their delusion. It stems from low self esteem, ironically.

                But a sun king who is at the apex of humanity and the strata of the universe, is in a sense on a pedestal. The sun king needs not the followers, the rabble, to be there to confirm their right to be on top. That is just a bonus and their fair due. Instead, they are there by divine right, by the rightness of their nature, there being. The presence nor absence of the group does not change their perspective, nor their perceived reality. It is not based upon low self esteem as narcissism is. It is a form of delusion, and not dependent upon outside confirmation. At least I think so.

                It is a subtle but important difference. And in a way, the pedestal superhero is more monstrous, for they feel no flaw. Though the narcissist and the divine superhero are very similar, with many of the same traits, one is in constant fear (which is their motivating force), and the other has little, if anything to fear.

                I think there are many ways to look at this, and I think the superhero trap comes in many forms. Including having it thrust upon you, or expected of you. As a disabled person, the superhero archetype is both thrust upon me, and expected of me on a daily basis. And there is hell to pay if I do not measure up. My “worth” is often determined by able-bodied people as to whether or not I have measured up in their eyes. Whether or not I have met their bias, their perception of who I should be, not who I actually am nor what my reality truly is like. It would be easier to drink the cool-aide, and bow to society’s need for me to be a superhero. Believe me. But to do so would mean denying my own, very real needs and the truth of my life. In fact, the reason, I think, society needs the disabled to be superheroes is so they can feel okay when they turn their backs and walk away. There is no onus upon them to help, participate, to take time from their life, or pay taxes to support us. We are superheroes, we have no need of them, they convince themselves.

                I think this is one part of the reason people, as a whole, crave superheroes. One part of the very complex reasons for humanity’s interdependent relationship with superheroes. They desire that someone else to do the heavy lifting life demands of us. Some of those heroic figures are sun gods, like in Dune Emperor, and what Paul saw in his future if he accepted the call. Then again some are the angst filled, melancholy of the reluctant superhero of comic books. Your messiah in the dessert type, the savior of a different sort. Like I said, many versions of this.

                Well, anyway, I think that is now a whole 5 cents worth of opinion …

                Robert Juliano

                  @mythistorian : Just a few points:

                  A. Jung was not “involved” with Nazism, opportunistically or otherwise. If you disagree, please provide hard evidence of his involvement. Thus, there was nothing Jung needed to apologize to regarding the Nazis.

                  B. Jung did not have extramarital affairs with his patients. And his relationships with Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, however they are described, followed the rules that we abide by today [i.e., the current ethics code of the American Psychological Association (APA), 10.08, which addresses the issue of sexual relationships between doctors and their former patients. It is worth noting here that the latest evidence is that Jung did not have sexual relations with Sabina Spielrein].

                  C. Wikipedia is not a good source on something as enigmatic as Gnosticism – more properly, the diverse traditions of the Gnostics. I have been reading the Gnostic works since the late 1970s when the texts discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945 were translated and published. The Gnostic imagining of the Pleroma and of the One make it clear that they see a primordial unity underlying the duality on the surface (e.g., see the “Gospel of Truth”).

                  — Robert E. Juliano, Ph.D.


                    Yes, my dear sunbug, you are not so far afield! And you caught my hint when I wrote about the imposition of the One upon the collective, for in so doing the One turns the collective against itself, unleashing a deluge of violence and self-destruction.

                    “But isn’t the greater power of the one derived from an attending Collective? That it is Collective power (collective underneath the One of course) that the One often seeks and desires? And NEEDs?”

                    Exactly! There is a mutual dependency, a being-for-one-another that sustains the identity of both. The One stands over the Many as Sovereign, Supreme Leader, or Führer, where we are dealing with an individual that has become one with the One (not noticing that there are already two ones at work here.)

                    I think Stephen would also agree that it is not so much a problem with the archetypal-mythic energy called “heroism” but with a specific ideological form of the hero, the form of the One. For this is such a One containing the split within itself. This is why dualism and monism can happily co-exist as two sides of the same ideological coin, a fact which is in full evidence in Gnosticism, for instance.

                    The celebratory dream of the collective must be given a shape in which literal violence can be turned into mythic delight—but we are yet so far from such utopias that the more pressing matter at the moment seems to be to at least stop authoring our own self-destruction! That would be a good start.


                      Thank you so much for adding such personal experience of having hero ideology thrust upon you. You are absolutely right to suspect that such superheroism functions in a way to avoid social responsibility for the differently abled, or every other vulnerable segment of the population for that matter. That is why superheroism coincides with the hyper-individualism that fuels the global engine of capitalistic culture, an ideology designed to skew social responsibility to fatten the pockets of private enterprise. It is certainly a scam. Like the brainwashing that society wants to impose upon us, as you write so powerfully:

                      “It would be easier to drink the cool-aide, and bow to society’s need for me to be a superhero. Believe me. But to do so would mean denying my own, very real needs and the truth of my life. In fact, the reason, I think, society needs the disabled to be superheroes is so they can feel okay when they turn their backs and walk away. There is no onus upon them to help, participate, to take time from their life, or pay taxes to support us. We are superheroes, we have no need of them, they convince themselves.”

                      That is so well put and I thank you for sharing it with us. You speak truth here. And the truth is we cannot divorce politics from myth, nor suppress the virtual identity of myth and ideology on the collective ground of our individual existence.

                      Ideology allows one to live mythically, in an unconscious way, as it holds within itself a sublime core of archetypal truth, a truth which is continually falsified by the ideological consciousness that takes over.

                      This is why it is very important to me that what you describe this thrusting of superhero ideology upon the disabled as a kind of scapegoating mechanism. The scapegoat banishes social responsibility into the wilderness before it is chased down and “sacrificed” in the form of disabled people (or other vulnerable minorities), who are thus expected to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

                      The other point you make about the pure narcissist vs the tyrant is a subtle one and requires some clarification on my part. So when you write:

                      “I agree, it is hard to be full of one’s self with out an audience. But then again a true narcissist sees mirrors all around reflecting back to them, human or not. It is not so much the reflections that are important, but the perspective that one is the center of the universe, and all of reality.”

                      We are still working within the dialectical relationship between One and the Other or others. You are right, it is not so much the objects that may serve as mirrors of my reflection but about the perspective that one is the center of it all. That is why the complete image of Narcissus comes together with Echo, a human mirror, and his reflection upon a pond, a non-human ‘cosmic’ mirror. For without mirrors the One cannot be at all.

                      Take the example of the movie Cast Away, where you have someone in complete isolation who cannot sustain the reality of being so entirely alone, without any mirrors. Such a state drives Tom Hank’s character to the brink of suicidal despair. It is only until a non-human human mirror comes into his field of vision that he can regain his sense of being in the world, being the One and Only human on the island. Of course, I am talking about Wilson, a Soccer ball that has been “humanized” by an act of mythic imagination. Wilson is not just a fake little other, another person like him, like an inflatable doll to keep him company. Somehow Wilson has the power to reconstitute the entire web of the symbolic order that gives a role and meaning to the existence of this lonely One. Thus Wilson becomes a symbol of the Big Other that stands for the entire web of meaning and language that constitutes a human consciousness.

                      This is what I love about that movie. Remember that Tom Hanks had others on the island he could have “reflected” himself in—other animals, the sky and sea—as indeed the center of that little universe of the island. But having little others is not enough. It is the Big Other that Tom hanks needs in order to survive. For without the Big Other, there is no One worth living—so the movie seems to say.

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