Dune (1965) Novel – Esoteric Analysis

Lynch film poster.

Lynch film poster.

By: Jay Dyer Dune is an amazing novel: There is a reason it's the best-selling science fiction series of all time.  Prescient for his time (1965), author Frank Herbert was able to foresee a future in which geo-engineering, rampant technocracy, geo-political intrigue and subterfuge, ecology, elite bloodlines, the occult and religious perennialism all coalesce into a story of unparalleled scope and imagination.  In that regard, it functions as both a fictional account of a far distant galactic future, as well as a predictive presentation of today's headlines and scientific advancements.  Truly there is no novel to liken it to, especially in the genre of science fiction, relative to its time.  While any top ten sci-fi novels will undoubtedly include Dune among its ranks, I argue it is utterly unique in its inclusion of themes and characters that run completely contrary to Asimov or Orwell. Most science fiction envisions a future of advanced technocratic control where religion has all but been abolished or taken on odd, irrelevant forms.  Not so here: For Hebert, religion takes a central role in the novel.  As for technocracy, the novel is decidedly in opposition.  We do see humans engaged in the usual court intrigues and conspiratorial machinations that echo Machiavelli's Discourses and in particular, "Of Conspiracy."  Yet with Dune, we do not see a utopianism predicated on technological advance and subjugation, but rather a future in which the good guys are those in harmony with nature, seeking to be a symbiotic organism in the larger cycle of ecological and cosmic forces.   Indeed, it is the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, working with the CHOAM trading guild and the Bene Gesserit bloodline coven of witches that seek to subjugate Arrakis (Dune), the desert planet of unmanageable wasteland home to the spice mélange, the consciousness-expanding drug that has a hold on the entire known universe.

Lynch film poster.

Rather than being presented with a simplistic, Manichaean plot of goody-goodies and nasty villains that vie for control, the reader is shown a vast web of interlocking power blocs and alliances of espionage, all seeking to control the very thing that gives one control of the known galaxy – the control of resources, and in particular, the drug trade (the spice).  The parallels to modern geo-politics here are unmistakable.  Geo-political power has always centered around the control of resources and the land and sea power.

Gould and Fitzgerald's "Invisible History"

Gould and Fitzgerald’s “Invisible History”

The novel’s usage of Islamic mystic symbolism and imagery immediately brings to mind ancient Afghani Sufism, where the opium trade has long been a center of global chess moves, particularly with the British Empire’s control and use of opium and its Great Game espionage maneuvers with Russia. Herbert is clearly aware of this global alignment and includes these very human drives in his futuristic, anti-imperial novel.  The novel immediately made me think of Gould and Fitzgerald’s famous Invisible History, which details the importance of Afghanistan in middle eastern power moves, not just due to its centrality for the drug trade, but also due to its crucial “mystical” significance.  Gould and Fitzgerald explain of this tradition:

“As the ancient home of Zoroaster and the mystical Avesta as well as Gandhara Buddhism, the Illuminati Roshaniya cult and the Order of Bektashi Dervishes, 19th century Afghanistan and its surroundings provided a mystical underpinning to what today is dryly regarded by many as mere geopolitics. With every advance of the industrial era, the quest for meaning and spiritual enlightenment among Western intellectuals grew while hypnotism, spiritualism and occultism found great popularity in European “parlor” society.

With the expansion of empire interwoven with the expectations of end-time prophecies about to come due, a spiritual movement linking biblical prophecy and Britain began to grow. Guided by religious zeal and a great deal of imagination, a British-Israel movement emerged from the shadows in 1794 with the publication of Richard Brothers’ A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times. Sharon Turner’s 1827 On the Asiatic Origin of the Anglo-Saxons sought to establish greater Persia as the ancestral home of “the progenitors of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors.” Some in the movement proclaimed British army officer Sir Henry Rawlinson’s successful 1835 translation of the Persian “Behistun inscription” as positive proof of a link between Britain and the northern migrations of 10 lost tribes of Israel while the 1840 publication of the Rev. John Wilson’s Our Israelitish Origin tapped biblical scripture to draw a direct connection between ancient Israel and Britain’s Anglo-Saxon empire.

But while providing an acceptable Judeo/Christianized veneer for justifying Britain’s imperial destiny, the practical foreign policy aspects of solidifying the empire took a more secret if not magical turn. Grounded in British Freemasonry, but organized around the exotic rights and practices of the Near and Middle East a kind of mystical, esoteric foreign policy gained favor within London’s elite during the 19th century. Drawing on Anglo and Franco-Egyptian Masonic societies for inspiration, this “mystical imperialism” sought to create a syncretistic cult-like religion with the over-arching goal of uniting the various factions and cultures within the empire.

According to author Robert Dreyfus in his book, Devil’s Game, during this time, “Many British intellectuals, and not a few imperialists, were seized with a desire to find a sort of holy grail, a unified field theory of religious belief.”

This is the mileu in which Herbert is working, as well as Buddhist and Heidegerrian ideas which are the key to understanding Dune.  Herbert presents Paul Atreides, the novel’s would-be ruler and apotheosized prophet as the figurehead of revolution against the corrupt imperial power.  The imperial power is primarily concerned with the maintenance of power and its guild-run profits, with a conspicuously secular and pragmatic view of politics.  The Fremen, the desert-dwelling superstitious religious of Arrakis that secretly maintain caches of water (also a key commodity on Arrakis) interpret Paul as the fulfillment of their coming deliverer/prophet warrior, the Kwisatz Haderach, the universe’s super being.  An interesting insight is presented here with the kwisatz haderach – the coming universal super being is the production of 40 generations of genetic bloodline manipulation by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, who represent the occult/espionage power of the ruling power structure.

Muad'dib, the base of the pillar.

Muad’dib, the base of the pillar.

Readers are thus shown a significant secret about realpolitik not evident in similar novels – the attempt to manipulate bloodlines by the elite to produce a genetically superior ruling class.  In Herbert’s version, the manipulation is done to control the kwisatz haderach by a female witch coven that intends on being the power behind the throne.  If a super being could be controlled, the Sisterhood could control the known universe through their adept skills at sorcery and word-magic.  The Sisterhood are trained in all manner of religious and espionage skills and function something like occultic CIA operatives, arranged hierarchically under the Reverend Mother, Gaius.  Gaius brings to mind Gaia, or mother earth, so we have a clear use of feminine symbology where we already get the impression the Sisterhood seeks to institute a galactic femin-ocracy, ousting the mediocre, secular Emperor Shaddam IV.  In fact, the Sisterhood’s Missionaria Protectiva had even implanted the myth of the kwisatz haderach in all known religious sects for this purpose.

The Sisterhood, however, did not count on a man born out of the planned generational structure to Duke Leto through Jessica Atreides, a rebellious Bene Gesserit.  The irony here is that contrary to the secular pragmatic imperial power and cunning feminine power, the masculine patriarchal power returns to the top of the pyramid.  Herbert therefore casts a starkly traditionalist/perennialist version of future events in which the masculine power puts an end to the feminist power of the crafty Bene Gesserit.  Religion is not displaced by scientistic utopianism, but rather vindicated as the real power in the universe, toppling the cynical and depraved Harkonnen bloodline.  In fact, Herbert was even accurate in portraying the degenerate noble fixation with pedophile child rape, as Baron Harkonnen is shown loving young boys.  In fact, in the appendices, we learn that the galaxy had already outlawed AI robot rule due to humans being enslaved by robots.  As Paul ascends to power, he even takes a second wife, Princess Irulan, daughter of the Emperor.  Dune is, I argue, a decidedly anti-modern novel, and astoundingly so.  Most science fiction presents science as the key to “progress” with glistening spaceships and fantastical egalitarian otherworldly planets where religion is banished.  Dune is the precise opposite: religion is the key, men are destined to rule, and the domination of humans and nature for gain is an unnatural aberration.

The Bene Gesserit Witch Coven

The Bene Gesserit Witch Coven

Herbert’s interest in ecology, geo-engineering and terraforming is manifest too, showing further prescience in regard to now public weather control and environmental engineering plans that are very real.  Time Magazine has even reported on weather control and environmental engineering, to the dismay of ignorant deniers.  Weather modification is now decades old, originating in World War II strategic flight missions.  Modern weather technology has developed tremendously, involving VLF, ELF and lightning control, as DARPA’s own budget demonstrates.  It reads on page 37:

“This thrust will obtain insights into physical aspects of natural phenomena such as magnetospheric sub-storms, fire, lightning, and geo-physical phenomena. New fundamental understandings of these phenomena will enable the ability to predict and exploit these physical processes. A major emphasis of this thrust is to provide predictive models for the interactions between plasmas and electromagnetic waves across a range of energy and length scales, and into new regimes. Specific efforts that fall under this heading are foundational studies on the initiation, propagation, and attachment of lightning, and their associated emissions; the critical factors affecting magnetospheric sub-storms; the generation and amplification of extremely low frequency (ELF)/ultra low frequency (ULF)/very low frequency (VLF) radiation in the ionosphere utilizing the High Frequency Active Aural Research Program (HAARP) transmitter; and understanding and quantifying the interaction of electromagnetic and acoustic waves with the plasma in flames.”

Muad'dib masters Old Father Eternity to restore the masculine power.

Muad’dib masters Old Father Eternity to restore the masculine power.

Herbert foresaw what would be coming in the near future, encoding it in a novel of science fiction, not just a fantastical prediction of events millennia from now.  Dune is subject to the terraforming plans of the empire, but Paul Muad’dib realizes that in order to outsmart the CHOAM trade guild (the money power), the emperor (the polis) and the Bene Gesserit (the occult/espionage power), he must bring spice production to a halt, forcing all eyes to Arrakis.  By so doing with his Fremen wildmen religious followers, he is able to bring the Jihad against the wicked ruling establishment powers.

The novel’s focus on ecology is also a rebuke to modern scientism which presumptuously assumes the rape of nature and mankind with no concern for an ecosystem that is part of a natural process.  All natural hierarchies are restored by Paul Muad’dib and only under this hieratic order is true freedom restored.  Paul and the “free-men” represent the masculine order placed back in power under which health and a blossomed, terraformed Dune emerge from a wasteland.  This is also why Paul undergoes the Shai-Hulud (Old Father Eternity) worm bile ritual, wherein he experiences a crossing of the abyss to enter that place where the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood “cannot go.” When Muad’dib returns from this death/resurrection ritual, he is apotheosized to bring and end to the rule of the female power and the unrighteous.  It is also worth noting that the imperial power sees mankind as a “disease” that must be eradicated through population control.  the Sisterhood evidences this, too, with their attempt to engineer the kwisatz haderach.  The Harkonnen follow suit with young boy sex slaves, as well as the imperial power brainwashing noble house servants and assassins for programmed missions.  Here Herbert hints at programs like MKULTRA and human trafficking that are very real evils in modernity, though they are given little mainstream press attention.

Paul trippin balls, goin where the chicks cain't!

Paul trippin balls, goin where the chicks cain’t!

From the standpoint of the occult, it factors prominently in the Bene Gesserit and Fremen rituals.   The religion of Dune is a distant syncretistic blend of something called the Orange Catholic Bible, the occult, and Sufi Islamic religious concepts which most of the nobility sees as fables.   This also confirms my thesis of Herbert’s influence from religious traditionalism/perennialism.  The Bene Gesserit are a caste of skilled sorcerers that are able to use “the voice,” where thought and sound are connected to give one power over physical events, known as the “weirding way.” Paul is taught this power by his mother and eventually teaches the Fremen to use this quasi-kabbalistic magical power to destroy with a word.  With bloodlines, esoteric symbolism, hallucinogenic drugs, ecology, terraforming, espionage and the occult, control of natural resources, Herbert’s Dune is undeniably a masterpiece of literary fiction, not just science fiction.

20 Comments on Dune (1965) Novel – Esoteric Analysis

  1. I have been a long time follower and never commented, precisely because your word in my mind is the final word. I find your authority on each and every subject unmatched, your grasp of the ancients and their schools paramount in your class, and ultimately (and forgive me this pleasure) I thouroghly enjoy your mental punishment of those who seek to deny the existence of God, but done so in a way worthy of an applause from God Himself. Forgive my flattery, but the faithful proverb instructs to give honor to whom honor is due, therefore my comment will stand.
    Grace and peace sir,
    Joshua

  2. Very good. Needed that laugh

  3. I’ve been waiting for this!

    Excellent analysis, Jay, if only for the connections you make between the novels’ elements and very real esoterica. The Dune Chronicles is an incredible literary feat, not taken seriously enough as literature due to the failure of most readers and critics to recognize the novel’s stark realism. (The same thing happens to The Lord of the Rings, interestingly enough.) As you have made clear, the reader needs a solid familiarity with esoterica, conspiracy, and religious philosophy in order to even brush the series’ surface. Otherwise, the reader will just get swept up in how “imaginative” this “science-fiction” world is.

    Have you read the other five Dune novels by Frank Herbert (never mind the tripe by his son Brian Herbert)? Later on, in God Emperor of Dune, there’s a galactic version of the Kabbalistic/Masonic Killing of the King ritual, and both Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune go even more in-depth with the sexual metaphysics hinted at in Dune. Herbert also touches on reincarnation & cloning, genetic memories, the connections between logic and mysticism, cultural degeneracy due to the shift from nomadism to civilization, and more. He was nothing short of a genius to be able to weave all this together.

    • Yeah, I am also curious what others thought of the sequels. Paul seems to flip the script by rejecting ‘the Golden Path’, only for it to be taken up by his son, who sacrifices his humanity to become a hybrid tyrant. Is this a call back to demi-gods/nephilim, a criticism of Millennialism, or an allusion to global governance by elitists?

      It kind of makes me wonder what Herbert was trying to get at regarding predestination, human nature, and the purpose of religion and government. Did his message change after the first book, or was he just being pressured to continue the story to make more money for the publisher? Does anybody else have thoughts on the meaning of the sequels? I found them less decipherable.

  4. I have a name // December 29, 2013 at 2:07 am // Reply

    Thank you for posting this spectacular analysis. Also don’t like spoiler allowed in the comments

  5. I’ve always identified modern art (part of modernism 1850 -1950) as essentially communication freedom and part of the freedom mentioned here. Our own planet now is turned into a desert of freemen plagued by technological weapons and people even as I type this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_people and http://hbmt.wordpress.com/water/
    Dune is an amazing novel.

  6. Mephistopheles Lux // February 7, 2015 at 7:11 pm // Reply

    Spice melange = oil
    Bene Gesserit = Jesuits/Vatican
    Fremen = Muslims
    House Harkonen = Israelis/zionists
    House Atreides = European nobility (take your pick)
    Emperor = President/American Empire
    Spacing Guild = Banking clans/Rothschilds

  7. Sarah McLeod // April 20, 2015 at 6:54 pm // Reply

    As the home world of House Atriedies is Caladan (Caladonia) a water planet…and they leave to go to the desert planet of Arrakis (Iraq) I would like to think they are Scottish

  8. Zisun Sonoff // August 27, 2015 at 10:05 am // Reply

    I wanted to add a couple of words to this review

    The Dune(Arrakis) and The Spice are the two outstanding subjects in the “The Dune”

    The whole story is symbolic and nothing is literal here.

    The Dune(Arrakis) symbolizes the future. It’s a place, the only place where you can find The Spice.

    The future is like a desert to people. I hasn’t happened yet, but we may look in future with the help of The Spice.

    Therefore symbolically here The Spice is the element that controls time.

    The time is the Shai-Hulud. The future gives birth to Shai-Hulud, the worm, that lives only in the future-The Dune(Arrakis)

    The Shai-Hulud is an essential element for Spice production, therefore, it’s the time that produces The Spice

    What is The Spice?? What is produced by time in the future??

    The Spice is the people, all creature’s hopes that live in the future and is produced by time. People see hope in the Future, The Future is Dune, Time lives in the future as Shai-Hulud and it produces Hope, the greatest fuel in the Universe

    Whoever controls The Future(Dune-Arrakis), controls time(Shai-Hulud) and hope(The Spice)

    The Great Houses fight for Control. Everyone wants a piece, the larger – the better, Some houses want to control The Future(Dune), therefore having all control and some houses fight to control only the distribution of The Spice(Hope)

    But at the same time all the Great Houses are themselves hooked on The Spice, the are hooked on Hope, they are controlled by their own instrument by which the see to control the whole Universe.

    Basically no one in the Universe can escape being controlled by Spice. The Spice controls every creature.

    The Hope is the ultimate God. The Hope controls the Future and Time itself. The past, The present and the Future, all things at once.

    The only creature that is able to control The Hope, The Spice and be at the many places at once at his own will is The Kwisatz Haderach, that could be emerged if some creature could ingest The Water of Life, the Essence of The Spice and survive.

    The Water of Life is the essence of The Spice(The hope) in it’s initial form. The essence of hope is the uncertainty or the fear.

    The fear runs life making everything fight for life and therefore hope to have a future.

    So, here comes the Muad-Dib, Paul Atredes, a human being, an hair to one of The Great Houses, who fight for the control of The Future(Arrakis)

    He is an unplanned result withing a planned mission to create Kwisatz Haderach by Bene Gesserit who symbolize The Mother of Kwisatz Haderach, the controller of Hope. So the Bene Gesserit fight to control the Hope, not so Much the Future, but The Hope itself through bringing Kwizats Hadarach.

    They check if Paul can survive the fear of pain and uncertainty, via “the black box”, and Reverent Mother flips out of her place when she realizes that Paul is the only male who could survive this test. According to her only females could. But the females for some reason couldn’t achieve the control over Hope, apparently the option was open only to male people.

    Well.. they were really psyched up about the whole thing from that point on..

    And you kinda know the rest of the deal if you read the book.. it will be quite interesting to interpret the rest of the things The Dune on your own.

    Just keep in mind what i’ve said. It will explain everything to you in the Book and you will look at it from a complete different point of view. I’ve given you The Keys – you open The Doors

    Don’t ask me how I know all of this.

  9. Sarah McLeod // January 14, 2016 at 9:33 pm // Reply

    I think you are quite harsh on the Bene Gesserit, they were also prized as great wives and mothers, as well as witches, by all the Great Houses.

  10. Nothing to do with Herbert but I thought you might like a laugh:

    Operation Earthworm by Joe Archibald
    http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/29303/pg29303.txt

  11. THE masterpiece of literary fiction in my opinion.

  12. Well said, thank you. In my Gnostic opinion, the Sisterhood cannot go beyond the abyss without the union of feminine and masculine. This is what creates the super being. The marriage of the parts reflected in self. It is about consciousness awakening. The Sleeper is not only Awaken but activated. The archetypal limb of consciousness has evolved to its next level. The struggle to evolve beyond the Demiurge which exists to oppress & absorb the soul of man & Gia’s resources.

  13. Twin Ruler // July 9, 2017 at 11:21 am // Reply

    I loved Dune!

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