An essay written by Andrew Sherry that deals with Politics and Religion in the Dune novels. Edited by Professor Julie Dennison.

Dune Politics and Religion:

There are a variety of political and religious concepts throughout the Dune novels that varies so much through the novels which makes it a complex and cogitative science fiction series. The Dune novels are popular with many fans and partly this is due because of its political and religious structures. This essay will be focussing primarily on the first four Dune novels written by Frank Herbert.

In the first novel, the Qizarate is composed of missionaries and is a religious body that carries Muad'dib's religion across the universe (Herbert Dune Messiah 8). Muad'dib is a character in three of the Dune novels and originally was named Paul Atreides who was heir to the Atreides throne of power. After living on a planet called Arrakis also known as Dune, the Fremen renamed him Muad'dib after they accepted him into their society. The Fremen are native people that had lived on Arrakis for a long time but were never political or religious leaders of the planet as they were mostly detached from off world influence. The Qizarate maintains control of the planets it occupies with Muad'dib's religion. The population of the universe see Muad'dib as their god whether they like it or not and they can not deny his power religiously. Korba, the person in charge of the Qizarate in Dune Messiah, works with Muad'dib about Muad'dib's religion and is a panegyrist who delivers eulogies and praise for his god (Herbert Dune Messiah 8, 57). Korba seems to be fanatically involved with this religion. Korba goes far enough to attempt to create a martyr of Muad'dib, all for the sake of his religion (Herbert Dune Messiah 9). The Bene Gesserit wanted to control the religion of the universe through their Kwisatz Haderach but could not as Paul reached power. Paul "has watched his Fremen become receptacles of religious awe instead of free men." (Touponce 38). Paul wanted the Fremen to be free, but they can not because of the Jihad. The Bene Gesserit's main goal in the novels was their breeding program. They wanted to create a powerful "Kwisatz Haderach", that they would use to rule the universe. A Kwisatz Haderach is "the male counterpart of a fully developed Reverend Mother [who is powerful Bene Gesserit]... and more--a human of superior sensitivity and awareness" (Herbert Children of Dune 15). Their efforts at controlling this Kwisatz Haderach fail, however, and they lose the political power they once had before the Kwisatz Haderach came to power in Paul Atreides. In order to create this Kwisatz Haderach, they had to be deceitful to different political "Houses" by not informing anyone of their real motives. "Deceit is a tool of statecraft," and statecraft is essential to political systems (Herbert Dune Messiah 64).

Alia, Paul's sister, controls the Regency that controls most of the universe, through politics and religion in Children of Dune (Herbert 56). "[Paul] placed his own sister, Alia, on the religious throne the Bene Gesserit had thought their own." (Herbert Dune Messiah 8). Through this Regency, Alia can do whatever she wishes as long as it doesn't provoke the Fremen and her subjects against the Regency. The Regency promotes Muad'dib's Religion to help keep control of the universe. By promoting this religion, the Regency is ensuring that others do not oppose them. In Dune Messiah the Qizarate promotes the religion.

The religion in God Emperor of Dune is more complex than the other Dune novels. Leto II, the son of Paul, states "I am the religion!" (Herbert Children of Dune 56). Leto II is the religion because he is slowly turning into a sandworm and most people see him as immortal. If Leto II is the religion then he can change it any way he wants. Leto II's religion is different as he his becoming a sandworm, which entails extending his life for over three thousand years, which is much longer than Muad'dib's Religion lasted. The Fishspeakers are all woman, and are Leto II's policing army that spreads his religion throughout the universe. Leto II recognizes that they are a better army than an all male army and a female army is more loyal. Some of the Fishspeakers have certain Bene Gesserit attributes such as being able to tell if a person is tampered by altering genetics in a way Leto II does not desire.

In each Dune novel, there are politics which are used to control the population, and to keep power. The political structures in the Dune novels change from novel to novel, each one adapting to the different environments and situations. In the first four Dune novels, there is at least one conspiracy in each novel to overthrow a political power.

The political structure in Dune Messiah is one of the simplest in the novels, but is still important to society because it shows how it is used and its consequences. In Dune Messiah, Paul is the emperor of the known universe. He married a royal princess for political reasons to secure his power (Herbert Dune Messiah 17). Paul refers to his empire politics as "despotism" which is true because his jihad kills more than sixty-one billion people to bring everyone under his power (Herbert Dune Messiah 113 212). When Paul "abdicate[s] his throne as the result of conspiracy", he leaves all the political power with Alia in order to move into the desert (Palumbo 435). Several groups want Paul dead so they can gain more power and eventually destroy all the Atreides' power.

In Children of Dune, in Paul's absence, the Regency controls everything and is the major political force in the novel. The Regency is controlled by Alia, Paul's younger sister, but the priests of Muad'dib's religion influence what Alia should do for most of the novel. "Farad'n, the previous Emperor's grandson and the scion of House Corrino," plays an important part near the end of the novel politically (Palumbo 441). Farad'n has been trained by Jessica, Paul's mother, and once the training is done, he becomes part of the Bene Gesserit, which is a large group of woman that are involved with politics and religion that would ultimately further the group's agenda. Farad'n is bound to wed Ghanima, Paul's daughter, for political reasons. Ghanima is to wed Farad'n so that Jessica and Duncan, the Atreides swords master, can be freed from the Corrinos, the previous House in power, imprisonment on the planet Salusa Secundus. Leto II's command secures the power of the Atreides, "but there will be no betrothal of [Farad'n] and Ghanima. My sister will marry me!" Leto II says (Herbert Children of Dune 406). The marriage between Leto II and Ghanima is purely political to secure the power, but Ghanima and Farad'n will still have descendants.

God Emperor of Dune is a more complex political system in ways, although Leto II is a tyrant and controls every aspect of the universe. As a Bene Gesserit states, "There is no doubt that his ability to predict future events, an oracular ability much more powerful than that of any ancestor, is still the mainstay of his political control" (Herbert God Emperor of Dune 63-64). Since Leto II can predict the future, he can predict political occurrences and counteract them to maintain control and order. This is true throughout the novel, as he proves to others that he does see the future in many ways although the oracular ability is very complicated to explain.

In the Dune series, politics and religion usually complement each other which makes the novels more cogitative than other science fiction novels. There are several instances of this in the Dune series. Korba plans on killing Paul because Paul "scorns" his own religion, and Korba feels that this is a threat to the priesthood in Dune Messiah (O'Reilly 151). "A martyr they can control." is what the priesthood wanted to accomplish by killing Paul and overthrowing Paul's government (O'Reilly 151). In Children of Dune, Leto II dethrones Alia and takes over the government, at the same time ending Muad'dib's religion (O'Reilly 165). Leto II then becomes known as a tyrant that controls the government as well as his religion. Leto II demonstrates that "depending upon gods for salvation" is not the way for humans to be and "thereby to force humans to rely upon their own abilities." (McLean 150). If there is no religion for people to value, then they must rely on governments to impose rules that is controlled by human abilities. The Dune series has vast political and religious structures that are both created and destroyed. Ultimately, each religion and political structure struggles with internal and external forces. The Dune series is popular because it requires the reader to think, and there is more to that than just a story.

Works Cited

Herbert, Frank. Children of Dune. New York : Ace Books, 1987.

Herbert, Frank. Dune Messiah. New York : Berkley, 1969.

Herbert, Frank. God Emperor of Dune. New York : Putnam, 1981.

McLean, Susan. "A Question of Balance: Death and Immortality in Frank Herbert's Dune Series". Death and the Serpent: Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy. (1985): 145-152.

O'Reilly, Timothy. Frank Herbert. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., Inc. 1981.

Palumbo, Donald. "The monomyth as fractal pattern in Frank Herbert's Dune novels". Science Fiction Studies 25.3 (Nov. 1998): 433-58.

Touponce, William F. Frank Herbert. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

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