Face your fears or they will climb over your backFrank Herbert
Dune stands as a light of mythical inspiration in an age of “woke” darkness. The teachable lessons from Frank Herbert’s magnum opus illuminate profound truths about society and ourselves. Egalitarianism is discarded by Herbert for a warrior hierarchy in rejection of a liberal future.
The story of Dune takes place on the desert planet of Arrakis, a harsh world coveted for its rare spice “melange,” a substance that expands consciousness and extends lifespans. Ruled over by the noble family house Atreides, Paul Atreides, adolescent heir to the throne, is forced into hiding after his family is destroyed from betrayal. Paul, becoming the mysterious legend known as Muad’dib, battles rival houses and corporations alike in a journey to fulfill prophecy.
One of the most shocking things about the world that Frank Herbert paints is its complete absence of democracy. Whether one looks at the royal houses and their strict hierarchy, the Bene Gesserit order, a female order of witches, or the tribal hierarchy of the Fremen (desert nomads of the dunes), order and structure play immense importance in the prophecy of Muad’dib and the honorability of Dune’s characters. Arrakis and other planets such as the Atreides’ homeworld of Caladan are ruled over by noble families subordinated to the Padishah Emperor. Dune paints a harsh world but not a bleak one and is not a dystopian novel; the noble houses enjoy ornately designed palaces, rule sprawling cities with advanced technology under a functional civilization. Dune’s future implicitly signals to the reader that democracy and the liberal values associated with “progress” are not the endpoints of history, but rather relics of a failed past.
In fiction, a lot can be said about the author by how they portray warfare, as a tragedy or challenge. Dune portrays a story of fierce noblemen and honorable warriors; society doesn’t scold the warrior but elevates him to mythic status. The two main warrior casts on Arrakis (Dune), the Sardukar and the Fremen, are admired for their fanaticism and devotion to a cause greater than themselves. The Fremen exemplify this positive view of war, and the honor warriors bestow. The Fremen only accept one into the tribe once one has proven themselves in battle and see death in battle as something to celebrate. In stark rejection of pacifism, Frank Herbert ratifies the maxim “peace through strength.” Warfare gives Frank Herbert’s world a harsh but honorable quality, war is used to challenge men to greatness or obliteration, contextualizing Dune’s heroism.
Wisdom and Spirituality
By far, one of the most remarkable aspects of Dune is the story’s religious character, without spoiling the story, and yes, that is how central the spiritual nature is to Dune, this book gives us a sense that real progress is not only an outer technological advancement but an internal advancement of our consciousness and the wisdom that comes from such experiences. Dune is not entirely reactionary, as the Fremen are noted for their technological ingenuity, but the liberal notion of progress being solely on material terms is rejected. A sense of pious history is given to the book by quotations at the beginning of each chapter; each quote referring to current events in the past tense, giving the reader a feeling of gravitas, as if one is actually reading about a real-life legend. Paul Atreides, as Maud’dib, represents more than an earthly leader, but explicitly a spiritual one, setting it apart from secular sci-fi narratives. The emphasis on faith is a powerful weapon to the warrior, which certainly resonates with the third position’s romantic idealism. Whether we are discussing the Fremen of Dune or Mussolini’s black shirts, the centrality of the fanatical devotion to an ideological cause underlines Lady Jessica’s phrase “do not fear, fear is the mind killer.” And lastly what better enemy could Frank Herbert have chosen than ones representing greed and money. With spirituality so central, Frank Herbert set idealism against materialism.
Dune is a masterpiece of science fiction and an honorable vision of the future stripped of liberal futurism. Mr Herbert’s emphasis on hierarchy gives nobility in the genre usually saturated with liberal democracies. Rather than providing the reader the goody pacifist, Dune gives us the heroic warrior, one that exemplifies excellence through combat. Frank Herbert takes futurism from materialism and gives spiritual depth with rich prophecies, fanatical faith, and timeless wisdom; all included in Dune’s progressive future. Through it all, the story that unfolds reminds us in the American Third Position to persist through fear with a warrior’s spirit and to forge our legend.