God Emperor of Dune

God Emperor of Dune is a serious novel, with serious concerns. How could I take any interest in it in 1982, in its gaudy paperback cover, the fourth in a science fiction sequence? But it is worth taking interest.

Leto Atreides, part human, part Worm, whose symbiosis gives him superhuman strength, is the three thousand year old emperor of the galaxy. His brain permeates his seven metre long body, only its face and tiny arms appearing human, and he has the conscious memories and personalities of all his ancestors back to the Earth no-one else remembers. This is not science fiction based on possible technology. War brings death, but peace brings decadence: Leto seeks to create the Golden Path between, for humanity to develop. Rakis is no longer harsh desert: the worms have gone, and there are rivers and open water. The Fremen, therefore, have become weak, keeping up a few old rituals without understanding.

Frank Herbert’s views on homosexuality have developed since 1965, when in Dune the wicked Baron Harkonnen’s peak of vileness was his desire for young men. Now Duncan Idaho, ghola relic of a past age, is horrified by it, but Moneo Atreides knows that homosexuals make good soldiers. In this matter, Herbert is of his time. And he addresses questions of wisdom which I address, usefully to me. Reading the Tao Te Ching, I saw that I only understood the wisdom I had already reached.

The Empire remains a dark galaxy. The old power bases survive, and Tleilax, Bene Gesserit, Ix all seek to destroy the God Emperor. Ix creates weather satellites for Rakis, imagining that Leto wants them to punish his adversaries with storms or drought, rather than to develop the planet for any creative aim. Here, what can his Golden Path be? He knows that he will be remembered as a great tyrant. He deliberately breeds the Atreides line, who in youth rebel against him and after testing, come to serve him, for that is the least bad way.

The questions,
It will be alright, won’t it?
I am OK, aren’t I?
haunt me, though I know that for adulthood I must accept my own answers, which must be “As alright as it can possibly be” and “Yes”. Moneo, limited by seeing God as the all-powerful Benevolence, is forced to grow up and see God as the Struggler, alongside us, no longer above us.

This is a wisdom for constant conflict, where each human being is alone. Ix creates a woman, wholly good, loving and beautiful, in order to destroy Leto- she remains a mystery as we see her only through male eyes. I still hope that we flourish in co-operation, not competition, seeking the good of all: that yin has reality as more than the mere negation of Herbert’s yang.

A prayer

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/William_Orpen_Mrs_Oscar_Lewisohn.jpgI have no motivation. Today, I shall play on the blog a bit, read a bit, watch telly. I have hardly touched the piano for months. When it is sunny I go for a walk. There are Quaker meetings, and I have to get food in now and then. There is a world outside, and I am dissatisfied, but find no link between my possible actions and getting anything I might want. I might take a photograph of those swallows. In this mood, I consider a prayer.

Dearest Pink, Ark, Violet and Clare:

This is my prayer for each of you. I pray that you “come to Jesus.” I pray that where you have needs, God would meet them. When you hunger, you would be filled. When you are lonely, that you would find sweet friendship. When you stumble, that someone strong would be there to pick you up. When you are hurt, you would be healed. I wish you well. All of you.

The Pink Agendist already has these things, apart from the Jesus bit. I have not, but my initial reaction was anger: I am Christian. Then I thought, I want to communicate with Katy, whose prayer it is. I imagine her secure in her family and church community, secure in her understanding of God- that she opposes equal marriage so stridently because of Christian tradition and the usual interpretation of those Biblical verses, means I can categorise her as that type of Christian. She may be concerned at the state of the world, or reassured that God is working his purpose out.

I want to communicate, and imagine myself completely incapable of getting through to her. There she is,

quiet in conscience
calm in her right
confident her ways are best

I want to quote the call of Isaiah:

Make the mind of this people dull,
    and stop their ears,
    and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
    and turn and be healed.’

That’s you, that is, I would tell her. Would that shock her into seeing the world as I do, or would she quote it back at me?

I am not sure, and so I want everyone to see the world as I do, that I might be reassured. The mind imposes this framework which it calls ‘reality’. That arbitrary framework has a tendency to be quite independent of what your senses report. Perhaps knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty, and realising one does not know is the way to greater knowledge and all that, and I am pretty sure adopting Katy’s view of truth would be a step backwards.

Hm. No motivation, and something I passionately want, with no chance of getting it and no value in getting it if I did.

Of myth

Paul Mu’ad Dib walked into the desert, where he must surely die. Why would he do that? I can think of reasons, from his character, experiences and desires, and possibly he is giving his life for his people. Rational and emotional explanations meld into myth. I swill that metaphor round my mouth like a fine single malt, and appreciate the different notes of its lingering aftertaste. More possibilities emerge from consciousness. Perhaps I will dream of it.

Dune is all about myth and religion. There are the created and merged religions of the Zensunni and the Orange Catholic Bible, and the myths spread by the “Missionaria protectiva” so that any Bene Gesserit witch can tap into them, and pretend to be an apostle or a God. Knowing of their origin, Jessica does not appreciate that on Dune, the myths have become true. In Dune, the rationality of the “Mentat”, a human computer, is kept separate from the spirituality of the Reverend Mother, but in the first sequel Dune Messiah they are united.

Wisdom-sayings litter the book:
The most persistent principles of the universe were accident and error.
The clear safe course that leads downward into stagnation.
I told him that to endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe.
Do not be trapped by the need to achieve anything. This way, you achieve everything.

Does the prophet see the future or does he see a line of weakness, a fault or cleavage that he may shatter with words or decisions as a diamond-cutter shatters his gem with a blow of a knife?

Atmosphere is more important than action for the second novel. Dune has battles and knife-fights, Dune Messiah has one exercise with a fighting-machine more to show the character’s mood than be “exciting”, and has council meetings and conspiracies. What would knowing the future, and the horror of the best path through it, mean? The deliberately created religion has meaning for the pilgrims: perhaps, for some of them, it even has value.

Doctor Who has been playing with myth, during the Eleventh doctor. There is the Last Centurion, guarding the Pandorica for two millennia, and Clara jumping into the Doctor’s time-line, to merge with his life. The Doctor spends six hundred years in a town called Christmas, where the day is only minutes long, and the night hours, saving it from attack. Then there is the Ultimate Question- “Doctor-Who?” on which the Universe depends. For the plot, that question and its significance needed to be explained, and having one explanation it lost all its power.