Reading Children of Dune, Entry 3: Osiris, Drunk Sufism, & the Alam al-Mythal; Sophisticated Primitivity; Fremen Rebels (pp. 67–91)

I examine the origins of the Golden Path and its relations to the restoration of indigenous knowledge, by way of ancient Egyptian mythology and MENA irrigation practices, and the related dangers of spirituality (by way of Abomination) with respect to the Islamic concept of the alam al-mythal (and maybe it has something to do with “drunk sufism”). I also consider the question of the Fremen as “sophisticated primitives,” making some comparisons to the anthropologist Talal Asad. Throughout, I worry about how important the Atreides are in the grand scheme of things, the Fremen as apparently unthinking followers who have lost hold of their traditions, and the role of the Jacurutu as Fremen rebels (with some references to Fanon).

This entry is far more scattershot than its predecessors. Partly this is because it’s a lot of set up, rather than a coherent discussion of any particular idea. But the other reason for the scattershot quality is that I personally found the ideas and story in this portion of the book to be confusing, especially the conversation between Leto II and Ghanima, in which they decide to embark on the Golden Path. I needed to break it down step by step. The book gets weirder, more confusing, and more orientalist as I go on.

Previous: Entry 2 | Table of Contents for my essay series on Dune.

Note: Page numbers refer to the 1987 Ace edition of Children of Dune (CoD).

The Conception of the Golden Path: Osiris and Isis, and the Restoration of Fremen Knowledge

The conversation between Leto II and Ghanima about whether to embark upon the Golden Path is chock-full of references, and it’s difficult to follow what exactly they’re talking about. I’m going to try to break this down as best as I can.

The conversation opens by discussing Alia’s possible possession (Abomination by the Baron), establishing the guiding concern throughout the scene: If Leto is to follow the Golden Path (GP), does he risk possession? I found Ghanima’s description of “the perils of that inner world” (p69)as very indicative of the book’s broader themes. Much of the Dune saga is a critique of rationality, technocracy, and legalism in a colonial context, in contrast to various kinds of lived experience (i.e. embodied spirituality via Fremen practices, worms, spice, etc.). But here Ghanima is suggesting that deep spiritual engagement is not necessarily a panacea to exploitation. Spirituality, too, is a dangerous path.

This reminds me a bit of “drunk sufism” in Islam, perhaps famously represented in the story of the figure al-Hallaj, who proclaimed “I am [one with] God!” (which has been interpreted to mean he either actually believed he was God, or had reached such a state of spiritual awakening that he had achieved a particularly powerful divine connection, an alignment with God’s will). I don’t mean this as a critique of drunk sufism or al-Hallaj — just pointing to a similarity about the potential perils of spiritual engagement. I’ve now read through the entirety of CoD, and while I’ll keep overall thoughts to a minimum, the dangers of getting lost in spirituality are evident throughout the story, especially in the conclusion of Leto’s story and in the later descriptions of Alia’s tragic end.

In this context, the twins speak what appears to be Chakobsa in plenty, starting with this exchange (p70):

“Mohw’pwium d’mi hish pash moh’m ka,” she [Ghanima] intoned. The capture of my soul is the capture of a thousand souls.

“Much more than that,” he [Leto] countered.

“Knowing the dangers, you persist.” She made it a statement, not a question.

“Wabun ’k wabunat!” he said. Rising, thou risest!

He felt his choice as an obvious necessity. Doing this thing, it were best done actively. They must wind the past into the present and allow it to unreel into their future.

“Muriyat,” she conceded, her voice low. It must be done lovingly.

I managed to locate a conlanger’s take on these passages, which is that they are an approximation of Middle Egyptian, based on what hieroglyphs might have sounded like:

  • “Mohw’pwium d’mi hish pash moh’m ka” → mH (H=/x/) = seizekA = spirit, soulbut xAw = thousand
  • “Wabun ’k wabunat!” → wbn = rise.k = 2nd person masculine singular pronoun
  • “Muriyat” → smrj (or mri) = love

Anyhow, in this passage, we see the GP as a “necessity” in Leto’s words (or rather, in the words of Paul’s memory as spoken through Leto). Leto/Paul sees the GP as necessary to “destroy[] utterly” “Muad’Dib, the hero” and thus “bring us back from chaos” (p72). Ghanima (or Chani speaking through Ghanima) is hesitant, describing the GP as “not a good vision,” but Leto/Paul retorts, “It’s the only possible vision” (p72).

As occurs throughout this chapter, Ghanima (here, through Chani) remains hesistant about the GP, doubting its necessity and asking whether there is another way. “Could there not be another vision?” Ghanima/Chani asks, to which Leto/Paul replies, “Not yet. This child cannot peer into the future yet and return” (p72).

At this point, I’m still unclear as to what exactly the GP is. A few moments later, there is some clarification when Leto toys with allowing his father to possess him:

This flesh possessed the ability to transform melange into a vision of the future. With the spice, he could breathe the future, shatter Time’s veils. He found the temptation difficult to shed, clasped his hands and sank into the prana-bindu awareness. His flesh negated the temptation. His flesh wore the deep knowledge learned in blood by Paul. Those who sought the future hoped to gain the winning gamble on tomorrow’s race. Instead they found themselves trapped into a lifetime whose every heartbeat and anguished wail was known. Paul’s final vision had shown the precarious way out of that trap, and Leto knew now that he had no other choice but to follow that way.

I take it that the GP’s endpoint is to “shatter Time’s veils” — i.e. to destroy prescience.

Another comment on this passage: I am uncomfortable with the unstated racial politics. Herbert describes Leto’s “flesh” as bearing the “deep knowledge learned in blood by Paul.” What about Chani? Why is Paul so important, as opposed to his mother? Leto seems to be uncritically adopting his father’s vision. My concern is somewhat ameliorated by the next few lines, in which Leto says, “The joy of living, its beauty is all bound up in the fact that life can surprise you,” to which Ghanima/Chani replies, “I’ve always known that beauty” (p73–74). The idea of surprise seems essential to the way out of a fixed future, a counter to prescience, and I like that Chani simply responds, “Yeah, of course.” Bi-la kaifa!

Later, Ghanima seems to accept the necessity of the GP, with some more Chakobsa/Middle Egyptian(p76–77):

“The Golden Path, then,” Ghanima said, and she spoke as much to herself as to him, knowing how their father’s last vision met and melted into Leto’s dreams.

Something brushed against the moisture seals behind them and voices could be heard murmuring there.

Leto reverted to the ancient language they used for privacy: “L’ii ani howr samis sm’kwi owr samit sut.”

That was where the decision lodged itself in their awareness. Literally: We will accompany each other into deathliness, though only one may return to report it.

I also see that the GP is clarified to be neither Paul nor Leto’s vision, but as one passed from father to son, who improved upon it.

Soon after, the twins remark on the “old Fremen custom for the holy sages” of spending the night alone in the desert, a “vigil” practiced by “all the Uma” (from the Arabic ummah, “community”) (p77). I’m curious what specific practice Herbert may have had in mind. There are various Islamic traditions speaking to the virtue of staying up all night in prayer, but I’m not sure if that is what’s being referenced here.

Here, I don’t like that Paul and Alia’s practice of the night vigil is casually brought up without any acknowledgement or critique of their having “gone native.” The twins are described as “royal” and they then remark that the Fremen “don’t know what we’ve decided for them.” Even though the twins have been coded as Fremen in earlier scenes (see my prior reading entries), they seem to be coded white here, or at least as royal, and as able to make decisions for the people without consulting them.

Ghanima next remarks, on the plan to fake Leto’s death: “In that time, mourning for the sibling, it must be exactly real — even to the making of the tomb. The heart must follow the sleep lest there be no awakening” (p77). Leto then interprets Ghanima’s statement (p77):

In the ancient tongue it was an extremely convoluted statement, employing a pronominal object separated from the infinitive. It was a syntax which allowed each set of internal phrases to turn upon itself, becoming several different meanings, all definite and quite distinct but subtly interrelated. In part, what she had said was that they risked death with Leto’s plan and, real or simulated, it made no difference. The resultant change would be like death, literally: “funeral murder.” And there was an added meaning to the whole which pointed accusatively at whoever survived to report, that is: act out the living part. Any misstep there would negate the entire plan, and Leto’s Golden Path would become a dead end.

In this passage, Herbert’s obsession with linguistics is on display. (The earlier Chakobsa/Middle Egyptian dialogue was also accompanied with comments about the use of infinitives). I suspect Herbert believed that concepts and language can shape reality, or that reality itself is composed of concepts. This would align with some of the other themes throughout the Dune books about “alam al-mythal” (the world of similitudes, see below). It also suggests Herbert’s use of a variety of languages, especially Arabic, Chakobsa, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Middle Egyptian, is not merely Herbert playing word games. He probably thought that a deep engagement with language was a way to access higher truths.

The next few lines get at what may be the heart of the scene — the myth of Osiris and Isis (p77–78):

“You are not Osiris,” Ghanima reminded him [Leto].

“Nor will I try to be.”

Ghanima took his arm to stop him. “Alia darsatay haunus m’smow,” she warned.

Leto stared into his sister’s eyes. Indeed, Alia’s actions did give off a foul smell which their grandmother must have noted. He smiled appreciatively at Ghanima. She had mixed the ancient tongue with Fremen superstition to call up a most basic tribal omen. M’smow, the foul odor of a summer night, was the harbinger of death at the hands of demons. And Isis had been the demon-goddess of death to the people whose tongue they now spoke.

A few points:

(1) The reference here is to the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis. Osiris was a god who was killed by his brother, Set, but who was resurrected by his wife, Isis, in order to conceive a son who would challenge Set for succession. But I’m not sure how to map the myth onto Leto’s story. I believe it’s a reference to the fact that Leto will be presumed dead (just as Osiris actually died), and then will return to the living (as Isis revived Osiris). This would make the aunt, Alia, like the nefarious sibling, Set. I am not sure who Isis is supposed to be, except perhaps Ghanima — but Ghanima plays no role in resurrecting Leto later in CoD. An entirely alternate reading is that the Baron is like Osiris, in that he is resurrected in Alia by a demon (via Abomination), and that Leto is promising Ghanima that he will not succumb to the resurrection of a past ancestor via Abomination. If anyone has deeper thoughts on this, I’m all ears.

(2) The reference to Chakobsa/Middle Egyptian as the “ancient tongue” of the Fremen (“whose tongue they now spoke”), of course, aligns with the Fremen’s roots in MENA, specifically Egypt and the Caucacus. The Egyptian mythology, too, is presented as a myth belonging to the Fremen. (I don’t like the reference to the Fremen as having a “superstitition,” although it is not presented as a negative.)

(3) From the abovementioned conlanger, “m’smow” → smw (S = /S/) = summer

The gods Osiris, Anubis, and Horus. From the tomb of Horemheb.

The next scene goes on (p78):

“We Atreides have a reputation for audacity to maintain,” he said.

“So we’ll take what we need,” she said.

“It’s that or become petitioners before our own Regency,” he said. “Alia would enjoy that.”

“But our plan . . .” She let it trail off.

Our plan, he thought. She shared it completely now.

Thoughts: (1) Again, Ghanima is still on board with the GP. (2) The continued reverence for the Atreides is frustrating. Herbert is not as critical of the Atreides as an imperial power as I would like.

However, as the dialogue goes on, the twins frame the GP in Fremen terminology (p78):

He [Leto] said: “I think of our plan as the toil of the shaduf.”

Ghanima glanced back at the anteroom through which they’d passed, smelling the furry odors of morning with their sense of eternal beginning. She liked the way Leto had employed their private language. Toil of the shaduf. It was a pledge. He’d called their plan agricultural work of a very menial kind: fertilizing, irrigating, weeding, transplanting, pruning — yet with the Fremen implication that this labor occurred simultaneously in Another World where it symbolized cultivating the richness of the soul.

This is a cool set of analogies. The shaduf comes from the Arabic word for an irrigation tool which allows lifting water from a well onto land. The idea of GP as a “toil of the shaduf” links directly with the Dune saga’s overarching themes of ecology — the GP is like a massive irrigation project, modelled on Fremen technologies. Moreover, the Fremen regard shaduf, and thus the GP by way of the analogy, as connected to spiritual improvement of the self in “Another World.” Perhaps, by this other world, Herbert means to reference the alam al-mythal.

A shaduf in Kom Ombo, Egypt

In the subsequent passage, Ghanima seems to doubt the GP (p78–79):

Ghanima studied her brother as they hesitated here in the rock passage. It had grown increasingly obvious to her that he was pleading on two levels: one, for the Golden Path of his vision and their father’s, and two, that she allow him free reign to carry out the extremely dangerous myth-creation which the plan generated. This frightened her.

Was there more to his private vision that he had not shared? Could he see himself as the potentially deified figure to lead humankind into a rebirth — like father, like son? The cult of Muad’Dib had turned sour, fermenting in Alia’s mismanagement and the unbridled license of a military priesthood which rode the Fremen power. Leto wanted regeneration.

He’s hiding something from me, she realized.

“This Golden Path could be no better than any other path,” she said.

Leto looked at the rock floor between them, feeling the strong return of Ghanima’s doubts. “I must do it,” he said.

“Alia is possessed,” she said. “That could happen to us. It could already have happened and we might not know it.”

“No.” He shook his head, met her gaze. “Alia resisted. That gave the powers within her their strength. By her own strength she was overcome. We’ve dared to search within, to seek out the old languages and the old knowledge. We’re already amalgams of those lives within us. We don’t resist; we ride with them. This was what I learned from our father last night. It’s what I had to learn.”

“He said nothing of that within me.”

“You listened to our mother. It’s what we — ”

“And I almost lost.”

“Is she still strong within you?” Fear tightened his face.

“Yes . . . but now I think she guards me with her love. You were very good when you argued with her.” And Ghanima thought about the reflected mother-within, said: “Our mother exists now for me in the alam al-mythal with the others, but she has tasted the fruit of hell. Now I can listen to her without fear. As to the others . . .”

“Yes,” he said. “And I listened to my father, but I think I’m really following the counsel of the grandfather for whom I was named. Perhaps the name makes it easy.”

Some thoughts:

(1) Clearly, Herbert wants readers to remain in doubt about the legitimacy of the GP. The question, I think, is whether Leto will become merely another Muad’Dib (a deified figure). Earlier, when the twins invite their parents to occupy their bodies, Paul/Leto remarks that “there is no certainty” that possession can be avoided (p73).

(2) As the twins access their collective memories, Leto II draws on the paternal line, which is also the outsider’s (white imperialist) line, to Paul and Leto I, while Ghanima draws on the maternal line, which is also the Fremen line, to Chani. Chani counsels muriyat (love), while Leto counsels the brutality of the GP. Or, perhaps another way to interpret the above passage: Chani is “guarding Ghanima” with her love, meaning that Chani is shielding Ghanima from the necessary truth of the GP… The whole thing is gendered, obviously… On the other hand, the GP, even as Leto sees it, is drawn from “the old languages and the old knowledge” — i.e. the lost Fremen traditions. I wonder if Paul could not have possibly completed the vision of the GP because he lacked access to the Fremen Other Memories (i.e. the “old knowledge”), whereas Leto can complete it because he has access to those memories via his Fremen mother, Chani.

(3) Alam al-mythal shows up again!

Ghanima’s doubt about the GP continues (p80):

“We don’t need any more Atreides gods! We need a space for some humanity! ”

“Have I ever denied it?”

“No.” She took a deep breath and looked away from him. Attendants peered in at them from the anteroom, hearing the argument by its tone but unable to understand the ancient words.

“We have to do it,” he said. “If we fail to act, we might just as well fall upon our knives.” He used the Fremen form which carried the meaning of “spill our water into the tribal cistern.”

Once more Ghanima looked at him. She was forced to agree. But she felt trapped within a construction of many walls. They both knew a day of reckoning lay across their path no matter what they did. Ghanima knew this with a certainty reinforced by the data garnered from those other memory-lives, but now she feared the strength which she gave those other psyches by using the data of their experiences. They lurked like harpies within her, shadow demons waiting in ambush.

Except for her mother, who had held the fleshly power and had renounced it. Ghanima still felt shaken by that inner struggle, knowing she would have lost but for Leto’s persuasiveness.

Leto said his Golden Path led out of this trap. Except for the nagging realization that he withheld something from his vision, she could only accept his sincerity. He needed her fertile creativity to enrich the plan.

Thoughts on this passage:

(1) Finally, some criticism of the Atreides.

(2) It’s sad that the Fremen themselves cannot speak their own past language. I mean, instead of the GP, what if Leto and Ghanima just created an education program to teach Fremen their lost language? Oh well.

(3) Aside from the ongoing doubt about the GP, the passage continues the gendered approach to the Ghanima/Chani relationship. Chani was too “motherly” to let go of Ghanima (she needed to be “persuaded’ to leave by Leto), and Leto needs Ghanima’s “fertile creativity.”

The next passage gets at the dangers of spiritual exploration:

“We’ll be tested,” he said, knowing where her doubts led.

“Not in the spice.”

“Perhaps even there. Surely, in the desert and in the Trial of Possession.”

“You never mentioned the Trial of Possession!” she accused. “Is that part of your dream?”

He tried to swallow in a dry throat, cursed this betrayal. “Yes.”

“Then we will be . . . possessed?”

“No.”

She thought about the Trial — that ancient Fremen examination whose ending most often brought hideous death. Then this plan had other complexities. It would take them onto an edge where a plunge to either side might not be countenanced by the human mind and that mind remain sane.

Knowing where her thoughts meandered, Leto said: “Power attracts the psychotics. Always. That’s what we have to avoid within ourselves.”

“You’re sure we won’t be . . . possessed?”

“Not if we create the Golden Path.”

Later, Leto seems to have convinced Ghanima (p80):

“We must do it my way,” he said.

“The other way might be cleaner.”

By her reply, he knew she had finally suppressed her doubts and come around to agreement with his plan. The realization brought him no happiness. He found himself looking at his own hands, wondering if the dirt would cling.

Again, we’re left with the GP as a necessary evil in Leto’s mind, and seemingly in Ghanima’s, too. I’m unclear, though, on what Ghanima meant by “my way would be cleaner” other than “a way that is not the GP.” I’ll see how this unfolds in the rest of the book…

Before I close out my discussion of this chapter, looping back to its epigraph provides some insight on the uncomfortable questions I posed above about the relationship betwen the Fremen and the GP. The epigraph is from the Leto Commentary after Harq al-Ada (p69):

“A sophisticated human can become primitive. What this really means is that the human’s way of life changes. Old values change, become linked to the landscape with its plants and animals. This new existence requires a working knowledge of those multiplex and cross-linked events usually referred to as nature. It requires a measure of respect for the inertial power within such natural systems. When a human gains this working knowledge and respect, that is called “being primitive.” The converse, of course, is equally true: the primitive can become sophisticated, but not without accepting dreadful psychological damage.”

Here, we get a sense of what Herbert means when he describes Fremen as “primitive”— it’s “primitive” in quotes. As I wrote before, Herbert corrected an interviewer’s characterization of the Fremen as “primitive,” saying they are in fact “quite sophisticated.” Herbert means to say that the Fremen have internalized a sophisticated approach to their social, ecological, technological, and spiritual relations within their embodied practices and relationship to nature. I wonder if the prior discussion of the shaduf as both literal (technological and ecological) and metaphysical/spiritual (via alam al-mythal) is one way in which Herbert is thinking about the marriage of sophistication and primitivity.

I’m reminded of the anthropologist Talal Asad’s remarks about his Saudi Arabian mother, Munira Hussein Al Shammari Asad, in contrast to his Austrian father, Mohammed Asad, who converted from Judaism to Islam and became a renowned diplomat and intellectual:

You know my father was an intellectual and for him becoming a Muslim was an intellectual matter, and it seemed to complete his life in certain ways. Not so for my mother. I mean she was born a Muslim and somehow couldn’t understand what all this intellectualization was about. For her being a Muslim was simply living in a certain way, not thinking “critically” about her life as a Muslim. Of course she knew when she had made a mistake, and said so. But that’s not critique as self-conscious intellectuals think of that term. And so many things that I now think back on, which for me as a youth . . . I used to feel rather advanced then in relation to her, a budding intellectual. I later realized this was simply because at the time I didn’t understand what my mother was. I thought of her only in terms of a “lack.” I wasn’t able to think about the limits of critical inquiry itself. You know the idea that somehow one could engage in critical inquiry indefinitely, that critical thinking was the noblest thing in life, and that that made one superior, is itself an extraordinary assumption, an assumption that has pushed me further into considering the different ways one can take a position.

I do think that it’s quite important to try and think of new forms of politics — rethinking that can draw from or borrow from other traditions. I am not worried about the purity of a tradition, by the way. There are ways of living a tradition practically, without intellectualizing it — and there the issue of how “pure” the tradition is doesn’t arise.

Asad shares some of Herbert’s essentialism, even as they both try to complicate what is considered an essential or pure tradition. And I think Herbert’s pitfall is in associating indigenous peoples, here MENA descendants (although also, perhaps, an analogy to the Quileute tribe), with a special connection to nature. It’s typical romanticist orientalist fare, although the fact that Herbert regards their connection to nature as an embodiment of complex thinking elevates Herbert’s portrayal of the Fremen, at least here. At any rate, both Herbert and Asad are trying to figure out a form of politics that embraces lived tradition rather than the “sophistication” of mere intellectualization.

Likewise, Asad and Herbert share a trepidation about the dangers of sophistication or intellectualization. It’s possible Leto and Ghanima’s fear of possession is supposed to be like the “dreadful psychological change” that comes from sophisticating the primitive. But, in my view, the better reading is that the “dreadful psychological change” comprises the changes to the Fremen following Muad’Dib and Alia’s rule: a loss of connection with their culture and practices via increasing legalization and bureaucratization, and via the promulgation of an unthinking religion.

That Asad and Herbert can be compared on these terms is as much praise of Herbert as critique of Asad.

Fremen Rebels, Jacurutu, and the GP

The scene with Muriz and Aasan Tariq provides some insight on the heterogeneity of the Fremen, as well as the Fremen relationship to the birth of the GP. Muriz and Aasan Tariq, members of the Cast Out (i.e. the renegade, and presumed lost, Jacurutu tribe), decide to kill a group of men, some city elites from Arakeen and others Fremen, who discovered Jacurutu.

Scattered thoughts:

(1) Notice that the Fremen are described as “darker,” with “sere features and bone frames,” as opposed to the “smoother, lighter” skinned urbanites (p66–68).

(2) The Fremen here are not presented as a single mass but as comprised of warring factions. Muriz and Aasan discuss the coming apocalypse of the Krazilec (“Typhoon Struggle”), and the wrongs done to them by the other Fremen tribes. I like the exploration of rebellious infighting among the Fremen. The idea of a rebellious tribe deep in the desert reminds me of anti-colonial guerilla fighters hiding out in the mountains. (Fanon talks a lot about this in Wretched of the Earth, and the disconnect between the suburban and urban leaders and the guerillas. I wonder if Fremen naibs like Stilgar and the elites captured in this scene can be likened to those suburban and urban elites in Fanon’s account. Such leaders and elites collaborated with colonizers and were out of touch with the needs of the colonized people. Moreover, the Jacurutu bombing of the city in Dune Messiah is a bit like the guerillas during French colonialism in Algeria: coming in from the mountains (or from the deep desert) to attack the urban center. See (3) below.)

Also, Muriz remarks that “The old ways are best” (p67), suggesting that he, unlike other Fremen, is aware of the “old knowledge” which Leto draws upon to envision the GP. The fact that Muriz, Aasan, and the Jacurutu in general want to bring about the Krazilec suggests that they may be active Fremen agents in pursuit of the GP. I wonder: Are the Jacurutu the last of the Fremen to retain the “old ways” which have been lost to the general Fremen population, which by this point is so colonized by the Atreides regime that they have lost touch with their roots?

The fact that the Jacurutu seem to be promoting the GP suggests that perhaps Paul and his children are not as important to the project as they may think they are. Especially given the Jacurutu bomb attack in Dune Messiah which led to Paul’s blindness, partly triggering his abdication of power.

(3) In this scene, the captured elites attempt to plead for mercy by declaring that they merely “came peacefully on umma” (p67). This is an awkward use of the Arabic ummah (“community”), especially given Herbert seems to use it more correctly in the next scene with the twins (where he writes it as “Uma”). Anyhow, the elites claim they only ventured into the deep desert to achieve spiritual fulfillment in “the old way.” I like that Muriz retorts that they did so with “paid guides,” “buy[ing] your way to heaven” (p67). Reminds me a great deal of ecotourism and various other elite kinds of tourism in which wealthy, usually white outsiders go into a “Third World” country for some kind of faux spiritual fulfilment or connection with nature. I wonder if Alia and Paul’s practice of undergoing the Fremen night vigil (mentioned in the scene with the twins) can be distinguished on the basis that they did not do so as a paid-for excursion to experience the spirituality of the deep desert, but rather out of a genuine desire for spiritual fulfilment. In that sense, perhaps Herbert is playing with different forms of “going native”: Genuine spiritual engagement by an outsider v. capitalist exploitation and romanticization of “Eastern” spirituality.

(4) Muriz refers to himself as the “arifa in this place, your only judge,” who is “trained to detect demons” (p67). In Arabic, arifa is a name that usually indicates a person is learned, an expert, or an authority. I wonder if the detection of demons is something like the detection of Abomination/possession, particularly given the next chapter (the twins’ conversation above) seems to refer to Abomination as possession by demons. Moreover, both the Muriz/Aasan and twins chapters refer to a Fremen “test” which is supposed to detect whether someone is possessed.

(5) Muriz describes the captives as passing, upon death, through the “alam al-mythal” (p67). In Arabic, alam al-mythal is the “world of similitudes,” which is sometimes thought of as a separate metaphysical realm, but in other contexts in Islamic discourses (particularly in the Qur’an), the “real world” is sometimes described as a world of similitudes, an approximation of divine light.

Muad’Dib’s Legacy

A few choice quotes from the chapter where the Preacher meets Farad’n

Tyekanik’s remarks mirror the earlier epigraphs and discussions by Leto and Ghanima about the need to fold the past into the future (p84):

“Church and state, My Prince, even scientific reason and faith, and even more: progress and tradition — all of these are reconciled in the teachings of Muad’Dib. He taught that there are no intransigent opposites except in the beliefs of men and, sometimes, in their dreams. One discovers the future in the past, and both are part of a whole.”

This passage also aligns with Herbert’s description of the Fremen as modulating “primitive” and “sophisticated” approaches.

In this scene, the Preacher’s dialogue continues the critique of prescience that was prevalent in Dune Messiah (p89):

“Governments may rise and fall for reasons which appear insignificant, Prince. What small events! An argument between two women . . . which way the wind blows on a certain day . . . a sneeze, a cough, the length of a garment or the chance collision of a fleck of sand and a courtier’s eye. It is not always the majestic concerns of Imperial ministers which dictate the course of history, nor is it necessarily the pontifications of priests which move the hands of God.”

This passage also nicely suggests that political and religious leaders may not be as important as they may appear, whereas small acts may have a significant effect. Perhaps the Jacurutu rebels’ activities, discussed above, might constitute such apparently “small” acts.

The Preacher continues this line of thinking (p89–90):

“Ambitions tend to remain undisturbed by realities,” The Preacher said. “I dare such words because you stand at a crossroad. You could become admirable. But now you are surrounded by those who do not seek moral justifications, by advisers who are strategy-oriented. You are young and strong and tough, but you lack a certain advanced training by which your character might evolve. This is sad because you have weaknesses whose dimensions I have described.

“Governments may rise and fall for reasons which appear insignificant, Prince. What small events! An argument between two women . . . which way the wind blows on a certain day . . . a sneeze, a cough, the length of a garment or the chance collision of a fleck of sand and a courtier’s eye. It is not always the majestic concerns of Imperial ministers which dictate the course of history, nor is it necessarily the pontifications of priests which move the hands of God.”

“If you would succeed,” The Preacher said, “you must reduce your strategy to its point of application. Where does one apply strategy? At a particular place and with a particular people in mind. But even with the greatest concern for minutiae, some small detail with no significance attached to it will escape you. Can your strategy, Prince, be reduced to the ambitions of a regional governor’s wife?”

“You’ve given no thought to the kind of society you might prefer,” The Preacher said. “You do not consider the hopes of your subjects. Even the form of the Imperium which you seek has little shape in your imaginings.” He turned his masked face toward Tyekanik. “Your eye is upon the power, not upon its subtle uses and its perils. Your future is filled, thus, with manifest unknowns: with arguing women, with coughs and windy days. How can you create an epoch when you cannot see every detail? Your tough mind will not serve you. This is where you are weak.”

Farad’n studied the old man for a long space, wondering at the deeper issues implied by such thoughts, at the persistence of such discredited concepts. Morality! Social goals! These were myths to put beside belief in an upward movement of evolution.

It’s worth noting that the epigraph of the chapter is a quote from Harq al-Ada (i.e. Farad’n), which basically sums up the above ideas (p82):

This was Muad’Dib’s achievement: He saw the subliminal reservoir of each individual as an unconscious bank of memories going back to the primal cell of our common genesis. Each of us, he said, can measure out his distance from that common origin. Seeing this and telling of it, he made the audacious leap of decision. Muad’Dib set himself the task of integrating genetic memory into ongoing evaluation. Thus did he break through Time’s veils, making a single thing of the future and the past. That was Muad’Dib’s creation embodied in his son and his daughter.

Here, again, we get the breaking of Time’s veils from the Leto/Ghanima conversation. And again Herbert describes the twins as carrying out Muad’Dib’s legacy, more so than, say, Chani’s or the Fremen’s in general.

That’s it for now. Will have more soon, I hope, if time permits…

Author, Technologies of the Self. | PhD student @Princeton. JD, BS @Columbia. Law, history, technology. Outer space. Postcolonialism. Modernity. Dune.