The Golden Path: Frank Herbert's Universe

SUBJECT: Phenomenological Study

L. Kurt Engelhart

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it is past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." (Frank Herbert, "Dune," New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965, p.8)

Anyone who has read the Dune series several times will recognize this passage. They should also recognize that this passage has meaning and significance even when taken out of context. I speculate, after having read Dune but not much else of Herbert's, that he was very much aware of the implications for his sayings in our world today. These implications are especially relevant since the rest of the world has now had a chance to catch up with him.

Over the years, I have compiled an inventory of these passages from all six books. I believe sufficient material can be found to create another non-Dune book in the style of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius. You are probably thinking: "What is the relationship between Herbert and Epictetus? Those men were writing about their own lives, where Herbert is just good fiction." When these ideas are removed from the fictional context, I believe you can tell that Herbert writes about a real world that very few experience, not a fictional world. Herbert tells us some very distinct things about our own world. These ideas are only recently beginning to receive the recognition they deserve. However, few acknowledge Herbert as a contributing source.

Among my other weaknesses, I am an aphorist. It takes one to know one and I recognize the characteristic in Herbert. I am inclosing a selection of passages with my own comments regarding the significance of this characteristic in the Dune series. There may be a broader field of data that includes his other writings, but I think this is a start.

Ontological - Self Ontological - Other Epistemological
Mechanical Inquiry Organic Inquiry Discourse
Evolution of Discourse Politics Morality
Power War and Death References



Ontology is the definition of what is, what exists. Two prime ontological entities are subject and object, self and other. Of these entities, self is developmentally first. Other is progressively distinguished by its recalcitrant relationship to self.

There is in each of us an ancient force that takes and an ancient force that gives. (D431)

This echos the perceived struggle between gravity and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, between negentropy and entropy, between conservation and dissipation, and ultimately between good and evil.

The only order is the order we ourselves create. (S152)

"We" refers to the universally agreed upon awareness and intentionality we call consciousness. Order is the purpose and product of consciousness that is negotiated between self and other as manipulators of energy.

Since every individual is accountable ultimately to the self, the formation of that self demands our utmost care and attention. (S184)

Self is infinitely flexible, expanding to include desirable and useful others, and contracting to exclude the undesirable and harmful. Individually and collectively, how we fashion this entity determines the structure of the world we live in and the nature of the problems we must solve.

Self-awareness: facing mirrors that pass through the universe, gathering new images on the way endlessly reflexive. The infinite seen as finite, the analogue of consciousness carrying the sensed bits of infinity. (S12)

Not only are we aware of other from the perspective of self, we are aware of self from the perspective of other. Although such reflection has no limit, its effects assume a finite form that is forever shifting.

It is almost impossible for self-serving groups to act enlightened. (S171)

Enlightenment is the global awareness that can develop through living in an understanding of the problematic nature of the self and the world that seemingly surrounds it. A self that becomes defensively entrenched, contracted and isolated, has no opportunity to achieve such awareness.

All creatures must carry some kind of destiny stamped out by purposes of varying strengths, by the fixation of experience and disposition. Any delusions of Free Will harbored now must be merely the prisoner rattling his cage. Our curse lies in the fact that we see the cage. (M102)

The configuration of our existence clearly is determined in many ways by forces beyond our control. The existence of a self precludes other existences and places us in inferior relations with certain aspects of other. Constraints are a system of barriers that are, while impossible to eliminate, somewhat amenable to choice and rational construction. However, awareness of the barriers is a prerequisite to choice in their construction, and involvement in construction turns confinement into habitat.

If you would possess your humanity, let go of the universe! Humans cannot bear much reality. Most lives are a flight from selfhood. Most prefer the truths of the stable. You stick your heads into the stanchions and munch contentedly until you die. Others use you for their purposes. Not once do you live outside the stable to lift your head and be your own creature. (C229)

Actualization of the individual and collective selves requires resisting the absolutizing of the other as a real and unchanging universe. While limiting what is possible in reality offers short term security, it means long term limitation of the possibilities for the self.

Any path which narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap. Humans are not threading their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities. Sexually produced uniqueness and differences are the life-protection of the species. (C362)

Continuous ability to innovate is the only means to discover new opportunities. Of course, cultivating existing opportunities is a means to current prosperity, but cultivation is not the same as monopolization and exploitation. Likewise, innovation in human procreation does not mean control of genetic makeup. Innovation proceeds in the opposite direction from control, toward chaos.


Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic. (D363)

We create order, but it is an artificial condition that only tentatively satisfies some supposed purpose in the universe around us. Any structure is fallible and must be exhaustively tested to expose potential weaknesses. No structure will, on its face, stand against all the possible forces of the universe.

What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? (D39)

Because the universe of our existence is necessarily anthropomorphic, there must be realms that are inaccessible to human awareness. These realms become accessible when we expand what it is to be human.

Time and Space are categories imposed on the universe by our Mind. (C309)

We cannot prove that everything does not happen at one time and place, yet we can testify that it does not seem that way to us. Consciousness presents the universe to us in a way that is instrumental to human functioning, in other words, anthropomorphic.

When you think to take determination of your fate into your own hands, that is the moment you can be crushed. Be cautious. Allow for surprises. When we create, there are always other forces at work. (S450)

Control over the future is the exception, not the rule. Imagining that one has such control is sheer arrogance and is not rewarded.

Life improves the capacity of the environment to sustain life. Life makes needed nutrients more readily available. It binds more energy into the system through the tremendous chemical interplay from organism to organism. (D266)

The 2nd law of thermodynamics recognizes a universal force toward chaos. However, the conditions that sustain life clearly impose another local force toward order, integration, and increased complexity. Expansion of life creates increased opportunity for all living things but at a price. The price is continuous innovation.

We feel the dissonance between us. It is an element of the universe with which our entire lives grapple. Being forced to act is making a decision by that act, choosing a vision. Trying for some ultimate control of the universe, you only build weapons with which the universe eventually defeats you. To choose and manage a vision requires you to balance on a single, thin thread playing God on a high tightwire with cosmic solitude on both sides. The only truth that matters is that which separates us from the vision background. There is no place of safety, only a transitory shifting of relationships, marked out within the limits imposed by our decisions and bound for inevitable changes. Each of us has only a desperate and lonely courage upon which to rely. (C345-6)

One source of dissonance for many people is the relationship between themselves and their own bodies. This becomes the first line of resistence against the other, and the first source for understanding of the problematic nature of cooperation. Understanding becomes a matter of familiarity and confidence rather than control. Understanding that there can be success without safety and control is the basis for courage. Balance between order and chaos always involves risk, but existence has prepared us, and does prepare us, for survival in the face of just such risks.

This is the awe-inspiring universe of magic: There are no atoms, only waves and motion all around. Here, you discard all belief in barriers to understanding. You put aside understanding itself. This universe cannot be seen, cannot be heard, cannot be detected in any way by fixed perceptions. It is the ultimate void where no preordained screens occur upon which forms may be projected. You have only one awareness here the screen of the magi: Imagination! Here you learn what it is to be human. You are a creator of order, of beautiful shapes and systems, an organizer of chaos. (H288)

The universe as we see it is never quite the exact physical universe. There's something beyond subtlety. We must have a place in our awareness to perceive what we can't preconceive. Our knowing will determine how we react. Most deadly errors arise from obsolete assumptions. (C81)

Reason is valuable only when it performs against the wordless background of the universe. (G257)

When you stumble you may regain your balance by jumping beyond the thing that tripped you. (M187)

A mental epidemic leaps from person to person across leagues. It is overwhelmingly contagious. It strikes at the unprotected side, in the place where we lodge the fragments of other such plagues. Who can stop such a thing? The thing has roots in chaos. (M127)

The objects of our palpable sense experience can be influenced by choice both conscious choice and unconscious. This is a demonstrated fact that does not require that we believe some force within us reaches out and touches the universe. I address a pragmatic relationship between belief and what we identify as "real." All of our judgements carry a heavy burden of belief. It is not enough that we are aware of this and guard against it. Alternative interpretations must always receive our attention. (H281)

Time isn't what it appears. There is no difference between ten thousand years and one year; no difference between one hundred thousand years and a heartbeat. No difference. That is the first fact about Time. And the second fact: the entire universe with all of its Time is within me. There are things which words cannot explain. You must experience them without words. (C104)

The universe can be grasped only by the sentient hand. That hand is what drives your precious brain, and it drives everything else that derives from the brain. You see what you have created, you become sentient, only after the hand has done its work. (C47)

We feel the cord which connects us with all of humankind and that profound need for experiences which make logical sense, a universe of recognizable regularities within its perpetual changes. (C340)


Reality or the belief that you know a reality, which is the same thing always sets up a ferment in the universe. (G148)

Heisenburg showed the walls enclosing our predestined arguments. Knowledge has no uses without purpose, but purpose is what builds enclosing walls. (C247)

Philosophy should be approached with irreverence, which is also a most necessary ingredient of religion. Irreverence is the only way left to us for testing our universe. When we think we know something, that's precisely the moment when we should look deeper into the thing. Creation is discovery. (C200, C275)

Answers are a perilous grip on the universe. They can appear sensible yet explain nothing. (S395)

Ultimately, all things are known because you want to believe you know. We tend to fix our minds on what we believe we know. (S386, S390)

Abandon certainty! That's life's deepest command. That's what life's all about. We're a probe into the unknown, into the uncertain. If certainty is knowing an absolute future, then that's only death disguised. Such a future becomes now! Absolute prediction is completion, is death! To exist is to stand out, away from the background. We depend upon absolutes and seek finite limits because we can't handle the rigors of terrible decisions. We cling to one-eyed visions of the universe because the alternatives terrify us. You aren't thinking or really existing unless you're willing to risk even your own sanity in the judgement of your existence. (C232, C328)

Paired opposites define your longings and those longings imprison you. (S458)

If you focus your awareness only upon your own rightness, then you invite the forces of opposition to overwhelm you. This is a common error. (C180)

In an indeterminate universe, belief is a dominant force. Beliefs order the unfolding of events. If enough of us believe, a new thing can be made to exist. Belief structure creates a filter through which chaos is sifted into order. (H131)

Ready comprehension is often a knee-jerk response and the most dangerous form of understanding. It blinks an opaque screen over your ability to learn. Be warned. Understand nothing. All comprehension is temporary. (S193)

Facts are fragile and entangling. Too much reliable data is confusing. Like diplomacy, you need a few good lies to get a simple and effective projection of reality. (S187)

Either we abandon the long-honored Theory of Relativity, or we cease to believe that we can engage in continued accurate prediction of the future. Indeed, knowing the future raises a host of questions which cannot be answered under conventional assumptions unless one first projects an Observer outside of Time and, second, nullifies all movement. If you accept the Theory of Relativity, it can be shown that Time and the Observer must stand still in relationship to each other or inaccuracies will intervene. This would seem to say that it is impossible to engage in accurate prediction of the future. How then do we explain the continued seeking after this visionary goal by respected scientists? (C54)

It is very difficult to learn how to work your own mind. You learn first that the mind must be allowed to work itself. You can work your own muscles, but the mind acts of itself. Sometimes, when you have learned this about the mind, it shows you things you do not want to see. (C130)

The assumption that a whole system can be made to work better through an assault on its conscious elements betrays a dangerous ignorance. This has often been the ignorant approach of those who call themselves scientists and technologists. (C396)

There is no way to exchange information without making judgements. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. Our senses always have at least two levels: trivia and message. Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. (C274)

Your mind is not a computer; it is a response-tool keyed to whatever your senses display. Opening the senses requires an idealism, seeking the questions that form the best images. No one appears capable of completely removing themselves from the binding absolute, yet we are warned against absolutes. Everything you do, everything you sense and say is experiment. No deduction is final. Induction bounces within and you sensitize yourself to it. Deduction conveys illusions of absolutes. (S82, S83)

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 in your own imagination. Doing this, you win back your consciousness in your inner being. You know then that the universe is a coherent whole and you are indivisible from it. (C90, C378)

Peace has only one meaning, the maintenance of a single way of life through correct forms of human behavior. However, since every problem doesn't have a correct answer, one must permit diversity. We humans are a form of colony organism! Our mind controls our reality. The new place in awareness opened by this understanding will be filled by the ability to test any reality against our own demands, and we must learn to control our desires the way we control our reality. (C276-80)

The purpose of argument is to change the nature of truth. (C67)

The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training. (D256)

Are we no more than sensory windows on our universe, each with only a point of view? (S137)

Precise thinking contains undigested absolutes. Nature is not precise. The universe is not precise when reduced to our scale; it is vague and fuzzy, full of unexpected movements and changes. (C150)

All proofs inevitably lead to propositions which have no proof! All things are known because we want to believe in them. The human mind, as is the case with the mind of any animal, is a resonator. It responds to resonances in the environment. (C156)

Self-honesty about the nature of your own feelings requires that you have an inner agreement with truth which allows ready recognition. Between wolf and dog there is a dawn period when you cannot distinguish between them. The dog remembers the wolf. Each universe revolves around a core of being, and outward from that core go all of the memories, right out to the surface. (C374)

Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. (D204)

The most persistent principles of the universe are accident and error. (D270)

Every civilization must contend with an unconscious force which can block, betray or countermand almost any conscious intention of the collectivity. (M24)

Quite naturally, holders of power wish to suppress "wild" research. Unrestricted questioning after knowledge has a long history of producing unwanted competition. The powerful want a "safe line of investigations," which will develop only those products and ideas that can be controlled and, most important, that will allow the larger part of the benefits to be captured by inside investors. Unfortunately, a random universe full of relative variables does not insure such a "safe line of investigations." (H210)

Mechanical Inquiry

Who knows what bondage goes with metal eyes? (M173)

Law is the ultimate science. (D220)

Mechanical devices themselves condition the users to employ each other the way they employ machines. (G179)

Highly organized research is guaranteed to produce nothing new. (D479)

Forces that we cannot understand permeate our universe. We see the shadow of those forces when they are projected upon a screen available to our senses, but understand them we do not. Our universe is magical. All forms are arbitrary, transient and subject to magical changes. Science has led us to this interpretation as though it placed us on a track from which we cannot deviate. (H58)

You call your activity a science of religion. Very well. I, a seeker after another kind of scientist, find this an appropriate definition. You do, indeed, build your own myths, but so do all societies. I must warn you, however. You are behaving as so many other misguided scientists have behaved. Your actions reveal that you wish to take something away from life. It is time you were reminded of that which you so often profess: One cannot have a single thing without its opposite. (C178)

Technology tends toward avoidance of risks by investors. Uncertainty is ruled out if possible. People generally prefer the predictable. Few recognize how destructive this can be, how it imposes severe limits on variability and thus makes whole populations fatally vulnerable to the shocking ways our universe can throw the dice. (H91)

Organic Inquiry

The struggle between life elements is the struggle for the free energy of the system. (D135)

Human interplay with the environment can be felt as an integral part of a dynamic system held in delicate balanced order, an outlook involving a change in consciousness and a flood of observations. The universe is a place of constant conversation between animal populations. (C41)

After survival comes ascendency, control of the human universe, perpetuation of your own ways as the dominant pattern. (S96)

A universal power is a genetic and instinctive effect called leveling drift. Leveling drift tends to eliminate innovators who move out of the pack and produce new things. Wise use of this power does not oppose the current but seems only to move across it, using the back eddies. (S371)

Much of the infrastructure in a civilization is a dependency infrastructure. Dependency infrastructure is a term that includes all things necessary for a human population to survive at existing or increasing numbers. Belief is part of this infrastructure. Humans have a powerful need that their own belief structure be the "true belief." If belief gives pleasure or a sense of security and is also incorporated into a common belief structure, it creates a powerful dependency. The great mass of humankind possesses an unmistakable unit-identity. It can be one thing. It can act as a single organism. (H125-H127)

There can be no truly closed systems in life. (C366)

We must use man as a constructive ecological force, teaching them ecological literacy, creating a new language with symbols that arm the mind to manipulate an entire landscape. Its aim is simple: to maintain and produce coordinated patterns of greater and greater diversity. (D267, D477)

Since the future is set, an unfolding of events which will assure that future is fixed and inevitable. Natural selection has been described as an environment screening for those who will have progeny. Where humans are concerned, though, this is an extremely limiting viewpoint. Reproduction by sex tends toward experiment and innovation. It raises many questions, including the ancient one about whether environment is a selective agent after the variation occurs, or whether environment plays a pre-selective role in determining the variations which it screens. (C283, C289)

Decisions must be weighed only as to their merit in maintaining an orderly society. Past civilizations have foundered on the rocks of equal justice. Such foolishness destroys the natural hierarchies which are far more important. Any individual takes on significance only in his relationship to your total society. Unless that society be ordered in logical steps, no one can find a place in it not the lowliest or the highest. (C69)

Ecologists see life as expressions of energy and look for the overall relationships. They develop a sense for energy relationships. They observe that energy soaks up the patterns of things and builds with those patterns. (C359)

The more life there is within a system, the more niches there are for life. (D265)

Vision gives purpose to evolution and, therefore, gives purpose to our lives. (C348)

There exist higher-order influences in any ecological system. This is demonstrated by introducing alien life forms into newly discovered ecologies. In all such cases, the life in similar zones develops striking similarities of adaptive form. This form signifies more than shape; it connotes a survival organization and a relationship of such organizations. The human quest for this interdependent order and our niche within it represents a profound necessity. The quest can, however, be perverted into a conservative grip on sameness. This has always proved deadly for the entire system. (C307)

In an ecosystem, whatever system animals choose to survive by must be based on the pattern of interlocking communities, interdependence, working together in the common design which is the system. (C408)

The worst potential competition for any organism can come from its own kind. The species consumes necessities. Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount. The least favorable condition controls the rate of growth. (H439)


If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced. (C250)

To be truly at one with virtue, uncorrupted in all ways, full of goodly honor, a man must permit his deeds and his words to agree. When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations. (C49)

In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words. From witch doctor to priest to bureaucrat it is all the same. A governed populace must be conditioned to accept power-words as actual things, to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe. In the maintenance of such a power structure, certain symbols are kept out of the reach of common understanding symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation or those which define the local interpretation of sanity. Symbol-secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that its users are accumulating some form of power. With this insight into a power process, we must be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages. (C207)

Assumptions based on understanding contain belief in an absolute ground out of which all things spring like plants growing from seeds. Behind such assumptions lies a faith in words that is unquestioned. The act of saying that things exist that cannot be described in words shakes a universe where words are the supreme belief. (H59)

With total receptivity, every sense is alerted to things not spoken, messages that hover on the edges of words as though they were cilia wavering there, reaching for contact with a dangerous universe. Education conjoins our experiences, makes me sufficiently like you that we can create trust between us. (S301)

Evolution of Discourse

Diaspora goes beyond the ability of humans to assemble the accumulated experiences in manageable form. We can only extract essentials, and that is a matter of judgement. Vital data remain dormant in great and small events, accumulations called instincts, requiring us to fall back on unspoken knowledge. So we repeat history endlessly. (S330)

Religion is the emulation of the adult by the child. Religion is the encystment of past beliefs: mythology, which is guesswork, the hidden assumptions of trust in the universe, those pronouncements which men have made in search of personal power, all of it mingled with shreds of enlightenment. And always the ultimate unspoken commandment is "Thou shalt not question!" But we question. We break that commandment as a matter of course. The work to which we have set ourselves is the liberating of the imagination, the harnessing of the imagination to humankind's deepest sense of creativity. (C291, S126)

One learns from books and example only that certain things can be done. Actual learning requires that you do those things. (C217)

Belief in singularities, granular absolutes denies all change evolutionary or devolutionary. Belief fixes a granular universe and causes the experienced universe to persist. Any change would cause this experienced universe to vanish. However, belief does not end change, which means the actual universe evolves beyond and is no longer accessible. (H156, H270)

Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends in part on the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality even occasional greatness will destroy a man. (D125)

The writing of history is largely a process of diversion. Most historical accounts distract attention from the secret influences behind great events. (S80)

All organized religions face a common problem, a tender spot through which we may enter and shift them to our designs: How do they distinguish hubris from revelation? (H319)

Tyrants dispense culture the better to rule. They promote the beauty that enslaves. They create a literate ignorance easiest thing of all. They leave nothing to chance. Everything they do forges chains, enslaves. But slaves always revolt. (M126)

There is always a prevailing mystique in any civilization. It builds itself as a barrier against change, and that always leaves future generations unprepared for the universe's treachery. All mystiques are the same in building these barriers the religious mystique, the leader-hero mystique, the messiah mystique, the mystique of science/technology, and the mystique of nature itself. We live in a universe which such a mystique has shaped, and that universe may fall apart because most people don't distinguish between mystique and their universe. The mystique is like demon possession; it tends to take over the consciousness, becoming all things to the observer. (C405-6)

Proper teaching is recognized with ease. You can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensation which tells you this is something you have always known. (D488)

Institutions endure, symbols endure when their meaning is lost. There is no summa of all attainable knowledge. Religion must remain an outlet for people who say to themselves, "I am not the kind of person I want to be." It must never sink into an assemblage of the self satisfied. Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and has the power of reality. (D489)

Religion began as a female monopoly, wrested from them only after its social power became too dominant. There has never been any clear balance between the sexes because power goes with certain roles as it certainly goes with knowledge. (G115)

Every system is something that exists only in relative stability. Relative stability is the perspective you create with your own belief, and beliefs can be manipulated by imagination. Initially, you learn only a limited way of looking at the universe. Now you must make the universe your own creation. This will permit you to harness any relative stability to your own uses, to whatever uses you are capable of imagining. (C257)

Humanity might come out of a period and look back down it at a previous time, seeing that as a better age. Humanity had to experience the alternative or never understand its own myths. (C220)

It is wise to have decisions of great moment monitored by generalists. Experts and specialists lead you quickly into chaos. They are the source of useless nit-picking, the ferocious quibble over a comma. The generalist, on the other hand, should bring to decision making a healthy common sense. The generalist must understand that anything which we can identify as our universe is merely part of larger phenomena. But the expert looks backward; he looks into the narrow standards of his own specialty. The generalist looks outward; he looks for living principles, knowing full well that such principles change, that they develop. It is to the characteristics of change itself that the generalist must look. There can be no permanent catalog of such change. You must look at it with as few preconceptions as possible. Languages build up to reflect specializations in a way of life. Each specialization may be recognized by its words, by its assumptions and sentence structures. Look for stoppages. Specializations represent places where life is being stopped, where movement is dammed up and frozen. (C227, C327)

Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarches of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy. (C197)


When I am weaker than you, I ask for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. (C172)

Military leaders and their functionaries are alike in their disdain for weakness. (D182)

Social law develops its own power structure, creating more wounds and new injustices. Such trauma can be healed by cooperation, not by confrontation. The summons to cooperate identifies the healer. (G229)

To create change you find leverage points and move them. Leverage points are not all in high office. They are often at economic or communications centers and, unless you know this, high office is useless. (S367)

Clinging to any form of conservatism can be dangerous. Become too conservative and you are unprepared for surprises. You cannot depend on luck. Logic is blind and often knows only its own past. Logic is good for playing chess but is often too slow for the needs of survival. (S342-3)

The eye that looks ahead to the safe course is closed forever. (D461)

You, Priest, are a chaplain to the self-satisfied. I come to challenge you! Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk? Is your religion real when you fatten on it? Is your religion real when you commit atrocities in its name? Whence comes your downward degeneration from the original revelation? (C231)

Democracy is a system of organized distrust, where you distrust anyone with power over you. (S187)

The downfall of democracy is the tyranny of the minority cloaked in the mask of the majority, where it is either overthrown by its own excesses or eaten away by bureaucracy. First, a Civil Service law masked in the lie that it is the only way to correct demagogic excesses and spoils systems. Then the accumulation of power in places the voters could not touch. And finally, aristocracy. (S237, S355)

Liberty and Freedom are complex concepts. They go back to religious ideas of Free Will and are related to the Ruler Mystique implicit in absolute monarchs. Without absolute monarchs patterned after the Old Gods and ruling by the grace of belief in religious indulgence, Liberty and Freedom would never have gained their present meaning. These ideals owe their very existence to past examples of oppression. And the forces that maintain such ideas will erode unless renewed by dramatic teaching or new oppressions. (H199)

The spirit of humanity is more than words, more than the letter of the Law which arises in its name. Men must always be that inner outrage against the complacently powerful, against the charlatans and the dogmatic fanatics. It is that inner outrage that says that humans can endure only in a fraternity of social justice. (C326)

Revenge is for children and the emotionally retarded. (S419)


Personal honesty is associated with a code of honor founded on the recognition that humans are not created equal, that they possess different inherited abilities and experienced different events in their lives, producing people of different accomplishments and different worth. The code of honor dictates with enormous power the limits of behavior permitted to those above as well as to those below in a hierarchical pyramid. The key token of exchange in this hierarchy is loyalty, revealing honesty as a matter of loyalty. (H208)

In doing good, avoid notoriety; in doing evil, avoid self awareness. You cannot grasp the universe in motionless, labeled bits. No bit will stand still. Things cannot be forever ordered and formulated. You have to find the rhythm of change and see between the changes to the changing itself. When you study an object from a distance, only its principle may be seen. In an infinite universe, local can be so gigantic that your mind shrinks from it. (C262-3)

Life is a mask through which the universe expresses itself. We assume that all of mankind and its supportive life forms represent a natural community and that the fate of all life is at stake in the fate of the individual. However, refusal to accept only that which comforts is moral cowardice. When it comes to ultimate self-examination, we stop playing god and revert to teaching. We select individuals and we set them as free as we are able. We seem unable to understand that we seldom find real loyalties in commerce. The deficiency rests in the false assumption that you can order men to think and cooperate. What nonsense! Men must want to do things out of their innermost drives. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness they cannot work and their civilization collapses. (C308-9)

While rot at the core always spreads outward, some rots are noble and valuable. (H227)

Reason arises from pride that a man may not know in this way when he has done evil. (C112)

Religion must be accepted as a source of energy. It can be directed for our purposes, but only within the limits that experience reveals. Here is the secret meaning of Free Will. (S339)


There will be certain types of motivation that are similar despite differing schools or opposed aims. You will study first how to separate this element for your analysis in the beginning, through interrogation patterns that betray the inner orientation of the interrogators; secondly, by close observation of language-thought orientation of those under analysis. You will find it fairly simple to determine the root languages of your subjects, both through voice inflection and speech patterns. (D134)

Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept? (H222)

In all the universe there is only the insatiable appetite of matter, that energy is the only true solid. Energy learns and we recognize it as power. (M17)

This is the fallacy of power: ultimately it is effective only in an absolute, a limited universe. But the basic lesson of our relativistic universe is that things change. Any power must always meet a greater power. (C160)

One uses power by grasping it lightly. To grasp too strongly is to be taken over by power, and thus to become its victim. (C182)

We should grant power over our affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase the reluctance. (S151)

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. And corruption wears infinite disguises. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted. (S68, S93)

To come under siege is the inevitable fate of power. (M25)

Power tends to isolate those who hold too much of it. Eventually, they lose touch with reality and fall. (M88)

To use raw power is to make yourself infinitely vulnerable to greater powers. (M35)

The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: "I feed on your energy." (M158)

War and Death

The attitude of a subject population is not the attitude of free men. They are defensive, concealing, evasive. Any manifestation of authority is subject to resentment. (C361)

The meeting between ignorance and knowledge, between brutality and culture it begins in the dignity with which we treat our dead. (D305)

Men always fear things which move by themselves. (M113)

We keep the presence of death a dominant specter among the living. By that presence the dead change the living. The people of such a society sink down into their bellies. But when the time comes for the opposite, when they arise, they are great and beautiful. (C406)

Military foolishness is ultimately suicidal. They believe that by risking death they pay the price of any violent behavior against enemies of their own choosing. They have the invader mentality, that false sense of freedom from responsibility for your own actions. (G165)

I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it is past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. (D8)

Sympathy for the enemy a weakness of police and armies alike. Most perilous are the unconscious sympathies directing you to preserve your enemy intact because the enemy is your justification for existence. (S184)

To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror; to learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror. (C139)

Anything can be a tool poverty, war. War is useful because it is effective in so many areas. It possesses a vitality such as nothing else. Only those who recognize the value of war and exercise it have any degree of self-determination. (M181)


Herbert, Frank. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

1. (1965). Dune.   (D)

2. (1969). Dune Messiah.   (M)

3. (1976). Children of Dune.   (C)

4. (1981). God Emperor of Dune.   (G)

5. (1984). Heretics of Dune.   (H)

6. (1985). Chapterhouse: Dune.   (S)

Index of Essays

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