Jesuit mission building in Argentina

Female Jesuits: The Catholic Origins of the Bene Gesserit

Jesuit and Gesserit: it’s not a coincidence they sound alike. The real-life Jesuits in Roman Catholicism and the Bene Gesserit characters in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune have many parallels, including their commitment to service, missionary programs, education system, and political influence. This article explores some of the key similarities between the two and shows ways the Jesuit order can be viewed as a model for the fictional Sisterhood. Herbert’s Personal Experience It makes sense that the all-female Bene Gesserit order would have a basis in Catholicism, since Herbert had strong Catholic influences in his life. According to Timothy O’Reilly’s study

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hand holding dna helix

Eugenics and the Breeding Program in Dune

The influence of eugenics on Frank Herbert’s Dune emerges most clearly in the Bene Gesserit’s philosophy and breeding program, but is also visible in Paul Atreides’ concern with his terrible purpose. Ideas in the book about competition and survival, human vs. animal, and stagnation and the gene pool link with ideas from the eugenics movement about how humanity might improve itself. Overview of Eugenics Eugenics is a loaded term with associations to some of the darkest parts of 20th-century history. Some would like to believe that it faded away after WWII. But this is a myth that distorts the way

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Wonder Woman and Bene Gesserit illustration

Bene Gesserit: The Wonder Woman of Dune?

Wonder Woman wields her Lasso of Truth, using it to make others tell the truth or obey her, while the Bene Gesserit in Dune engage their abilities in the Voice and Truthsaying, using them to command others and tell whether they’re lying. Both come from all-women communities and hope to save and/or improve humanity through their extraordinary skills as strong and capable women. Might Frank Herbert have modeled the Bene Gesserit in part on William Moulton Marston’s popular comic book superhero? A possible connection between Wonder Woman and the Bene Gesserit first arose during my research for my article on their

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two head silhouettes with space background

Social Sciences and World-Building in Dune

How did Frank Herbert use his research into social sciences such as history, psychology, and linguistics to develop the world of Dune? Although Dune has been heralded as a world-building masterpiece, there has been little exploration of how he crafted the novel in a way that downplays technology and emphasizes the human mind and body. What follows is a summary of the key points in my recently published academic article on this topic. It discusses how the Spacing Guild, Mentats, and Bene Gesserit are shown as groups that seem necessary in the wake of the Butlerian Jihad and banning of

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mouth of female statue

The Bene Gesserit’s Vocal Analysis Skills in the Voice and Truthsaying

The Bene Gesserit can control other people just by using their voice in Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965). They can also determine whether someone is telling the truth. These techniques are based on humans’ ability to modify their language and tone when they communicate. This article explores the Bene Gesserit’s skills in the Voice and Truthsaying as the fifth in a multi-part series on their abilities. (See part 1, real-world influences; part 2, nerve and muscle control; part 3, schooling in espionage and politics; and part 4, perception and memory.) The Voice is one of the few skills

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two heads or chalice perception image

The Bene Gesserit’s Perception and Memory

The Bene Gesserit women in Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965) are detail-oriented to the extreme and possess extraordinary perceptive abilities. But they can also take a bird’s-eye view of life through their access to ancestral memories via Other Memory. This article explores these aspects of their skillset, as the fourth in a multi-part series on the Bene Gesserit’s abilities. (See part 1, real-world influences; part 2, nerve and muscle control; and part 3, schooling in espionage and politics.) The Study of Perception The characterization of the Bene Gesserit reflects Herbert’s interest in psychology, particularly the study of perception

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