The Lesson of the Box

    One of the two remaining Great Schools tasked with mentoring humanity

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georgiedenbro
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The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 30 Sep 2014 11:07

Dune wrote:The old woman said: “You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”


This is the story of Paul, Leto II, and the Golden Path. Paul found himself caught in a prescient trap, and in a desire to be free chose to ‘chew off’ his vision to escape it. Leto II made the more ‘human’ choice to endure the pain, to feign death (i.e. avoid it), and to remove a threat to his kind. Paul going into the desert may seem like feigning death, but he didn't remain in the trap; he removed himself from it but still condemned his kind to its dangers. Paul did protect the universe from one trapper (himself) but left it open to other trappers. When the trapper is the same person as the one caught in the trap, a more sophisticated solution is needed than merely removing oneself. Leto II, it seems, learned the BG lesson better and tried to safeguard against all trappers; perhaps one reason he respected them?

The box itself resembles the prescient experience: a series of horrors and pain experienced only by the mind of the user, but requiring an immediate decision of what to do: to remain, or to escape. The idea of a ‘black box’, i.e. the area of the unknown, resembles prescience somewhat. The user doesn't know what's inside by direct observation, but must stick his hand inside and meet his personal reality there. Information comes to his brain by direct 'nerve induction', much in the way prescient knowledge comes to the mind directly. The box seems to be a metaphorical analogue to the use of prescience. I wonder whether the Sisterhood chose this as their human-testing method precisely for this reason, so that it could function as a lesson on prescience as well for any Sisters who had the ability like Mohiam, and eventually for the KH.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby lotek » 30 Sep 2014 12:32

I feel more like it's Paul who chewed off his hand to escape the trap of prescience (to no avail, since the wheels were already in motion)

Leto embraced it so he could utimately make it irrelevant, he even calls himself the ultimate predator.

And if I remember well, I think it was Paul who compared prescience to walking the desert dunes/sailing the sea, sometimes you're on a crest you can see ahead, sometimes you're not and the future remains a mystery.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 30 Sep 2014 13:36

lotek wrote:I feel more like it's Paul who chewed off his hand to escape the trap of prescience (to no avail, since the wheels were already in motion)

Leto embraced it so he could utimately make it irrelevant, he even calls himself the ultimate predator.

And if I remember well, I think it was Paul who compared prescience to walking the desert dunes/sailing the sea, sometimes you're on a crest you can see ahead, sometimes you're not and the future remains a mystery.


I think what you said about Paul and what I said are the same thing...

Paul and Alia do use a dune crest image when explaining prescience to Stilgar in DM, and Leto II uses the image of a surfboard in CoD to explain how he feels:

CoD wrote:"You know why you torment yourself this way," she said.
He heard the gentle chiding in her voice. Yes, he knew. The answer lay there
in his awareness, obvious: Because that great known-unknown within moves me like
a wave. He felt the cresting of his past as though he rode a surfboard. He had
his father's time-spread memories of prescience superimposed upon everything
else, yet he wanted all of those pasts. He wanted them. And they were so very
dangerous. He knew that completely now with this new thing which he would have
to tell Ghanima.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby xcalibur » 20 Mar 2019 09:59

yes, there is a direct parallel there. and here's another link: the gom jabbar, instant death, represents arafel aka the extinction of the human race by hunter-seekers. the ritual is a complete analogy for the challenge of the Golden Path and how Maud'dib and Leto II respond to it.

in fact, there are multiple layers:
captive, trap, trapper
test subject, black box, gom jabbar
kwisatz haderach, golden path, arafel
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 21 Mar 2019 12:06

xcalibur wrote:yes, there is a direct parallel there. and here's another link: the gom jabbar, instant death, represents arafel aka the extinction of the human race by hunter-seekers. the ritual is a complete analogy for the challenge of the Golden Path and how Maud'dib and Leto II respond to it.

in fact, there are multiple layers:
captive, trap, trapper
test subject, black box, gom jabbar
kwisatz haderach, golden path, arafel


Great observation! Yes, the choice to remain in the trap to save your race from future traps is exactly what Leto II does, and is the BG's definition of a human. I never quite connected, as you just did, the fact that the technical details of how the race would go extinct (AI hunter-seekers, etc) is more or less irrelevant, compared to the main issue of it being a larger-scale gom jabbar put to the entire race as a collective. And the only way out of certain doom is to be able to see both past, present, and future and be able to understand the nature of deadly traps, as a race. The KH's abilities would be a microcosm of what the entire race (or at least its leaders) needs in order to continue to survive. And that is certainly a massive condemnation of how politics and power are employed right now, where all focus is on budgets for this year, how to be elected in four years, with little to no sight on what came before and what is needed going forward. The American infrastructure problem is only one symtom of this broader problem, where the entire systemic structure and impulse is to quickly withdraw the hand from the gom jabbar to avoid temporary discomfort.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 22 Mar 2019 17:25

georgiedenbro wrote:
xcalibur wrote:yes, there is a direct parallel there. and here's another link: the gom jabbar, instant death, represents arafel aka the extinction of the human race by hunter-seekers. the ritual is a complete analogy for the challenge of the Golden Path and how Maud'dib and Leto II respond to it.

in fact, there are multiple layers:
captive, trap, trapper
test subject, black box, gom jabbar
kwisatz haderach, golden path, arafel


Great observation! Yes, the choice to remain in the trap to save your race from future traps is exactly what Leto II does, and is the BG's definition of a human. I never quite connected, as you just did, the fact that the technical details of how the race would go extinct (AI hunter-seekers, etc) is more or less irrelevant, compared to the main issue of it being a larger-scale gom jabbar put to the entire race as a collective. And the only way out of certain doom is to be able to see both past, present, and future and be able to understand the nature of deadly traps, as a race. The KH's abilities would be a microcosm of what the entire race (or at least its leaders) needs in order to continue to survive. And that is certainly a massive condemnation of how politics and power are employed right now, where all focus is on budgets for this year, how to be elected in four years, with little to no sight on what came before and what is needed going forward. The American infrastructure problem is only one symtom of this broader problem, where the entire systemic structure and impulse is to quickly withdraw the hand from the gom jabbar to avoid temporary discomfort.


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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby the rev » 24 Mar 2019 15:48

I like how you're saying the first chapter of the first book is basically a microcosm of the theme running through all the books.

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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby xcalibur » 26 Mar 2019 03:57

the rev wrote:I like how you're saying the first chapter of the first book is basically a microcosm of the theme running through all the books.

essentially, yes.

xcalibur wrote:captive, trap, trapper
test subject, black box, gom jabbar
kwisatz haderach, golden path, arafel

in fact, this can be further elaborated and refined. it occurred to me that there's a distinction between the captive & its species, the hand & the test subject, and Leto II & the human race.
The individual endures the trap in order to save its collective from the gom jabbar.
staying in the trap is painful, but it also means ambushing the trapper for the sake of your species. the black box is excruciating for the hand, but the hand stays inside so the whole body & mind survives the test. the Golden Path is a terrible burden for Leto II, but by following it, he ensures human survival.

thus,
captive, trap, species, trapper
hand, black box, test subject, gom jabbar
kwisatz haderach, golden path, humankind, arafel

this gives us a complete & consistent analogy, with 3 interconnected levels of 4 components each.

like all great books, there are always more insights to be gained through analysis.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 26 Mar 2019 12:16

GOM JABBAR; the high-handed enemy; that specific poison needle tipped with metacyanide used by Bene Gesserit Proctors in the death-alternative test of human awareness.


When thinking of the gom jabbar as that which ends us all should we fail as a species to adapt and plan, I notice in the Dune appendix the term "high-handed enemy." I wonder what exactly that is supposed to mean. Does it imply that it's the danger too high up for us to see - that we need to be able to climb the crest of the dune to see over, and to gain visibility of such a high-up (i.e. future) threat? Or is "high-handed" more literal, as per the definition I found online just now:

"Using power or authority without considering the feelings of others."

If so then it would imply that the threat comes from those who wield power improperly, dooming the entire species in the process. It would seem to me to imply that the race-extinction comes not from some technical discovery or plot point, but rather from the inevitable fall we will experience at one point if we allow ourselves to be led into the abyss. Maybe the gom jabbar is the result of leaders failing to understand Noble Purpose; that it has to be about the species, not about enriching one family or one indvidual. But if we're to glance ahead at GEoD and the need for all of humanity to learn a lesson in their bones about staying in one place and accepting a tyrant, it would seem almost to be the point that it's not necessarily even the leaders who are to blame solely, but the general stock itself believing in a certain way of life which makes it possible for these leaders to thrive.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby SadisticCynic » 26 Mar 2019 17:27

georgiedenbro wrote:
GOM JABBAR; the high-handed enemy; that specific poison needle tipped with metacyanide used by Bene Gesserit Proctors in the death-alternative test of human awareness.


When thinking of the gom jabbar as that which ends us all should we fail as a species to adapt and plan, I notice in the Dune appendix the term "high-handed enemy." I wonder what exactly that is supposed to mean. Does it imply that it's the danger too high up for us to see - that we need to be able to climb the crest of the dune to see over, and to gain visibility of such a high-up (i.e. future) threat? Or is "high-handed" more literal, as per the definition I found online just now:

"Using power or authority without considering the feelings of others."

If so then it would imply that the threat comes from those who wield power improperly, dooming the entire species in the process. It would seem to me to imply that the race-extinction comes not from some technical discovery or plot point, but rather from the inevitable fall we will experience at one point if we allow ourselves to be led into the abyss. Maybe the gom jabbar is the result of leaders failing to understand Noble Purpose; that it has to be about the species, not about enriching one family or one indvidual. But if we're to glance ahead at GEoD and the need for all of humanity to learn a lesson in their bones about staying in one place and accepting a tyrant, it would seem almost to be the point that it's not necessarily even the leaders who are to blame solely, but the general stock itself believing in a certain way of life which makes it possible for these leaders to thrive.


I think perhaps you're stretching a little with the second paragraph. The 'high-handed' describes the weapon, not the user, so using the definition you provided I think it's just a fancy way of saying the implementation of the test is ruthless, without consideration for the feelings of others.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby pcqypcqy » 26 Mar 2019 23:05

And my wife wonders why I re-read these so often. There's always more layers to the onion.

Good observations. This theme does tie the first four books together quite well.

I'm not great on literary analysis, but I'm struggling to see how this theme applies to books 5 and 6 though. Will think about it a bit more.

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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 28 Mar 2019 11:41

SadisticCynic wrote:I think perhaps you're stretching a little with the second paragraph. The 'high-handed' describes the weapon, not the user, so using the definition you provided I think it's just a fancy way of saying the implementation of the test is ruthless, without consideration for the feelings of others.


I see, interesting. But is the weapon itself the "enemy" implied in the definition of gom jabbar? Like, if the Ixians were to construct a genocidal hunter-seeker, would it be plausible to call that hunter-seeker "the enemy", rather than the Ixians, or even more specifically, the mentality and system of Empire that allowed for the Ixians to both want to and be able to commit genocide? Calling a mindless thing an enemy seems a bit strange. But I do agree with you that on a literal level the nature of the test is basically defined by the fact that it's ruthless, so maybe that's a good enough explanation.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby the rev » 29 Mar 2019 18:06

One thing I feel should be added at this point in the discussion. What a ridiculously stupid test 'the box' is. When you grab something hot you drop it, that's self preservation. I have a coffee mug with a handle, I've forgotten and heated my coffee in the microwave. Grabbed it without thinking, burned my hand and dropped it, spilled my coffee everywhere. Next time I did the same stupid move I held onto the coffee long enough to set it down instead of instantly dropping it. Got burned anyway but at least I was rewarded with my coffee. Yay! I win! Something...

And 'high handed' means exactly what it's suppose to mean. Someone has been dealt a better hand then you. Take your whipping, hate the master, and scheme how to take the bastard out.

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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 30 Mar 2019 13:00

Could "high handed" refer to the "necessary cruelty of the husbandman"? That's how Leto II thought of himself which all stems from Jessica's Gom Jabbar worm trip alternative for him. The GJ tested for more than just individual humanity but for a sense of humanity as a whole, while Leto's definition was broader he and the BG were both exercising power and authority without thought to the individual's feelings.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Omphalos » 01 Apr 2019 09:28

Freakzilla wrote:Could "high handed" refer to the "necessary cruelty of the husbandman"? That's how Leto II thought of himself which all stems from Jessica's Gom Jabbar worm trip alternative for him. The GJ tested for more than just individual humanity but for a sense of humanity as a whole, while Leto's definition was broader he and the BG were both exercising power and authority without thought to the individual's feelings.


Exactly. Its not testing instinct. It's testing training, and individual will, and how all that elevates a person past individual concerns. Paul's training was as a monarch on a resource-rich planet. His focus, and the focus of his training, and as part of his feudal upbringing, was on spreading the resources for all. Leto's upbringing was a bit harsher. He was a despot who saw bigger problems. His focus was on stimulating people to go get their own crap and make for themselves.

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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 02 Apr 2019 09:43

Freakzilla wrote:Could "high handed" refer to the "necessary cruelty of the husbandman"? That's how Leto II thought of himself which all stems from Jessica's Gom Jabbar worm trip alternative for him. The GJ tested for more than just individual humanity but for a sense of humanity as a whole, while Leto's definition was broader he and the BG were both exercising power and authority without thought to the individual's feelings.


You mean that it's the person who keeps his hand in the box who is then likely to become the gom jabbar - the cruel husbandman who disarms traps at the expense of the feelings of others? My issue is that although the definition of gom jabbar does include "high handed", in literal terms in the story the GJ is what kills the unworthy instantly, not allowing for a second chance. Leto II's rule, on the other hand, was extended as a slow process of pressure, and not a final judgement at all. Or do you just mean that the GJ, like the human in the trap, must both be necessarily cruel?
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 03 Apr 2019 12:06

georgiedenbro wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:Could "high handed" refer to the "necessary cruelty of the husbandman"? That's how Leto II thought of himself which all stems from Jessica's Gom Jabbar worm trip alternative for him. The GJ tested for more than just individual humanity but for a sense of humanity as a whole, while Leto's definition was broader he and the BG were both exercising power and authority without thought to the individual's feelings.


You mean that it's the person who keeps his hand in the box who is then likely to become the gom jabbar - the cruel husbandman who disarms traps at the expense of the feelings of others? My issue is that although the definition of gom jabbar does include "high handed", in literal terms in the story the GJ is what kills the unworthy instantly, not allowing for a second chance. Leto II's rule, on the other hand, was extended as a slow process of pressure, and not a final judgement at all. Or do you just mean that the GJ, like the human in the trap, must both be necessarily cruel?


No, the BG see themselves as high handed. The test is to weed out the non-humans (by their definition), and identify the humans, for breeding purposes, to better the race. Sort of culling the heard.

Leto himself became the GJ, he thought of himself as the ultimate predator. Prey improves the stock. But his stock was all of humanity, not just the elite nobles.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 04 Apr 2019 10:00

Freakzilla wrote:No, the BG see themselves as high handed. The test is to weed out the non-humans (by their definition), and identify the humans, for breeding purposes, to better the race. Sort of culling the heard.

Leto himself became the GJ, he thought of himself as the ultimate predator. Prey improves the stock. But his stock was all of humanity, not just the elite nobles.


Oh I see. Yes, that makes sense. So it's the applier of the test herself that is the GJ, really, and not the needle representing some outside threat. So maybe we could track the progress of GJ in this way:

1) The BG see themselves as the embodiment of the GJ - ruthless, testing humanity among the nobles.
2) Leto II becomes the full-scale GJ, cultivating all of humanity, but only because he knew the following:
3) The real GJ isn't a person or even a group, but that event as yet unknown that ends all of humanity.

So the GJ could be perceived as a mindset, or a tool, to improve local conditions, but this conceit would be shattered when Leto II realized that unless someone like him disarms future traps through the GP, the GJ would be taken out of individual hands and become a tester not of the weak but of the entire species as if it were one individual; the whole race's hand would eventually end up in the black box (i.e. unknown threat) and no one at that point would be the tester any more.

Is this what you were thinking? The one catch I can see in this schema is that for step (3) Leto II does make sure humanity is prepared, but only due to being so spread out we can't be wiped out. That alone doesn't achieve what the BG originally intended with the box, which was to locate humans among our stock and weed out animals (which I assume is what happens to Leto II in CoD in Jacurutu). By being spread out humanity can't be wiped out, but it doesn't yet help humanity to actually become a human, if we're going to assess the entire species as one organism as I think FH did. I do think part of the GP wasn't just spreading us out, but also pushing us towards what Odrade came to realize, which is that a certain combination of adaptability and mobility - the living practice of being what Siona was by nature - are needed as a species. But while I doubt humanity had become human as of when Leto II died, I do think that somehow Dune 7 was going to touch upon that issue, of what it would take for the species as a whole to become able to withstand the box, rather than just one tyrannical leader doing it for us. And somehow I think this was going to be linked to siaynoq and imprinting, as those passages describing Leto II's siaynoq seem not to be have their importance explained even by the end of CH:D. We can pretty much tell how that ritual morphed into the HM's, but not what Leto II intended it to be in terms of its real importance, and which I guess the BG would have to re-institute in Dune 7.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 04 Apr 2019 10:48

Yeah, something like that. I hadn't taken it quite that far in my head though.

I don't think Leto tried to prepare humanity for any particular threat beyond The Scattering and his breeding program because he liked surprises.

He did breed for conscious level instincts, increased sensitivity to spice, and a caution of "peace". As an extended result of that we got Teg. Surprise!
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 04 Apr 2019 14:19

Freakzilla wrote:I don't think Leto tried to prepare humanity for any particular threat beyond The Scattering and his breeding program because he liked surprises.


Then what do you make of his message to Odrade, summarized with "Join me!" What would have been the purpose of that message?
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 04 Apr 2019 16:54

georgiedenbro wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:I don't think Leto tried to prepare humanity for any particular threat beyond The Scattering and his breeding program because he liked surprises.


Then what do you make of his message to Odrade, summarized with "Join me!" What would have been the purpose of that message?


I think it was his ultimatum/break-up letter with the BG. He blamed them for creating him and causing his eons of misery and told them to get their shit together or they were through. Leto couldn't See what was going on in the future to plan anything anyway, that was the purpose of the Siona gene. With his intelligence, he didn't need prescience to see the path the BG were going down, outside the river as Odrade said.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Apr 2019 09:59

Freakzilla wrote:
georgiedenbro wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:He blamed them for creating him and causing his eons of misery and told them to get their shit together or they were through.


I guess my question is - why? Why would he have a vested interest in them getting their shit together? For what ultimate purpose?

One answer I can think of is simply that he was pure BG based on his OM, and the loyalty is due to the premise that once the OM awakening happens you are automatically, and by definition, BG. Do you think it's this, or what there's something more to it in terms of what he hopes they will accomplish?
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 05 Apr 2019 12:52

georgiedenbro wrote:One answer I can think of is simply that he was pure BG based on his OM, and the loyalty is due to the premise that once the OM awakening happens you are automatically, and by definition, BG. Do you think it's this, or what there's something more to it in terms of what he hopes they will accomplish?


I do agree with that. He may have had something in mind for them, he said they were very close to what they should be, but also said they were the only faction he ever considered destroying. I guess he was still hoping they could make that final push to what they should be. But I don't think he was trying to warn them against any particular threat to all of mankind.
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Apr 2019 14:11

Freakzilla wrote:
georgiedenbro wrote:I guess he was still hoping they could make that final push to what they should be.


I guess it was a tough question for me to frame clearly, but I think I can go off of what you just wrote: what do you think he was hoping they should be? Or put another way, what goal could this "should" have? Let's say, for instance, they did shape up and be the group he felt they could be: what good would that do for anyone?
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Re: The Lesson of the Box

Postby Freakzilla » 06 Apr 2019 11:27

georgiedenbro wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:
georgiedenbro wrote:I guess he was still hoping they could make that final push to what they should be.


I guess it was a tough question for me to frame clearly, but I think I can go off of what you just wrote: what do you think he was hoping they should be? Or put another way, what goal could this "should" have? Let's say, for instance, they did shape up and be the group he felt they could be: what good would that do for anyone?


I suppose he could have been referring to the BGs departure from mainstream humanity. I don't know that geting back into it would do any good post scattering, other than bettering their own sisterhood... and helping them subvert the HMs.
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