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Bene Gesserit Background

Posted: 13 Oct 2014 07:55
by mizar
I would like to open a discussion here concerning the Bene Gesserit teachings background and it's source.
I'm new at the forum so I'm not sure if there was already any similar topic around. If so pls let me know.

I haven't read Herbert's full biography or something, just the tinny article on wikipedia where there's little information about his beliefs and the specific sources he used to create the Dune universe.

As for myself and my personal interest in this subject, I work as Ashtanga Yoga teacher here in my town which is a very traditional yoga system. I'm hindu, lived in India for a while and I've been studying and practicing Yoga on the past ten years.
When I started to read Dune I was amazed by the variety of connections between yogic knowledge and Herbert's books.
From terms in sanskrit (such as prana bindu) to teachings like "teach by the example" or "i exist only to serve", Dune books are full of yogic influence, whether Herbert's knew it or not.

The Bene Gesserit sisterhood is nearly a traditional school for advanced yogic capacities and virtues, in total accordance to the Yoga Sutra's teachings.
Focus, control of the mind, control of the muscles, postures, detatchment from mundane, stillness and so on.

As i said 'im new here and the not deepest knower of Dune, so I would like to expand this topic specially based on the knowledge and impressions from more experienced readers.

Re: Bene Gesserit Background

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 11:28
by georgiedenbro
Hi Mizar!

We know a few things about the BG, I'll list some off the top of my head:

-"Bene Gesserit" might be Latin for "those who act well", or alternatively might be Arabic for "sons of the island." The name "Gesserit" is also supposedly meant to suggest "Jesuit", as the Jesuits were an influence on Frank, and we can see some of this in the Missionaria Protectiva in Dune.

-"Prana" and "bindu" are definitely Indian terms, although Frank has them mean somewhat different things than the terms literally do in Sanskrit right now. But yes, it's definitely of Yogic derivation, and it's not clear whether the difference is intentional on account of it being the future, or whether Frank took the words but wasn't that well studied in Yoga terminology.

-The BG definitely have an eye to look towards the past for wisdom, but Dune seems to suggest subtly that they may not be entirely clear on what the path into the future should be. This might be taken to suggest a female bias towards genetic ancestry, in comparison to the male bias as seen in the Guild of looking to the future and ignoring the past.

-The BG 'farm' genetic strains, and their main function is political.

-The BG adhere carefully to the tenets of the Butlerian Jihad and the Great Convention, and appear at times to have a distaste for others who are not so observant, such as the Tleilaxu and mentats.

-This passage from Dune, Appendix II:

Dune wrote:2. The Bene Gesserit, who privately denied they were a religious order, but
who operated behind an almost impenetrable screen of ritual mysticism, and whose
training, whose symbolism, organization, and internal teaching methods were
almost wholly religious;


Make of that what you will! The most interesting part of this passage is the phrase "internal teaching methods", which implies the religious tone is not merely a front shown for outsiders.

Does anyone one else have some points to add?

Re: Bene Gesserit Background

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 12:10
by Sardaukar Capt
Frank Herbert Info:

Biography: http://www.oreilly.com/tim/herbert/ (Its out of print but you can read the whole thing online here).

Interviews and Lectures:

(1969): http://www.sinanvural.com/seksek/inien/tvd/tvd2.htm (text transcript)

(Early 1980s): http://bobrbogle.com/2014/07/12/frank-h ... ure-tapes/ (audio)

If you make your way through all of this you'll get a better idea of the source of the Bene Gesserit in Frank's mind and I think you'll be surprised about the amount of research Frank did in Eastern and Middle Eastern philosophies, culture and religion. As for the source of the BG in the Dune universe, that's not something Frank went into great depth about in the books themselves although you can glean a lot by reading all 6 books. The BG in particular are a focus in his last 2 books. However, he left a lot open to interpretation of the reader which was his style when it came to the history of HIS universe.

Also, you can Google "Dune Encyclopedia pdf" and find this book of essay's curated by FH's longtime friend Willis E. McNelly in 1984 about the Dune Universe. It's basically fan-fiction but it is endorsed in a Forward by Frank. To my mind, he endorsed it because it basically explored the history of things Frank wrote about. It was more or less a backward looking book and Frank was only interested in looking forward with Dune. (Another reason I don't believe he was going to tie the Butlerian Jihad period to Dune 7 no matter what Dumb & Dumber say).

Re: Bene Gesserit Background

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 07:13
by mizar
Thank u A LOT for your reply georgiedenbro, was very clarifying.

-"Bene Gesserit" might be Latin for "those who act well", or alternatively might be Arabic for "sons of the island." The name "Gesserit" is also supposedly meant to suggest "Jesuit", as the Jesuits were an influence on Frank, and we can see some of this in the Missionaria Protectiva in Dune.


I didn't know about the Jesuit influence, just knew the Missionaria were related to them. I haven't read FH's bio, haven't gone that deep, but his beliefs and religious background interest me a lot if u have more information about it.

-"Prana" and "bindu" are definitely Indian terms, although Frank has them mean somewhat different things than the terms literally do in Sanskrit right now. But yes, it's definitely of Yogic derivation, and it's not clear whether the difference is intentional on account of it being the future, or whether Frank took the words but wasn't that well studied in Yoga terminology.

Yes, other members mentioned these new meanings FH gave to the words tho they're indian terms originally.

-The BG definitely have an eye to look towards the past for wisdom, but Dune seems to suggest subtly that they may not be entirely clear on what the path into the future should be. This might be taken to suggest a female bias towards genetic ancestry, in comparison to the male bias as seen in the Guild of looking to the future and ignoring the past.


That's a great insight, never considered it, i thank u mostly for this one.

Looking foward to discuss more this topic. If anyone have more information or personal insights about it I'll appreaciate discussing them.

Re: Bene Gesserit Background

Posted: 15 Oct 2014 07:23
by mizar
Sardaukar Capt wrote:Frank Herbert Info:

Biography: http://www.oreilly.com/tim/herbert/ (Its out of print but you can read the whole thing online here).

Interviews and Lectures:

(1969): http://www.sinanvural.com/seksek/inien/tvd/tvd2.htm (text transcript)

(Early 1980s): http://bobrbogle.com/2014/07/12/frank-h ... ure-tapes/ (audio)



thank u for the links!
i knew about them already but never bothered to read.
i would like to hear more personal insights based on observation and reflection.