I am, by admission, a big fan of Frank Herbert’s series Dune. I have heard people over the years say that they first turned to Dune when they were teenagers, and it kind of stuck with them ever since. I did not read a lot of science fiction when I was younger; I was more into Tolkien-clone fantasy books.
Late in 2005, a friend of mine got me hooked on what we called old-school science fiction and before long, I found myself reading the original Dune novel. The first time I read it, I had trouble following the pace and all the vocabulary, but I would find myself drawn to it again later. In my second reading, now that I knew the basic story, I really found myself appreciating the depth and thought that Herbert put into the Dune Universe, and that’s when I started to notice how he weaved religion deeply into the book.
Religion in science fiction is no new thing, but usually it’s something the writer may put together at the last moment, and feels two-dimensional. Watch a Star Trek episode, and you’ll see what I mean. But the Dune series has much deeper messages about the future of humanity, and the need to look beyond our petty world-view, and with his ability to synthesize the old religions and re-invent them, Herbert provides the religious types like me much food for thought.
I think it’s the religious side that makes me read the Dune series over and over again. Herbert grew up in a strongly Jesuit background, but one can feel him rebelling against a stodgy upbringing, and that resonates with people like me who grew up in one religion, converted to another, and have struggled all their adult lives with it. When someone wakes up from their everyday life and realizes that something’s not right, or that they begin to ask difficult questions, that’s the beginning of the true religious path. In essense, I believe Herbert is asking people to wake up from their daily routine and look much deeper into the nature of life itself.
Or, in the words of the Preacher from Children of Dune:
He repeated it in a rolling stentorian shout: “Abandon certainty! That’s life’s deepest command. That’s what life is all about…If certainty is knowing absolutely an absolute future, then that’s only death disguised…”
Author’s Note: The picture was a screenshot of the 1984 movie Dune, which I took on my Mac using VLC.
P.S. You can read all the “Dune” posts here: