Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mysticism in Dune

New Scientist recently polled its readers for their favourite Science Fiction works. Frank Herbert's classic Dune came in first. It's the best selling SF novel of all time, but it's a little surprising that scientific types chose a book that is so mystical. One could argue that Herbert used a speculative distant future chapter in the history of humanity in order to make a critical analysis of the effects of mystical experience on geopolitics, but, though this may have been part of Herbert's motivation for writing the book, one also gets the sense that he was personally influenced by, and sympathetic to, mysticism.

"Early in his newspaper career, Herbert was introduced to Zen by two Jungian psychologists; ever after, Zen and Jungianism influenced him. Throughout the Dune series and particularly in Dune, Herbert employs concepts and forms borrowed from Zen Buddhism as a further religious influence on his characters; the Fremen are Zensunni adherents, many of his epigraphs are Zen-spirited."

"The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas. We possess only this moment in which to dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence which we share and create."
— Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

"What do you despise? By this are you truly known."
— Frank Herbert

Its a well known fact in psychology that the ego projects its own unacknowledged failings onto 'others'.

"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."-Frank Herbert

"the sleeper must awaken" — Frank Herbert (Dune)

There's another film version of Dune in the pipeline. The plan is to make it more faithful to the book than the David Lynch version. Lynch's film was visually interesting but probably incomprehensible without having read the book.


Walkoff said...

Apparently Frank Herbert read his working drafts to his wife every evening. He has said that is was her counsel that was his most valuable and that she was a much responsible for his works as he was. Perhaps it was her mysticysm?

Anyhow, I hope the remade film will be better than the 1984 version.

jeronimus said...

There's definitely a woman's depth in the books.
I'm not expecting much from the new film version if it gets off the ground. It's a huge challenge to recreate in a standard length film the immense cultural detail with which Mr and Mrs Herbert built up the fictional world of Dune.
I hope to be surprised though.

Art Neuro said...

I like the 1984 film a lot. It's a guilty little pleasure because even David Lynch disowns that film.

It's full o the weirdness that makes Lynch's work so compelling and the weirdness is actually quite true to Herbert.

Alas, Lynch is not a great action director so the fight scenes are largely lacking in tension by our contemporary standards. Yet the design of the vision is so immaculate and psychotic, so bizarre and Frank Herbert as well as the best of Lynch's own aesthetic.

I think it's time people gave it another look. It's a great entry in the annals of Sci-Fi film making IMHO.

jeronimus said...

Hi Art
I agree
Lynch's film looks amazing. Good casting, production design and soundtrack. I was convinced, but I can understand people who haven't read the book watching the film and saying: "what the...".