Who are the Bene Gesserit? The Powerful Mystics In Dune Lore
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Who are the Bene Gesserit? The Most Powerful Mystics of the Dune Universe

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BY July 14, 2023

Several families have been maintained over the centuries in Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. One of them was the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, a semi-mystical, all-female school focused on mental training.

This Sisterhood in Dune is very important as it seeks to maintain political, social and religious balance. Its origins date back to the end of the Butlerian Jihad era. We will discuss who the Bene Gesserit are and their influence on Dune.

Who are the Bene Gesserit?

The Backstory Of Dune's  Explained Image: Universal Pictures

The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood is a female order with members with extensive mental and physical abilities. Their powers and abilities are often mistaken for magical powers. For this reason, some liken them to witches in the Dune Universe.

It is at the end of the so-called Butlerian Jihad that this Sisterhood was born. The members of this organisation were trained at the Mother School of Wallach IX.

One of the main characteristics of the Bene Gesserit is that they are loyal only to themselves. However, to achieve what they desire, they can offer allegiance to other groups or individuals.

To accomplish their goals, this order is spread throughout the empire. They excel as concubines, experts and spies. Moreover, they demonstrate their versatility in every assignment to get the most out of it. But, their point of honour is developing the human genetic enhancement programme.

Bene Gesserit Origin and Birth of the Brotherhood

Dune: 10 Vital Facts About the Bene Gesserit Witches Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The origin of the Bene Gesserit brotherhood within the Dune Empire is not recent. The name adopted comes from the Latin “quamdiu se bene gesserit”, meaning “all the while behaving well”.

The separate terms have their own meaning. From the Hebrew B’nei, Bene means “people of or children of”. Gesserit, from the Latin Gerere, means to dress, lead, handle, behave, or do.

Now, in the biography of the writer Brian Herbert, it is speculated that Gesserit is a word like Jesuit. This is trying to evoke his father as a person of high intellectual level.

The birth of this order is recreated ten thousand years before the various events in Dune. It is in the first two novels of the trilogy that the Sorceresses of Rossak are revealed.

They stand out as a group of women who possess telekinetic powers. Hence, they are considered to destroy the Thinking Machines in the Butlerian Jihad. It is understood that the Sorceresses make a sacrifice when they fight, as they die when they use their powers.

This was seen when fighting the Titans and Neo-Cymeks. Because of these events, the Sorceress leader, Ticia Cenva, starts planning births to create more powerful telepaths.

Then, in the Battle of Corrin, held on Dune, the Thinking Machines deploy a plague that threatens to wipe out humanity. They develop a retrovirus called RNA, which they spread.

The Creation of The Generic Programme

Dune 2020: 10 Bene Gesserit Powers That Prove They Are Better than Jedi -  Animated Times Image: Universal Pictures

Seeing that humanity was in danger, the Sorceresses of Rossak created a genetic programme. With this, they sought to preserve the human bloodlines from the threat they were being subjected to.

In this way, Dr. Raquella Berto-Anirul, plague researcher and granddaughter of Vorian Atreides, manages to survive the evil. This is thanks to the substances that exist on the planet Rossak.

The Sorceress Leader, Ticia, jealous, poisons Raquella with the Rossak Drug. But, she did not expect that she would survive this agony—developing other powers, such as unlocking the Other Memories. And with Ticia’s suicide, Raquella becomes the Reverend Mother.

Development Towards the Kwisatz Haderach

With the above event, Dr Raquella discovered other abilities and assumed power over the Sorceresses of Rossak. Assuming parallel genetic programs and founding the Bene Gesseri school of thought.

What were they looking for in this order? To replace several of the talents that only the Thinking Machines had. Therefore, at the end of the battle of Corrin, several schools of thought arose apart from the Bene Gesseri. These were the Mentat, the Ginaz Swordsmen, the Space Guild, and the Suk School of Doctors.

These schools had similar goals: to develop innate human talents fully. Thus, some were oriented towards pure mathematics and extrasensory powers such as the Guild, having the Navigators who can see the future.

Others, like Mentat, have amazing minds for acquiring and manipulating data. The Ginaz swordsmen, with incredible war skills. And the Suk doctors, with conditioning that makes them incapable of violating their own Hippocratic Oath. Likewise, these doctors have great diagnostic abilities.

Of course, there are the Bene Gesseri, who excel in multiple skills as strategists, historians, and political scientists. This makes them a key organisation in the Dune Empire.

Several centuries after the events of the Butlerian Jihad, the Bene Gesserise sisterhood consolidates, grows and expands. Thus, they become a semi-mystical school offering high education and conditioning.

But, this order is oriented only to women in the service of the Empire, thus offering concubines and Decisors of Truth. What many do not know is that this school represents a shadow power and controls the Empire very subtly. All in the name of helping humanity in its maturation process.

Aiming to achieve that goal, the Bene Gesseri developed a genetic programme seen on a large scale called Kwisatz Haderach. They sought to create a super-being who could help them manipulate the Empire.

The Kwisatz Project and the Peace of Leto

Dune Denis Villeneuve Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

To bring the Kwisatz project to fruition, the Bene Gesseri order has for millennia been sending Sisters to conceive with genes that are considered optimal. To do this, they follow a pre-established reproductive scheme. 

What is the aim of this project? The aim is to manipulate the bloodlines of the main generations. In other words, they are trying to obtain the so-called great grail, considered the birth of the Kwisatz Haderach.

For the sisters of this order, this achievement will be the male Bene Gesseri, with whom they can go where they cannot—having unique powers such as seeing into the genetic memories of father and mother.

In other words, the being formed will be the male equivalent of the Reverend Mother. But the most distinctive feature will be its prescience, which is nothing more than the ability to see the future.

The Bene Gesseri believe that by creating this being, they can control it to use its prescient vision. What do they seek? To take the reins of human destiny and finally control humanity, being able to manipulate events as they wish.

The mission was for Reverend Mother Gaius, Helen Mohiam, to conceive a daughter for Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. After a first failed attempt, it is Reverend Mother Mohiam who gives birth to Jessica. She needed to fulfil her goal but disobeyed the orders of the Sisterhood and fell in love, giving birth to a boy, which endangered the planned lineage, shaking the genetic programme.

The Time of Leto’s Peace

When the time of the Peace of Leto arrives, the Bene Gesseri are going through hard times, where three and a half thousand years of the God Emperor’s rule have passed.

A whole ecological transformation of Arrakis takes place, with the worms of Arrakis disappearing almost entirely. Thus, the melange becomes scarce, as does the power it gives to those who wield it. In addition, Leto II maintains control over the annual allocations of the spice.

This causes unrest, but peace is forcibly maintained, thanks to the Fish Talkers. Noticeably, social mores have become uniform, and the Bene Gesseri seek to regain full control of their genetic programme.

The Return to a new Brotherhood

Everything is in chaos, the sandworms are missing, and the fear of the oracle of Leto II is imposed on humanity, which makes the Bene Gesseri practically disappear.

In order to recover, the new Mother Superior Darwil Odrade and her counsellors support a plan to unleash a religious Jihad. The aim was to unite humanity against the danger of the Honoured Matres.

The latter have annihilated the Bene Tleilax, pursuing the Bene Gesseri, seeking to take away their skills and knowledge. Therefore, thanks to the knowledge that the Honoured Mother Murbella has of the origins of the Matres, they outline a plan for the Sisterhood to survive.

All this led to an inevitable confrontation, where the Bene Gesseri sisterhood sought a reconversion of the Honoured Matres. It was tried at all costs to keep these two factions together.

Strategies of the Bene Gesserit

Who are the Bene Gesserit from Dune? | The Astromech Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Bene Gesseri’s strategies to stay in the empire are various, such as:

Avoidance of power

The methods used by the Bene Gesserit have always been indirect in order to achieve their goals. They seek not to exercise power openly. They are therefore based on the Taoist principle that “what goes up must come down”.

Therefore, they never seek to take direct control of the human race but rather to manipulate events. Everything concerning political and social order, albeit subtle, is taken over several generations.

Wealth and power are avoided by this order so that their true intentions are not revealed. And when governments and empires rise and fall, they are not associated with them.

Genetic Programme

The genetic programme is designed to enhance the prevalence of telekinetic powers in their species. Thus, when the Thinking Machines spread the lethal virus, they sought to diversify the bloodlines.

At the time, they were known as the Sorceresses and later consolidated as the Bene Gesserit. Such an event marked the beginning of Sisterhood’s genetic programme to obtain the Kwisatz Haderach.

Because of all that happened in the Butlerian Jihad, the births cannot be of an artificial order but natural. Hence, the Bene Gesserit are forced to use resources for conceptions.

Protective Missionary

The Bene Gesserit are essentially atheists, but they know that religion’s power influences the social order. Therefore, it is indispensable for them to reverse themselves from a religious appearance.

The Missionaria Protectiva is one of the branches of the Bene Gesserit, whose mission is religious engineering. That is, they aim to find tools of social control to manipulate religious impulses.

To do this, they teach certain basic beliefs within society. Thus, the well-known Panoploa Propheticus are the set of infectious superstitions the Bene Gesserit uses to exploit primitive regions.

Powers of the Bene Gesserit

In the Bene Gesserit order, the sisters begin their conditioning at birth or when they are very young. They are called acolytes and consider that the younger they are, the better they will be able to become a Reverend Mother. Among the powers of the Bene Gesserit are:

Prana Conditioning – Bindu and the Bene Gesserit Way.

In this order, those who begin their conditioning can develop incredible mental and physical abilities. Where in their training, they can come to have complete control over muscles and nerve endings. This is called Prana-bindu training.

Simulflux

Part of the training in the Bene Gesserit is the simulflux, which is the simultaneous flow of several lines of consciousness in a given time. This gives the one who masters it a kind of mental multitasking. The Bene Gesserit are considered to be extremely intelligent because they are able to combine simulflow, the Other Memories, with their analytical abilities.

Small Perception

In the Bene Gesserit, the sisters are expected to practice the perception of each instant at each moment. Combining this with their other mental abilities, they are considered witches to outsiders of these powers.

Truth Tellers

The Bene Gesserit seek to have their acolytes gain the ability of Truth Tellers. That is, to determine when someone is lying by interpreting body language, voice inflexions and changes, and analysing physiological signs, among other things.

Voice

The Bene Gesserit can manipulate a person’s unconscious mind through the use of the voice. In this way, they become irresistible, unaware they are being manipulated.

This power can be exercised on groups or individuals indistinctly. For them, Voice is an extreme version of the skill of oratory. For acolytes, this is neither magical nor mystical; it is an innate talent that can be trained.

Sexual Training

The Bene Gesserit are required to fulfil the reproductive plan focused on their genetic programme. To do so, they must have the necessary resources to conceive ideal individuals.

Therefore, the Bene Gesserit training is focused to be seductive, with the sexual skills and sexual impression that will allow them to achieve their goal. It is not for nothing that they are responsible for providing the Empire with the best concubines for the Great Houses and nobility in general.

Agony

The Agony is a ordeal where an acolyte takes a poisonous Prescient spectrum narcotic, which is neutralised by her inner change. This gives the sister an awakening of female ancestor personalities and memories.

Weaknesses of the Bene Gesserit

Denis Villeneuve Dune Part 2 Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

As it has virtues, the Bene Gesserit has its weaknesses, the most prominent being:

Melange Addiction

Melange is initially favourable, but in the long run, it becomes addictive. Therefore, the Honourable Matres deprive the Reverend Mothers of this spice when they are to be interrogated. Thus they are psychologically broken down.

This, of course, has an effect because the Reverend Mothers and the other adepts of the Sisterhood are addicted to Melange. Without this spice, there is no Agony and no Reverend Mothers.

The Abomination

The Abomination is another of the Bene Gesserit’s evils, where Other Memories possess their psyche. This makes them hear the voices of some strong personality ancestors. Abomination happens among the preborn, i.e. individuals who reach their Other Memories.

The Female Order of the Bene Gesserit, The Mystic and Mighty Order of Dune

In Frank Herbert's novel “DUNE”, why doesn't anyone from House Harkonnen  training like Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (being an obvious  exception)? - Quora Image: Universal Pictures

One of the landmark science fiction novels is Dune. From the writer Frank Herber, the novel has been a resounding success, so much so that a film has been made from it. And already waiting for a second part of the same film with the same name.

Therefore, the fans will see the Bene Gesserit order among the protagonists on November 3, 2023. Its director and screenwriter, Denis Villeneuve, comes with a cast of actors like Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Dave Bautista.

Featured Image Via Warner Bros. Pictures

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