Note: At first this article may seem like a departure from the purpose of this blog. But when you get to the bottom line, you will see there is a strong connection for every believer, including me, myself, I and all the rest. Cate
Of Dune and Messiahs
Of Dune and Messiahs
While I was sick recently, I reread Dune and Dune Messiah. I actually stopped to meditate a lot while reading it, because I wanted to understand the strongly anti-Messiah message and the core of Frank Herbert’s cynical understanding of religion. If you haven’t read these books, you probably won’t understand this post. I’m not recommending the books, by the way. They are a holdover from my lifelong love of science fiction and my desire to understand the “words of the prophets [that are] written on the subway walls and tenement halls”. To do so is to understand the heart of man who is always seeking… it is to understand myself, and why I can say that I have found that which I was seeking, for He found me and introduced Himself.
So let’s jump in…
Through the “Missionaria Protectiva” that was seeded throughout the known universe, there was room created for the Bene Gesserit social, political and religious order to assist the landing of the sisterhood in strange and hostile territory, thus helping them to gain control and the spread of their objectives. Their aims are not humanitarian, but they have an elaborate breeding program to try to bring about the Kwisatz Haderach – a person who occupies two places at once, or a type of messiah..
Through the jaded eyes of Frank Herbert, I see a retelling of the supposed history of Christianity, with every nuance trained on the cynical use of religious fervor and zeal to quell the masses. This is not a new story. The fact that this story is told in the terms of Islam is, in itself, very telling, but the subject for a different conversation.
Those who can inspire awe in the masses through talents or ability can write their own ticket to any destination and have it paid for by the adoring faithful. This, too, is not a new story.
Seeing the world through the eyes of the Bene Gesserit (B.G.), one understood their view of kings to be mere specimens for their DNA manipulation. Power was a tangible weapon to be wielded on uncooperative subjects, or a sweet meat to be proffered in minute portions to those who cooperated fully. Simultaneously, each bite of power had a hook in it, and this was carefully garnered by the sisterhood, to be parlayed into even greater power and control. But the best show of their strength was when they could force a full B.G. sister to accept the judgment and scorn of a “Reverend Mother” and still sacrifice herself to the cause.
In one particularly poignant scene, Herbert had Lady Jessica praying for Duke Paul Atreides, aka Usul, aka Muad’dib, when he went out to ride his first Maker (Worm, Shai-hulud, or Shaitan/Satan), and I wondered to whom she prayed… I saw this as a loose end that needed to be tied up, because it speaks the inborn knowledge of God that every human has intact upon entrance into this world. Herbert could not fail to mention this understanding, even while simultaneously attempting to expose it as weakness and futility. Odd that he should have let this stand. Or perhaps this was his unwitting theodicy…
Thinking about Paul Muad’dib, one couldn’t help view the ease with which he killed so many because he felt he was taking the path that led through the terrible jihad to something better than if he fought becoming their messiah. His prescient ability, innate through breeding and endued from the poisonous spice liquor, showed him many paths, and he tried to find the right way to guide humanity once he had subdued it. But he could only look within himself and the memories of all the B.G. sisters in history, and down the dark path they all feared. He had no God to call upon, indeed he was becoming a god in his own right.
Thus I have always felt that Frank Herbert was exorcising his own demons, but using them to tell the story of his own disillusionment with the church and all religion.
Why talk about this? It is the privilege of my Jewish neshama to answer a question with a question (or two or three).
What is the wild, untamed prayer of the soul? What is the deep desire of a human to connect to someone “out there”? And how does this differ from any organized religion?
Here are my thoughts:
It is impossible to hold Yeshua (Jesus) on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, even though Peter longs to do so, offering to build tabernacles (sukkot) for them to dwell in. Once you had a sukkah built, you might think that your part in life every day was to visit and learn from the masters, and choose this as your permanent occupation. Even as your true Lord and Master ascended into heaven, you might be so preoccupied that you would merely wave and not give it a second thought. Even though He said that we were already seated with Him in heavenly places!
Yeshua told his disciples to abide in the vine… to live in Him. To live in Love. He showed the way, but He was the way, He is the way! He is not only the way, but he is the destination. The religious pews and sanctified pulpits are NOT the way, but Yeshua is the Way.
Different, but not unconnected thoughts:
Hair is the glory of a woman, and fingernails protect the fingers and give them strength. Yet, hair and fingernails are already dead by the time they grow out. It would make as much sense to visit the tomb of a saint as to enshrine the cast off hair and fingernails.
Manna was gathered every morning and would not keep until the next day, unless the next day was the Sabbath, in which case you had to gather two days’ worth in order to feed your family.
The moment men became disconnected from the vine, they were on their way to becoming hair or fingernails. Then they began to look for someone to promote in order to try to get back that “feeling”. Then they built a platform and a pedestal, and the rest was a continuation of religious history.
So the moment we try to put someone up on a pedestal to honor him and set him up for our example, we gain over him the power to knock him off the pedestal, and meanwhile, true connection with God has just gone by the wayside. No wonder the world rejects our religion.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, and writer of the epistles in the New Testament, wrote:
(26) If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (27) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:26-27
God’s mercies are new every morning. They are not meant to be stored up for use later, because there is a river of living water inside the believer that will continually feed him and keep him connected to the presence of God.
(1) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
(2) Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
(3) You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
(4) Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
(5) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
(6) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
(7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
True religion is lived in the power of Love, and it is enacted every day in the life of believers. It must be active, and it must have a goal in order to make the connection to the life of the Master. It was never meant for believers to be continuously taking in and not giving out. The fatness of the believer’s soul was not gained by stagnation of the water of life within. The Living Water was meant to flow through us, and to benefit us as it passed on to others who needed it.
All moments are now. Selah