The Theology of Dune

Ever noticed all the Christian symbolism symbols in Frank Herbert's Dune?

The Orange-Catholic Bible is a clue that much more lies beneath the dune-covered surface of this science-fiction masterpiece. From the Messiah-figure of the Kwisatz Haderach to the Flight into the Desert of Arrakis, there is quite a bit of Christian symbolism in Frank Herbert's epic Dune.

Dune is one the great classics of science-fiction. It inspired, among others, George Lucas who conceived of another desert planet, Tatooine, and the Messianic-figures who would arise from it.

Here are the Christian symbols and connections that I have noticed reading and re-reading Dune. Please comment below and share you own insights into the Christian themes, motifs, and symbols hidden within Dune:

Kwisatz Haderach or Muad'Dib (Fremen) - The Messiah

The Kwisatz Haderach is the Messianic figure of the Dune universe. The desert Messiah is known as the Kwisatz Haderach to the Bene Gessarit. He is known as Muad'Dib to the Fremen.

When explaining the term "Muad'Dib" to Duke Leto, Thufir Hawat actually describes the Muad'Dib as following the Messianic pattern.

Lady Jessica first notices the Muad'Dib among the constellations in the desert manual following their escape from Baron's men. The Muad'Dib is the desert mouse, and the tail of its constellation points north. Similarly, the Messiah had its own star among the Hebrews. You can read more about the constellation Leo and the Lion of Judah here.

Duke Leto as St. Joseph, the foster-father of the Messiah

Joseph, who takes his family into the desert of Egypt (i.e. Arakkis), though Leto taking his family to Arakkis is more like taking them into King Herod's camp.

Lady Jessica as the Virgin Mary

Mary, who descends from the line of David. Similarly, there is a matriarchal line of Bene Gessarit in Dune.

She is prophesied to be, as Stilgar says, "the Bene Gessarit of legend whose son will lead us to paradise." The prophesy of an immaculate virgin who would give birth to the Messiah is the oldest prophesy in Christianity. See the following on Genesis 3:15, called the proto-evangelium or "first Gospel."

Fremen as the Jews

The Hebrew people abused and colonized by the Romans (Harkonnen), whom the Messiah leads to freedom (i.e. "free-men").

The military aspect of the Fremen is especially interesting. Many of the Jews expected a military conqueror for their Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied to be the Lion of Judah, who would overthrow the power of the Romans. Surprisingly, the Lion of Judah came as the Lamb of God.

Missionaria Protectiva

Missionaries; the diaspora of the Hebrew people which made for the easy spread of Christianity

The Baron Karkonnen as King Herod

The Baron Harkonnen is a King Herod figure. He is also a Pharaoh figure, given the desert background. Both figures attempted to abort the power of their rivals by killing the child who would be king. King Herod did this through the Slaughter of the Innocents at Bethlehem and elsewhere. Pharaoh did this with his instruction to the midwives to kill the Hebrew children.

The Orange-Catholic Bible

The mention of a Bible speaks for itself. It appears that much of the Bible as we know it has survived into the future in the Dune universe. The mention of this Bible may even be Herbert's way of connecting our universe to that of Dune.

The color "orange" is especially interesting. In this context, orange typically represents the Protestant Irish. This may speak to an ancient reunion of Protestant and Catholic in the Dune universe.

Quotes from the Saints appear within Dune

Lady Jessica at p. 85: "What is it Saint Augustine said? she asked herself. 'The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.' Yes--I am meeting more resistance lately. I could use a quiet retreat by myself."

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