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Amtal (also known as the amtal rule), was a tradition practiced on many primitive planets, which literally translated as tested to destruction. As this translation indicated, the purpose of amtal was to discover the limits of a person, regardless of the consequences. In other words, only when an object is pushed beyond its limits will its true nature be seen. It was practiced by the Fremen, among other societies that live in the harshest of environments.
The Amtal RuleEdit
During the days of the Imperium, the Amtal Rule was a philosophical concept with the basic premise that in order to know a thing well, one had to know its limits. Only when an object was pushed beyond its limits would its true nature be seen. For societies that lived in the harshest of environments, Amtal was the only logical test of objects upon which people depended for survival. On Arrakis, for example, during the years before Paul Muad'Dib, the Fremen were strict practitioners of Amtal.
Whether it was a stillsuit to hold the body's water, a thumper to call the great worms of Dune, or a Maker hook for capturing and steering the worms, every design as well as every piece of material was tested until it was literally destroyed. The Fremen would so zealously apply Amtal because theory could not be depended on if one's own life and the life of the community was at stake. However, societies that did live in such harsh environments rarely viewed Amtal as a practical way of reducing the dangers of failure. For the Fremen, Amtal became religious ritual. To them, life on Arrakis was the ultimate test in which all things were known by how they were destroyed. However, such societies rarely viewed Amtal as merely a practical way of reducing the dangers of failure. For the Fremen, Amtal became religious ritual.
The Bene Gesserit took this concept to its logical conclusion: "The ability to destroy a concept is the ability to control it."
Amtal as a Metaphor for Life Edit
Only Shai-Hulud, the great sandworms of Arrakis, appears to have been exempt from Amtal, and the reason seems to be that this deity was the ultimate tester, the final applier of Amtal to all things on Arrakis. With such a mythology, Amtal, in even its simplest forms, took on a metaphorical dimension. In any of its applications it represented life itself, and was applied finally to human beings as well as to objects. If a failed stillsuit meant certain death for an individual Fremen, then so too the failure of a Fremen to carry out a necessary task meant the death of an entire community. All Fremen were, as a consequence, subject to Amtal at all stages of their lives. Every act became a further test to prove the worth of each individual to the community. If an individual failed that test, the consequences were the same as if an object had been pushed beyond its limits: The individual was destroyed.
It should be noted, however, that an individual's failure and death did not necessarily mean shame. For the Fremen, how the individual faced that failure was highly significant. Indeed, it was in the ending, in the extension beyond natural limits that the truth about the individual was revealed. Thus for societies like the Fremen living on Arrakis thousands of years before The Scattering, Amtal was the very cycle of life and death.