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The Dune Encyclopedia
This article or section refers to elements that appear exclusively in The Dune Encyclopedia.

The Bene Gesserit were a powerful and ancient order of women whose objectives and actions formed a critical element in the evolution of humanity and many of the major plot developments.


The Bene Gesserit history goes back into Terran prehistory. See also Bene Gesserat and Bene Gesserette.

The Bene Gesserit were called so during a technological era on Terra. Sister Maura Macume worked with early thought machines which the Sisterhood saw as an expedient means of streamlining the programming of its breeding programs. The Mother House in Wallachia kept its own mnemonic records of the charts, into which the machineprogrammed breeding charts were integrated, allowing now more complex experimental breeding patterns.

Sister Sierre Kaikilani was the chief programmer for the off- Terran exploration undertaken by a political coalition of the northern, southern, and western powers and knew the infiltration of the controllers of the thought machine by the Sisterhood. The Mother House, through Sierre and other women like her, used the expedition to develop the eventual seeding and breeding plans for off-Terran colonization.

After WallachiaEdit

Sister Glenna Riche witnessed the first global attempt to regularize the structure and training of the "Bene Gesserit". Wallachia had lost its name and political integrity, and an extensive underground network of women working within their separate political jurisdictions developed centers where breeders were educated, breeding charts were maintained, and new skills such as psycholinguistic analysis were developed.

At this time the southern unit had emerged from its millennia of political stasis to compete as an equal political power, strengthened by control of a major energy source. Thus the women of the south were finally free to join the Sisterhood as active participants.

Until then, memory transferences were controlled primarily through nonchemical, physiological and psychological training techniques, but during that time the process used for memory activation among the Reverend Mothers evolved. Apparently a rapidly developing chemistry simplified the physiological and psychological memory transferences.

A radical southern Bene Gesserit unit developed a chemical stimulant to activate latent males, and in the process produced a savior figure who led a jihad to rid the world of "corrupt Modern Infidels." After years of devastating war in the southern territory, the Mother House finally directed an assassination which eliminated the core of the jihad.

Another, northern radical unit sought a chemical process to activate the male memory within an active female since men proved extraneous, unsuitable saviors, having failed in this role over these millennia. They planned to collect, flash-freeze, and store breeder semen and then to eliminate men completely. The Mother House dispatched this unit before they could implement their theory.

Women gained some public power, even governing for brief periods here and there and it was a time for the Mother House to establish strong educational units in politically powerful societies.

The schools already developed basic training used by the Bene Gesserit for millennia, in an interesting combination of eastern, southern, and northern training techniques. Finally the global network was completed.

Little DiasporaEdit

The Bene Gesserit was active, during the Exploration period, and by the time of colonization had covertly taken control of programming the seeding machines.

Disputes raged over the basic purpose of the Sisterhood. For instance, Voice Glenna is caustic in her comments about the "primitive" breeders and their desire for a male savior. As spokesperson for her northern unit, she disdains the notion of a dominant male power and sees the premise of universal consciousness as an ancient, "unsophisticated" folk myth. For her, breeding for political and economic power is the order's primary goal. But western philosopher Voice Dorins says, "There are too many race memories and too many holocausts in our history for any sane person to assimilate." A southern Voice, however, disagrees with both. Voice Saadhiina argues that the "technocrats" are short-sighted because of their separation from nature and because of their lust for machines rather than respect for ecology. She calls her northern and western sisters "water-fat" and "machine lazy," asserting that they have lost their humanity and wish to breed with the thought machines. For her, a male savior is the primary goal. The Voices continue this argument well into the Age of the Machine. A poignant comment is made by Voice Sedilious: "We strive for one who ends our strife. But in our striving, we work for that which will work against us. Only by not knowing where we go can we advance. When we have found our future, we will be embedded in time as the fly is in the amber. Later Voices, however, speak disparagingly of Voice Sedilious, calling her an "Unheard Non-Breeder."

Though the Sisterhood became heavily dependent on thought machines, one branch remained devoted to mnemonic recordspreserving the Summa and the Mikkro- Fishedotte through the Butlerian Jihad. Other ancient volumes such as the Azhar Book and the Panoplia Propheticus were likely protected in the same way. R.M. Treac suggests that the Founding Legends, always assumed to be apocryphal, may actually be historical. For example, she notes that the Voices from this period consistently refer to Wallach IX as the Mother World, as if that planet had always been dominated by Bene Gesserit.

A Voice Sabhaatha from a period well into colonization reports that the Sisterhood used thought machines to program an early missionary group sent to newly inhabited planets as cultural ecologists, but whose real purpose was to implant protective myths, the Missionaria Protectiva, for future breeders. Throughout this period, the Sisterhood continued to dominate the programming for colonization, carefully establishing breeding charts and programs, though it tried with mixed success to retain a public image as a religious teaching order. The noted cultural ecologist Corrihos Maliaronno theorizes that the Bene Gesserit recognized the relationship between ecology and social vitality, thus choosing positive though varied ecological settings for the breeders. From her work with the Voices tapes, Maliaronno surmises that offshoots of southern Terran cultures were particularly well situated on semi-arid and arid worlds, being historically compatible with the harsh climates and productive of hardy new cultures. She finds evidence that the Zensunni Wanderers and their descendants, the Fremen, inhabiting worlds drawing on their socio-ecological heritages, produced particularly vital breeding groups (vital enough to be eventual breeders of the Kwisatz Haderach). Maliaronno also argues that temperate worlds produced more sophisticated but less hardy breeders, fee Atreides being an exception rather than a norm. She is also studying Voice Mahtinka from the Chapter House on Dendros because that purely agrarian world also produced hardy breeders.

It was a time of goddesses, such as Kubebe of Komos, Hawt of Humidis, Veaera of Gamont, Serite the All-knowing of the Wallach group (whose worship spread to many planets) and many others.

Not content with their rule over single planets, priestesses and sorceresses saw advantages in joining together (their own form of ecumenical movement) so that they might shape the universe. Thus flourished the power of the Bene Gesserit and the establishment of their breeding program.

During the Butlerian JihadEdit

From fee records in the Raids Hoard authenticating the Voice commentaries, we are now sure that Bene Gesserit of Hidden Rank Jehanne Butler was the instigator and early leader of fee Butlerian Jihad. [See Harq al-Ada's The Butlerian Jihad, Lib. Conf. Temporary Series 28, or R. Siik's The Emergence of Jehanne Butler (Thor: Valkyrie) far older and newer views less certain of the Bene Gesserit role in the Butlerian Jihad. — Ed.] Voice Maharinih gives information about the culture and fee Bene Gesserit activities just prior to fee Jihad. One dominant, pseudo-religious belief which developed during fee early Exploration period was that a powerful anima, a feminine element governing intuitive understanding, was present in all psyches. This belief was actually a distortion of an early Bene Gesserit Mother Goddess ideology which had been submerged in a scientific discipline, psychology. Wife space exploration, humans venturing into fee "heaven" of the gods, mythic beliefs were challenged by human technology, causing a conflict which the Bene Gesserit missionaries used to their advantage as they promoted intuitive reasoning to counter strictly data-based technological reasoning. This conflict between the rational and fee intuitive continued well into the colonization period, but Voice Maharinih points out feat as economic and political factions united in an inter-world trade federation, the technocrats gained control, dominating the less economically important "humanistic" forces. Because fee thought machines controlled fee economies of fee new worlds, fee people on these worlds became dependent on "machinethought" — objective, non-emotional, non-intuitive behavior. The Bene Gesserit likewise became highly machine-dependent, teaching "rational thought" in its educational institutions, and limiting its intuitive work to the ideologists seeding mythos on new worlds. During this period fee Bene Gesserit Creed of Linked Rationality was adopted: "Before us all methods of learning were tainted by instinct. We learned how to learn. Before us instinct-ridden researchers possessed a limited attention span — often no longer than a single lifetime. Projects stretching across fifty or more lifetimes never occurred to them." Only when the Mother House realized feat machines were decreasing human control, breeding humans into nonintelligent work animals, and systematically aborting any Bene Gesserit breeder, did the Bene Gesserit plan a revolt. The order now added the famous "First Lesson" to the training program: "Humans must never submit to animals" — fee machine-bred nonhumans must be eliminated along with the machines. The Chapter House on Komos became the center for planning, being one of fee few planets not yet controlled by fee machines. But the abortion of Jehanne Butler's daughter sparked fee actual revolt: Sarah Butler would have borne fee Kwisatz Haderach.

Through the Jihad, the Bene Gesserit was preserved by fee geographical locations of its Mother House and chapter houses and by its public association with religion, education, and humanism. Wallach IX, being a neutral planet, became a refuge for humanist intellectuals, most of whom had been trained in Bene Gesserit institutions. The Summa was thus preserved, the breeding records safe in mnemonic holders and in the ancient bound volumes in fee Archives. At this stage the Sisterhood abolished its own experiments with artificial insemination, declaring that "For fee Sisterhood, mating mingles more than sperm and ovum. We wish to breed and capture psyches, an accomplishment possible only through human to human interaction." The Summa shows that the Bene Gesserit continued its breeding program after the Jihad through planned marriage and selective concubinage, soon controlling the breeding lines of the Major and Minor houses which developed during the Imperium.

Details of the post-Jihad reorganization of the order into a publicly acknowledged, influential agency are given by Voice Reverend Mother Tercitus Marianna Clarique. The reorganization made public fee primary ranks of the order, but the Sisterhood continued to use Hidden Rank as needed. Some of the more important chapter houses became wellknown empire research institutions (the Komos Chapter House was reorganized as the Primary Research and Genetic Science Institute on the newly named Ix). But the political strength of the Bene Gesserit in its new public role came not so much from its educational institutions as it did from its ideology of "humanness."

The Sisterhood gained access to political centers by serving as "truthsayers." During the Machine era, leaders depended totally on "liedetectors" to determine veracity in any negotiation. With the loss of these machines, and as Voice Clarique adds, "with no reestablishment of human trust," the Bene Gesserit truthsaying training made the Sisterhood a necessary part of all major, and most minor, political and economic meetings. The Bene Gesserit was employed in this service within every major House and later also became involved with the Guild. As Voice Clarique notes, there were few secrets from the Bene Gesserit. She adds that the order also made public its "gom jabbar" test as a means of insuring that no machine-bred animals were allowed to masquerade as humans. The public remained hostile to these machinebreeds for centuries, a condition that allowed the Sisterhood more freedom to test its own breeding line for sensitivity and for Kwisatz Haderach potential. The details, also, of the Bene Gesserit activity in the C.E.T. and the influence of the Azhar Book on the Orange Bible are discussed by Voices who participated in the work Fatha Mecq, expert on the Guard Bible, contends that remnants of the Sisterhood's influence can still be found in the Holy Church (see her monograph, "Azhar Echoes for Today" Sofia 489:191-250).

Later Voices also claim that the Bene Gesserit was known throughout the Imperium as a religious service and teaching order: women devoted to truth and virtue whose mission was to lead society out of the holocaust following the machine era into a new era based on the combined powers of intellect and intuition. Late in the second Imperial millennium, the Sisterhood added an amendment to its Creed: "Reserve an attitude of distrust for anything that comes in the guise of logic." This addition came partly in response to machine-thought but also as a counter to a new, competitive teaching order, the Mentats (founded in 1234), who sought to replace machinethought with perfect human logic.

While the Sisterhood employed many of the same analytical methods as the Mentats, the order argued that the universe could not be completely or accurately understood through isolated objective analysis. Such analysis was useful in individual events, but synthesis was gained through intuitive interpretation. Throughout this period, though, the Voices agree that though the overt image of the order was that of service, the actual objective of the educational and breeding programs was to gain control of the power bases of the empire. The ancient desire for a humanity united by an active male consciousness apparently had been forgotten, submerged in a singleminded objective of breeding a Kwisatz Haderach who would rule the empire. As Xlecthian of Ix said early in the God Emperor's reign, "The problem of getting what one wants comes in discovering too late what one has asked for."

In her Commentaries to the Voices, Our Lady and Mother Ghanima discusses the irony that both the jihads in our history were begun by Bene Gesserits, but she also points out the differences between the two women. Jehanne Butler began with a wellthought- out purpose and with the full support of the order but Lady Jessica, Our Lady's grandmother, deviated from the order's plans, disrupted its purpose, worked against her own mother, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, and began a course of history which eventually deprived the Bene Gesserit of most of its power. Our Lady and Mother adds that the motherline of the God Emperor had been obscure until her work with the Voices. Leto II refused to acknowledge his connections with an order he so clearly detested, and Our Lady adds that her discovery was further hindered by the suppression of Mohiam's Voice by the Voices of both Jessica and Paul.

When Lady Jessica produced a male rather than the prescribed female child, the order discounted the birth, even though Jessica's daughter would have been bred to produce a Kwisatz Haderach. More importantly, when Mohiam tested her grandson with the gom jabbar, discovering an unusual degree of strength in him, she kept the test results a secret, giving the Sisterhood no warning that a potential Kwisatz Haderach was among them. [The Emperor Paul confirmed the gom jabbar test, but we have only the word of the Bene Gesserit that the R.M. Gaius Helen Mohiam did not report its results. Why should she not have informed her order about the possible success of a twenty-thousand-year plan? One need not be overly skeptical to suspect that the B.G. failure to coopt Paul is here being extenuated by making a scapegoat of Gaius Helen Mohiam, — Еd.]

Thus Muad'Dib's power came as a surprise to the order, and its attempts to control his breeding proved completely ineffectual. Our Lady, in her Commentaries, is quite critical of the Sisterhood: One must understand the stance of the Bene Gesserit during Jessica's time to appreciate how completely off-guard they were to the possibility of. as "accidental" Kwisatz Haderach. For eight thousand years at least this group of women had been deeply embroiled in their breeding charts and their marriage bartering, all in the name of producing their "savior." The possibility of such an event actually occurring was lost in the immediacy of their struggle to attain profane power. Also, (hey had no real experience in dealing with a "savior." The nearest they had come was Hasimir Fenring, a man they and everyone else took much too lightly. Therefore, when Jessica produced a son rather than a daughter, the Sisterhood was more angry than alarmed. And when this child was tested by the gom jabbar, no one had enough sense to pay attention to the results. They had really lost track not only of their purpose but also of their history, unable to foresee the possibilities presented when this extraordinary boy was placed within an ancient culture, prepared by tradition for the arrival of a superhero. The order had "mislaid" the Fremen and with them the seeded mythos preparing them for a savior. The Bene Gesserit received a well-deserved fate.

The Eulogy for an Ideal, an anonymous poem included with the Commentaries, indicates that when Leto II gained ultimate power and preempted the Sisterhood's breeding program, the order lost its most valuable entree into the power structure. The Journals also show his constant antipathy, if not outright hatred, of the order. Leto managed to change what had been a potent political force into a subservient order of educators and historians. Because Leto controlled the spice supply, the Bene Gesserit had little choice but to accede to his wishes, to humor him, and to serve him as efficiently as possible. Through this period, though, the Journals indicate that the Sisterhood was never completely subdued. There is evidence that the order was involved, periodically, in conspiracies to destroy him.

Leto also took control of the Sisterhood's seeded mythologies, turning them into the basis for his new religion, and that action must have been the ultimate degradation to the order. Only after the Scattering and the Starvation did the Bene Gesserit regain some of its status. Its ancient axiom had held true: "Survival is the ability to swim in strange waters." From the records still guarded in the Archives, we learn that the waters following the God Emperor were strange indeed, and that the Bene Gesserit went through many overt shape shiftings in its attempt to survive.

The universal consciousness for which the ancient Sisterhood strove apparently was fulfilled in Leto II, but at super-human cost. As The Holy Books of the Divided God indicate, the universal consciousness which might have given stability to a tribe of Terran primal humans became, instead, the force that changed the texture and pattern of our complex universe. We have learned enough from these initial investigations of the Bene Gesserit material in the Rakis Hoard to show us how little we really know of a past more ancient than we had supposed possible.



Tongues are the Bene Gesserit's first training both for understanding others and also to liberate the self.

They believed that language does not cut us off from reality, but puts us in contact with it, as the largest window in the house of the soul.

According to Princess Irulan in the Arrakeen War College, language change can signal social unrest and with this insight the Imperial Security Force should be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages

When the BG analyzed syntax, they used "generative grammar", a system already ancient when the empire was founded. Its basic tenet was that finite concepts and finite elements of language from a finite mind can result in infinite "rule-governed creativity", a potential similar to DNA. Linguistic structures were called "derived" (developed by "transformational rules" from more basic structures).

First objectiveEdit

The BG studied the main galactic languages and their dialects to identify what puts the fingerprint of the speaker. This served to understand others and how the mind reveals itself.

One subject of study was "Language-Thought Orientation", the way in which language and thought intermingle. For example by observing flexure of facial muscles, pulsebeat in the neck, pupils and other signs of tension, they could determine whether a speaker was a native of a language or not.

They would sometimes make an impostor betray himself by withholding responses and recognition signals, increasing the tension of the speaker; the BG would then lead the conversation in "Diagnostics" topics to present further hesitation points from a range of languages.

Liber Ricarum mentioned one such Diagnostic concerning linguistic specializations in a certain way of life, recognized by words, assumptions and structures.

Second objectiveEdit

The second objective in their study was the liberation of self and the Path of Understanding.

For example, a novice and aspirant might be asked to divide a set of sentences into two groups:

  1. The emperor realizes (something)
  2. The emperor regrets (something)
  3. The emperor believes (something)
  4. The emperor knows (something)
  5. The emperor says (something)
  6. The emperor claims (something)

The expected answer is the grouping of the sentences in 1-2-4 (the speaker accepts the truth of the clause (something) shared also by the emperor) and 3-5-6 (no commitment by the speaker about the (something))


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