Butlerian Jihad

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Ordune This article or section refers to elements from Original Dune
There are separate pages for this subject as it appears in the other canons, the reasons for this are explained here

From the prologue of Dune (1984 movie)

The Butlerian Jihad a.k.a. The Great Revolt -- two generations of chaos (200 BG - 108 BG). The god of machine-logic was overthrown by the masses and a new concept was raised:

"Man may not be replaced."

After two generations of violence, humanity took pause. Following this, their gods and rituals were looked upon in a different, perhaps even jaded, light. Both were largely seen to be guilty of using fear as a means of control.

Hesitantly, the leaders of religions whose followers had spilled the blood of billions began meeting to exchange views. It was a move encouraged by The Spacing Guild, which was beginning to build its monopoly over all interstellar travel, and by the Bene Gesserit who were organizing their ranks. [1]


By 108 BG, the Jihad itself had finished with the complete destruction of all intelligent machines that were originally built by humans throughout the worlds, but it proved to have many profound impacts on the socio-political and technological development of humanity throughout the new empires that emerged, including a large technological reversal of the entire human civilization.

The most dramatic long-lasting result was the ensuing commandment from the Orange Catholic Bible held sway to humans against the creation of machines which bore the human mind's exact image: Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind, after the destruction of the man-made intelligent machines throughout the human worlds. Even the simplest computers and calculators were banned, with the penalty for building or owning such a thinking machine technology being put to trial and sentenced to immediate death.

This lack of thinking technology created a severe gap in humanity's quality of life, revolving around a need for humans to perform complex logical computations and calculations. This gap led to the creation of the mentat order (which would be later outlawed by Leto Atreides II in an attempt to realize the Golden Path strategy), the Bene Gesserit, and the Spacing Guild. Non-thinking machines, however, were still utilized. As centuries passed, two fringe worlds, Ix and Tleilax, brought technological heights of the Ixians and the Bene Tleilax. Ixians specialized in the creation of non-thinking mechanical devices; while biological technology was provided by the Tleilax to replace the mechanical thinking technology used prior to the Jihad.

Aside from the long-lasting effects of the Jihad, the belief in the spiritual divinity of humankind was renewed and strengthened as a component of the Jihad, specifically in contrast to the "evil Thinking Machines".

The last major impact of the Jihad was the rise of a new system, a feudal-arranged galactic order that lasted for several thousand more years, mostly under the rule of House Corrino before the ascension of House Atreides and the rise of God Emperor Leto Atreides II. This order, known as the Imperium, was comprised of several new and powerful groups, including the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, CHOAM, the Landsraad, and the Great Houses, most notably House Corrino, House Atreides and House Harkonnen, to name a few.

Behind the ScenesEdit

In his six original Dune novels Frank Herbert mentions few details of the Butlerian Jihad. The lesson taken by the human descendents of this war is that mankind's laziness and ingenuity can be its downfall.

In literature, the Butlerian Jihad is a useful plot device for Frank Herbert. By creating a universe which has rejected conscious machines and has reversed into a quasi-feudal organization, Herbert can focus on social and philosophical-related issues, rather than the technological-related issues. Consequently Herbert uses the Dune saga to comment about the human condition and makes direct and accurate parallels to current socio-political realities. The Jihad also provides a reason why we never see computers, calculators, and all forms of "thinking machine" in the original Dune novels by Frank Herbert.

The name could very easily be a literary allusion to Samuel Butler, whose 1872 novel Erewhon depicted a people who had destroyed machines for fear they would be out-evolved by them.

From Erewhon, Chapter 9,

"... about four hundred years previously, the state of mechanical knowledge was far beyond our own, and was advancing with prodigious rapidity, until one of the most learned professors of hypothetics wrote an extraordinary book (from which I propose to give extracts later on), proving that the machines were ultimately destined to supplant the race of man, and to become instinct with a vitality as different from, and superior to, that of animals, as animal to vegetable life. So convincing was his reasoning, or unreasoning, to this effect, that he carried the country with him and they made a clean sweep of all machinery that had not been in use for more than two hundred and seventy-one years (which period was arrived at after a series of compromises), and strictly forbade all further improvements and inventions"

Another, more subtle justification for the Butlerian Jihad is also found in Frank Herbert's original novels, specifically Heidegger's thesis that the use of technology trains humans to think like machines. The problem is that machines are deterministic; thus, training people to be machines is self-limiting. Herbert seemed to think that to be human is to be essentially 'open-ended', capable of undiscovered, indeterminate evolution, both personally and as a species.

In Expanded Dune Edit

The Dune Encyclopedia expands on the events of the Butlerian Jihad in greater detail, but portrays it as a philosophical conflict of humans against other humans who have come to utilize computers as a substitute (or "crutch") for developing their mental abilities.

However, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, in their Legends of Dune trilogy set during the Jihad, portray it as an actual war against aggressive artificial intelligences out to subjugate and destroy humanity. In this version of the Jihad, the machines become indistinguishable from humans, and vice-versa.


  1. Dune, Appendix II, page 326

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