Chapter no 32


Before the coming of Muad’Dib, the Fremen of Arrakis practiced a religion whose roots in the Maometh Saari are there for any scholar to see. Many have traced the extensive borrowings from other religions. The most common example is the Hymn to Water, a direct copy from the Orange Catholic Liturgical Manual, calling for rain clouds which Arrakis had never seen. But there are more profound points of accord between the Kitab al-Ibar of the Fremen and the teachings of Bible, Ilm, and Fiqh.

Any comparison of the religious beliefs dominant in the Imperium up to the time of Muad’Dib must start with the major forces which shaped those beliefs:

1. The followers of the Fourteen Sages, whose Book was the Orange Catholic Bible, and whose views are expressed in the Commentaries and other literature produced by the Commission of Ecumenical Translators. (C.E.T.).

2. The Bene Gesserit, who privately denied they were a religious order, but who operated behind an almost impenetrable screen of ritual mysticism, and whose training, whose symbolism, organization, and internal teaching methods were almost wholly religious.

3. The agnostic ruling class (including the Guild) for whom religion was a kind of puppet show to amuse the populace and keep it docile, and who believed essentially that all phenomena – even religious phenomena – could be reduced to mechanical explanations.

4. The so-called Ancient Teachings – including those preserved by the Zensunni Wanderers from the first, second, and third Islamic movements; the Navachristianity of Chusuk, the Buddislamic Variants of the types dominant at Lankiveil and Sikun, the Blend Books of the Mahayana Lankavatara, the Zen Hekiganshu of III Delta Pavonis, the Tawrah and Talmudic Zabur surviving on Salusa Secundus, the pervasive Obeah Ritual, the Muadh Quran with its pure Ilm and Fiqh preserved among the pundi rice farmers of Caladan, the Hindu outcroppings found all through the universe in little pockets of insulated pyons, and finally, the Butlerian Jihad.

There is a fifth force which shaped religious belief, but its effect is so universal and profound that it deserves to stand alone.

This is, of course, space travel – and in any discussion of religion, it deserves to be written thus:


Mankind’s movement through deep space placed a unique stamp on religion during the one hundred and ten centuries that preceded the Butlerian Jihad. To begin with, early space travel, although widespread, was largely unregulated, slow, and uncertain, and, before the Guild monopoly, was accomplished by a hodgepodge of methods. The first space experiences, poorly communicated and subject to extreme distortion, were a wild inducement to mystical speculation.

Immediately, space gave a different flavor and sense to ideas of Creation. That difference is seen even in the highest religious achievements of the period. All through religion, the feeling of the sacred was touched by anarchy from the outer dark.

It was as though Jupiter in all his descendant forms retreated into the maternal darkness to be superseded by a female immanence filled with ambiguity and with a face of many terrors.

The ancient formulae intertwined, tangled together as they were fitted to the needs of new conquests and new heraldic symbols. It was a time of struggle between beast-demons on the one side and the old prayers and invocations on the other.

There was never a clear decision.

During this period, it was said that Genesis was reinterpreted, permitting God to say:

“Increase and multiply, and fill the universe , and subdue it, and rule over all manner of strange beasts and living creatures in the infinite airs, on the infinite earths and beneath them.”

It was a time of sorceresses whose powers were real. The measure of them is seen in the fact they never boasted how they grasped the firebrand.

Then came the Butlerian Jihad – two generations of chaos. The god of machine-logic was overthrown among the masses and a new concept was raised: “Man may not be replaced.”

Those two generations of violence were a thalamic pause for all humankind. Men looked at their gods and their rituals and saw that both were filled with that most terrible of all equations: fear over ambition.

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 banding the sorceresses.

Out of those first ecumenical meetings came two major developments:

1. The realization that all religions had at least one common commandment: “Thou shall not disfigure the soul.”

2. The Commission of Ecumenical Translators.




C.E.T. convened on a neutral island of Old Earth , spawning ground of the mother religions. They met “in the common belief that there exists a Divine Essence in the universe.” Every faith with more than a million followers was represented, and they reached a surprisingly immediate agreement on the statement of their common goal: “We are here to remove a primary weapon from the hands of disputant religions. That weapon – the claim to possession of the one and only revelation.”

Jubilation at this “sign of profound accord” proved premature. For more than a standard year, that statement was the only announcement from C.E.T. Men spoke bitterly of the delay. Troubadours composed witty, biting songs about the one hundred and twenty-one “Old Cranks” as the C.E.T. delegates came to be called. (The name arose from a ribald joke which played on the C.E.T. initials and called the delegates “Cranks-Effing-Turners.”) One of the songs, “Brown Repose,” has undergone periodic revival and is popular even today:

“Consider leis.

Brown repose – and

The tragedy

In all of those

Cranks! All those Cranks!

So laze – so laze

Through all your days.

Time has toll’d for

M’Lord Sandwich !”

Occasional rumors leaked out of the C.E.T. sessions. It was said they were comparing texts and, irresponsibly, the texts were named. Such rumors inevitably provoked anti-ecumenism riots and, of course, inspired new witticisms.

Two years passed . . . three years.

The Commissioners, nine of their original number having died and been replaced, paused to observe formal installation of the replacements and announced they were laboring to produce one book, weeding out “all the pathological symptoms” of the religious past.

“We are producing an instrument of Love to be played in all ways,” they said.

Many consider it odd that this statement provoked the worst outbreaks of violence against ecumenism. Twenty delegates were recalled by their congregations. One committed suicide by stealing a space frigate and diving it into the sun.

Historians estimate the riots took eighty million lives. That works out to about six thousand for each world then in the Landsraad League. Considering the unrest of the time, this may not be an excessive estimate, although any pretense to real accuracy in the figure must be just that – pretense. Communication between worlds was at one of its lowest ebbs.

The troubadours, quite naturally, had a field day. A popular musical comedy of the period had one of the C.E.T. delegates sitting on a white sand beach beneath a palm tree singing:

“For God, woman and the splendor of love

We dally here sans fears or cares.

Troubadour! Troubadour, sing another melody




For God, Woman and the splendor of love!”

Riots and comedy are but symptoms of the times, profoundly revealing. They betray the psychological tone, the deep uncertainties . . . and the striving for something better, plus the fear that nothing would come of it all.

The major dams against anarchy in these times were the embryo Guild, the Bene Gesserit and the Landsraad, which continued its 2,000-year record of meeting in spite of the severest obstacles. The Guild’s part appears clear: they gave free transport for all Landsraad and C.E.T. business. The Bene Gesserit role is more obscure. Certainly, this is the time in which they consolidated their hold upon the sorceresses, explored the subtle narcotics, developed prana-bindu training and conceived the Missionaria Protectiva, that black arm of superstition. But it is also the period that saw the composing of the Litany against Fear and the assembly of the Azhar Book, that bibliographic marvel that preserves the great secrets of the most ancient faiths.

Ingsley’s comment is perhaps the only one possible: “Those were times of deep paradox.”

For almost seven years, then, C.E.T. labored. And as their seventh anniversary approached, they prepared the human universe for a momentous announcement. On that seventh anniversary, they unveiled the Orange Catholic Bible.

“Here is a work with dignity and meaning,” they said. “Here is a way to make humanity aware of itself as a total creation of God.”

The men of C.E.T. were likened to archeologists of ideas, inspired by God in the grandeur of rediscovery. It was said they had brought to light “the vitality of great ideals overlaid by the deposits of centuries,” that they had “sharpened the moral imperatives that come out of a religious conscience.”

With the O.C. Bible, C.E.T. presented the Liturgical Manual and the Commentaries – in many respects a more remarkable work, not only because of its brevity (less than half the size of the O.C. Bible), but also because of its candor and blend of self-pity and self-righteousness.

The beginning is an obvious appeal to the agnostic rulers.

“Men, finding no answers to the sunnan [the ten thousand religious questions from the Shari-ah] now apply their own reasoning. All men seek to be enlightened. Religion is but the most ancient and honorable way in which men have striven to make sense out of God’s universe. Scientists seek the lawfulness of events. It is the task of Religion to fit man into this lawfulness.”

In their conclusion, though, the Commentaries set a harsh tone that very likely foretold their fate.

“Much that was called religion has carried an unconscious attitude of hostility toward life. True religion must teach that life is filled with joys pleasing to the eye of God, that knowledge without action is empty. All men must see that the teaching of religion by rules and rote is largely a hoax. The proper teaching is recognized with ease. You can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensation which tells you this is something you’ve always known.”

There was an odd sense of calm as the presses and shigawire imprinters rolled and the O.C. Bible spread out through the worlds. Some interpreted this as a sign from God, an omen of unity.

But even the C.E.T. delegates betrayed the fiction of that calm as they returned to their respective congregations. Eighteen of them were lynched within two months. Fifty-three recanted within the year.

The O.C. Bible was denounced as a work produced by “the hubris of reason.” It was said that its pages were filled with a seductive interest in logic. Revisions that catered to popular bigotry began appearing. These revisions leaned on accepted symbolisms (Cross, Crescent, Feather Rattle, the Twelve Saints, the thin Buddha, and the like) and it soon became apparent that the ancient superstitions and beliefs had not been absorbed by the new ecumenism.

Halloway’s label for C.E.T.’s seven-year effort – “Galactophasic Determinism” – was snapped up by eager billions who interpreted the initials G.D. as “God-Damned.”

C.E.T. Chairman Toure Bomoko, an Ulema of the Zensunnis and one of the fourteen delegates who never recanted (“The Fourteen Sages” of popular history), appeared to admit finally the C.E.T. had erred.

“We shouldn’t have tried to create new symbols,” he said. “We should’ve realized we weren’t supposed to introduce uncertainties into accepted belief, that we weren’t supposed to stir up curiosity about God. We are daily confronted by the terrifying instability of all things human, yet we permit our religions to grow more rigid and controlled, more conforming and oppressive. What is this shadow across the highway of Divine Command? It is a warning that institutions endure, that symbols endure when their meaning is lost, that there is no summa of all attainable knowledge.”




The bitter double edge in this “admission” did not escape Bomoko’s critics and he was forced soon afterward to flee into exile, his life dependent upon the Guild’s pledge of secrecy. He reportedly died on Tupile, honored and beloved, his last words: “Religion must remain an outlet for people who say to themselves, ‘I am not the kind of person I want to be.’ It must never sink into an assemblage of the self-satisfied.”

It is pleasant to think that Bomoko understood the prophecy in his words: “Institutions endure.” Ninety generations later, the O.C. Bible and the Commentaries permeated the religious universe.

When Paul-Muad’Dib stood with his right hand on the rock shrine enclosing his father’s skull (the right hand of the blessed, not the left hand of the damned) he quoted word for word from “Bomoko’s Legacy” –

“You who have defeated us say to yourselves that Babylon is fallen and its works have been overturned. I say to you still that man remains on trial, each man in his own dock. Each man is a little war.”

The Fremen said of Muad’Dib that he was like Abu Zide whose frigate defied the Guild and rode one day there and back. There used in this way translates directly from the Fremen mythology as the land of the ruh-spirit, the alam al-mithal where all limitations are removed.

The parallel between this and the Kwisatz Haderach is readily seen. The Kwisatz Haderach that the Sisterhood sought through its breeding program was interpreted as “The shortening of the way” or “The one who can be two places simultaneously.”

But both of these interpretations can be shown to stem directly from the Commentaries: “When law and religious duty are one, your selfdom encloses the universe.”

Of himself, Muad’Dib said: “I am a net in the sea of time, free to sweep future and past. I am a moving membrane from whom no possibility can escape.”

These thoughts are all one and the same and they harken to 22 Kalima in the O.C. Bible where it says: “Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and has powers of reality.”

It is when we get into Muad’Dib’s own commentaries in “The Pillars of the Universe” as interpreted by his holy men, the Qizara Tafwid, that we see his real debt to C.E.T. and Fremen-Zensunni.

Muad’Dib: “Law and duty are one; so be it. But remember these limitations – Thus are you never fully self-conscious. Thus do you remain immersed in the communal tau. Thus are you always less than an individual.”

O.C. Bible: Identical wording. (61 Revelations.)

Muad’Dib: “Religion often partakes of the myth of progress that shields us from the terrors of an uncertain future.”

C.E.T. Commentaries: Identical wording. (The Azhar Book traces this statement to the first century religious writer, Neshou; through a paraphrase.)

Muad’Dib: “If a child, an untrained person, an ignorant person, or an insane person incites trouble, it is the fault of authority for not predicting and preventing that trouble. ”

O.C. Bible: “Any sin can be ascribed, at least in part, to a natural bad tendency that is an extenuating circumstance acceptable to God.” (The Azhar Book traces this to the ancient Semitic Tawra.)

Muad’Dib: “Reach forth thy hand and eat what God has provided thee; and when thou are replenished, praise the Lord.”

O.C. Bible: a paraphrase with identical meaning. (The Azhar Book traces this in slightly different form to First Islam.)

Muad’Dib: “Kindness is the beginning of cruelty.”

Fremen Kitab al-Ibar: “The weight of a kindly God is a fearful thing. Did not God give us the burning sun (Al-Lat)? Did not God give us the Mothers of Moisture (Reverend Mothers)? Did not God give us Shaitan (Iblis, Satan)? From Shaitan did we not get the hurtfulness of speed?”

(This is the source of the Fremen saying: “Speed comes from Shaitan.” Consider: for every one hundred calories of heat generated by exercise [speed] the body evaporates about six ounces of perspiration. The Fremen word for perspiration is bakka or tears and, in one pronunciation, translates: “The life essence that Shaitan squeezes from your soul.”)

Muad’Dib’s arrival is called “religiously timely” by Koneywell, but timing had little to do with it. As Muad’Dib himself said: “I am here; so . . . ”




It is, however, vital to an understanding of Muad’Dib’s religious impact that you never lose sight of one fact: the Fremen were a desert people whose entire ancestry was accustomed to hostile landscapes. Mysticism isn’t difficult when you survive each second by surmounting open hostility. “You are there – so . . . ”

With such a tradition, suffering is accepted – perhaps as unconscious punishment, but accepted. And it’s well to note that Fremen ritual gives almost complete freedom from guilt feelings. This isn’t necessarily because their law and religion were identical, making disobedience a sin. It’s likely closer to the mark to say they cleansed themselves of guilt easily because their everyday existence required brutal judgments (often deadly) which in a softer land would burden men with unbearable guilt.

This is likely one of the roots of Fremen emphasis on superstition (disregarding the Missionaria Protectiva’s ministrations). What matter that whistling sands are an omen? What matter that you must make the sign of the fist when first you see First Moon? A man’s flesh is his own and his water belongs to the tribe – and the mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve but a reality to experience. Omens help you remember this. And because you are here , because you have the religion, victory cannot evade you in the end.

As the Bene Gesserit taught for centuries, long before they ran afoul of the Fremen: “When religion and politics ride the same cart, when that cart is driven by a living holy man (baraka), nothing can stand in their path.”

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