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The Religious Affiliation of Leading Science Fiction Author
Frank Herbert


Frank Herbert was raised as a Catholic but adopted Zen Buddhism as an adult.

From: Kenneth C. Kaleta, David Lynch, Twayne Publishers: New York (1993), pages 81-82:

Myth is an essential element of Dune [the classic science fiction novel that David Lynch adapted to a feature film]. Whatever the future setting of the world, it is most importantly the creation of a mythical universe, not merely our world in a distant future. Concepts of redemption, sin and punishment, and revenge are present in both Western and Eastern mythologies. Historically, it is possible to tie many of the elements of Dune to religious myths: the redeemer, the mystic conception, and the life-giving water. A blood feud writhing with turns of barbarism and deceit, floodwaters, and a battle against giant foes also color many world legends. The Mahabharata and Beowulf are echoed by the screenplay; Venetian altarpieces and Thai temple obes are evoked by the shots.

If Dune is illuminated by studying any other science-fiction/fantasy films, a commparison of Dune to Bakshi's Lord of the Rings (1978) [the screenplay for which was written by Latter-day Saint writer and scholar Chris Conkling], which adapts Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy to the screen, seems most appropriate. Both literary sources lament a fall from grace which becomes Tolkien's and Herbert's rationale for their plots. Both worlds have a sense of the historical. Both share a feeling of loss and melancholy. Most important, these are not world of future realism; they are future worlds of surrealism. The bond establishes real kinship. Bakshi animates a cosmic cartoon and Lynch's enormous world exaggerates reality in bold colors and large, sweeping gestures. Akin to Lord of the Rings, Dune consecrates tomorrow's holy quest.

Actually, straddling the line between sci-fi and myth causes the confusion in viewing Dune. Lynch has a film intuition that propels his other films... The immensity of Dune's world and the mythological tone of its quest in the fragmented film suggest that Herbert is, as was Tolkien, adapted to the cartoon. Lynch has in some aspects approached creating a live-action cartoon in Dune. But Lynch seems to equivocate between film and film tribute. While Dune begins to function as mythological cartoon--a cinematic allegory--with broad colors, bold, sweeping gestures, and captionlike language, it is quickly undercut by the laborious seriousness of transferring Herbert's message from his book into a serious new-world film. Dune as a film vision is buried in its own linear prose exposition.

Eastern religious myths are suggested, but the most overt mythological comparision in Western litererature is to the Bible. The audience can make a much easier connection to Western theology and legends. The comparision is not a commentary on religious beliefs, but instead treats the narrative aspects of the Bible as the dominant story in Western society. Much of Dune's mythology appears to be rooted in the New Testament.

Paul is sent by his father to save the universe. He has a mother of indomitable strength and a conception of mystic importance. After a secluded childhood preparing himself, his public actions are judged by friend and enemy in light of their conformity to actions predicted of the messiah. He teaches the secret of the water of life. He must conquer tremendous obstacles and he must expend his energy selflessly so that men will find the truth. Paul Atreides is a model of honor.

But Christian myth differs in some important ways. Most telling, Jesus Christ is a figure of great love. The New Testament teaches that the savior's price is his own death. Christ clearly refuses the rulership of any earthly kingdom. Thus the New Testament separtes worldly and psiritual concerns and infuses its teachings with humanizing love. Dune does neither. Paul's triumph is glossed over as a prophet (when he experiences the waters of life) and as a philosopher (when he moves from student to the teacher of the Fremen).

Paul Atreides triumphs as a warrior. When he defeats Feyd-Rautha...

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Webpage created 15 August 2005. Last modified 26 September 2005.
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