The Bene Gesserit is one of the great powers that rule the Dune universe. Agents of the Sisterhood are in every court, at every level of the social ladder, manipulating the politics of the Empire by pursuing "higher purposes". With the upcoming release of the Dune movie, why not take the opportunity to talk about it? Frank Herbert's works have inspired other great franchises, one of them Star Wars, and their modernity even after some time still makes them noteworthy today. The parts full of spoilers for those unfamiliar with the saga will be marked as such and absolutely avoidable.
The origins of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood date back directly to the Butlerian Jihad, where in the turmoil of war they immediately presented themselves as one of the nascent powers that would dominate the known universe. Although the order had just been established, the rigid hierarchical structure must already have been established due to the presence of a Reverend Mother Superior.
The primary goal of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood is to ensure peace, progress and stability for mankind. Starting from this positive goal, all the actions "necessary" to achieve and maintain this important goal are declined.
By letting the actions of the Sisterhood speak, the Bene Gesserit is concerned with acquiring ever greater power and control over the Empire through its agents, often advisers, wives or concubines of men of power. Thanks to their intelligence, culture and wisdom, the Bene Gesserit sisters often act as mediators between the disputes of the Houses, sometimes feigning only apparent loyalty to the noble to which they have been assigned. In fact, women belonging to the order are prohibited from any emotional attachment, which could affect their actions and their conditioning of absolute loyalty to the Bene Gesserit.
In parallel and secretly, the Sisterhood carries out a eugenics program in order to unite the most relevant DNAs of the known universe and give life to the “Kwisatz Haderach”, the one who can be everywhere at the same time. This male messianic figure, unique throughout the Sisterhood, should be controlled by the female component of the order in order to serve as a symbol.
Bene Gesserit creed
“Religion (the emulation of adults by children) encloses the mythologies of the past in a cyst. The conjectures, the most unspeakable assumptions of our trust in the universe. Statements made in the pursuit of personal power ... Everything mixes into fragments of illumination. And there is always an unspoken commandment: You will not ask questions! We break that commandment every day. Our work consists in harnessing the human imagination, tying it to our deepest creativity "
The Bene Gesserit order is composed and dominated mainly by women, with male figures in a position of complete enslavement through mental conditioning from childhood, and is rigidly structured according to the skills and power accumulated by each sister.
The Reverend Mother Superior
Reverend Mother Superior holds control and power over the entire Sisterhood. Before her death, each Reverend Mother Superior chooses the one who will succeed her and transmits her memories to the candidate. In this way the higher goals and secrets of the Sisterhood can be passed on in full form. Sometimes due to power struggles such memories can be fragmented or passed on to multiple candidates.
The Kwisatz Manager controls and directs the eugenics program which aims to create the Kwisatz Haderach. You have the final say on everything related to the Sisterhood's plans for this essential and terrible project that has been going on for millennia.
Beneath these two roles are the Reverend Mothers, Sisters who have faced the agony of the spice and survived, gaining unparalleled knowledge throughout the known universe: the memories of all women whose DNA runs in their blood. Reverend Mothers are Bene Gesserit who have completed the training and mastered it to a particularly advanced level, making them masters of all arts. They usually have three names: one in Latin; one in English and one in Arabic.
All Reverend Mothers have blue eyes typical of those who make particular use of the spice, even if in life they have taken very little. This fact is the result of the agony of spice.
All Mentats in the Sisterhood are Reverend Mothers who, in addition to Bene Gesserit conditioning, have received parallel training to develop the capabilities of a Mentat.
The Veridics are Sisters belonging to the Bene Gesserit who are able to distinguish truth from lies. Their importance in a world of political intrigue and deception is obvious, and the Sisterhood is especially concerned with agents with this ability.
Agents without unique abilities, who have completed Bene Gesserit training, are destined to be sent to the courts of the Houses as spies, concubines, or even wives. In many ways the beating heart of the Bene Gesserit is at this level, as everyone in their life will meet a Sister at least once.
Not everyone who begins training in the Sisterhood completes it. Those who can afford it usually send their daughters to receive education from the Bene Gesserit order. These figures will never finish the training but will in any case acquire a whole series of knowledge and skills useful in their future life.
Ability of a Sister
Many of the skills mastered by a Sister who has completed training are treated as magic. For this reason it is not uncommon to hear Bene Gesserit detractors refer to them as "witches", although there is nothing magical about their abilities.
Bene Gesserit school aims to maximize the physical and mental abilities of its students. The result of this philosophy has led the Sisters to develop complete control over their own body, combined with:
- The ability to taste something and mentally break it down first into its ingredients and then into its chemical components
- Alteration of metabolism in such a way as to make poisons useless. This skill proves essential to all Reverend Mothers
- Alteration of body temperature, blood flow, heart rate and the level of consciousness itself
- Bene Gesserit martial art mastery, which makes a Sister able to defend herself and triumph in most fights. It is said that only the Emperor's fearsome Sardaukar and the Fremen of Dune can rival a Bene Gesserit
- The ability to modulate the voice at such a frequency that it can influence others, giving direct commands, in order to be obeyed. The other Sisters are trained to resist the Voice and the Mentats can resist it if they understand how it works.
- Absolute control of fertility, reaching the point where a Sister can choose when and whether to get pregnant, the sex of the unborn child and any physical characteristics.
- The ability to perceive when you lie to them or, more generally, to understand the emotional state of a person simply by the movements of his body, his face or the inflection of his voice.