The origins of the Bene Gesserit are not widely known. What is clear is that the Bene Gesserit arose in the political turmoil that followed the Butlerian Jihad, and quickly established themselves as an influential political force. However, during the Butlerian Jihad, the Bene Gesserit already had a Mother Superior, which seem to show that their hierarchical structure had already formed.
The other memories that are made available to Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit provided a wealth of knowledge that reaches far back into Humanity's past, to the days when Humans were bound to Earth. Some physical remnants, such as a surviving painting by Van Gogh, also support this connection and provide an anchor point to the distant past.
The Bene Gesserit were believed to have been officially established by Raquella Berto-Anirul, the granddaughter of Vorian Atreides. After surviving the Rossak epidemic - a mutated version of the deadly Omnius Scourge - and an assassination attempt on Rossak by Supreme Sorceress Ticia Cenva, her cellular chemistry was converted and the memories of countless female ancestors were awakened. She quickly emerged as the leader of the decimated Sorceresses of Rossak, and began their path of genetic breeding.
The historic first sanctuary of the Sisterhood had been erected on Wallach IX after the Butlerian Jihad, at the beginnings of the great schools of the human mind. The sprawling Mother School complex was the base of Bene Gesserit operations throughout the Imperium.
Objectives of the Bene GesseritEdit
The primary objective of the Bene Gesserit was to attain further power and influence and help to direct humanity along a path of insight and stability. Up until the emergence of Leto II, the anticipated means of reaching this goal was through the Kwisatz Haderach - the one who can be all places at once (a male Bene Gesserit "Mother Superior", a "super-being", and ultimately a messiah figure to serve the Missionaria Protectiva, and the ultimate objective of their age-old breeding program. The triumph of their plan was supposed to occur when the daughter of Leto I bred with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.
However, their plans were thrown into turmoil by Jessica Atreides, when she consciously gave Leto Atreides I a son, Paul Atreides, instead of a daughter. Paul was assumed the Kwisatz Haderach, and, much to the dismay of the Bene Gesserit, arrived a generation too soon. Whether the order could have fully controlled the Kwisatz Haderach as they hoped remains debatable.
The Bene Gesserit’s plans were further disrupted when Paul bred with Chani, the Fremen daughter of Liet Kynes, stirring up rogue and unpredictable genetic traits. Their son, Leto Atreides II, and his actions as the God Emperor, radically altered the long-term destiny of the Bene Gesserit: their primary goal became the re-establishment of their power-base, an intention that was severely tested by the emergence of the Honored Matres.
This objective was largely met, thanks to the merger of the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres but it remained clear that their fate is still very much out of their own hands.
Structure of the Bene GesseritEdit
Women unquestionably ruled the Bene Gesserit, and while men did maintain some important roles, they were always answerable to at least one woman - the Bene Gesserit Mother Superior.
The Mother Superior Edit
The Mother Superior maintained ultimate control of the entire order, and invoked almost unquestioned loyalty among the subordinate Reverend Mothers. A Reverend Mother chose her successor prior to her death, and imparted her memories and personality to her. The inheritance of the Mother Superiors, at times, diverged among multiple Reverend Mothers, usually for tactical reasons. It is fair to assume that such a scenario has not occurred in the past.
The Kwisatz Mother possessed the strongest tie to the voice in Other Memory, and was in charge of the program to breed the Kwisatz Haderach; She solely directed the breeding program.
The subordinate Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit fulfilled many diverse roles, including intelligence gathering, diplomacy, and breeding to continue the objectives of the breeding program. They also pursued more menial roles, with their occupation determined by the quality of their genetic make-up.
Reverend Mothers have undergone the Spice Agony and survived. They fill the role of advisors, faculty, historians, geneticists. General authority of the Order for most members and the outside populace.
Proctor Superiors are in charge of a chapter house, each chapter house has a Proctor Superior.
Truthsayers were taught the ways to invoke the truth trance, and to notice even subtle changes in repsiration, eye movement, facial motions, and body language, to sense if an individual was telling a lie.
Sister and InitiatesEdit
Agents, concubines, potential wives.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Chemical and Organic PowersEdit
The Bene Gesserit schools were designed to maximise the physical and mental potential of humanity, especially females. As a result, Bene Gesserit adepts possessed abilities that could not be rivalled by anyone else in the known universe.
Physically, a Bene Gesserit could control every muscle and nerve in their body, right down to the individual fibers. They were supreme in the disciplines of prana and bindu. The results of this training were numerous abilities, including the following:
Upon tasting an item, a Bene Gesserit can break down the food into its ingredients, right down to its chemical composition.
Internal Organic-Chemical ControlEdit
Alteration of metabolism to render poisons harmless. This ability was used when potential Reverend Mothers took the Water of Life. It was also sought by the Honored Matres, from the Sisterhood, as they sought a way to combat the revived Omnius Scourge.
Alteration of blood flow, body temperature, heart rate, and level of consciousness, for the purposes of survival in harsh environments, or escaping from bonds.
Superior hand-to-hand combat abilities. Bene Gesserit trained men and women were unrivalled in their fighting abilities. Only Imperial Sardaukar and the Fremen of Arrakis could approach the abilities of a Bene Gesserit in regards to combat techniques, attack speed, and resourcefulness.
Later, in the Age of The Tyrant, and even later, in the times after The Scattering, new abilities were developed in humans by means of genetic breeding, in extremis situations (see Miles Teg, a Bene Gesserit Bashar), or designed into ghola abilities, such as in the later gholas of Duncan Idaho.
Bene Gesserit mental abilities included supreme levels of discipline. A Bene Gesserit mind could alter its level of consciousness, for the sake of relaxation, and hyper-alertness in times of potential danger.
Some Bene Gesserit sisters could use the psychic ability of guilt-casting, which was used as a means of disbaling one's opponent. This experiment was prominent during the end of the Corrino Empire and the Ascension of House Atreides.
Sisters could monitor minutiae in others to detect concealed emotions, motivations, agendas, or even physical things such as concealed weapons, a false accent, surgery, or deception in general. This particular skill was useful in detecting Face Dancers.
For more detail on Bene Gesserit training, see the related article.
Emergence as a Universal PowerEdit
For millennia, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood chose to exercise its power by acting in the background of imperial politics. Through their breeding program, their placement of agents in the imperial court and Great Houses, and their provision of services such as the training of noble females, mediation in disputes, and overseers of negotiations, the Bene Gesserit carved out a significant niche in the structure of the Imperium. They were also silent partners in CHOAM along with the Bene Tleilax.
This all changed when House Atreides wrested the imperial throne from House Corrino. After the reign of Paul Atreides and his son Leto Atreides II, there came into existence a power vacuum. This vacuum was filled by both the Bene Gesserit and Bene Tleilax, who sought to maintain control over the remnants of the empire after humanity exploded across the universe in The Scattering. The Bene Gesserit came to believe that if they were to avoid coming under another tyrant, they would have to take a more active role in politics and universal events.
The Honored MatresEdit
The Return of the Honored MatresEdit
It came to the point where the Bene Gesserit came to open conflict with both the Bene Tleilax and the Honored Matres, an alien bastardisation of the Bene Gesserit, blended with the Fish Speakers, and recovered female Tleilaxu, that returned from The Scattering. Indeed, the Sisterhood found themselves in a position of champion of the Old Order when the Honored Matres began attacking planets of the Old Imperium.
During the Return of the Honored Matres, the Gesserit Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, a descendant of Paul, realized only through the Sisterhood combining with the Matres could both organizations survive into the future. First, Odrade trained her captive Murbella, a captured Matre, in the ways of the sisters. Then she and a ghola of Miles Teg, set up a plan to attack the Honored Matre base on the Guild-world of Junction. As Odrade was killed in the ensuing battle, Murbella also killed the Honored Matre leader, Logno, and then decided to unite both groups into the New Sisterhood.
There was immediate resistance to the concept of the merger, as Sheeana, a rebel Reverend Mother, escaped from Chapterhouse in a no-ship, with a hundred of her fellow sisters; taking a few sandworms with them. They escaped with Miles Teg and Duncan Idaho, who had their own reasons for leaving; but Sheeana's group's intention was one to set up a "pure" Gesserit outpost, far away from civilization. As the no-ship fold-spaced throughout the cosmos in an attempt to escape the tachyon net of the mysterious elderly couple, Daniel and Marty, the sisters aboard the no-ship held true to their training and structure.
On the no-ship, the Ithaca, when needed, Sheeana and her assistants created gholas of yesteryear, as they saw fit. After 20 years, when they reached the world of Qelso, they witnessed first hand the drought created by earlier terra-forming attempts of colonizing sisters, who had introduced sandworms to the planet decades earlier.
26 years after the escape from Chapterhouse, the Ithaca was finally captured and brought to Synchrony, by the minions of Daniel and Marty, now revealed to be than the reborn leaders of the Thinking Machine Empire, Omnius and Erasmus. Sheeana helped the ghola of Leto II release the Ithaca's sandworms into the soil of Synchrony, starting a spice cycle on that planet. Later, the Ultimate Kwisatz Haderach, now revealed to be Duncan Idaho, allowed the Bene Gesserit sisters to found a colony on the planet, and for their acolytes to be trained in the traditional way.
Behind the SceneEdit
The name "Bene Gesserit" in Latin means "shall have behaved well".
The name however can be interpreted as a Hebrew derivative. "B'nei" (בני) means 'children of' (e.g. Bene Tleilax) and "Gesher" (גשר) means 'bridge'
However Brian Herbert speculates that "Gesserit" is most likely a derivative of the word "Jesuit", an order of priests still active today. "Jesuit" also has the connotation of someone given to intrigue or mystique. Therefore the name "Bene Gesserit" can be rationally surmised to mean a society of religious peoples, while being secretive or clandestine, also function for the good of the society they inhabit.
1.↑ Chapterhouse: Dune 2.↑ Dune: The Battle of Corrin 3.↑ Dune: House Atreides Retrieved from "http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Bene_Gesserit"