Mixed Canonicity
This article or section refers to elements from both Original Dune and Expanded Dune.

The Bene Gesserit[1] are a powerful and ancient order of women whose objectives and actions formed a critical element in the evolution of humanity and many of the major plot developments.


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.

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 Gough, 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 a mutated version of the deadly Omnius Scourge and an assassination attempt on Rossak, 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.

References and notes

  1. The name "Bene Gesserit" was probably created from Latin. The word "Bene" means "good" or "well". "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.

Objectives of the Bene Gesserit

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 Atreides II, the anticipated means of reaching this goal was through the Kwisatz Haderach - the one who can be many places at once, and the ultimate objective of their age-old breeding program. The triumph of their plan was supposed to occur when the daughter of Leto Atreides 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 are further disrupted when Paul bred with Chani, the Fremen daughter of Liet Kynes, stirring up rogue and unpredictable genetic traits. Their son’s, Leto Atreides II, 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 Gesserit

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 maintained ultimate control of the entire order, and invoked almost unquestioned loyalty among the subordinate Reverend Mothers. A Reverend Mother chooses her successor prior to her death, and imparts 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 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.

Powers and Abilities

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. Indeed, they were supreme in the disciplines of prana and bindu. The results of this training were numerous abilities, including:

  • Upon tasting an item, a Bene Gesserit can break down the food into its ingredients, indeed, down to its chemical composition;
  • Alteration of metabolism to render poisons harmless. This ability was used when potential Reverend Mothers took the Water of Life;
  • 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;

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. Moreover, a Bene Gesserit trained individual 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 Power

"She nodded. "We have two chief survivors of those ancient schools: the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The Guild, so we think, emphasizes almost pure mathematics. Bene Gesserit performs another function." "Politics!" he said."
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam[src]

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. 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 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.


Behind the Scenes

In Frank Herbert's Dune series, the Bene Gesserit played a very large part in humanity's evolution within the universe. In the prequel novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson elaborated on the origins of the Bene Gesserit, possibly from Frank Herbert's own notes.

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