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Original Dune
This article or section refers to elements from Original Dune.


Genetic memory is the concept, present in the original novel, where an individual may possess the memories of their ancestors, hidden away within their genetic code.

Core concept[]

The idea behind genetic memory is that an individual's experiences would become imprinted upon their cells, and would in turn be hidden within the cells of their descendants. This theory is also used to explain the mystery of benevolent mutation.

While an individual's genetic memory was not normally available to them, exposure to various awareness spectrum narcotics, such as the spice melange, could cause an individual's genetic memory to surface.



Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood gain access to their genetic memories (on the female side only) after successfully changing of the Water of Life. The Bene Gesserit called these memories Other Memory, and used it as a source of immense knowledge that would otherwise have been lost to history. Through their breeding program, the Bene Gesserit hoped that they could one day bear a male who could possess the genetic memories of both female and male ancestors. Such an individual would be called the Kwisatz Haderach.

Paul Atreides is the first Kwisatz Haderach produced from the Bene Gesserit breeding program. When he changes the Water of Life, he gained access to the memories of both his female and male ancestors. However, unlike Reverend Mothers, the process of changing the Water of Life took him over three weeks.

Reverend Mothers and the Kwisatz Haderach were not the only one's with access to genetic memory: there are also the Pre-born. These individuals, prior to birth, inherit the awareness and memories of their ancestors. It should be noted that female Pre-born such as Alia Atreides and Ghanima Atreides, had access to the memories of both male and female ancestors, unlike Bene Gesserit or Fremen Reverend Mothers. Evidence of this can be seen in the case of Alia's continual relationship with (and eventual take over by) the ego-memory of her grandfather, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Similarly, Ghanima recalls the memory of the test of the gom jabbar being administered to her father by Gaius Helen Mohiam. Like Alia and his sister, Ghanima, Leto Atreides II was also Pre-born, with access to both male and female genetic memory.

The Bene Tleilax used psychological trauma to restore the memories of gholas up until and including the time of death of the original individual. This would not be possible were it not for genetic memory.


Dangers existed with the possession of genetic memory. A Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother could possibly become overpowered by the ego-memory of one of their ancestors. (This would also more frequently happen with Pre-born children, who had access to their genetic memory since before their birth; their undeveloped psyches were more susceptible to these ego-memories.) Their personality would ultimately become supplanted by that ego-memory and become possessed by them. This was called Abomination. Bene Gesserit general policy was that anyone found to be Abomination should be killed, regardless of how benevolent or powerful the ego-memory was considered to be.

See also[]