“Do you contend with shadows?”
~The Dirge for Jamis – Dune – Frank Herbert 1965
It will quickly become clear through my posts here that I am a Dune and Dune Universe fanatic. Dune has been sacred to me since the moment my father introduced me to Frank Herbert’s work. I listen to it and read it repeatedly and I find myself trying to infect others with the Dune bug, seeking out various editions, and collecting strange Arrakeen errata.
The quote above is from Paul Atreides in response to slaying Jamis in ritual combat. It appears among the quotes that introduce each new chapter in the book, in this specific case “Songs of Muad’Dib [Paul’s Fremen Name] by the Princess Irulan.
Before diving into the full mindwander, I’ll preface with the simple fact that I am prone to suggestion. As a child this made me very gullible, as an ‘adult’ I find myself building spidery webs of analysis and connection between disparate concepts.
The line above evokes for me a sense of Jungian shadow-self and the concept of shadows playing on the wall in Plato’s cave. My mind gravitates to light and airy imagery…obviously.
As is typical in my rabbit hole of a brain, the quote above begets additional quotes.
“It is the face of his own evil shadow that grins at Western man from the other side of the Iron Curtain.”
Obviously there would be a lot to unpack there, but in an attempt to remain focused –
My understanding of the shadow self is something like this: any conscious entity also contains a subconscious aspect. This aspect is a grim counter to the overt self, exhibiting many similar attributes but in a negative or inverted way. A large part of the Jungian journey is to seek a means of addressing the shadow self and create a harmonious space for it to live within and alongside the overt self. For literal explorations of this concept check out Ursula K. Leguin‘s A Wizard of Earthsea, “The Babadook” (dook dook), or ‘Nega Scott’ in Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
This next line is overused without questino, nonetheless…
“Do you suppose, first of all, that these prisoners see anything of themselves and one another besides the shadows that the fire casts on the wall in front of them?”
Plato’s shadows on the wall take a conceptual step further than self and shadow self and present the thing itself–or any object within perceived existence–and the shadow of the thing cast on the wall. This interpretation is founded in idea that there is a world of perfect ‘form’ and what we experience in interacting with objects or others within our reality is but a shadow or an echo of the objectively perfect ‘meta-existence’. This has near infinite implication, in this context I am primarily interested in the way it relates to Paul Atreides, the Lady Jessica Atreides and the reality their journey manifests.
In both the Jungian and Platonic concepts of shadow there is an implication of progress to be found by engaging with the shadow-self or shadow-world. In Dune space I interpret this progress through the Hero’s Journey Paul and Jessica embark upon when they leave the comfort and known danger of the familiar world and enter the discomfort and unknown danger of Arrakeen desert and Fremen life. In Jung’s interpretation it could be argued that by a process forced upon them and by the light of this process when it is refracted through the prism of Paul and Jessica’s selves along with Jessica’s training, they are incorporating their Jungian shadows to achieve higher consciousness. In Plato’s interpretation it could similarly be argued that through the spectacular hardship and danger of their journey, they draw nearer to reality in itself or that objectively perfect form from which shadow realities are cast.
This just barely grazes the surface of the thought I am reaching for but I’m going to leave it here for now. Mayhap the subject will crop back up in the comings weeks or months.
Thanks for reading
If you’re seeking more Dune content check out Danikaxix, Jodorowsky’s Dune, the Dune Encyclopedia (ouch that’s more pricey than I expected, sorry), or these photos and article from Denis Villaneuve‘s (!!!) Dune film that should be landing in December.