“Do you contend with shadows?”
~The Dirge for Jamis – Dune – Frank Herbert 1965
It will quickly become clear quickly that I am a D U N E and overall Frank Herbert fanatic. The book has been sacred to me since the moment my dad first referenced D U N E in regard to its influence on George Lucas and Star Wars ~ a theory for another time. I listen to D U N E in audiobook form (full cast recording…) and read it repeatedly. I find myself seeking to infect others with the Herbert bug, seeking out various editions, and collecting strange Arrakeen errata.
The quote above is from the book’s protagonist, Paul Atreides, in the aftermath of slaying Jamis in ritual combat. It appears among the quotes that introduce each new chapter.
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. In adulthood, I find myself building spidery webs of analysis and connection between disparate concepts. A psychologist might call this apophenia, but that’s neither here nor there for the process at hand.
The line above evokes for me a sense of Jung~ian shadow-self.
“It is the face of his own evil shadow that grins at Western man from the other side of the Iron Curtain.”
~Carl Jung – in Man and His Symbols 1964
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.
Additionally Paul’s quote brings up the concept of shadows playing on the wall in Plato’s cave.
“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 – Republic – Grube translation 1992
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 the shadow-self or shadow-world. In Dune space I interpret this as progress along the Hero’s Journey. Paul and Jessica are forced by chance and the machinations of the enemies in their universe embark on a version of the Hero’s Journey 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 each character’s self and the enhancement in Jessica’s Bene Gesserit training, they are incorporating their shadow selves and achieving higher consciousness.
In Plato’s interpretation it could similarly be posited that through the spectacular hardship and danger of their journey, they draw nearer to reality in itself ~ that objectively perfect form ~ from which shadow reality is 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 weeks or months to come.
Thank you for being here
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 have been landing in December 2020 but will now arrive in October 2021 on HBO Max.