Decoding Dune: A Revelatory Exploration w/ Dr. Marc Gafni | AMP # 455 |

By Aubrey Marcus March 20, 2024

Decoding Dune: A Revelatory Exploration w/ Dr. Marc Gafni | AMP # 455 |
Spoiler Alert!

This episode is for people familiar with the Dune series, and want to explore the complicated themes of this iconic sci-fi masterpiece. Like a message that is echoing from the past, what is particularly relevant about Dune now?

In this podcast with Marc Gafni, we go on a journey to uncover the hidden lessons and timeless wisdom woven into the fabric of this incredible series. We discuss the multifaceted realms of power, politics, psychedelics, prophets, and the nuances of messianic leadership.
We also explore the notion of destiny and the complexities of free will.

Whether you're a passionate aficionado or a curious soul, prepare to be enlightened as we meticulously decode the philosophical intricacies of Dune, offering fresh insights and revelations.

Check out more of Dr. Marc Gafni’s work at ⁠⁠. 

Center for World Philosophy and Religion:


 A Return to Eros (Book):


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Aubrey Marcus Board Chair of Center for World Philosophy and Religion:



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AUBREY MARCUS: Mark, my brother, here we are again. 

MARC GAFNI: Oh my God. 

AUBREY MARCUS: And we are here to try and unpack Dune and Dune II, which is just now out in theaters. And I finished this movie and I was desperate to talk to you about it because the themes are so complex and interesting. 

MARC GAFNI: Oh my God. Right

AUBREY MARCUS: And as you say, how culture speaks through these stories and through these myths and archetypes, right? And illuminates different things that are moving. And even though this, the original books were written in the sixties, how prescient they are actually right now to our time and what we're currently experiencing. 

MARC GAFNI: Totally. They're completely prescient. And it's so exciting to be in this conversation because we're talking about Dune and even before we get into it together, we should just notice this went insane in culture. I mean, there are about 25 Dune books. So he writes like six of them till he dies. Right? So, we're just covering today, we're in kind of part two of the first book, Dune, which is the best one. It's considered by lots of people the number one science fiction story of all time, like in the sci-fi universe. It's like this god. And then, he succeeds in kind of transmitting it to his son Brian, who kind of hangs out with, what's his name? Kevin Anderson, who was the dude who did lots of, you know, Star Wars and they do a whole bunch of dunes and then Jodorowsky tries to make a dune and it's kind of too enormous. He can't, it's this mystical, there's a movie made about his attempt to make a dune. 

AUBREY MARCUS: I saw that. 

MARC GAFNI: Then David Lynch tries to make one and it doesn't quite work, and he turns down Return of the Jedi to try and make Dune, but it's just so there's something about Dune, which is magic, which is important. And we've said before brother, it's a text of culture. So in some sense, we're not coming here to say, okay, what was Frank Herbert thinking? That's not, I mean, blessings to Frank, who was this super interesting guy doing lots of psychedelics in the mid 60’s, you know, I would say most of Dune was written on psychedelics, right? Now that he was in and out. He was

AUBREY MARCUS: He was drinking the water of life. 

MARC GAFNI: He was drinking Mayim Chaim, the water of life and seeing visions and having a ride. He was doing spice and melange and kind of big time. And by the way, just interesting, it's a great place to start and make, you know, we'll ease our way in, the word water of life is of course, a lineage of Solomon word, Mayim Chaim, the water of life. And they take that term, which is a temple term, and they bring it together with, there was a worm called a Chilazon, C H I L A Z O N, a Chilazon, out of which a blue dye was extracted. And if you ever see a Hebrew prayer shawl, I put one of them on every day, a Hebrew wisdom prayer shawl, you see that one of the strands is deep blue and it's the exact same color of blue as the water of life in Dune. What he's trying to do, Frank Herbert, before he's trying to merge together, you know, obviously lots of Islam. Obviously, you know, Muad'Dib and Muad’Dib, right, obviously lots and lots, you know, Lisan Al Gaib, right, you know, the speaker of unseen tongues, you know, all these titles, you know, for Paul Atreides. So he's bringing that together. But then he's also got things like this blue die from the worm, which is the Sapphire, right? Which actually opens your eyes. But then I mean the major one, and this is just as a way of saying hi, the major one is Kwisatz Haderach, right? That funny term, right? The Bene Gesserit are planning for 90 generations. of genetic engineering to generate this Nietzsche’s ubermensch, right? This unimaginable figure, who's the Kwisatz Haderach. Now Kwisatz Haderach, when I first said it, I said, huh, comes from a lineage term, which is Kwisatz Haderach, which is the jumping of the way, which is the capacity of a master to jump through time.

AUBREY MARCUS: Wow. It's like, 

MARC GAFNI: Wow, right? So the space guild unites the galaxy through spice melange, which is the Catorette, the spice of the temple, which is the essence and the Holy of Holies, the spice that actually allows us to create radical union with reality. And so there's the spice and the spice creates, generates, this master. Who can actually get beneath time even deeper than the Space Guild. I know we have Derek here, who's a Dune guy, so Derek knows that the Space Guild, they all have some ability, because they're spiced to actually transcend time, but not like the Kwisatz Haderach, which is the one who masters the capacity to transcend time, right? This figure is the one who's ended the trance of time and who can actually experience all times together. The master is the one in which the past, present, and future live as one, there's no distinction between them and he can move between them. And so we've got this set of terms that are at play that are kind of wild, right?

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, and part of this that plays through as you think about time is prophecy and the nature of prophecy being pointing a possible timeline in a way, and even this is how Paul, as he's starting to develop in his powers, as he's becoming a master, as he's becoming Kwisatz Haderach, he's learning how to see into the future and look at these possible timelines. And then there's one powerful point in Dune II where he says, there's one, I see one way through, like, finally, where everything was apocalypse, basically, he sees like, ah, there is a way through

MARC GAFNI: There’s a way

AUBREY MARCUS: And he finally gets the clarity to see the way through, you know.

MARC GAFNI: No, that's great. So you actually said, it's so great to see you, brother, right? It's a great conversation, right? It's like, yes. So you said, two huge things, right? So I want to talk to you about each one of them. One is, you threw prophecies on the table early on. So yes, let's get in. This is about prophecy for sure. And you threw a particular thing on the table, which he sees one way through. So I'm gonna just do a little bracket for a second. I'm gonna get right into that and we'll go back and right. Just I want to just throw one other thing on the table just so you can see it cause you just said Paul. So Paul is of course Paul Atreides, we know, who's the son of Duke Leto Atreides, who has been the great house for generations. And Paul is of course a Christian name, so he doesn't want to use Christ, he uses Paul. So he's got Christianity deep in there. He's got the mother and the son, right, got a mother Mary and Jesus got the mother and the son, then he's got Muad'Dib, right? And Leon Algarve, right? He's got these deep Islamic notions. And then he has Jessica and the Bene Gesserit, this mystical society of women kind of planning, you know, she says in the second movie, she says to Urulan, who's the daughter of the emperor, you know, who says, we have to hope and she says, Bene Gesserit don't hope, they plan, right? So there's the Bene Gesserit. So Gesserit is Jesse. Solomon's father is David. David's father is Jesse, David Ben Yishai. And Jesse is the messianic prophetic lineage, right? And so we got just the, so what Herbert does, like, you know, as he's kind of stoned out on psychedelics someplace in San Francisco in 1963 in his apartment, right? Late at night, right? He's bringing together these kinds of, you know, Christianity and it's esoteric. He's bringing together this deep Islamic sense. They take jihad out and they call it crusade, but he's bringing together this Hebrew wisdom tradition, and he's also bringing together the Fremen, who are kind of Zen Sunni in the books. They're the Zen Sunni combination. So we've got this all happening, and it's all about prophecy. So that's like, it's big. And so let's maybe go to the second thing you said, and let's maybe start and talk about that. I would love to hear how you're feeling about it, but let me just go into that in other words, prophecy is one huge theme. So prophecy, leadership, messiahs, I mean, that's what a player and we've got to talk about all of it, but there's one moment that you just picked out with what I think is this absolutely critical moment. And it's almost like a Thanos moment in the Avengers, right? Where Thanos says, I'm going to actually fix the world. No, one's willing to do the hard work. I've got a plan to fix the world. The Avengers oppose them. Dr. Strange and Tony Stark talk. They say all possible futures aren't going to work. There's only one that's going to work. Right. So he's got that same thing here. He says to his mother in the second movie, he says, you know, after he's drunk the water of life, he says, I see all of these paths in which our enemies best us, but there's one narrow path, right? Where we can be triumphant and by we, he means, I just want to say the good, because the House of Atreides, they represent the heart. They represent love. They represent honor, right, in its highest form. 

AUBREY MARCUS:Value itself.

MARC GAFNI: That's right. They're heroes. And we'll come back to that. The Bene Gesserit, complicated. They're unclear who they are. In one of the late, the last things that Frank Herbert wrote. He writes in his last thing, he has the story of Bene Gesserit being destroyed. The Bene Gesserit are talking to a particular figure who says to them, you guys took love out of your equation. You guys thought love was too dangerous. And he has her go back and listen to music and try and access, what it would mean to fall in love because the Bene Gesserit and that later, you know, novel are being charged, you know, challenged by the honored matrons who are kind of trying to destroy them. And then this figure says to them, you guys forgot love. So Bene Gesserit is completely manipulating the cosmos. 


MARC GAFNI: And Jessica is a Bene Gesserit, but she falls in love. 


MARC GAFNI: And so she changes the plan and doesn't have a daughter. She's supposed to have a daughter who is then going to give birth, her son to the Kwisatz Haderach. Instead, she has a son, and she falls in love. So here's our question. Let me just throw a question on the table. Paul does everything because he has this vision and he's doing something that's very dangerous. And that's very crazy. That's what's so crazy about the movie. He's being a utopian. He's saying, I've got this huge vision. I see all the stuff that can go wrong. I've got no choice. I'm going to unleash a jihad. Remember the last line in the movie says, send them to paradise. 


MARC GAFNI: Right. And he's talking about the great houses and so the Freeman spread out over the galaxy killed billions of people, 90 planets are destroyed, right? I mean, it's like a disaster, but Paul sees Thanos. There's this Paul Thanos moment and Paul's a good guy. And Thanos is a complex figure, actually. Right? Paul sees, wow, the only way I can heal the galaxy is to make this insane set of moves because all other moves will destroy humanity, will destroy the galaxy. So it's this, and Frank Herbert's kind of feeling it's mid 60s, and he's like, wow, what are we going to do? And he kind of dismisses Existat, right? He says, no computers, right? Because it was only Mentats, no computers. You know, computers have been outlawed. No democracy. It's a feudal system. No free markets. There's an emperor medieval feudal system that reigns. The emperor gives fiefs and takes them away. Right? Hey, take Arrakis from the Harkonnens. Let's give it to Duke Leto of Atreides. And the space guild reigns and in steps Paul and says, Oh, the universe is going to be destroyed. Right? Darkness. Shaddam the fourth, the bad emperor, the Harkonnens are going to rule. And he says, okay, so I, we got to access our own Harkonnen. Because he realizes after drinking the blue water that he's also a Harkonnen, a crazy moment. And he goes to unleash this insane unfolding in Cosmos for the ultimate sake of the greater good. So there's a big, massive, when you watch the movie you're both blown away and you're also in an immense pain.


MARC GAFNI: This did not go well. 


MARC GAFNI: So how did that feel to you? How did you work with that? 

AUBREY MARCUS: Well, it was complicated because we like culture, I think we like movies that are very clear. There's a clear good guy and then there's a clear bad guy and the good guy is forced and compelled into action because he has no other choice and he's clearly good. And then every action that he takes from there, or she takes from there is clearly good. And this plays with this understanding of morality and what is moral in the short term, what is moral throughout the span of history and eternity itself. 

MARC GAFNI: Span of time, right. I mean, it's right. It's like in some sense you took us. It's one of the many reasons I love you, brother. You took us actually to the hardest part of the movie, right? Straight on in, which is, here he is. He sees many possible futures, but only one way through. And by the way, later in Dune, for the Dune people, later in Dune, his son, Leto II, his first son, he has sons with Chani, and he takes Irulan to be his queen, but never sleeps with her. Chani becomes the concubine of the kingdom, right? So we don’t get there at the end of movie two. She has two children with him. The first Leto is killed by a Hark, by our Conan raid. And the second Leto II becomes this massive emperor who unleashes incredible tyranny and cruelty in the world. But as Derek, who's there in the studio can tell us what he's doing is he's following the golden path, which he sees that this is the only way to save humanity. He calls it the golden path. He has to do all of these insanely cruel things, right? And then he and his father meet at the end of a particular time and, you know, when they actually realized they were doing the same thing and they actually had pure motivation, right? So in other words, they weren't just corrupted. That's when you read Dune through, Paul goes into the desert in the end, right? And Paul, he's a very beautiful figure and he's wrestling with everything that he sees, right? And so what does that mean in terms of leadership today? You know, when you have artificial intelligence. Which is outlawed in this movie, you only have mentats, human beings, men who become embodied artificial intelligence like Tufir Hawat. But what happens when you have a government that claims that we need to make these ten brutal moves, in order to save humanity, or the galaxy, because we're moving towards a galactic world. And this is the big challenge of Dune that I think we need to address. And I think this is where Dune fails, and I think Dune succeeds in a lot of places. And I really want to talk with you about leadership and Messiah and prophecy, but I’m here and I think Dune fucks up

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. Explain more. 

MARC GAFNI: Well, because Frank Herbert tries to essentially, he's essentially making the ‘Thanos’ move. He's holding the complexity of it. He's seeing the tyranny of Leto II, later and he's seeing Paul unleash jihad across the universe. Right, you know, and that's again the last line, send them to paradise, he says to Stilgar at the very end after he wins that incredible fight, you know with, what's his name? The younger nephew pronounces his name for me. Uh, what's his name? I got some whatever. What's the guy's name?


MARC GAFNI: Right? Feyd like he's got some 


MARC GAFNI: Feyd Rautha. Good, right. He's Feyd Rautha. I mean, complete sociopath, madman, maniac, right? But who has honor, but so he wins that. He says to Stilgar, send the Fremen into the galaxy, send them to paradise. So he's making a decision for this massive jihad and he sees it in the vision. But the notion of a leader who actually suspends first principles and first values, in this radical way, because he has this omniscient vision over generations, and feels that's the only choice, it's kind of like that conversation between Gamora and Thanos, in the Avengers, and Thanos says, I know! And Gamara says, his daughter, who he kills in the end and sacrifices her to get one of the stones, she says to him, you can't know. So it's about omniscience. In other words, Paul takes an omniscient divine position and is willing to unleash a jihad. Right? That will kill, I think, 62 billion people as the Dune, you know, kind of figure, 90 planets, whatever it is. It's bad. It's why he didn't want to go south in the beginning. Remember the whole movie? 


MARC GAFNI: And the whole movie, like, neither him nor Chani actually buy into this story. He wants to stay in the north, right? He says, I'm no prophet, I'm Usul. You know, I don't want to, Chani says, you know, we're free Fremen, right? We're not waiting for a prophet. We're not waiting for a Messiah. We're not waiting for at least an Al Ja'ib. He says, I want to be just beautiful, that's how he wins Chani's heart. He says, I just want to fight with you. I want to learn your ways. I want to be equal with you. And Chani says, men and women are equal here. Everyone does everything for the sake of the whole, and it's very beautiful. And he has this very beautiful falling in love, and this is his woman. And then the visions entrance him. The visions seduce him. His mother, Bene Gesserit, calls him. Because his mother is still a Bene Gesserit. His mother loves him dearly and she's a Bene Gesserit. You know, and remember that line where, at the end, where his mother is talking to her, reverend Mother, when they're all there in that scene at the end, and she says that they're talking to each other mentally, she says, you took the wrong side for that scene. And then Mohiam, Mohiam is her name. The other one says, you of all people should know there are no sides. It's a strange moment. In other words, in some sense, you know, Jessica, the Bene Gesserit, who loves her son, whose husband was destroyed, somehow she draws him in, and he comes to the conclusion there's no other move to make, and he unleashes a jihad, that they politely call a crusade, for the sake of the vision, because it is written, because that is the prophecy, which destroys the galaxy, under the argument that anything else would have been worse. Which is not an argument that can be verified by anyone. It's not subject to any validation. So we're completely relying on Paul's goodness. We like Paul , we love Paul.


MARC GAFNI: I love Paul. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Right, right. 

MARC GAFNI: You just took us to the heart of it. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. And this is, you know, I think this brings up an important point, which is he has his visions and he has his calculations, and it's about how clear and how clarified is that vision, and do you give God the mystery a chance to show another way. Are you continually listening and always willing to change course, no matter what circumstances are happening. And that's what the leader must always do. If he has a clear vision of what the next step should be, it should always be, now let me check back in and listen. Let me go back to the ceremony. Let me go back to my prayer. Let me go back into my chant. Let me go back into my contact with the mystery without any ego, with radical humility and prostration in front of the mystery and say, is this the right path? I check with you again, you know, great spirit to see if this is the right action for me to take.

MARC GAFNI: Gorgeous, my brother. Yes and yes, no but just yes, yes, and yes, and you have a Dharma. If you notice in the movie, and again, there's like 30 really great, gorgeous things to say about really important, beautiful things in Dune. And we're starting with the hardest part, which is we're critiquing, you know, where we're Frank Herbert. I think where the movie gets lost, right? Because in the movie, there's no image. After Leto of Atreides is killed, and Leto, remember in the first, if we could take us back to the first movie for a second, when Leto lands on Arrakis, knowing that this is dangerous, thinking he has maybe more time to outwit the Harkonnens and the Emperor, because he doesn't really think the Emperor took Arrakis away from the Harkonnens and gave it to him as a Christmas present because he was feeling generous. He knows there's some trap, but he doesn't have time. But in that small amount of time before he's killed, it's like the first or second night, you know, he's with Dr. Kynes, the black woman who was in charge of the transition, who is secretly the head of the Fremen, right? And then he stops and he basically risks his life to save a bunch of men in a spice factory. Right. And she's like, wow. Right. And that's in, so you see, he's in first principles and first values. He's both wielding power. Right. And yet power, Lato is the best figure power and value merged together. 


MARC GAFNI: He's deeply in love with his wife. He won't marry. It's not his wife. She's concubine. He won't marry her for political reasons, but after he dies, We don't have an image, a Dharma, if you will, right? A set of first principles and first values, a story of the vision of redemption. The only story we have is the greening of the planet, right? There's this vision of the green plan. Remember he has a vision when he first early on of Aaliyah, his sister, who's in her womb the whole time, who's going to be born later, right? You know, of her, you know, on this green planet. And there's this light theme that is lightly sprinkled in the movies. It's deeper in the books of the desire and the vision of making the planet green. But that's an ecological vision, which is very beautiful, but it's not a moral vision. 


MARC GAFNI: Right. And so there's not a vision. Who's the good human, who is in our language? My brother, who's homo amore? 

AUBREY MARCUS: Well, yeah you said it because in emperor, in his criticism of


AUBREY MARCUS: Lito Atreides says he was never good enough to be a great leader because he always led from the heart, basically.

MARC GAFNI: He led from the heart, right? 

AUBREY MARCUS: And that made him weak, you know,

MARC GAFNI: That made him weak

AUBREY MARCUS: And that was the criticism

MARC GAFNI: That’s why he killed the father. Right, absolutely. So Paul, you know, and in some sense you could say Paul made the best move possible and we have to just trust Paul. But fuck that, actually, right? In other words, actually, no, we don't do that. We don't trust messiahs, right? That basically says, I am the guru. I am the source, right? I am the vision, right? It doesn't have to be validated by any larger set of first principles and first values. Trust me, send them to paradise, right? In other words, now in some real sense, one way to read Dune is as saying precisely what we're saying, that the point of the book is to actually critique that notion of leadership in which the leader or the hero is dissociated from the field of value, right? And even though they're claiming that they're doing it for Thanos ' ultimate good. But we can't access it and Dune says, whoa, and in some sense, this is why science fiction has been so important, brother. You and I have talked about this many times over the last, you know, 60-70 years. In some sense, he does this little trick in the movie, which is very subtle and brilliant. He says, oh, artificial intelligence and computers are outlawed. So there's Mentat who, as you just said, that's when you talk about calculations, you said he is ready. He says vision and calculations, you said. So you're referring to the fact that Paul is both a Mentat. He's both this kind of, you know, he's clearly been trained as a Mentat, meaning this kind of super human calculator who can kind of do all sorts of insane scenario planning. And he's a Bene Gesserit, right? He's a Kwisatz Haderach. He's this kind of prophetic figure. He brings them both together, but then we have no access to him anymore. Then he's off in his own world. He can't be challenged. No one can challenge him, right? I mean, when God says he's going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis, Abraham says, fuck that. And God says, whoa, man, I'm God, like, hello, it's me, God. Did you forget who you were talking to? And Abraham says to God, you know what? You're God. I don't really care. Ha'shofet kol ha'aretz le'aseh mishpat. Will the judges of the whole world not do justice? Not be bound by the field of value. And in some sense, the lineage is saying. Even God is not off the hook. We challenge God, right? When God violates the field of value because we participate in that field and what Frank Herbert sees beautifully. Now it's not clear. Is he endorsing it or is he critiquing it? So we don't know, right? But whatever it is, Dune's creating this archetype of leadership that can't be challenged.


MARC GAFNI: It's charismatic leadership that's dissociated from the field of value. We love Paul. We do. I mean, we love Paul. And we want to trust them, right? Am I right about that? We want to trust them. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think one of the things that makes this more complex is that the Harkonnens and the Emperor, they are very clearly evil. They are very clearly anti life, right? So there is no ambiguity, there's no beauty. There's no value. There's no love. It's all power. It's all sadism. It's all the upside down tree of life of Citra Acra of anti life itself. 

MARC GAFNI: Anti value, anti life. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yep. So the first two houses that he's attacking, you know, which is the house of the emperor and the house of the Harkonnens, you're like, well, they're clearly on the bad side.

MARC GAFNI: I'll take them down. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Let's take them down. But that doesn't actually reflect the real world because they were all, they're almost presented in this irredeemable way. Like they are beyond redemption, like the baron and the whole loaded 

MARC GAFNI: Right, like the loaded figure and 

AUBREY MARCUS: Right. Just full of gluttony. Every seven deadly sins is like

MARC GAFNI: Right, the deadly sins

AUBREY MARCUS: In full embodiment. Right. And same with the emperor. He's got his own jealousies and like all of this. So you're like, well, all right. So this Jihad, this crusade is just because this is black and white. They got to go. But then, I haven't continued in the series, so I don't understand, but then to imagine, fuck, 60 more planets, you mean all 60 of those planets were also

MARC GAFNI: All of the houses.

AUBREY MARCUS: Also all entirely evil. There was nobody there with a little bit of a mix. And how come Paul wouldn't be able to talk with some of them? Why wouldn't they want to kind of like work this thing out? Like I understand with the Harkonnens and I understand with the emperor, but then as it moves forward, you're like, fuck, like everybody's this black and white, and that's not the way the real world is. And that's where it gets really confusing. 

MARC GAFNI: That's where it gets really. No, that's completely right. So let's, let's flip back for a second and let's talk about something. So we've pointed to that and I'll just say one last thing about it and then I want to mass, you know, talk to you and like, well, take us down maybe a different path, one that you might not be so familiar with. It's called psychedelics. And have you ever heard of that? 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. Somebody told me what that was.

MARC GAFNI: Right. So, we'll go, I want to go into your territory here, right. And in a second, but even just before that, I think in some sense, what Herbert is saying is that artificial intelligence, mentats, combined with spirit and jihad, when you put those two together, you get existential risk of enormous possibility. Because basically, when you merge together the Mentat, who is this human artificial intelligence, right. The supercomputer. So let's, and you merge that together with a kind of jihadic, prophetic, it is written. And that then assumes absolute authority. What you've done is you've ended the conversation of cosmos as you've basically said, you cannot participate in this conversation. And basically what the lineage says. The Ibrahim figure, the source of Islam, Ibrahim, the source of the Christ path, right? The four, you know, Abraham walking to the binding of Isaac is considered Jesus walking to the cross and obviously the source of the Hebrew wisdom, right? And Abraham also is deeply connected to the East. He sends concubines to the East. So this Ibrahimic figure, what he says is, you even challenge the divine computer the ultimate intelligence and you challenge God and say God we got to be in the field of value together and the prophet participates in the field of value. And if you remove the common people from the conversation, you basically say you can't have a public conversation because only Muad'Dib knows. Only the Lisan Al’Gaib knows you're fucked. In other words, right. And so actually that notion of artificial intelligence, I mean, just look, look at Jihad today in the world, right? Not in its holy forms of wrestling with the heart that are so beautiful in Islam, but the forms that let's even take Israel out of the storage, take Iraq, Syria, Yemen, you know, the Houthis, right? You know, take the Sunni Shiite, right? Conversation in Iran. You take that world, merge it with artificial intelligence. Right. And with atomic power, which is exactly what we just saw in Dune. And basically what they're saying is no one can participate in the conversation with us. No one gets it.

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. And if it's not artificial intelligence becoming the ultimate authority, then it's prophecy, which is fixed, static, and unchangeable that can also become an ultimate authority. And if that can't be questioned, then you're also another problem.

MARC GAFNI: If you put it together, exactly. And each of those, and what he did brilliantly, Herbert, is he brought those two strains together and he said, Oh my God, and here's the crazy thing. And it's going to be a sympathetic figure. You see, that's what I think is so crazy, beautiful, and brilliant about both the books and the movie. In other words, we love Paul, right? We love Aaliyah, his sister, who appears later, but who speaks in the whole movie too, you know, from the womb. We love Jessica. They're clearly good people. Right, and that's the thing, if they were bad people, if we didn't love them, and Chani, it says, the memory says about Paul when she's talking to her friend, Shika, I can’t remember her friend, Shika something, I can remember her name, she's the one that was this great fighter that actually, the Harkonnen, you know, younger nephew, Feyd actually killed, because she killed nine people with one blade. So they're talking to each other and she says to her, you know, I trust him, he's sincere. I think she's right. In other words, we're right to love Paul. Paul's beautiful. And that, 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. And in many ways, Chani represents the goddess in her pure form. At least at this point, she represents the goddess in her pure form and Paul gets the blessing of the real goddess of the 

MARC GAFNI: Absolutely

AUBREY MARCUS: He has the blessing of the goddess. 

MARC GAFNI: Chani is the goddess in the movie, right? Chani is the goddess, right? And she is the one who has desert power, right? She's the one who has desert power, right? You know, in desert power, you remember at the end of the first movie, or at the beginning of the first movie, when they go from Caladan to Arrakis, his father says to Paul, like, we know the power of the sea. We know that blessing. And we're going to Arrakis to find desert power. And Leto was so great. He realized that the Bene Gesserit were problematic. That's why the Bene Gesserit mother, Moiam, advises Shaddam IV, the emperor, to destroy the Atreides. As she tells his daughter, you know, his daughter, I advised. And when she says why, she said, because they became defiant. They were defiant for the sake of value. I mean, Leto is the best figure in the galaxy. He both wields power, he knows sea power. He wants to learn desert power, and he says to us, and we're going to Iraqis for desert power, and then at the end of movie one, remember they're walking, and they thump, thump, thump, and the beautiful worm, right, kind of is in the background and he says desert power. And she says, you haven't seen anything yet, right? And then he learns to actually ride. He sees Stilgar riding and he says, you think Stilgar will teach me how to ride? She says, no, you're not a Fremen. And he says, but I am, but I want to be, but I can be. And she says, okay. Maybe you can be, maybe I can trust you and maybe we will teach you. And then he learns to ride and he actually merges his energy with the desert, right? It's desert power. It's very beautiful. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, I mean, this is the story of, I think the worm represents Pachamama. It represents the power of mother nature herself, you know, and that's a beautiful image. And then there's this idea in culture that only the indigenous can access the power of mother nature. And the white man or the white woman, you know, which are always conquerors, which are always colonizers, have no right to access the power of mother nature. And this movie is saying, no, the worthy can be invited to step in and hold and harness that power. And it must be that way. 

MARC GAFNI: Of course

AUBREY MARCUS: You know, this is something, that was one of the beautiful points of the movie where there were a lot of questions. No, no, you can't. He says, yes trust me, I can. And nature is so ferocious that nature will be the ultimate litmus test. It will be the ultimate initiation. If he passes that initiation, then he is worthy. You know, like he's actually worthy of holding that medicine. 

MARC GAFNI: No, that's beautiful. That's completely crazy beautiful, right? In other words, the desert, the desert fathers, the desert in which Jesus goes, the desert in which Moses goes, the earth and desert power, meaning the Harkonnen are afraid of the worm. They're afraid of the desert. They can't access desert power. He's able to ride, and actually his son, Leto II, actually merges with the worm. He actually transfigures and becomes half human and half worm. Right, and that's kind of like, so it's this, you know, and then you're not clear, has he been degraded into a worm? Is he actually synergized into something new? But it's the sense that I can actually access the raw power of nature and actually bring that to bear in this stunning way. No, so that's beautiful. That's beautiful. 

AUBREY MARCUS: All right. So what's another one of the themes here? Because there's so many complex themes, what's another one that jumps out of you that you want to explore?

MARC GAFNI: I think the next one that jumps out at me, which I'm really excited to talk to you about brother, and we've had these pieces of this conversation, but to really get this clear and to read this text of culture and to try and articulate from it a new story of politics, a new story of value is who is the leader and particularly the relationship between politics and psychedelics is a huge theme of the movie. So, basically, in this story, you have Paul, who's both the future Kwisarz Haderach, so it's the ultimate expression of the Bene Gesserit, which is the ultimate strategy, Bene Gesserit are doing like Paul, they think they're trying to save the universe. So he's got this kind of mystical, strategic, you know, possibility of vision. Then you have the spice.

AUBREY MARCUS: But I think, all right, so let's go there for a second. But


AUBREY MARCUS: I got to stop on the Bene Gesserit because for me, the Bene Gesserit wiping out House Atreides and planning to that it's irredeemable actually.

MARC GAFNI: Irredeemable

AUBREY MARCUS: It’s actually irredeemable. There is no cause that could justify the destruction of that much goodness and that much love. There is no cause. There's no end that justifies those means. And so I think actually you can clearly say that the Bene Gesserit are off and irredeemable.

MARC GAFNI: And here's what's complex about it, right? So the Bene Gesserit, so I think this is really important, so Bene Gesserit, so they're messianic, Gesserit, Jesse. They wipe out the house of Atreides, we find out later in movie two. Urulen, who Mohiam, the kind of mother spear is talking to, Urulen, the emperor's daughter is his chief student. They've taken love out of the equation and then in some sense, what happens is Jessica Lato's wife, who doesn't know that the Bene Gesserit are going to do this, who has fallen in love with Lato and let herself feel love, she actually becomes this heroic figure and it's almost like at that moment the Bene Gesserit take that one side. In other words, they begin trying to do this very profound 90 generations of careful genetic engineering, literally a kind of ultimate eugenics to kind of produce Kwisatz Haderach, but you kind of feel the goodness of their intention. And she says, you know the Mohiam, she says to Jessica, there are no sides. I'm doing this for the universe and yet she gets lost. You're absolutely right. She gets lost in an unredeemable way. And when she tries to explain why she destroyed the house of Atreides to Irulan, I don't know how to pronounce her name. The king's daughter and maybe the I R U L A N, Irulan, you know, she doesn't have any good reason. She says they were defiant, right? So you're right. And remember they speak in this devil's voice.


MARC GAFNI: Right. That voice comes out and you're like, Ooh.

AUBREY MARCUS: Which takes over somebody else's agency. Which is, 

MARC GAFNI: Which takes over someone agency, you know, 

AUBREY MARCUS: In the shamanic realm.

MARC GAFNI: That's helpful. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, well. In the shamonic realms, that is the clear line of delineation between magic and Shamanism and Brujeria or witchcraft or sorcery


AUBREY MARCUS: Have you subsumed somebody else's agency, if you're in the participation for the good of healing, but you allow the person, their agency, you are a Kurendero or a Kurondera, you are a medicine person. You're giving medicine. If you take over power, even if your ends justify the means, you're actually practicing sorcery. And you're in Black Magic at that point. 

MARC GAFNI: They use it at the end. They use it in the middle of the first movie, right? To actually save themselves from being thrown in the desert. It's how they survive, right? And then you're right. Then as it goes on, they use it to basically direct the action. That they use to direct the action. 

AUBREY MARCUS: And that's the problem with that's the seduction of black magic is like, all right, like if you have it, you have to be also bound so deeply by the field of value that you use it as the last resort in that life saving self defense,

MARC GAFNI: Yeah, totally.

AUBREY MARCUS: You know, move, and it's not to say, Okay. You know, if you even learn it, you will be corrupted automatically. But once you have that weapon, you have to really, really, really be intensely bound by the good and then trust yourself with power in the most immaculate sense. 

MARC GAFNI: That's right, and beautifully said in the Bene Gesserit, in destroying the house of Atreides, right, they cross the line and the emperor crosses the line. In other words, the way that Baron Harkonnen wants to blackmail the emperor is so that he can reveal that the emperor actually participated in the destruction of the house of Atreides. So you know, Atreides is the vision. of right messianic leadership, of right prophecy, right? It's the vision of what's possible. So now let's see what we have here. So we've got Paul, who is on the one hand a mentat. He does these massive calculations and another, he's kind of a Bene Gesserit prodigy, but who steps away from the Bene Gesserit. He actually blasts Mohiam back, right, at the scene at the end of the movie, and she realizes she can't control him. Right? So he's actually stepped into his own autonomy and he's completely animated by spice. He's right now, the politics and spice in the movie are completely entwined, completely bound up. They can't be separated. And spice is psychedelic, right? I mean, Spice both opens your field. Everyone has their own unique experience of spice in the movie, that's what they point out. Everyone has a different, their own psychedelic journey. And yet, Paul's spice experience, Paul's drinking of the water of life, which are two different experiences, right, of the blue water, right, which is the water of life, that comes from the worm, what's it called, the Shai-Hulud or something that mean the worm.

AUBREY MARCUS: The Shai-Hulud, yep. 

MARC GAFNI: What's it called again?  The Shai-Hulud.


MARC GAFNI: Shai Hulud, right? Right. So this politics-psychedelics thing is really important. And maybe we can step away for a second from Dune, right, and, you know, Dune talks about kind of the ultimate expression of it in ways that collapse. You know under this kind of exponentialized extreme, you know, kind of wild, you know, Frank Herbert, you know, beautiful, fantastical universe. But he's pointing to something that's really holy and sacred, which is that politics needs to expand, you know, I mean, that business needs to expand. I mean, you know, in his autobiography, right, you know, Mr. Founder of Apple, right? You know, Steve Jobs writes extensively about how the most essential experience he has that allows him to actually envision Apple is psychedelics. And John Mackey's written and he's shared. I've talked to him about it, but he's written about it publicly, right? And he's 30 times I dropped acid, built whole foods, right? You know, in other words, you know

AUBREY MARCUS: I can tell the same story about how Onnit was created. I mean, there's countless stories of this. And I think what's interesting about this, what occurs to me is in some ways, the way that they linked the psychedelics with the economics of spice and also the utility of spice, and also the politics that are tied into the economics and utility, it's almost as if natural gas was spice. Right? Because this is the part of the world, it's the desert. You're talking. So what if natural gas was spice and so natural gas also was a psychedelic like LSD or psilocybin and then the water of life 

MARC GAFNI: Oil and natural gas is a psychedelic. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. And then the water of life, which is like oil, let's say like sweet crude, you know, like crude oil is the water of life. So that's like ayahuasca. So like, imagine if natural gas was also for the utility that natural gas has to power home warm houses, you know, make all of the gas stoves work and do all of those things and oil, which powers all the cars and the vehicles and the rockets and all of these other things, the plastics, all of the other things that we need. And they were also potent psychedelics. It's this very interesting move where he combines these two different things that are completely opposed in our current world. But in this world, this science fiction world, he blends them all together, which also creates this massively complex, you know, nest of ways to understand this is like, Whoa, 

MARC GAFNI: Right, that's gorgeous. And how do we respond to that? Like, how do we, you know, we're entertained. But what does it say as a text of culture? And I think that, brother, let me just see if we can articulate this out loud. You know, there's this great scene in the lineage of Solomon where Moses says, Alavi, would it be that everyone should be prophets? And so this kind of democratization of prophecy, right? And democratization of prophecy means that we don't create an elite, which has the best augmentation, which is what we're looking at today, right? You know, we create an elite today. What are we looking at today? This possibility for all of human history, the very wealthy always thought they were better than the poor, but they weren't, right. They were making it up for the first time in our generation. There's actually a significant possibility that within 30-40 years, it will be true that if you will have sufficient wealth, you will be augmented. You will have longevity. You'll have better cognition. You'll be more aesthetically beautiful. We're literally creating this possibility of an enhanced elite. Now, in some sense, what the movie's describing is a similar kind of enhanced elite, but in the realm of spirit. And in some sense, my hope is that Frank Herbert is not arguing for this. My hope is, but either way, it doesn't matter. I think the way we should experience Dune as a radically wildly entertaining and seductive and beautiful, massive fucking critique of that possibility. And I think the best way to experience Dune is that actually Frank Herbert is dropping in, the goddess is moving through him and he's dropping into culture this incredible warning sign that makes it through the decades, right? You know, he dies young, in his early sixties, like, I mean, he dies very, very young, I think 75, something like that. But he drops into culture this thing that kind of in Jodorowsky tries it and it gets stopped because it's hard to do and David Lynch tried, it's hard to do. There's this play and culture that's moving against it. And what he's saying is the same way we democratize governance. And it's not that there's hierarchies of attainment. Of course, there's hierarchies of attainment. It's not a kind of everyone has to be exactly at the same level of attainment and we're creating a kind of a leveling of differences and it's a kind of a weird, you know, communism, which pretends to be equal, but actually has this kind of corrupt, weird hierarchies. No, what we're saying is that actually everybody has to be in spirit. Everybody has to be in Christ. Everybody has to be in Allah. Everyone has to be on a psychedelic journey, right? Everyone has to be in prophecy. And we have to have a shared field of value that binds us. And here's the second piece. This is part two. Our prophecy needs to give us deeper clarity within the field of value. In other words, you and I said once when we were kind of in journey mode is actually the first journey I made in a very, very long time when we'd been doing Dharma for like a year. And so you invited me into medicine. And the first thing we said when we came out was the medicine needs the Dharma and the Dharma needs the medicine. And then in some sense in Dune, it waits towards the medicine. It gets this brilliant intuition, politics and psychedelics need to come together. But then, it does so without a field of value, without a field of Dharma, and psychedelics takes over, and psychedelics becomes a hierarchy where only the most elite, right, are trusted in their interpretation of their psychedelics, and no one's allowed to challenge them, and so we don't get, we need a democratization of this experience, in some way, as the next step. Does that make sense? 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. And what you would want was, I would want, at least, and let me speak in the first person, I would want Paul to create an entreaty where he invited the great houses under, you know, a banner of truce, you know, and in that they would bring them through initiations where they would sit in a circle with the leaders of the houses and then they would breathe the spice together and they would try to see a shared vision and then come together instead of going on this holy crusade that's all destruction to say like, all right, I mean, of course there are going to be some planets that are Harkonnens that will just say no and double cross you immediately, and you have to deal with the Harkonnens. How you have to deal with the Harkonnens, right? They're pure evil. But for everybody else, you would want this like, okay, no, come to the planet, learn about our ways. Let me share our medicine. And also, if you don't, we have a hell of a stick and this stick is the entire Imperial fleet. And if you want to go that way, it's not going to go well. I fucking promise. We got the best fighters in the galaxy. We're armed to the teeth. Now, before we go down that road, come, you know, sit on the floor, you know, share our water, share our spice. Let's see if we can come to another conclusion here. And this was the way of the people of Chavin in ancient Peru, you know, in Chavin de Huantar, they had ceremonies with Huachuma where they would invite all of the different potential rival tribes and regions and peoples to come sit with them and have these massive thousand person Huachuma ceremonies. And then for the priests would had their own Vilca ceremonies, their Vilca ceremonies, the sacred, which is like the water of life, which they would take to give them the power to be able to serve and their connection to spirit, to be able to serve the masses, but they held peace according to the archeological records for like 800 years by offering psychedelic ceremony to all of the local populations in the land. And it's one of the few places in history where you've seen peace for that sustained, for that long, while this culture was in power and utilizing the technology of psychedelic medicine and Huachuma is very heart opening. And of course, in this Atreides way, in this Christic way, they could invite them into the medicine of the heart. And we're seeing that now with the legalization of MDMA, invite them into the medicine of the heart and make damn sure that war is the very last fucking option on the table. The very last option. 

MARC GAFNI: No, that's gorgeous, brother. And I want to bring these, it's gorgeous. And I want to bring these two things together, right? Meaning, let's go back to that notion of the medicine needs the Dharma, the Dharma needs the medicine. When a person has a journey, you know, I was just talking to our brother, /Mikad yesterday and we were chanting, right? And we're talking about the distinction between chanting and medicine. It's an interesting question, right? How are they different? So when you chant, you begin with arousal from below. In other words, it's your agency. It's your voice. It's your mind, right? And you're raising it up inside of you and it rises beautifully inside you and then your mind distracts then you have to write. So chant is you're placing your awareness on the allurement that lines cosmos as opposed to meditation where you're placing your awareness on awareness. In medicine, which is utterly necessary, but it's a different path in that it's arousal from above. It's like falling in love, right? It's this gift that descends and it takes you inside. And that's both the enormous potency and potentiating quality of medicine, but it's also why it needs to live within this field of value, and those values need to be, and in some sense, when he wrote Dune, Frank Herbert, he was still before the postmodern world. You could just assume value. At the House of Atreides, value. You didn't need to, this is what we've called when we've talked about before, when we talk about modernity and how does modernity relate to value, modernity talks about what we call common sense sacred axioms of value. Value's just there. Not a problem. House of Atreides, it's 1965, right? You know, value's just there, right? You know, and you've got the sense, right? How does it go? When the moon, right? I won't oppress everyone by singing the whole thing, because my voice is off, right? But shines in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns up with Mars, you know, and it's the dawning of the age of Aquarius and love will steer the stars, right? There's this, it's the sixties, fuck, it's 1965. Love rules, right? At the heart rules, Atreides. Right? Power and love can come together in this beautiful way. And then we realized, Ooh, the sixties died out. The journeys died out because there was no field of value for them to go into the activism kind of, it had a huge impact. And then we got into the seventies and the greed of the eighties, right. And the polarization of the nineties and post modernity exploded and said, you guys are assuming love, love's not a value. Skinner writes. And MIT Media Lab bases their building of the web on Skinner. Love's just completely socially constructed. Which is what the Bene Gesserit thought, right? Love's something you can manipulate and move, but it's not a real force in the cosmos. So, in some sense, Dune assumes value. And medicine is playing in the field of value, but it never needs to be explicated, and that doesn't need to be stood for. Atreides is just Atreides. That's just not true. We now know that's not true, and it's why the Bene Gesserit took down the House of Atreides. It's because they were living in modernity. They just assumed, right, oh, there's a field of value. But actually, no one else assumed it, right? Skinner didn't assume it, you know, and beyond freedom and dignity. And the people architecting the web didn't assume it and artificial intelligence, right, that's actually driven by people who think that love is not real, doesn't assume it. So what we need to do is in order to do medicine, we need to claim medicine. And you've been at the forefront of claiming medicine. And now part of what we're doing in our conversation is we're bringing medicine and Dharma together. And that's what Frank Herbert was looking for, but he didn't know where to go for Dharma. Right? So he's looking, is it old Islam? Oh, is it old Judaism? Oh, I'm not sure. Right. Old Christian. No, we need to draw the best that we can from the old, but we can't go backwards. We have to actually articulate this new story of value in which medicine is dancing with Dharma. Which is dancing with politics. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Well, I think what he was pointing to the place where for him, Dharma seemed to live is in the indigenous practices of the Fremen. You know, like the way that they actually handled the water and cared for the water that was within each being and then they poured the water back into the collective well. And there was this true self concept of the connection to the field and the sacred honoring of life. Every life that passes and the wailing and the grief and so you have this beautiful dance with wolves, Avatar, you know the indigenous this kind of pre-tragic sense of value that the indigenous hole.

MARC GAFNI: Yes and you're bringing to bear our structure of pre tragic, I think is exactly right. In other words, modernity, at least in its public conversation, is pre tragic in regard to value. So I think you're absolutely right, brother. He thinks Oh my God, desert power is what you're describing, right? And the skin suits, right? And everything you described. And in fact, the Fremen are originally Zensunnis, right? Who kind of landed and crashed into Arrakis. But then what happens is, the Fremen themselves don't articulate a field of value, meaning they move into, are you with us or against us? Right? So they're actually quite brutal. Right? In other words, they're willing to throw out Jessica and Paul back into the desert because they're not part of the tribe. 

AUBREY MARCUS: They’re ethnocentric. Yep. 

MARC GAFNI: They're completely ethnocentric. They're driven by a fundamentalist prophecy. They want to replace the feudal lord with a feudal messiah, essentially, and the goddess is standing against it. As you said, brother, Chani says, and her friend Chani says, no, the enlightened vision. There's two enlightened visions in the movie, the house of Atreides and Chani and her friends who actually say men and women are equal. Actually, no one's dominating. Actually, we all act for the sake of the whole, right? Actually, this prophecy shit, stop that, right? We're not going to wait, right? We need to actually step into our own freedom and autonomy. They actually embody intuitively this possibility of value as to the House of Atreides. And it's why Paul's attracted to her, Paul sees her, Paul's drawn to her. Those are the models of value. But in the rest of the movie, Paul's struggling to stay. The whole movie is struggling to stay close to the field of value. He does it through Chani He does it through loyalty to his father, but there's no articulation of this new story of value. I mean in our language, we would say there's no cosmo erotic humanism. There's no unique self theory. They haven't well answered what we would call the three great questions of cosmo erotic humanism or the three great questions of life. Who are you? Right? Who the fuck are you? Who are you? Who are we? Where am I? Where are we? And what ought I do? And what ought we do? The answers to those three questions, as you and I have talked so many times together, those create reality. And those questions are not well answered. It's all skipped in a kind of apocalyptic medicine, explosion, drama, and the result is 60 billion people dead. And I mean, it's so deep because at this moment of medic, we're at this moment of metacrisis. In some sense, they try and they solve the metacrisis bypassing the field of value. And what we need is medicine in the field of value to dance together, right? So that we bring together the great strategy of the Bene Gesserit before they do the irredeemable because they're exiled from their own hearts, right? Jessica rebels against the Bene Gesserit by falling in love, right? We need to bring together the fighting power. I mean, I remember Chani's unbelievable fighting, right? She's like, right. And that since she's awesome, but she's a man and woman together. She's Harris Gamos. Paul's both heart and, but none of it's going to work, right. If we only make the Frank Herbert move and the Frank Herbert move goes backwards. Let's go back to the ancient traditions and let's bring all those fundamentalisms together. But he doesn't see it's 1965. We don't fault him. We love him, and we need to rewrite a new dune. There's a new dune to be written, and Brian Herbert keeps doing what his dad did with all due respect. But there's actually a new dune that needs to be written and in this new dune that feeds to be written. Messiahs are being born everywhere, right? They're being born in Yemen and they're being born in Canada and they're being born in New Zealand and they're men and they're women and they're messiahs are being born every place into the field of value and there

AUBREY MARCUS: And there's a radical democratization of desert power, which represents the power of Pachumama. And the democratization of medicine, which represents the spice in the water of life. Like all of the medicine becomes universally available. And so all of that messianic consciousness, everybody has access to. And then there's a certain sense of this Sangga, a community that actually holds the Messiah accountable because there's many different visions. And you sit down and you pass the Chinupa and you pass the tobacco and you share your visions. And then you have the Galactic Council, which is another vision, like Matias's vision of what he believes actually exists. This Galactic Council that's looking from a field of value of what is the best thing to do for the galaxy. 

MARC GAFNI: And let's pick up one sentence you just said, it was, we hold the Messiah accountable, right? Meaning we don't kill the Messiah. See what you said, so important, right? In other words, you held the dialectic in it so beautifully. We hold the Messiah accountable, meaning not that we kill leadership. Not that there's only a Sangga, no Buddhas, not that there's no attainment, not that there's not a holistic hierarchy, because what we do is we kill our leaders, right? Martin Luther King emerges, we kill him. Malcolm X emerges, we kill him, right. Robert F. Kennedy emerges between 1963 and 1967, goes to an incredible transformation documented in Jack Newfield's book about those four years in his life, and we kill him. Right? In other words, what we do is we're not willing to allow Messiahs to emerge. That also is problematic, right? So it's not just a leveling of difference. It's not that there's no leadership. It's not that there's not a philosopher king. We need philosopher kings. We need Buddhas, right? We need leaders. We need to be able to, and I think what you're saying is so beautiful, right? And so correct. We need to both hold our leaders accountable. And yet allow them to be imperfect vessels for the light, right? And at the same time respond to their radiance and allow for leadership. What we've done is postmodernity has destroyed leadership. And it's anytime leadership starts to emerge. We move to destroy it and there's a whole sector in postmodern society and also within the intelligentsia, right, where people were, you can feel it in the writing with just, you know, anyone who hasn't taken a leadership position, right, who's kind of on the border of it, or can't quite find their way to it. Instead of just saying, Hey, my role is this, and your role is this, and we have different instruments to play in the unique self symphony, we go to assassinate, to destroy every kind of emergent leadership, whether that's in medicine, someone's practicing at the cutting edge, we call that malpractice. Now, of course, there should be standards for malpractice, but a person's got to be able to reach the best therapy, the best politics, the best doctors. We look to destroy them. And by the way, I think the example of Robert F. Kennedy's son, who's now, you know, running for president, is a good example. Because what's happening in public culture, right, there's both a groundswell around them, but those who are opposing, they're not opposing based on substantial grounds. They're saying, quack. I mean, that's assassination. Oh, why? Vaccines. Did you bother reading or doing any research? No. And it's literally a canard where we go to assassinate because we're afraid of real leadership emerging. So, I think that's the other point that Dune touches on, which is really important, which is we need to actually protect leadership. Right. So we've talked about all the shadows, but I think there's something we need to protect the past to take it away, brother. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah. I mean, what I'm thinking is that we've internalized the axiom of Lord Acton that says power corrupts and absolute power corrupts. Absolutely. So when we've internalized that power equals corruption and anybody who stands strongly in their power as a leader, as a king, kings are always corrupt. They're always tyrants. Emperor's are always going to be tyrannical. This is always going to be the case as soon as anybody has real power, we go, better kill them now so that they don't actually wield this power over us and hidden in the shadow of that is our envy, in our jealousy and all of these other things in our own virtuosity that is being masked behind all of these shadow qualities that we have. But we're trying to just kill anybody that could wield power, one from fear and the other from envy.

MARC GAFNI: I know. And yes. In other words, what you're saying is, and I think what we're saying together is. We refuse to trust the possibility of sincerity. Chani, you know, Lionel Trilling talks about the beauty of sincerity. Chani says, I trust him because he's sincere. So words like devotion, words like purity, right? Words like sincerity. Right? We look in every way possible to show that those words are not true about our leaders because somehow they make us feel less. And we look to level differences instead of growing, right? And so instead of actually emerging ourselves and emerging our leaders and our leaders themselves feeling that they'll be backed and supported by stepping into their destiny. Because that's also, there's a moment where a leader has to, you know, he says to his father at a certain moment in movie two, he says, I found my way. Right. Now there's a leader who has got to find their way, but we go to essentially destroy leadership. And I want to just maybe give an example in which I've experienced many times. I talk about evolutionary love or outrageous love. And so, if you've had that experience, you actually feel, right, this eros of reality coursing through you. And your heart's blown open. And you want to love everyone in the world. And you want to just bow and kiss everyone's feet and be in devotion to everyone. Not because you're crazy. Because you're actually feeling the actual experience of reality. That's what a prophet feels at their core. A prophet's filled with eros. But a person who's never had access to that feeling, so the only way they can interpret it is, oh it must be manipulative. Oh it must have an agenda because they have no access to any other experience of it. And what you're saying about power is so important, right? Power is actually an elixir, that there's a pleasure of power. We're talking about God's infinity of power, and power can be terribly abusive. And we need obviously to always clarify power, but actually power itself, right? Is the quality of what's called El, godness, right? And we need to be able to incarnate our unique power and to actually trust the goodness of power. Now, can power corrupt? Right? You and I talked about, I think in a podcast we haven't actually released or something, I think about the ring of Sauron. Right? Which is kind of power for its own sake and the utter anti life seduction of power. So yes, you and I, we recognize the shadow side of power. Lord Acton didn't get it all wrong, but he did get it wrong because there's actually the hero who, the hero is powerful and the hero incarnates the field of value. And in the hero power, love, and value come together as a Holy Trinity that can't be disambiguated. And if we go to destroy our heroes. And to actually undermine the appropriate deployment of power and value and love together. We're left with Shaddam IV. We're left with the Bene Gesserit. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, it becomes this in the shadow, in the vacuum, that is left from someone claiming the power and binding it to love and value. Then you have the shadowy figures who are behind the veil, who are really pulling the strings and disconnected from any field of value. And they're the ones wielding the power. And I think a lot of people are, whether true or not true, they're hypothesizing that that's actually who's running the world right now is this shadow form of power. Oh no. I'm just the director of the WHO. Oh no. I'm just the director of the world economic forum. I'm just worried about, Oh, I'm 


AUBREY MARCUS: I'm just George Soros and I'm just Bill Gates. I'm a philanthropist. I'm just all, but like. And I'm not saying that I don't have any, I can't prove that any of these people are the ones actually pulling the strings or that there is anybody actually pulling the strings, but we're intuiting that there's, since nobody's claimed power in this virtuous way and bound it with love, we can feel that there's a shadowy force, whether it's tacit or overt, this conspiratorial force that's driving us towards anti life decisions, just like the Bene Gesserit through the hands of the emperor, but also on their own devices, were driving the universe through these very moral objectionable decisions.


MARC GAFNI: No, I mean, yes, brother, and I have one thing to say. Atreides! 


MARC GAFNI: Atreides! 


MARC GAFNI: Atreides! Yes! I mean, beautiful. And by the way, Duncan Idaho. Do we love Duncan Idaho, right? Duncan Idaho, right? He’S awesome, right? It turns out at the very end of Frank Herbert's last dune trilogy, Paul realizes, you know, Duncan Idaho returns is what's called a Gola where they resurrect his kind of DNA and they're able to kind of re-invest him with life. And there's a particular house that is very competent and that becomes one of the key themes in the later Dune Messiah. At the end of one moment in this huge saga, Paul realizes that Duncan Idaho is the true Kwisatz Haderach, that he's the true leader, right? Because 


MARC GAFNI: Yeah, that he actually is noble. Right. He's a warrior, right? He sacrifices his life to save Jessica, right? And Paul, he happens again, he sacrifices his life again. And then he says, and this is the second time I'm dying for Atreides, right? And he's this noble figure. And we need to reclaim the nobility of power, right? As a possibility. We're literally, I mean, can I be personal for a moment? I remember it was some years ago when you and I started talking, right? And so I remember that, I don't remember who it was, but there was some comment that someone said to you was, Oh, like, right, but when you talk to him, didn't you feel like he moved you to certain positions? You felt like you kind of lost your bearing for a second, right? And so the point the person was making is anyone who's powerful that makes you lose your bearing for a second. It's dangerous. Now I look for people who can make me lose my bearing. My favorite people in the world, right, and I trust you to make me lose my bearing for a second, right? Meaning if I don't trust your power, right? And basically you're just, no, we actually want people to challenge us, to deepen us, to transform us, not by violating our integrity, right? Not by overcoming our agency, your distinction about shamanism earlier, but by actually being powerful, right? And we're afraid of power. And this is maybe the last thing I think, Jimi Hendrix, you know, on his guitar and Star Spangled Banner and we're at Woodstock and he's awesome and he dies at 26 and he lives this epic, tragic, post tragic, pre tragic, crazy life. You know, but he got one thing really wrong, right? Where he says, you know, when we get to a place where the power of love is so much greater than the love of power. It's a wrong split. It's actually not true. Love and power are fully and absolutely entwined. Love is the ultimate power. 


MARC GAFNI: Love is not weak. Love is strong, but it's the strongest force in the cosmos. It's the most powerful force in the cosmos. 

AUBREY MARCUS: And I think this is one of the places where I think that Paul and the Fremen lost their way in that there's a statement that said, we have limited resources. So fear is the resource we have. Right. And that's a paraphrase of the quote.


MARC GAFNI: Paul says that to Gurney Halleck, when he says you only have two, we said we only have 200 men. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, and he says so like so fear is the resource we have. And so, I can understand that from a pragmatic sense that they did have limited resources, but the resource that they were overlooking was love. Love as the ultimate power and what I think there's a great fictional series called the fifth sacred thing By this old witch named Starhawk, and she identifies herself as an old witch, so it's not mixed.

MARC GAFNI: Starhawk sure, I read Starhawk years ago. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Yeah, so in the fifth sacred thing, there's this dystopian society. So, as close to as corrupt as the Harkonnens, but not quite that irredeemable. They go to besiege this kind of Fremen 60s utopian kind of society in the north. And instead of using power and fear to overcome the enemy, they actually invite them in for a seat at the table and they trust that the love that they have will actually convert the colonizers, convert the dystopian society, and actually redeem them. And then, that's the resolution of the conflict, is that they actually trust the power of love. And they trust that both, that love does have that sufficient power. 

MARC GAFNI: Yes, and that it's wildly tender and insanely fierce. 


MARC GAFNI: And then we think that one of the reasons brother, that I started to talk about outrageous love and I just refused to use the word love anymore by itself is because it's become so tepid, right? So flaccid, right? So, you know, impotent actually, right? In other words, we think of love as this cherubic little baby playing a harp someplace, right? That you definitely would not want to make love to, right? And would certainly not trust to lead a nation, right? Or to tell you anything else. So, this sense of love is this fierce force. And the reason we know it's a fierce force is not because we're making a new age claim now, no, because actually, and this is again, Frank Herbert, this was before his time, but we actually know now in terms of the best sciences that we're now bringing together in this new story of value, that actually it is Eros, which is the animating energy of cosmos that the entire cosmos is driven by this force of allurement and that electromagnetism and gravity are but shades of Eros. They're but shades of allurement. And so when you think of a supernova, right? That's forming new bonds and new valences and all the elements from stars, you're thinking about love, right? In other words, and as love has many forms and many expressions, but love is that which moves separate parts to become larger holes. And that love keeps evolving until no one's left out of the circle. And it's this fierce, powerful force that we need to reclaim. And I love that scene that you bring to bear where he says, all else we have is fear. And he's right. And all of the redeeming moments in Dune are love stories. Right? It's Chani and Paul. It's Jessica and Paul, right? Even the emperor and his daughter for a second, you see a flicker, right? You see an early Lato and Jessica, right. You see? Right. In other words, the beautiful 

AUBREY MARCUS: Duncan and Paul, Lato and Paul. Like all of these

MARC GAFNI: Duncan and Paul, Gurney Halleck and Paul, right? I mean, it's the mother and the baby. It's Jessica and Aaliyah. Anything that moves us is a love story. 


MARC GAFNI: Right? Ending that movie is a love story. I mean, it's beautiful. Let's just hold that for a second. 

AUBREY MARCUS: As we move to close here, I think one of the things we want to illuminate is where are we in the story right now, us? And what is this tale of Dune? What is it pointing to? And what can we illuminate about our own path and the decisions that we have to make in these coming months, weeks, years, you know, centuries, even as we look throughout the span of time, what are the things that we can learn from these stories that are being told and how can we actually, what ought we do? You know, that sacred question that we ask, what ought we do? 

MARC GAFNI: Yeah, what ought we do?

AUBREY MARCUS: How does this film help us understand what ought we do?  

MARC GAFNI: Yeah, beautiful, Abs. I mean, when you think about it, after we thought that we killed all the gods, we'd move from the traditional world into modernity. With Homo economicus and rational actors and narrow self interests and my suburban home with my two cars, right, in my “successful life”, and we thought, okay, we've arrived. And it turned out that wasn't quite true. It turned out that actually human beings are more than that, that actually human beings yearn for prophecy. That human beings feel the call of messianic vision, that human beings are moved by world visions, by Jihad, by medicine, by transformation, by psychedelics, by the grand sweep and story of history and most important, we want to feel and participate in and get this sense that this galactic story that could go absolutely wild in all of the worst ways could actually find its way. And an insipid, merely secular structure, as important as it might be, like democracy. Democracy is as important and beautiful as it is. Winston Churchill, the worst thing we've ever done, but the best of the worst. We don't have a better system. So, of course, but it's not enough. So we need to actually become fierce about the depth and beauty of the field of value, the depth and beauty of democratizations of medicine, democratizations of prophecy, democratizations of enlightenment. We need to be willing to enact new leadership, but to bring together the political and the mystical, right? To bring together spice and resources. You know, to reimagine our relationship to power, and most important, to reimagine our relationship to the power of love of Eros, right, of a reality that is a Cosmerotic universe. And in some sense, I would say, my brother Aubrey, what we're doing together in the Great Library, right, is actually to write a Great Dune Library. I mean, that's really what we want to do. And we need to write books about first principles and first values and books about Eros and books about the universal love story. But we also need to make great movies and tell great sagas about what the possibility is. And that's really what Dune tells us. It tells us, tell me a story, paint me a picture, show me a vision. And we have an overwhelming, wild, erotic imperative to respond to that yearning and to articulate a vision of such unimaginable beauty, such immense depth, such profound allurement that actually we enact a new universe. Frank Herbert with his pen, you know, enacted a Dune universe. We need to enact a new universe out of a field of value, and we need to tell that story in a kind of new Shakespeare, right? A new possibility. And if we don't do that, we're sitting against Eros herself.

AUBREY MARCUS: Yes, stories move culture, and it's beautiful that we got to dive into, you know, Herbert's story here in Dune because it's so complex and it's art. This is art. The art in its greatest, you know, one of the great things about art is it inspires questions. It requires you to participate in questioning, Whoa, what is good? What is wrong? What is right? What is wrong? What is good? What is bad? It inspires the questions that we need to ask ourselves. And that's what these stories are doing, and I really appreciated that about the Dune series is that they allowed room for the ambiguity of, is this the hero or the anti hero? Is this good or bad? There was complexity. And I think that was the brilliance of this series. And we also want to, then say, okay, now from all of this ambiguity and all of this coalescence of all these different ideas, what is the clear way through? What is the clear path and what is the right action to take?

MARC GAFNI: Totally. Right. In other words, gorgeous. Dune didn't provide the answers. It didn't come up with a set of right answers, but Dune was asking the right questions. 


MARC GAFNIi: And that's huge. And it's on us to create a new house of Atreides. Now, and I want to get this and I want to just get that feeling in a listener who will say, how could Gafni say that? That's so grandiose. No, that's exactly the point. We're afraid of our power, right? We need to create a new house of Atreides. Of course we do. And it's got to be a universal house and it can't be Jewish or Christian or Jihadic or secular humanist. It's got to be a place, a tent that's so big and a shared field of value. And that we fight for that house of Atreides with all the wiliness of the Harkonnens. That's what he says to his mother, we're going to have to take our Harkonnen side to get through here, but we don't lose access to the core of Atreides. And that's what reality needs now. A new great house. And a new great house not to dominate, but a new great house to gather together the leaders, right, in a shared field of value in which everyone's giving and playing their instrument in what we call the unique self symphony, Atreides. I mean, that's my last word, and our last word, Atreides. Atreides.


MARC GAFNI: Atreides. That's what we need. 


MARC GAFNI: Yeah, and not to be embarrassed by it.

AUBREY MARCUS: Step into the fullness of what is possible. When you listen and you allow yourself to be contested against, can you allow these different rigid structures of, Oh, you can't do this because you're not of this culture of this society. We need to collapse all of that and say, everybody, let's get together. Let's sit down. Let's see the medicine, feel the medicine. Look at the whole, honor the individual. Every life matters. No one's outside of the circle. Let's figure this fucking thing out

MARC GAFNI: Amen. Amen, brother. Atreides. Amen. I love you. 

AUBREY MARCUS: Atreides. I love you too. Dune. 

MARC GAFNI: Dune. Ciao!