Appendix III: Report on the Bene Gesserit Motives and Purposes
On the surface it would seem that the Golden Path of Leto II was that plan and he was in charge, but he was not alive during the Arrakis Affair. Also one might think that it's Paul himself but Mr Herbert seems to indicate that it started before even Paul's birth.

The Lady Jessica was ordered to produce an Atreides daughter. The plan was to inbreed this daughter with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, a nephew of the Baron Vladimir, with the high probability of a Kwisatz Haderach from that union. Instead, for reasons she confesses have never been completely clear to her, the concubine Lady Jessica defied her orders and bore a son.

This alone should have alerted the Bene Gesserit to the possibility that a wild variable had entered their scheme. But there were other far more important indications that they virtually ignored:

The Report is a scathing criticism of the Gesserit multi-generational plan and ends the book with the hair raising:

In the face of these facts, one is led to the inescapable conclusion that the inefficient Bene Gesserit behavior in this affair was a product of an even higher plan of which they were completely unaware!

In many years of (re)reading the original books I don't see an answer, did I miss it, or is there an answer in the subsequent works not written by Mr Frank Herbert?

  • 2
    In this instance I suspect that the BG are trying to blame their failure on external "planners" when in fact the failure was as a result of their own overconfidence.
    – Valorum
    Nov 27, 2015 at 23:09
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    When I first read this, I assumed they were blaming a literal God.
    – Valorum
    Nov 27, 2015 at 23:24
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    @Richard - I was under impression that Bene Gesserit didn't actually believe in literal God? scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/108907/… Nov 27, 2015 at 23:41
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    I would suppose that Brian Herbert would say that Norma / the Oracle of Time was the master-planner.
    – Shamshiel
    Nov 27, 2015 at 23:53
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    It’s almost as if there’s some dude outside of the Bene Gesserit’s awareness who’s deciding what happens! Recently-discovered ancient stone tablets from Arrakis suggest that this mysterious being may be an all-powerful entity known only as “Hank Frerbert”. May 5 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


If you look at the entirety of the Dune books from not just Frank Herbert, but also his son, one character in particular has an expansive capability in the higher order dimensions that surpasses Leto II's: Norma Cenva.

She has existed in the expanded Dune timeline from the beginnings of the Butlerian Jihad against Omnius (born 218 B.G), all through the Arrakis Affair (culminating 10,193 A.G.), and up until the final (2nd) battle against Omnius at the Kralizec (eliminated Omnius 15,263 A.G.). A total of 15,000 years.

After transforming in 174 B.G. then becoming the first Navigator in 88 B.G., she evolves and grows in powers far beyond a normal Navigator during her 15,000 years of existence. She is eventually revealed to be the Oracle of Time in "Hunters of Dune" that has been planning and guiding humanity until the final battle at the Kralizec. According to published canon, Norma is that higher level planner/power that Frank Herbert alluded to in his original novels.

"Hunters of Dune" and "Sandworms of Dune" were written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson based upon Frank Herbert's own 1,000 pages of notes and a 3 page outline (note the accepted answer says a 30 page outline but I listened to the interview, and Kevin states "a three page or maybe a two-and-one-half page outline"). There is considerable fan debate about how many of the plot details in those two books were originally from Frank's own ideas. It is not publicly known in those 1,000 pages of Frank's notes if Frank defined the Oracle of Time character or if Frank specified that Norma Cenva would fill that role.

  • Excellent, I was thinking of her, but was trying to see if there was a Frank Herbert solution. +1, But I'll reserve acceptance for a day or so, so others may chime in. Nov 28, 2015 at 0:01
  • Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune were written based upon Frank Herbert's own notes. So many of the elemental plot elements in those two books were likely Frank's. I do not believe its publicly known whether Frank's notes include the Oracle of Time character or that Norma Cenva would fill that role.
    – cybermike
    Nov 28, 2015 at 0:07
  • Again, you read my mind, I wondered if she was a Frank Herbert creation. Until those notes are made public, we will have questions like this one. Nov 28, 2015 at 0:13
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    Have these notes been published anywhere for review? I'm of the opinion these "notes" are just a post-it with "Must write Dune 8. Need cat food."
    – heptapod
    Nov 28, 2015 at 1:30
  • Frank's notes for "Dune 7" were over 1,000 pages plus a 3 page outline. See the SciFi.StackExchange.com link I added to the answer.
    – cybermike
    Nov 28, 2015 at 1:47

If we go with the Frank Herbert only books, we never get a direct answer. But I believe the answer is there. In Dune, right after Paul has his waking dream he thinks this:

He remained silent, thinking like the seed he was, thinking with the race consciousness he had first experienced as terrible purpose. He found that he no longer could hate the Bene Gesserit or the Emperor or even the Harkonnens. They were all caught up in the need of their race to renew its scattered inheritance, to cross and mingle and infuse their bloodlines in a great new pooling of genes. And the race knew only one sure way for this--the ancient way, the tried and certain way that rolled over everything in its path: jihad.

I believe the answer is "all of humanity itself". The entire race of humankind was feeling its mortality and created the situation necessary to move, expand, mingle the genes and insure survival. This would be the higher order force that created the crisis on Arrakis.

This is possible, as is mentioned in Heretics of Dune:

"Dangers," Taraza repeated. "The great mass of humankind possesses an unmistakable unit-identity. It can be one thing. It can act as a single organism."

I believe this is the source of the higher order plan. The entire collective consciousness of humankind.


Jessica's agents, the authors of the report (see below quote and link), are unlikely to have knowledge of an actual higher plan. So then we have to examine what are the motives, who is the audience and what agenda is being promoted.

I'd speculate its purpose (in-universe) is to create a paper trail for future historians documenting the fall of the Atreides. Diminish the prestige of the Bene Gesserit. Finally, to answer the question, promote Paul's role as the leader of the fremen religion that the galaxy is being converted to. Just as "God created Arrakis to train the faithful." presumably Jessica's agents would imply God can confuse the plans of the Bene Gesserit to clear the path for Paul to take his rightful place as the apex of God's plan.

I suspect this motive applies elsewhere in the report too. Jessica goes on record as being unsure why she had a son. It seems pretty standard for the out-universe reader to conclude Love. Leto wanted a son and Jessica loved Leto more than her Order. Perhaps that doesn't have the propaganda value that reasons "never been completely clear to her" do if hinting at a divine plan.


Appendix III. Report on Bene Gesserit Motives and Purposes

Here follows an exerpt from the Summa prepared by her own agents at the request of the Lady Jessica immediately after the Arrakis Affair. The candor of this report amplifies its value far beyond the ordinary.

(Thanks to AcePL for the link from the answer here Is the supposedly fake prophecy of Mahdi that the Bene Gesserit implanted on Arrakis actually a real prophecy? )

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