7

The Ixians have their technology, and the Tleilaxu their genetics. The Imperium has armed forces and planetary resources(and manpower), and the Guild has its space travel.

How really are the Bene Gesserit powerful?

Of course they are very accomplished and super-cool in themselves, with prana-bindu and the vast wealth of scholarship. But how do they hold sway over others? What clout/resources do they hold which will get them things they want/need from others(other players)?

The only things I can imagine is, the aristocracy of the Imperium patronised them for the breeding and the training etc. they provided. The God-Emperor had them on welfare throughout his reign. Also maybe, the followers of those religions they toyed with provided them with some tithes etc. I imagine.

But how did they manage to be such a power in the universe? What did they have to keep themselves going and expanding? Especially after the translation of the God-Emperor?

  • The God Emperor suffered them to continue existing, largely because eliminating them would have been messy and they (occasionally) provided him with some amusement. – Valorum May 7 at 10:17
  • @Valorium And because they were the closest thing like him(yet so far) – Rohit May 7 at 10:26
  • That was also the reason he considered ending them, because they were sufficiently close as to divine his plan and (potentially) derail it. – Valorum May 7 at 10:26
  • @Valorum Started Heretics recently. The Bene Gesserit seem so central here. (And so badass) – Rohit May 7 at 10:29
  • Indeed. Eventually the BG start to dominate entire planets. – Valorum May 7 at 10:37
17

The Bene Gesserit tend to avoid direct power within the Imperium, preferring to act as consorts, wives and concubines of the rich and powerful, to whom they can offer many things;

  • Truthsaying - the Bene Gesserit rent/sell their Truthsayers, women who possess the ability to sense and divine the truth of a statement made.

    “Why haven’t you ever bought a Bene Gesserit, Uncle?” Feyd-Rautha asked. “With a Truthsayer at your side—”

    Dune

  • Perfect genetics - Their offspring will (almost) always be fit and healthy.

  • Long life + Good Health - The Bene Gesserit have techniques ("body balance") that ensure that they will outlive a potential mate, even if they marry someone younger.

    “Are you sure of that? I’ve already sent word to the Sisterhood that Alia practices the unthinkable. Look at her! She’s not aged a day since last I …”
    “Oh, that!” He dismissed Bene Gesserit body balance with a wave of his hand. “I’m speaking of something else — a perfection of being far beyond anything humans have ever before achieved.”

    Dune

  • Tactical insight - Bene Gesserit wives are trained in the management of Noble Houses (and their fiefdoms) and can act in the stead of their husband, anticipating their needs perfectly. Jessica's "business training" was one of the key reasons she was chosen by the Duke.

    “Busy! What is it that takes most of my time, Wellington? I am the Duke’s secretary—so busy that each day I learn new things to fear … things even he doesn’t suspect I know.” She compressed her lips, spoke thinly: “Sometimes I wonder how much my Bene Gesserit business training figured in his choice of me.”

    Dune

  • Knowledge of espionage and counter-espionage - They can detect enemies from the slightest evidence.

    Jessica sat remembering a lecture from her Bene Gesserit school days. The subject had been espionage and counter-espionage. A plump, happy-faced Reverend Mother had been the lecturer, her jolly voice contrasting weirdly with the subject matter.

    Dune

  • Sexual prowess - Bene Gesserit wives and concubines are trained in the sexual arts to a considerable degree.

  • Translation - Bene Gesserit adepts speak all human language perfectly.

    “Tongues are the Bene Gesserit’s first learning,” Jessica said

    Dune


  • And at the very bottom of it all is the subtle use of 'voice' and body language that can be used to directly influence (and basically command) even the most powerful of individuals to do the bidding of the Bene Gesserit.

  • The Dune Encyclopedia also lists some of the activities that the Bene Gesserit were involved in. My comments are [bracketed]

    Mater Pecuniam Collocarein charge of the investment portfolios (also, usually the chief negotiator with CHOAM) - [This indicates that the BG had CHOAM holdings as well as significant financial reserves of their own].

    Procuratrixin charge of concubinage and arranged marriages [as discussed above]

    Docitrix Vocisin charge of Voice use in political situations, also use of ''sealed tongue'' commands and "embedded" commands - [Evidently the BG were in the habit of using Voice to effect political changes and also to emplace hypnotic triggers into personages of potential future important].

    Mater Salsain charge of the melange supply [The BG apparently had significant Spice holdings of their own]

  • "preferring to act as consorts, wives and concubines of the rich and powerful" That was in the Corrino Imperium. How did they get by in the Famine Times etc. where there were no rich and powerful. And how did they become a Great Power, by the time the plot reaches Heretics? That was what I was looking for as an answer sort of – Rohit May 7 at 10:35
  • @Rohit - The eminence grise, with their own hidden agenda – Valorum May 7 at 10:36
  • There was also the way they manipulates societies and traditions so there was always a role of influence a BG could step into anywhere she went. – DavidW May 7 at 10:51
  • @DavidW - That tended to be geared more toward primitive societies and planets but you're not wrong. The BG have a simple reputation for being 'witches' which carries a certain amount of chic – Valorum May 7 at 10:53
  • 1
    All this (excellent) answer can be summarised in one thing: influence. They have unseen and unperceived influence. They are the puppeteers. They do that by being secretive and extremely valuable (for the reasons explained in this answer). Prior to Paul, no body really knew. After Paul they lost their influence and the whole following 5000 years they struggle and fight to recover that influence. – Jorge Córdoba May 7 at 22:24

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