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    The Tleilaxu and Religion

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    The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby georgiedenbro » 06 Mar 2015 16:54

    A large shift seems to occur in Tleilaxu society between the early Dune books and the later ones. But this shift is never brought up and we'd only know it ever happened by collecting scraps of information from here and there. Let's take a look first at a couple of quotes from Bijaz from DM:

    DM wrote:"You believed the silly Emperor was the prize we sought," Bijaz said. "How
    little you understand our masters, the Tleilaxu. The Guild and Bene Gesserit
    believe we produce artifacts. In reality, we produce tools and services.
    Anything can be a tool -- poverty, war. War is useful because it is effective in
    so many areas. It stimulates the metabolism. It enforces government. It diffuses
    genetic strains. It possesses a vitality such as nothing else in the universe.
    Only those who recognize the value of war and exercise it have any degree of
    self-determination."


    This first quote establishes that the Tleilaxu are interested in researching not only technology but also various methods of control, legal or forbidden.

    DM wrote:"And if you're not yet close enough to strike, speak of how much the
    Tleilaxu admire what he has taught them about the possibilities of religion.
    Tell him the Tleilaxu have a department of religious engineering, shaping
    religions to particular needs."


    Here we see that the Tleilaxu have a department of religious engineering, reminiscent of themes in The Dragon in the Sea. Bijaz seems to be indicating that Muad'Dib taught them something new, pertaining to the merging of religion with government.

    Fast forward a little to GEoD and further, and by now we've read on a few occasions that the Tleilaxu have a sort of strange reverence for Muad'Dib, and even for Leto II. This is not explained when it's brought up, and seems like it implies more than merely admiring how powerful they were as rulers.

    Now finally we get to Heretics and CH:D, where we learn for the first time that Tleilaxu society is a complete theocracy, with the religion so pervasive that even the Tleilaxu Masters are restrained by its tenets. And now we're set to put the pieces together. It appears that in Muad'Dib's time the Tleilaxu decided to implement a religious government on their world for the first time for the purposes of control. By the time of Heretics this religion had gone far past the point of merely being the trappings of religion to manipulate the people, but had become a real religion where everyone believed it. It's no wonder they would revere Muad'Dib, since they would probably have credited him for founding their religion, in a sense.

    By Muad'Dib's time the BG were already aware of the possibility of merging the state with a religion, and they knew how dangerous it was. Jessica relates this fact to Alia in CoD, telling her how dangerous it is to balance statecraft and religion. Perhaps the BG at one point experienced the problem of adopting the trappings of religion; it has the danger of becoming a true religion as it did for the Tleilaxu, and taking hold of the people who thought they controlled it.

    The question remains, what kind of society did the Tleilaxu have at the time of Muad'Dib and before? We aren't told, but based on Bijaz's comments it seems they were a secretive research-based society, probably secular, and very interested in the idea of power. Sounds sort of like us right now, no? But we are very subtly told the danger of their methods; the methods took them over and by the time of Heretics they had become a strange people on an extremist religious mission.

    The cool thing about this turn of events in the books is that we can't actually understand it without reading the final books and then going back to re-read the earlier ones. Bijaz's comments are not that noteworthy on a first read, but after having read the last three books take on a whole new meaning.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby JasonJD48 » 10 Mar 2015 10:47

    I've asked myself this same question. Taraza says the Tleilaxu are Zensunni (like the Fremen) and Sufi. Both would obviously have ancient roots, not engineered by the Tleilaxu. The other problem is that the Masters should at-least have memories back to Muad'Dib's time, so if their religion started as a control experiment, they would know, and if they know, why do they still believe fervently? They see Leto II as a prophet of their god, much as the Fremen saw Paul, maybe the Zensunni part is susceptible to this? They must have come to this conclusion only relatively recently however, since they tried various schemes to kill him right up until his death by other means. I don't know, I'm inclined to think Frank just evolved his thinking on them over time.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby georgiedenbro » 10 Mar 2015 11:14

    JasonJD48 wrote:I've asked myself this same question. Taraza says the Tleilaxu are Zensunni (like the Fremen) and Sufi. Both would obviously have ancient roots, not engineered by the Tleilaxu. The other problem is that the Masters should at-least have memories back to Muad'Dib's time, so if their religion started as a control experiment, they would know, and if they know, why do they still believe fervently? They see Leto II as a prophet of their god, much as the Fremen saw Paul, maybe the Zensunni part is susceptible to this? They must have come to this conclusion only relatively recently however, since they tried various schemes to kill him right up until his death by other means. I don't know, I'm inclined to think Frank just evolved his thinking on them over time.


    I would guess the idea is that the human mind is very susceptible to belief in something like religion, and one must take active steps to prevent oneself falling into that kind of thinking. I expect that the education a noble in the Imperium would receive would include the message that religion is only to control the masses. But after centuries of 'pretending' to be religious, I doubt even the masters could avoid succumbing to becoming what they pretend to be. The Bene Gesserit, for instance, seem very focused on establishing a line between what they tell others and between what they say amongst themselves in private. The Dune Appendix II says they have all the trappings of religion, except they deny they are a religious order of any kind, and this is likely true since in private we assume they discuss all the ways in which religion is a tool. If the Tleilaxu were not as careful to establish such a clear-cut distinction then they'd probably start to buy into their preaching eventually, especially since it was of a self-aggrandizing form that exalted the Masters all the more. Remember that the Tleilaxu don't have the benefit of OM like the BG do, and so they'd not have the wisdom from the past to draw upon to warn them of the dangers of adopting a religious social order.

    I agree with you that FH probably didn't have this plotted out from the get-go and added to it as he went along. However you do raise a point that's made me consider another possibility, albeit one without evidence as far as I can tell:

    What if the Tleilaxu leaders who later became the Masters had been religious all along, but paradoxically had kept the religion only to their small inner circle and away from the masses? Then in Muad'Dib's time they would have decided to spread it around for control purposes, but it would still be their true religion as well. I don't know that anything other than speculation shows this, although it does have the convenience of explaining why they chose for Hayt to be trained as a Zensunni philosopher - it would be because they believed in that kind of thinking themselves and knew it would help him. It would also add a bit to Bijaz's comment that Hayt is Tleilaxu, beyond the mere fact that he was a tool being used by them. As a Zensunni maybe he would kind of be 'one of them' even if he didn't work out in their plans after all.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby JasonJD48 » 11 Mar 2015 13:55

    georgiedenbro wrote:
    JasonJD48 wrote:I've asked myself this same question. Taraza says the Tleilaxu are Zensunni (like the Fremen) and Sufi. Both would obviously have ancient roots, not engineered by the Tleilaxu. The other problem is that the Masters should at-least have memories back to Muad'Dib's time, so if their religion started as a control experiment, they would know, and if they know, why do they still believe fervently? They see Leto II as a prophet of their god, much as the Fremen saw Paul, maybe the Zensunni part is susceptible to this? They must have come to this conclusion only relatively recently however, since they tried various schemes to kill him right up until his death by other means. I don't know, I'm inclined to think Frank just evolved his thinking on them over time.


    I would guess the idea is that the human mind is very susceptible to belief in something like religion, and one must take active steps to prevent oneself falling into that kind of thinking. I expect that the education a noble in the Imperium would receive would include the message that religion is only to control the masses. But after centuries of 'pretending' to be religious, I doubt even the masters could avoid succumbing to becoming what they pretend to be. The Bene Gesserit, for instance, seem very focused on establishing a line between what they tell others and between what they say amongst themselves in private. The Dune Appendix II says they have all the trappings of religion, except they deny they are a religious order of any kind, and this is likely true since in private we assume they discuss all the ways in which religion is a tool. If the Tleilaxu were not as careful to establish such a clear-cut distinction then they'd probably start to buy into their preaching eventually, especially since it was of a self-aggrandizing form that exalted the Masters all the more. Remember that the Tleilaxu don't have the benefit of OM like the BG do, and so they'd not have the wisdom from the past to draw upon to warn them of the dangers of adopting a religious social order.

    I agree with you that FH probably didn't have this plotted out from the get-go and added to it as he went along. However you do raise a point that's made me consider another possibility, albeit one without evidence as far as I can tell:

    What if the Tleilaxu leaders who later became the Masters had been religious all along, but paradoxically had kept the religion only to their small inner circle and away from the masses? Then in Muad'Dib's time they would have decided to spread it around for control purposes, but it would still be their true religion as well. I don't know that anything other than speculation shows this, although it does have the convenience of explaining why they chose for Hayt to be trained as a Zensunni philosopher - it would be because they believed in that kind of thinking themselves and knew it would help him. It would also add a bit to Bijaz's comment that Hayt is Tleilaxu, beyond the mere fact that he was a tool being used by them. As a Zensunni maybe he would kind of be 'one of them' even if he didn't work out in their plans after all.


    The Masters don't have Other Memory, but they do have Ghola memory since Muad'Dib's time. So if at that point or after, the Masters decided to create a religion for the purposes of control, they would literally remember it, they would remember planning it, they would recall the meetings, the same way Duncan's memory works. So to me it is hard to believe they fell into their own trap like that. For me Occam says they were always religious, after all we know nothing of them as a society previous to Heretics. Scytale in Messiah tells us nothing or their culture really, all we know is that they are essentially the biological innovators of the Imperium, nothing more.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby georgiedenbro » 11 Mar 2015 14:34

    JasonJD48 wrote:The Masters don't have Other Memory, but they do have Ghola memory since Muad'Dib's time. So if at that point or after, the Masters decided to create a religion for the purposes of control, they would literally remember it, they would remember planning it, they would recall the meetings, the same way Duncan's memory works. So to me it is hard to believe they fell into their own trap like that. For me Occam says they were always religious, after all we know nothing of them as a society previous to Heretics. Scytale in Messiah tells us nothing or their culture really, all we know is that they are essentially the biological innovators of the Imperium, nothing more.


    Although there is much we don't know, one thing we definitely know is that Bijaz tells Hayt that the Tleilaxu are indebted to Paul for teaching them about merging religion and politics. I guess you could argue that the Tleilaxu already had a theocracy before and Paul just helped them improve on it, but honestly the system set up under Paul was fairly straightforward so if the Tleilaxu had a lot to learn from it then they must have been pretty dense before that time. Judging from how canny and wise Scytale in DM is I somehow doubt this is the case. My thought for now is that Bijaz means to say that the Tleilaxu decided to set up a theocracy during Paul's reign, although of course they may well have had a religion before that simply wasn't linked with their government.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby JasonJD48 » 11 Mar 2015 14:49

    georgiedenbro wrote:
    JasonJD48 wrote:The Masters don't have Other Memory, but they do have Ghola memory since Muad'Dib's time. So if at that point or after, the Masters decided to create a religion for the purposes of control, they would literally remember it, they would remember planning it, they would recall the meetings, the same way Duncan's memory works. So to me it is hard to believe they fell into their own trap like that. For me Occam says they were always religious, after all we know nothing of them as a society previous to Heretics. Scytale in Messiah tells us nothing or their culture really, all we know is that they are essentially the biological innovators of the Imperium, nothing more.


    Although there is much we don't know, one thing we definitely know is that Bijaz tells Hayt that the Tleilaxu are indebted to Paul for teaching them about merging religion and politics. I guess you could argue that the Tleilaxu already had a theocracy before and Paul just helped them improve on it, but honestly the system set up under Paul was fairly straightforward so if the Tleilaxu had a lot to learn from it then they must have been pretty dense before that time. Judging from how canny and wise Scytale in DM is I somehow doubt this is the case. My thought for now is that Bijaz means to say that the Tleilaxu decided to set up a theocracy during Paul's reign, although of course they may well have had a religion before that simply wasn't linked with their government.


    DuneMessiah wrote:"And if you're not yet close enough to strike, speak of how much the Tleilaxu admire what he has taught them about the possibilities of religion. Tell him the Tleilaxu have a department of religious engineering, shaping religions to particular needs."


    Two things interesting about this statement is that he says for Hayt to tell Paul this as a way of getting closer to him physically to strike, so it's subterfuge. Whether or not it's true we don't know. Earlier in the conversation Bijaz says that the deal with Paul would include him denouncing his godhead and his sisters divinity as well. I think that if they do have a 'department of religious engineering' the idea is to subvert and hijack Paul's religion. It also says "shaping religions to particular needs" so I don't see this applying to their own (single religion) society, but rather to subvert other worlds.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby georgiedenbro » 11 Mar 2015 23:33

    JasonJD48 wrote:Two things interesting about this statement is that he says for Hayt to tell Paul this as a way of getting closer to him physically to strike, so it's subterfuge. Whether or not it's true we don't know. Earlier in the conversation Bijaz says that the deal with Paul would include him denouncing his godhead and his sisters divinity as well. I think that if they do have a 'department of religious engineering' the idea is to subvert and hijack Paul's religion. It also says "shaping religions to particular needs" so I don't see this applying to their own (single religion) society, but rather to subvert other worlds.


    This is a great point, and I do think there's a chance Bijaz was saying that it was actually Paul's religion that the Tleilaxu planned to bend to their needs. It's also possible this was just a bluff, but something about the Tleilaxu manner in DM suggests to me that saying random B.S. isn't their MO. They tend to be more like the devil who always tells the truth but in such a way as to benefit them.

    What's pretty convincing to me is that even calling it the "department of religious engineering" sounds so cynical and realpolitik that I have a hard time accepting that true believers in a religion would call any bureaucracy associated with it by such an obviously detached name. It would be like the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages calling their parishes "the offices of peasant control and taxation." Even if they did perform this function they definitely would never refer to their own operation in this way, even in private. I guess my gut instinct is that the 'true Tleilaxu religion' that we observe in the last two books wasn't seen as being that true before Muad'Dib's time.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby JasonJD48 » 13 Mar 2015 18:23

    georgiedenbro wrote:
    JasonJD48 wrote:Two things interesting about this statement is that he says for Hayt to tell Paul this as a way of getting closer to him physically to strike, so it's subterfuge. Whether or not it's true we don't know. Earlier in the conversation Bijaz says that the deal with Paul would include him denouncing his godhead and his sisters divinity as well. I think that if they do have a 'department of religious engineering' the idea is to subvert and hijack Paul's religion. It also says "shaping religions to particular needs" so I don't see this applying to their own (single religion) society, but rather to subvert other worlds.


    This is a great point, and I do think there's a chance Bijaz was saying that it was actually Paul's religion that the Tleilaxu planned to bend to their needs. It's also possible this was just a bluff, but something about the Tleilaxu manner in DM suggests to me that saying random B.S. isn't their MO. They tend to be more like the devil who always tells the truth but in such a way as to benefit them.

    What's pretty convincing to me is that even calling it the "department of religious engineering" sounds so cynical and realpolitik that I have a hard time accepting that true believers in a religion would call any bureaucracy associated with it by such an obviously detached name. It would be like the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages calling their parishes "the offices of peasant control and taxation." Even if they did perform this function they definitely would never refer to their own operation in this way, even in private. I guess my gut instinct is that the 'true Tleilaxu religion' that we observe in the last two books wasn't seen as being that true before Muad'Dib's time.


    The fact that its so detached though is why I think they don't use it on their own people. There's a difference which makes your analogy with the Catholic church break down, that difference is that Christianity is expansionist, they want more and more people to hear the word and believe, the Tleilaxu are insular, they don't even want outsiders to know what their belief is. The Catholic Church would never be so blunt in their naming because they are trying to convince you their religion is real, whereas within Tleilax, there's no similar need to convince the populous, because they are engineering religions to both control the powindah and obfuscate what the true Tleilaxu great belief is.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Mar 2015 23:59

    JasonJD48 wrote:The fact that its so detached though is why I think they don't use it on their own people. There's a difference which makes your analogy with the Catholic church break down, that difference is that Christianity is expansionist, they want more and more people to hear the word and believe, the Tleilaxu are insular, they don't even want outsiders to know what their belief is. The Catholic Church would never be so blunt in their naming because they are trying to convince you their religion is real, whereas within Tleilax, there's no similar need to convince the populous, because they are engineering religions to both control the powindah and obfuscate what the true Tleilaxu great belief is.


    I would find this line plausible, except for the fact that we don't see any evidence in the 6 books that the Tleilaxu religious engineering department has much of an effect on any powindah. If it was their intent to mess with the heads of people in the Imperium regarding religion they did a pretty crap job of it, since it doesn't seem like anyone knows much or anything about the Tleilaxu. In this sense I could see the Tleilaxu having a department of religious disinformation hard at work making sure no one knows the truth about the Tleilaxu people, but the word "engineering" seems to me to indicate actually tailoring religion for specific ends. I don't see any religion among the powindah that the Tleilaxu nurtured; compare and contrast with the BG, who very definitely have a department of religious engineering whose target is the general populace. They are the MP, of which Jessica is an adept.

    The one thing we do hear several times in the books is that the Tleilaxu nurture a sense in powindah that they are nothing more than "dirty Tleilaxu." This is certainly the result of their efforts, but I don't see what a department of religious engineering would have to do with simply spreading random propaganda about the BT and their level of cleanliness. I also don't see what relation this could possibly have to Muad'Dub teaching them anything. The one thing Paul did that was remarkable was to make use of his mastery of statecraft and of himself to deliberately make himself into a Messiah figure, rather than just a plain old despot. And he did this by abusing work laid down before by the BG and screwed over their own MP by doing so. One can suggest this is meant to be a cynical analogy to Jesus, but in any case Jesus didn't ostensibly profess to have political aspirations. For the BT to have learned from this example and from the Muad'Dib religion which was about control seems to me to mean that their department of religious engineering had something in mind regarding religious leadership and going beyond the usual tricks of using force or fear to rule like the Harkonnens did, or even biological means like the whistling language. Leto I hints at this kind of rule, since he inspires loyalty and obedience in an almost religious way, a way that was probably shocking and scary to others who merely used force and money like Shaddam. Paul just took his father's example several steps beyond, and I have to assume it was this type of approach that intrigued that BT.
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    Re: The Tleilaxu and Religion

    Postby JasonJD48 » 14 Mar 2015 21:49

    georgiedenbro wrote:
    JasonJD48 wrote:The fact that its so detached though is why I think they don't use it on their own people. There's a difference which makes your analogy with the Catholic church break down, that difference is that Christianity is expansionist, they want more and more people to hear the word and believe, the Tleilaxu are insular, they don't even want outsiders to know what their belief is. The Catholic Church would never be so blunt in their naming because they are trying to convince you their religion is real, whereas within Tleilax, there's no similar need to convince the populous, because they are engineering religions to both control the powindah and obfuscate what the true Tleilaxu great belief is.


    I would find this line plausible, except for the fact that we don't see any evidence in the 6 books that the Tleilaxu religious engineering department has much of an effect on any powindah. If it was their intent to mess with the heads of people in the Imperium regarding religion they did a pretty crap job of it, since it doesn't seem like anyone knows much or anything about the Tleilaxu. In this sense I could see the Tleilaxu having a department of religious disinformation hard at work making sure no one knows the truth about the Tleilaxu people, but the word "engineering" seems to me to indicate actually tailoring religion for specific ends. I don't see any religion among the powindah that the Tleilaxu nurtured; compare and contrast with the BG, who very definitely have a department of religious engineering whose target is the general populace. They are the MP, of which Jessica is an adept.

    The one thing we do hear several times in the books is that the Tleilaxu nurture a sense in powindah that they are nothing more than "dirty Tleilaxu." This is certainly the result of their efforts, but I don't see what a department of religious engineering would have to do with simply spreading random propaganda about the BT and their level of cleanliness. I also don't see what relation this could possibly have to Muad'Dub teaching them anything. The one thing Paul did that was remarkable was to make use of his mastery of statecraft and of himself to deliberately make himself into a Messiah figure, rather than just a plain old despot. And he did this by abusing work laid down before by the BG and screwed over their own MP by doing so. One can suggest this is meant to be a cynical analogy to Jesus, but in any case Jesus didn't ostensibly profess to have political aspirations. For the BT to have learned from this example and from the Muad'Dib religion which was about control seems to me to mean that their department of religious engineering had something in mind regarding religious leadership and going beyond the usual tricks of using force or fear to rule like the Harkonnens did, or even biological means like the whistling language. Leto I hints at this kind of rule, since he inspires loyalty and obedience in an almost religious way, a way that was probably shocking and scary to others who merely used force and money like Shaddam. Paul just took his father's example several steps beyond, and I have to assume it was this type of approach that intrigued that BT.


    I never said it was a successful plan, in fact, when has the Tleilaxu ever had a successful plan? Even awakening ghola memories was second prize since they neither killed Paul in the attempt, nor subverted him.

    As for what they learned from Paul, they did make a Kwisatz Haderach, perhaps the religion was supposed to support that failed plan.

    I don't really see Leto I and Paul's leadership as the same model really, both create fierce loyalty yes, but in Leto's case, the man and his actions shaped that 'religion', in Paul's case it was the existing religion that shaped his actions, so he could adopt it. Paul may have believed in his father's principles but he, out of necessity, essentially used the Fremen in a very cynical way, this is what creates a lot of the dichotomy between the Paul that Paul wants to be and the Paul that Paul has to be.
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