© Dr. Willis E. McNelly
Mother of Paul Atreides and grandmother of Leto II and Ghanima, Lady Jessica is the most important woman in Dune's lengthy history.
One of the most fascinating discoveries of the Rakis Hoard is RRC 13-A700, The Book of Ghanima. Among the document's most revealing entries is Ghanima's study of the roots of her own name. Intrigued by the 11 anima" aspect of her name, Ghanima set about a systematic exploration of her ancestral memories to discover everything said of the "anima." As a result she learned that a remote Terran ancestor, perhaps named Seegee Jhung, had outlined a theory which explained her name. By application of the material in Ghanima's records, it now appears that Lady Jessica, Ghanima's grandmother, can best be understood as the fulfillment of Archetypes prophesised by the ancient seer, her ancestor. From the Jhungian perspective Jessica is-iii her own right, as in her own person-the long-awaited incarnation of all the major masculine and feminine Archetypes. Thus, even more than the justly famed Jehanne Butler, she is Dune's, indeed the Imperium's truest hero as well as its greatest woman.
The ancient seer envisioned four feminine Archetypes: the Mother, the Hetaira, the Amazon, and the Medium. Jessica's Bene Gesserit lineage and upbringing fitted her to mother. In fact, as she sometimes complained, she was raised to be a mere brood mare, an instrument of Bene Gesserit eugenics, rather than a person. Herself the product of an eugenic exercise, the one-night mating of a Bene Gesserit (almost certainly Gaius Helen Mohiam) with the Siridar-Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Jessica grew up on Wallach IX, the Bene Gesserit home planet, where she endured fourteen years of education in "mothering," Bene Gesserit style. To the Sisterhood destiny was biology and maternal influence the strongest of all life-forces. Accordingly, Jessica was thoroughly trained for motherhood: she learned to understand and control her own organism so as to be the fittest possible biological mother, and-still more essential to the Bene Gesserit design she learned to observe, understand, and hence control others, and by this means to keep everybody, men, women, princes, and potentates, psychological "children" to her perpetually dominant "motherliness."
Jessica, however, confounded her teachers by transcending their concept of maternity. The Bene Gesserit thought her a shockingly unsisterly rebel against their careful discipline, but actually Jessica did not so much revolt as evolve into another dimension of selfhood, that of Hetaira. Because she became a true companion to her mate, Duke Leto Atreides, she freed herself for a much fuller, more substantive motherhood than the Bene Gesserit projected; as Hetaira Jessica chose to bear the son her lover wanted, not the daughter planned by the Sisterhood, for as Hetaira Jessica knew that the loving intimacy of equal, free selves was the only true generative force in the universe. Jessica's Hetaira role was emphasized by the fact that Duke Leto made her his Lady concubine but never his Lady wife; few societal sanctions supported (or confined) her Archetypal compassionate vitality.
Lady Jessica remained Hetaira all her adult life. She never stopped loving her Duke, not even decades after his death, and she returned to the Atreides' home planet, Caladan, whenever she could. More significantly, she instilled the need to be Hetaira into all her descendants: into Paul Atreides, who welcomed Chani as his "companion;" into Leto II and Ghaninia, twin Hetairae to each other; and most notably and tragically into Alia, whose Hetaira nature betrayed her to the Baron Harkonnen's seductive intrapersonal companionship.
Ironically, it was against this Abominable companionship that Jessica displayed her fullest, most irresistible Amazonian strength. Lady Jessica first discovered her Amazonian potential when she fled, pregnant, into the Arrakeen wilderness. Fremen women, thoroughly liberated to the world of men, showed Jessica that she, too, could survive Dune's rigors. As Amazon she mastered both the shifting sands of Dune's deserts and the shifting tides of Imperial politics. As Amazon she retired to Castle Caladan during her son's reign, and there, in those familiar surroundings, used the Amazon's resourceful objectivity to outthink and at last outgrow her Bene Gesserit conditioning. The depth and range of her matured Amazonian powers were especially evident during those anxious, almost disastrous years between Muad'Dib's disappearance into the desert and Leto II's assumption of the Imperial throne: throughout that near-decade Jessica proved herself a formidable diplomat, intriguer, and (mostly psychological) warrior, effectively countering even her own daughter's plots against Atreides ideals.
Alia would not have dwindled into Abomination, nor Paul into Muad'Dib and then The Preacher, had they, like their mother, wholly embraced the Archetypal role of Medium. As Medium Jessica bridged the unconscious world and the human community, mediating these vast collectivities by her perfectly balanced and tuned self-consciousness. Lady Jessica became Medial because the Fremen, seeking a new Reverend Mother, sent her into a perilous spice-trance. Melange catalyzed her evolution, but Jessica's already Archetypal psyche stabilized and vivified it: as Hetaira she infused her Medial wisdom with personal caring, while as Amazon she preserved independent individual selfhood against the onslaughts of the collective unconscious. Conversely, as Medium she maintained a healthily cosmic perspective on her personal and social involvements. Her Medial energies saved Jessica from the centripetal egotism which crushed her children.
On the other hand, Jessica's Medial experiences introduced her to her psyche's very core-to the genuine, Archetypal Motherhood that the Bene Gesserit had almost persuaded her did not and could not exist. Even after she had understood her way past the Sisterhood's other pronouncements, she continued to believe the Bene Gesserit dogma that Archetypes were public relations illusions whose only use was to manipulate the gullible. Jessica's residual skepticism was seriously debilitated when as Medium she encountered the Great Mother within herself; her doubts-fell utterly away when as Mother, centered in her new Material self-awareness, she sensed the Great Mother as an exterior presence as well-when she knew the grand, essential shaping force that Liet-Kynes, his Fremen followers, and above all her God Emperor grandson so passionately sought. Mother Jessica realized that humans (not to mention Worms) neither originate nor control generativity in any of its manifestations.
She understood that all life-forms and all life-processes-including her own roles as lover, leader, and mother-really are channels for the Great Mother's creative and sustaining energies. This was the teaching she imparted to Farad'n, the teaching to which she devoted her mature life.
In our age, when Arrakeen culture is imbued with the Motherly spirit, one can scarcely believe, much less comprehend, the resistance which Mother Jessica confronted in her contemporaries. In that desolate era masculinity still ruled throughout the Imperium, though only as the debased confraternity of brutal pragmatism (expressed by the Harkonnens and Sardaukar) and mechanistic rationality (the spirit of the Mentats and Tleilaxu). Most people then retained the traditional belief that intelligence, power, order indeed, civilization itself-were essentially masculine property; but they knew, too, that even the best, most vitally Archetypal manhood was somehow insufficient, for Duke Leto Atreides, who perfectly incarnated whole Archetypal manliness, died defeated. So Jessica lived at the time when masculinity was losing its exclusive hold on people's psyches and feminine consciousness was just beginning to come into its own.
Given its long-term investment in male chauvinism, the popular mind understandably hesitated to acknowledge the importance of being feminine. Partial glimpses were easiest: women were tolerable as Hetaira (witness Gamont), or (more reluctantly) as Amazons (witness the Fish Speakers), or (most reluctantly) as Mediums (witness the Fremen Reverend Mothers). Motherhood, in its pure Archetypal glory, was simply unthinkable. The reasons for these psychological blocks have been well explained: merely masculine thinking is esoteric, directed toward discovering and working with the facts of the external, (especially) physical world. By contrast, feminine consciousness is esoteric, or interior; it deals with the inwardness of reality. Meeting the Great Mother, as Jessica did, means realizing that the inward shapes and sustains the outward - that the physical universe has a spiritual core. Such a realization is inevitably shattering to the esoteric outlook: from the merely masculine perspective, the only Mother is the Terrible Mother.
Jessica's children and grandchildren were the most pitiable yet instructive victims of the then-pervasive anti-Maternal bias. Paul, first modern man to liberate his feminine intelligence, nonetheless imprisoned himself and the Fremen in Muad'Dib's stereotypical masculinity and eventually blinded himself rather than face the ultimate Motherhood he feared. Alia rejected Motherhood because she identified it with Jessica's invasion of her pre-born mind and the consequent Medial awareness that made her a freak; she used her Hetairal energies to escape Motherhood and her Amazonian energies to fight it. Leto 11 was comfortable with the Hetaira, Amazon, Medium, and Mother within himself, but was sure that the Terrible Mother governed all natural events; he sacrificed his subjective humanity to buy time from the objective monster Mother Nature he imagined. Ghanima agreed with her Bene Gesserit ancestresses that "motherhood" was preferable to "Motherhood"'; to preserve her sense of personal identity she needed to control, even to diminish the Archetypal, viewing it in safely personal terms.
For Jessica, however, Motherhood could not be evaded, rejected, distorted, or diminished, because for her the Great Mother was irresistibly attractive. Her entire life was a quest for the Mother. It was a long and arduous ordeal, requiring great personal growth, constant psychological balance, and unremitting courage, vigor, and determination. She had both to become Mother and to be Mother in a time when neither had been done before and among a people to whom "Mother" meant "witch."
Important though this quest was for Jessica, it was absolutely vital for Dune. Jessica arrived on Arrakis at precisely the moment when the fantasy of the subject-object gap threatened to devastate that planet with powerplay after powerplay. Liet-Kynes and the Fremen intuitively knew that there needed to be a more balanced, conscious relationship between humans and nature and that the way to that relationship was understanding the life-force that binds "subjective" and "objective" in a single interpenetrating continuum. But these ecological visionaries lacked the Archetypal experience to reach their goal. It was left to Jessica to complete the quest and by so doing show others how they might meet Mother themselves.
First Jessica and later, through her School, more and more of her followers became initiates. Each initiate underwent an excruciating alienation from his or her original mindset, transformed his or her thinking by direct, protracted awareness of the Great Mother, and labored to refashion every element of Arrakeen culture in accord with Motherly views and values. Jessica, the very first such initiate, sacrificed much more than her successors did. She endured alienation from her Sisters, her children and grandchildren, most of her Atreides associates, and all of Dune's common folk. She refused to play "mother" in the Bene Gesserit way of frightening others into psychological childhood, but instead let people make up their own minds about the Archetypal reality she embodied; and so she sacrificed the satisfaction of knowing whether her transformation had really benefited anyone but herself.
Jessica's sacrifices were genuine and (unlike Leto II's) necessary, for, as she well knew, Archetypal Motherhood was bound to confound the very thought that most languished for lack of it. There is, however, a deep and horrible irony in the dismal fact that while Jessica was living Archetypal Quest, Initiation, and Sacrificial heroism (the major masculine Archetypes) and, simultaneously, incarnating the four major feminine Archetypes as well, her contemporaries mostly reviled or ignored her and focused their hopeful attention on the grand but misguided careers of her children and grandchildren. Even Dune's historians were shockingly slow to recognize that the real Dune story is Jessica's.
Further references: ATREIDES, GHANIMA; ATREIDES, DUKE LETO; ATREIDES, LETO II; ATREIDES, PAUL MUAD'DIB; MOHIAM, R.M. GAIUS HELEN; Harq al-Ada The Mother of God, tr. Harq al-Lutag Atreides (Gruniman: Tern); Ghanima, Elaine, and Leto II Atreides, The Book of Ghanima, RRC 13-A700.