Golden Path (Dune)
The Golden Path is a term in Frank Herbert's fictional Dune universe referring to Leto Atreides II's strategy to prevent humanity's ultimate destruction. The Golden Path is the main driving force in the Frank Herbert-written novels Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985), and is brought to its conclusion in the novels which complete the original series, Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
Necessity of the Golden Path
Through prescience, Paul Atreides and his son Leto II foresaw several threats to the human species. They saw the Imperium's dependency on melange and the superhuman tasks performed by specialized groups such as the Spacing Guild, Mentats, and the Bene Gesserit as threats to any species-wide evolution. Also, because spice could be produced only on Arrakis, human development was constrained by its dependence on the planet.
They interpret this lack of exploration and growth as stagnation and an eventual threat to the survival of humanity. A much more imposing threat, known of only through prescience, was Kralizec, the mythic battle at the end of the universe, which is first directly described in God Emperor of Dune but not fully revealed to the reader until later.
Rule of the God Emperor
Being pre-born, Leto II inherited his father's prescient abilities. Whereas Paul had sought a way to save both the human species and his own humanity, Leto's prescience led him to decide that the path to surviving Kralizec needed a much more threatening predator of humans than the twelve-year Jihad which Paul had taken as his "terrible purpose". The first important step of the Golden Plan, which Paul sought to avoid, takes place in Children of Dune, when Leto takes a skin of sandtrout as his own. This act begins both his transformation into the half-man, half-worm God Emperor and the transformation of the spice-rich desert planet Dune into the paradise of Rakis.
By monopolizing the only remaining supply of the spice and ending further production, Leto II became an unrivaled power in the Imperium. By keeping the Imperium stagnant and contained in a Golden Age, Leto set the stage for a severely difficult age, which would become known as the Famine Times. The stated goal of Leto's predator-aspect was to "teach humanity a lesson that they will remember in their bones." Leto sought to teach the human race through a bad example: by becoming the greatest predator, his goal was to immunize the race against overcentralization, which resulted in The Scattering.
A number of technological advances by the Bene Tleilax and the Ixians could be credited to their drive to escape from the oppression of the God Emperor. The fruits of this oppression appeared in the Ixian navigation device (a substitute for living Guild Navigators) and the Tleilaxu artificial spice, while the God Emperor himself also encouraged the Ixians by specifically ordering them to create certain technologies.
During his lifetime of 3,500 years, Leto's body transformed into a hybrid of human and sandworm. One later side effect of this combination was the gift to the sandworm of "human adaptability". By driving all of the original sandworms of Dune to extinction, Leto became common ancestor to any new worms which would arise from his eventual death and release of sandtrout back into the environment of Arrakis.
Breeding of the "Siona Gene"
During his reign, Leto II took control of the Bene Gesserit breeding plan. Through manipulation of certain mutations, he bred into the Atreides a "no-gene", which gave them invisibility to prescience. This was meant to help prevent any prescient predator from finding and wiping out the human species. As demonstrated in one of Duncan Idaho's encounters with Moneo, the father of Siona, Leto also bred into the Atreides enhanced speed, physical power, sharpness of mind, spice susceptibility and other "wild" talents. Through the Atreides and the Fish Speakers, Leto planned to diffuse these genetic advantages throughout the entirety of the human race.
The no-gene is arguably present in the Dune chronology as early as Dune Messiah. There, Paul's sister Alia is unable to see who would have become the father to her child. This was either because it would have been Paul himself, through the manipulations of the Sisterhood, or the father would have been Duncan Idaho, who may have possessed the no-gene. Although Paul would have been invisible to Alia due to his own prescience, Duncan's possession of the gene would explain Leto's use of him as a genetic "stud" and his great desire to mate him with Siona.
Blending Atreides and Bene Gesserit
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A second aspect of Leto's plan was the blending of Atreides and Bene Gesserit. While the Atreides clan was too small and too feudally oriented to rule humanity, the Bene Gesserit lacked a desire to get their hands dirty or the passion to rule (which the Atreides had). The God Emperor included such nobility into his breeding scheme in order to ensure that the Bene Gesserit would all be children of the Atreides. We are presented with the greatest face of this in Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, a female descendant of Siona Atreides and Duncan Idaho. No more were the Bene Gesserit crafters and schemers who did their work behind the throne. No more were the Atreides guided by their passion for justice and feudal duty. That is why the God Emperor finally compels (in a written message in the ancient Sietch Tabr on Rakis) the Bene Gesserit to act and take the sword by its handle. Where once there was a secret society (the Bene Gesserit) and a ruling family (the Atreides), there was born the noble, purpose-driven, proud, yet wizened Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, whose members were all children of the Atreides.
Creation of the Fish Speakers
Another important aspect of the Golden Plan was the creation of the Fish Speakers. By flooding the Scattering with his Fish Speaker warrior-fanatics, he was actively seeding the universe with nascent Honored Matres. By setting loose the Fish Speakers who would one day fuse their talents with those of the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilax to become Honored Matres, Leto created a post-Scattering predator which unified the humans of the Old Empire region under the New Sisterhood, a political union of the surviving Honored Matres and Bene Gesserit.
The events which delimit Kralizec take place in the books Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. The first hostile event which set into motion the events which led to the destruction of Omnius was the Honored Matres' stealing of the machine-made Obliterators. Following their defeat, they retreated back into the Old Imperium, where they began attacking and destroying Bene Gesserit establishments. These events included the destruction of Arrakis, the death of Miles Teg, and the intertwinings of Murbella with Duncan Idaho and the Bene Gesserit.
After the Ithaca's departure from Chapterhouse, Kralizec unfolds through the actions off- and on board the Ithaca as it seeks to escape the tachyon net of Daniel and Marty. Upon its arrival at Synchrony, Leto II finally reawakens, Duncan Idaho becomes the ultimate Kwisatz Haderach and merges minds with Erasmus, and the Oracle of Time destroys Omnius and ends the machine threat.
- Herbert, Frank. 1976. Children of Dune.
- "By this time he knew that Ghanima had worked herself into the belief that he was dead. Only a tiny, isolated capsule of awareness would remain to her, a walled-off memory which could be recalled by words uttered in the ancient language shared only by the two of them in all of this universe. Secher Nbiw. If she heard those words: Golden Path ... only then would she remember him. Until then, he was dead. — Children of Dune, p. 212.
- "[Leto] fell silent, gathering his strength, but he felt the energy flowing from him even as he tried to hold it. Once more, the clamor arose within him -- voices pleading and shouting. "Every historical reference to the Scattering and the Famine Times has to be taken out and reexamined! What have we to fear? No Ixian machine can do what we, the descendants of Duncan Idaho and Siona, have done. How many universes have we populated? None can guess. No one person will ever know. Does the Church fear the occasional prophet? We know that the visionaries cannot see us nor predict our decisions. No death can find all of humankind." No ancestral presences would remain in her consciousness, but she would carry with her forever afterward the clear sights and sounds and smells. The seeking machines would be there, the smell of blood and entrails, the cowering humans in their burrows aware only that they could not escape . . . while all the time the mechanical movement approached, nearer and nearer and nearer ...louder...louder! Everywhere she searched, it would be the same. No escape anywhere." — God Emperor of Dune
- "Already he could feel how far he'd drifted from something recognizably human. Seduced by the spice which he gulped from every trace he found, the membrane which covered him no longer was sandtrout, just as he was no longer human. Cilia had crept into his flesh, forming a new creature which would seek its own metamorphosis in the eons ahead. You saw this, father, and rejected it, he thought. It was a thing too terrible to face. Leto knew what was believed of his father, and why. Muad'Dib died of prescience. But Paul Atreides had passed from the universe of reality into the alam al-mythal while still alive, fleeing from this thing which his son had dared." — Children of Dune, p.338-339 (Ace mass-market edition, 1987, 408 pages)
- "When I set out to lead humankind along my Golden Path. I promised them a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern which humans deny with their words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, the condition they call peace. Even as they speak. they create the seeds of turmoil and violence. If they find their quiet security. they squirm in it. How boring they find it. Look at them now. Look at what they do while I record these words. Hah! I give them enduring eons of enforced tranquility which plods on and on despite their every effort to escape into chaos. Believe me, the memory of Leto's Peace shall abide with them forever. They will seek their quiet security thereafter only with extreme caution and steadfast preparation. -The Stolen Journals — God Emperor of Dune, p. 185 (Ace edition, July 1987, 423 pages.)
- Herbert, Frank. God Emperor of Dune, 1965. p.