Illustration of two small figures in a desert landscape

In Review

Dune, or the Order of Time

Illustration by Avalon Nuovo. Cover design by Point Five Design.

By Charles M. Stang

Near the end of high school, when it came time to pick a quote to go under my senior photo, I chose one of the proverbs of Paul Muad’Dib: “There exists no separation between gods and men; one blends softly casual into the other.” Paul is the main character in Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel, Dune, which has recently been translated for the screen by Denis Villeneuve. I wasn’t much of a reader as an adolescent, but I fell under the spell of Dune and its sequel, Dune Messiah. I was about the age of Paul when I read the novel and felt a strange but inchoate kinship with him.

I was immediately drawn to the messianism of Dune, very much a braid of the three “Abrahamic” religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But I was also chastened by Herbert’s explorations of the dangers of blending messianic religion and politics, gods and humans, in Dune Messiah. Looking back now, 30 years later, I feel a vertiginous sense of time when I acknowledge all the ways in which the themes of Dune unfolded in my life, almost as if this novel contained a series of embryos that needed to gestate within me, coming to term at various times and in various places. What does it mean that a novel can do this? What does this tell us about literature, and what does this tell us about the nature of time?

For those new to Dune, Herbert offers his readers a world rich in detail, and a distant descendant of our own. Imagine a human civilization many thousands of years in the future, having abandoned earth for far-flung worlds across the galaxy, in which great planetary “houses” vie for prominence, overseen by an emperor ever anxious to preserve his throne. It is a vision of our future in which the arc of history bends not toward justice but toward power, in which aristocracy and empire are understood as the most natural and stable forms of human hierarchy.


Dune, by Frank Herbert. Ace, 2019, 528 pages, $24 paper.

Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert. Ace, 2019, 352 pages, $24 paper.

Dune: Part One, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, 2021.

It is a vision of our future in which the arc of history bends not toward justice but toward power, in which aristocracy and empire are understood as the most natural and stable forms of human hierarchy.

It tells the story of two great rival houses, House Atreides and House Harkonnen, and how the Emperor Shaddam IV, jealous of noble Duke Leto Atreides’s popularity among the council of other houses, or “Landsraad,” secretly orchestrates the fall of the Atreides at the hands of the brutal Harkonnens and their sociopath baron. The scene of the action is the planet Arrakis, also known as “Dune,” a desert world cherished by the empire’s power brokers because its sands produce the spice mélange. The spice is a psychoactive substance widely used throughout the empire for geriatric purposes. But in very high doses, the spice’s mind-bending properties enable a mysterious order not controlled by the emperor or the great houses—the Spacing Guild and its “Navigators”—to fold space-time and thus make possible human transit across the vast distances of the galactic empire. Because everything hinges on space travel, the spice mélange is the most important commodity in the imperium.

We might think that such a world, thousands of years in the future, would have dazzling technology, the sorts of which we can barely even imagine today. But Herbert instead envisions a world in which technology is severely limited. He imagines the humans of Dune as having survived in their distant past (but of course our distant future) a great jihad or struggle against artificial intelligence, resulting in a religious injunction, “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”1 With the purge of artificial intelligence came the rise of human technology, that is, the cultivation of remarkable superhuman capacities, physical and mental. One such capacity is the Navigators’ ability to effect space travel with their mélange-filled minds. The free use of what we might think of as advanced weaponry—nuclear bombs, lasers, and even bullets—is kept in check either by mutually assured destruction (in the case of “atomics”) or by an equally effective defensive technology (e.g., personal shields). The result is that the warriors of Dune are trained in antiquated technology, such as blades and the martial arts, except that they perform at a superhuman level. Computers that mimic the human mind are outlawed, replaced by humans whose minds mimic computers, so-called Mentats, who serve as valued advisors to the great houses.

Second only to the Guild is the sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit—a school for women adepts to be trained in extraordinary mental and physical disciplines. Their powers include collective memory among their elders, the Reverend Mothers; the ability to modulate their voice to compel others to obey; truthsaying; “prana-bindu” training in breath and muscle control, including control over their own menstruation, digestion, and body chemistry; and, of course, skill in seduction and sex. Like Mentats, they serve as valued advisors to the great houses and to the emperor, but also as wives and concubines to prominent nobles. They are widely feared as witches and sorceresses and suspected of advancing their own hidden agenda.

And they do very much have a hidden agenda: a highly secretive breeding program designed to give birth to a super-being, a man whom they call the “Kwisatz Haderach,” or “the one who can be many places at once.”2 The plot centers around Duke Leto’s son, Paul, whose mother, the Lady Jessica, is a member of the Bene Gesserit, and the concubine, but never the wife, of Duke Leto. She was supposed to play her part in this breeding program by giving birth to a daughter, who could have been wed to a Harkonnen heir and the breach healed. But she disobeyed her order’s orders, and instead gave the duke a son. This unexpectedly hastened the Bene Gesserit’s patient, centuries-long breeding program, as Paul is revealed to be the one on whom they have been waiting. But he is not under their control, and they fear what the unexpected arrival of the cosmic Übermensch will unleash. Lady Jessica’s own teacher, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, explains to the young Paul:

We look down so many avenues of the past . . . but only feminine avenues. . . . Yet, there’s a place where no Truthsayer can see. We are repelled by it, terrorized. It is said a man will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye. He will look where we cannot—into both feminine and masculine pasts.3

This is the peculiar messianism at the core of Dune. The Kwisatz Haderach is a figure at the cusp of science and religion’s greatest ambitions. The Bene Gesserit have primed the galaxy’s populations to expect some sort of savior figure, whom they had hoped to reveal at the time of their choosing, and under their tutelage and control. Their religious priming involves gently weaving the messianic threads of the three Abrahamic religions, especially Islam, into the minds of peoples spread out across the galaxy.

An Islamically-inspired messianism is especially evident among the “indigenous” peoples of Arrakis—in scare quotes because humans are of course originally indigenous only to earth. They are called the “fremen.” They live under extreme conditions: on a desert planet with no precipitation and precious little vegetation, and they are persecuted by off-worlders who have colonized their planet so as to harvest the spice mélange. Fremen live in a mysterious relationship with the giant sandworms of Arrakis, which they know how to summon, evade, and even ride, and which they worship as “Shai-Hulud,” or else as “Makers.” The giant worms, which harass all spice-harvesting efforts, are “Makers” because they are revealed to be part of the natural process by which the spice mélange is made, gathering in thick layers on the desert sands. The fremen respect the “Makers” as the guardians of the spice.

The vast desert wastes of Arrakis are thought to be based on Herbert’s experience with the dunes of eastern Oregon and perhaps the deserts of Mexico. But Herbert also paints with the colors of another palette: the Arabian peninsula and the Levant. The fremen are largely based on the Bedouin nomads of those deserts. Their language is shot through with Arabic phrases, and so too their messianism.4 The fremen await someone called the mahdî, meaning, in Arabic, “the guided one.” This word never appears in the Qur’an but becomes a vivid figure in later Islamic eschatology. According to some Islamic traditions, the mahdî will appear alongside the prophet ‘Îsâ (Jesus) at the end of days to usher in the kingdom of God; according to others, mahdî is simply another title for Jesus, apposite to messiah (“anointed”).

When Paul arrives on Arrakis, the fremen see signs that the young man might be Lisân al-Ghayb, which is translated in Dune as “The Voice from the Outer World,” a foreign savior, the one who will liberate Arrakis and lead the fremen to freedom. As far as I know, the only person in the history of Islam given this title was the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafez.5 It is not a messianic title per se but instead honors him as divinely inspired and a prophetic visionary. In Arabic Lisân can mean “language” or “tongue”; al-Ghayb refers to something absent, hidden or unseen, or yet to happen in time, and it is widely attested in the Qur’an. It names the unseen reality or realm of God and his angels; the worlds of paradise or torment; or simply the unknown future. The phrase Lisân al-Ghayb could mean anything from “he who gives voice to the unseen world”—which is what it seems to mean in the case of Hafez—to “the language of the invisible world,” or even “the voice of the future.” Herbert imagines the fremen as having adopted and adapted this phrase for their own context: the Lisân is understood (like Hafez) to be a person, but (unlike Hafez) a messianic figure predicted by prophecy; and al-Ghayb as the unseen world: literally, the other planets from which waves of colonizers appear, but also the future into which Paul scries.

When Paul and his mother are taken in by the fremen, he is given two new names. The first is his new private name among the tribe: Usul, meaning for the fremen “base of the pillar,” which in Arabic is a plural meaning something like “fundamental principles.” The second is the name by which he will be known publicly: Muad’Dib, which is the fremen name for a small desert mouse, “wise in the ways of the desert . . . [who] creates his own water . . . hides from the sun and travels in the cool night . . . is fruitful and multiplies over the land . . . [whom] we call ‘instructor-of-boys.’ That is a powerful base on which to build your life.”6 Muad’Dib is derived from the Arabic mu’addib, meaning “tutor” or “teacher.” Paul takes the desert mouse as his teacher in the ways of the desert and thereby assumes the role of teacher to the fremen.

If the fremen are based on the Bedouin of Arabia, then so too is their struggle. In the early twentieth century, an assemblage of nomadic tribes united with the encouragement and support (and later, betrayal) of the British Empire, with the express purpose of expelling the occupying Ottomans from Arab lands: the peninsula, but also Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. The face of this “Arab Revolt” was not an Arab, but an Englishman, raised in cloistered gardens in Oxford rather than the empty deserts of Arabia. T. E. Lawrence was a young intelligence officer based in Cairo who, during World War I, found himself helping lead and fight among the Arab revolutionaries, all the way from the Hijaz to Damascus; after the war, he was celebrated as “Lawrence of Arabia” and portrayed in the Western press as a hero of his country and a savior to his adopted people, the Bedouin. His own memoir of the Arab Revolt, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, tells a much deeper, and darker, tale, and both the deep and the dark served as an inspiration for Herbert.7 In the opening paragraph of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence writes,

We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of men’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare.

As time went by our need to fight for the ideal increased to an unquestioning possession, riding with spur and rein over our doubts. Willy-nilly it became a faith.8

Whether true or not, this legend of Lawrence of Arabia, the young outsider, leading an assemblage of nomadic warriors to freedom, to be free men (“fremen,” as it were)—this legend shaped Herbert’s presentation of the young Paul Atreides who, like Lawrence, is given ample Arabic names and titles. But whereas Lawrence’s revolt remained a paradoxically secular jihad, a sacrifice made at the altar of political freedom, Herbert has Paul mount a holy war that is equal parts politics and religion. The circle is made complete when we appreciate the fact that the new film adaptation of Dune was shot in Wadi Rumm, in Jordan. Wadi Rumm, famous for its massive rock outcroppings and vast deserts, was one of the staging posts for the Arab Revolt, and Lawrence often sings of its awe-inspiring beauty in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Even as Herbert’s Kwisatz Haderach is braided from the messianism of the three ancient “Abrahamic” traditions, he is also a decidedly modern figure. This messiah is not only a political savior but, explicitly, a step in the evolution of humanity. Although God is occasionally invoked by the Bene Gesserit, and often by the fremen, the coming of this messiah depends entirely on human agency, not divine. Like breeders, the sisters work with human bloodlines to bring out the hidden potential in the human race.

This messiah is not only a political savior but, explicitly, a step in the evolution of humanity.

In this regard, Dune is very much of its time: the 1960s saw the rise of the “Human Potential Movement,” associated in the United States with such figures as Aldous Huxley, George Leonard, Abraham Maslow, Michael Murphy, Fritz Perls, Dick Price, and Alan Watts, with a beachhead established in 1962 at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.9 This movement, thankfully, had nothing to do with eugenics or breeding programs but was concerned with our cultivating extraordinary or “super normal” human capacities, and it drew for inspiration and evidence from the archives of the world’s religions and philosophies, especially Eastern traditions.10 Herbert befriended Alan Watts and read every word he’d ever written, at just the time when he was sketching the outline of the novel that would eventually become Dune.11 It is from Watts that Herbert began to learn more of Eastern traditions, especially Zen Buddhism, which also flavors the largely Western palette of the Dune universe.

There is at least one other way in which Herbert’s Dune was a product of its time, and that is its psychedelia. I already quoted the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam to the effect that “a man will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye.” She is of course referring to the spice mélange, which, although nearly everyone in Dune uses, the Bene Gesserit administer in a highly concentrated form to induce the initiation of a new Reverend Mother. No man has ever survived such an initiation, until Paul administers it to himself and awakens his inward eye, the power to see the flowing river of space-time. That he survives the ordeal confirms that he is the Kwisatz Haderach.

In the 1960s, the Human Potential Movement overlapped considerably with the psychedelic scene—witness the importance of someone like Aldous Huxley for both. That scene included many, like Timothy Leary, who believed that psychedelics were the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness, that LSD had the potential to transform human society from top to bottom. Although I can’t find evidence that Herbert used psychedelics himself, such psychedelic messianism clearly made a strong impression on him. Viewed today, from the cresting wave of the psychedelic “renaissance,” such messianism seems alive and well, with enthusiasts promising release from all manner of disease (physical, emotional, and mental), political polarization, and even climate change.12 Thankfully, cooler heads are prevailing, and psychedelic messianism is slowly giving way to a more realistic portrait of what benefits psychedelics can and cannot afford us.13


In 2021 Denis Villeneuve’s new film adaptation of Dune was finally released, after several delays. It was the third time someone had tried to adapt Dune to the screen. A first, and failed, attempt was made by legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky in the early 1970s, as told in the 2013 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. Jodorowsky casually confessed that he never finished the novel, and his mammoth script took great liberties with the plot—including having Paul die by dismemberment at the hands of the Baron Harkonnen. He had a flair for casting: Salvador Dalí was to play the Emperor Shaddam IV, Orson Welles the bloated Baron, and Jodorowsky’s own son, the young Atreides protagonist. The production collapsed under the weight of Jodorowsky’s uncompromising vision. His production of Dune would have run for 14 hours! The 3,000-page storyboard he created for the film included artwork from Chris Foss, Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius), and H. R. Giger (of Alien fame). The script and storyboard are said to have circulated among film studios, and to have influenced a good number of famous science fiction productions in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

The film rights were sold to Dino De Laurentiis in 1982, and in 1984 David Lynch’s adaptation was released, and bombed at the box office. It fared little better among film critics. I confess I love this adaptation, not for its fidelity to the novel, but for its extravagant and campy aesthetic departures. Lynch cast Sting as the villainous rival to Paul Atreides, the Harkonnen prince Feyd-Rautha. He inexplicably made all the Harkonnen men redheads (in Sting’s performance at “Live Aid” in 1984, he was still a ginger). With casting and costumes, Lynch managed to convey instantly and viscerally that the Harkonnens were not just barbarous but frighteningly twisted. For example, he decided that the Baron Harkonnen should suffer from a horrible, ulcerous skin condition over his face and neck—a venereal disease that was a sign and result of his profligate life of sadistic pleasure. Like Jodorowsky’s, Lynch’s adaptation was too long: he managed to cut it down to 137 minutes for the theatrical release and has refused offers to issue a director’s cut.

Presumably with Jodorowsky’s and Lynch’s failures in mind, Villeneuve managed to convince the studio to split Dune into two films. The first installment, released in 2021 (after delays due to the pandemic), runs 156 minutes and covers the story through the fall of the Atreides at the hands of the Harkonnens and Paul and Lady Jessica’s escape to the desert, where they are taken in by fremen. This means that viewers have yet to be introduced to several central characters, including the Emperor Shaddam IV, the Harkonnen prince Feyd-Rautha, and Paul’s prescient younger sister, Alia (for whom Christopher Walken, Austin Butler, and Frances Pugh have been cast, respectively). Nor have viewers really seen who the fremen are, nor their relationship with the giant sandworms, nor the potency of the spice mélange. All that remains to be told in the second installment.

Villeneuve is most famous for directing two recent science fiction films: Arrival (2016) and Bladerunner 2049 (2017). With Bladerunner 2049, he faced an acute challenge: how to create a sequel to a critically acclaimed cult classic whose powerful aesthetic has weathered the test of time in ways few science fiction films can claim. Villeneuve opted for fidelity, not only in terms of casting and characters, but in terms of ambience and atmosphere. Bladerunner 2049 largely satisfied fans for faithfully recreating and slightly updating the world of Bladerunner’s apocalyptic Los Angeles. But Bladerunner 2049 was in many ways (forgive the pun) a “replicant” of the original Bladerunner, as it had to be. Casting choices were good, and the actors’ performances were compelling.

With Dune, Villeneuve faced even more challenges. First of all, how to translate a sprawling narrative into a feature film. His solution, already mentioned, was to split it in two. Second, how to satisfy legions of die-hard fans of the novel (including me) and yet appeal to a much wider viewing audience. Again, Villeneuve’s virtue lies in his fidelity, first and foremost, to the novel. While there are important omissions (as there always are when novels are translated for the screen), there are relatively few bald insertions of the kind Lynch or Jodorowsky indulged in. Everything from the deserts of Arrakis, to the Atreides home world, Caladan, to the Emperor’s feared shock troops, the Sardaukar—all of this and more is executed with the very highest production value. It is no wonder that Dune won six Oscars: for cinematography, editing, score, visual effects, production design, and sound. Not even a single nomination for acting, however.

The casting, the matching of actors to characters, was especially promising, and much better than Lynch’s. But the gap between the cast and their performances on screen was quite stark: apart from Timo-thée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, there was not a notable or commanding performance among them. And even Chalamet’s genius only breaks through in a few scenes, such as his trial with the Reverend Mother and her gom jabbar, or his vision after his father’s death of the jihad he will unleash in his name. Zendaya, as Paul’s beloved fremen Chani, was also an inspired casting choice, and I remain hopeful that the two of them, whose characters only met near the end of the film, will sparkle with energy in the second installment. As for the rest of the actors, their performances were rather wooden, as if they were playing it safe, and perhaps struggling under the same burden of fidelity as Villeneuve. Will they rise to the occasion for the next film? Will the introduction of new cast members for new characters, such as Shaddam IV, Feyd-Rautha, and Alia, change the alchemy on the screen? I am curious to see.


Fans of Herbert’s original novel face a difficult decision: whether and how far to continue in the Dune series. Herbert wrote a number of sequels: as already mentioned, Dune Messiah (1969), but also Children of Dune (1976)—parts of both were written before he completed Dune—followed by God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985). I have read them all, although I am not sure I would recommend doing so. Herbert’s son Brian teamed up with science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson to draft an ever-growing list of prequels and sequels. I have read some of these, too, although I would not recommend doing so. On the whole, I think Jon Michaud had it right in his 2013 New Yorker article, “Dune Endures”: “The conversion of Dune into a franchise, while pleasing readers and earning royalties for the Herbert estate, has gone a long way toward obscuring the power of the original novel.”14 For my part, I feel that Dune Messiah is worth reading; beyond that, I am agnostic.

Dune Messiah takes place 12 years after the events of Dune and involves a plot to assassinate Paul, who has succeeded Shaddam IV as emperor and has unleashed a galactic jihad in which 61 billion people have been killed. Dune Messiah goes some distance in quieting critics of the original novel, who felt that Herbert indulged in the celebration of messianic politics.

The truth is that Herbert was always well aware of the horrors hiding beneath the surface of any marriage between religion and politics. Herbert succeeds in exposing that horror, and yet exploring the humanity of characters . . . who find themselves at the center of it, and in many ways prisoners of it.

The truth is that Herbert was always well aware of the horrors hiding beneath the surface of any marriage between religion and politics, between the Kwisatz Haderach and emperor in one person, with legions of fanatic warriors at his singular command. Herbert succeeds in exposing that horror, and yet exploring the humanity of characters such as Paul and Chani, who find themselves at the center of it, and in many ways prisoners of it. The fact that Dune Messiah ends with the death of Paul and Chani marks a poignant and poetic end to the arc of Herbert’s story; that he chose in subsequent novels to continue the story to include their children’s fate—in their son Leto’s case, across centuries—remains for me an ambivalent authorial decision.


Thirty years after first reading Dune, I marvel at its place in the course of my life. Why was it that I chose that proverb of Paul’s to be the single quotation beneath my smiling adolescent face? And what does it have to do with the fact that I have spent my adult life devoted to the study of religion, and specifically, divinization: the means by which humans become gods? What of the fact that I have devoted myself to the study of Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Islam—two of the three messianic religions?

It seemed little more than a coincidence when, in my early 20s, I happened across T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom just before I made my first trip to the Middle East and had my first taste of the desert (including Wadi Rumm). Why was it that I, raised among forests and lakes in cold and wet Minnesota, heard in that hot and dry desert a call I have heard nowhere else, a call I have been unable to shake, or honestly to heed? And after all, it was on that first trip to the desert, accompanied by Lawrence, that I resolved to study Arabic. In the years that followed, I became obsessed with Lawrence and wrote several essays about him, and I still hope to write a book—not knowing, until I was writing this review, that he was a significant influence on Herbert. I have lived in Cairo and Jerusalem, cities on the edges of the desert. In more recent years, I have found myself apprenticing to one of the living legends of the Human Potential Movement, Michael Murphy, one of the two co-founders of Esalen. And contrary to all expectation, especially mine, I have also found myself cautiously exploring the relationship between psychedelics and religion.15

When I look back now, to that me then, I have a vertiginous sense of time for which I have no good language, in English or, for that matter, in Arabic. How could it be that Dune contained, like a seed, so much of what would unfold in my life for the next 30 years? Did Dune implant these ideas in my unwitting adolescent mind? I think that’s too easy an explanation, almost a mockery of the experience of time these moments of recognition afford us. Such moments deliver us into the past anew: the past changes under our feet, and thereby also our present, and of course our future.

What do we call this reckoning with the past? It’s certainly not history, nor even memory, but something else. Paul, especially when awakened by the spice mélange, wrestled with his own prescience, with how he would feel his way through the highways and byways of space-time. Unlike him, I’m not wrestling with prescience or foreknowledge, but rather musing over its seeming opposite, something like post-science, after knowledge, knowledge of what was always already to happen, or has happened, except that it also needs to happen by unspooling, in the words of Anaximander, “according to the order of time.”16 Of his own prescience, Paul once said, “The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.” I find myself crossing that threshold in the opposite direction, not toward pre-science but post-science, and the door, however narrow, seems now to open onto a very broad horizon of space and time, much like the rippling dunes of the desert that still calls.


  1. Herbert, Dune Messiah, 11.
  2. Ibid., 15. The name “Kwisatz Haderach” is supposedly based on a Hasidic figure, the Kefitzat Haderach. See Susan L. Schwartz, “A Teaching Review of Dune: Religion in the Spice of Life,” Implicit Religion 17, no. 4 (2014): 533–38, here at 535.
  3. Herbert, Dune, 15.
  4. A very helpful collection of these Arabic names and titles is “Arabic and Islamic Themes in Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  5. Hossein Ziai, “Ḥāfeẓ, Lisân al-Ghayb of Persian Poetic Wisdom,” in Papers in Honor of Annemarie Schimmel, ed. J. C. Bürgel and Alma Giese (Peter Lang, 1995), 449–69.
  6. Herbert, Dune, 378.
  7. Brian Herbert, Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert (Tor, 2003), 141.
  8. T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (Doubleday, 1935), 29.
  9. See Jeffrey K.
    Kripal, Esalen: The Religion of No Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
  10. See, for example, Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body: Explorations of the Further Evolution of Human Nature (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992).
  11. Brian Herbert, Dreamer of Dune, 164–65.
  12. On the psychedelic “renaissance,” see Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (Penguin, 2018).
  13. See Rachael Petersen, “Magical (Psychedelic) Thinking in the Era of Climate Change and COVID-19,” Psymposia, July 11, 2020.
  14. Jon Michaud, “Dune Endures,” The New Yorker, July 12, 2013.
  15. See the recent online series at the Center for the Study of World Religions, “Psychedelics and the Future of Religion.”
  16. From the so-called Anaximander fragment: “Whence things have their origin, / Thence also their destruction happens, / According to necessity; / For they give to each other justice and recompense / For their injustice / In conformity with the ordinance (taxin) of Time.” From Patricia Curd, A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia (Hackett, 1996), 12. I have translated the final phrase, kata tên tou chronou taxin as “according to the order of time.”

Charles M. Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought and the director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, focuses on the development of asceticism, monasticism, and mysticism in Eastern Christianity. His most recent book is Our Divine Double (Harvard University Press, 2016).

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