"The Dune Litany"


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. 

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One of my favorite science fiction novels is Frank Herbert's Dune. I read it as an undergraduate. The story was so compelling that I read the entire book in one sitting. One early memorable scene was when the hero, Paul Atreides, had his humanity tested, under life threat. To survive the test's overwhelming perceived pain, he used the Bene Gesserit (an ancient order focused on exceptional development of physical, mental and emotional control) Litany Against Fear:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

All of us who dive will most likely, at some point in time, find ourselves in an extremely stressful, if not life-threatening, situation ... an event where the fear becomes palpable as it rises from deep within us and threatens to take control. To prevent an undesirable outcome, this fear must be mediated.

In times where I have had a perceived life-threat, I used a shortened (so as to not have to memorize / recall so many words) version:

"I must NOT fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
I will face my fear.
Like the willow in the wind, I will bend and allow my fear to pass over me
And when my fear has gone, only I will remain."

This "ritual" of mentally reciting this Litany (or some other personally chosen mantra) is psychologically calming and lessens the fear (alters focus away from the rising tide of anxiety), so that the situation can be resolved. In other words, a potentially tragic event becomes an inconvenience (later, a  "war story") and not a catastrophe.


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 About The Author:  

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 200 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2024 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education