Major spoil­ers for Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.

The se­ries starts with the gom jab­bar, a painful test of hu­man­ity. Humans will suf­fer for a cause: an­i­mals have no con­cept of the fu­ture, but hu­mans will en­dure pain for a fu­ture ben­e­fit. Gaius Helen Mohiam’s ex­am­ple is an an­i­mal caught in a trap chew­ing off its limb to es­cape; a hu­man would stay in the trap to kill the trap­per and pro­tect their kith.

In Dune, Duke Leto is hu­man. When caught in a trap (Yueh), he at­tempts to kill his trap­per (Baron Harkonnen).

The Baron is the least hu­man: he in­dulges in plea­sure to an un­healthy de­gree, re­fus­ing to suf­fer for even his own fu­ture good.

The Fremen are the most hu­man. They bear the pain of Arrakis for the fu­ture re­ward of Paradise.

In Dune Messiah, the tragedy of Paul’s vic­tory is that he made the Fremen less hu­man. No suf­fer­ing, no hu­man­ity.

In Children of Dune, Leto II sees the fu­ture and the ne­ces­sity of the Golden Path: hu­man­ity must stop suf­fer­ing for so long that they learn for all time that suf­fer­ing is es­sen­tial to hu­man­ity. Leto is more hu­man than Paul, as he’s will­ing to walk the Golden Path, suf­fer­ing for a fu­ture ben­e­fit. Ironically, this re­quires that he re­duce suf­fer­ing and be­come less hu­man him­self.

I pre­dict that the end of the Golden Path will be reached at the end of God Emperor of Dune. Leto will give hu­man­ity a goal that they must suf­fer to ac­com­plish, restor­ing hu­man­ity to the Fremen and el­e­vat­ing the other sub­jects of the em­pire.