Frank Herbert Quotes

Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr, 1920 – 1986

Born: 8 October 1920, Tacoma, Washington
Died: 11 February 1986, Madison, Wisconsin

Herbert was a brilliant but restless child, following his curiosity and getting in the expected trouble as a result. After high school he lied about his age to get a job at a local newspaper, the Glendale Star. He spent six months as a photographer in the U.S. Navy’s Seabees before he was given a medical discharge. After the war he attended the University of Washington, but didn’t graduate because he refused to take any course that didn’t interest him, and several required courses failed to hold his interest. He sold his first science fiction story in 1947 and his first novel was published in 1955. While researching an article on the Oregon coast sand dunes he got so caught up in the topic that he never wrote the article, after six years he wrote Dune. His second wife returned to full-time work as an ad writer to support the family during that time. The book sold slowly, so Herbert was the education writer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and lectured at the University of Washington until 1972. He wrote several other books and finally achieved commercial success in 1984 when David Lynch’s film version of Dune was released. He died from a massive pulmonary embolism while recovering from cancer surgery.

Frank Herbert quotes:

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.

Frank Herbert
A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You’re there now doing the thing on paper. You’re not killing the goose, you’re just producing an egg.

Frank Herbert
A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.

Frank Herbert
Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.

Frank Herbert
All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Frank Herbert
Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test that it’s a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain.

Frank Herbert
Anything less than abject submission has to have some attack in it.

Frank Herbert
Anything outside yourself, this you can see and apply your logic to it. But it’s a human trait that when we encounter personal problems, these things most deeply personal are the most difficult to bring out for our logic to scan.

Frank Herbert
Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase…. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.

Frank Herbert
Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?

Frank Herbert
Confine yourself to observing and you always miss the point of your own life.

Frank Herbert
Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

Frank Herbert
Did you build high walls around you only to sit within them and indulge in self-pity?

Frank Herbert
Education is no substitute for intelligence.

Frank Herbert
Education is no substitute for intelligence. That elusive quality is defined only in part by puzzle-solving ability. It is in the creation of new puzzles reflecting what your senses report that you round out the definitions.

Frank Herbert

Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. It is when they have become established that aims are lost and replaced by vague ritual.
    Frank Herbert

Enemies make you stronger, allies make you weaker.
    Frank Herbert

Enemies strengthen you. Allies weaken.
    Frank Herbert

Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero… Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
    Frank Herbert

Every civilization must contend with an unconscious force which can block, betray or countermand almost any conscious intention of the collectivity.
    Frank Herbert

Every judgment teeters on the brink of error. To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous.
    Frank Herbert – Children of Dune (1976)

Every judgment teeters on the brink of error. To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.
    Frank Herbert – Children of Dune (1976)

Give me the judgment of balanced minds in preference to laws every time. Codes and manuals create patterned behavior. All patterned behavior tends to go unquestioned, gathering destructive momentum.
    Frank Herbert

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
    Frank Herbert

Governments always commit their entire populations when the demands grow heavy enough. By their passive acceptance, these populations become accessories to whatever is done in their name.
    Frank Herbert

Governments can be useful to the governed only so long as inherent tendencies toward tyranny are restrained.
    Frank Herbert

Governments do not know what they cannot do until after they cease to be governments. Each government carries the seeds of its own destruction.
    Frank Herbert

Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount.
    Frank Herbert

Guilt starts as a feeling of failure.
    Frank Herbert

He who can destroy a thing, can control a thing.
    Frank Herbert

I have come to believe that holy boredom is good and sufficient reason for the invention of free will.
    Frank Herbert

I now believe that evolution, or deevolution, never ends short of death, that no society has ever achieved an absolute pinnacle, that all humans are not created equal. In fact, I believe attempts to create some abstract equalization create a morass of injustices that rebound on the equalizers. Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek, but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals and that humans do not have equal ability.
    Frank Herbert

If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets.
    Frank Herbert

If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual.
    Frank Herbert

In my estimation, more misery has been created by reformers than by any other force in human history.
    Frank Herbert

Intelligence takes chance with limited data in an arena where mistakes are not only possible but also necessary.
    Frank Herbert

It is a wise man that does know the contented man is never poor, whilst the discontented man is never rich.
    Frank Herbert

It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.
    Frank Herbert

It’s easier to be terrified by an enemy you admire.
    Frank Herbert

Journalism is the entertainment business.
    Frank Herbert

Justice belongs to those who claim it, but let the claimant beware lest he create new injustice by his claim and thus set the bloody pendulum of revenge into its inexorable motion.
    Frank Herbert

Kindness is the beginning of cruelty.
    Frank Herbert

Laws to suppress tend to strengthen what they would prohibit. This is the fine point on which all the legal professions of history have based their job security.
    Frank Herbert

Learning a language represents training in the delusions of that language.
    Frank Herbert

Let us not rail about justice as long as we have arms and the freedom to use them.
    Frank Herbert

No matter how exotic human civilization becomes, no matter the developments of life and society nor the complexity of the machine/human interface, there always come interludes of lonely power when the course of humankind, depends upon the relatively simple actions of single individuals.
    Frank Herbert

No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.
    Frank Herbert

One of the best things to come out of the home computer revolution could be the general and widespread understanding of how severely limited logic really is.
    Frank Herbert

Paired opposites define your longings and those longings imprison you.
    Frank Herbert

Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.
    Frank Herbert

People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.
    Frank Herbert

Prisons are needed only to provide the illusion that courts and police are effective. They’re a kind of job insurance.
    Frank Herbert

Question: Who governs the governors? Answer: Entropy.
    Frank Herbert

Religion must remain an outlet for people who say to themselves, “I am not the kind of person I want to be.” It must never sink into an assemblage of the self-satisfied.
    Frank Herbert

Religion often partakes of the myth of progress that shields us from the terrors of an uncertain future.
    Frank Herbert

Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.
    Frank Herbert

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.
    Frank Herbert

Show me a completely smooth operation and I’ll show you a cover up. Real boats rock.
    Frank Herbert

Something cannot emerge from nothing.
    Frank Herbert

The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
    Frank Herbert

The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
    Frank Herbert

The constitution is social power mobilized and it has no conscience. It can crush the highest and the lowest, removing all dignity and individuality. It has an unstable balance point and no limitations.
    Frank Herbert

The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other.
    Frank Herbert

The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following: Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when swerving away from the rabbit, hits a pedestrian.
    Frank Herbert

The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it.
    Frank Herbert

The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas. We possess only this moment in which to dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence which we share and create.
    Frank Herbert

The highest function of ecology is the understanding of consequences.
    Frank Herbert

The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
    Frank Herbert

The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.
    Frank Herbert

The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in.
    Frank Herbert

The person who takes the banal and ordinary and illuminates it in a new way can terrify. We do not want our ideas changed.
    Frank Herbert

The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it.
    Frank Herbert

The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.
    Frank Herbert

The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.
    Frank Herbert

The thing the ecologically illiterate don’t realize about an ecosystem is that it’s a system. A system! A system maintains a certain fluid stability that can be destroyed by a misstep in just one niche.
    Frank Herbert

The undeserving maintain power by promoting hysteria.
    Frank Herbert

The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows; a wall against the wind. This is the willow’s purpose.
    Frank Herbert

There are limits to power, as those who put their hopes in a constitution always discover.
    Frank Herbert

There are problems in this universe for which there are no answers. Nothing. Nothing can be done.
    Frank Herbert

There exists a limit to the force even the most powerful may apply without destroying themselves. Judging this limit is the true artistry of government. Misuse of power is the fatal sin.
    Frank Herbert

There is no escape, we pay for the violence of our ancestors.
    Frank Herbert

There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.
    Frank Herbert

There is probably no more terrible instance of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man — with human flesh.
    Frank Herbert

There’s an unwritten compact between you and the reader. If someone enters a bookstore and sets down hard earned money (energy) for your book, you owe that person some entertainment and as much more as you can give.
    Frank Herbert

There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.
    Frank Herbert

Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us?
    Frank Herbert

This is the fallacy of power: ultimately it is effective only in an absolute, a limited universe. But the basic lesson of our relativistic universe is that things change. Any power must always meet a greater power.
    Frank Herbert

To attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing the Darkness. It cannot be.
    Frank Herbert

To endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe. You cannot hire a wise man or any other intellect to solve it for you. There’s no writ of inquest or calling of witness to provide answers. No servant or disciple can dress the wound. You dress it yourself or continue bleeding for all to see.
    Frank Herbert

To know a thing well, know it limits. Only when pushed beyond its tolerances will true nature be seen.
    Frank Herbert

To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror, to learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror.
    Frank Herbert

Truth suffers from too much analysis.
    Frank Herbert

Ultimately, all things are known because you want to believe you know.
    Frank Herbert

We accept too damned many things on the explanations of people who could have good reasons for lying.
    Frank Herbert

Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the way to slavery.
    Frank Herbert

What do you despise? By this you are truly known.
    Frank Herbert

When a creature has developed into one thing, he will choose death rather than change into his opposite.
    Frank Herbert

When a wise man does not understand, he says: “I do not understand.” The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.
    Frank Herbert

When I was writing Dune there was no room in my mind for concerns about the book’s success or failure. I was concerned only with the writing. Six years of research had preceded the day I sat down to put the story together, and the interweaving of the many plot layers I had planned required a degree of concentration I had never before experienced.
    Frank Herbert

When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual.
    Frank Herbert

When politics and religion are intermingled, a people is suffused with a sense of invulnerability, and gathering speed in their forward charge, they fail to see the cliff ahead of them.
    Frank Herbert

When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way.
    Frank Herbert

When strangers meet, great allowances should be made for differences of custom and training.
    Frank Herbert

Where is the weapon with which I enforce your bondage? You give it to me every time you open your mouth.
    Frank Herbert

Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.
    Frank Herbert

You can say things which cannot be done. This is elementary. The trick is to keep attention focused on what is said and not on what can be done.
    Frank Herbert

You do not take from this universe. It grants you what it will.
    Frank Herbert

You know it’s love when you want to give joy and damn the consequences.
    Frank Herbert

You should never be in the company of anyone with whom you would not want to die.
    Frank Herbert

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