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Kwisatz Haderach / / is a term in Frank Herbert's fictional Dune universe which refers to a prophesied messiah and superbeing. In the series, the Bene Gesserit, a matriarchal secret society, hope to create a male who would possess absolute prescience, seeing all possible futures and thus being able to cause select threads of time to be realized through manipulation. The Bene Gesserit intend to use their Kwisatz Haderach to make their order more powerful than the other factions within the Old Empire.
Herbert also refers to the Kwisatz Haderach as "the one who can be many places at once". The phrase "Kwisatz Haderach" bears close resemblance to the Hebrew phrase "Kefitzat Haderech" (literally: "Contraction of the Way"), a Kabbalic term related to teleportation. Herbert provides the following definition in Terminology of the Imperium, the glossary of the 1965 novel Dune:
KWISATZ HADERACH: "Shortening of the Way." This is the label applied by the Bene Gesserit to the unknown for which they sought a genetic solution: a male Bene Gesserit whose organic mental powers would bridge space and time.
The Bene Gesserit breeding program had been conducted for centuries to preserve important bloodlines, but with the Kwisatz Haderach as its primary goal. A product of the program herself, Lady Jessica, concubine to the Duke Leto Atreides, had been instructed to bear him a daughter, but no sons. This daughter was to be wed to Feyd-Rautha, nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and heir to House Harkonnen, healing the generations-old rift between House Atreides and House Harkonnen. However, Jessica fell in love with Leto, and produced for him the son he desired: Paul Atreides. The Sisterhood is furious at Jessica's disobedience, but still somewhat intrigued by the potential in Paul, who, it turns out, is indeed the Kwisatz Haderach, a generation earlier than expected. Unprepared for his early arrival, the Bene Gesserit fail to control the young man as planned; by seizing control of the planet Arrakis and the all-important spice melange, Paul manages to seize control of the Known Universe. The very superbeing for whom the Bene Gesserit had schemed and waited becomes the instrument by which their order is diminished.
In Dune Messiah (1969) and Children of Dune (1976), Paul and his Empire set the Imperium on a course that will ultimately last thousands of years. Much to the frustration of the Bene Gesserit, they do not control Paul or his son, Leto Atreides II, also a Kwisatz Haderach, and even their breeding program is taken from them. Jessica's infraction becomes notorious to the Sisterhood; in the coming centuries, for a Bene Gesserit to choose her love over the instructions of her order is known as "the Jessica Crime".
Leto II becomes effectively immortal by transforming into a sandworm hybrid, and oppresses humanity during his 3,500-year reign. The Bene Gesserit are subsequently terrified of accidentally producing another Kwisatz Haderach.
In Dune Messiah, the Face Dancer Scytale reveals that the Bene Tleilax "once bred a kwisatz haderach of our own". When asked how this individual was "overcome", he notes that "A creature who has spent his life creating one particular representation of his selfdom will die rather than become the antithesis of that representation." The implication is that the Tleilaxu kwisatz haderach killed himself.
In Sandworms of Dune (2007), written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Duncan Idaho is revealed to be the final Kwisatz Haderach destined to bring together humans and thinking machines. While he is not a product of a breeding program, his multiple rebirths and deaths as a ghola throughout the series had given him the opportunity to gain experience and develop himself as no other human could.