Forget Deepak Chopra. Toss aside Marianne Williamson. Put away your Dalai Lama. My lessons on spirituality come from a much higher source: Dune. Throughout the years, critics have casually dismissed David Lynch’s 1984 sci-fi opus as a pointlessly gothic, overwrought space opera — Blade Runner by way of Sidney Sheldon. These cynical secularists have mocked everything from Sting’s lusty overacting to the ponderously pretentious soundtrack by Toto (Toto!) to the inscrutably hallucinogenic art direction. They’ve got it all wrong; those are just the fringe benefits.

No, upon repeated viewings — turn on the Sci-Fi Channel, it’s probably on right now — it’s become clear to me that hidden within the whispered voice-overs and the trance-inducing visuals lies a reference guide for your soul. Not a day goes by when I don’t recite Kyle MacLachlan’s calming mantra: ”I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death … ” And was there a truer sentiment than that of Virginia Madsen, who explained, ”The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness”? (Of course, the drill works only if you take spice to be a byword for truth, and not some oblique foreshadowing of Posh, Scary, et al.)

Dubious? Try this exercise: Next time you’re cut off on the freeway, intone the name of MacLachlan’s character in a slowly crescendoing voice, ”Mwaaaaaa-deeb!” Even if the word doesn’t trigger destruction when it passes your lips (it does when MacLachlan intones it in the movie — don’t ask), you will have entered the temple of Dune.



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