Twin Peaks was full of occult imagery, signifying a battle between the forces of Jupiter (positive) and Saturn (malefic). My comment on the symbols in this scene is here. Image Source: The Dissolve.
David Lynch's and Mark Frost's acclaimed series Twin Peaks, which changed television in two seasons in 1990 and 1991, returns on 21 May 2017. The original series, and the 1992 prequel film, was a mystery about a murdered American homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. It unraveled in the second season into soap opera surrealism after Lynch stepped away from the project. But the first season was a landmark moment in popular entertainment and is widely considered one of the best television series ever made. It inspired many other ground-breaking series. My comments below the jump contain spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen the original series and want to, read no further until you have done so.
Scene at the traffic light with Laura and her father. From Fire Walk With Me (1992) © AMLF/New Line Cinema. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
The mystery of Laura's death had many dimensions. Above all, it was about incest. The psychological trauma from Laura's abuse and murder altered the reality of a town in Washington state, USA. Twin Peaks probed the heart of darkness because Laura was doomed to be raped, tortured and killed by her own father, who otherwise seemed to be a wonderful man and one of the town's leaders. There was no other path Laura could follow; everything in Fire Walk with Me was a bottleneck of fate, a tunnel of inevitability, through which other possibilities were eradicated.
The question Lynch and Frost posed was how to find 'one way out between two worlds,' how to recover balance between good and evil, and between everyday life and the spiritual realm, after atrocities are committed. The series presented morality in gnostic and Masonic terms, although Twin Peaks went beyond that lexicon. The characters displayed good and evil qualities dominated by a mystical White Lodge and a Black Lodge. You can see an esoteric essay on the Black Lodge, here, which gives you a glimpse of the Apollonian and Dionysian ancient Greek tradition and mythology with which Lynch and Frost were playing.
Like Kubrick's The Shining (1980), Twin Peaks kept the deadly founding of North America firmly in mind. Native American experience, wisdom and suffering offered the Lynchian story a backdrop, confirmed by one of the fictional town's police deputies, Hawk. As with The Shining, Lynch and Frost imagined an enormous resort hotel outside the town of Twin Peaks, the Great Northern Hotel; and as with Kubrick's hotel, it was filled with Native American decorations and artefacts as constant, silent reminders.
Another myth behind Twin Peaks derived from Tibetan Buddhism and a tantric technique known as the 'diamond vehicle,' which finds shortcuts to enlightenment, knowledge and power through sacrifice and sorcery, taboo, passion and pure evil. From the Hevajra tantra:
"Those things by which evil men are bound, others turn into means and gain thereby release from the bonds of existence. By passion the world is bound, by passion too it is released ... ."
Sadhguru lecture, The Meaning of Colors for a Spiritual Seeker (5 November 2015). Video Source: Youtube.
Above, see a video in which the famous yogi Sadhguru described Hindu sacrifices in the worship of the goddess Devi. He remarks that to evoke vibrant passion, the colour red and the scattering of life are needed; for some, including those following tantric traditions, that involves the shedding of blood in an animal sacrifice.
In this November 2015 lecture, Sadhguru remarked that there are other paths to the same passionate enlightenment, associated with red and femininity. But a non-sacrificial approach is confined to certain guarded traditions:
Of course, sacrifice in the form of the scapegoat is a major element in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well. Given where Lynch and Frost went with Twin Peaks, it seems they were struggling with the idea of Laura's sacrifice as the sole path to achieve a certain enlightenment or larger understanding."So the Devi temples always have very active involvement of red, in many ways only red flowers are used. Blood is spilled all over the place [in animal sacrifices]. We don’t do the blood business, but one way or the other it needs lot of spilling of life. Either you must know how to spill your life just like that without killing yourself, if you do not know the technology you have to kill. We know the technology, so we don’t kill. Somebody else who do[es] not know the technology of spilling life without killing the body, they will cut the body. Most Devi temples have daily sacrifice[s]. ... Only Bhairavi doesn’t have that. She has, but not in terms of blood sacrifices. She has different kind. So, red comes with a cost. "
Obviously, the surreal exploration of these ideas in an American prime time soap opera would get complicated, and the audience became alienated when underlying messages surfaced. Lynch and Frost had trouble bringing this left-hand-path branch of Buddhist thought on evil into a framework of western polarities. From The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions:
"Twin Peaks finally subsumes Tibetan Buddhism and Native American animism under a Judeo-Christian rubric of sin, death and redemption[; this] should alert us to the powerful presence of secular myth."
The character Windom Earle, an ex-FBI agent and Cooper's former partner, becomes an antagonist in the series as he tries to beat Cooper to unlock the mystery of the Black Lodge, which perpetrated Laura's violation and murder. The plot also makes reference to UFO research in the woods around the town, prior to later troubles. Earle speaks here of Dugpas, or Buddhist tantric sorcerers. Windom Earle explains the Black Lodge © ABC. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
Windom Earle/Dale Cooper and the Black/White Lodge © ABC. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
Americans like good to triumph in the end, period. Contrary to the negative stereotype that the general American audience cannot handle anything intelligent or complex, they were fascinated by Twin Peaks. They were fine with the small town ultra-strangeness, the corrupted homecoming queen, the murder mystery, the soap opera, the Log Lady, and the FBI. They didn't mind a White Lodge confronting a Black Lodge; but if it all came down to that, the latter had to be defeated. Period, end of story! Good must defeat evil. The mystery stopped there!
Instead, distinctions between the two Lodges began to break down. Some of the series' characters were Doppelgänger, or dark doubles of other characters; others were animate lesser portions of other characters, signifying that a predominantly good or evil character still haboured lesser evil or good intentions. This was less welcome among prime time audiences.
Laura's father raped her while possessed by an evil spirit called BOB. BOB's terror was depicted as a catalyst, sparking the most primitive kind of negative survival, summarized by the symbolic word garmonbozia. In Twin-Peaks-speak, this meant, 'pain and sorrow,' and the inhabitants of the Black Lodge were shown consuming Laura's shed blood, like creamed corn.
Garmonbozia scene. From Fire Walk With Me (1992) © AMLF/New Line Cinema. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
As for evil as a shortcut to knowledge and power, if Laura was sacrificed and other evils were committed in this story for those purposes, I don't see who benefited. The characters gathered near the end of the series to ponder Laura's father's crime as something unknowable; they didn't celebrate their new knowledge from this horror. Perhaps the most intriguing metafictional possibility was that the fictional sacrifice broke the Fourth Wall and the pay-off in terms of knowledge went to the audience. Thus, the accrued knowledge came in the form of the show itself.
Video Source: Youtube.
Lynch is renowned for his literal-minded use of symbols as analogies for the mysteries of the human mind, heart, and soul. His looped, non-linear narratives show how symbols connect us to the order of the universe. Above all, the director loves abandoned roads, which seem to indicate forbidden pathways into secret consciousness. In Twin Peaks, an ancient darkness had harboured in the woods around the town, which consumed Laura's father and finally, the FBI agent, Dale Cooper, who saved Laura's soul after her death.
The series ended with BOB killing Windom Earle and possessing the hero, Cooper. Cooper sacrificed himself so that Laura's soul could be freed. Thus, the sacrificial theme in the series was not resolved, rather perpetuated.
The villain from Twin Peaks, BOB, played by Frank Silva, was a spiritual personification of darkness in the woods outside the town, which started invading homes and people. Images Sources: Youtube; giphy; giphy; pinterest.
Twin Peaks bled over into other media, with Lynch's daughter Jennifer writing the diary of Laura Palmer. The mystery of the show, including puzzles and cliff-hangers, blended with the mood of the early 1990s. The series' cult status grew as its symbols became the keys to larger fictional and real life experiences. The deeper the fans dug into the mystery, the closer the director and writer took them to a larger symbolic architecture and message about reality.
Today's online alternate reality games like Cicada 3301 and Tengri 137 are reminiscent of this way of thinking. The 2017 show repeats the puzzle technique, here, here, here and here.
The new 18-hour "limited event" series will be directed by Lynch, and written by Lynch and Frost; it takes place in the same town, with the same characters, 25 years later. Opening episodes premiered at Cannes. You can watch the series here, with more release details here. The new series' Youtube channel is here.
Twin Peaks | Some Familiar Faces 25 Years Later | SHOWTIME Series (2017). Video Source: Youtube.