by Franck Boulègue
[page 7] Zoom out. A television screen covered with random flickers of “snow,” visual noise. This electromagnetic interference, accidentally picked up by an antenna, opens the credits of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). It is an effect created in part by cosmic background radiation—in other words, by a remnant of the origin of the cosmos. It feels akin to magic when one realizes it is possible to “watch” the origin of the universe on our TV screens, or at least, that it was possible in the earlier age of analog television. This potentiality represents a central symbolic underpinning of Twin Peaks, that of a cosmogony or mythological realm located somewhere in between fiction and reality, past and future, science and the supernatural.
Even before the 2017 screening of the eighteen episodes of Twin Peaks’ new season, also known as The Return, a season replete with references to alchemy, astral voyages, astrology, numerology, geomancy, and possessions of all sorts, the opportunity to edit a special issue of Supernatural Studies about the show seemed an excellent idea. From an etymological point of view, the supernatural describes that which is “above” nature, a good starting point to analyze Twin Peaks and its multiple layers of worlds. In Fire Walk with Me, the Arm utters the following lines: “From pure air, we have descended, from pure air. Going up and down. Intercourse between the two worlds.” The fictional universe created by David Lynch and Mark Frost in the early 1990’s, first as a TV series for ABC and then as several books and a film, invites an outlook that is intimately related to concepts such as the trailokya (three worlds, or three planes of existence, as identified in the Vedas: “Now, there are, of a truth, three worlds: the world of men, the world of the fathers, and the world of the Gods. The world of the Gods is verily the best of worlds.”) from Hindu, Buddhist and Theosophist cosmologies, representing a division of the universe from matter to light, from the manifested to the unmanifested. Nothing is ever quite what it [page 8] seems in Twin Peaks; occulted behind reality lies a web of invisible, perhaps electromagnetic, connections, which permanently confers additional meaning to events on the narrative level.
It is now well established that Twin Peaks relies heavily on a syncretism of various esoteric philosophies which find their source in the interests of both Lynch and Frost. In his book Catching the Big Fish (2006), Lynch regularly quotes from the Upanishads and explains his deep interest in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s movement of Transcendental Meditation. In 2005, he even created “The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace,” which is directly linked to TM. The world of Twin Peaks, especially in its television incarnation, owes much to these influences. Mark Frost has also introduced his own esoteric interests, ranging from secret societies to Theosophy, into the mix. Although a great deal has been written about those concepts and the roles which they may have played in Lynch’s creative process, this has not really been the case for Frost, and is why it seemed germane to consider of some of his novels outside the Twin Peaks canon, works which help to clarify his recurring motifs such as the Jungian “process of individuation” which may be viewed as a form of ‘‘human alchemy.’’
In addition to an interest in Eastern mysticism, one of the aspects that Twin Peaks owes to the esoteric movements of the 19th Century (movements led by the likes of Helena Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, Annie Besant, and Charles Leadbeater, the latter two well known for their book about Thought-Forms, a concept directly connected to the tulpas of season 3) is the theory that the best way to access this hidden, supernatural reality might well be via the realm of science. Technologies first explored in the nineteenth century such as radiography, electricity, and telegraphy (the ‘‘singing wires’’) were believed by many to somehow reveal hidden aspects of reality, providing access to higher realms such as the Fourth Dimension of occultism and Surrealism (described as The Zone in The Return in a direct tribute to Jean Cocteau’s film Orpheus, 1950) that had previously been masked by the mundane. These [page 9] newly-developed technologies were seen in some quarters as heralds of a New Age: “Smoke and fire represented old-world oppression, incongruent with visions of American pastoralism and exceptionalism” (French 24).
We open this issue with an article by Miranda Corcoran, “‘Gotta Light?’ Intersections of Science and the Supernatural in Twin Peaks,” which focuses on this relationship between science and the supernatural in Twin Peaks. In a similar vein to the claims of Jack Parsons, rocket engineer and occultist, for whom the scientific and the supernatural appeared closely intertwined, the text argues that they “unite to create a horror that traverses the boundary between the natural and the unnatural.” The atom bomb explosion in part 8, a direct result of the most advanced science of the time and an application of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, paradoxically leads to the parasitizing of our realm by higher dimensional entities. If the desert is “an empty canvas” (to quote Jack Parsons in Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks), the “hole” the bomb creates in that canvas (according to David Lynch’s interview in Cahiers du Cinéma) directly leads to the other side of reality, to the Fourth Dimension and its mind-bending vibrational waves (“this is the water…”). Jornada del Muerto (“Journey of the Dead”), the location where the test took place, is situated exactly four hundred and thirty miles from Las Vegas, where Dale and Diane cross over to the other side. Just as heavy metals are created when supernovae explode in the cosmos, “the light of many suns in one” of the Trinity test bombing, which led to the end of another Empire of the Sun, appears connected to the compressed golden seed of The Fireman, to the golden egg in which he resides on top of Mount Meru.1 The power to control the atom, but also electricity and magic, is of a dichotomous nature: “It signals fire and destruction, but it also evokes notions of illumination, warmth and promise.” This, of course, is highly reminiscent of Shiva’s role in Hinduism as destroyer and transformer. The manifestation of BOB leads to the birth of Laura; all is about balance. Corcoran writes “The nineteenth century was [page 10] defined by a unique epistemology that fused the scientific and the supernatural.” Mark Frost has regularly shown an interest in this idea, to which his novels about Arthur Conan Doyle, The List of Seven (1993) and The Six Messiahs (1995), bear witness. Doyle was not only the creator of the highly rational Sherlock Holmes, but an equally strong proponent of spiritualism. This sort of tension can be felt in every aspect of Twin Peaks, especially in the character of Dale Cooper, FBI agent and psychonaut.
“Under the Skin of the World: The Multiversal Spaces of Twin Peaks: The Return” by Adam Daniel continues this train of thought. Once one agrees upon the continuity or interpenetration of science and the supernatural, questions of their limitations and boundaries follow. To what point does quotidian reality extend and where does another realm begin? This leads Daniel, in the context of The Return, to pose questions concerning internal and external multiverse theories, parallel dimensions, the Einsteinian space/time continuum, quantum physics, space and time collages, and superimpositions. Such probing into the content of Twin Peaks also raises issues concerning its formal structure, which is reminiscent of the collages and superimpositions of artists such as Max Ernst, exemplified by his 1934 collage book A Week of Kindness, to which Twin Peaks is indebted. Form and content appear to work hand in hand in this quest for a multi-layered reality, which is not cohesive but rather is constantly rearranging itself into a kind of patchwork. The Return might well be seen as an attempt to subvert the sequential form of the art of film to create a non-linear narrative, rewriting itself in the process. Is it possible that the strange black mechanical devices found in The Fireman’s Palace might be electromagnetic ‘‘thimbles,’’ used in the process of stitching the various alternative timelines together, avoiding permeability as much as possible? Daniel mentions Greene’s Quilted Universe model. Is this the reason that the devices emit a signal when the “desert canvas” is pierced by the atomic explosion in 1945? Daniel mentions The Fireman’s theater screen as a portal of sorts. Perhaps The Fireman, who exists between two worlds, first uses our TV [page 11] screens as windows, breaking the fourth wall to check that the tear did not occur on our side of the looking glass. Sewing does play a role in Fire Walk with Me with Lil’s dress (“The dress was altered to fit her. I noticed a different color of thread where the dress was taken in”) and the thimble on top of Carrie Page’s fireplace, next to the little white horse (a solar symbol?). Are the (quantum) superimpositions of the show a manifestation of the sewing together of the various membranes of the multiverse, an idea which again owes much to Hinduism, Vishnu being the deity who dreams the many egg-shaped worlds? Daniel argues in favor of this when he writes, for instance, that “the opening credits feature two prominent examples of superimposition.” Besides the two examples given, one can also find in the credits during the overview of the Twin Peaks forest an “occult” superimposition composed of the several versions of Dale Cooper (Dougie, Mr. C, and the awakened Dale) artfully blended into the scenery. It is clear, once this image is deciphered, that, from the first image of the new series, it is all about a complex layering of worlds, veiled behind the curtain of reality
David Sweeney’s article, “Twin Peaks as Fictional World and Alternative Earth” deals with how these multiple versions of reality coexist with each other and their relationship with our own rational reality. Sweeney argues that the 50s’ aesthetic of the show is not odd for the characters who inhabit that world because they exist in a different reality from our own. According to this line of reasoning, the Nine Inch Nails that performs at the Bang Bang Bar in part 8 is not exactly the same band as the one in our dimension. When Dale/Richard and a sleepwalking Laura/Carrie meet Alice, the new owner of the Palmer house in Twin Peaks, the latter is played by Mary Reber, the person who actually owns the house in our reality. Examples like these underline the layering of worlds at work. The porosity extends both ways and even reaches our level of being, as mentioned above, with The Fireman scrutinizing us through our TV screens or with William Hasting’s blog The Search for the Zone making it onto our Internet. Tears in the fabric exist [page 12] everywhere, and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to decide who belongs in which layer, where fiction ends and reality begins. Is it Gordon Cole or David Lynch who meets Monica Bellucci in Paris? The second option would seem more likely, but then, does this mean that Lynch is just a dream and that Gordon is “real”? In literature, there is a gap between the “segregationists” who want to keep the realms of fiction and reality mutually exclusive and the “integrationists” who, on the contrary, believe in the absence of true ontological difference between these worlds. Lynch appears to side with the second group. As Lynch is a strong believer in the power of dreams, this is not surprising; the unconscious does not discriminate between worlds according to their ontological level. Our psychological life is situated, in its depths, at the crossroads of reality and fiction. That Carrie Page acts as a sleepwalker during the last sequence of part 18, following Cooper dreamily and unable to focus on anything, points to such a layering of realities in her mind. In some ways, she acts in a manner similar to that of Dougie Jones during most of the season: she needs to wake up. This Twin Peaks is a town that we can inhabit if we wish, at least mentally, and where we can meet the fictional characters whose stories we follow, but it is an unstable world, one that exists on the seam between universes. When Carrie wakes up and screams, she rips apart this in-between world, in which a part of us also dwells, and the electromagnetic force that binds universes together suddenly switches off.
This awakening of a ‘‘Sleeping Beauty’’ stresses the central role of the unconscious in Twin Peaks. Examined in the context of fairy tales by psychoanalysts such as Bruno Bettelheim, this role is of prime importance in the next article, written by Courtenay Stallings, “Twin Peaks: The Return as Subversive Fairy Tale.” The show “allows viewers to grapple with real-life dark forces, including violence, through a supernatural, dream-like story,” “a way of revealing ourselves to ourselves.” This quest towards the integration of the parts of one’s unconscious was described by Carl Jung as “the process of individuation,” one of the central motifs of [page 13] Twin Peaks, which might explain why Dale Cooper, who appears to have been arrested during that process, finally proves unable to save Laura. As Stallings argues, “trauma is not so easily vanquished, and the princess not so easily saved.” This idea of a story which aims at helping its listeners can also be linked to the Hindu concept of the vrata khata, “a class of living story (katha) that is told ritually on a sacred day as part of a vow (vrata) . . . . Such stories of difficulties and their ritual resolution invite listeners to resolve their own difficulties in similar ritual fashion. A vrata khata is the expression of a deity’s being via mythic narrative, and its mantric value arises from the way in which its story is told and received” (Svoboda 227-228).
In “Thousands of Miles and Many Centuries: Eastern Mysticism and Spiritual Possession in Twin Peaks,” Brett H. Butler discusses that which is probably the polar opposite of the idea of personal development found in fairy tales: the concept of possession. “Vessels are arguably the foundation of the Twin Peaks’ mythos,” he writes, “These are characters who are susceptible to being possessed by spirits from the Black Lodge.” An unfinished process of individuation probably makes it easier for such a possession to take place. Butler extends his analysis of possession beyond the usual Western perspective to consider African and Eastern mysticism. Butler mentions music and dance as linked to spiritual possession, providing possible connections with the films and research of Maya Deren, especially with her Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1947-1954), a documentary about dance and possession in Haitian voudou. Butler also discusses The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol, meant to assist the souls of the dead to move onward and fight wrathful demons (which are “merely manifestations of the soul’s guilt and shame”) encountered along the way. This could be linked to “the battle between gods and demons, the central theme of Hindu mythology . . . [in which] the battle lines are blurred by the lack of distinction between gods and demons, who share not only their superhuman powers together with such tell-tale signs as an absence of sweating or [page 14] blinking but also their anthropomorphic moral ambivalences . . . . [T]he gods and demons are in fact the same” (Doniger 270). One and the same? The bardo is the interval between death and the next rebirth, a concept applied here to the realm and characters of Twin Peaks, who appear trapped in various sorts of limbos. As a result, the area “has become spiritually consumed” as proven by “the pestilence spreading throughout town” (rashes, physical ailments, etc.). One might also wonder if the Bardo Thodol is “Liberation through Hearing during the Intermediate State”: might this be the reason that The Fireman asks Cooper to “listen to the sounds”?
The penultimate article of the issue, “The Secret History of BOB: Transmedia Storytelling and Twin Peaks” by Mark Yates, enables us to better understand how the various layers of the Twin Peaks canon (television series, film, and books) have contributed to the development of its supernatural mythology. This idea brings us back to the concept of superimposition at work in The Return, to the idea that we are confronted with a complex patchwork, artfully stitched together by its authors. A character like BOB actually “bobs up” through the various “holes” in this ensemble, and the core text (the TV series) is not necessarily the one that teaches us the most about him. It might be argued that this is also the case for the woodsmen, who might very well be “the messengers of the gods” (fallen angels made of ash and soot?) called in the desert by Jack Parsons (and earlier in the century by Aleister Crowley in the Sahara). Interestingly, the way the woodsmen kill their victims—drinking blood from their palms or from a human skull—and their ability to fly and vanish correspond to the practices of the Rakshasas from Hinduism, insatiable cannibals who could smell the scent of human flesh and are akin to the vampires of Western mythology (an interpretation acknowledged by Mark Frost, who clicked ‘‘like’’ under a post that I made on Twitter about the subject). All this definitely contributes, writes Yates, to create “an immersive narrative experience that both reinforced and complicated the show’s supernatural mythologies.” [page 15]
This web of mysteries actually extends to the cosmos in Twin Peaks and vice versa, as the final text, “‘If Jupiter and Saturn Meet’: Astrological Dualities and Time in Twin Peaks” written by Karla Lončar argues. Lončar explains that “Jupiter and Saturn can be loosely described as planets with opposing influences. The former works as the Great Benefactor . . . while the latter is sometimes referred to as the Great Malefic.” This leads to an analysis of their influence on the characters’ personal development, using Jungian psychoanalysis and references to alchemy. This also enables Lončar to draw formal conclusions about the tempo of the show, its various loops and space-time disruptions, in relation to the influence of these two planets: “long and repetitive takes (Saturn) oppose the immersive and dynamic sequences (Jupiter).” The role of the zodiacal signs and their belonging to four different elements can be linked to the opening credits of the show (old and new) with their depiction of earth, fire, water, and air in relationship to Twin Peaks. Lončar rightfully connects Jupiter to The Fireman in The Return, thanks to his beneficial influence and to the pattern on the floor of his Palace, which mimics the giant planet’s atmosphere. To continue her reflections about Saturn, I discovered that the Greeks called the revolving heavens a “corn-mill,” on top of which axle sits the Oil Mill Lord, grinding people, “reducing them by Time to tales that others tell.” Might this be the reason for Glastonbury’s scorched oil?
To briefly expand Lončar’s analysis beyond Western mythology and astrology, in Hindu astrology, the planets also possess deities (grahas) associated with them. “These grahas, like the worms, bacteria, and viruses which are our physical parasites, possess us to feed off us; they deplete and devour us whenever they temporarily gain control over us” (Svoboda 161). This sounds very similar to what BOB and other Fourth Dimensional entities do in Twin Peaks. ”‘A Graha imperceptibly enters into the body of the patient in the same way as an image imperceptibly enters into (the surface of) a mirror’ . . . . [They] are the Nine Chief Masks of Reality . . . the nine major personalities which arise from the primordial [page 16] images which populate the world of the mind, images which resemble the archetypes that Carl Jung described . . . . When Saturn [Shani] strongly influences you, for example, you will experience Saturnian qualities like delay and pessimism as a major part of your subjective reality” (161). Interestingly, Shani is usually depicted as sitting on a crow, a bird we can find on Hawk’s map. Chandra, another graha is associated with the Moon (considered a planet in Hindu astrology). Its direction is the northwest. One might wonder if this is not connected to the original title of the series—”Northwest Passage”—since Chandra is the King of Soma, the food of the gods (produced by cows, as in “the cow jumped over the moon”), a beverage of immortality very similar to garmonbozia. Could this mean that everything in Twin Peaks is about finding the way to garmonbozia? Another example is Shukra, the graha of the planet Venus. In an account found in the Mahabharata, Shukra divided himself into two, one half becoming the knowledge source for the Devas (gods) and the other half being the knowledge source of the Asuras (demons). Could this be what gave birth to the duo of MIKE and the Arm, regularly associated in the Red Room with statues of the goddess Venus?
Returning to Jupiter, Lončar’s focus alongside Saturn: his equivalent in Hindu mythology is Indra, the lord of the heavens and leader of the Devas. This deity lives on the top of Mount Meru, and he is the god of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains, and river flows; in other words, he is the god of electricity. In the book Vedic Physics (Raja Ram Mohan Roy, 1999), his scientific meaning is said to be the electric force. He is the one who kills the great symbolic evil (Asura) named Vritra (a serpent or dragon). This description fits perfectly with The Fireman as we meet him in The Return: a force for good who intervenes to help mankind and who lives perched on top of the purple peak in a citadel with his wife (Señorita Dido/Indrani, also known as Shashi, one of the seven Matrikas, or mother goddesses).2 Indra’s connection to Thor also seems of importance since it is The Fireman who presides overs Freddie Sykes’ metamorphosis into a person gifted with the [page 17] strength of a demigod, thanks to the green garden glove to which he leads Sykes. This glove works in a manner similar to Thor’s hammer Mjölnir (a weapon that functions with the power of a thunderbolt) when Sykes uses it to subdue BOB-the-snake/dragon, the equivalent in Twin Peaks to Indra’s fight against Vritra with Vajra. BOB’s connection to Joudy also appears crucial here: Indra actually steals the elixir of soma from Sushna (Vritra), ‘the Scorcher’, a horned demon who lays eggs and who releases the heavenly waters when Indra kills him. Finally, as I have argued elsewhere (Twin Peaks: Unwrapping the Plastic, 2016), the Red Room is a hortus conclusus of sorts, a secret garden akin to the Temenos of classical Greece. If this is indeed the case, then the Arm’s famous quote “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air” suddenly makes a great deal of sense. The heaven of Lord Indra contains celestial gardens called Nandana, planted with sacred trees and sweet-scented flowers. Low sweet music constantly plays and the inhabitants of Amaravati (the capital of this heaven) are entertained by music, dancing, and every sort of festivity.
Beyond Hinduism, one probably also needs to look at Theosophy in order to understand what is at work in Twin Peaks; staying with the character of The Fireman, we learn that Omri-Tas, the Ruler of the Violet Planet, is a Galactic-level Ascended Master who, with his celestial mate, Irmo-Sat, is the violet flame supplier, capable of cleansing bad karma. He rules a planet on the etheric plane called the Violet Planet, which is apparently several dozen to several hundred light years from Earth and is a reservoir for the violet flame. This is, of course, highly reminiscent of the purple ocean (or is it the ocean of consciousness of Transcendental Meditation?) and of The Fireman’s constant monitoring of the electromagnetic “flame” that binds dimensions together.
From Twin Peaks to the distant Cosmos via the Lodges and The Fireman’s Purple Palace, this issue of Supernatural Studies thus covers the whole multiverse of the show, with a collection of fascinating articles written by talented contributors. Between these [page 18] pieces, you will find reviews of books related to the Twin Peaks franchise. I hope that you will find as much pleasure in reading this issue as I did in putting it together!
Before I close this introduction, I would like to thank David Lynch and Mark Frost (as well as everyone linked to Twin Peaks) for the endless hours of wonder they have given me during the past thirty or so years. As an integrationist myself, I sometimes feel as though I am a resident of Twin Peaks, and this is thanks to their combined talent. I would also very much like to thank all of the contributors to the issue, those who wrote both articles and reviews, for their hard work and the quality of their texts. It was a real pleasure to collaborate with them on this collection of articles. Many thanks to the editorial team of Supernatural Studies, too, for the opportunity to put together such an issue. Special thanks to Diana Heyne for editing this introduction, which otherwise might have proven as cryptic as some portions of the series. And finally, as always, I would like to thank my wife Marisa for all her help and support–she is truly “the One.”
1. Hindus believe that Mount Meru is the center of the universe. It is the most sacred object in the universe because it supports the heavens and the gods. Geographically, it is said to exist in the waters of life, surrounded by seven concentric seas. Indra, the lord of the heavens, lives on the top of the mountains. Meru is the center of cosmic symmetry.
2. It is said—an important point in the context of Twin Peaks—that Indra chose his wife over all of the other goddesses because of “her magnetic attractions.”
Doniger, Wendy. Hindu Myths. Penguin Classics, 1975.
French, Daniel. When They Hid the Fire: A History of Electricity and Invisible Energy in America. U of Pittsburgh P, 2017.
Svoboda, Robert E. The Greatness of Saturn: A Therapeutic Myth. Lotus Press, 1997.
MLA citation (print):
Boulègue, Franck. "Introduction." Supernatural Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2019, pp. 7-17.