Twin Peaks Unveiled: Occultism, Theosophy, and Red Curtains

 “And now, facing him bleakly in the hesitant light of dawn loomed the entrance to a cave, the Hall of Initiation that yawned and beckoned… Arriving at the entrance to a dimly lit chamber, his eyes were met by an airy veil of myriad glorious hues which stretched across the width of the room and undulated gently in an imperceptible breeze… He reached out abruptly and drew it aside, fully expecting some revelation to greet him. But only the air stirred and sighed and his eyes were met by the face of another veil” (Helen Valbord – Hermes Magazine – 01/87).

veil 1

It is no mystery that Mark Frost was highly influenced by Theosophy when he and David Lynch conceived the world of Twin Peaks. This esoteric religion established in New York by Russian émigré Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) constitutes a recurring motif in his work as a writer and the links with Twin Peaks are numerous. Theosophy claims that its teachings come from an ancient brotherhood of secret adepts known as the Masters, based in Tibet (!) and gifted with paranormal powers.

tibet

They constitute a White Lodge that watches over humanity and guides its evolution. One of the seven Root Races of humanity described by Blavatsky is supposed to have lived on the continent of Lemuria, which I have discussed in a recent post.

Personal development is considered by Theosophy to be one of the main goals of human existence, meaning the spiritual emancipation of the soul. Human elements such as the Spiritual Soul and the Spirit, though connected to the body via the Human Soul, can progress through further spiritual planes towards reincarnation. Blavatsky details these ideas in her book Isis Unveiled (1877).

Occultism (the study of Occult practices) is literaly the “knowledge of the hidden”. In the context of Twin Peaks, the esoteric realm par excellence, the one that only a few chosen initiates can enter, is that of the Lodges. But even when one has entered that realm via the Red Room, most of it remains veiled by a maze of red curtains that mask the geography of the space. It is the triumph of maya (“illusion”, in Indian philosophies). The potential space in abstract space that is Aditi (mother of the gods in the Vedas) – to quote another book by Blavatsky (The Secret Doctrine) – is the divine immaculate Mother who can be identified with the most arcane Isis of ancient Egypt.

Lord_Brahma_and_Adhiti_-_19th_Century_Illustration

Once again, I believe that Twin Peaks is fundamentally about the Jungian process of individuation. In other words, the series is mostly concerned with the mental evolution of its characters. Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper are the only two who have access to the Red Room, the athanor (furnace) for this alchemical process of integration of the unconscious elements of their personalities. This space is nothing but a vast (mental) labyrinth of rooms separated from each other by opaque veils (the red curtains). In order for these characters to be reborn as more developed spiritual beings – the veils, linked to Aditi, connect the Red Room to the female womb, the athanor which produces gold from lead – they have to wander through this maze until they reach its core, which is really the core of their own psyche.

But of course, as Dale Cooper finds out at the end of the second season, every labyrinth is inhabited by a Minotaur or a Dragon, protecting its treasure: his own Shadow Self…

evil dale

The fiery power of the Heaven-Born must fight its way into the inmost chamber of the heart. Veil after veil may confront him and veil after veil he must cast aside until, like the worn and weary pilgrim, he is well advanced into the Hall of Initiation. But he must not, as did that exhausted pilgrim, despair. For though the final veil eternally remains, he can release its activated Buddhic power within his own being and soar in mind and heart beyond the prison-house of separate existence into the unlimited vastitude of Aditi – divine and boundless Space” (Helen Valbord – Hermes Magazine – 01/1987)

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