The Metaphysical Peaks

The world of Twin Peaks is of a metaphysical nature.

What does that mean? The word “metaphysics” derives from Greek and signifies “beyond physics”. In Twin Peaks, physical reality is not enough, there is also something “beyond” – another reality above, below, or behind the one in which we exist. A Fourth Dimension that “transcends” the limited traditional 3D reality of everyday life. Twin Peaks‘ physical world is nothing but a double, an image, a shadow of this other more fundamental reality.

Like Dale and Laura, some people are lucky enough to access this transcendental level of being beyond our own (via dreams, astral projection, etc.). Since time works differently there, they often become human oracles, as with the Log Lady. They receive glimpses of the future thanks to their connection to a realm where time works cyclically and not in a linear fashion as it does in our world. This advantage can sometimes become problematic, as it’s difficult for them to know precisely at which point in the river of time they will return when they exit the Lodges (as Dale Cooper learns in episode 18 of The Return).

On this other plane of reality, “I” is really someone else – a double who is both me and not me. Actually, in a sense, this double from the Fourth Dimension is more fundamentally me than I am. I am only its shadow (of flesh). It is closer to the bottom of the ocean of consciousness. It lives in Plato’s intelligible world, the world of pure Ideas.

In his book “Le réel et son double” (“The Real and Its Double”, 1976), French philosopher Clément Rosset writes:

The double that represents the subject is an immortal double, tasked with keeping the subject sheltered from his own death… But that which troubles the subject more than his own death, is first his non-reality, his non-existence… it’s no longer the other who is my double, it is I who am the double of the other.

If this essential other disappears, it’s our very existence that is called into question. This is why Dale Cooper’s plight is so terrible – beyond death, it’s his very existence that is at stake in The Return. He has to awaken from the dream into which he has been plunged  in order not to travel from being into nothingness.

Rosset then goes on:

Perhaps the foundation of anxiety, apparently linked here to the discovery that the visible other is not the real other, is to look to a more profound terror: to not be myself, that who I thought I was. And even deeper still, to suspect on this occasion that I am perhaps not something, but nothing.

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How can we prove that we exist? To a certain extent, we can prove it to other people with our birth certificate, if we have one… but how can we prove our existence to ourselves? We have never even seen ourselves!

The true presence of one’s self to self  implies renouncing the spectacle of one’s own image. Because here the image kills the model… me, that I have never seen and never will see, even in a mirror… it doesn’t show me the inverse, but another; not my body, but a surface, a reflection.

This is likely why symmetry and mirrors play such a central role in Twin Peaks – they duplicate reality, but also invert it. It is not ourselves that we see in our mirrors, but our inverted selves, our doppelgängers.

Sartre would nevertheless argue that one possible way to prove our existence to ourselves might be through our actions. Audrey’s husband calls this “existentialism 101”. On the other hand, since it takes so long for Audrey to actually do anything, to act, she’s getting closer and closer to nothingness, to inexistence.

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Let’s come back to the twin peaks mentioned in the title of this post. The purple ocean’s peak and Jack Rabbit’s Palace are, in spite of their differences, essentially the same. Finding the latter is actually described as a way to access the former – Andy and the Double get teleported to the Fireman’s place when they reach the grove close to Jack Rabbit’s Palace. Both layers of reality are superimposed at this precise location, as if they were pieces of cloth sewn together, over each other.

Images from various levels of reality transpire through the cloth and patchwork of the universe and some people are lucky enough to get glimpses of what lies behind. Holes (or vortexes) in the fabric of reality enable one to see and travel through those layers. In Lynch’s Inland Empire, for instance, one remembers the cigarette-burn hole in a piece of silk…

CigaretteBurn

The reason for the omnipresence of superimpositions of images in The Return is that the various cloth/universes are getting close together, masking each other. From the hidden layering of the opening credits (the plight of the three versions of Dale Cooper illustrates this tension between conflicting realities) to the superimposition of Cooper’s face in the sheriff’s station during episode 17, this is a recurring motif in the third season of Twin Peaks.

Gene Youngblood, the author of Expanded Cinema, would probably argue that The Return is a work of synaesthetic cinema, a cinema that “provides access to syncretistic content through the inarticulate conscious“. In his book, he writes:

Paul Klee, whose syncretistic paintings closely resemble certain works of synaesthetic cinema, spoke of the endotopic (inside) and exotopic (outside) areas of a picture plane, stressing their equal importance in the overall experience. Synaesthetic cinema, primarily through superimposition, fuses the endotopic and exotopic by reducing depth-of-field to a total field of nonfocused multiplicity.

Here, instead of “a total field”, David Lynch would probably say “a unified field”…

Youngblood goess on:

Moreover, it subsumes the conventional sense of time by interconnecting and interpenetrating the temporal dimension with images that exist outside of time.

It seems to me that this is a very good summary of what Lynch did with these various superimpositions, unifying different locations and times into the picture plane, where there is no more inside and outside.

Youngblood concludes by saying that “synaesthetic syncretism replaces montage with collage“. I have stressed many times (in my book and on this blog) the links that exist between Twin Peaks and the works of Max Ernst, especially with his collage A Week of Kindness.

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