In Mark Frost’s work The Secret History of Twin Peaks, we fans were introduced to many new, interesting and often contradictory concepts. Many varying explanations of the book have been offered, including the idea that it is nothing more than a sequence of red herrings meant to throw off the deeply invested fans, that it is possibly an alternate universe (perhaps Frost’s own) which will be crucial to season three, or even that it’s simply a ridiculous amount of poorly edited mistakes. This last explanation, which is prevalent in less serious circles, is probably the least likely option of the three.
Personally, I imagine that it’s a mix of red herrings and clues, all thrown into a bible-sized, full colour, hardcover package. As to the contents, they’ve certainly generated a plethora of new theories and discussion topics within the fandom as people debate the viability of the information inside and what effect it is likely to have on the world of Twin Peaks come the premiere of Season 3.
One particular theory which has bounced around the net, but without much hype, has to do with a concept that Frost integrates in the section titled “The Coming of…What?” (see page 239). The book, or, I suppose, the compiled field reports on the dossier in question, have, up until this point, been chronicling the happenings in the area of Twin Peaks since the days of Lewis and Clark. In The Secret History we cross the country and travel to other unnamed, redacted locations courtesy of Douglas “Dougie” Milford, of Twin Peaks’ Gazette/Post, who is perhaps best known to fans for marrying Lana Budding in Season 2 of the show. In the book, he supposedly spends much of his adult life as a Lt. Colonel working on Project Blue Book – eventually Project Grudge – and other UFO related cases for the Federal Government.
The case that features in this section focuses on something quite other than UFO’s. It’s particular relevance, and indeed, the ultimate reason for inclusion, has been something of a silent debate. Actually, the whole UFO angle of the book seems to fall under that purview.
If the UFO plotline is actually a red herring, then it’s included to mask the relevance of what might be a clue.
Who is Aleister Crowley?
Dougie is given a case to investigate which, long story short, follows the strange experiences which one Lt. Ron Hubbard (the in real life founder of Scientology) had in late 1945 with a man named Jack Parsons (also a real person – a rocket scientist) who was invested in the occult as a follower and religious derivative of Aleister Crowley (pictured here).
According to the US Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis, “[Aleister] Crowley [b.England 1875] was [a] natural polymath, and made a name for himself as a poet, novelist, journalist, mountaineer, explorer, chess player, graphic designer, drug experimenter, prankster, lover of women, beloved of men, yogi, magician, prophet, early freedom fighter, human rights activist, philosopher, and artist. He has been compared to Sir Richard Burton, and Crowley is probably best known today as the author of the twentieth century’s most influential textbooks on occultism, and as the first Englishman to found a religion—Thelema [meaning will or intention in Greek]—which is today a recognized faith around the world.
Crowley was the enfant terrible of the Edwardian avant-garde of London and Paris. Witty and flamboyant, and an early champion of the aesthetic and inspirational virtues of drugs, sex, music and dance, he gravitated to the cultural exile communities: New York during WWI, the Lost Generation of Paris in the 1920s, and the decadent Berlin of Christopher Isherwood’s Mr. Norris in the 1930s. To those who crossed his path Crowley was unforgettable. He figures in innumerable memoirs, and became the basis for fictional characters ranging from Somerset Maugham’s The Magician to the villain in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.”
Crowley is about as strange as real life gets. He was popularly called “the Beast” (another name for the Antichrist in christian religions) in addition to being given the moniker “The Magician” in his social circles, many of which were made up of his religious followers, the disciples of Thelema.
What is the Moonchild?
In addition to having written several short stories and other works, Crowley was responsible for a prominent occult novel Moonchild (1917). This work conceptualizes his thoughts on what is essentially an analogue to the christian Antichrist.
The story follows a woman who is caught between two sects of Magicians, one group titled ‘White’ and the other ‘Black’ who are organized into Lodges, also Black and White (Starting to make the connection?) who are at war with one another in the time period leading up to World War I. The ‘White’ Lodge wants to improve the human race by creating the Moonchild, which is “the soul of an ethereal being” born into mankind. Using arcane sex rituals the girl becomes pregnant with the Moonchild, despite all attempts by agents of the ‘Black Lodge’ to prevent it. The Moonchild is then used by the ‘White’ Lodge to fight the ‘Black’ Lodge. However, at the end of the book, the ‘White’ Lodge ends up supporting the Allied Powers and the ‘Black’ supports the Central Powers in a strange twist that suggests the Moonchild may not be what the ‘White’ Lodge of the book would have the woman and the world believe. And, perhaps, that the ‘White’ Lodge is not all it seems, either.
The precise rituals (called The Working of Babylon) used to bring about the birth of this so called perfect or ethereal soul are detailed pretty heavily in Moonchild, and, supposedly, according to The Secret History, attempts were made at a location called the Devil’s Gate in Arroyo Seco, Pasadena to bring this child forth. TP, in an annotation, says that in a letter from Crowley to Parsons, Crowley called the Devil’s Gate a hell gate and that it was one of seven such gateways. The letter ends with Crowley suggesting Parsons use it. The inference to be made here is they attempted the ritual in that location. Hubbard does say that he ‘saw things not meant for man’ but goes into no further detail. Crowley apparently attempted it as well, but not successfully.
What does this have to do with Twin Peaks, really?
AFTER The Secret History was released, there was a flurry of activity wherein fans analyzed each and every detail included in the book to one precise conclusion – we know absolutely nothing. It’s so full of contradictory material contrasted with real world truths that have been infused into the setting of Twin Peaks, that essentially, for as amazing of a book that it’s been, no one could really determine anything of consequence from it at all. There are simply too many inconsistencies, especially when it comes to the details of the characters from Twin Peaks itself.
One of the theories floating around out there, and the one which this article focuses on, is generally formed as a question rather than a statement. “Could Dale Cooper be the Moonchild?”
When I first read (or listened to, I should say, as it was an audiobook) The Secret History in October, I was starting to be lulled by all the discussion of UFO’s. As a die hard X-Files fan, I expect UFO’s when I’m reading The X-Files, not Twin Peaks. I know that I’m not the only one who found that portion to be less than invigorating. However, as I was listening, and the topic started to turn to Crowley and the occult, I started to get interested again. Something about it just stuck with me. It was too different to be overlooked. Immediately, I began to wonder…what if? What if Dale Cooper really is the Moonchild?
However, the whole occasion is bookended by the information about Parsons and his career with rocket science, so, at first glance, the Moonchild element seems to fall under the classification of ‘UFO’ still, especially since Frost has Hubbard drop the ‘greys and Zeta Reticulans’ line (while playing with a ring suspiciously indicated to be the Owl Ring from Fire Walk With Me) in one of the supposed interviews, firmly reinforcing the idea for most readers that all of this is still UFO nonsense and nothing more.
I think that it’s a cleverly placed set of details to undermine the importance of something that is so obviously closely tied to the mythos of Twin Peaks. The Lodges alone tie it to the lore, but then there were mentions of Lodges previously in the book, in particular Masonic ones, and so that seems to dampen the affect. Besides, everything that Hubbard describes about Parsons and their occult activities is supposed to have taken place in 1945, which is a little too far off the mark for any successful attempt to have somehow produced Dale Cooper.
So why is it still a rumour floating around?
Dale and the Moonchild
The theory has cropped up a number of places, all seemingly independent of one another. An innocuous question on a reddit forum with five replies, that are all saying essentially nothing. A lone, ignored reference here or there on Tumblr…
I think that, ultimately, most people who are deep enough into the fandom to have read The Secret History are probably not versed enough in the occult to have picked out the reference as being anything more significant than a passing detail included to amp up the content. That or, they just haven’t read the right mix of other Twin Peaks tie in material.
Recently, I was a guest on the Bickering Peaks podcast for a special episode focusing on a book written by Scott Frost (brother of co-creator Mark), The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper: My Life My Tapes. I’d read the book once before, shortly after having watched the show for the first time almost four years ago now. When rereading the book in a post-Secret History world, there were things which I had passed over the first, or accepted as simply part of the narrative, that were now glaringly obvious signposts:
- Dale has an uncle named Al who is a Magician and who taught him sleight of hand
- Everyone Dale loves dies, is hurt or leaves him in some awful way (Supported in the television show with Caroline’s death)
- It is apparently normal for Dale’s mother to have dark dreams, which often feature birds of some type or a man trying to get ‘into her room’ through the door. (Remind anyone of Fire Walk With Me?)
- After his mother dies, Dale ‘inherits’ these dreams.
My Life My Tapes is an ancillary text, and, as what constitutes ‘canon’ in Twin Peaks is tenuous as best, so much of this should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the idea that the Dale Cooper of My Life My Tapes and even possibly the Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks, the television show, could be the Moonchild has some pull.
Take, for example, the second item in the list – Dale is followed by death, or Death follows him. No less than 14 individually mentioned deaths occur in My Life My Tapes, several of which are under very questionable circumstances, and feature Dale either having been in contact with that person, or having found the person dead.
This, ultimately, reminds any fan of Antichrist literature of The Omen (6/6/76), and in particular the recent A&E series Damien (2016) a direct sequel to the original film. Damien Thorn, the titular character of the show, child-antagonist of The Omen, and suspected Antichrist, is surrounded by strange and mysterious occurrences of death to which he has no physical connection. He is (mostly) unaware of his role, and subconsciously seeks out a field of work (war photography) which surrounds him with death, effectively masking the elevated mortality rate of those around him.
Dale Cooper in My Life My Tapes is not so different. At one point in the book he goes to a career fair and narrows his decisions down to either the Peace Corps or the FBI. We all know which he chose. This distinction, and indeed, this correlation with other Antichrist like media, draws on the possibility that there could be more to Dale Cooper than even he is aware. My Life My Tapes suggests that BOB has been trying to possess Dale Cooper for a very, very long time, and that perhaps the only thing that kept BOB from him was his mother’s influence and protection, which, after her death, comes in the form of his small gold pinkie ring.
It is my theory, to go further than those who have postulated about this topic elsewhere, that Dale was intended to be the Moonchild, and that somehow, the process was interrupted. There is a passage in Crowley’s book which describes what the Moonchild is:
“So we may perhaps conceive of some competition between souls for possession of different minds and bodies; or, let us say, to combine the ideas, different embryos. […]. This brings us to the consideration of certain experiments made by our predecessors. They had quite another theory of souls; at least, their language was very different to ours; but they wanted very much to produce a man who should not be bound up in his heredity, and should have the environment which they desired for him. They started in paraphysical ways; that is, they repudiated natural generation altogether. They made figures of brass, and tried to induce souls to indwell them. In some accounts we read that they succeeded; Friar Bacon was credited with one such Homunculus; so was Albertus Magnus, and, I think, Paracelsus. (Crowley 107-108)
I chose to relate this particular section because it carries some significance to Twin Peaks. First of all, the idea of possession of an object is mentioned, and referred to as a Homunculus, the traditional definition of which is “a very small human or humanoid creature”. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the Little Man from Another Place tells Dale that he is ‘the Arm’, referring, of course, to Philip Gerard, the One Armed Man, who, while inhabited by MIKE (BOB’s companion and brother possessing spirit) cut off the arm because it contained evil, specifically in the form of the tattoo which linked MIKE and BOB. So the correlations between Crowley’s work and what Mark Frost relates in The Secret History, go further than what it appears on the surface.
Later, in that same chapter of Moonchild, Crowley’s ideas further add to the viability of this theory when he describes exactly what it is that the main character and other Magicians of the ‘White’ Lodge hope will happen when they create the Moonchild:
“But other magicians sought to make this Homunculus in a way closer to nature.[…] Now then they proceeded to try to make the Homunculus on very curious lines. […]Furthermore, and this is the crucial point, they thought that by performing this experiment in a specially prepared place, a place protected magically against all incompatible forces, and by invoking into that place some one force which they desired, some tremendously powerful being, angel or archangel — and they had conjurations which they thought capable of doing this — that they would be able to cause the incarnation of beings of infinite knowledge and power, who would be able to bring the whole world into Light and Truth. (Crowley 108-109)
The basic idea here is obviously that they were using sex and black magic to birth the Moonchild/Antichrist/Übermensch etcetera, which would be inhabited with what sounds to me to be something awfully like the Dugpa of Twin Peaks mythos. The ‘Black’ and ‘White’ Lodges of Crowley’s book are fighting over who controls the child, which is also something that we can see in Twin Peaks, especially if one deduces that the Giant is perhaps related to the White Lodge while the other Spirits are related to the Black Lodge. If we take all of this, and we marry it to the ideas mentioned in The Secret History, and the circumstances presented in My Life My Tapes, with what ultimately goes down on the show, there appears to be a strong case that, at the least, Mark Frost and possibly David Lynch are a little more than just familiar with Crowley’s writing.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown
While it would be a sorry state of affairs for our beloved Agent Cooper if this, or something along these lines, is in fact true, it is a very interesting idea to broach. As to how Dale could possibly be the product of one of these experiments, I can’t conclusively say. Perhaps his mother got in with the wrong crowd. On the subject of her, My Life My Tapes is noticeably silent, so my guess is as good as any.
In Episode Twenty of Season 2, when Jean Renault is holding Cooper hostage at Dead Dog Farm, he says something that struck me as funny (It struck me as funny, Harry! Do you understand me? It struck me as funny!)
“Before you came here, Twin Peaks was a simple place. My brothers sold drugs to truck-drivers and teenagers. One-Eyed Jack’s welcomed curious tourists and businessmen. Quiet people lived quiet lives. Then a pretty girl dies. And you arrive. Everything changes. My brother Bernard is shot and left to die in the woods. A grieving father smothers my surviving brother with a pillow. Arson, kidnapping. More death and destruction. Suddenly the quiet people here are no longer quiet. Their simple dreams have become a nightmare. Maybe you brought the nightmare with you. And maybe, it will die with you.”
Either way you look at it, Dale Cooper and Death walk hand in hand. My Life My Tapes seems to push the idea that all his life, Dale has been headed towards Twin Peaks, either drawn to it by something, or led to it by someone. His life, his story, his journey, does not really start until he arrives there. Jean Renault speaks to the continued heinous acts that occur after Dale’s arrival in Twin Peaks. In Damien, everywhere he goes, death inevitably follows. And, in the Omen mythos, the only way to stop the apocalypse is for Damien’s father (played by the illustrious Gregory Peck!) or someone else to kill him. Maybe Dale Cooper is the Antichrist, the Moonchild, the Beast, and maybe he’s not. But no one can deny that the evidence is leading those who choose to look towards that conclusion.
After all, it is Parsons who murmurs in his interview with Dougie Milford that memorable line…”The Magician Longs to See…”