Please note: Before turning this once-Facebook-post into an article I have added a few lines and text here and there to make things clearer. This post was last updated on June 22.
OK friends, are you ready? This is gonna be a long post about alchemy and Twin Peaks. I really appreciate everybody who takes their time to read. I’m promising you it will be interesting, and it might even shed some new light on your Twin Peaks experience.
These are my thoughts and theories about how alchemy ties into Twin Peaks and what alchemy can possibly say about what’s going on right now.
This post will contain information (thus spoilers) up to season 3 episode 6, Fire Walk With Me and Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
If you have absolute no clue of what alchemy is, please educate yourself to the very basics for a better understanding!
Alchemy is today often misunderstood to be only about literally trying to make gold out of lesser metals. But it’s much more than that. I’ll focus here on the completer phenomena of alchemy where the philosophical and spiritual is just as important, if not even more so. I’ll be theorising around the alchemist’s urge to refine the being and soul and turn it into a higher, conscious being. This is a metaphor for turning a lesser metal to shiny gold – of the mind.
True alchemists never occypied themselves with only one of these sides, because true alchemy was always about them both. An alchemist who was only interested in literally making gold out of lesser metals did not have the true mindset, and was bound to fail.
So, whatever does this have to do with Twin Peaks? Let us begin with something we recognize very well:
1A. THE MAP TO THE BLACK LODGE
I will try to show you how the ”map” to the Black Lodge from season 2 is full of alchemical symbolism that can be interpreted in a very relevant way to the series. By doing this, it will hopefully become clear that alchemy isn’t something I took out of the blue. Alchemy is in fact rooted deeply in the Twin Peaks mythos.
What follows is my own drawing of this map with numbers. I’ll explain the alchemic meanings of, not all, but the most important symbols – and how I personally connect them to Twin Peaks. Please indulge yourself in my interpretation, but keep in mind this is what it is; my interpretation. So, let’s go:
- 1. Antimony. A symbol for free will, the animal nature of the human. Owls comes to mind.
- 2. Neptunus. (Alternate alchemic version of symbol.) Past. Present, future, non-linear time. Dreams, intuition, psychic powers. – ”Is it future or is it past?”
- 4. Semi-square. When two planets relates to each other by 45 degrees. It’s said this is when great friction in native life occurs.
- 5. Mars & Iron. Conjunction, war, battle, blood and taming of primitive urges with personal strength. – To conquer the Dweller on the Threshold and overcome fear.
- 7. Fire. One of the four elements. – As everyone already knows, it’s hugely important in Twin Peaks.
- 8. Jupiter & Tin. Manifestation, optimism, goodness, higher mind. – A planet connected to the White Lodge. In season 2, we learn the Black Lodge is open “when Saturn and Jupiter meet”. Remember Andy asking Cooper if ”the 4H club has anything to do with this”? Well, look at the Jupiter symbol. It resembles a 4. (This Andy quote makes me smile every time!)
- 9. Water. One of the four elements. – Laura and Teresa are found in water. The map seems to depict the waterfall by the Great Northern. Water causes Bob (a fire entity) to throw Leland into his last manifestation before dying.
- 10. Syzygy. Opposition, eclipses, occultation and transit. Also Arsenic.
- 11. This one is hard to interpret. My best guess is: Ceres, a dwarf planet. – If this is true, things get interesting. In roman mythology, Ceres is also the Godess of corn… Garmonbozia, give me all of it…
- 13. Air, Storm, and Spirituality. One of the four elements. – ”From pure air we have descended” – ”…and there is always music in the air”. Bob can travel through flying owls. ”The wind through the trees”. When Bob is near, the air is filled with the smell of scorched engine oil. Notice the air symbols are placed on each of the twin mountains.
- 14. Mercury (planet) & the Mercury (metal). Rationality, communication, short distance transport, mentality, education. – The travel of spirits through dreams and electric power lines. Spirits giving information from the ”other side”, like the Giant does to Cooper.
- 15. Sun & Gold. The Self, the life force, the highest level of consciousness. – Cooper’s meditation routines. The search for truth. More on gold later.
- 16. Venus & Copper. Love, harmony, refinement. – Cooper’s journey to love with Annie. The Love that open the gate. Maybe even the love that makes Cooper fail in the end of season 2, when it distracts him from his quest, as it did with Catherine…
- 20. Saturn & Lead. Harvest, intense focus, transformation of old into new, prima materia. – Also connected to the owl, which is self-explanatory in Twin Peaks.
1B. LANDMARKS. (Non-alchemical, more like those on a conventional map.)
- 9. The waterfall by the Great Northern.
- 10. Could be interpreted as Pearl Lakes.
- 12. White Tail Mt. And Blue Pine Mt. (the twin peaks).
- 18. The pool of black, scorched engine oil at Glastonbury Grove.
- 19. The ring of 12 sycamore trees by Glastonbury Grove.
- 23. Symbol close to the Nez Perce symbol for ”mountain range”.
- 24. Rivers.
- 25. Lakes.
1C. MYTHOLOGICAL SYMBOLS:
- 3. The Giant and The Little Man from Another Place.
- 6. The Owl symbol.
- 22. Shaman mask. – A mask protects its wearer from spirit possession or evil, like in the case of the Grandson who is protected from Bob when wearing the mask, and is then able to help Laura. A mask also keeps Audrey from revealing herself to her father Ben at One Eyed Jack’s.
2A. TRANSFORMATION & TRANSMUTATION IN ALCHEMY
These are the seven steps in the alchemic process of metaphorically turning ones ”inner lesser metal” into ”gold”. It is, in other words, the path to enlightenment and spiritual perfection of the highest kind. I’ll explain why this is relevant to Twin Peaks after I give a short description of this alchemic process. Words written in italic are extra interesting in this analysis:
- Step 1: Calcination. The ego must be destructed. Detachment of material possessions. Humbling. Surrender of the hybris.
- Step 2: Dissolution. Letting go of control, prejudice and personal hangups. Further breaking down of the artificial structures of the psyche.
- Step 3: Separation. Rediscovering the essence. Deciding what matter to discard and what matter to reintegrate into a new, more refined personality. Reclaiming of dreams and visions. Letting go of self-inflicted restraints.
- Step 4: Conjunction. Empowering of the new, refined self. Unity between opposites. Finding the way to a lasting enlightenment.
- Step 5: Fermentation. Re-energizing. Coming out of the soul’s blackness and discover the yellow ferment – the better part of a foul soul. Arrival of fermentation is announced by a display of brilliant colors and meaningful visions. Will be achieved by deep meditation, dreaming and transpersonal therapy.
- Step 6: Distillation. Letting go of sentimentality, Increase in purity to the highest form possible. Realization of a higher love and purpose. Ridding oneself of any insecurities.
- Step 7: Coagulation. Gaining of a confidence beyond all things. Experience a second body of golden light coming out of the crown chakra (the top of the head). This is the highest evolution of the mind. This steps means you find the Philosopher’s Stone, that allows existence on all levels of reality.
2B. THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE & DOUGIE JONES
Total enlightenment is the alchemist’s goal. The Philosopher’s Stone is described as a golden essence, shining with bright light. This is what happens to Dougie Jones once he enters the Black Lodge:
We see Dougie transform. Like a mattering heated (step 1: Calcination) his body shrinks. His head literally goes up in smoke – and out of the blackness of the soul comes the lesser matter of lead. This blackened silvery lump then goes through yet another alchemic process or step. The gold – the highest metal of the spiritual soul – is extracted and the lesser matter is disintegrated. This golden “pearl” is collected by The One Armed Man. It is the purest essence of Dougie Jones – his Philosopher’s Stone.
2C. THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE & AGENT COOPER
Throughout season 1-2, Cooper is on a personal journey parallell to the ”worldly” police investigation work. He is meditating, reflecting and expresses to Diane how he gains insight into the fact that humanity uses only a fraction of its potential. He seems to aspire to constant, further enlightenment – just like the true alchemist would.
2D. TRANSFORMATION, STEP 5.
In the alchemy process of transmutation, step 5 (fermentation) is announced by a brilliant display of colors and visions. In The Secret History of Twin Peaks there are three examples of that could be descriptions of this stage:
- Meriwether Lewis’ experience is described: ”Lights from the sky, the silvery spheres… music, like some heavenly choir… fire that burns but does not consume… colors unseen or unimagined, flowing from all things… gold, all gold, bright and shining…” He also writes about ”the secret deep within the color red”. (Page 16-17)
- In the Archivist’s written down account of the Log Lady’s speech on Robert Jacoby’s funeral, we read: ”The wind, the wind. Water, earth, air and fire. Red, yellow, purple, and white.” (Page 320)
- Major Briggs describes his experiences during that ”abduction” that we witness in season 2: ”All around me colors constantly phased through the spectrum, blue to green, red to violet, black to white.” (Page 354)
3. FURTHER ON: THE FOUR ALCHEMICAL ELEMENTS
The four alchemic basic elements are ever present in Twin Peaks season 1-2. Here are a few examples:
- Air. Wind, sky, the above owls, the spirit’s element, electricity. See explanation for number 13 on the map.
- Fire. Fear, lust, destruction, rage. The spirit of Bob and Bob’s games. Fire walk with me. “Do you want to play with fire, little boy? Do you want to play with BOB?”
- Earth. The below, death, regrowth, the woods. The pile of dust in the train car where Laura Palmer was killed, and the similar pile where Agent Chet Desmond disappeared in Fire Walk With Me.
- Water. Basic need, the rivers, the waterfall, the lakes and Pearl Lakes. Teresa Banks, Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson were all found in or next to water. Leland’s death scene, where BOB (a fire spirit) “releases” him just as the water starts pouring down.
3B. MORE ALCHEMICAL OBSERVATIONS IN SEASON 3
- The Antimony is seen as number 1 on the Black Lodge map. In Alchemy, antimony is connected to the animal nature in humans. It is our wild, untamed and uncontrolled side in nature. Antimony is known to be symbolized by the wolf. – There’s a wolf’s head on Bill Hasting’s door, suggesting here lives a man who is taken over by non-human, uncontrolled instincts.
- The little boy is killed by the car that Richard is driving. Carl Rodd can see the boy’s soul, or maybe his essence, leave the body and fly away. It’s color is yellow or golden. – In the alchemic transmutation process, there are two steps that we might be seeing. Step 5 (Fermentation) where the yellow ferment is extracted, and in step 7 (Coagulation) where the Philosopher’s Stone is found or extracted. These “products” are both yellow or golden in color, and both are signs of the life force and the essence of the soul.
- The Moon and various silvery metals play a big part in season 3 so far. – The communication device that is seemingly in Buenos Aires turns to a small lump of silver colored metal – maybe mercury. In alchemy, Mercury controls and affects communication, magic, transmission of information and initiation into the mysteries. Silver is a symbol of the Moon and of psychic phenomena. Both alternatives ties into the strange and mystical device that we see.
- Dr. Jacoby (Dr. Amp) sells golden shovels to people so that they might ”dig themselves out of the shit”.- In alchemic metaphors, this would coincide with the notion of being enlightened – to rise from a physical, unenlightened earthly form into a higher state of pure golden consciousness of knowledge and purification.
- When Laura removes her face to display her inner bright light to Agent Cooper, this a manifestation of the alchemic term for ”The above”. This is the highest state of consciousness. The alchemic term ”Prima materia” describes a persons purest state of being, and is sometimes describes as ”the inner light”.
3C. FEAR AND LOVE:
- In season 2, Major Briggs says ”Fear and love open the doors”. This refers to The Black Lodge. – In alchemy this would be a metaphor for how one is able to handle the complete seven step transmutation/transformation process. Step 1, Calcination, demands the ability to discard the ego and tread further without hesitation (fear). If you fail to do this, you cannot move on.
- Hawk is also talking about the similar thing when speaking about The Dweller on the Threshold. A person must meet this Dweller with intact courage, or “it will utterly annihilate your soul”. In the Black Lodge, Agent Cooper is frightened by the risk of losing Annie. He becomes confused and scared by his meetings with Caroline (representing his scarred past), Windom Earle and Annie’s strange behavior. Because of this, he fails, and a Doppelgänger appears to take his place.
- Venus in the Black Lodge. There are statues of Venus, the roman goddess of desire, prosperity and love. The alchemical meanings of the planet Venus are associated with equality, harmony, duality, love, passion and desire. – Is there love, or a possibility to love, also in a place like the Black Lodge? The Little Man From Another Place refers to The Red Room/The Black Lodge as “the waiting room”. Does this indicate there’s a certain amount of time one has got to “choose” to react being there? Will the way one reacts (with fear or with love) affect the outcome of what fate you’ll meet there?
- Saturn in the Black Lodge. There’s also a light green 1930’s art deco style Saturn lamp on a table in this “waiting room” of the Black Lodge. Alchemy teachings of Saturn tell us it’s the planet of intense focus, receptivity to one’s surroundings and of harvest. Saturn is the roman god of agriculture. The harvest is related to the Reaper – a skeleton wearing a sickle, an embodiment of Death. It reminds us of our mortality, but also to the possible reward: the fruits of our labour. – The Black Lodge holds many possible outcomes for the one who enters it. Likely, it’s very much up to the visitors mindset what will happen to you once there. Hawk also points this out to Cooper. One might fail to keep focus, fall into fear and lose your trust in love/will. One might become unable to be receptive enough to what one’s faced with. This is what happens not only to Cooper, but to Windom Earl as well. Earl is completely destroyed, because he’s a false alchemist, only interested in power and control and not of the inner alchemical soul refinement…
- Gordon Cole’s already classic quote ”Fix your hearts or die” is said to Denise Bryson as a half-joke between two friends. – But in alchemy this is serious – if you don’t have the right mindset, you might fail.
- In season 3, Sam and Tracey experience lust in the mysterious New York warehouse. – In alchemy lust is connected to will, enjoyment and love (dominated by the planet Venus). The entity in the glass box appears when the couple begin their lustful act together. When they see it, their lust quickly turns to fear. Fear, hesitation and destructive powers are connected to the planet Mars in alchemy. It forces you to ”tame primitive urges with personal strength”. Sam and Tracey fail to do this, their fear increases and the entity in the box is able to break loose to annihilate them both.
4. ALCHEMY IN THE SECRET HISTORY OF TWIN PEAKS
Here are a few examples of alchemy as mentioned in Mark Frost’s book.
- Jack Parsons is mentioning to Douglas Milford that the nature of his research is to produce ”alchemical elixirs”. (Page 245)
- Jack Parsons continues: ”Alchemy isn’t only about ’chemistry’ or turning base metals to gold. /…/ You see, alchemy actually speaks to internal processes, and a radical revolution in our spiritual development; transforming the ’base metal’ of primitive man into the ’gold’ of an enlightened soul.”
5. AGENT COOPER’S TRANSFORMATION/TRANSMUTATION
Let’s apply the seven steps of the alchemy transmutation/transformation on what is happening to Cooper (in Dougie Jones’ life) so far in (season 3 episodes 1-6). Read through the seven steps again, now with the “good” Cooper’s journey in mind. He is on this path of slowly finding his way (back) to enlightenment… And maybe even beyond.
6. “THE COW JUMPED OVER THE MOON”
- Each step in the Transmutation/Transformation alchemy process is associated with it’s own astrological sign. Step seven, the last and highest step, is associated with the Taurus. The sign of the Taurus is known for its circle with two ”horns”. They often point upwards, but in traditional alchemy they are often depicted as pointing more downwards. – Downward pointing horns make the Taurus sign resemble the symbol on Bad Cooper’s Ace of Spades that he shows to Darya, as he’s telling her “This is what I want”. Could it be that Cooper wants the Taurus? In other words: what Cooper wants is to achieve the state that is described in Alchemy as the most powerful and of the highest knowledge.
- The Taurus is an ox. It’s female form is the cow.
- The Moon shares its symbol with silver in Alchemy. Another word for Silver is Argent. “Argent” is the word that the Worrier is texting to the yet unknown, already mentioned above communication device in… Yes: Argentina.
- The cryptic phrase ”The cow jumped over the moon” that Cooper is telling someone in his prison phone call could possibly refer to codes for people. The Taurus could be code for Bad Cooper and the Worrier could be the Moon, meaning Cooper beat her to it. It could possibly also refer to astrological coordinates – like in the Black Lodge map – to reveal a specific time when the Taurus star sign will be situated in a particular relation to the Moon.
…I literally have tons of more stuff, but this has taken me long enough I think. Maybe I’ll save the rest for another post.
I would immensely appreciate your thoughts! And thanks for reading all the way to the end of this mn my first post for the 25 Years Later site.