Black Lodge, White Lodge – Time for a Rethink?

This essay was inspired by a comment I saw on Reddit. I won’t name names or link links, but the gist of it was this: “Stop using the term ‘Red Room’, there is no such place. It is the Black Lodge.” The comment attracted several upvotes, indicating popular support for this opinion. I have to admit I was surprised at this, but I’m also open to the possibility that I’m in a minority, so I’m putting my take on this issue ‘out there’ in the interests of starting a conversation. I also know there’s every chance that I am flat-out wrong – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Here’s my view: I would argue that we do not know the true name of the space with the scarlet curtains and the black-and-white chevron floor. Cooper calls it “a red room”. The Man From Another Place says: “This is the waiting room”. But we are never told its name. It is a space seen in several different contexts: it is the setting for Cooper’s dream early in Season 1 of Twin Peaks, it is the place where events culminate in the terrifying and bewildering finale of Season 2 and it also features in The Return – appearing to play a pivotal role in the plot at both at the beginning and end of the season.

It is true that when Windom Earle accesses this space in the second season, he believes he is entering a place he calls “the Black Lodge”. But after everything we have seen, especially in light of the twisty-turny, topsy-turvy events of The Return, I am staggered that anyone can correct anybody else’s choice of labels with the level of certainty I saw in that Reddit post. How can we even be sure that the space Cooper visits in his dream is the same one that he becomes trapped in at the end of the original run? It looks the same – but in Lynchland, ‘looking the same’ does not equal ‘being the same’. This much we do know to be true.

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This mysterious space is apparently home to many characters – the room is busy with humans (both alive and deceased), supernatural entities, and the even, on occasion, the real-world bodies these other-worldly beings inhabit. Additionally, it seems that some, perhaps even all, of these residents exist in two forms – an original and a doppelganger. The Return has also sprinkled tulpas into the mix, physical doubles which appear to operate by different rules to doppelgangers and pop in and out of the room with alarming regularity. The morality and alignment of the various members of this motley crew is far from clear. In fact they are almost all wildly ambiguous. Their motivations are – like the geography of the space itself – uncertain, shifting and bewildering.

Fire Walk With Me and The Return have added further supernatural spaces into the mix. We have seen events in a room above a convenience store, a strange, black and white cinema / boudoir / alarm-station inhabited by the Fireman and Senorita Dido and a pink-hued room, apparently simultaneously surrounded by a calm sea and floating in space, where Cooper encounters Naido and American Girl. There were other potentially-supernatural areas too – the motel inhabited by the kettle formerly known as Phillip Jeffries, Audrey’s space, perhaps even the Palmer house?

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How these places fit into the pre-existing mythology is not explained in the show. We can hazard a guess that the Fireman’s domain could be the ‘White Lodge’. He seems benign, perhaps even helpful. But we can’t claim to know for sure. We could theorise that the red-curtained room with the zig-zag floor is the ‘Black Lodge’ – it certainly seems to play host to some nasty characters. But it’s not clear-cut, not even remotely. Laura Palmer, who appears to be a beacon of goodness in Twin Peaks, has frequently been seen in this space and MIKE, the apparently-helpful spirit who inhabits the one-armed shoe-salesman Philip Gerard, also resides there.

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I say ‘seems to be helping’ because that is also unclear. Are these figures helpful? Are they evil? Are they completely indifferent to the plight of human beings? Throughout Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, the Man From Another Place’s role seems to be constantly shifting – is he helping Cooper? Or is he in allegiance with BOB? Or both? These characters, and the spaces they inhabit, don’t easily fit into a good/bad, white/black dichotomy. Their motivations are, like their utterances and the nature of the spaces they inhabit, ambiguous, cryptic and beyond our human understanding.

And that, I think is the key to this whole thing. The longer I ponder it, the more strongly I believe that ‘Black Lodge’ and ‘White Lodge’ are ineffectual human labels – feeble, failed attempts to classify something that is beyond our capacity to comprehend. The mythos of the show goes far further than black and white, good and evil. It is (just like the morality of every human character in the series) profoundly complex and often ambiguous – but these names represent a typical human simplification in a bid to classify and understand. Who is to say that every person even perceives these places in the same way? If The Return has taught us one lesson, it is that we cannot take what we see for granted – so often there is more going on than first appears.

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But we have to talk about these places – we must find a way. How else can we share ideas, communicate our theories and continue our dance with the mysteries of Twin Peaks? And so I would suggest that neutral, descriptive names, making no assumption about ‘Black’ or ‘White’, good or evil, are most appropriate. So if I talk about the ‘Red Room’, you will know the place I’m talking about. Equally, the ‘Fireman’s Space’, or the ‘Mauve Zone’ are descriptive enough to make sense, without assuming any allegiance. Terms like ‘Black Lodge’ risk imposing a presupposition onto the place. And, having watched Cooper’s plight at the very end of the series, we should all know the danger in assuming we understand the machinations of this weird, supernatural world. ‘Black Lodge’ is a term that represents a single mythology – a single take on an idea. What one culture calls an ‘inhabiting spirit’ another calls ‘the dweller on the threshold’. These are just names and we must acknowledge that names are subjective rather than absolute.

However, I recognise that this article is also subjective. It is only my view on the complex text that is Twin Peaks. The upvotes to the original comment make me wonder if I’m in a minority on this one. I would be genuinely keen to know what you think. Personally, I’m dropping the terms ‘Black Lodge’ and ‘White Lodge’ like a pair of hot bricks. They are too charged, too certain and they pertain to something I now feel is completely unsure, something I cannot claim to understand. I’m just not qualified to use those names, and I’m suspicious of anyone who feels they are – I mean, what are you, a Chalfont or something?

So that’s my take, but what do you think? Leave a comment below or join the conversation with 25 Years Later on Twitter or Facebook.

23 Replies to “Black Lodge, White Lodge – Time for a Rethink?”

  1. I also have always called it the Black Lodge. The velvet curtains & chevron black/white floor have parallels with the decor of Masonic temples and occult ritual magic lodges, so I think it’s a safe bet that it’s some sort of temple, or meeting place between the worlds, & both good & bad as indicated by the black and white floor pattern…

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    1. “a place ‘they’ call the black lodge” he says.

      I don’t know why anyone after watching the return seriously think frost and lynch are still interested in some good simplistic white lodge / bad white lodge mytholgy here, and lynch probably never was to begin with.

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  2. i’ve commented in a few places that i think the black lodge/white lodge terminology is a human attempt to label this other dimension. we don’t know what the inhabitants call it and we haven’t seen enough of it to even know if we’ve seen either the black or white lodges. as this past season went on i realized that if we, the viewers had met Hastings first, we’d call it the Zone. but instead we use Hawk’s native mythology and Windom Earle’s terminology. until the last episode i had been assuming that the Blue Rose task force thought they were investigating something more like alien technology instead of ancient elemental forces since a lot of people seem to have had lodge experiences that seem a lot like abductions. on youtube i finally found a theory i like for explaining the last episode and it posits that the world of Richard, Linda and Carrie is the doppelganger world. a whole other reality of lookalike people and places that are similar but not the same. Cooper and Diane access it and that’s why everything gets so different that it seems like we’re back to square one, or worse. all those different kinds of portals we learned about lead to some kind of extradimensional bridge universe that connects many other realms. the few people who have seen bits of it have come back to report incomplete impressions of the place and it’s been mistaken for the afterworld. hence the good/evil black/white designations people can’t help giving it. there might not even be separate black and white lodges.

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  3. And yet, the song on the original soundtrack is called Dark Mood Woods/ The Red Room. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music. It’s also played in the original series and in season three when MIKE is “guiding” Dougie.

    In my mind, I always thought that the Red Room was like a waiting room to the Black Lodge. I’m not sure we’ve seen the Black Lodge. Or maybe this room is part of the Black Lodge and therefor the names Red Room and Black Lodge may both be used.

    I will personally never tell people what to call it though and anyone who does is just one of those people who feels superior, like one encounters in every fandom. Which to me is just laughable and a bit pitiful.

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  4. i agree with all of this. also just reminds me of what ancient cultures thought of gods etc back then where they were morally grey and they could change at a whim and i think American Gods for example shows a lot of the grey area in gods and spirits. and how they don’t follow our morality complexes. and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they’re eternal? like? why would anything matter to them, including “allegiances” etc if they’re eternal? also reminds me of shit like A Midsummer Night’s Dream where puck (?) i think says “what fools these mortals be”. like, gods and spirits and shit like that are unknowable by us as we don’t live their everlasting and eternal existences. plus, you know the whole HP Lovecraft aspect of it and how its wholly unknowable to us etc.

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  5. I have always preferred to call it The Red Room.
    My slightly crackpot theory follows: in the final few episodes of season two, there’s a lot of emphasis on whether Cooper or Earle get there first. And we also hear “fear and love open the doors”. So my reading of that is that because Earle gets there first, he opens the door using fear, and so the darker/Black Lodge creatures have more influence there in the finale, but it doesn’t mean that the Red Room itself is the Black Lodge.

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      1. the theater company i work for did a play not long ago in which saint peter and judas iscariot are characters. a pivotal moment happens when they are interacting and suddenly realize that Peter thinks they’re in heaven but Judas thinks they’re in hell. it turns out to be the same place but your internal life and expectations end up dictating what you get out of the experience. the lodges could be like that. it might just depend which team you think you belong to.

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  6. The concept of lodges evolved as the series developed, and I think considerable inconsistency and confusion were introduced because of this. The Red Room was introduced in Coop’s dream, originally filmed as a hastily written ending to the European version of the pilot, at this stage it is surreal but benign and even helpful to Coop. It was a standout scene from the first series. Later in series 2 we get to hear of the Black and White Lodges from Hawk, and at this stage the Black Lodge is wholly evil. The series 2 ending introduced the idea of the Doppelganger, which was inspired so far as the brilliant cliffhanger was concerned, but conceptually was far from thought through. Series 3 then added to this by introducing Tulpas, and almost removing completely the diabolicalness of the Black Lodge – Mike was positively helpful in this series. There are now spiral portals in the sky and above the convenience store where you can get to the white lodge without passing through the black lodge. The relationship of the “mother” to the Lodges is unclear. Throughout, consistency of the concept has been sacrificed to more local, improvised effect. This is the way Lynch rolls. For me, this was fine initially when we little understood what was going on and just marvelled at the effect, but the longer the saga goes on and the more complex, fragmented and inconsistent it gets, the more the mystery is diluted.

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    1. This is a really interesting take. It reminds me of something that I read about the Alien movie franchise recently – basically saying that as each sequel adds layers of explanation, back story and mythos to the xenomorph, it actually moves further and further away from the terrifying creature they introduced us to back in 1979. Complexity can undermine the impact.

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  7. The irony of that Reddit comment is that Lynch has let it be known, on multiple occasions, that he calls this space “the Red Room” and nothing else. I don’t think he’s ever once used “the Black Lodge” in conversation and he’s only written it (or “Lodge”) into scripted dialogue 3 times in 21 hours by my count.

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  8. I like all of this discussion. I’ve always considered the room with the red curtains The Waiting Room, after all that is what the Man From Another Place called it early on. There was (clearly I think?) in Seasons 1 and 2 a theme of there being 2 actual “Lodges” , the White and the Black. Although I agree labels can restrict discussion is was clear that the “hate and love” seemed to help understanding that one was good and one was bad, a heaven and hell kind of thing i suppose in a different story. Then there was Hawk saying if you entered with imperfect courage it would annihilate your soul, again suggesting the Red Room is a waiting room since a lot of characters appear there who might not want to dare risk entering the Lodges themselves? Interesting I noticed that in The Return, Cooper leaves the Waiting Room via the floor and through water, whilst Laura flies of upwards in to the air – two ways to exit the Waiting Room perhaps?

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  9. Lots of good ideas in general thanks to this site and posts from everyone 🙂 Just thinking I suppose there is exit up / exit down but also the traditional exit from the curtains (sideways? lol), which usually places someone back at Glastonbury Grove / a physical location perhaps based on what we have seen in all three seasons?

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