Reincarnation & The Return Part 3 Ding. Dong. Cooper’s Dead.

For those of you 25 Years Later fans, you know by now my love for the character of Special Agent Dale Cooper runs very deep.  Which makes writing this third installment of my Reincarnation & The Return so heart wrenching.  I am going to make a very bold statement, one in which may get me into a lot of trouble with some, applauded by others, and even more asking, “What are you talking about J.C.?”  After re-watching S1, S2, Fire Walk With Me, and a first viewing with some re-watching of Parts of S3, I have come to the deduction that Special Agent Dale Cooper is dead.

surprised dale

Now before you bite my head off, let me make my case.  Throughout writing this series, I have read, researched, and reread different theories on reincarnation and Tibetan Buddhist mysticism.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead, also known as The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State is a guide for the dead “during the state that intervenes death and the next rebirth.”1  It is a little like Beetlejuice and the Handbook for the Recently Deceased.  What made me gasp upon reading passages from a condensed version of the book was the following explanation:

“The Bardo Thodol teaches that once awareness is freed from the body, it creates its own reality as one would experience in a dream. This dream occurs in various phases (bardos) in ways both wonderful and terrifying. Overwhelming peaceful and wrathful visions and deities appear. Since the deceased’s awareness is in confusion of no longer being connected to a physical body, it needs help and guidance in order that enlightenment and liberation occurs.”2

This brings us back to Gordon’s Monica Bellucci dream, “We are like the dreamer, who dreams, and then lives inside the dream.  But who is the dreamer?”  While I do still believe we are all the dreamers, in this realm of discussion there is yet another answer: the dreamer is Dale Cooper, and the reason he’s our dreamer is because he is going through the states of bardo just as the Tibetan Book of the Dead instructs.


The first stage of Bardo comes at the very moment of death. Where do I think Cooper died?  Cooper dies at the end of S1, when Josie shoots him.  He is visited by two beings, the Giant and the waiter (which I know have been considered one and the same, but I think the Giant just communicates through the waiter, or the waiter is indeed a Lodge being).  They both are trying to get him to see things in a certain way, spiritually, but one more literally than the other.  The Giant tells him many things, while the waiter listens to Cooper’s call for help, but ignores his request.  Both of these being are trying to teach him something about descending into the first stage, but Cooper being Cooper, does not ‘see’ what he needs to and is put into the second stage, Secondary Clear Light.  This level constantly repeats the instructions needed to be able to go onto the next level. The Giant returning to Cooper and telling him, “It’s Happening Again” would be one example.


“But, J.C. would this mean that everything in S2 is part of Cooper’s reincarnation and is not really happening?” Yes and no.  This is where you have to bear with me and keep an open mind.  When Major Briggs visits Cooper, he shows Cooper the print out that says, “The owls are not what they seem”, followed by three Coopers.  In the Return only two Coopers are mentioned; the reason for the three Coopers is because there are three Coopers at this point: Good Cooper, – the dead one – who is in the Red Room, Pre-Mr. C Cooper, who is also in the Red Room, and the Bodhisattva emanation of Cooper, still in the realm of Twin Peaks.  On His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet’s web page it states:

“Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.”

Cooper, with the guidance of the Giant, emanated a version of himself so he could continue trying to solve Laura’s murder and truly embrace what being a Bodhisattva meant.  “So, J.C., wouldn’t that be considered a Tulpa?” Yes, you’re getting it now. It is almost exactly like what we have been finding out about tulpas.

The Second bardo is the bardo of becoming. writes,

“…a stage in which the desires of the individual are said to carry the largely helpless soul through a great variety of intense emotional states. Good thoughts bring great bliss and pleasure, and hateful or negative thoughts bring great pain and desolation.”

This to me is the other Coopers,  Mr. C and Dougie.  As Dougie, his soul is broken and feelings of  bliss and pleasure control him like that of a child.  Mr. C, on the other hand is mean and maniacal.  Both represent two opposite thoughts of an afterlife, heaven and hell.  In the Buddhist religion, heaven is not a permanent state and neither is hell.  Thus, Cooper must make his subconscious recognize the changes of states.  When he’s Dougie, he feels things Mr. C has done, as evidenced by such moments as the ‘face massage’, mirrored by Bushnell.  Cooper, as I’ve said in Part 2 of my series, is a Bodhisattva, needing to be awakened.  Therefore, he may not recognize he is in fact dead, even though he is feeling and remembering his negative, evil self.

Another interesting part of the second bardo is that it is said to last for two weeks.  If you consider the timeline of the Return, it’s about ten days, give or take.   In the second bardo, there is also a part that explains Laura and her light:

Even the most wretched souls will eventually work their way out of even the deepest pit of hell, just as even the highest and purest souls will eventually lose their footing in heaven and descend again into the cycle of death and rebirth. Liberation is the only way out.”3

I am not saying the Laura is a truly wretched soul, but she has had some truly wretched things happen to her.  Laura is as important to this whole equation, as is Cooper.  Laura shows Cooper the bright, white light which inhabits her.  Cooper does not know what this means in the beginning of the Return.  Due to his lack of reaction, Laura is pulled back out into rebirth and into, as we soon find out, Carrie Page.  This can only occur because Laura was liberated at the end of FWWM, and liberation is the only way out.  Cooper has not achieved this because his ultimate need to protect and serve keeps him from liberation. Additionally, he cannot be liberated because he has yet to face the third bardo.


In the Third bardo, the soul encounters The Lord of Death, which can be seen as JowDai (Judy).  The way in which the Third bardo is explained makes my heart hurt for various reasons, the worst being that what enfolds in Part 18 sounds frighteningly similar.

“…the soul encounters the Lord of Death, a fearsome demonic deity who appears in smoke and fire, and subjects the soul to a Judgment. If the dead person protests that he has done no evil, the Lord of Death holds up before him the Mirror of Karma, “wherein every good and evil act is vividly reflected.” Now demons approach and begin to inflict torments and punishments upon the soul for his evil deeds. The instructions in the Bardo Thodol are for him to attempt to recognize the Voidness of all these beings, including the Lord of Death himself; the dead person is told that this entire scene unfolding around him is a projection from his own mind. Even here he can attain liberation by recognizing this.”

Sounds quite similar, doesn’t it?  “What year is this?”  The screen suddenly goes black.  The Void has been recognized.  All these beings and Judy herself have been a projection of Cooper.  Is this Cooper achieving his liberation by recognizing this?  Does Carrie/Laura’s scream help Cooper to recognize this as well?


This is where my sadness comes. Cooper has not acknowledged his death and this is why he does not realize the projection to be true.  He still thinks he is a living Dale Cooper and why shouldn’t he?  He is the Cooper that ‘saved’ Laura.  He is the one that brought her back home so she will once again be with her mother.  He risked everything to make sure this would happen.  He fell further and further into different lokas (or locations) of hell to escape the truth.  He believes it is Laura’s truth he must save, and that his actions as a Bodhisattva are helping Laura ascend to her greatness.  This is why we will always end by seeing Cooper still in the Lodge with Laura whispering in his ear.  He will always end up in a new hell because he cannot move forward with his own liberation.  He will always be searching, finding, discovering, never giving up, and then coming full circle back to the Red Room.  Laura will always be waiting to whisper that he is dead, his soul is with her there and if he ever wants to move on, he needs to awaken.  Cooper can control his own destiny within the constructs of the Bardo Thodol, the instructions given to him in this afterlife, he just needs to follow them.  Once he follows down this path of enlightenment, Cooper will have truly awakened.  He will have fulfilled his duty, become a superior Bodhisattva and once again will have, “Let virtue and goodness be perfected in every way.” 5

whisper laura dale

1., & 3. Williams, Kevin R. B.Sc., The Tibetan Book of the Dead and NDEs. Web. 2014.

2., 4., & 5  Williams, Kevin R. B.Sc., the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Web. 2014

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Written by J.C. Hotchkiss

J.C. Hotchkiss is a Office Manager by day and Managing Twin Peaks Editor for 25YL Site the other 16 hours of the day. When she isn’t writing of her love of FBI Agents with a penchant for doughnuts, coffee and pie, she enjoys getting lost in a good book, sipping a damn fine glass of wine among friends, chatting with her "TB's" about Cevans and Fleabag's Hot Priest, and trying to keep up with the latest cartoon craze via her 6 year old. She lives smack in the middle of the Big Apple and Beantown, so for a girl with many different interests and tastes it's the perfect place to be.

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