Symbols. Waterfalls. Basements. Mythology. The maps of Twin Peaks. The red curtains. Laura, Teresa and Maddy. The secretive work of Major Briggs. Alchemy. Rivers. Portals. Demons and entities. The sound at the Great Northern. Mountains. Caves. Visual analysis. The Black Lodge. Rivers. The palace of the Fireman and Señorita Dido. Mike. Time. And, maybe most importantly, Johnny Horne’s head injury.
These are my keywords for this article. Yes, I will be writing about many different things – yet they’re all somehow connected, and I intend to find out how. The big challenge is that, since everything is connected, there’s an infinite number of things that one could choose to include. It’s harder to exclude something than to keep the brain from making a million new and different side paths all the time. And that’s what my brain does. Twin Peaks makes it spin so fast I’m holding on tight to spin along. This article is a long one but I’m hoping that you will come along because I have some really interesting stuff to show you.
So, what’s this about Johnny Horne’s head injury? It is actually what made me write this article, to begin with. I know that might sound strange, but bear with me – I will explain.
Maybe it’s a good idea if I start off by making some assertive statements that show you my way of thinking going into this:
- Twin Peaks has a mirror-world. It is the town’s own “shadow self”, an underground doppelgänger. In other words: Twin Peaks has an Underworld.
- The Underworld of Twin Peaks is a metaphysical sphere that is accessible through many different paths and portals.
- Water is strongly connected to the spiritual forces of the Underworld. White Tail Falls, the waterfall by The Great Northern, is particularly important.
- There are some strong parallels to Twin Peaks in Sumerian, Native American and many other mythologies.
- There are visual and thematic similarities to be found as well – sometimes they are strikingly literal, sometimes simply just interesting to consider.
- There are clues to the Underworld and the spiritual realm to be found in both the Owl Cave map and in Hawk’s map.
- Mike has a sound, and the sound can make people behave in certain ways.
- There are portals in The Return that are very hard to find even if you have the exact coordinates.
- White Tail Mountain and Blue Pine Mountain (the twin peaks of Twin Peaks) are gateways to “otherworlds” and both have or have had “magicians” chanting out “between two worlds” – but yet, they are also different.
Will I find any of these statements to have any bearing? I’ll try to find out and show you what I find along the way. Let’s go.
1. WHAT WE LEARNED FROM MAJOR BRIGGS
First, let’s summarize what was revealed to us by or in relation to Major Briggs during the original run. In Season 2 Episode 2, Briggs delivers the message to Cooper with encouragement from The Log Lady and her log. “The owls are not what they seem” and “Cooper/Cooper/Cooper”. Briggs doesn’t go into detail about where these messages came from, but if anything, he’s indicating deep outer space activity. Only later, when Major Briggs’ is missing, do we learn more, this time from Colonel Reilly, who is investigating Briggs’ disappearance:
”Our monitors are pointed at deep space. But the messages we intercepted, that Briggs showed you, were sent from right here, in these woods. Now, where they were sent to is another question.”
”Might this have anything to do with a place called the White Lodge?”
(Colonel Reilly and Agent Cooper in conversation. Twin Peaks, season 2, episode 12.)
This is when we start to understand that this isn’t so much about UFOs or extra-terrestrials as it is about something more “locally” that is going on, a thought that is confirmed by the Major after his return. Briggs then tells Cooper and Truman about the aftermath of Project Blue Book (which ended in 1969):
”There are some of us who continue in an unofficial capacity, examining the heavens as before and, in the case of Twin Peaks – the earth below. We are searching for a place called The White Lodge.”
(Major Briggs. Twin Peaks, season 2, episode 13. Emphasis mine)
That’s all he has time to say before he’s ordered by US Air Force personnel to go with them. As the Major leaves, drops of water fall onto the Polaroid of the triangular markings behind his right ear.
2. THE MAPS AND THEIR CLUES ABOUT THE UNDERWORLD
This part is all about the “twin maps” of Twin Peaks: The Owl Cave petroglyphs (season 2) and Hawk’s map (The Return). But first of all: in case you missed it, I have previously made in-depth analyses of both maps. Please read them if you’re further interested in what they’re telling us:
- Hawk’s map analysis – Interpreted using Native American art history, mythologies of the Great Plain tribes, symbolism etc.
- Owl Cave map analysis – An alchemical reading of the map (as a part of a big Alchemy and Twin Peaks analysis) where I, apart from alchemy, also used astronomy, Native American symbolism and hermetic views of the enlightenment of the Self.
There are many similarities between the two maps. The ones I will bring up here and now are those that have to do with the spiritual realms, portals to other worlds and, possibly, the ones that hint of entrances to an Underworld. It’s interesting to spot the likenesses in the two maps and to think about their meanings. Here is an illustration that intends to give you an overview of the maps and the similar elements that can be found in both of them:
Moon or bridge-shape. This shape looks a bit different in the two maps, but notice that they are related by the way they both form a “bridge” between the two peaks. The shape looks more like a moon in Hawk’s map, and it is also indirectly referred to as such – most directly when the Log Lady talks to Hawk in The Return, Part 15:
“Watch for that one. The one I told you about. The one under the moon on Blue Pine mountain.”
(Side note: Is Margaret referring to the Evil Symbol – literally placed under the Moon on Hawk’s map – or is she continuing her talk about Laura being “the one”?)
The Moon has strong symbolic meaning in alchemy. It is associated with silver, one of the base metals, a so-called feminine principle and strongly connected with spirituality, dreams, vision, divinity and wisdom. The Moon is also a bearer of psychic importance. The alchemical symbol is the same for the Moon and for silver. Interestingly enough, the first man-made mirrors were made with silver. Silver (and the Moon) therefore also stands for self-reflection and for mirroring in a more symbolic sense of the word. Twins are mirrors of each other, and the twin mountains mirror each other as well. I will return to this topic later.
This “moon shape” is, of course, symbolic if it is to be viewed as a bridge between the mountains. I’ve personally always had a feeling that there’s a path of communication and an almost electrical charge between White Tail and Blue Pine, causing things to happen in between the two – Twin Peaks, the town “between two worlds”.
Fire symbols – I have already written a lot about the meaning of fire, so I’ll not repeat myself too much. Apart from having a huge mythological meaning in the Twin Peaks universe, fire is also connected to everything from strength and survival to lust, fear death and aggression. Alchemically, fire is one of the four elements and fundamental to the alchemist’s work trying to refine lesser metals into gold. This is not purely a chemical process, however. The alchemist also (and perhaps foremost) strides to metaphorically turn their “‘inner lesser metal’ into ‘gold’. It is, in other words, the path to enlightenment and spiritual perfection of the highest kind” (see Twin Peaks and Alchemy for a lot more on this process). Fire, therefore, is a tool for and a sign of spiritual excellence. Fire is neutral – as Hawk put it: whether it becomes a tool for good or evil ”depends on the intention behind the fire”. The “evil” twin Mr C has intentions that leads to the Black Fire of death and destruction – the “good” twin Dale Cooper has other intentions, but what he causes instead is another story.
3. MOUNTAINS AND THE SPIRIT WORLD
The two mountains. The two mountains on each side of the town are called White Tail and Blue Pine. Standing almost exactly the same height (13,669 and 13,996 ft. according to Welcome to Twin Peaks: Access Guide to the Town from 1991) they are truly twins, but just as in the case of Mr C and Agent Cooper, they’re also very different. Let us examine why:
White Tail Mountain – This is where Dr Jacoby (or Dr Amp) hangs out in The Return. He mentions the mountain in is home-made broadcasting show. Thus we have a sender of information sitting on this west peak. Remember that for now.
“Coming to you live and electrified from Studio A, high atop the escarpments of White Tail Peak, the ruh-ruh-roof of the American Hindu Kush, this is Doctor Amp doing the vamp for American liberty!”
The peak of the mountain range Hindu Kush (in South-Central Asia) is called Tirich Mir which, peculiarly enough, means “king of darkness” in Wakhi. This is a fact that might seem to contradict my upcoming elaboration on the different traits of two peaks just a little bit, but I wanted to include this since it seemed fitting none the less. Maybe it isn’t contradictory at all. Without darkness, light wouldn’t be noticed – and the same goes other way around. Darkness is really as neutral as fire – it’s the intention behind the darkness that matters.
Also on the White Tail Mountain is the lookout spot where James, Donna and Laura went to have a picnic two weeks before Laura’s murder. By the base of the mountain, one of the most famous sceneries of Twin Peaks is found: the White Tail Falls, the big waterfall, and right above it the Great Northern Hotel. We have good reasons to revisit both the hotel and the waterfall later.
(Map of Twin Peaks from Welcome to Twin Peaks: Access Guide to the Town )
Nearby flows the Colombia River that finds its way between the rugged terrain on the long journey to the ocean. Just before falling from White Tail Falls, the river has passed the Black Lake which lies right between the two mountains to the north of the town centre.
In short: White Tail Mountain doesn’t seem to be associated with the more “evil” aspects of the town (or the series). Whether this is the case or not I’ll get back to soon, but first, let’s visit the other side.
Blue Pine Mountain – This is the more mysterious and supernatural peaks of the two. First of all, there are many known places of mystique and spiritual activity around this mountain in a purely geographical sense alone. Beyond the Blue Pine lies the Ghostwood Forest. This is where most of Twin Peaks’ mysteries seem to reside and originate. In the Ghostwood Forest, in the shadow of Blue Pine Mountain, we find the most iconic and mythologically charged places of Twin Peaks:
The Owl Cave. Glastonbury Grove. The Log Lady’s cabin. The train car where Laura was murdered. Pearl Lakes, childhood summer home of Leland Palmer and the place where Bob first possessed him. Jacques Renault’s cabin. Windom Earle’s hide-out. And on the other side, by the waters of Black Lake, is the place where Pete Martell found Laura dead that February morning in 1989. (The house next to it where Josie, Catherine and Pete lives, is called the Blue Pine Lodge). That is, if the murder ever happened.
Right on the high slopes of the Blue Pine Mountain is where Major Briggs had his Listening Post Alpha station. This is where he received information from “the earth below”. It’s interesting to me that there’s yet one hub for communication on this mountain, just as there is on the twin mountain on the other side. One is sending, the other one receiving, but they’re both driven by individuals who are searching for “the truth”. Like true twins, mirroring each other, each mountain has (or had) its own “magician” that “longs to see”, both chanting out “between two worlds”.
Deep inside the Owl Cave, the secrets on how to access the Lodge and when is found. Glastonbury Grove is an entrance to the Black Lodge. Here are the twelve Sycamore trees and the pool of scorched engine oil designed to evoke fear for Bob and his familiars to feed on. There is talk about an “evil in these woods” that has been known for a long time. Maybe this is the source; after all, the place is referred to as “the heart of the forest”.
Jack Rabbit’s Palace and its nearby own version of Glastonbury Grove (with the one Sycamore tree instead of twelve and a pool of liquid gold instead of oil) are new places both introduced to us in The Return. According to Bobby, Jack Rabbit’s Palace it’s located pretty close to the Listening Post Alpha station, and it’s therefore also connected to Blue Pine Mountain. After seeing both Andy and then Mr C pass through the portal there, it seems to me that the place is neutral in nature. By this, I mean that it seems to matter who you are and what intentions you have when you go there. Andy and Mr C are very different persons, to say the least, and their visits are very different in nature, too.
We interpret the halls of The Fireman and Señorita Dido as “good”, so why isn’t the portal by Jack Rabbit’s Palace situated on the White Tail Mountain? Might it be a trap set up to capture entities like Mr C? I think it’s more likely that it has to do more with something else. From what we’ve seen in The Return, it seems to matter who enters this portal and how – the Fireman seems to have the power to entrap, send through or even summon visitors according to his will. Blue Pine Mountain is the stronger, more spiritually charged mountain of Twin Peaks, and that’s why both Jack Rabbit’s Palace and Glastonbury Grove can be found in its proximity.
Hawk hints to the particular importance of Blue Pine Mountain in Part 11 when he shows his old map to Sheriff Truman:
“This is where Major Briggs’ staton was. … Blue Pine Mountain. A very revered, sacred site.”
Douglas Milford – Major Briggs’ predecessor – knew about the spiritual activity of the woods and land surrounding Blue Pine before he became part of building the Listening Post Alpha station high up near its peak. In order to catch the “messages” from the local area, one must stay close to them.
Another “good” exception from the rule of dark magic and “evil” spiritual activity around Blue Pine Mountain is the Log Lady. Her cabin is situated in the middle of everything, very close to Glastonbury Grove – also called “the heart of the forest”. The Log Lady’s home seems protected. She states so herself: “The owls won’t see us in here”. Like a shaman, she’s living among the shadows, shining a light of her own in the dark. It seems like her log (which itself originated from a fir in the area around Glastonbury Grove) needs to be close to this in order for the Log Lady to receive its messages. Just as Major Briggs receives his. Margaret is a strong spirit and a bearer of light. When she dies, her cabin turns dark.
Mountain Symbolism. Mountains are the thrones of the earth and as such, they have always had important symbolic roles to play in every human civilization known. The way I see it, it’s clear that Frost and Lynch not only wanted mountains to be featured in the TV series they once sat down to create together, but it’s also highly significant that they chose to place their drama in and around a town between two mountains and to name that town Twin Peaks. The whole underlying theme of Twin Peaks has to do with duality and “everyday mysticism”, both represented in a physical form by the two mountains. With the creators both being explicitly interested in the esoteric and mythological it is only fair to take at least a brief look at some of the traditional importance of mountains from different world civilizations and religious beliefs.
Mountain peaks – The top of a mountain is generally regarded as a symbol of communication with the spirit world and a chance for a person to pass to other, higher dimensions. In other words: the path to a higher consciousness and a place for the soul to ascend. Two mountains – Interestingly enough, a mountain range which has two distinctive peaks have often been associated with being the home to gods or spirits, making the valley between them a throne of sorts. Sumerian mythology – Two mountains (like above) were regarded as the seat of the Sun and Moon, one on each mountain top. Now, remember that note from Major Briggs, anyone?
In Twin Peaks – Just a few examples from Twin Peaks regarding mountains that I think about right now (and that I didn’t already mention): When Norma and Big Ed finally unite it is surely one of the happiest moments of The Return. The scene doesn’t end with them kissing and Norma answering Ed that she will, of course, marry him – it continues on with the music and the camera goes up the mountain (White Tail, I presume, as it is closest to The RR Diner). We get to see the sunshine on the steep range and the blue heavens above – not a very common thing in Twin Peaks where mood-setters of rainy, foggy mountains, dark woods and eerily tree branches blowing in the wind are much more common. But the reunion of Norma and Ed is a happy, pure and an enlightening step up for them (and us!), and the imagery that accomplishes it all is the sunny mountain standing tall underneath the heavens.
Then we have the huge, pointy mountain island where Señorita Dido and The Fireman reside. Considering the general symbolic meanings of mountains, these two almost god-like deities seem to be exactly in the right place: on the top of one. (More on the water surrounding them soon.)
The last example is a visual observation of the way Jack Rabbit’s Palace resembles the mountain island just mentioned. The two places are known to be spiritually connected, but I think they look similar as well. Maybe it is because they share importance, something that’s visible already at Jack Rabbit’s Palace like a clue to what you might meet if you pass through the nearby portal.
4. PORTALS OF THIN AIR
We’ve witnessed more portals in The Return than we did in Seasons 1 and 2 for sure. Some portals have specific coordinates, like Jack Rabbit’s Palace. I noticed that Andy was spirited away (literally) to the Fireman’s while positioned on the exact same spot by the Sycamore Tree as Mr C later would find, stand on and disappear from, too. The opening of the portal apparently required a very specific position, thus the need for exact coordinates. But there are at least three other portals that I want to mention who you probably wouldn’t find even with coordinates, and I’ll explain why.
The first one is the convenience store – or, to be more exact: the above of the convenience store. The moment the Woodsman and Mr C are flickered away from the old gas station is when they are walking up the stairs that lead “nowhere”. The portal, as I see it, exists on a spot as exact as the one at Jack Rabbit’s Palace – but it’s not on the ground. You can have as many maps and coordinates as you can carry – the portal is still up in thin air and elevated from the ground. In order to get to its exact location, the convenience store and old gas station must first appear along with the stairs. It seems to me like the key challenge in finding this particular portal is to have the initiated knowledge needed to summon forth the gas station first. Further down I will talk about the symbolisms of caves, and this idea will appear again there.
(Fire Walk With Me)
“From pure air we have descended… From pure air. Going up… and down. Intercourse between… the two worlds.”
The second “portal of thin air” that I’m thinking of is the one we hear Freddie tell James about. We don’t get to see it, we only know that it is situated in East End, London. (In a previous article on the connections between the portals and Sycamore trees I theorized that I might have found the possible “real life” place of this particular portal: on a certain Sycamore Street.) There’s something I find specially interesting in what Freddie is telling James:
“On this particular night I see, in the alleyway, a high stack of boxes. And I jumped. … I jumped up onto this high stack of boxes. And all of a sudden I was sucked up into a vortex of this massive tunnel in the air. Next thing you know I’m floating – in thin air, way up somewhere, like a void.”
When Freddie is on top of the stack of boxes, he unknowingly reaches the exact spot where the London portal is located. Freddie hints to James that he’s been on this street many times before, yet this time he was spirited away, perhaps summoned by the Fireman (it seems to be the case that he was). The portal exists not on the ground but some distance from the ground, up in thin air.
My third and last example is the glass box in New York. And I mean literally the glass box – not the building in general. Not even the inside part of the box, really, but the outside only. When Cooper is falling through non-exist-ence he lands on the glass roof of the box outside of the building. What if the portal in New York is in thin air above the box, and that’s why the box expands to the outside of the building? I think this makes a lot of sense. If you want to catch whatever entity that passes through this portal, and the portal is high above the ground, it seems logical to construct a glass “cage” in this way.
So we know there are portals, and I’ve tried to show you how I believe they are connected to the mountains. Let’s say there are even portals in thin air as well. But what about White Tail Mountain? The swirling spiral symbol can be seen on both mountains of the Owl Cave map? Let’s move on from mountains and air to water and caves. Maybe the answer lies underground…
(Bob down in the basement, “the killer’s lair”. Twin Peaks’ Pilot episode (international ending scene.)
5. CAVES AND THE UNDERWORLD
Caves in mythologies – Caves are meeting places between the human and spiritual world but also places where one has to face oneself and overcome the challenge that passing through a cave represents. The underground is found in the cave, but the cave cannot be found by anyone. Only the initiated can find its entrance. This is where I connect back to the portal at the old convenience store and gas station, where the key to finding the way inside seems to be reachable only to those who have the ability to first summon forth the building and the stairs before finding the entrance.
Because caves were accessible only to the initiated they have often been places of religious rites and other activities of the like. To find the way through a cave symbolizes defeating danger and changing into a higher state. The cave is regarded as the mirror of the mountain – both are cosmic centres and spiritual connectors, but the cave is a place of the descent of the soul that sometimes leads to rebirth – therefore, it also provides new life. As spiritual places, caves, like mountains, are entrances to other spiritual and/or divine dimensions. Tao: The mountain is yin, the cave is yang. Celtic mythology points to caves as the entrances to the “otherworlds”. Native American tribes believed in many caves as layers upon layers of each other, and this system of underground caves symbolized the World. In Hinduism, the cave represents the heart – the place of Ātman, the life force also known as “the cave of the heart”.
In Sumerian mythology “Kur was used as a name for the Sumerian underworld, which was envisioned as a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, where inhabitants were believed to continue ‘a shadowy version of life on earth'”. A shadowy version of life on earth. That kind of sounds a little like the concept of the doppelgängers, doesn’t it? Kur will return later when I’ll write about the mythological river Hubur.
In Twin Peaks, the first thing most of us think of when it comes to caves is the Owl Cave. Considering the symbolic meaning of caves as “entrances to other spiritual and/or divine dimensions” but also a “place where one has to face oneself and overcome the challenge that passing through a cave represents”, I think it’s fair to say that this fits the description of Owl Cave very well. Because inside the cave and hidden behind stone is the Owl Cave map – basically a key to the entrance to another dimension: The Black Lodge.
(Aphrodite/Venus as Love, the doppelganger of the Arm as Fear.)
Another important parallel is the concept of “fear and love” that “open the doors”. I’ve used this quote many times before, but it’s so fundamentally important to the whole mythology of Twin Peaks that simply I must use it again. When Cooper asks Hawk about the White Lodge, Hawk answers:
“My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature reside. There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold. … If you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
(Twin Peaks, Season 2 Episode 11)
Now, stop for a moment and think about how mountains and caves are describes as mirror phenomena – yin and yang, or twins if you will. Then, if caves are the shadow selves of mountains, and the Black Lodge is the shadow self of the White Lodge – one might just ask oneself if this a concept to consider applying to Twin Peaks. I really enjoy playing with that thought.
6. WATERS AND THE SPIRIT WORLD
There’s plenty of water in and around Twin Peaks, although it’s not as prominent as the mountains. But I’ve thought of the water element none the less, and for quite some time. I’ve also written a little bit about the water element before, but now is the time to dig deeper. A lot deeper. We’re gonna fall and go underground, eventually. First an examination of the symbolic meanings of water from mythologies and spiritual belief.
Water symbolism. Very generally speaking water is a symbol of life, fertility, growth, birth, the passing of time, purity, regeneration and the source of everything. Many religions from all over the world have creation myths which include water as a bearer of life, the beginning of everything but sometimes also the destroyer of all, such as in the Great Flood myth. The destruction, however, is circularly connected to life where everything will be reborn again. Water is duality: Chaos and stillness, life-giver and destroyer, drought and flooding. Every known religious system have one or several water goddesses or gods. Some have separate ones for rain, the sea, lakes, snow etc. In Alchemy water is one of the four elements. Native American mythologies tell of water as the source of The Great Spirit’s power. Water spirits are commonly more evil than good. Celtic water myths include The Lady of the Lake (who is said to have given King Arthur his sword, something I have previously written about as well).
An ocean stands for chaos, movement, change, the unfathomable and The Great Mother. The Great Mother is a general term referring to the greatest goddess of any religion or cult. She’s almost always the goddess of fertility, nature, water, the Moon, destruction and the origin of all life. (I realize that some readers will jump just to read the word “mother” in a Twin Peaks context, but this is not the time nor the place for a deeper dive into the subject. If you’re interested in reading more, go from here and continue on by yourself.) The river’s mouth, where a river meets the ocean, is also symbolized by The Great Mother. Islam: Ocean symbolizes eternal wisdom. In the Sumerian myth of creation, the world was created when the waters of Tiamat (the salt water) and Apsu (sweet water) united.
A river represents life and death. Many civilizations have myths about rivers of life and rivers of death. A river symbolizes the passing of time, and it’s where the expression “time is running out” has its origin. A river also represents spirituality, cleansing and the manifest world. The Buddhists believe that in order to reach enlightenment, one must trace a river to its source. The river’s mouth symbolizes a passage, gateway or door: it gives access to other realms, but must first be conquered since it’s believed to be connected to danger and high risk. The symbolic meaning of waves are that they represent chaos, illusion and change.
The river Hubur. In Sumerian mythology, Hubur is both the river that leads to the Underworld and the entity Hubur, the “mother sea” and the river of fertility who creates all things. Unbelievable as it may seem I found that the location of Hubur is described like this:
“The Hubur was suggested to be between the twin peaks of Mount Mashu.”
Yes, between the twin peaks.
The river Hubur ran right by the mountains where the entrance to Kur – the Sumerian underworld – was located. The river has a strong connection to the underworld a mythologically it holds several demons captive – among them the edimmu, which is a type of utukku demon. If utukku sounds familiar to you, maybe you have read a certain book called The Final Dossier by Mark Frost? In this book we learn that Joudy is a name of an ancient deity in Sumerian mythology and this is also the name of:
“…a spieces of wandering demon – also generically known as an utukku – that had ‘escaped from the underworld’ and roamed freely throughout the world…”
(Mark Frost, The Final Dossier, page 121.)
(Side note: There is no known real-world Joudy in Sumerian mythology that I could find anywhere; however, Ba’al (the male counterpart of Joudy in Frost’s version) does exist. In The Final Dossier, both Joudy and Ba’al are utukku – in turn, described as a species of demons. I thought it would be good to point out the fact that it’s a species, that is: there seem to be several Joudys and several Ba’als in the Twin Peaks mythos.)
Waterfalls are connected to rivers (not only in nature, but also symbolically) and they therefore stand for the passing of time, fertility, change and movement. However, the dramatic nature of waterfalls also give them extra meaning: A waterfall represents descent, which can be both positive and negative. The Hindus believe the descent of the higher consciousness down to the human mind is a positive symbol of a waterfall, but at the same time, the waterfall might also represent the downfall of the soul or mind. Falling water manifests the movement of matter and time in a brutal, yet divine way. They are therefore often sources of admiration, wishes, prayer, offerings and the search for truth and refinement. Waterfalls are breaking down something that may then be reborn, regenerated or destroyed.
7. THE WATERS OF TWIN PEAKS
With some of the symbolism connected to water I’d like to list a few scenes from Twin Peaks that relate to water in interesting ways:
Non-exist-ent. When Cooper leaves the Black Lodge in Part 2 of The Return it’s not a peaceful trip. He’s literally scared out of the lodge by the doppelganger of the Arm The floor is moving and then it opens up. Cooper falls down and is submerged in dark, unfriendly water. A moment later the water we saw is gone. Cooper is now falling through space. Like the waterfall he descends, and like the ocean the dark void around him is chaotic and unfathomable.
Red waves. In The Return we get to see something entirely new happening in the Black Lodge. Sometimes the red drapes move. Technically, they do this in all 18 Parts because they are depicted in the opening credits. The way they move resembles water: falling like waterfalls or waving like an upset stream. In the intro, the images of the red drapes are even faded in from the footage of the waterfall.
Pearl Lakes. This is, as I already mentioned, where Leland Palmer met his fate in Bob who possessed him. Near Pearl Lake lies Glastonbury Grove. This is also the place where the Log Lady, Carl Rodd and a third child named Alan Traherne were abducted and disappeared for a day in 1947. The ashes of Dr Jacoby’s brother Robert and those of the Log Lady were scattered. Pearl Lakes is clearly a spiritually charged location – like the water element it’s both mysterious, unknown, horrifying and a loved place to which people are drawn.
Ducks on the lake. The Black Lake is where Annie and Cooper go for a romantic rowboat date. Like in the big Ed and Norma scene, love is in the air and in the water. Pretty much everywhere. Until we see Windom Earle standing on the shore stalking the pair with his binoculars. Just like the element of water, this situation on the lake is potentially both constructive and destructive.
The Violet Sea. The sea or ocean surrounding the mountain island of the Fireman and Señorita Dido is vast, violet and seemingly in uproar. Like the symbolic meaning of any ocean this is a mysterious, chaotic and wild place. Yet, inside, there’s calm, symmetry, stability and order. It is a duality world in and of itself. In combination with the color violet, the understanding of this place deepens. Violet is often associated with knowledge, intelligence, truth sanctity and temperance. But it is also the color of grief, sadness and penitence. In Roman culture, violet is the color of the planet Jupiter. We’ve met Jupiter before in the Owl Cave map. When in conjunction with Saturn, the door to the Black Lodge is said to be open.
In Alchemy, Jupiter is associated to manifestation, optimism, goodness and a higher mind. When I wrote my Twin Peaks and Alchemy article in June 2017 we hadn’t yet seen Part 8 of The Return but only the short scene with Cooper and Naido meeting in the violet world. Yet, back then, I interpreted Jupiter as “A planet connected to the White Lodge”. Many now believe that the place where we see the Fireman and Señorita Dido, in fact, is The White Lodge. Consider the green Saturn lamp in the Black Lodge for a moment and ask yourself if these things are coincidences or not. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they are, since everyone’s interpretation and understanding of Twin Peaks will be slightly different anyway, but for me, this could just well be intentionally arranged.
Water of the dead. Teresa Banks, Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson were all found in or right next to water. Laura was found (and wasn’t found) by the shores of the Black Lake. In Fire Walk With Me Teresa’s body is seen floating down a river. In Maddy’s case she was put in the water right by the White Tail Falls. Right after Maddy was killed, but before she was found, Philip Gerard (Mike) escapes his hotel room and is later found “by the waterfall” (Harry Truman, season 2, episode 8). (Mike was probably trailing Bob, just as he showed up in the morgue after Laura Palmer’s autopsy.) This will not be the last I write about Gerard and the waterfall.
The death of Leland Palmer (from my piece on Twin Peaks and Alchemy):
Water causes Bob (a fire entity) to throw Leland into his last manifestation before dying.
8. CLOSING IN ON WHITETAIL FALLS
I have come to believe there is more to the White Tail waterfall than is said out loud. This belief has gotten stronger through the extensive research that lies behind this article. Hawk told Sheriff Truman that if you combine the neutral fire symbol with the corn, you get black fire – Death. What I find myself thinking of is symbolically combining caves with the waterfall. What will I get? An entrance to the Underworld. I will explain this thinking by pointing out selected scenes, visuals and facts connected to the White Tail Falls:
The alternative death of Leland Palmer. When Cooper changed the future by going back to the past, he also changed the fate of Leland Palmer. Some things remain the same, though: Leland dies, and he dies close to water. In The Final Dossier by Mark Frost we learn:
“On February 24, 1990 – the one-year anniversary of [Laura’s] “disappearance” – Leland Palmer committed suicide. Alone, with a licensed handgun, in his car, parked near the waterfall by the big hotel.”
(Mark Frost: The Final Dossier, page 133.)
Why Leland would choose to shoot himself close to his place of employment, I don’t know. I’m not claiming to have an answer here, something like, say: “The waterfall is a spiritual connector and Leland was drawn to it” – but keep this fact in mind. If there’s something more to this or not I will eventually leave up to you to decide, but for now, I find it interesting that White Tail Falls, of all places, would be Leland’s choice of location to end his own life. The reason for his suicide was, after all, that he missed his missing daughter Laura so much that he couldn’t stand it any longer.
9. BEHIND THE WATERFALL
There are certain visual elements in Twin Peaks that keep coming back over and over again. Figurines of ducks, mounted fish, forest pictures, wooden panels, taxidermy deer, designer lamps, flower patterned curtains, clothing and wallpaper and so much more. Those things, however, are not on my radar right now. The waterfalls are. I’m not referring to the actual White Tail Falls but depictions of it. If we look closely we can see them here and there, but it is their presence in certain situations that I find interesting.
This is where I’m going to explain why, in the beginning of this article, I mentioned Johhny Horne’s head injury. What has that got to do with anything at all? Well, maybe nothing more than to show us that Johnny is still unable to care for himself 25 years later. A fully grown man, running full speed into a wall and hitting himself unconscious. But I have another thought I want to share – a thought that’s stayed with me ever since Part 9. Actually, there are two observations I made. Here’s the first one:
Blue pajamas, bloody forehead, smashed glass. Instead of Bob, Johnny faces the White Tail Peaks. But Johnny also caused something else than a wounded head and a broken picture, and that is my second observation:
Yes, it’s a hole in the wall. But, at least for me, it is also something that stuck in my mind and that came up later as a peculiar thing. Let me give you the next piece of my puzzle to explain why:
That mysterious sound that Ben and Beverly hear in the room next to Ben’s office. We learn that the sound seems to be loudest in one of the corners, the same wooden wall that the camera eventually zooms in to when the scene ends. Watching the scenes from Ben’s and Beverly’s offices I can determine that on the other side of the same wall where the sound is best heard another framed photo of the White Tail Falls is hanging.
Could it be? There’s something behind that waterfall. A mysterious sound, a hole in the wall.
The sound is first heard in Part 7. It then returns now and then, but it took for the The Return to be completed for me to beginning to really start to piece together my puzzle of thoughts. First I realize that the very first time we hear the sound, but before we go to Beverly’s office, this is what we see – the top of the waterfall and the lower floor of the Great Northern hotel:
In Part 14, we see James going town to the basement of the Great Northern to check the furnaces. He notices the same sound, but it clearly seems even louder downstairs. The camera ends this scene by lingering just a moment on the basement metal door. There’s something behind it, but what? Later, in Part 16, we’re no longer in Twin Peaks but at a hospital in Las Vegas. Bushnell Mullins is by Cooper’s hospital bed when he’s distracted by the same sound. It makes Bushnell leave the room. We all know what happens next: Mike appears as a Black Lodge projection and Cooper wakes up.
It’s now clear to me: Mike is causing the sound. This is the sound of Mike. If the sound was bound to the Great Northern, it wouldn’t appear in Vegas. Furthermore, it seems like this sound has the power of summoning and mesmerizing people. Ben, Beverly, James and Bushnell, they’re all spellbound by it. Bushnell, however, is the one who’s most affected. The sound makes him leave the room. I understand it now: Mike used his sound to make Bushnell go away, so that he could wake Cooper up and have a talk with him without disturbance. But what about the basement in the Great Northern Hotel, then?
The answer, of course, comes at the end of The Return. Once Cooper, Gordon and Diane arrive outside the basement door (the same one we saw in the scene with James) and Cooper unlocks it with the 315 room key, the sound culminates. Behind the door, Cooper finds Mike and the sound is gone. Cooper has found the source of the sound, and the sound has summoned him successfully. It is now no longer needed.
What is that sound? I mean, “off screen” and “in real life”? I feel confident that I know the answer: it’s the sound that Tibetan singing bowls make. The similarity isn’t explainable with words, so please listen to the sounds yourself! Also, do yourself a favor and take a look at what happens when you put water in a singing bowl. The sound waves create a macro-cosmic sea complete with waves and “inverted rain” that covers the surface with dancing water pearls. It’s beautiful, and it’s interesting to think about in the context of this article, isn’t it?
“It’s kind of a mesmerizing tone.”
“Yes. The ring out of a monastery bell. It’s the same quality. Sort of… Otherworldly.”
(Beverly and Ben, Twin Peaks, The Return, Part 7.)
Ben isn’t far off, in other words. Not only is a Tibetan singing bowl traditionally used in Buddhist temples and ceremonies, but it is also described as a standing bell. And it’s Tibet – Cooper’s favorite country. As my brain is spinning around with the sound waves I go into visual association mode again:
What character kind of resembles a bell? The same person that Cooper eventually meet after the sound leads him to Mike: Phillip Jeffries. At least, the thought is intriguing.
Descent. Just like the initiated who finds his way into and through the cave to reach the spirits and the Underworld below, Cooper descends down to the basement of the Great Northern. He holds the key to the gate (literally and symbolically) and he enters to find Mike waiting there. Consider for a moment all that happens after this point and until the end of The Return, no matter what you make of it, and then read this description of the symbolic meaning of descent that I found:
“Descent. Going down into the underworld, or searching for underground treasure, is equated with the quest for mystic wisdom, rebirth and immortality. It is also the understanding of, and redeeming of, the dark side of man’s own nature and overcoming death; … descent into the primordial darkness before rebirth and regeneration; descent into Hell before resurrection and scent into Heaven; it is the journey taken in all initiatory rites and by all dying gods.”
(J.C. Cooper, An illustrated encyclopaedia of traditional symbols, page 50. Emphasis mine)
This could have been a description of what Cooper is doing, or what he’s trying to do. To overcome death, to be on a quest, to understand and redeem the dark side of man’s nature. In fact, the same thing could be said about Mr C, even if that journey, as you know, is very different from Cooper’s.
Not only the fire, but the waters, mountains, air and the caves (sometimes symbolized by underground spaces) all have a deep mythological meaning in Twin Peaks. But the specific thought that made me dig into this article was a hunch I had that there was something more to the recurring combination 1: the White Tail Peaks waterfall, 2: the mystical sound and 3: the idea of descent in order to find answers.
In short, I believe that I found a way of thinking that goes something like this:
- There’s a portal underneath the ground of the Great Northern accessible via the basement.
- From the angle that we’re shown the hotel’s exterior, the basement is located behind the waterfall.
- The underground portal of otherworldly “caves” symbolically represent the spiritual mirror world of White Tail Mountain close by. As above, so below.
- What Glastonbury Grove is to the Blue Pine Mountain, the Great Northern basement portal is to the White Tail mountain.
- Looking extra close into the Sumerian mythology is logical since Mark Frost brings it up in The Final Dossier. The river and waterfall near the Great Northern and the portal in the basement symbolically and highly resembles the Sumerian river Hubur that leads to Kur – the entrance to the Underworld.
- Twin Peaks has an Underworld. It’s not necessarily existing underground in a physical form, but some of its entrances or portals are.
- The Underworld is the doppelganger mirror world where entities and spirits reside. Some of them can leave this realm temporarily, and I believe that’s what we see happens in the glass box in New York, in Dougie Jones’ house (as a sort of projection), by The Zone in South Dakota and so on.
- The Underworld can be visited by “mortals” such as Bill Hastings, Major Briggs, Cooper, Annie, Windom Earle and others – but just as in the case of visiting a cave, or the Hindu symbolism of descending waterfalls, it is potentially risky and dangerous to do so.
Researching for this article I wanted to find out more to see if I could make further connections, and I’ve tried to present my thoughts and findings here in an accessible way. As always, the things I write are theories and not answers – and as theories, they may be subject to change or further thoughts from myself and others. Therefore, please feel free to comment and to tell me what goes through your mind while reading mine, whatever it might be.
I want to end this long article with a few words from the Log Lady, given to Hawk the day before she passed away (Mark Frost: The Final Dossier, page 93):
“My log has this to say:
The answers to all our questions are in the wind and the trees, the rocks and the water.”
Thank you for reading.