Twin Peaks/Paradise Lost

I have been studying Milton’s Paradise Lost while watching Season 3 of Twin Peaks (and subsequently re-watching Season 2). Like retroviral DNA they have swapped and intertwined and formed a strange composite in my head.

Those with an interest in religion and esotericism will understand that there is always a larger context and a larger backstory that bears on the circumstances of the present. The causes of our existence today do not derive entirely from deterministic mathematical laws; there are actors and deeds (and misdeeds) on a cosmic scale, and there are moments of drama that decide the entire character of existence. We can enter into these timeless sacred moments using ritual, so that each Passover the Jewish people is released from bondage in Egypt. A Catholic can meditate on the stations of the Cross and so become part of the Passion of Christ. These sacred moments are experienced as timeless; they exist eternally at another level of reality. They are experiences that anyone can enter into. Perhaps the single most important aspect of practical Kabbalah is developing the ability to enter into the worlds of root causes. There are dramas that are larger than this world, and we can enter into them.

The story of the Fall of the Father and Mother of the human race is told in the Bible (and although many will not appreciate the fact, it is also told in the Koran) making it perhaps the most important and influential story ever told. In Milton’s composite epic there is a great war in Heaven and the losing side, led by Satan, is banished to a terrible place of suffering. As an act of vengeance Satan chooses to ruin the perfection of this world by tempting Eve and Adam into disobedience. It is this primal moment that permits the entry of evil into the world.

In Twin Peaks this primal moment is the death of Laura Palmer. It resonates timelessly like a great bell. The world cracks open and evil enters. Many people find Lynch difficult, but the difficulties are no greater than those posed by Biblical criticism. Were Adam and Eve real people? Are they characters from some long forgotten cultic drama? Are they allegories? Are they archetypes? Is the story merely a surface and the text itself a cryptogram encoding deeper secrets? Is the answer to all of these questions “yes!”.

It seems to me that Twin Peaks exists at the same level of exegetical complexity. The characters exist in a drama that is often soapy and silly, but the same actors are used in a larger content, in a timeless world of root causes, and the viewer is shuttled back and forwards not always grasping how the same actor portrays many things. Identities are not fixed, time is not linear, surface and depth are stirred together. We are constantly exposed to moments of breakage that permit some greater evil to enter. Knowing “who did it” becomes subsumed into a larger question of “Why?” As the Log Lady puts it:

“So now the sadness comes. The revelation. There is a depression after an answer is given. It was almost fun not knowing. Yes, now we know. At least we know what we sought in the beginning. But there is still the question, why? And this question will go on and on until the final answer comes. Then the knowing is so full there is no room for questions.”