In his book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, visual artist, coffee maker and quinoa lover David Lynch reveals the secret to his creativity is the ability to “dive deep.”
''Ideas are like fish,” he writes. “If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deeper.”
Lynch is speaking, metaphorically of course, about the practice of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, a technique he picked up some 45 years ago. Lynch praises his daily TM habit as giving him the tools for catching those big ideas and putting them onto the screen. And for years, we’ve watched Lynch translate his explorations of the Unified Field of Consciousness into baffling, visual poems. Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire—each film is a stranger, more surreal exploration than the last. But it’s Twin Peaks: The Return that seems to offer the most intimate glimpse into Lynch’s devotion to TM and his adventures into the subconscious.
There are thousands of images and material in Twin Peaks: The Return that relate to TM, Buddhism and Vedic spirituality—and there are surely many to come as the current season wraps over the coming weeks. But let’s scratch the surface by examining the continued adventures of Special Agent Dale Cooper; the calm, cool protagonist of Twin Peaks and the series’ most obvious stand in for Lynch.
Dale Cooper—a sexy, suave, stoic, self-assured man, is the perfect foil for the unhinged evil of Bob, the malevolent spirit that possessed Leland and caused him to kill his daughter, Laura Palmer, in the original run of Twin Peaks. Fans of the ‘90s-era series were disheartened when Cooper, in one of the most horrifying cliff hangers of all time, was revealed to be trapped in the dark spirit realm of the Black Lodge as his evil doppelganger usurped his place in the real world. For many fans, the idea of Cooper stuck in a plush red chair for 25 years, tormented by a backward-talking Man from Another Place, was an assault on good taste.
But perhaps Lynch wasn’t being as cruel as we once believed?
Cooper’s imprisonment might well represent not cruelty, but the movement of his soul towards purity. Devoted fans will remember that Hawk, everyone’s favorite Twin Peaks deputy, explained to a curious Cooper that the Black Lodge was the “shadow-self of the White Lodge” and that “legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection.”
In Cooper’s dream of the Red Room during the first season, he observes much of that happens there while sitting in that plush red chair. Mysteries swirl about him, but he is unmoved. So, is it any stretch of the imagination to see Cooper as a TM practitioner in his chair, experiencing a dreamlike state, touching on and moving through the spirit realm? It’s no mistake that Cooper is first seen in the opening of the new season sitting in a similar chair, having an odd conversation with the Giant about metallic insect sounds and the number 430. Fans theorize that the Giant is an inhabitant of the White (read: good) Lodge. So, as Cooper calmly declares he understands the Giant’s ramblings, it is strongly suggested that Cooper has also become an inhabitant of the White Lodge through patience and meditation.
Nor is it strange that in Episode 9, Major Briggs hides secrets inside a chair. The chair is the most important TM tool, and is all important as symbol of enlightenment.
When Cooper flickers from his chair in the White Lodge, he travels through a series of horrifying landscapes (including the Black Lodge and the Red Room) on his way back to Earth. Lynch, it can be theorized, is exploring the different levels of TM Consciousness in these surreal dream places. (There are seven levels of the TM Consciousness, a number that appears throughout the series—on the display of the casino’s one-armed bandits, in the name of the company that Dougie works for, etc.)
Cooper, whether in the real world, or the spirit one, is entrenched in the mythology of TM.
And what about the real world? When Cooper finally manifests there, he is floating, spirit-like, in a mysterious cube built in a New York City high-rise by some as-yet-unnamed benefactor. What does this have to do with TM? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of TM, extolled the idea that high-level practitioners could learn “Yogic Flying.” In our world, this involves hopping about a room with crossed legs, but in the hands of Lynch, Cooper—having passed through the Black Lodge—has arrived at the state of a pure superhuman who can actually fucking fly.
He isn’t alone, either: the Giant also flies. At the end of Episode 8, while floating around a theater resembling Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio, the Giant creates a golden orb containing Laura Palmer. This orb is similar in appearance to the one Bob appears in during the nuclear explosion at the top of the episode.
But what do those strange orbs and happenings mean?
Again, we can look to Lynch’s involvement in TM and Mark Frost’s obsession with Tibetan Buddhism. The Buddha, in the Diamond Sutra, says: “Our conditioned existence in this fleeting world is like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.” These orbs might be a manifestation of good and evil in the conditioned existence. Laura is created by the pure consciousness of the White Lodge; Bob is created by the evil deeds of man. This verse may very well explain all those confounded flickering lightbulbs and lamps and phantoms that punctuate the new series.
But what about Cooper and his dazed, baby-like trance? The easiest answer might be that he’s simply too pure to engage with the real world. That the trauma of re-entering such a corrupted place was too traumatic. Or, perhaps Cooper’s consciousness is still living on a different plane. Maybe that’s why he sees those golden auras in the casino that lead him to win, “Hello-o-o,” 29 mega-jackpots. Isn’t it curious that Harry Dean Stanton’s Carl Rodd character also sees the Golden Aura when he witnesses the tragic traffic accident of Episode 6? Perhaps there’s more than one character here, transcending realms of spirituality.
Or perhaps this is all bullshit.
Really, even though we’re in the middle of the series’ run, it’s too early to make logical leaps. And yet, it’s easy to see a pattern building on top of the old material—that of a deep and intense spirituality informed by Lynch’s dive into the subconscious. Regardless of whether this crackpot theory holds water, Lynch, in his endeavor to create his own meditative dreamscape a reality, has born a form of television cinema that could be called—in the parlance of the millennials—a cinema of “feels,” one in which logic (the very thing meditation attempts to shake off as an unnecessary burden) becomes moot. Twin Peaks: The Return is less about making sense than making its presence known. A deep, spiritual presence. An unravelling of the Earthly to shine a light on the Unified Field Lynch seems so desperate to fish within.