GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
Hover over the featured photo and press "play" to browse blogposts. Click the featured photo to read that post below the header.
"Gnosticism," roughly speaking, is a collective term for the generalized teachings of a variety of ancient heretical Christian sects that denied Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully divine (as orthodox Christianity claims), believing instead that Jesus was a divine, spiritual being who merely inhabited a human form without actually becoming incarnate--i.e., materialized into human "flesh". Rather than coming to save the entire world, the gnostic Jesus was believed to have come in order to impart transformational esoteric knowledge ("gnosis") to a select few adherents who, through the possession of this secret knowledge, could escape annihilation at the end of their material lives and become fully spiritual entities like Jesus. Some scholars of gnosticism suggest that these basic teachings long predate Christianity, having precursor forms in ancient Asiatic religions. Contemporary proponents of pre-Christian gnostic ideas (e.g., John Lash) often describe the gist in psychological terms as "intuitive knowing of the heart that liberates us from social conditioning and ego-fixation."
One of the key teachings of Christian forms of gnosticism was that Christian sacred texts--especially the New Testament gospels--had a double-meaning throughout: on the surface were stories and lessons and bits of wisdom that average people could take at face value, more or less literally, and get a basic sense of the world and its features and how to live a decent life therein; under the surface, however, were alleged to be deep secrets that gnostic adherents could use on their journey toward spiritual transformation and eventually complete freedom from the constraints and corruptions of material life. Select initiates detected by masters of the chosen few could be brought into the fold if and when they passed certain tests and initiation rituals, but generally the secrets of gnostic Christianity were to be closely guarded, and were thought, in addition, to be impenetrable to non-adherents in any case, given that the condition of understanding was having the secret knowledge. Without gnosis, one would not be able to access the hidden secrets of the gospel messages.
Why think that Part Seven has anything whatever to do with gnosticism? There are several intriguing clues that take place in rapid fire from 21:40-29:56.
1. Diane's change of heart on going to Yankton--The first is Diane's strange change of heart about the trip to Yankton Federal Prison upon having Gordon Cole tell her (at 21:40 ff) that "this is extremely important, Diane, and it's about something you know about, and that's enough said about that." Up until Cole's raising of the prospect that some secret knowledge of Diane's is the key to the case, she's as cold as stone to the prospect of helping them out. But the minute the issue at hand becomes one of using her secret knowledge to leverage an outcome that is otherwise unobtainable, she seems immediately resolved: "Federal prison. South Dakota." Just seconds later, we see them on a plane to South Dakota.
2. The esoteric plane--And speaking of the plane to South Dakota, there's no way to deny that this situation offers us a straightforward example of something like gnostic double meaning. On the surface reading, we've got a relatively banal establishing shot of a jet in flight (an establishing shot that is in fact so banal that redditors were able to dig up the stock footage from which it was drawn--an online advertisement for a used Gulfstream G450, no less). But the deep reading gives us something else entirely: a coded message blinking out to us from the six cabin windows that alternate white and dark in rapid succession. And because the stock footage of the used G450 didn't include the whited-out windows, we have no choice but to conclude that there is a special message being conveyed here meant only for those with the eyes to see it.
3. Albert's coded message to Diane from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7--It struck me as deeply odd when, immediately following the bizarre establishing shot of the plane, Albert stops to offer a pearl of biblical wisdom from Matthew, Chapter 7 to Diane while handing off two 50ml bottles of vodka. He says "Judge not lest ye be judged." and hands her the bottles (notice that he has two in his hands in the photo above, and then two again in the photo below, even though Diane is shown holding just one when it cuts to her with the bottle). Once again, there is a double meaning. At face value, Albert is just being kind: he knows Diane likes to drink, he knows she's under extreme stress, and he's providing her with the means of self-medication, judgement-free--no strings attached! Immediately following this kind gesture, he says "Just the fact that you're here speaks louder than words.", and of course he gets the typical Diane response. On the surface, this is a throwaway act of kindness that supports the surface narrative that Albert and Diane have both got hearts of gold under those rough exteriors.
But there's an esoteric meaning, too, as it turns out that Matthew Chapter 7, Verses 1-6 is a passage that is taken in the gnostic tradition to be a crucial reminder that the deepest truths of the gospel are not for everyone and that adherents of the narrow path should know better than to assume that the deep and transformative things they are gleaning from holy scripture are things that can or should be understood by everyone. F. Aster Barnwell comments on the significance of Matthew Chapter 7 in this regard his esoteric work, Hidden Treasure: Jesus Work of Transformation in the following screen capture of pages 168-169 (accessed free via Google Books). [NOTE: I have not read this text and know nothing whatever about the author, but rather found it through a targeted Google search of "Matthew 7 + esoteric meaning" on a hunch that Albert's comment went deeper that it may have at first seemed. As such, I do not seek to recommend or criticize the work here, but use it merely as an example of links to gnosticism.]
"To 'give that which is holy unto the dogs' or to 'cast pearls to swine' portrays the one doing so as ignorant of the true value of the knowledge he has gained. It is not the fault of the swine that pearls have no aesthetic appeal, but it is certainly the fault of the one casting them not to know this."
It's not entirely clear to me what Albert intends to convey to Diane (or to us) on a deeper level, but there are some intriguing possibilities to consider. Given the fact that Lynch keeps taking us back to Diane throughout the jet plane scene to show us her jaded/dismissive reactions to various gaffes or expressions of naivety committed by Special Agent Tammy Preston (her failure to get Albert's "Girl from Ipanema" joke, for instance), perhaps Albert is offering her a gentle reminder that Preston is not yet among the initiated and so Diane should neither judge her harshly for her failure to be in the loop nor let slip any information for which Tammy isn't yet ready (I'll say more about this in 4. below). A second possibility is that Albert knows that Diane will face a true test of her mettle in meeting Mr. C. and that she must thus ready herself to guard her secret knowledge from Mr. C. at all costs. I'll have more to say about this second possibility in 5. below.
A third possibility is that Albert is attempting to convey something to us--the audience--about how advocates of "secret readings" of Twin Peaks ought to conduct themselves. This is an especially fascinating prospect given that just one week later, the airing of Part Eight opened up a chasm in the show's viewership between "gnostic" viewers in-the-know (who claimed to be gleaning all manner of deep meaning from the episode) and befuddled viewers (who claimed to have no idea what was going on). Befuddled viewers, in many cases, were treated very badly indeed by "gnostic" viewers, being told repeatedly that maybe "Twin Peaks wasn't for them" and the like when they expressed any sort of reservation about the genius of the episode. Perhaps one meaning of the esoteric subtext of Albert's comment is a rebuke of arrogant viewers: he is reminding us that people who are really, genuinely in possession of deep insight into Twin Peaks--that is, folks who enjoy something like what John Lash describes above as "intuitive knowing of the heart that liberates us from social conditioning" and the conventions of "accessible television"--are not likely to be judging others for their lack of knowledge; the true possessor of wisdom, after all, knows better either than to lord that wisdom over others who lack it (judge them for their ignorance) or share it with them before the time is right (throw pearls to swine).
4. Agent Tammy Preston's initiation into gnosis--Throughout the series, one gets the impression that Cole believes that Preston is special and is thus putting her through a series of challenges in order to give her the opportunity to prove her mettle and enter more elite ranks of knowing and understanding. But it is also clear that Cole is pacing her through this process--he is neither judging Tammy for not being fully up to speed nor is he "throwing pearls to swine" by introducing her to things for which she is not yet ready. Recall that in Part Four, for instance, Cole actually sends Preston away before discussing Mr. C's disturbing "Yrev very good to see you" line alone with Albert. But here we witness him take her through what seems like an initiation or right of passage into deeper, more esoteric wisdom. She comes on the scene to present a discrepancy between Cooper's finger prints 25 years ago and Mr. C.'s prints two days ago, and this time Cole decides she's ready for a different plane of reasoning about what is going on with that reversed finger print.
Cole points to the reversed print, looking knowingly at Rosenfield, and cryptically says “Yrev…the backwards word,” this time explicitly choosing to include Preston in the conversation. A puzzled Preston is lost: “What does this all mean?”, she wonders aloud. Cole congratulates her for doing excellent work—“passing one test after another!”—and bids her to put out her hands. She offers them palms up and he tells her to flip them over. Starting with her left pinky finger, he takes each of her fingers between his right pointer finger and thumb, lightly pinching each while saying one word per finger: “I’m very, very happy to see you again old friend.” When he’s pinched each finger, he returns to her left ring finger—the same one whose print was reversed on Cooper’s recent prison prints—and touches the fleshy lobe just above her knuckle: “This is the spiritual mound, the spiritual finger…you think about that Tammy.”
What Cole seems to be inviting her to realize is that Mr. C. is not the real Cooper. Those with the eyes to see know that Mr. C. is not the real Cooper because his "spiritual mound"--the fleshy part of his left ring finger just above the knuckle--betrays him as a forgery, insofar as that spiritual mound conveys an unforgeable spiritual blueprint of the bearer. Only the real Cooper will leave a proper print of that particular part of that particular finger; the doppelgänger, who is a material look-a-like but ultimately a spiritual imposter, will not leave the proper spiritual resonances (which in this case has the effect of reversing the print, leaving a mirror image). Here we find two key features of gnosticism in the same instance: the belief in esoteric insight that only a select few can see and the belief that the true essence of being is spiritual rather than material.
5. Diane shields her gnosis from Mr. C. and detects his emptiness of it--Key to this insight is to recall that, from the very beginning, Diane's urgent importance to the story derives from special knowledge of Cooper which she and only she possesses. Back at the end of Part Four when Cole and Rosenfield get hip to the fact that they might be dealing with a doppelgänger, Cole's first thought is to find "that one certain person"--namely, Diane--who can verify whether Cooper is the real article. Then when it comes to the brass tacks of talking Diane into helping, it's his reminder to her--as noted above--that her secret knowledge is key to unlocking the mystery that convinces her to do it: "it's about something you know about. And that's enough said about that."
When Diane finally faces the fire and rises to meet the bottomless emptiness of Mr. C.'s gaze, one gets the impression that she is at great pains to guard this secret knowledge from him and that Mr. C. is concentrating all his dark powers on attempting to draw it out of her. The question of where they last saw each other is pivotal to this exchange, and Mr. C.'s failure to provide an answer in the proper spiritual register--his terrifying, labored, contentless reply of "At your house."--is what convinces Diane beyond a shadow of a doubt that he lacks true understanding of what transpired the last time she saw the real Cooper. Diane's successful defense of her secret knowledge and her clear intuition that Mr. C. lacks the indelible spiritual mark that she and Cooper once left on one another proves her authenticity as a votary of esoteric knowing.
Her success in thwarting Mr. C.'s dark powers of spiritual invasion stands in stark contrast to the pathetic failure of Warden Murphy, whose mind is a sieve leaking all kinds of information that Mr. C. can use to exploit him. The juxtaposition between Diane and Warden Murphy's encounters with Mr. C. is at it's most instructive in the difference between Mr. C.'s answers to their respective litmus test questions--the questions whose answers will tell their inquirers whether Mr. C. is the real article or a fraud. Diane asks "When did we see each other last?". Mr. C.'s got nothing, so he tries to deflect and get inside her head by asking her "Are you upset with me?". She turns the tables, responding with a question, "What do you think?", refusing to engage him at all on his own terms. When she forces this issue yet again, all Mr. C. can manage is the hollow, labored "At your house." She knows he's got nothing. Warden Murphy, by contrast, asks him "How do I know you know anything about...THIS." After an agonizing but relatively brief pause, Mr. C. says, almost with alacrity, "Joe McCloskey." Where Diane stonewalled Mr. C.'s dark powers of intuition, Warden Murphy betrayed himself almost instantly.
6. Diane's assessment of what is missing from Mr. C.--After Diane bolts from the visiting room and Cole rejoins her in the parking lot, she regales him with a viscerally moving description of how she knew that Mr. C. is not the real Dale Cooper:
Diane (in agony): “Listen to me! That is not the Dale Cooper that I knew.”
Cole (turning up his hearing aid): “Please tell me exactly what you mean.”
Diane (beside herself): “It isn’t time passing. Or how he’s changed. Or the way he looks. It’s something here (points to heart) or something that definitely isn’t here (crying).”
Cole: “That’s good enough for me Diane, that’s good enough for me.”
If we loop back to the beginning and recall John Lash's psychological definition of gnosticism as a form of "intuitive knowing of the heart that liberates us from social conditioning and ego-fixation," we can see that what Diane found wanting in Mr. C. that Special Agent Dale Cooper has in spades is gnosis (if not any particular gnosticism)--that liberating, intuitive knowing of the heart that he must have once upon a time lavished on Diane in a way that left an indelible spiritual mark on both of them.