Many aspects of Twin Peaks continue to spark much debate even after the years that have passed since the show originally aired. One that seems to be continually discussed and picked apart is the Black Lodge. More specifically, how the properties of time are different than in the physical world and what shapes a person’s individual Lodge experience like that of Agent Cooper in the final episode. Major Briggs’ experiences, which he believed took place in the White Lodge, will also be covered. This article will explore these area and attempt to explain with greater details the finer workings of the Black Lodge.
First, we would like to give a brief overview of the White Lodge. Very little is told or shown of it in the series. It is easily argued that the final scene of Fire Walk With Me takes place in the White Lodge. Laura’s angel comes to rescue her soul from the torment she had endured through the last five years of her life and receiving forgiveness for her manipulative and degrading ways.
The other “major” viewpoint we receive into the White Lodge is through Major Briggs. In episode 17, he and Agent Cooper are in the woods by their campfire after night fishing. Briggs asks Cooper if he has ever heard of the White Lodge and Cooper replies that he had not. Cooper leaves the campsite momentarily to answer the call of nature, eager to discuss this matter with Briggs when he returns. However, before Cooper can go back to their campsite, a bright light fills the area shortly after Cooper hears the call of an owl. Briggs calls out for Cooper. Then, we see the silhouette of a figure on top of a hill. Cooper runs to the campsite and then runs up the hill trying to find Briggs. The light goes out and the Cooper sees that the Major has vanished.
Cooper is convinced the bright light he saw was a powerful force that exists in the woods as he tells Sheriff Truman the following day. He does not have any information to go on because he and the Major never got to continue their discussion. He brings it up in Harry’s office and Hawk gives Cooper some insight into the Lodges as well.
Cooper: Have either of you fellas heard of the White Lodge
Hawk: Where’d you hear of it?
Cooper: Well, it was the last thing Major Briggs said to me before he disappeared.
Hawk: Cooper, you may be fearless in this world, but there are other worlds.
Cooper: Tell me more.
Hawk: My people believe the White Lodge is the place where the spirits that rule men and nature here reside
Truman: Local legend, goes way back.
Hawk: There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every soul 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…but it is said if you face the Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.
This description of the Lodges should be taken as a loose interpretation. This is the Lodges as seen through the legends of Hawk’s people and may not necessarily be the most reliable source. There are parts of it that do have relevance to Cooper’s Lodge experience, but these will be discussed in greater detail later in the article. The White Lodge through Hawk’s point of view makes it sound like Native American Mount Olympus.
This is continued by Windom Earle’s description of the Lodges in episode #26.
Earle: Once upon a time there was a land of great goodness called the White Lodge. Gentle fawns gamboled there amongst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air and when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one’s heart with the desire to live one’s life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue’s sour smell. But I am happy to point out that our story does not end in this wretched place…for there is another place, it’s opposite. A place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets….spirits there are as likely to rip the flesh from your bones than greet you with a happy “good day”…And to harvest these spirits in this hidden land…would offer up a power so vast that it’s bearer might reorder the Earth itself to his liking. Now, this place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge and I intend to find it.
Earle with these descriptions makes the White Lodge sound like Elysium, the mythological afterworld of Greek/Roman mythology. The way the Lodges are described by Hawk and Windom Earle clearly lineate them into good and evil with the obvious affiliations being drawn between White and Black. At this time, we also learn that Earle’s primary motive behind coming to Twin Peaks is to find the Black Lodge and access its power for his own benefit. This will add to our discussion of the workings of the Black Lodge.
Returning to our exploration of the White Lodge, we are given a somewhat better understanding of it when Major Briggs returns two days after his disappearance. He talks to Doc Hayward, Cooper and Truman about his experience, but he can remember very little except for the flash of light and the disturbing vision of a giant owl. On the back of his neck are three triangular scars in perfect proportion. He tells them about his work with Project Bluebook and how it is continued unofficially, exploring the woods of Twin Peaks for the White Lodge. Again, he is interrupted before he can tell them more when Colonel Riley’s men arrive to take Briggs in to be questioned by the Air Force. Before talking about Bluebook, Briggs a terrifying revelation of what happens to a person once they enter the Lodges, echoing Hawk’s account of the spirit’s journey to perfection. He asks rhetorically, “Is this meant for the soul, my soul?”
A few days later, Briggs returns to tell Cooper and Truman that he believes the Air Force’s search for the White Lodge is not ideologically pure. He bases this assessment on their intolerant and paranoid attitude when they questioned him about his disappearance. Briggs believes he was taken to the White Lodge, but he can remember virtually nothing.
The Major’s question about what is meant for the soul is intriguing when also considering Hawk comments about a spirit’s journey to perfection. What really happened to Major Briggs? He disappeared for two days and returned unharmed except for the scars on the back of his neck. Was Briggs able to confront the Lodge with perfect courage and thus pass from through the Black into the White, then exit having passed the test? This is a definite possibility because it has been shown repeatedly that Briggs holds a pledge as sacred and is a man of strong morals and believes love is the saving grace of mankind. Who else but Briggs would be the best candidate to pass the test of the Lodges? It is also widely held that Briggs would be involved in a rescue attempt to save the “good” Cooper had there been a third season. If Briggs was able to pass through the Lodges successfully this adds considerably to his candidacy to help save Cooper. It can also be argued that Briggs did go to the Lodges, but it might have been so he could later be used as an instrument of the Lodge spirits for some unknown reason and not as a test of his spirit.
Regardless of which scenario proves to be correct, Briggs’ experience does tell us quite a bit. First of all, time lacks definition in the Lodges. This also shown in the final episode when Cooper enters the Lodges in the evening and Truman says the following morning, “It’s been about ten hours since he went in there.” At that point inside, however, Cooper was still in the “waiting room” and yet to enter the Lodges. When Major Briggs returns to his house after his disappearance, he asks his wife how long he had been gone. She replies that it had been two days, but to Major Briggs it “seemed much shorter.”
Another character of Twin Peaks who had an experience steeped in mystery was The Log Lady. We learn about her experience when her log notices the tattoo on Major Briggs’ neck in the Double R Diner. The two immediately go to see Agent Cooper. Margaret shows them a tattoo resembling two mountains on the back of her leg. She goes on to explain how when she was a child she went for a walk in the woods. When she returned, she was told she had disappeared for a day. And like Major Briggs, the only thing she recalled was the flash of bright light and the call of the owl. Agent Cooper, even though he didn’t disappear when Major Briggs did, but he did recall these two things happening. If nothing else, it shows there are certain things connected to disappearance related to the Lodge and that all who enter it in whatever manner experience time as stagnant, but when they return to the outside world, days could have passed.
There are other ways to enter the Lodges as evidenced by Earle and Cooper entering through the portal at Glastonberry Grove. How they arrived at this portal was the result of an intense investigation. Earle had been seeking access to the Lodge since 1965 and amassed much information in his years with Project Bluebook. It wasn’t until he came to Twin Peaks that he put the final pieces together. The petroglyph at Owl Cave was the final piece that led both Earle and Cooper to the portal. Earle had to kidnap Major Briggs and shoot him full of haliperidol to get him ‘fess up to what he knew about the petroglyph, which he told Cooper he had seen or dreamt. When Major Briggs described the cave painting and his experience touched upon earlier, he described it as a dream. It might be said that his subconscious recorded the experience, but since time is distorted it isn’t realized by the mind as an actual experience that one can tap into by memory.
Major Briggs told Earle that “There is a time, when Jupiter and Saturn meet; they will receive you.” Earle took this information and translated it the same as Cooper did in episode 28, when he interpreted the symbols on the petroglyph corresponding to Jupiter and Saturn with the help of Andy. Cooper also found out when the next conjunction took place, January to June. This indicates the time access to the Lodge is granted. Now all Earle needed was the location. Earle was a step ahead of Cooper in this respect as well, because at the end of episode 27 Earle realize the cave painting also gave them that location. By placing a topographical map of Twin Peaks underneath a computer rendering of the petroglyph, he saw that the painting was a map as well, a map to the Black Lodge. At the very conclusion of episode 27, we see BOB “leaving” the Lodge, and he says “I’m out.” Since it has been stated that BOB cannot leave the Lodge except by alternate means, this is symbolic of the door to the Lodge being open and that there is indeed “much trouble ahead” as Major Briggs stated in an earlier episode.
Major Briggs eventually escapes from Earle, aided by Leo and returned to the Sheriff’s station by Hawk. There, in the haze of a heavy dose of haliperidol, he tells Harry and Cooper that “Fear and love open the doors.” Cooper immediately deduces that fear open the Black Lodge and love opens the White. After the Major says “Protect the queen.” Cooper also realizes that Windom Earle is going to claim the winner of the Miss Twin Peaks contest as his “queen” and take her to the “door” when it opens. Earle is listening to their conversation through the bugged bonsai tree in the conference room. He interprets this as fear being the “key” that unlocks the Black Lodge if one goes there at the right time, during the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.
There are some who believe there are portals in other locations around the world. There is a scene from the Fire Walk With Me script that was not put in the film. It precedes Phillip Jeffries surprise appearance in the Philadelphia FBI offices. The scene is in the lobby of a hotel in Buenos Aires where Jeffries is staying. He boards the elevator and instead of getting off on the floor where his room is, he ends up in Philadelphia. How does this prove there is a portal in Buenos Aires? Jeffries has been missing, according the FBI records, for two years. The experiences he relates to Albert, Cooper and Gordon Cole can be said to have taken place in Buenos Aires, because that’s the last place he was, the hotel. Major Briggs and the Log Lady’s experiences also show that one can be “abducted” without being at the Lodge entrance, but just being near it. The Log Lady was in the woods when she disappeared and the Major and Cooper were camping in the woods at the time of his disappearance. These events tie all three disappearances to the Lodge. Phillip isn’t said to have seen a bright light or heard an owl, but his descriptions do include many familiar faces such as BOB, LMFAP and Mrs. Chalfont and her grandson.
Back to Twin Peaks, Cooper and Truman go to the Miss Twin Peaks contest, because they know the winner will be in immediate danger. After the winner, Annie Blackburn, is announced she is kidnapped by Windom Earle and taken into Ghostwood Forest. He takes her to Glastonberry Grove where he knows the entrance to the Black Lodge will be, hoping to use Annie’s fear to unlock it. Annie recites prayer, using her faith to fend off the fear, but eventually she falls under a trance and Windom leads her into the Lodge.
Cooper intensely studies Andy’s chalkboard rendering of the owl cave petroglyph, looking for the clues that will reveal where the entrance to the Lodge is located. Pete arrives claiming the Log Lady stole his truck. Cooper assures him that it was Windom Earle in disguise, but from Pete’s story he is given an idea where Windom was heading. Harry realizes the circle of trees on the drawing represent the twelve sycamores of Glastonberry Grove. Hawk interjects, stating that was where he found bloody towel and the torn pages of Laura’s secret diary.
The Log Lady enters bring a jar of oil her husband brought home on night shortly before he died. The oil is referred to a “an opening to a gateway” and the oil smells scorched, reminding both men of Jacoby smelling this when he had the heart attack at Easter Park. Ronette Pulaski arrives and confirms their suspicions by saying she recognized the smell from the train car when Laura died.
Armed with the information, Harry and Cooper head to Glastonberry Grove. They follow Windom and Annie’s footsteps, but before they reach the grove, Cooper tells Harry he has to go on alone. Harry waits a moment, then follows Cooper unseen, wanting to keep an eye on him. He is stunned when he sees Cooper disappear from the grove when he enters the Lodge.
What the viewer first recognizes is that this is the same place that Cooper went to in his dream from episode 2, where Laura whispers the identity of the killer in his ear. He walks down a hallway and enters the very room where this identity was revealed. There is a man singing “Sycamore Trees” and from the curtains emerges the LMFAP. He dances his way to his chair and takes a seat and looks back at Cooper as if to welcome him. The singer vanishes after the song ends.
This room is later described by LMFAP as the “waiting room”. What this means is at this moment Cooper is neither in the Black Lodge or White Lodge. It is a neutral area where a person waits before the journey begins. This could be very much used as a way to size Cooper up, reach into his mind and discover things about him that could be used to disorient or frighten him. While this is taking place, he is also introduced to various characters he recognizes as a way of confirming where he is and how he got here. Before announcing to Cooper that “Some of your friends are here.”, he tells Cooper, “When you see me again, it won’t be me.” This introduces one of the main components of the Lodge and Lodge experiences, the doppelgangers.
In essence, doppelganger comes from German and means “double-walker”. A doppelganger is a shadow-self (what Hawk described as the Dweller on the Threshold) that accompanies every human. Only the owner of a doppelganger can see it, otherwise it is invisible to human eyes. It is bad luck if is seen and rarely a doppelganger will make itself visible to friends and family causing great confusion and acting in a mischievous and malicious manner.
First, Laura enters and greets agent Cooper and says , ”I’ll see you in 25 years…Meanwhile…” This confirms this is the same place he dreamed about, because as he told Harry the end of his dream took place 25 years after Laura’s murder. Next, the old room service waiter from The Great Northern appears and walks over, handing Cooper a cup of coffee. The waiter then turns into the Giant. He walks back over, sits next to LMFAP and says to Cooper “One and the same.” Before disappearing. This indicates that the Giant inhabited the old waiter and used him so he could communicate with Cooper, giving him the three and other clues to help him re-interpret his dream and lead him to finding BOB.
Cooper picks up the cup of coffee and attempts to drink it. During this, the little man starts rubbing his hands together. In Cooper’s dream, the little man does this as a means of gathering information to share with Cooper. Here, it could be the opposite; he is drawing information from Cooper that will determine the form and direction his Lodge experience will take. Cooper tries to drink the coffee, but first it solidifies, then returns to normal form then lastly, after LMFAP says “Wow, Bob, wow” it turns to a viscous form that oozes out of the cup. After this, LMFAP says “Fire walk with me” and screaming is heard in the distance. The changing of the coffee could be looked at several ways. Some think that the viscous form represents the scorched engine oil because of what LMFAP says. One could also approach it as the continuation of orienting both Cooper and the viewer to the Lodges. Here everything you know is turned on its head. Anything can happen and perceptions of reality will be distorted to bring confusion and fear to those who enter.
Cooper walks down another hallway and enters another room with the same floor pattern and curtains, but it’s completely empty. He turns around and goes back to the “waiting room”, where LMFAP tells him “Wrong way.” Cooper cannot leave until he has successfully completed his journey or taken over by BOB. He doesn’t know this at this time, because his primary goal upon entering is finding Annie. Returning to this room, he finds it is now furnished and a crazed LMFAP making maniacal noises, announcing “Another friend.” He disappears behind a chair and Maddy Ferguson enters, introduces herself and warns Cooper, “Watch out for my cousin.”.
She disappears and Cooper turns around, thinking he is heading back in the direction of the waiting room. This time the room is completely empty and there he encounters the crazed LMFAP again who looks up at him and says “Doppelganger.” This reminding us what he said when Cooper entered. “When you see me again, it won’t be me.” The doppelgangers in the Lodge are identified by glazed, white eyes. Cooper is going deeper into the Lodge and the farther in he goes the more dangerous it becomes and the closer he gets to facing his “own shadow-self.” What happens to Cooper is determined by what information the Lodge is able to gather from him, like when the LMFAP is rubbing his hands while he and Cooper are sitting in the waiting room. All the events that follow happen for one purpose: to confuse Cooper and break down his courage, because by making him succumb to his fear he will be vulnerable to the forces of the Black Lodge.
Across the room, a double chair has appeared and in it sits the doppelganger of Laura Palmer. She lets out a chilling, piercing scream and runs over to Cooper as her screaming continues piercing the air. In Laura’s face, we see for an instant Windom’s Earle’s face superimposed over Laura’s. Cooper is startled by this and flees the room and runs down another hallway. This brings us to one of the biggest dilemmas in interpreting the Lodge activities in relation to Cooper’s experience. How much of it is The Lodge itself and how much of it, if any, is Earle manipulating the power of the Lodge? At this point, we would say that Earle is still off somewhere else in the Lodge and Cooper will find him eventually. At this point, the Lodge has gathered from Cooper how it can use his past with Earle to induce fear and was likely able to draw some of this information from Earle as well.
We can also presume the Lodge knew all along what Earle’s motives were and used them both against Earle and Cooper. This would also confuse Cooper more, because he knows of Earle’s extensive knowledge of the Lodges through his participation in Project Bluebook. So, this would add to this confusion with Cooper not knowing who was messing with his head, The Lodge, Earle or both. When Cooper flees the room with Laura’s screaming doppelganger and enters another room at the end of another hallway, he finds himself bleeding from a stab wound similar to the one he suffered at the hands of Earle in Pittsburgh. From this point on, Cooper faces this confusion about who is pulling the strings. He turns around, holding his wound and returns the way he came, following the trail of blood he left behind him.
Going down the hallway, back the way he came (or so he thinks), he enters another room. In this room, he sees himself and Caroline lying on the floor in what we can guess is the same position the two were in Pittsburgh, when Windom fatally stabbed his wife. This confuses Cooper. Again, the Lodge is trying to throw Cooper off balance by using his past to make him vulnerable and more susceptible to fear. To further this, after Cooper calls out for her, Caroline turns into Annie and looks up at Cooper, dazed and confused. Then, Cooper calls out repeatedly for Annie and starts looking for her in other rooms.
When he finally finds Annie, she is clad in the same dress she wore at the Miss Twin Peaks contest, which leads Cooper (and the viewer) to believe he has finally found Annie. That is until she says, “Dale, I saw the face of the man who killed me.” The fact that she is speaking like the other Lodge spirits should clue us into the fact this is not Annie, but a Lodge representation and as such can change forms as she is about to do. Cooper is puzzled by this statement, so he asks, “Annie, the face of the man who killed me?” Annie continues, “It was my husband…Who’s Annie.” Suddenly, Cooper is facing Caroline, wearing the dress she wore the night of her death and repeatedly asking him “Who’s Annie?” Caroline’s voice and glassy white eyes clearly show her to be a projection of the Lodge. Cooper is being faced with the two significant women in his life with the Lodge creating disturbing yet realistic parallels between them to break him down. Cooper becomes more confused, “Caroline?” he asks. Then it is Annie once again, stating, “You must be mistaken. I’m alive.”
At this time, Cooper is in the room where the “test” of his spirit will be completed. In Hawk’s description of the Lodges, he said every spirit must pass through the Black Lodge on the way to perfection. Annie now becomes Laura’s screaming doppelganger who appears with her shrill yell in Cooper’s face, throwing Cooper completely off his even keel. Then, he is startled even more when he is facing Windom Earle. Earle might think he is in control, making the finals moves in his chess match with Cooper, but he is in actuality being used by the Lodge as a pawn in its plan to use Cooper.
Windom looks to his side, so does Cooper, Annie appears then disappears. Now, Cooper, and Earle for that matter, may think that Earle is using the power of the Lodge for his own foul ends. Earle says, “If you give me your soul, I’ll let Annie live.” Again, Earle’s voice is using the Lodge dialogue. So far, the only person who is speaking “normally” is Cooper, which could lead one to believe even this Windom is a projection of the Lodge. Or possibly, because we are experiencing through Cooper’s point of view, he may sound normal to himself but to those in the Lodge he may be backwards. When Cooper agrees to the stipulation, he is stabbed by Windom. Then time reverses, eliminating the stabbing. At this point, Cooper is holding up and not falling prey to the Lodge’s attempts to incite fear within him. He was ready to give up his soul to save the woman he loves.
Windom is in for a rude awakening. He had been waiting for Cooper to enter the room where he was holding Annie captive. The Lodge allowed Windom to believe he was in control of the situation, when in truth, he was being used as an expendable character in the Lodge’s unfolding plan to use Cooper for its own purposes. At this moment, Cooper now faces BOB who had Windom Earle in his clutches. Windom is screaming in absolute terror and is ordered silent by BOB. It looks like he is still screaming, but no one can hear him as BOB speaks to Cooper. “You go. He can’t ask for your soul. I will take his.” BOB waves his hand over Windom’s head and his soul is pulled from his body. Even after witnessing all this, Cooper stands tall and doesn’t linger long in the presence of BOB, thinking it be best to get out of the room as soon as possible.
Cooper walks back out into the hall and goes back the way he came. Before entering the next room, Leland’s doppelganger suddenly comes out of curtains, laughing and giving Cooper the once over. Meanwhile, back in the other room, Cooper’s doppelganger appears and shares a good laugh with BOB over Earle’s fate and what is about to happen to Cooper. In the hallway, Leland’s doppelganger looks right at Cooper and says “I did not kill anybody.” Cooper looks at him puzzled, then continues on his way. Before leaving the hallway, he looks down at the other end where he sees his doppelganger looking at him, smiling wickedly. Cooper is now facing what Hawk referred to as the “Dweller on the Threshold”. This is the moment that Cooper finally breaks down and becomes afraid. He knows he must escape before the doppelganger catches us to him, so he takes off running. The doppelganger slowly follows, stops and smiles at Leland’s doppelganger. Before continuing on after Cooper, he looks directly at us and he no longer has the glassy, white eyes of all the doppelgangers; the same eyes he had when he was with BOB. What has happened is that BOB has entered the doppelganger and once he catches up with Cooper, he will leave the Lodge, trapping the real Cooper within it while he roams Twin Peaks as Cooper. Cooper keeps running through the rooms of the Lodge with BOB/doppelganger in hot pursuit. Right when Cooper returns to the waiting room and he thinks he is about to escape, he is caught and BOB leaves the Lodge instead of the real Dale Cooper.
Therefore, in the Lodges, either White or Black, time loses the properties and consistency that people in the physical world experience. People who successfully leave the Lodge or leave under the control of some other force as Cooper did have no sense of where they have been or how long they have been gone. It is similar to when Leland states that when BOB was inside he did not know it and when he was gone he could not remember his presence. This is an extension of the “losing time” principle of Lodge experience.
In addition, when one enters the Lodge as Agent Cooper and Windom Earle did, they are manipulated in many ways; by the use of past experiences, finding their vulnerabilities and using them in ways to ensure they can take over a person or have them serve their purposes in other ways, as Earle was used in baiting Cooper. It is safe to say that even though Windom Earle entered the Lodge without fear, and was also bringing someone in with him, that he was not presented with “tests” by the Lodge to break him down as happened to Cooper. Annie might have been spared any Lodge test because she was incidental to what was going on. Cooper entered the Lodge to save her, and at the same time was looking for Earle and that was enough motivation for Cooper and thus gave the Lodge ample ammunition to use against Cooper to break him down. The Lodge was able to do this successfully and not only destroy Windom Earle but also use Cooper’s identity to continue its mission in Twin Peaks once again.