Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who's In The Black Lodge?

This may seem kind of a random and esoteric post, but it occurred to me to write it as one of those interesting parallels we sometimes see in the world. I recently finished watching the series Twin Peaks, which, to sum up, has some interesting parallels to the Tarot in it. For those not familiar with the show, here's the 'cliff notes' synopsis. First, high-schooler Laura Palmer, resident of the town of Twin Peaks, a smallish fictional town in Oregon, is murdered. The town's main industry comes from logging and the local timber mill, and the town itself is somewhat isolated, mainly by the nearby forests that surround the town, known locally as Ghostwood. An FBI agent, Dale Cooper, is called in to solve the murder case, which bears similarity to other murders that have occurred in the town. Cooper is a student of mysticism, and occasionally incorporates rather unorthodox methods in his detective work, but nonetheless manages to solve the case. The murderer is Leland Palmer, Laura's father. He subsequently dies by bashing his head against the wall. However, as time goes on, Cooper discovers that Palmer was posessed by some manner of entity, identified only as "Bob". As time goes on, Cooper remains in Twin Peaks, falls for a local waitress and is followed by a brilliant master criminal and former G-man, Windom Earle. Earle blames Cooper (as does Cooper himself) for the death of his wife, whom Cooper had an affair with, and Earle begins a string of bizarre murders and crimes to draw Cooper out. As Earle commits his crimes, we learn that he has knowledge of a place within the Ghostwood forest called the Black Lodge. The Black Lodge is a place somewhat between this world and the afterlife, and is at one point referred to as a "waiting room". It's part of a pair of places, the other being the White Lodge. We learn that a deceased soul must pass through both of these places, and in the Black Lodge we confront the worst in us, and are either able to overcome that worst, or are destroyed. Bob, along with a handful of other entities, calls the Black Lodge home. In terms of what it looks like, it appears to be a mostly empty series of rooms, the walls of which are red curtains. Ther are no walls or doors per se, and the separate rooms are defined by the curtains. Moving between rooms is simply a matter of finding the opening in the curtain. Earle's interest in the Black Lodge is as a source of power, and he manages to enter it himself, and Cooper follows him in. What Earle encounters in the Black Lodge is never clear, though Cooper faces the fact that he bears the guilt for Earle's wife's death, and encounters Laura Palmer, as well as her shadow side. Earle ultimately loses his soul, and is consumed by Bob. Cooper then subsequently escapes the Lodge and returns to the normal world, but like Palmer, has become posessed by Bob- in other words, losing his soul and the battle.
So what does this have to do with the Tarot? Well, the Black Lodge is a place that has parallels in the waking world. Astral travelers speak of the "Dweller on the Threshhold", (and actually one description of the Black Lodge mentions this as well) where we are confronted by an entity that forces us to face our own shortcomings, guilt, emotional baggage, guilt, fears, weaknesses and insecurities. Only when we have left all these things with the Dweller can we proceed forwards. This is done for our own safety, as bringing these things into other worlds could very well create some general astral nastiness, as they could either profoundly affect us or attract negative and harmful entities. The purpose of this is also to in essence purify the mental and spiritual makeup of each person- to drop those things we no longer need, and that hinder us. So where do we find this in the Tarot, and what consequences can we expect? Another aspect I found interesting is, are there "Bob"s out there, and if so, what are they and how do they relate to us? In the show, Bob is purely parasitical. Palmer has some knowledge of Bob, and especially of his violent, abusive behavior towards Laura, causing Palmer no end of mental anguish. Whether or not Bob allows this for his own amusement at Palmer's expense, or his control of Palmer is imperfect, is never made clear. As I thought about it, I found a couple Tarot cards that seem to exemplify the concept of the Black Lodge.
First up we have the Tower- here is a card of destruction, which we can draw a rough analogy with to the Dweller on the Threshhold.
Here is the Gilded Tarot version of the Tower, indicating destruction of what we've built up. Usually the Tower is interpreted as a blow to the ego, to strip down false pretenses, and allow us to build a more true structure on the foundation that remains. But would that false front not come from fears, misconceptions and insecurities? In other words, the very things the Dweller would strip from you- or perhaps the very things we'd be forced to confront during our own stay in the Black Lodge? The Tower may indicate a painful time, but ultimately it's a matter of liberation, of coming to terms with what we've lost, and the things we're not proud of. Even if these things never get discovered, sooner or later we ourselves have to confront them, and to come to terms with them.
The next card that drew my attention was the Devil-
Why was Cooper caught up in the Lodge? Because there were things he could not let go of- the guilt surrounding Earle's wife's death, his inability to stop the murder of Laura Palmer and Bob's subsequent victims, all these things kept him trapped in the Lodge. The Devil here represents the things not necessarily that we're guilty of, but rather, the guilt itself- the inability to just let go and move on. And with this, not just our own guilt- grudges, anger and hate all fit into this category as well. The Devil represents the things we can't let go of, even when it's clear that these things are not to our benefit. These are the things that we are unwilling or unable to leave with the Dweller, and thus will hold us back; the things we can't let go of, no matter what, that person we'll never forgive, or that past flame we're still holding a torch for. Though it's true, the lessons of the past should not be forgotten, neither should we live in the past, either trying to recreate that past, or trapped by it, unable to move on. The third and final card I related to this scenario was the Hanged Man-
The Hanged Man represents, in part, suffering and hardship. Yet this suffering has a purpose. Confronting these uncomfortable things and letting them go both are not easy tasks, and can be very painful as unresolved feelings and hurts come to the surface. Yet only by leaving these things behind can we move forwards. The Hanged Man is hanging not simply for the sake of suffering or as punishment- he does not martyr himself. Rather, he hangs and suffers because he knows that beyond suffering lies the answers he seeks. And is this not really the purpose of the Black Lodge? Sure, it's not exactly a vacation spot, but when we leave behind these things, 'purify our souls', in other words, we find a new way revealed, and new perspective found. The example of this card has often been attributed to Odin, who hung on the World Tree for nine days and nights to gain wisdom. He dies, in essence, to be freed from those things that kept him from seeing the Runes. The story goes he discovers them at the base of the tree, and reaches down to pick them up. Could it be that the Runes were there all along, and it took Odin's self-sacrifice and willingness to change to see them there?
To sum it all up- the things we fear to face are not necessarily our enemies. It's only when we can't let go, in whatever way, that we need to fear, and run the risk of these things consuming us, the things we can't leave behind, and in so doing, are destroyed by. This process is not an easy or painless one, but like the Hanged Man, we need to see, or at least hope for, the other side and a better life there.

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