Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Obscure Twin Peaks: Theosophy and The Devil's Guard

The Dweller Upon the Threshold?
In The Essential Wrapped In Plastic, I include a quote from Mark Frost about the origins of the Black Lodge and other supernatural elements found in Twin Peaks.  Speaking to the British newspaper, The Independent, Frost explained that Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense was “exactly where I got the Black Lodge from. The whole mythological side of Twin Peaks was really down to me, and I’ve always known about the Theosophical writers and that whole group around the Order of the Golden Dawn in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—William Butler Yeats, Madame Blavatsky, and a woman called Alice Bailey, a very interesting writer.”

John Clute writes about the origin and tenets of Theosophy in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: “The Theosophical Society is an occult organization founded in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891).  Blavatsky claims to have been accorded wisdom by the Hidden Masters, who have resided in a keep in the heart of Tibet, in a holy sanctuary known as Shamballah or Shangri-La.  The Masters’ messages to Blavatsky are an enabling, highly paranoid secret history, given to her to (among other things) justify the existence of the “inner government of the world”, i.e., the Great White Lodge of the Hidden Masters.”

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a great many authors of high fantasy and weird fiction found creative inspiration from the Theosophical ideas.  These include H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard. A lesser known writer named Talbot Mundy was also highly influenced by Theosophy.  In 1926, Mundy wrote a book titled, The Devil’s Guard, a pulp novel of high adventure and magic set in India and Tibet.  The book borrowed heavily from Theosophical canon.

Mundy constructs his tale around the struggle between the Black and White Lodges. He also throws in the idea of dugpas, bodily-possession by evil spirits, and the hallowed nature of the Dalai Lama. Many of these plot elements would find a new and wider audience when they re-emerged on Twin Peaks, sixty five years after The Devil’s Guard was published.

An Early Edition of The Devil's Guard

The first half of The Devil’s Guard is classic pulp adventure.  The main characters, Jimgrim and Ramsden, must make the dangerous trip to Tibet through blizzards and across mountains where they encounter bandits and conspirators, all of whom attempt to stop their entry into the country.  In the middle of the tale, Jimgrim and Ramsden are confronted by a menacing man who warns them not to continue their quest. This stranger seemingly appears out of nowhere.  Jimgrim and Ramsden soon discover that this man is known as a dugpa.

The dugpas, according to the novel, are master hypnotists who seek to take over the world.  They can “possess” the bodies (and minds) of others and easily dominate those with “weak wills.”  These kinds of people, the book states, “render themselves unable to resist the imposition of other wills on theirs.”

This explanation for the dugpas’ ability to possess others meshes perfectly with what happens in Twin Peaks. Leland Palmer was weak-willed and invited Bob inside him.  What’s more, Laura Palmer would have been targeted as a dugpa-host because, as The Devil’s Guard explains, dugpas control others by using “the self-destroying acts of whomever they would conquer.”  Dugpas will attempt to cultivate a person’s evil side.  The book elaborates on this point in a footnote, explaining that “sudden criminal outbursts of otherwise apparently sane people” can be attributed to possession by dugpas. Here, we see that a crucial piece of the Twin Peaks mythology—the possession of human beings by evil spirits— finds its roots in The Devil’s Guard (and by extension, Theosophy).

Dugpas, the book reveals, are agents of a place called The Black Lodge.  In Twin Peaks, Windom Earle also described dugpas as having access to the Black Lodge.  In fact, the dialog describing dugpas in both show and novel match exactly:  In The Devil’s Guard, dugpas are defined as “sorcerers who cultivate evil for the sake of evil!”  Earle, seen on an old video recording, explains, “These, uh, these evil sorcerers, uh, dugpas, they’re called . . . they cultivate evil for the sake of evil, nothing else.”

Earle continues:

“Now this, this ardent purity allows them to access a secret place where the cultivation of evil proceeds in exponential fashion, and with it, the furtherance of evil’s resulting power! This place of power is tangible and as such it can be found, entered, and perhaps utilized in, in some fashion. The dugpas have, have, many names for it, but chief among them is the, uh, is the Black Lodge.”

In The Devil’s Guard, much of what is revealed about the Black Lodge and dugpas comes from another of the novel’s characters, a mysterious Tibetan named Lhaten who befriends Jimgrim and Ramsden.  Lhaten knows as much as he does about the Black Lodge because he is, in fact, an agent of The White Lodge. This revelation establishes a very clear black-white conflict in the book and provides a foundation for the story’s plot.  This same foundation is used in Twin Peaks.  Major Briggs mentions the White Lodge to Cooper in episode 17.  In episode 18, Hawk provide more details:

“My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature here reside.  There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow-self.  It is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”

But the similarities between book and series don’t end there.  Lhaten explains that the White Lodge has a representative in the outside world -- the Dalai Lama.  In episode 2 of Twin Peaks, Cooper reveals he once had a dream about the Dalai Lama and the “plight of the Tibetan people.”  This dream changed Cooper’s life and ever since he longed to see the Dalai Lama reunited with his people in Tibet.

As the story in The Devil’s Guard progresses, Jimgrim and Ramsden eventually become trapped in the Black Lodge.  In the end, they must find a way to defeat their enemy (a former associate, now turned evil), and escape.  Battles and chases ensue and, unlike Twin Peaks, the novel concludes with a definitive ending.

Clearly, The Devil’s Guard could have been an influence on the creators of Twin Peaks. Mark Frost or David Lynch may have read the book long ago and it made an impression. We know, however, that Talbot Mundy was drawing many of his ideas from Theosophy, as was Mark Frost when he was crafting the second season of Twin Peaks.  Perhaps the striking similarities between Twin Peaks and the Devil’s Guard are mere coincidence, the two works simply share a point of origin in what John Clute calls the “enormous, entrancing honeypots of mythology, cosmology, fairytale, speculation, fabrication and tomfoolery” that is Theosophy.  Whatever the case, the ideas of the Black and White Lodges, and dugpas, and Dwellers Upon Thresholds, found new life in the mysterious world of Twin Peaks.  Will this mythology be further explored in the new Showtime series?  We shall see . . . . 

A Theosophical Symbol
(A version of this article first appeared in Wrapped In Plastic 3, (February, 1993). For more illuminating info on Twin Peaks, check out The Essential Wrapped In Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks.)


  1. Hola muy bueno tu blog Soy de peru muchas gracias por la informacion

  2. Really enjoyed reading this, thank you.

  3. Above the convenience store.....is that prophetic to the 8th twin peaks episode or what?!!!?😊

  4. Above the convenience store.....is that prophetic to the 8th twin peaks episode or what?!!!?😊

  5. Funny, I've been thinking about this since watching episode 8 last night. I have the feeling that the woodsmen/soot men are dugpas, and that the A-bomb test is tying the world of the occult/supernatural to UFOs and man's technological awakening. Which is interesting because it aired so close to June 24th (on June 25th, to be exact), which is significant not only for being St. George's Day--held as highly important by Freemasons which Mr. Frost is surely aware of--it was also the 70th anniversary of what is generally regarded as the first modern UFO sighting when pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing a flying saucer.