A MAN LAYS DYINGon the floor of a jail cell between two mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Not even two weeks ago, despite his middle-age, he'd had a head of youthfully dark hair; now, it is completely, shockingly, all-white. The sprinkler system of the sheriff's department that holds him has been set off, creating the effect of a tumultuous indoor downpour that rains down upon the white-haired man and his captors.
One of his captors -- the very one who has most doggedly pursued him -- is kneeling down. The white-haired man has committed the kind of unthinkable crimes that would disgust and shake most of us to the core, but Special Agent Dale Cooper instead remains very much with the moment. He holds the white-haired man, stroking his hair, comforting him even as the horrors of his crimes are finally admitted between last gasps. Then, Cooper speaks. The words come to him naturally:
"Leland," he says, "the time has come for you to seek the path. Your soul has set you face to face with the clear light and you are now about to experience it in all its reality, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum, without circumference or center. Leland, in this moment, know yourself, and abide in that state. . . Look to the light, Leland. Find the light."
Though spoken as much from the heart as from the head, Coop's words are not truly his own. Compare them with this famous passage from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, meant to be recited to the dying as they pass on:
"O, nobly-born [so and so by name], the time hath now come for thee to seek the Path [in reality].
Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face before with the Clear Light; and
now thou art about to experience in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void
and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without
circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself, and abide in that state." [W.Y. Evans-Wentz (translator and editor), The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Oxford, Third edition,
Leland, though in his final moment, is surprised, almost smiling, in response to Coop's urging that he find the light: "I see it!"
"Into the light, Leland. . . Don't be afraid.
And with that, Leland Palmer is dead.
It's unusually moving; hardly your typical primetime TV jailhouse scene.
But this is no ordinary jailhouse, and it's certainly not ordinary TV.
This is Twin Peaks, where nothing -- not family, not FBI-men, not even the owls in the trees -- is as it seems.