Ontological Shock

Those who return from the other world are never the same. A visionary experience is an ontological shock.

Agent Cooper’s journey in “Twin Peaks – The Return” appears to be like the aftermath of a shock. It resembles both real cases and the endless chain of mythological stories.

This is not an interpretation of the new landmark series by David Lynch. The story of “Twin Peaks – The Return” is very special and leaves room for a lot of interpretations.

I am talking about underlying themes and archetypical patterns. It’s about something which happens also in reality not only in fiction.

“Ontological shock” as a theme had been a driving force in the development of the Forest Dark. These things happen more often as we think and sometimes in a more subtle way.

What do we mean by “ontological shock”? This is a philosophical term; It is the state of being forced to question one’ worldview. The term appeared – not surprisingly – in connection with the MATRIX movie and was one of the titles in the soundtrack.

So, many phenomena, as described earlier, like dangerous lights in the forest, UFOS, apparitions in the forest could create an ontological shock. If we see something which is simply not possible, this could lead to an ontological shock.

It is interesting, however, that in dreams we experience a lot of things which are not possible, like being able to fly, but we don’t remember them as a shocking experience.

In theological terms, an ontological shock is also related with non-being. This is an interesting aspect of visionary experiences. They open up the question of existence and non-existence.

Furthermore, the return from the other world is probably the shocking moment. We are not any longer in awe of the wonder or occupied by questioning what’s going on but being back in the “normal world” is the most difficult time. We can’t pretend like nothing has happened.

In Agent Coopers’ journey, we find mythological archetypes as “Orpheus” or classic folk-story motives like “Rip Van Winkle”. Somebody vanishing and reappearing years later has always been a very prominent motive in legends and folklore throughout all times.

Even in modern UFO-stories “missing time” is a typical part of the narratives of alien abduction victims. When David Lynch did “Twin Peaks – The Return” there had already been a long tradition of these stories.

However, another interesting question is if the ontological shock is something which happens after the return from the other world, is it because we learned about something which opened another reality upon us or is it because we can’t understand our everyday world not any longer?

Agent Cooper has obviously forgotten about the normal world after his return and the normal reality is for him the otherworld.

Perhaps it is also the moment of shock when we understand what our world really is (facade, a kind of stage).

Furthermore, the ontological shock seems to be related on one side with a realisation (my whole idea of reality was wrong) but on the other side with the loss of memory.

Agent Cooper, when returned from the black lodge, has forgotten about nearly anything. He needs to “wake-up”. In his forlorn state, the everyday-like world appears like a dream.

The most interesting part of this is that it is a familiar thing. It needs a little shift of point-of-view, and we can see the strangeness of our world ourselves in certain moments of heightened awareness.

People who had a visionary experience like near-death-experiences are sometimes conflicted that they cannot any longer relate to the “normal worldview”. They can see “through things”.

Carol Zaleski writes in “Otherworld Journey”: “Several accounts describe a liminal period after recovery, during which the near-death subject, with one foot still in the other world, finds it excruciatingly difficult to adjust to normal life”.

Zaleski finds that in many accounts the “visionary transformed” has completely changed his life, doesn’t speak about what happened, doesn’t laugh and expresses a deep seriousness. This applies both to medieval accounts of otherworld journeys as modern near-death experiences. Agent Cooper has a lot in common with medieval visionaries.

If we look at David Lynch’s cosmogony everything makes sense. In a BFI article (Remain In Light…) B. Kites writes convincingly about the obvious elements of gnostic religion and Indian Vedanta in Lynchs Work. It’s a view which has been discussed in Anamnesis earlier, the soul reborn entering our world and forgetting what has been before. “The Soul take on the guise of individual identity and enters the theatre of the world…where it forgets its origins”.

In this context Plato’s End of Republic with the “Vision Of Er” is very interesting to compare. It is like the very fundament of both works of fiction and real accounts of visionaries about otherworld journeys.

However, things are a bit more complicated. In otherworld journeys, it is not about simply being shocked because one sees suddenly what’s really going in, it is also disorientation and pain because one can get caught in the treacherous maya other world (this is also part of Eastern theological systems).

In these spheres, there might be forces which want to forget the soul about its origins. It wants us to get in a state of shock and it is not about revelation it is about deception. Thus in some cases the visionary transformed can be the victim of deception.

Ontological shocks happen also in our everyday world. It might not even imply the witnessing of supernatural events but sometimes an incredible set of circumstances leading to mind-shattering events. It looks like somebody is doing this and this makes us fear. Or, somebody wants us to have fear.

The important question is who is behind certain cases. Is there somebody out there who can give us an “ontological shock” if he wants to? B. Kites mentions the corrupt gnostic demiurg as part of Lynch’s cosmogony, which sounds convincing, if we think of the “theatre of our lives” as a battleground of cosmic forces of good and evil.