Do you think this is one more of these stories “based on true events”? You might suspect this. You and me we know this is most of the times part of the marketing campaign for the movie. Thus, in the end the story is not really true and we can relax. I am afraid my case is more complex. The Forest Dark Feature Film project didn’t start as some sort of another genre movie project “based on a true story”. It was pure fiction. But that changed.
Do you know where ideas come from? We invent them. Sure? What would you say if I would say, sometimes stories are remembered. I hear someone say, of course, something from your childhood. Some people write up their own biographies when they think they are writing fiction.
But did you ever remember anything and didn’t know where that thought came from? Maybe from a former life, a dream?
There are much weirder possibilities, possibilities I never imagined. I learned we live in a world which is super natural. Behind the thin veil of our everyday world exists an otherworld. This otherworld isn’t really separated from our realm. There are strong intelligible forces following us and watching over us. Sometimes these forces are shaping our lives and even our projects.
And when we start to question our experiences during our individual journeys we may find that we indeed live in a “forest dark”.
These days, one of the most famous poems of the 20th century comes to mind. Williams Butler Yeat’s Apocalyptic Vision The Second Coming has never felt as true as it is now:
….”Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity….”
Not much interpretation is needed here regarding this excerpt from the first stanza. We will see much more which sounds like a prophecy finally coming true. However, the true dimension of possibilities comes to mind if we delve into the background of the origins of this visionary poem.
Automatic Writing In The Woods
Emily Ludolph writes in JSTOR Daily: “Ashdown Forest, William Butler Yeats, and his new bride Georgie Hyde-Lees were having a miserable first few days of marriage”. Having discovered that her new husband W.B. Yeats was writing to Isold Gonne, a woman he intended to marry before Georgie became his wife, she used the common interest in the occult to attract W.B. Yeats more to her. In the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, she introduced him to automatic writing. This was a popular thing during the time and a way male writers abused women as a medium or muse for inspiration. It was believed that a spirit was dictating the words which were written down by the female writer.
W. B. Yeats was fascinated and endless sessions of automatic writing followed. Like other male writers he never credited Georgie when using the material. We do not know if any inspiration for the later famous poem The Second Coming originated from these sessions in the woods, but it reminds us that the Forest Dark is always a place of connection with the otherworld and it was definitely something W.B. Yeats was into. We can assume that W. B. Yeats saw himself and his medium Georgie as visioners. The Second Coming is a visionary experience:
The Spiritus Mundi is the source of all things.
It is important to see W.B. Yeats’s interest in inspiration from higher, spiritual realms not so much in the sense of ghosts or demons dictating something to a writer in trance. Another part of the poem refers to a well-known philosophical concept also known as anima mundi:
“Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: “…
Spiritus mundi (Anima mundi) is the world soul, a collective consciousness, a deeper realm of reality. It is, “according to several systems of thought, an intrinsic connection between all living beings, which relates to the world in much the same way as the soul is connected to the human body” (Wikipedia). Anima Mundi is an important concept in Neoplatonism. Plato identified the universe as a living being. Anima Mundi is constitutional for these antique cosmology as for Gnosticism. But it is also a concept that modern philosophers believed in and notably, C. G. Jung.
Anima Mundi is like a living ocean that surrounds us, which is also in us. It is the place where ideas or archetypes live and from where they can emerge in our world. The definition of these archetypes is difficult if not impossible. We see them not directly but in the way they affect our world.
The concept of Spiritus mundi played an important part for Y. B. Yeats, but it means a lot for the gravity of the predictions in this poem as a visionary experience. Yeats didn’t claim this explicitly as a visionary experience but it is important that it is written like a visionary experience and we know about the automatic writing background with his wife Georgie. It reminds us of the otherworldly encounters with a darker god in the Old Testament.
INTERACTION WITH THE OTHERWORLD
The Spiritus Mundi is very similar to the Otherworld. The idea of the Otherworld exists in any culture as a larger realm. Another important observation is the introduction of the poem.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”
The first line contains a powerful image of the structure of the universe, our world combined with the otherworld. Think of galaxies intertwined, a maelstrom. This deeper fabric of reality sees history, events epochs not as isolated but connected with deeper currents in the otherworld. We are in the middle of a gyre. The rise and downfall of civilization, and the collapse of empires are not coincidental. There seem to be darker forces outside, invisible but intelligible steering the destiny of mankind. This is a grim outlook on history. It is not a unique view of Yeats. Gnosticism and Dualism favor similar concepts. The second line might refer to a breaking point, where the old do not understand the new.
This is another dark and grim prospect for human development. Indeed there have been vault lines again and again where things began to fall apart, where people did not longer understand each other, where communication failed and Chaos reigned. The end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of modern times was such a fault line and led to the Thirty Years’ War:
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
Isn’t that what is happening now?
After introducing a sense of impending doom the author describes his vision (When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight)
It is a powerful image, an archetype rising from the depth of the spiritus mundi:
somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The second part of the poem turns the biblical promise of the Second Coming as the return of Jesus Christ into a nightmare. Instead of Christ, a horrifying beast from the realms of the anima mundi begins its journey into our world. The beast has raised many speculations and is identified later with monsters like Hitler or Stalin.
However, the interesting part is to closely examine this image. It bears attributes of an animal but this seems more like a non-human, non-animal lifeform, a dark energy, an archetype. The shock of the visioner he describes in the poem is because it is not only frightening but it is something familiar. Something which has been there all the time.
The imaginary lets us think the beast appears like a Sphinx. That fits with the attributes, it is bleak, cold, brutal, and impossible to read. It shows no emotion and more importantly, it has no empathy. It is an image of ultimate evil, the opposite of morality, of human dignity, the embodiment of a merciless monster. It immediately gives us a sense of terror.
This suggests something more fundamental rather than something that incarnates in a person. It is a corruption that poisons the land, the people, the society. It is something that encourages humans’ tendency to irrationality, chaos, and violence. It is an energy that makes humans in-human due to making them incapable of showing empathy. It uses the dark aspects of human nature and super-charges them, it takes away morality.
The events of the 21st century also the portrayal of chaos, darkness, and anarchy in film and literature are signs of a seismic event, a change in history, and the presence of the beast in the air. There is a feeling of global collapse, we see the undoing of society.
Even more, W.B. Yeats expresses a terrifying insight, “. That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle”. Has innocence been an illusion? Is the end of society as we know it, inevitable? The poem doesn’t give a simple answer here, it is more of a wake-up call, and it aims to name the unnamable.
Thanks to the great LitPoetry Channel for helping so much with the understanding of The Second Coming in an easy-to-access YouTube video.
The poem ends with an even more frightening cliffhanger. That thing, that beast, isn’t even born yet, it exists, but on another spiritual plane of reality. But has it come into existence in our world in the meantime since 1919? And is this undoing of morality, civilization, and security inevitable? Can we take a stand against it?
W. B. Yeats offers no clue, but if we put this frightening vision into context, we can see it as a manifestation of something known: The eternal battle between light and dark, between good and evil, between the demiurge and the higher realms.
David Lynch offers in his iconic TV series Twin Peaks a comprehensive view of the eternal battle and even a potential interpretation of the coming of the beast into our world.
DAVID LYNCH’s EPISODE EIGHT OF TWIN PEAKS AS THE SECOND COMING.
Episode 8, Twin Peaks The Return is one of the most unusual hours ever aired on TV. The climax of the episode is an over 10-minute explosion of a nuke in 1945 which according to a common interpretation of David Lynch’s rich imagination opened a portal that led an unprecedented evil into the world. It’s Bob (the murderer of Laura Palmer) coming into a bubble and stream of ectoplasm coming into our reality. Later in the episode a sinister Woodsman enters a radio station and kills the host. He takes the microphone and repeats the mantra “This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.” There are many interpretations of these sinister lines that lead to the radio listeners asleep. One thing is obvious, these events supposed to happen in 1956 refer to the era of Cold War paranoia where there is a sort of peace and security on the surface but a fire burning underneath. Maybe this fire burning for decades, unrecognized, and is now erupting like a volcano. The seismic historical shift which undoubtedly happens now was set up after WWII. Episode 8 of Twin Peaks is clearly about something being born. Today we face the threat of civilisation as we know is about to be destroyed and the promises of the Cold War era on the surface have proven empty. Subsequently, the reality of the contemporary time depicted in Twin Peaks has the quality of a nightmare. As in the real world, everything falls apart.
There is an important distinction here to make: Bob is not the main villain, it is the creature that sent Bob into our world in episode 8, and that creature, JUDY is the powerful evil entity behind the events. Judy seems to be still in that otherworldly realm but poisoning the normal world we live in. It incites chaos, terror, anarchy, and violence everywhere.
We do not know if David Lynch and writer Mark Frost had The Second Coming in mind but there is some potential inspiration here.
Is Judy The Beast?
It would make sense since it has the same qualities.
However, there is a difference between the more depressing outcome of W.B. Yeats’s poem and the events in Twin Peaks, The Return, Episode 8. The explosion of the nuke and Judy bringing Bob into the world alarms the Fireman in the White Lodge, which exemplifies the light, the goodness in a dualistic world. There is a reaction. The answer is the soul of Laura Palmer as a sign of hope and the assault of the dark forces will be not unanswered.
It is not decided who wins but the conclusion is that we are in an ongoing battle between the dark forces and the light.
There is no simple message in the David Lynch series, but it is obviously the task of everyone to stand up to the dark forces, stand up against the beast, the corruption, and the depravity. There is no reason for fatalism because there is also this other side, this white lodge, the light. It is there, but it can’t act alone. It is time to ignite that fire to fight fire with fire in order to stop these destructive forces.
A theme of the movie project The Forest Dark is that these sinister forces can be always found at some notorious places and that the wanderer has to be cautious and not fall for the Maya illusions these forces constantly create. We need to withstand them to battle chaos and evil.
One person at multiple places at the same time. That doesn’t make sense in the natural laws that apply to our physical world. Yet our culture is populated with doubles or Doppelgängers. This applies both for film and literature but also for folk stories and the wide range of true stories, which tell an alleged truth.
The Master Of The Double: David Lynch
The double motive is overtly present in David Lynch movies. However, the use of doubles varies. That is helpful for a distinction between existing ideas of doubles, alter egos, and split souls. The most overwhelming manifestation of a doppelganger is a person who can appear in different places at the same time. The Mystery Man in Lost Highway tells the main character, Fred, that he can be both at a party and his house at the same time. If it wasn’t the Mystery Man scary in itself, it is this quality which makes him terrifying. The double, which can appear in different places, is one of the most common motives in horror. It is not a projection, not a fantasy and not a misunderstanding. One of the most horrifying ideas is if you discover that you have a double that does things without your knowledge. The idea of having a dopplegänger that leads an autonomous life is a disturbing revelation.
Apart from that, we have variations of conception of doubles and alter egos. Sometimes, it’s two people, which seem to be one and the same, or persons which resemble each other. There is a mysterious connection between people, we can’t easily grasp. Again, David Lynch’s movies and series are a good source for research: Alice and Renee or Fred and Pete in Lost Highway. Betty and Diane or Rita and Camilla in Mulholland Drive are further examples. Twin Peaks is populated with doubles and Alter Egos. In Twin Peaks – The Return, the world seems crowded with doubles. Kyle McLachlan, has three roles: Agent Cooper, Dougie and the dangerous Mr. C. Whereas Mr. C is a doppelganger of Agent Cooper, the paddington-like Dougie is a tulpa.
Tulpas are thought forms. They are real in a way, but they are not humans. Tulpas can be created. Lynch and writer Mark Frost borrowed that concept from Buddhism, mysticism and theosophy: It means a human form often created through spiritual practice or concentration (Wikipedia) but also unintentionally. The tulpa is more than a spectre, “it is capable of independent action, with a persistent personality and identity” (wiktionary)
According to Tracking the Tulpa (University Of California Press) “the tulpa was first described by Alexandra David-Néel (1868–1969) in Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929)” The origins are a bit murky and it exists mostly in Western paranormal lore. Not much evidence here is available. If it would be easy to create a doppelganger tulpa we would have seen certainly many criminal cases where a perpetrator used a tulpa as alibi.
The deeper dimension of the Doppelganger motive.
The unexplainable leads us to deep existential and philosophical questions. There is, of course, a psychological dimension here too. There are many doppelganger reports in personal accounts. When people see themselves, it might be an autoscopic hallucination. That might happen in extreme circumstances or as a psychological illness. Maybe the double appears as a sort of warning. Or it could be a split in personality. In religious or superstitious belief, a doppelganger is a shape-shifter or a trickster demon imitating yourself. The most fascinating aspect is what it tells us about reality itself. We need to make a choice. Do we stick to the laws of nature and explain it away psychologically, or do we believe in the soul? If we have a soul, there must be higher realms beyond ordinary reality, and the doppelganger motive has a much deeper meaning.
There could be circumstances where we lose our soul or parts of our soul and the other half of the self tampers around zombie-like.
In my story, The Forest Dark, a person loses their soul deep in the woods. Could it happen in real life?
There is not a big chance to come by with a sort of proof. We have to stick with concepts which are familiar to many people. One idea is the concept of a higher self which is not identical with our physical self or ego. From the hindu philosophy comes the idea of Atman, an universal self, that is “identical with the eternal core of the personality”. In that philosophy the individual soul is the jiva-atman, which is also eternal but trapped in the physical body. The interesting question is does the individual soul recognise the universal atman? The idea of that philosopher is that atman is the opposite of ego, “a false center”, “the product of sensory experiences”. In personal development it might be possible that the individual discovers that other self, that universal self. Why should this not look like a doppelganger experience at first sight for the individual?
The Atman-concept stems from Eastern thought. However, a lot of Eastern philosophy has either counterparts in the West or have influenced Western thought. C.G. Jung borrowed a lot of ideas from Hindu and other Eastern philosophy, for example the higher self.
But the interesting thing here is that we find a split between ego, physical-self and some sort of a higher self in many places in our culture. One idea is the Avatar as seen in the film “Avatar” by James Cameron. The real person is not at the same place as the person which experiences the physical journey.
Similar to that in a way are Alter Egos. Alter Egos are sort of a double existence too. Alter Egos are second personalities within a person. It might be the super hero Superman which is Clark Kent in ordinary lives but there are endless possibilities for Alter Egos. The Alter Ego can become “another self” which is separated from the person. That idea become popular in the 18 century with Anton Mesmer’s hypnosis experiments. He claimed he can separate a person’s alter ego. In literature “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” explored the concept of the ego and it is a popular idea til today.
There is nothing supernatural in the concept unless we introduce the idea of the multiverse or higher dimensions. In a more multi dimensional world we would find alternative versions of ourselves leading an independent existence on their own. An idea which was explored in the Star Trek Trek: Discovery.
Thus it might not take too much imagination that doppelgängers as seen in the David Lynch series have some serious background. It might be a glitch in reality or a strange personal development or even more sinister ideas that a doppelgänger can be created.
The forest as a magic realm is a prominent trope in almost any fantasy story and fairy tale. It’s sometimes a stereotype. The forest stands for the otherworld. Sometimes the heroes of the story want to reconnect to this otherworld. The forest is the place where reconnection seems possible. In some occasions the heroes perform rituals or they use psychoactive substances. Magic mushrooms are popular devices to reconnect or to experience deeper and spiritual dimensions of reality. The outcome is in certain cases unpredictable and a desperate attempt to recover what was lost:
In fantasy men is often a threat to the magic realm of the forest. Men destroy the forest. Men destroy the deeper, original magical dimension of reality. Often there is a fight between the original inhabitants, the fairies, the cunning people, the secret commonwealth and men. In fantasy often men is stronger. But the secret commonwealth, the little people, are going underground. Some say they return as aliens in common Ufo folklore. Instead of living in harmony with the higher realms men lives in a soulless technocratic world but which is haunted in certain moments.
There is an excellent overview in the article Where The Magic Things are: Forst in Fantasy Literature by Giovanna CHINELLATO, Sao Paulo/SP/ Brasil. She takes examples from works by J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Beagle, Ursula K. Le Guin, George Martin, Patrick Rothfuss. The archetype of the magical forest was laid however much earlier in the myths of mankind, for example Gilgamesh and Volsunga saga.
Fantasy and Forest Horror
In forest horror the premise is not entirely different. However, the forces of nature can be overwhelming for men. The otherworld is ambiguous. The forest is a dangerous place. Attempts to connect with the spiritual realm or the elder gods end up in madness or even death. In the end the hero of the story can be another mysterious missing case, wandering around aimlessly forever as a lost soul in the forest.
The magical forest in horror is the forest dark. Nevertheless fantasy, supernatural horror and true stories or real accounts share a common concept: The forest as a living being. The concept bears some similarities with the Anima Mundi, the world soul: The idea of an intelligible entity, the inter-connection between all things, its omni-presence. This world soul can normally not seen in itself. It manifests in visionary experience and even ontological shock,
Plato speaks about the Anima Mundi as: “Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason […] a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself”. This is, of course, encompassing everything, not only nature or the forest. But the forest is often the model. And it is in the forest the characters in a story seek unity, reconnection. In Forest Horror this can go terribly wrong.
In Forest Horror we often meet a truth-seeker, a hippie, a shaman, often a HERMIT seeking closeness with nature. That character is or pretends to be in contact with the forest, or the lord of the forest (often the magic soul of the forest is becoming a deity, for example the Celtic CERNUNNOS). The character has been for too long in the forest and is often a dangerous madman himself. Some screenplays use this constellation as dramaturgical trick, because then you don’t need to introduce some “forest demon” or similar things. (I make no exception from the rule with my own project here).
The more important point is that the truth seeking hermit gone mad presents a mirror image of the more optimist quest in fantasy stories. Giovanna Chinellato writes: “Given the, at least ideological, human-nature distancing and antagonism, characteristic of civilization (HARRISON, 2009), and considering that fantasy can have a recovery function (TOLKIEN, 2009), these fantastic forests can help humankind marvel at and reconnect with nature, possibly aiding in the development of a new and much necessary environmental awareness”.
Horror does not have that recovery function. It has a more cathartic function. It helps us to come to terms with realities. However, there is still a similarity between fantasy and horror: If nature is experienced as hostile it might be just a mirror or a consequence of man’s own wrong doing. In the forest dark we often meet our own darkness and our own inner demons.
How to express forest magic?
Either you look how to express the magic soul of the forest because you really believe in it or you need it for a story it always comes down to the same problem: We, indeed, might feel there is truth in it. However how do we show it? Unseen demonic force? Or positive magical vision? There are lot of temptations particularly in the era of digital effects. The problem is not, is it “good” or “bad, the problem is, does it feel right? This is perhaps a more challenging problem in horror rather than in fantasy.
In many cultures and visionary experiences, we find the concept of the intermediate realm. It is a spatial dimension in the other world. A limbo. A transitional state. However, it is not the same as the after-world because it is a waiting room. It is neither heaven nor hell. It is where people enter after death, or in visionary experiences. That place represents a concept in myth, antique drama, accounts of witnesses of near death experiences and religious writings as the Tibetian Book of the Dead. These writings often contain detailed descriptions of the intermediate realm, called Bardo.
The Bardo is a realm where the soul rests before it incarnates again. It is a state where people have lost their old reality. The life they had is no longer accessible.
The Tibetan Book Of The Dead contains descriptions of intermediary states between life and death. The term Bardo means a stepping stone in a stream.
In the Buddhistic world, the aspect of the development of the soul is central. Intimidating or even shocking visions are part of this development process.
J.T. Mathany writes in LITHUB, Adapting the Tibetan Book of the Dead: On Bardo or not Bardo, Ghosts, Prisons, and An Intermediary Void, “According to the Bardo Thödol (also known to the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead), the Bardo is an intermediary void where the departed soul must wander for forty-nine days, confronted by terrifying deities and illusions”. Further on, it is said: “In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, one’s soul must confront numerous illusions of life and suffering: past memories, cruel godlings, surreal landscapes that are part-Dalí, part-Bosch, part-nothing, and so on”.
Alteration Of The Original
The context of the development process in Buddhist thought is liberation. Liberation from a cycle of endless reincarnation. Liberation from suffering. The individual soul must do something to achieve liberation. Therefore, the title Book Of The Dead is also a translation mistake. The title was brought up by Walter Evan-Wentz, but the original “Bardo Thodol” means “Liberation through Hearing during the Intermediate State”.
Even more, the first translation into English was an alteration from the original. It is not accurate and propels a more spiritualist vision of the Bardo. The Book Of The Dead inspired the psychedelic movement in the 60ties. In our days, more accurate translations are available.
The central idea of the Bardo as an intermediate realm remains a constant in all versions, and it is the unifying concept with similiar spirtual ideas in different cultural context.
An Universal Concept
It is indeed a very universal concept. There is always the idea of an intermediate realm which is close to physical everyday world and another realm which is beyond our comprehension.
It is also common that this realm is a dark and dangerous zone often with a bleak threatening landscape. It is the forest dark. An unpleasant place as in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
The otherworld in the Divine Comedy is the closest thing to the Bardo. Dante Alighieri took the rich imaginary of the catholic PURGATORY into his imagination. Purgatory comes close to the concept of the Bardo, even with some fundamental differences. But it is alway about an intermediary void, something in-between, a state in limbo. Limbo itself is a term for a spatial dimension as a waiting room: In catholic theology it is also a border place between heaven and hell.
The Bardo-Otherworld In The Movie Nosso Lar
In the Brasilien Movie Astral City, A Spiritual Journey (Nosso Lar), the protagonist finds himself in a sinister valley with tortured souls. That place is called the Umbral, which bears some similarities with the Bardo and the Christian Purgatory.
A difference here is that there is no reincarnation but an ascend to a sci-fi-like futurist heaven, where the hero learns more about his mistakes.
In both cases, the intermediate realm is a waiting room. However, in Christianity, it is a waiting room before entering the train to heaven (or perhaps to hell).
Traditionally, it seems that only dead people enter this intermediate realm.
However, there are countless visionary experiences and near-death experiences which describe a similar realm. Why should it be only for the dead? Or could also a living person travel consciously into this realm? There are fundamental questions here on one side. On the other side authors make use of the concept of the Bardo and constantly develop this further. We are familiar with many variations of the Bardo concept.
Modern visions of the Underworld
In modern stories and movies, there are often otherworldly-realms reminiscent of the Bardo intermediate realm. Most prominently, David Lynch’s White Lodge and Black Lodge are Waiting rooms. Here people can indeed return to the world of the living. In Stranger Things, there is a dangerous intermediate realm, the Upside-Down. We have also stories, which are set in this intermediary void where the people are either not know if they are dead or they think they are dreamed by another person.
Here it is worth to mention the original purpose of The Tibetan Book Of The Dead: A lama would read instructions to the recently deceased person. This should help the soul wandering in the bardo-realm to get out of the eternal cycle of life and death and to reach Nirvana.
Thus originally, we have a building with clear structure. There is a temporal dimension and there is a spatial dimension. It means a normal living being wouldn’t end up in that Bardo-Waiting-Room and this otherworld waiting room is strictly separated. But what if these boundaries collapse? Could that happen? Or could they overlap? The whole idea of ghosts are challenging the Bardo concept in a way. Because, we, the living can see them at certain times.
So, what would happen if these otherworld journeys would not be bound to biological life or death? At least it would pose a theological problem. Because both the Tibetan Book Of Death implies a higher order as the catholic Purgatory. Wrongdoings or your positive development influences the outcome. That implies, we understand the otherworld like a game according to our values. But we can’t really know what are the rules in this game. And we don’t know where the waiting room exactly is or who created that waiting room. Is it the underworld, a parallel world, a heavenly sphere, is it inside, or is it outside? Maybe we are already in a waiting room when we are still alive.
Modern human experiences shift the storytelling about the limbo into a less predictable direction, into a less organised world. Again in Twin Peaks the border between ordinary world of the living and the more dreamlike world of Bardo is blurred. It follows more the famous Edgar Alan Poe Quote: ““All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”.
We are living in a transition zone
Reality, indeed, can become a transition zone, from the individual’s perspective. This can happen on different levels. We can go missing without necessarily being dead. We don’t have the final answers about the corporal realm or our status outside our corporal identity. Reality in certain moments is the Forest Dark itself. This is a thought which I followed again and again in the development of The Forest Dark Feature Film project.
There are unconventional concepts already in antique: In Orpheus the hero is a traveller between the world of the living and the underworld. It is a very interesting drama because it blurs the boundaries.
And we can take the waiting room concept much further. Both in fiction and in real life. Of course, we don’t find answers with pure associations. But experience tells us there are more possibilities than meets the eye. There are countless reports where people report a heightened reality, which bears some similarity with the Bardo otherworld or even purgatory. People which went missing tell often weird stories and their sense of time is confused. Alien-abductees tell story which sound very similar like being in a Bardo or in Purgatory. Dreams are resemblant sometimes to the Bardo State.
The Three Bardot
It becomes even more interesting if we look at the more detailed structure of the Bardo according to the Vajravanna (Tantric) Buddhism which developed the concept of the three Bardos. According to this the first Bardo is the Bardo of death where the deceased reflects upon its past life. The important one is the second Bardo: The individual encounters “frightening apparitions” without understanding that this apparitions are unreal. The danger is the consciousness becomes confused and me drawn into rebirth” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The third Bardo is the transition into a new body.
The interesting part lies with the frightening apparition: Who put them in place and why are they there? And why should they be unreal? What’s the purpose? Furthermore this sounds like phenomena which not only happen in the Bardo state. Frightening apparitions are not always necessarily something supernatural. It can be intimidating crossings in life, perhaps even people. That painful waiting room situation is also often a typical experience in dreams, where the dreamer feel stuck and is haunted by scary scenes.
Thus, it seems more like a somehow familiar experience. There is an otherworld not far from our everyday world. This world is often like a waiting room we already know. What we don’t know is what lies beyond. The Nirwana. The higher Otherworld. The Divine Realm.