An Interpretation of Parts 17 and 18, Part II: The Reincarnation of Laura Palmer

By Pamela Tarajcak

Many fan theories exist about what exactly is happening to Dale Cooper throughout Season 3, especially what happens when Cooper seemingly rescues Laura Palmer.   Some posit that a real Richard is dreaming of being the hero Dale.  Some posit that Cooper did go back and change history permanently, cancelling out Laura’s death through all dimensions and planes of existence.  Here is yet another one to consider. Dale Cooper didn’t change history at all.  Laura still died, but she lives, just not in the way you think.  There are parts of this theory that aren’t entirely believable (even by the author), but the idea has merit (to steal from Dwayne Milford) and perhaps someone who has trouble with Parts 17 and 18 may see this and say, “Now here is a theory that makes me feel comfortable.”  There will be two articles that unpack this.  The previous article entitled, “An Interpretation of Parts 17 and 18, Part I: Dale Cooper, or How to  Lose the Lodge Test Repeatedly and Influence People” argued that Dale kept on failing his Lodge test, messed with people’s memories and continued to get his soul obliterated.  Now it’s time to figure out Laura and Carrie. 

Laura’s Lodge Test 

Laura never really had a formal Lodge Test.  Her whole life was a Lodge Test.  She struggled against her father’s evil influence.  She had to keep her faith, hope and love intact her whole life in order for her to prevail with “Perfect Courage.”  Though many times she gave in and showed her most negative side, using people, doing drugs, selling her body.  That was her own shadow self.  Shadow selves aren’t necessarily Doppelgangers created by the Lodge, because that dooms the testee to failure each time.  The shadow self resides within the person.  You are your own shadow self.  Your worst sides of yourself are your shadow self. 

When she put on that ring and liberated herself, she overcame that Laura who said to James, “Your Laura is gone, it’s just me now.”  (Cheryl Lee Latter presents a wonderful twist to this in “The Other Laura.”)  Because she overcame her shadow self, she gets her angel and advances to the White Lodge.  Not only does Fire Walk with Me show this but Part 14 confirms it when the Fireman showed Andy Laura, flanked by two angels.    

Part 2 and the Birth Canal

In Part 2, Dale is in the Lodge and Gerard says to him, “Is it future, or is it past?”  In the Lodge, time has no meaning.  It is future, past, and present all at the same time, happening at once, which is the reason all extradimensional spaces in Twin Peaks make the viewer feel uneasy.  All time happens at once, which is unnatural.  Therefore, when, Laura appears to Dale and talks to him, it is happening at all times.  She tells him, “I am dead, yet I live.”  She is dead as Laura Palmer.  Yet, she will live.  She whispers something in Agent Cooper’s ear.  She has done this, she will do this, and she is doing this right now. 

Interestingly, Laura uttering “My father killed me,” as she did in Season 2, Episode 9, only takes about 4 seconds to say.  In all occasions, Laura whispers in Dale’s ear for a full 15 seconds.  There has to be something more Laura whispers.   Dale just remembers that portion for him to close the case.  

Once Laura whispers in Cooper’s ear, developing a shocked look of horror on her face, she is sucked out of the Lodge screaming.  She looks, at that moment, as if she were going through a tube.  Or a birth canal?  At that moment, Laura is dead but Carrie will be born. (Behind the scenes note: Lynch, as he is often wont to do, calls people by the character names on set.  He called Sheryl Lee Carrie when directing this portion.)  Laura’s soul is having a perinatal experience which is a psychological theory developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof in the 1960s.  

Stanislav Grof and Twin Peaks

In the 1950s and 1960s, just before it became illegal, Stanislav Grof utilized a very controlled amount of LSD to allow his clients to delve more deeply into their suppressed psychological traumas, including pre-birth, or perinatal, experiences, in order to heal them. (Perhaps Grof inspired some of Jacoby’s character?) When the use of LSD became illegal, Grof changed his methodology to use a form of meditation/hypnosis called holotropic breathwork to achieve such states of consciousness.  Such a method is still used in some psychological areas today.  Since holotropic breathwork seems to have many commonalities with Transcendental Meditation which Lynch practices, there are some linkages which are worthwhile to explore.  

Grof explained that the all people actually have some trauma from their own births and the four stages (BPM I-IV) that involve this process. He argues that, “The intimate connection between birth and death in our unconscious psyche makes eminent sense.  It reflects the fact that birth is a potential or actual life-threatening event.  The delivery brutally terminates the intrauterine existence of the fetus.  He or she ‘dies’ as an aquatic organism and is born as an air-breathing, physiologically and even anatomically different form of life.  And the passage through the birth canal is, in and of itself, a difficult and possibly life threatening event.” (Grof 32)  Laura is being sucked through the birth canal and is having a traumatic time at it.  She screams as if she is going through a lot of pain.  Her soul is so rooted in the Laura Palmer identity, having to keep it strong as her father (and the more malevolent entities) have tried repeatedly to tear her self-worth apart.  Her becoming someone else must be the second worst trauma her soul can undergo.  Grof elaborated, “The amount of emotional and physical stress involved in childbirth clearly surpasses that of any postnatal trauma in infancy and childhood discussed in psychodynamic literature, with the possible exception of extreme forms of physical abuse.” (Grof 31)  Being murdered by one’s own abusive father is the only thing worse than her rebirth.  Moreover, Grof identifies that throughout the birthing process, one has transcendent experiences with different and very real archetypal figures like demons or angelic beings (Grof 33).  This sounds like Lodge beings.  

Before being sucked away from the Lodge, Laura opened her face and revealed a brilliant light.  She had already gotten her angel, had been in the White Lodge for a while, and is a pure soul.  Before she can progress to her next life, she made a stop in the Lodge to help Dale get it through his thick skull that she’s alright and that he can “go out now.”  She is still at one with the universe.  Grof explains this by providing an anecdotal example from the First Birth Stage, BPM-I.  One of his clients revealed, “During the undisturbed episodes of fetal existence, I experienced feelings of basic identity and oneness with the universe; it was the Tao, the Beyond that is Within, the ‘Tas tvam asi’ (thou art That) of the Upanishads.  I lost my sense of individuality; my ego dissolved, and I became all of existence.” (Grof, 41).   Since Lynch is a reader of the Upanishads (where he gets that oft lamented “We are like the dreamer” quote), this situation fits what happens to pre-birth Carrie in this instance.  She is losing her identity as Laura.  She is both dead as Laura and alive as pre-birth Carrie. 

Then Grof discusses the second perinatal stage or BPM-II, the entrance to the birth canal.  “While reliving the onset of biological birth, we typically feel that we are being sucked into a gigantic whirlpool or swallowed by some mythic beast.” (Grof 41)  It’s interesting that that’s what most people feel, which reminds one of the gigantic, demented atomic Charybdi of the portals that are dotted all over Season 3.  According to one client’s memories, “I felt an onslaught of anxiety, turning to panic.  Everything became dark, oppressive, and terrifying.  It was as if the weight of the whole world was encroaching on me exerting incredible hydraulic pressure that threatened to creack my skull and reduce my body to a tiny compact ball….The torture intensified to the point where very cell in my body felt like it was being bored open with a diabolic dentist’s drill.” (Grof, 45).   Carrie is certainly going through a ringer at this point. 

The third and fourth stages are the propulsion of the fetus through the birth canal and the actual birth, respectively. (Grof 45-56)  These aren’t seen in Carrie’s experience.  However, much of what Grof discusses seem germane to the Twin Peaks world at large, and may be discussed in a future article.  

Therefore, Carrie is in the birth canal.  Her soul looks like it’s going through a traumatic birth experience, shedding the over strong Laura Palmer life totally.  

Part 18:

In Part 2, Sheryl Lee is solely credited as Laura Palmer.  However, the credits of Part 18 see Lee credited as Laura Palmer AND Carrie Page, two separate characters.  This means that she is two separate people.  She is dead as Laura.  And she lives, reborn, as Carrie.  

Because time means nothing to the Lodge crew, they reincarnate her while she’s simultaneously living as Laura Palmer.  Again, “I am dead. Yet I live.” It’s a simultaneous life.  She was born in 1971 as both Laura Palmer, the one who keeps the Lodge at Bay, homecoming queen of Twin Peaks and murdered by her father at 17, and Carrie Page, the messed up woman who keeps on trying to keep a clean house in Odessa.  She has a second chance at a fresh start, however, this new life is troubled, and the bleed-throughs from her very strong past life as Laura Palmer keep happening, including a white horse on a mantlepiece.    

Cooper thinks he has to “Find Laura” and bring her home.  He does follow his instincts as he is still a consummate professional.  He keeps his personality instead of turning into Richard, perhaps because he locked it into place when in the motel room with Diane.  Who knows if Cooper was also, when he passed the Lodge test, supposed to simultaneously reincarnate also as Richard?  Who knows who Richard was supposed to be?  Who knows why Cooper would have chosen Richard and Laura chose Carrie as their new lives.  

Cooper would have chosen Richard and Laura chose Carrie?  Yes, according to experts in Reincarnation theory, like Michael Newton, the soul chooses whom they reincarnate as. (This is best explored in Newtons book: Journey of the Soul.)  Cooper would have chosen Richard for some unknown reason.  However, analysing Laura’s choice of Carrie is easier because we witness a slice of Carrie’s life.  John Bernardy, a contributor at 25 Years Later, wrote an article very soon after the conclusion of Season 3, “Laura Palmer is in the White Lodge’s Witness Protection Program.” He claimed that the White Lodge is concealing Laura’s identity and modeling Laura’s false identity of Carrie Page on Shelly Johnson because many aspects of Carrie’s situation is like Shelly’s Season 1 and 2 life.  It also explains the centrality of Shelly’s character in the Season 3 plot.  It wasn’t the White Lodge, however, that was modeling Laura’s life after Shelly, but Laura herself.   In the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Laura is a bit jealous of Shelly. “Leo’s wife is prettier than I had remembered. I watched her. I was very careful to study her body when she moved, her smile, her voice. I was suddenly going back and forth between feeling totally competitive to feeling like I had no chance at all over her. Then I heard her saying something about Leo to Norma. Some thing about how he’s never home, and when he is, he just wants to get it on. I had won. I felt like a bitch for thinking it, but I thought, I’ve been doing it with him for quite some time now . . . I’ll keep doing it if you won’t. I knew that wasn’t what she meant, but I couldn’t feel sorry for her, or I would never be able to see Leo again. I couldn’t deal with that.” (Christmas Eve Day, 1987, later)  

Then she figures out that Shelly and Bobby are seeing each other. “Bobby Briggs and I decided we would take a bit of a breather from one another–I think he is having a little affair with Shelley–no matter.  I can’t love Bobby the way he deserves to be loved, and it kills me inside to admit that.” (July 22, 1988). She wants to love Bobby (or a Bobby) exactly like Shelly does.  She craves a life just like Shelly’s.  Unfortunately, a life just like Shelly’s comes with an abusive husband, a low-paying job, and a house that’s falling apart.   Even the words Carrie mutters while she’s half asleep in the car reflect a situation that Shelly went through in her marriage to Leo: “I tried to keep a clean house keep everything organized. It’s a long way. In those days I was too young to know any better.”  When Shelly complained to Norma in Episode 4 about Leo, “Then we get married, and I find out all he was looking for was a maid he didn’t have to pay.”  

Let’s play a little conjecture game.  Carrie marries the guy on the couch.  He’s abusive, just like Leo.  Their house is a shambles just like the Johnson house was back in the Original Series. It seems as if the husband keeps it at a constant state of disrepair while expecting it to be cleaned, perfectly.  Carrie acquires a boyfriend, someone like Bobby, who she’s trying to find.  Remember, Carrie answers the door with a panicked, “Did you find him?”  Perhaps, she thought the boyfriend shot the husband?  Perhaps they both did?  She sees that the stranger at the door is from the FBI, so she hot-tails it out of Odessa. 

So Laura picks Shelly’s life.  Who knows why she chose Odessa?  Maybe Laura, always fearful of getting lost in the woods picked a place with no forest whatsoever.  A desert town where it’s wide open spaces so she could never get lost.  But this is purely a reaching speculation.

Dale, crossing over outside of the 430 radius of his sphere of influence, finds Carrie.  But, remember, Laura is not pretending to be Carrie.  She is Carrie, with all memories of her soul’s life as Laura buried as it should be. But Laura’s life and personality was strong, in a way, that Shelly’s wasn’t.  So strong in fact that Laura took over people’s lives.  She made people obsessed with her or want to be her, like Dr. Jacoby, like Harold, like Donna, like Maddie.  Carrie experiences past life recall, especially with the name Sarah.  Which makes sense, according to Grof, especially connected to BPM-I: “This Matrix is related to the original condition of the intrauterine existence during which the child and his mother form a symbiotic unity.  Unless some noxious stimuli interfere, the conditions for the child are optimal, involving security, protection appropriate milieu and satisfaction of all needs.  This symbiotic unity can have both a disburbed and an undisturbed nature.” (Grof, “Birth Trauma…”) To put it more simply, unless something drastic happens, the mother and baby are in peaceful symbiosis.  Carrie remembered that there was problems with Laura and her mother in a past life, which causes the shudder at the mention of Sarah’s name.  She doesn’t respond to Leland because, like Grof claims, the psyche blocks out trauma so well, that she cannot remember.

She leaves with Cooper as we all know because she wanted to get out of Dodge for a bit.  When they crossed back over into Cooper’s sphere of influence, Carrie’s bleed throughs quickened and grew to the point where she was losing her Texan twang.

The car gets to Twin Peaks, but it’s a Twin Peaks that feels familiar yet foreign to us. This is a town that is still not over its shared trauma.  Why didn’t Laura recognize her own town and house?  Because she wasn’t Laura any more.  She she is now the reincarnated Carrie Page. (Remember, the Tremonds, in the past article, was for Dale’s benefit, not Carrie’s.)  She stares at the house and she begins to regress back into a past self, just like she did at the mention of the name Sarah. Grof explains this when he was regressing clients back to their own currently incarnated childhoods but it fits here, “The authenticity of this regression is evident from the fact that the wrinkles in the face of these people temporarily disappear, giving them an infantile expression, and their postures, gestures, and behavior become childlike.” (Grof, 21)  She looks younger than she ever did as Carrie. 

Unfortunately, she hears the wind rustling (the wind that partly inspired Lynch’s instruction to Angelo Baladamenti for Laura Palmer’s Theme).  She stares at the house long enough to hear the whispers of the past.  She screams in horror, remembering the trauma of her past life.  A remembrance that Dale caused by dragging her back to somewhere that wasn’t home anymore.  

Perhaps, to close, this is what Cooper hears just before Laura is ripped away from the Lodge to her re-birth as Carrie.  “I will no longer be Laura Palmer. My father killed me.  I am being reborn as Carrie Page.  Don’t you dare try to find me Agent Dale Cooper.  Don’t be a hero! I don’t need you to save me.” Which is almost exactly 15 seconds long.   And would obviously cause Cooper to be stupefied and horrified, because he just has to save everyone and cannot imagine a circumstance where someone could help themselves without his help, especially his most daunting case Laura Palmer.  And guaranteed at some point, Laura did get her angel and that she had won.  Until Dale, failing his Lodge Test, for the third time, messed that victory up too!   

References of sources outside of Twin Peaks texts: 

Bernardy, John. “Laura Palmer is in the White Lodge’s Witness Protection Plan.” 25 Years Later Site.  October 30, 2017.

Grof, Stanislav. “Birth Trauma and Its Relation to Mental Illness, Suicide and Ecstasy.” found on this website:  

Grof, Stanislav. Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000  

Newton, Michael. Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life between Lives, Fifth Revised Edition. Llewellyn Publications, 1994.

(The author would like to thank her former professor in “The Psychology of Religion” and “Transpersonal Studies” Christopher M. Bache, who helped her remember Grof and the reincarnation theories.)

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