The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

1.5. Cooper's Tibetan Method – A Consumerist ZEN

Agent Cooper explains the Tibetan Method I will now turn to Cooper's other characteristic trademark, namely his errands into transcendental ZEN Buddhism in midst of Twin Peaks' majestic douglas firs. There Cooper will demonstrate another trait that will clearly set him apart from the rationale of the classical detective. Cooper calls this specific deductive process the 'Tibetan method'. The Tibetan element in TP might easily create a burlesque effect. I would like to point out the ambivalence and even the schizophrenic aspect of Cooper's deductional method. The Tibetan method does not strive for a complete abandonment of logic and reason. It aims to transport the analyst, i.e. the viewer, onto a higher plane of (narrative) joy through a mixture of obliqueness and chance, in order to detect ways out of the traditional murder mystery's closed world.

The Tibetan method demonstrates and summarizes what typifies both Cooper as a character and the show TP as a continuing series: The joy of detecting new approaches within a well-established genre; the refusal to accept one single possible explanation; the willingness to go a long way in order to reach a higher plane of knowledge; the acceptance of a 'Truth' that goes beyond the mere solution of a single case. Instead each question leads to a set of even bigger questions.

In episode three Agent Cooper demonstrates the amused TV audience and the puzzled staff of the Twin Peaks police department his most important theory and method of inquiry. This scene illustrates all the elements of Cooper's deductive procedures and therefore has to be analyzed in greater detail.

Cooper's fellow investigators are taken outside into the woods, where the equipment of the police department's interior has been reinstalled. The immersion or intermingling of inner and outer is, as has been noted, an important structural element within the series in general. Cooper's enthusiasm for nature seems to stand in perfect harmony with his investigative methods. In contrast to the classical detective who retrains and entombs himself in his apartment and in his mind Cooper frees his spirit in order to merge with the realm of nature.

Surround by those 'fantastic trees' Cooper explains two highly important elements of his deductive philosophy: first, his concept of mind-body coordination, and second, his employment of the dream. The dream that initiated the Tibetan method involves Tibet's freedom from political oppression and the release of the Dalai Lama. According to Cooper this dream triggered off an awareness for intuition in contrast to rational logic: Cooper concludes that he awoke from the same dream realizing that he had 'subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique involving mind-body coordination operating hand in hand with the deepest level of intuition' (Lavery, 3.7).

With the help of the Twin Peaks police department Cooper tries to discover the murder by way of a technique, which calls for him to throw rocks at a bottle (deposited on a tree stump) whenever one of the suspects names is read out loud. The rock misses several times and finally hits the bottle when the name of local drug dealer Leo Johnson is pronounced. Although this is a quite unorthodox method the narrative would suggest that Leo is the murderer and the case is closed. But this goes against the principle of both the show TP and Cooper as a character. As with Cooper's cataloguing of details the viewer is first tricked into believing that an odd detective character is using rather quirky methods that will later on be revealed as helpful means to get to the solution.

In every classical detective story the reader is presented with a long list of suspects including the most likely and the 'least likely' person. We have to keep in mind that openness is the crucial modus operandi for Cooper's approach. "In TP, Cooper detects through immersion physical indeterminacy, obliqueness, and ambiguity are his primary modes of discovery" (Nochimson, 146). Therefore the rock throwing will not bring us closer to a finite solution, but to some higher layer of wisdom. Cooper meditates on crime "through the sensory experience of natural textures and sounds" (Nochimson, 146).

The classical detective stays imprisoned into the logical confines of his mind, keeping a distance to the outer world and his emotional inside. He merely attempts to find the fastest way to a logical (and easy) solution. Cooper chooses the opposite way. Not only does he open himself to the 'deepest level of intuition', but he demonstrates his philosophy in nature, integrating the interiors of the sheriff's bureau (the concealed room) into the pastoral site of a douglas firs clearing. The mechanical working of the logical mind is set apart from its inner confinement and brought into contact with the 'sensory experience of natural textures and sounds'.

According to Nochimson this state is very similar to the experience of children playing. The traditional detective's childlike wish to dominate the world is substituted by the liberating experience of letting go. The result of Cooper's oblique methods is, thus, not "a regressive infantilism", but a "renewal of human desire for a miraculous world" (147). When asked by the sheriff if he really had the idea for his method from a dream Cooper's face shows a mixture of childlike amazement and the ambiguity of the detective's Bi-Part Soul.

Cooper's willingness to indulge in open play confirms his position as a new detective who accepts given patterns and rules, but does not necessarily follow them. Cooper is someone who enjoys and embraces new experiences, someone who is able to constantly switch modes and mental states. These qualities identify Cooper as an expert in "border crossing" (Wilcox, 20). Cooper's openness allows him to cross more boundaries than other (male) detectives who operate within a clearly established pattern and whose cases always point to a bottom line. Cooper's boundary crossing starts off on realistic geographic ground, but soon expands further, even stepping beyond metaphysical borders. Cooper fluidly crosses boundaries, starting with him entering the town of Twin Peaks, ending with his entrance into another dimension.

The border between civilization and forest is the most apparent one, but borders are ubiquitous in TP. The main investigator of Laura's death, FBI Agent Cooper, is by definition one who deals with border crossings. (ibid.)

On the narrative level Cooper crosses state boundaries as his FBI occupation demands, yet, on a meta-level, he is also a specialist for crossing the boundaries of the detective genre's conventions. Besides the aspect of crossing the formula's boundaries one might also argue that boundary crossing marks Cooper as a postmodern figure who is able to change his character, style and manner within a single scene; for example, when the seriocomic tone of the Tibetan method's explanation is juxtaposed with Cooper burning himself with 'damn good coffee' (Lavery, 3.7).

Carroll states that "the Tibetan police methodology reveals Cooper as part systematic lawman, part nature loving Transcendentalist " (Carroll, 290). Yet, it also reveals Cooper as part Buddhist and part consumerist. Cooper's openness and the arbitrariness of his methods could be read as traits of a postmodern character treating all sensual experiences alike. He functions as a generic amalgam who opens himself for various experiences.

Cooper's method of inquiry, just like his overall characteristic features, never strive for closure and solution, as in the case of the classical detective. Instead, Cooper moves into another direction, a direction that leads him outward, even if the destination is unknown. Thus, he also has to leave behind to confines of the ratiocinative setting, the place of investigation where every character seems to exist merely for the detective's and the story's purpose.

Cooper's methods are a necessary requirement to enter the supernatural sphere that is revealed to exist in the 'Ghostwood forest'. The next chapter will show that Cooper's first step in contacting the otherworldly sphere is made in a subconscious mental state, namely in dreams or in physical pain. It should already be mentioned that these contacts are of a very liminal nature. Although on a higher plane than the self-absorbed traditional detective, Cooper is still concerned with the maintenance of order in the middle class. Yet, the urge to create an encompassing order goes beyond the mere solution of a murder mystery: "Cooper aims at a general, metaphysical purgation, and what he would expunge is not a murder or murderers but universal evil" (Pollard, 298). Thus, it seems, Cooper wants to recreate an ideal state of complete purity and innocence.

As a next step I will analyze how Cooper deals with the supernatural elements that appear in the show and, above all, if Cooper can sustain his new attributes and qualities, or if he will get lost in old clichés and role models.

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© Mike Hartmann
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