Saturday, October 11, 2014

On the Far Side of the Psychosphere Part I


It would seem that few who have sat through HBO's True Detective were unaware that they were witnessing something significant. The almost universal critical praise the show has received, however, is not unexpected --the pairing of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey was inspired on any number number of levels and almost inevitably bound to produce something compelling. Both actors, but especially Harrelson, have achieved careers punctuated by synchro-mystical classics that have added even more compelling layers to the legacy of either man.

The two leads, combined with the high production values and mystery-laden narrative, no doubt played a major role in bringing in the masses as well. And of course the fanboys would not be able to resist its allure. Nor could the conspiracy theorists, who flocked in droves --how could they not with a show centered around ritualistic murders?


At the end of the day, the most surprising thing about True Detective is that it actually manages to pull things off. We may very well be mentioning the Nic Pizzolatto-created series in the same breath as the classic '90s supernatural-laden investigative dramas such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and Millennium (a show which True Detective bears some degree of similarity with despite it rarely being sited as an influence) in a few years so long as Detective doesn't pull a Lost (or The Following, for that matter). Already fans are railing against the "ambiguity" of the finale, so the situation bears monitoring.



good company
But for now at least I have no hesitation in recommending the series and shall attempt an analysis of the first season. The show follows the lives of two detectives, Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (McConaughey). These two men, partners, could hardly be more polar opposite of one another. As played by Woody Harrelson, the Hart character no doubt perceives himself as the All American Boy done grown up as the show opens. And to be sure, he has reason for this perception: Hart is the head of an equally All American nuclear family which he supports as a police officer. He's successful, well liked by his coworkers and poised for a position in upper management.

And yet this persona, much like the world Martin Hart lives in, is but an illusion. Marty struggles to relate to women as anything other than sexual objects throughout the show. At one point when reaching for a cherished moment during his early years with his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), he recounts how they barely left his bedroom during the weekends. When he's first paired with Cohle, Marty is in the midst of an affair with a court clerk who looks like a younger version of his wife. After this affair nearly ends his marriage, he begins another one in 2002 with Beth (Lili Simmons), one of witnesses from the grizzly 1995 murder the show revolves around.

Marty (Harrelson) and Maggie (Monaghan)
When Marty first encountered her in 1995, he was outraged that she was working as a prostitute despite being under the age of consent. When Marty vents at her madam, the older woman astutely remarks: "Girls walk this Earth all the time screwin' for free. Why is it you add business to the mix and boys like you can't stand the thought? I'll tell you. It's cause suddenly you don't own it the way you thought you did."

Certainly Marty displays no real qualms about beginning an affair with Beth in 2002 despite her obvious problems and the likelihood that an affair with a married man who's old enough to be her father will surely only contribute further to them. Nor does he grasp the utter hypocrisy he displays upon finding his own daughter, at the age of 16, engaged in sexual intercourse in the back of a car with two boys over the age of 18. While Marty certainly seems to appreciate "loose women" outside his family, he calls his daughter "slut" and slaps her after engaging in behavior he likely partook in a time or two during his own wayward youth.

Audrey (Erin Moriatry), Marty's daughter
Marty takes his role as a police officer no more seriously than he does being a husband and father. He is shown time and again abusing his position as a cop when his emotions get the best of him. The most blatant instance is the beating he delivers to the two boys found with his daughter after he's left alone with them in a cell block. At another point he assaults a college boy taken home by the court clerk he was having an affair with. And then of course there's the handcuffed suspect that he murders, thus enabling the cult he was a part of to flourish for anther decade plus. But only occasionally does he wonder if he's a bad man.

As played by Harrelson the Hart character, despite being easy going and immensely likable, always seems to project a certain edge beneath his amicable demeanor. In many ways the same could be said of Harrelson himself. While well established now as a dramatic actor, Harrelson first connected with the public during his time on Cheers and is still closely linked to comedy. And yet Harrelson came from a family background as dark as any in Hollywood. Consider the strange and terrible saga of Charles Harrelson, Woody's dad:
"Ladies man, raconteur and natural born killer Charles V. 'Charlie' Harrelson got out of Leavenworth Penitentiary in 1978, where he been caged for two years after serving several years in various jail and state prisons on a murder charge. Charlie was ready and raring to go. He moved to Dallas and hooked up with Peter Kay, his childhood friend from Huntsville, Texas. Kay was a member of the Dixie Mafia, a confederation of ex-cons known for violence across the Gulf Coast. They engaged in high-profit burglaries and contract killings, illegal gambling, pornography and drugs, in league with Mafia bosses in Dallas. Kay was also closely connected to the Banditos motorcycle gang.
"While in Dallas in late April and early May 1979, Kay set up a card game between Jimmy Chagra and Charlie Harrelson, who had put his hours in prison to good use perfecting card tricks. During this period they also plan the murder of federal Judge John Wood, the presiding judge in Chagra's pending drug case.
"Why? Jimmy's motives may have been revenge, for he certainly could not prevent a jury from convicting him by killing Judge Wood. Or, he could have been doing the bidding of the hardened criminals to whom he owed his life. Charlie's motive was purely financial. According to some observers, Jimmy Chagra, Charlie Harrelson and Jo Ann Starr were pawns of a larger plot managed by Pete Kay on behalf of organized crime. In any event, Jimmy and Charlie agreed, and Charlie's wife Jo Ann Starr (Kay's former lover) purchased the rifle allegedly used to kill Judge Wood.
"The murder plot was already in motion when a grand jury returned an indictment on May 22, 1979, charging Jimmy with masterminding an extensive drug trafficking empire in Texas and Florida. Wood scheduled the trial for May 29 in San Antonio. That morning, as Wood walked to his car, which was parked in front of his condo, he was shot in the back with a high-powered rifle. 
"Three years later at Harrelson's murder trial, cab driver Wesley Coddington would claim that he had picked up Charlie at the airport on May 28 and driven him to the townhouse complex where Wood lived. Another witness, Chrys Lambros, a 28-year-old attorney, recalled bumping into Harrelson in the condo parking lot less than an hour before the shooting that left Judge Wood dead on the sidewalk. Their testimony, along with that of Hampton Robinson IIII and a few other witnesses, would lead to Harrelson's conviction in 1982. 
"The peculiar thing is that three days after the assassination, Robinson called FBI Agent Robert Wyatt. An independently wealthy heroin addict and occasional criminal, Robinson socialized with Dixie mobsters Peter Kay and Charlie Harrelson. However, he had developed a grudge against Charlie after Charlie seduced his girlfriend. Seeking revenge, he told FBI Agent Wyatt that Charlie had bragged about having just done 'a job' and was coming to stay with him. Wyatt inferred that the job was killing Judge Wood, at which point Wyatt opened the FBI's investigation of Charlie Harrelson."
(The Strength of the Pack, Douglas Valentine, pgs. 359-360)

This was hardly the only peculiarity in Harrelson's conviction, or the murder in general. Wood's assassination and the legendary Jimmy Chagra's drug empire have also been compellingly linked to a crime syndicate known as "The Company." Founded by former Army officer Drew Thornton, and filled with various law enforcement personnel, The Company would become heavily involved in drug and arms trafficking by the early 1980s. There has long been suspicion that the Company had some type of tactical approval by elements within the US intelligence community at some point as well. Even stranger are the links researcher Peter Levenda made between The Company and the long alleged Son of Sam cult in the third book of his groundbreaking Sinister Forces trilogy.

The alleged Son of Sam cult is far beyond the scope of this series to address in depth, but it almost surely served as some type of inspiration for True Detective. First advanced by researcher Maury Terry in his 1986 work The Ultimate Evil, the Son of Sam cult was allegedly an offshoot of the notorious Process Church of the Final Judgment. Allegedly this cult was not only behind the Son of Sam murders, but also the Manson killings, the Arlis Perry murder, the Atlanta child murders, and a host of other offenses. While this researcher has expressed serious skepticism concerning Terry's theory, some compelling links have been unearthed over the years.


both David Berkowitz (top) and Charles Manson (bottom) have been linked to some type of "serial killer cult" over the years that bears some similarity to the cult depicted in True Detective
Interestingly, one of the individuals linked by Terry to the Son of Sam cult was William Mentzer, a low level criminal who was eventually convicted in the murder of producer Roy Radin in what the press dubbed the "Cotton Club murders" (due to Radin's initial involvement in the film). Prior to this incident Mentzer had worked as a bodyguard for pornographer Larry Flynt (who may have had dealings with The Company to boot). Woody Harrelson would of course go on to achieve great acclaim (and an Oscar nomination) for his portrayal of Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt.

coincidence?
If all of this wasn't strange enough, there's also the fact that Charlie Harrelson has been famously linked to the Kennedy assassination as well.
"When Harrelson was arrested, he also confessed to the assassination of JFK, and, indeed, photographs of the famous 'three hoboes' arrested that day in Dallas do seem to show a somewhat younger Harrelson in the lineup, and forensic experts in the Houston Police Department evidently agree. A book written about the assassination and focusing on one of the other co-conspirators – Charles Rogers – by John R. Craig and Philip A. Rogers tells the story in some detail. Although it lacks documentation and source material, and for that reason cannot be taken as 'gospel,' it does name names and gives dates and places for many of the events described, particularly those leading up to Dallas in November 1963.
"Harrelson's life as a professional hitman is not in question. He had been arrested for various crimes involving firearms all his life, and was an acknowledged killer in several unrelated cases. He is presently imprisoned for the rest of his life, due to the Judge Wood assassination. He has refused to discuss anything more about the Kennedy assassination after that one day in which he admitted he was on the grassy knoll with another assassin, suspected murderer Charles Rogers."
(Sinister Forces Book III, Peter Levenda, pgs. 234-235) 

Perhaps then we should be unsurprised that the bulk of True Detective's first season takes place in Louisiana and Texas, two states widely believed to have played major roles in the plot to murder JFK. Indeed, the trafficking depicted in the show bears more than a passing resemblance to smuggling routes in the Gulf states during the time of the assassination, as we shall see.

For obvious reasons True Detective would have appealed to Woody Harrelson on a very personal level. Prior work Harrelson had done in films such as Natural Born Killers (a scathing attack on the mass media), Wag the Dog (about a false flag operation to start a fake war) and A Scanner Darkly (an examination of the mass surveillance state, among other things) indicates that he has an interest in films examining the deep political state. But True Detective is on another level entirely and he deserves ample credit for backing the series to the hilt (he also served as a producer for season one).



Killers and Scanner are two of Recluse's favorite films
The figure of Rust Cohle (McConaughey), in stark contrast to the highly flexible morals of Marty Hart, is only the character in the entire first season with any real principles. Unlike Marty, Rust is brutally honest about what he is and how he perceives the world. When a prostitute remarks upon the possibility that Cohle is dangerous, he tells her bluntly: "Of course I'm dangerous. I'm police. I could do terrible things to people with impunity."


Naturally Cohle makes this statement after he's purchased drugs from the prostitute for a little recreational use. Its a habit Rust displays throughout the season. On the whole, Cohle's words prove to be quite prophetic for the world of True Detective, much like our own, is one littered with sex and drug trafficking rings that frequently operate with the support of law enforcement. Cohle and Hart are stone walled at every turn by their superiors during their investigation of the ritualistic Dora Lange murder due to the likely ties the killing has to local VIPs as well. True Detective suggests that the line between cops and criminals is so thin as to be all but none existent in many cases.

Interestingly, Rust is the son of a Vietnam veteran and what he describes as a "survivalist" based out of Alaska. While never implicitly stated, it is hinted that Rust's peculiar behavior and general lack of social graces were in part the result of the conditioning his father subjected him too as a child. At one point Rust notes that his father had some "strange ideas," which is quite a statement considering some of the ideology Rust subscribes to himself.

As the show unfolds, there are indications that the cult network Cohle comes to believe was behind the Lange murder is also linked to the white supremacist underground. And indeed both Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford) and Errol Childress (Glenn Fleshler), the first season's primary villains, displays signs of being both white supremacists and survivalists (in point of fact, the families of both men seem primarily to live "off-the-grid" as Rust's father surely did as well). While certainly not all white supremacists are survivalists, there is a certain degree of overlap between the two subcultures and this may be why Rust is able to become aware of the network so quickly. Between the years 2002 and 2010 Rust himself was off the grid and living in Alaska for reasons the show never fully explains.

Cohle is something of a Lovecraftian figure, or at least the popular perception of Lovecraft. On the one hand, Cohle is a militant atheist and nihilist at the onset of the show who describes human consciousness as a tragic misstep in evolution. He holds organized religion in utter contempt and perceives it as a poison to humanity, much to Marty's shock. And yet, despite being a staunch materialist and rationalist, Cohle frequently resorts to what could be described as the supernatural to solve cases throughout the show.

Lovecraft, the materialist who allegedly derived many of the ideas for his "weird fiction" from horrific night terrors he suffered from
This is most evident in Cohle's ability to illicit confessions from criminals. The show indicates that Cohle is what is sometimes referred to as an "empath" or a "sensitive" and he uses this ability to determine a suspect's guilt or innocence. He has an uncanny ability to emotionally and psychologically relate to a suspect even if he hold's that individuals world view in contempt (this is most evident when he uses religion to coerce confessions). At one point he boasts to a pair of detectives that he's never been in a room with a suspect longer than two minutes without knowing whether they were guilty or innocent.


Rust also experiences visions throughout the show. He claims that they are the result of years of drug abuse he engaged in while working under cover. While he superficially dismisses them as mere hallucinations, his vision frequently seem to appear when Rust is close to a key clue and it is indicated that he uses them to solve crimes. Rust also makes proclamations such as being able to almost "smell the psychosphere" after the odor of aluminum and ash is present to him at the site where Dora Lange's body was found.

one of Rust's many hallucinations
The word "psychosphere" has its origins in weird fiction and is a concept similar to Carl Jung's notion of the collective unconscious in which the human mind is influenced by archetypes older than time. It can also be linked to the concept of "twilight language", a psychological type of communication based around numerologyonomatologytoponymy and good old fashioned synchronicity. It is in this hidden sphere that Cohle operates upon and does his best detective work in. Is this what the show's title alludes too?

Actor Matthew McConaughey doesn't have the same type of curious background as Woody Harrelson, nor is filmography as compelling. Indeed, McConaughey had shown little interest in anything other than low brow romantic comedies in recent years. It is interesting to note, however, that twenty years prior to the airing of True Detective McConaughey appeared in a film with some plot similarities to Detective: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. This bizarre sequel in the popular horror series recast Leatherface and his family as part of a cult network of serial killers controlled by the Illuminati (seriously). I've already written much more on this film before here. But back to True Detective.

McConaughey in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
The narrative juggles separate time lines throughout its eight episodes, with the series bouncing back and forth between the years 1995 and 2012 (and a host of points in between) from the very first episode. The year 1995 is when detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle were assigned the bizarre murder of Dora Lange while the year 2012 witnesses the emergence of another body that may be linked to the '95 murder. This makes for a difference of seventeen years. Interestingly, when Marty and Maggie finally split for good in 2002 (after Maggie coaxes Rust into sleeping with her and using her infidelity to humiliate Marty with), it comes after seventeen years together as well.

As regular readers of this blog know, the number seventeen is loaded with significance.
"In Shi'ism, above all, and through its influence in the religious epic poetry of the Anatolian Turks,
"'a quasi-magical importance attaches to the number seventeen....Shi'ite mystics from a very early period held the number seventeen in veneration, a veneration stemming from far earlier Pythagorean speculations based upon the Greek alphabet.... Seventeen was the number of those who were to be brought to life again, each of these individuals being bound to be given one of the letters of the alphabet from which the supreme name of God was composed.'
"This is not unrelated to the Star, the seventeenth arcanum of the Tarot, which is a symbol of change and rebirth and what Dr Allendy explains as 'deliverance from Karma'... Furthermore, according to the Sufi alchemist Gabir ibn Hayyan, the shape (sura) of all things in the world is seventeen. Seventeen stands for the very foundation of the theory of balance and should be regarded as the law of equilibrium in all things...
"The Ancient Greeks regarded seventeen as standing for the number of consonants in the alphabet, successively broken down into nine (the number of mute consonants) and eight (the number of semi-vowels or semi-consonants). These numbers are also closely related to the theory of music and to the harmony of the spheres.
"As we have observed at the outset, seventeen and seventy-two are first the sum and second the product of eight and nine. Furthermore, the sums of the digits compromising these two numbers give eight for seventeen (1+7) and nine for seventy-two (7+2). Nine and eight constantly recur in Ancient Greek numerological speculations, whether it be on the planes of grammar, of music (the ratio nine to eight is represented by the median chords of the lyre), of prosody or of cosmology.
"The Ancient Romans seem to have regarded the number seventeen as unlucky since an anagram of the letters of which it is composed (XVII) gives the word VIXI, I have lived."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 866-867)

As noted above, seventeen is the number of The Star trump in most Tarot decks. In some accounts The Star is thought to be symbolic of Sirius, the Dog Star. Because of this, the number seventeen is also linked to Sirius some times.


The number seventeen is also associated with the Egyptian god Osiris, who was said to have been resurrected on the 17th of the Egyptian month of Athyr. Some believe that the Biblical figure of Lazarus was based upon Osiris. In the Gospel of John, Jesus resurrects Lazarus during chapter 12, verse 17. Osiris has also been linked with Sirius, but such a topic is far beyond the scope of this series. For more information on this topic, check here.

Seventeen is but one number with heavy esoteric significance that appears through out the show. Another is the number five, which also shows up quite early: one of the opening shots of the first episode is of Marty's 2012 deposition, which occurs on May 1 (or Beltane, a major date in the old pagan calendar and still celebrated as May Day in much of Europe); it is followed shortly thereafter by images from Rust's deposition, which occurred on April 26, or five days before Martin's. Let us then consider the significance of the number:
"The number five derives its symbolism in the first place from the fact that it is the sum of the first even and odd number (2+3 = 5), and secondly because it is at the centre of the first nine numbers. It is a sign of marriage (the Pythagorean 'nuptial' number) as well as being the number of the centre, of harmony and of balance. It is therefore the number governing sacred marriages between the principles of Heaven (2) and the Earth Mother (3).
"Furthermore, it is the symbol of the human being, which, with arms outstretched in the shape of a cross, appears to comprise five parts, two arms, two legs and head and body, the latter sheltering the heart. It is also a symbol of the universe, it's two axes, vertical and horizontal, passing through the same centre; of order and perfection; and, lastly, of the will of God, which can only desire order and perfection...
"It also sends for the phenomenal world in its entirety – the five senses and the forms of matter amenable to sense-perception.
"Pythagorean pentagonal harmony has left its mark upon the architecture of medieval cathedrals. Hermetic symbolism set the five-pointed star and the five-petalled flower in the centre of a cross comprising the four elements. This is the quintessence or ether. Five bears the same relation to six as the microcosm to the macrocosm, the individual to Universal Man."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 385)
five pointed stars have been linked to Sirius as well
The number five also holds much significance in Discordianism and is given an association therein that is quite fitting to the number's appearance in True Detective:
"One of the first Discordian catmas was Kerry Thornley's Law of Fives, which holds that all incidents and events are directly connected to the number five, or to some multiple of five, or to some numbers related to five in one way or another, given enough ingenuity on the part of the interpreter. Usually, we would state this to novices without the crucial (italicized) final clause; it was up to them to discover the metaprogrammer and figure that part out for themselves.
"I added the Law of 23s, derived from Burroughs, on the grounds that 2+3 = 5, and Discordians were soon reporting 23s and 5s from everywhere in current history and the past."
(Cosmic Trigger Volume I, Robert Anton Wilson, pg. 59)
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson was of course the individual chiefly responsible for popularizing the so-called "23 enigma", which he closely related to the "Law of Fives". Its especially interesting to note that when Wilson (along with Robert Shea) first addressed the 23 enigma in the legendary Illuminatus Trilogy, it was referred to as the "23/17 phenomenon":
"... 23 and 17. Maybe something important is going to happen in the year 2317? I couldn't check that, of course (you can't navigate precisely in the Morgensheutegesternwelt), so I went back to 1723, and struck golden apples. That was the year that Adam Smith and Adam Weishaupt were both born (and Smith published The Wealth of Nations the same year Weishaupt revived the Illuminati: 1776.)
"Well, 2 + 3 = 5, fitting the Law of Fives, but 1 +7 = 8, fitting nothing. Where did that leave me? Eight, I reflected, is the number of letters in Kallisti, back to the golden apple again, and 8 is also 2³, hot damn..."
(The Illuminatus Trilogy, Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, pg. 237)

A few pages later Shea and Wilson would go on to link 5, 17 and 23 with the "40 enigma" as well. But I digress.

The presence of these two numbers, but especially five, throughout the first season is crucial to a symbolic understanding of the show up to this point. In future installments I shall go into further detail concerning the appearance of other fives throughout the season. But in the immediate future I'll focus in on the discovery of Dora Lange's body. Stay tuned.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent. I loved True Detective and was thoroughly impressed with the amount of occult symbolism and philosophy worked in.

    ReplyDelete