By: Jay Dyer
The first season of True Detective captivated the viewing public this year, topped only by Breaking Bad in attention and critical praise. While the Internet is rife with theories and analysis, few have succeeded in plumbing the depths of the story in its proper fullness. While Vigilant Citizen did produce an adequate overall analysis, several important points were missed relating to specific religious symbolism, as well as the numerous philosophical references given by Rust Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey). In this analysis I will give the full significance of the first season of True Detective, which ranks as one of the most revealing films of the occult underground since Eyes Wide Shut.
The opening sequence lays out a heavy dose of symbolism that cues the viewer into the dark meaning of the series as a whole: we see key images such as backwoods evangelical revival, strippers, the emblematic tree, a playground, several butts, a black eye and telephone imposed over a child’s head. The meaning of the entire series is thus not merely the conflict between Rust and Marty in their personal lives, or the elite Satanic rituals, but the impact of the spiritual degeneration that has occurred over just 17 years, from 1995 to 2012. In other words, the spiritual effect that the infernal powers have brought about over just the last 20 years have resulted in a massive decline in the moral status of American society as a whole. True Detective is therefore a survey of that degeneration and demonism, juxtaposing what appears as a grotesque, Southern Gothic backwoods existence ruled by an older bloodline (the Tuttles), with the so-called “normal” American family of Marty Hart.
As the series begins, we see an offering of a dead girl in a prostrate pose praying before a tree, wearing a crown of twigs and marked with a spiral symbol. Detective Rust Cohle is immediately aware of the ritual connotations of the killing, noting the “meta-psychotic” nature of the crime. Educated readers will recognize the “meta” prefix as referencing notions like metaphysics and meta-narrative. As I’ve detailed before with Spielberg films and Philip K. Dick works, meta-narrative is associated with this higher level discourse, as is found in “twilight language.” I wrote:
“In semiotics, particularly in Plato’s Sophist, simulacrum is intended to fool the viewer into thinking the copy is the real thing. The copy takes on a life of its own, yet viewed in scale it would clearly appear that the copy is not real. This is a perfect analogy for the nature of film itself, as well as the role of the director. The writer and/or film director is creating a simulacra of the real world with models and pictures, piecing and placing them together in a certain way, just as Roy does with the model train and city he has built. One may think of the simulated beings in Blade Runner or the simulated world of The Matrix here. Spielberg has mastered this art of simulation, and is presenting a simulated reality world – that of UFO-invaded America that is intended to produce a certain effect in the population. Can this be taken to a larger scale, to which Spielberg and the director himself is a “toy” of the larger, galactic forces or entities of the cosmos? Are we a Greek scale of being, being “played” and “directed” by the celestial hierarchy?”
What is applied to the “director” here applies to the thinking of the “meta-psychotic,” who sees a direct connect between his victims and ritual items as copies of the real items. In the same vein, the notion between “twilight language” is the writing of a script with reality by higher celestial entities, be they angelic or demonic. Here, the Tuttles are practitioners of “old time religion” – a primal form of voodoo and ritual magic. Mystical toponomy also comes into play, as Louisiana is the setting for the series, where the Tuttle bloodline has long held sway, having combined their beliefs with the indigenous Santeria and vodoun superstitions. Cohle immediately senses this, functioning as the series’ prophet/priest, having himself spent years in narcotics enforcement, as well as losing his daughter, resulting in his “touching the darkness.” A committed nihilist at the beginning, Cohle espouses the very worldview of the Satanic elite – a Nieztschean eugenics stance, combined with eternal return, where materialistic chaos returns to its beginning in endless spirals, associating Cohle’s own mind with the recurring spiral symbolism in the series. Humans are “sentient meat” that happened to develop the “mirror” of consciousness accidentally, and ever since, man is engaged in a perpetual self-delusion of convincing himself he is a “person” with meaning. Cohle the philosopher scoffs at these notions, having immersed himself in so many years of battling the darkness. Nietzsche famously said, “And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you,” which perfectly describes Cohle.
In contrast to Cohle, Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is Cohle’s simpler partner, the average good old boy cop who cheats on his wife and drinks too much. The names of both characters are also significant, as Marty “Hart” brings to mind feeling, emotion and simplicity, whereas “Rust” signifies worn with age and a harsh realism, as well as “Cohle” bringing to mind “coal,” being dark, cold and earthen. The first murder also occurs in “Erath,” with is an anagram for earth, cluing the viewer into the wider scope of the crimes Rust and Marty are unraveling. The blood spilling on the earth also has ritual significance in most ancient religions requiring blood atonement. For the sacrifice to propitiate the spirits, blood must be spilled, and often the ground consecrated. For the Tuttles, the earth is their property, belonging to them by blood rite and pact with the “gods” of the land. Deuteronomy 12:16 for example, reads: “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it upon the earth as water.” Likewise, the famous passage of Leviticus 16:10: “But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before Jehovah, to make atonement for him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.”
In the same line of the thought, one of the clues the Tuttles leave for Rust and Marty is the “Green Monster” the child victims describe. While never specifically explained beyond the inbred Tuttle being a painter, the Green Monster is strikingly similar to the “Green Man” of many ancient pagan cultures, focusing the attention on animism and cyclical nature worship relating the seasons. As Cohle begins to discover, the Tuttles are definitely patrons of that “old time religion,” but a much, much older version. In some traditions, the “Green Man” is merged with “Wicker Man,” where human sacrifice begins to come into play. The Tuttles also light fires after their rituals, and in the climax when Rust and Marty enter the old brick pirate structure on the pirate land, we see charred remains of victims.
As the detectives delve deeper into the Tuttle spiral, they begin to see the utter depravity and statewide scope of the ritual murders, as well as having their investigations curtailed and halted by higher state officials. Rev. Tuttle, a wealthy elite member of the family who runs the Tuttle Christian schools and ministries, is himself a pedophile Satanist who supplies the cult with poor and displaced girls from the various charities. This brings to mind similar real-world events surrounding ritual murders and child trafficking, as surfaced in the infamous Franklin Scandal, which involved high level politicians, donors and Catholic ministries, as well as the recent scandals with Jimmy Savile and members of the British elite (and here). This is crucial, as True Detective is not a fictional drama about cops tracking a serial killer – on the contrary, it is a revelation of real evil and who the real monsters are in our society.
Rust famously states, “I get a bad taste in my mouth out here. Aluminium. Ash. Like you can smell the psychosphere.” The psychosphere is a term in ritual magic for the nearest dimension or spiritual realm, directly associated with our thoughts, like the aether or the collective unconscious. The psychosphere has a “twilight language” of its own, where only those with eyes to see are able to read its signs. Rust is shown in several scenes as “awake,” while Marty is still asleep, as well as focusing on Rust’s eye. Rust’s “eye” is awake to the language of the psychosphere, which he had earlier noted was a “conversation” being had through the ritual symbolism. Rust is thus able to peer directly into the psychsophere at times, giving him insight into the depths of the Tuttle spiral of depravity, through his visions he attributes to LSD and PTSD flashbacks, something akin to Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks.
Another important element missed by many is the sex slavery. The children that are used are not merely abused, they are often sex slaves that have been imprinted with traumatic memories they later believe were “dreams,” due to being drugged during the ceremonies. The ceremonies were carried out deep in the woods, and resembled “marriage” ceremonies, as the kids were raped by men in masks. One of the most striking images in the series is the little-noticed indicator that Marty’s own firstborn daughter had been abused, as she draws images of sex acts and places her dolls into a ritual formation that is just like the video Rust confiscates from Rev. Tuttle’s mansion. In the dialogue with subtitles, the girls discuss that they were told, “You don’t have a mommy and a daddy anymore. They’re dead.”
Later, Rust interviews a transvestite named Johnny Joanie that had undergone similar abuse, but had repressed the memories as something he had dreamed. Rust informs him it was not a dream, but all along, Marty is unwilling to recognize the evil that surrounds him, especially since the indicators are that the abuser is most likely his wife, Maggie’s father. Maggie’s father appears to be wealthy and well-connected, likening “everything” to sex – and he is the only other adult Marty’s daughters are seen with. The only other similar image we see is the photo of one of the victim’s mother possessed that Cohle sees, where a girl is surrounded by masked men on horses. Also connected with this five-man circle, in 2012 when Rust is being interviewed by the Feds, he cuts and shapes his beer cans into the same circle, showing he is aware of the ritual nature of the child abuse and mind control. This image by a writer at the Daily Beast explains well the connection between the symbols that recur, and note in particular the spiral artwork that Marty’s daughter has done, as well as the flowers, which the inbred Tuttles later explain as incest and/or sex, calling it “making flowers.”
Vigilant Citizen is correct to link the spiral symbol to child sex cults, referencing the real FBI image that associates the symbolism with ritual abuse. However, the spiral is not just that – it also has reference to the All-Seeing Eye, eternal return, and galaxies, as we shall see later. In my analysis, what no one has yet understood is the anal references as I mentioned earlier, and it is here that the spiral has another level of meaning. It is not just an “eye,” but a lower eye, the eye of the anus, which is a reference to Satan himself, where the opening of the third eye relates to the serpent chakra at the base of the spine, where the anus is. While this may seem far-fetched, this is a well-known concept in hermetic and ancient religions, known as the “anthropic principle,” where man is a microcosm of the macrocosm. The body itself is a map of correspondences between the universe as a whole, in a version of “as above, so below.” As an example, writer James Kelley has analyzed this principle in his essay on the anthropic principle in the Vedas. Kelley writes, noting the connection to incest in the pagan mythologies that is applicable here to the Tuttle family tradition:
“The centrality of this notion of the Cosmic Man’s holy, creative sleep is evinced by the Iranian story of Yami (parallel to the purusal Yama touched upon above), who is put to “sleep” (Pahlavi xwāb) as a means of saving him from corruption and death. Interestingly, the Norse primal giant Ymir (whose name is an Western importation of the Indo-Iranian Yami/Yama!) is said to sweat out the primal human couple in a fevered sleep…. Let us not forget that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Lord caused a deep sleep to come over Adam as well. As in the Nordic and Indic versions, Adam’s theoric sleep results in anthropogenesis: Eve (Gr. Zoe, “Life”) is created out of Adam’s side, and thus are all generations made possible. A similar “unconventional genesis” occurs in the Indo-Iranian myth of Yama and Yami. Yama—who is identified with Purusa by many commentators—is urged by his sister Yami to join with him in creating progeny, since the gods commanded them to multiply. Yami refuses, since incest would displease the gods, and no amount of pragmatic reasoning can sway him. The Vedic text leaves the mystery unsolved; we only know that children were produced from Yama and Yami without incest taking place. Silence and hiddenness is fitting when daring to speak of a mysterion, though: “This is a great mystery” as another sage later cautioned. Thus, it appears that a central symbol of ancient Indian religion—the archetypal man with limbs outstretched—may be the origin of that image that so haunts our Western minds—the Vitruvian Man, whose measurements illustrate the secret of the squared circle and show forth the sacred proportion that undergirds the cosmos.”
Viewed in this light, black holes or similar stellar phenomena are gateways or portals for celestial powers, and ritual and liturgy becomes a means for opening a doorway. Vatican insider and exorcist Malachi Martin described the principle behind this thinking in his famous Keys of This Blood as follows:
“Most frighteningly for [Pope] John Paul [II], he had come up against the irremovable presence of a malign strength in his own Vatican and in certain bishops’ chanceries. It was what knowledgeable Churchmen called the ‘superforce.’ Rumors, always difficult to verify, tied its installation to the beginning of Pope Paul VI’s reign in 1963. Indeed Paul had alluded somberly to ‘the smoke of Satan which has entered the Sanctuary’. . . an oblique reference to an enthronement ceremony by Satanists in the Vatican. Besides, the incidence of Satanic pedophilia — rites and practices — was already documented among certain bishops and priests as widely dispersed as Turin, in Italy, and South Carolina, in the United States. The cultic acts of Satanic pedophilia are considered by professionals to be the culmination of the Fallen Archangel’s rites.” (pg. 632)
For example, sex magick practitioner Aleister Crowley stressed the anal and its symbolism as superior to the vaginal, stating “Oh how superior is the eye of Horus to the mouth of Isis.” This is why Errol, the Tuttle villain who takes the fall, always mows in a spiral, as well as why the vortex that opens in the ritual chamber is a spiral. The principle of inversion in black magic is demonstrated here, as the lowest part of the body is also the lowest part of the galaxy, a kind of luminous black hole gateway in the psychosphere through which the energy of the infernal powers enters. Rust is able to see this dark portal in the ritual chamber because he has a psychic connection to the Tuttles and the victims, as several times he is spoken of as having “demons” and seeing “darkness.” This is why the series has such an anal fixation, as numerous times anal sex comes up, as well as images and references. The move from 1995 to 2012 demonstrates the “anal-ization” of society, to where “sex is everything,” as Maggie’s dad states about the transition from “Clinton” to 2012. It is also important that True Detective is based on an actual occultic “church” in Louisiana that engaged in all the same types of acts.
The idea of demonic energy being released that may charge the psychosphere is also a biblical idea referenced in the incident of the King of Moab attacking Israel, and losing, prompting him to ritually sacrifice his firstborn son in effigy. 2 Kings 3 states:
“26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”
Christian theology also carries over this concept of ritual effecting a spiritual change, as the liturgy is the reenactment of the events of the crucifixion sacrifice, re-presented as a heavenly offering where the events on earth are a mirror of an eternal celestial liturgy. Early Christian patristic writer Dionysius the Aeropagite describes the liturgical ritual in precisely this way:
“Wherefore that first institution of the sacred rites, judging it worthy of a supermundane copy of the Celestial Hierarchies, gave us our most holy hierarchy, and described that spiritual Hierarchy in material terms and in various compositions of forms so that we might be led, each according to his capacity, from the most holy imagery to formless, unific, elevative principles and assimilations. For the mind can by no means be directed to the spiritual presentation and contemplation of the Celestial Hierarchies unless it use the material guidance suited to it, accounting those beauties which are seen to be images of the hidden beauty, the sweet incense a symbol of spiritual dispensations, and the earthly lights a figure of the immaterial enlightenment. Similarly the details of the sacred teaching correspond to the feast of contemplation in the soul, while the ranks of order on earth reflect the Divine Concord and the disposition of the Heavenly Orders. The receiving of the most holy Eucharist symbolizes our participation of Jesus; and everything else delivered in a supermundane manner to Celestial Natures is given to us in symbols.”
“It is manifest, therefore, that those Natures which are around the Godhead have participated of It in manifold ways. On this account the holy ranks of the Celestial Beings are present with and participate in the Divine Principle in a degree far surpassing all those things which merely exist, and irrational living creatures, and rational human beings. For moulding themselves intelligibly to the imitation of God, and looking in a supermundane way to the Likeness of the Supreme Deity, and longing to form the intellectual appearance of It, they naturally have more abundant communion with Him, and with unremitting activity they tend eternally up the steep, as far as is permitted, through the ardour of their unwearying divine love, and they receive the Primal Radiance in a pure and immaterial manner, adapting themselves to this in a life wholly intellectual.”
Rust has stumbled upon the inverse of all this, as the Tuttle familly are inter-generational, incestuous Voodoo practitioners that serve the “Yellow King of Carcosa.” While many analyses focus on the literary reference of the Yellow King from a book of short stories from American writer Robert Chambers, I see the significance elsewhere. The reference is to a fictional play that drives people mad when enacted, here certainly applicable to True Detective, as the story itself seems to drive Rust and Marty mad, trying to solve the decades-old murders. I propose a simpler explanation of the “Yellow King.” Set in Louisiana with numerous references to Santeria and voodoo, the “Yellow King” functions more like a Loa, or a Voodoo demon that is served and propitiated for various purposes. For the Tuttles, the Yellow King is the terrirorial spirit they serve generationally as patron that has given them wealth and power. The Yellow King is similar to Baron Samedi, the famed voodoo spirit of Louisiana, only something far more wicked, demanding human sacrifice, and working mind control on his young victims. While the Loa are not gods themselves, they are subservient to the King of devils, Satan. Compare the veve or sigil of Baron Samedi to the images of ritual magic behind Marty when Rust shows him his research.
This also explains Reggie LeDoux, the child-drugging meth cook, who has several occultic tattoos, as well as the spiral imprint both Reggie and Errol have burned into their backs. Reggie has the tattoo of the Icelandic stave, an image similar to the sigils mentioned above, as well as an obvious inverted Pentagram. The spiral is also a version of “666,” which Reggie also has on his chest, as well as a noose. The noose is interesting because it suggests a death pact for the cult, as the LeDoux and Tuttle families must’ve long had their alliance to control the dark side of the Louisiana underground. Another element other analyses have not picked up on is that the Tuttles seem to have their hand in, and power over, all the vices in the state – they run prostitution, drugs and gangs, with almost the entire state fearing their retribution. All the while, they have a front of being philanthropists, ministers and senators. This is because the vices are supervised by the chief demon, the King of Carcosa, the patron voodoo spirit of the Tuttles – and the Tuttles run it through the complicity of the police, who throughout the series are constantly implicated in running the whorehouse and silencing the exposure and investigation. There is also suggestion of higher power above Rev. Tuttle, who ends up murdered when his snuff film goes missing.
As mentioned, Rust and the Tuttles seem to have a psychic connection of some kind, and perhaps something else relating to the pasts of both, since both Errol and Rust mow lawns. Marty seems irrationally irritated by the fact that Marty mowed his lawn, which suggests the mowing of lawns may have had some symbolic connection to who had the “contract” to do so. Since mowing the lawn has a sexual reference, and the Tuttles mow lawns under “contract,” there is a likely connection between Marty’s daughter Audrey playing in the yard and wearing the crown, and her abuse. Did the Tuttle weirdos mow Marty’s lawn? Marty says he mows his own, but it is strangely undone, signifying a connection to the corrupt power structure. This power structure is aligned with the fallen hierarchy of angels under a “contract” that they believe allows them to “marry” or sacrifice whomever they wish. In the final confrontation between Cohle and Errol, Errol tells him it’s a marriage and his victims are all his “acolytes,” making clear the liturgical symbology. The family tree of the Tuttles that signifies ancestor worship and human sacrifice is a version of Yggdrasil, the ancient tree of Norse mythology that is similar to the hermetic tree of life. For the Tuttles, religion is very much an ancient blood and soil family affair.
In conclusion, True Detective functions on multiple levels as a mix of numerous influences. Southern Gothic, neo noir, pulp crime fiction, and occult psychodrama all mesh to form a well-done drama that is one of the best series we’ve seen yet. Hearkening to Twin Peaks, but without the absurdist elements, True Detective is a spiritual chronicle of the rise of the Satanic in modernity, but a Satanic that is not new, but which had formerly been hidden in the backwoods, sulking out of some ancient grove like a creature from a Lovecraft story. While the Tuttles’ mind-controlled their victims to do their bidding (even to the point of suicide), as the family members themselves had been mind-controlled by the previous generation, the good news is that Rust finds freedom. Near death in the hospital after a coma resulting from his battle with Errol, Rust realizes his daughter is in the afterlife, and that death is not the end, and he sees himself with a Christ-like visage. As Marty and Cohle look up at the stars, Marty remarks that the dark is winning. Rust replies: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.” Disturbingly, the news cast is heard stating that the higher Tuttle family members in the senate and other positions are cleared of guilt, though the series has made it clear there were other members of the cult. This shows the control the family still has, while Errol was just a patsy. True Detective is a reminder that no matter how dark and depraved the infernal powers and the deceived humans that serve them become, God has triumphed over evil through the resurrection. On still another level, there’s a “conversation” being had with the audience – true detectives realize the subject matter is real.