“I knocked over a very old volume. The Letters of Telios de Lorca, a 12th century Franciscan mystic. Very obscure. When I picked up the book, this little folder falls out. Little folder of pictures. Pictures of children. Naked.” — Fallen Evangelist Joel Theriot (whose name means God’s gift) during his interview with Detective Rustin Cohle
Caravaggio’s St. Francis in Ecstasy
Unmasking Telios de Lorca seems to be at the heart of episode six of TRUE DETECTIVE. A quick google search reveals there is no Telios de Lorca. So, unlike the Yellow King, there is no direct historical text that Pizzolatto is referencing when he mentions Telios de Lorca. So, if Telios de Lorca isn’t a “he” then what is it meant to be?
I had to begin with easiest options first. I wondered how many 12th century Franciscan mystics there could be? Couldn’t be many. That would narrow my search to the hidden meaning of Telios de Lorca. Well, as it turns out, there is ONE and ONLY ONE 12th century Franciscan mystic and it is the original Saint Francis of Assisi. (Theriot was specific about it being a Franciscan mystic.) Francis was born in Umbria in 1182; he had his mystical experience and religious conversion as a young man right at the turn of the century. Most researchers and biographers put his conversion around 1204 or 1205. Given that, Telios de Lorca, the Franciscan mystic, must be a metaphor or literary construct because St. Francis was barely a mystic in the making at the close of the 12th century.
So why would they point us at St. Francis, I wondered. The Roman Catholics have a new Pope Francis but I think Pizzolatto’s pilot was written before Francis came onto the scene. So, what of the original Francis? Further digging revealed that St. Francis was potentially important in the TRUE DETECTIVE narrative because his profound mystical experiences came through nature. He was enraptured with the beauty of ALL that God had created. According to The Third Order Franciscans (a very devout religious order to which my paternal Grandmother belonged), “Intimacy with God was the foremost priority for Francis, being in love with the One who loved him first.” Intimacy with God. Theriot said all he wanted was to be closer to god but all he got was silence. Not Francis!
“When referring to his relationship with God, Francis called himself “a spouse of the Holy Spirit.” To cultivate his intimacy with the Divine, he often retreated to remote places to pray and contemplate alone with God. … Often, while praying, St. Francis would be rapt in ecstasy. Whenever he felt the Spirit approaching, he would always welcome Him, enjoying the “inspiration” for as long as God permitted. His ecstasy would come in different forms, often experiencing what was beyond human reason.”
TRUE DETECTIVE Key Art
Man is the Cruelest Animal
As I read of Francis’ need for divine rapture, I was struck by the opening scene with Dora Lange at the tree. Is this the work of a perverted mystic who sees the beauty in God’s creation and seeks ecstasy for as long as God permits? I also recalled reading Pizzolatto’s pilot script
. It evoked this Franciscan mysticism (AND, in the original, Dora Lange had WINGS along with the Antler Crown).
ANGLE ON BODY — (depicted as mercifully as possible) -A white FEMALE, naked, posed kneeling over a LARGE TREE ROOT, her HANDS folded as if in prayer. Head down, a CROWN of ROOTS and THORNS is set on her scalp. A PAIR OF LARGE, DARK WINGS have been attached to her back. The WINGS drape over her ribs, their feather-tips sunken into a small patch of dirty snow– Her face is intact, her eyes gray and dull. It’s not an unattractive face, but white, and something subtle in it- a parting of the lips — almost suggests a rapture. —— from Nic Pizzolatto’s pilot script
It seemed likely that the rapture of the mystical St. Francis may be at the core of the Telios de Lorca of TRUE DETECTIVE. The original 12th century Franciscan points to the ecstasy in the divine union with God in nature.
So what then of the Telios? It’s a Greek word that appears 17 times in the King James Bible. In the original Greek, τέλειος (Telios phonetically), is defined as “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect; that which is perfect consummate human integrity and virtue of me.” As a side note, Maggie tells Rust that she and Marty have been married for 17 years. Probably a coincidence. The case covers 17 years. Another coincidence? My guess is that Telios is here to express the “perfect completion” of this “religious vision, the paraphilic lovemap, the attachment of physical lust to fantasies and practices forbidden by society,” Rust initially theorized.
So what then of De Lorca?
Federico Garcia Lorca
I have an undergrad degree in Spanish Language and Literature and I studied in Mexico. Twice. I have spent a great deal of time and energy on the writing of Federico de Garcia Lorca. (When I was in school, they didn’t use the Spanish naming customs so he was always referred to as simply “de Lorca”.) So when I heard Telios de Lorca, I wondered if this fellow was related to the poet and dramatist I researched in college.
Born 5 June 1898 on a farm near Granada (Andalusia), Garcia Lorca was a gay man long before it was popular or accepted in Spain. He had loved Salvador Dali and, after a falling out with Dali, Garcia Lorca came to believe Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou (Andalusian Dog) was based on Dali’s revelations to Buñuel. Ironically, Garcia Lorca should have understood the dark forces of creativity swirling around Dali and Buñuel.
You see, Garcia Lorca was very much like St. Francis of Assisi. He espoused a deep love and appreciation for the natural world and its importance on nurturing and sustaining the creative spirit. In fact, one of Garcia Lorca’s most important works was the Theory and Play of the Duende. Tener duende or duende translates loosely as “having soul.” Four elements can be delineated in Lorca’s vision of duende: irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical. Could anything be more definitive of TRUE DETECTIVE?
The duende is mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains. It is a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought … the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet. It’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation. For every man, every artist called Nietzsche or Cézanne, every step that he climbs in the tower of his perfection is at the expense of the struggle that he undergoes with his duende, not with an angel, as is often said, nor with his Muse. Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand. All that has dark has duende. And there’s no deeper truth than that. — Federico Garcia Lorca
So, is Telios de Lorca, 12th century Franciscan mystic, hinting that TRUE DETECTIVE is perfect expression of the duende that seeks ecstasy and rapture by flawed men with the perfect creations of God? Is it Nietzsche’s Death of God that calls the darkness and grips man in the eternal recurrence that Rust describes.
Nick Cave Enraptured
Now, all of this would have been a curious exercise in obsessive research with extensive over-reaching (and may still be) had I not stumbled on one more connection. We all know how powerful, prevalent and meaningful the music is in TRUE DETECTIVE. The L.A. Times recently did a feature on the Musicians of TRUE DETECTIVE
. Among the musical geniuses featured? NICK CAVE. The same Nick Cave of Grinderman, the band that explodes in that six-minute tracking shot at the end of Episode Four with “Honey Bee.”
In 1999, Nick Cave gave a talk in Vienna about the process of writing a love song in which he talked about the brilliance of Garcia Lorca and said, “All love songs must contain duende.” He went on to say:
“Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals specifically in it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog and though he tries to he cannot escape it. Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. It haunts Polly Harvey. My friend and Dirty 3 have it by the bucket load. The band Spiritualised are excited by it. Tindersticks desperately want it, but all in all it would appear that duende is too fragile to survive the brutality of technology and the ever increasing acceleration of the music industry. Perhaps there is just no money in sadness, no dollars in duende. Sadness or duende needs space to breathe. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.”
If I’m Marty, then this is all coincidence and chance. The bending of the narrative to fit the facts. If I’m Rust, it’s the eternal recurrence from which I have no escape.
I close then with the final thought from Garcia Lorca about the location of the duende. “Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and Medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”