Telios de Lorca Unmasked

“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

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.”

Man is the Cruelest Animal

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.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

So what then of De 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

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.”

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  • I sniffed around and found a whole slew of obscure Franciscan monks in the 12th century. Try “obscure Franciscan authors” or Mystic Franciscan monks”. No Telios Delorca showed up, however. I DID find a Telios church in Odessa, TX. Curious to see if any connection to that shows up on the series. Reignited a whole new interest in Lovecraft in me from this series. I love it. Rereading some of y old books. Also ordering some of Chambers books. How about Rust telling the Marshland Medea to kill herself? Didn’t see that coming……

  • Cyndi-
    By way of confirmation on your research and instincts on this matter….

    Take note of the book the young teen girl is reading in the adolescent psych ward, just as Rust rounds the corner for his interview with the young girl he saved years earlier…

    The book she was reading?
    The Pioneers: The Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale

    James Fenimore Cooper 1823

    What is the theme of this book? Nature….and the need to respect it. Not a tree huggers tome, exactly…leaves the pop culture and politics out of it.
    It’s much more practical…and…spiritual respect for nature. The way it should be. No agenda.

    Not exactly what you’d expect a teen to be reading. Not exactly Harry Potter or Twilight…but hey, I was reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values” along with Stephen King at her age, so I won’t sell her short.

    I think you nailed it! Cooper and his character Natty Bumpo would have got along famously with St. Francis.
    Again, great work and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this.

    But should we give up so easy? I’m going to search on Jesuit Mystics of the same period. That particular order is steeped in conspiracy and mystery.
    One last thought and confirmation regarding the pilot info…or maybe a reach…who knows?

    Anagram for “Dora Lange”?

    Angel Road.

  • One more and I’ll shut up…promise.
    Nick Cave could have just as easily sang “Red Right Hand” and said…”that was duende, with a extra pinch of noir, served cold. Goodnight, and tip your bartenders.”

    Leonard Cohen’s “The Future” could be Rust’s theme song. But Woody got that song for another movie…so it had to stay where it was.

    But of all these….Polly Jean Harvey and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke duet “This mess we’re in” is the best and most haunted example of duende.
    I get goosebumps every time.

  • IndyPat —

    Nice catch on James Fenimore Cooper! You are an observational ninja!! I missed that completely.

    And the Angel Road anagram for Dora Lange is pure genius!

    I keep comparing the concept of Man exalting in Nature versus the Nature of Man unleashed. The TRUE DETECTIVE key art with Man is the Cruelest Animal seems to believe more in the darkness than any divine light.

    And what about Beth assuring Marty that God knows our flaws and loves us with them? What of that?

    Two questions:

    1. Do you think Rust knew what Maggie was there for and sacrificed himself or was he really angry?

    2. Do you think Rev. Tuttle is the Yellow King?

  • Cyndi-
    There is an anagram app a friend pointed me toward . I got to thinking about Rustin’s full name and the odd spelling of his last name. I mean, his name sounds sorta cowboy/south Tex and all…but why the “h”? Didn’t seem right. Seemed like a good set up for an anagram. My friend totally agreed and ran it…and he was not disappointed at all. I’ll let you do it yourself, so as not to rob you of the jolt of seeing the many combinations come back.
    We ran with it….Reggie Ledoux had many odd returns, include “Deluge Ogre” which I took as a reference to both Hurricane Andrew + the Monster at the end of every dream.
    Then we ran Dora Lange and that return from the anagram machine hit me like bullet train.
    Is it all just me…projecting my bias and neural firings onto otherwise mathematical arrangements of letters? Marty would say, “hell yes, you may as well be reading Tarot Cards in the French Quarter or casting rune stones on the banks of the muddy Bayou for your answers!”

    Or am I mainlining the truth of the universe, here?

    It reminds me of something in a book I once read. “The Mothman Prophecy”. I grew up in West Virginia. The Mothman was my monster at the end of every dream. There is a “metaphysical” entity or spaceman in that book that called himself “Indrid Cold”. When asked over a telephone what he looked like, he simply responded “It depends on who’s looking” I highly recommend that book. I also liked the movie, though it doesn’t track close to the book, it still conveys some measure of the weirdness and if nothing else, it’s pretty to look at.

    As to your questions:

    #1 I think Rust knew EXACTLY what Maggie was doing there. Do you know why Maggie was there? I do. If you say, to put the final nail in the coffin that was her marriage, I’d say you are correct…but only on the most obvious and superficial level. Was the fact that it smashed Marty & Rusts relationship “un intended” fallout of her nuclear option? I don’t think all. I think that was the prime motive. She was sick of being Marty’s “minder” for the conspirators she is most certainly in cahoots with. No one…any where I go on this topic, seems to question how Marty just “happens” to meet the under age prostitute he made his down payment on way back when. He was carrying what I guess was a T Mobile ad and a shopping (honey-do) list with him as he got out of the car that day. This new, on the wagon Marty…this emasculated Marty…on his Tampon buying excursion. Maggie! Maggie made him the list…Tampons and a new cell phone. Here is the list..I think she knew, through here nameless co-conspirators, where Marty was to go to meet his new “minder”. One he could not possibly resist. It’s all there. The writer of the show said in an interview that the series is not trying to trick you. It’s all there in the first 6 episodes, if you let yourself look. Maggie…is as much as a mole as the police (excluding Marty, the clueless dupe in this tale, that willfully ignores,what is transporting right under his sizable nose) that Rust is surrounded by. He helped Maggie set off her nuke because he realized that his role as overt detective at LA CID had exhausted its usefulness in pursuit of the case. So blow it to hell and see how the other players act in the fall out and go “off grid”. So…Maggie and the teensiest bop prostitute are Tuttle WellSpring Program Alumni, in my read.

    #2 No. I think Tuttle ***was*** the Yellow King. That crown…fits anyone willing and worthy to “become” the King in Yellow. I count three references to fraternities and secret societies in the tale, so far. Elks, the KKK and the Skull and Bones. The KKK is referenced in a picture in Dora’s moms house. Five Klan members, in high ranking uniforms on horseback, with a young Dora standing in front. Rustin looks at this particular picture TWICE. It’s spooky. I am a member of a fraternity, though a much more open and benevolent one to its very core. I know the structure and I know the things that all secret societies have in common. One is succession of leadership.

    Here is a hint. Two men in this tale mow lawns, but only one is the Yellow King. He likes to mow his own lawns, like Marty likes to say, but not just in the figurative sense. I have to fully credit my friend Shawn on this glaring find. It was so subtle…yet so obvious.
    Sorry for such long posts, it just takes me some space to hash out.
    Again, I really enjoy watching your brain at work and have enjoyed participating in this discussion.

  • Rust Coehle says, “Aluminum and ash. Like you can smell the psycho-sphere.”

    Aluminum and ash = rust and cohle (coal).

    psychosphere The sphere or realm of consciousness.
    Found on

    1) The sphere or realm of consciousness
    Found on

    Rust is the master of the sphere or realm of consciousness. He ever talks about the locked room, which is the mind.

  • So you’re saying that for 100 years there was only one Franciscan Mystic? Or only one that you found? There are things that have happened throughout human history that you can’t always find with Google. Why can’t we accept that there are beautiful hidden parts of the past that can only be delivered in a specific medium?

  • Theriot said “The Letters of Telios de Lorca, 12th century Franciscan mystic. Very Obscure.” (I went back and played the section back and transcribed it word for word so I could make sure.) The quickest route was a google search for Telios de Lorca, who did not exist. So, then, my next step was to see what famous or known 12th century Franciscans existed that may be the “real” Telios de Lorca.

    The 12th century is the 1100’s … 1100 through 1199 … so if Theriot were trying to hide or mislead or send a hidden clue, the Franciscan mystic would have lived then. But there was no Franciscan mystic in the 12th century because Saint Francis was born in 1182 and had his conversion somewhere around the turn of the century.

    So, the only 12th century Franciscan mystic (specifically Franciscan) was Saint Francis himself. There was no one else it could be. The God loving, Nature worshipping mystic, who wanted to be in love with God. So, it’s an error, a big red herring, OR, they’re saying it’s God Worshipping or Religious Men who want to experience ecstasy in nature. It truly could be meaningless but the very specific detail coupled with the Perfection (Telios) of de Lorca (dark soul) seemed relevant, clever, and meaningful.

    I accept that there are beautiful hidden parts of the past. This seemed to be a literary hint at a deeper theme. :-)

    Or, I’m bending the narrative and I need more sleep!

  • FYI: a symposium on TD is being planned, including presentations on medieval mysticism and detection:

  • IndyPat … I tried finding “The Pioneers…” by J.F. Cooper, but I don’t think it’s that book. On Amazon, *a* book with the same cover is this one:

    “The Pioneer: African Adventure of Benedict Falda”
    by Gabriele Soldati, Benedict Falda, M. Cunningham (translator)
    Paperback: 240 pages
    Publisher: St Pauls (October 1991)
    ISBN-10: 0854393897
    ISBN-13: 978-0854393893

    There’s no description. Anyone familiar with it?

  • ‘Duende’! What a word. what a concept. Can’t help thinking that it maybe has a hint of ‘dual’ as well? Did you see NP’s response to the question, What kind of mindset should viewers come to episode * with? He said, “Binary Systems, maybe?” May be digging a little too deep here, but think you’re on to something, surely. Great stuff. I’ve told a couple fellow-obsessives of your site. One of them is afraid to read someone as spot-on as you for fear that episode 8 won’t be so entertaining.

  • I’m so anxious to see the final episode!! I am terrified of being so far out in left field that I make a total fool out of myself … but each week it keeps looking more and more like early pagan nature rituals … Like Courir de Mardi Gras …

    I am also most horrified to think Maggie and her family seem to be involved. I am so convinced of that … I’m going to have a dozen eggs on my face if they’re not!! Sometimes I think Maggie is trying to break away (white stars AND liking Audrey’s boyfriend because he keeps her on her meds) but then I start thinking she’s totally in it (separating Marty and Rust AND liking Audrey’s boyfriend because he keeps her on mind altering drugs).

    I am going to be so sad when this ends!

    And thanks so much for the referrals!!

  • Oh, and one more thing, the idea of the DUENDE feels right on the money (even if Pizzolato didn’t mean to reference mystic poet Garcia Lorca) because it’s the dark spirit — that deepest force that takes over and compels one to perform or behave in a certain way. Lorca spoke more about creative endeavors like singing, writing, and flamenco dancing. In particular, he was talking about those ecstatic moments of creation. In the evil, ecstatic “moments of ecstasy” could be misconstrued as sex.

  • Quick one here to wind up one small mystery. The book a girl is shown reading in the psych ward, “The Pioneer: African Adventure of Benedict Falda,” is about one of the first Catholic missionaries sent to Kenya. The short book is excerpts from a 600-page diary he kept over the decades. I read it, and didn’t catch any connection it could have to the story. (If anyone wants my copy, it’s yours for the asking!)

  • I thought Theriot said he only felt close to God in Silence, not that God was silent to Theriot’s approach to God. This also supports St Francis, as one who found God in silent nature, not in the preachy world of humans.

  • Francis of Assisi was still a 21 year old soldier during the Fourth Crusade. He didn’t found his church until 1209, which meant that there were no 12th century Franciscan mystics.

    I think the “12th century” designation was intentional. They’re tipping off the viewer that the book is a MacGuffin.

  • @IndyPat
    The picture at Dora Lange’s mother’s house didn’t show KKK members it showed men in traditional mardis gras costumes. there used to be a tradition similar to trick or treating, where men would dress up in these costumes with the pointy hats and ride through town and knock on residents’ doors and request one ingredient to make gumbo from each house. The resident of the house would throw a live chicken at the man and he would have to go chase the chicken around in his ridiculous costume. It was all in fun.

  • Jan Lefevere (Belgium)

    Episode six of TRUE DETECTIVE was broadcasted in Flanders (Belgium) tonight, (august 8, 2015).
    Of course we also were curious about Telios de Lorca.

    The Letters of Telios de Lorca ( in LATIN ….) can be found on this site:
    Unfortunately, Latin is as (in)comprehensible for me as Chinese is.

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