unified theory of LOST

over the past few months i rewatched LOST from front to back and attempted to put together a unified theory of LOST.  i’ve read many great theories online and i wanted to try to put together some of my favorites, framed by the central themes of the show and my own life philosophy. one of the great things about LOST is it’s so open-ended that almost any theory could be right.

of course, after this season most of these theories will probably be proven wrong.  here is a backstory that explains the island, smokey, the others, the whispers, richard alpert, etc etc.  if you plan to read it, i recommend printing it because it is loooooong, but hey this is a complicated backstory here.

very few of these ideas are original and i am greatly indebted to lostpedia, gautama buddha, camille paglia and all of human history up until this point.

i have at least a day to enjoy this before i am proven partially to completely wrong…


the island is really the eyeland.  (it is known that the producers of LOST spell it this way.)  this is why john locke teaches walt to throw a knife by using “his mind’s eye.”

the island is called the eyeland because it is the realm of all possibilities…  the nexus of the multiverse.  it is the source of all creation, where reality begins, ends and is reborn each day.  as most cultures have recognized, creation and destruction are intertwined to the point of integration.  as such, the island is not only the source of all creation, but also destruction… death.

humanity has understood the existance of the eyeland since the dawn of civilization (and probably before), but their understanding was incomplete.  it is not unlike the parable of the blind men and the elephant… different cultures have only been able to grasp small aspects of the eyeland and therefore each has interpreted it diffferently.  whether we call it the garden of eden, hades, benben, the bardo, altjeringa, the realm of akasha… we are all talking about the same thing.  all of these places are glimpses of the eyeland.

the eyeland is not easily found within our universe because it travels through spacetime and can only be located with any certainty by those at the former-DHARMA initiative’s lamp post station.  this is part of what makes the eyeland difficult to locate. furthermore it is protected by a barrier; a space-time warp that encases it like a bubble.  this renders it invisible and unenterable from the outside and inescapable from the inside.  there is at least one portal through the barrier although it may vary based on the island’s spacetime position (e.g.- the compass bearings).  it is possible, by shear chance, to access the eyeland via this portal (e.g. – henry gale).

at the heights of their civilizations humans have found their way onto the eyeland. there is evidence that the ancient egyptians, greeks and romans have come to the eyeland (egyptian statues, roman columns, the others speak latin, greek phrases woven into jacob’s tapestry, etc.)  the ancient chinese, indian, etc civilizations may have been there as well although the physical evidence is buried in the sands of time.

the unusual electromagnetic properties of the eyeland allow it to interact with other beings’ consciousness.  in fact, it absorbs consciousness; not only the minds of its visitors, but of those who have died and left their bodily vessels.  whether seen as a collection of souls or as the infinite possiblities of the multiplex it amounts to the same thing… a collective mindpool, rarely noticed by most people, except that it ebbs and flows occasionally collecting in one of the many energy pockets throughout the eyeland where it surfaces as whispers.

(if you read the whisper transcripts, you notice that the voices of characters like boone and frank duckett are in with the whispers.  frank duckett was absorbed from the consciousness of sawyer… from his memories.  this is also how hurley’s imaginary friend dave and kate’s horse make appearances on the eyeland.)

over time, this collective mindpool formed into an entity.  this entity became divided against itself and split into diametrically opposed (albeit interdependent) entities.  for now we will simply refer to the dual entities as “the dark” and “the light”.

the dark and the light can take on many forms.  in their natural states they exist as amorphous beings representing all probabilities and all fates… appearing to humans looking something like clouds of smoke.

however, they can also take on human or animal form (e.g.- horses or medusa spiders), manifesting themselves as a duplicate of an actual person or animal.  when they do so, they become a living reproduction of the lifeform they are copying… living, breathing, mortal and possessing the memories and self-knowledge of the lifeform they duplicate.

the light frequently appears to humans in the form of jacob although it has also taken on other forms.  both entities appeared in human forms conversing at the beginning of “the incident pt. 1” (S5).  here they appeared as jacob (the light) and jacob’s unnamed nemesis (the dark or his human form – the man in black, hereafter referred to as “MIB”).

the dark has appeared throughout the show and the losties have been referring to it as “the smoke monster”.  when the dark appears in its natural state (AKA smokey) it dwells on people’s pasts. as such it frequently acts as judge, jury and executioner.  it has absorbed the past experiences of each of its “victims”, although it tends to dwell on the negative.  the sight and sound of it is the swirling quagmire of the past.

the light has appeared primarily as its human avatar, jacob.  what john locke saw in the S1 episode “walkabout” was not the smoke monster (the audience never sees what he is looking at); he saw the other half of the entity (the light) which he described as “a beautiful light”.  this entity can be partially scene in the S5 episode “namaste”.  when christian is showing sun and frank the picture of the losties trapped in the 1970s, you can see the door open behind sun and a whispy white cloud floats into the room behind her.  this is the light smoke monster sneaking in to spy on his nemesis, who has taken on christian’s form.

the dark and the light are opposed because they have different perspectives.  the light is focused on the future and probability.  jacob’s manner of speech is forward-looking and he frequently makes predictions (e.g- “it only ends once” and “they’re coming”).  the dark is focused on the past and destiny.  MIB’s manner of speech is past-focused (e.g.- “it always ends the same” and “you were banished”).

because of their different perspectives the light believes in free will, the dark believes in fate.  their unique perspectives also affect their attitudes; the light tends to be optimistic (seeing future growth), the dark tends to be pessimistic (seeing past decay).  this does not mean one character is “good” and one is “bad”, it is simply a disagreement in perspective.  although somewhat aware of their co-dependence (as the second law of thermodynamics shows, all things decay and furthermore all decay yields growth).  this is why MIB cannot kill jacob, although his natural desire is to find a loophole in order to do so.

the ceaseless “fate vs. free will” debate between the dark and light will never be settled and yet they continuously pit humans against each other in an attempt to settle their bet.  only humans with their unique (albeit limited) perspective can strike a balance between the two.  humans are unwitting pawns in this game between the dark and the light; who may influence their game-pieces, but cannot take direct action against one another.

in order to influence, the light and the dark frequently assume the form of people known to those they manipulate.  christian shepherd, yemi, ben linus’ mother, kate’s horse, walt (when he appears mysteriously), harper, dave etc are all manifestations of either the dark or the light as they try to manipulate the pawns in their game.  dave is a curious example, because he’s hurley’s imaginary friend.  yet when he appears on the eyeland he is the manifestation of the dark who is aware of dave because it has absorbed him from hurley’s consciousness.  hurley is crucial to the outcome of the events in LOST so “dave” (aka MiB) attempts to convince him to commit suicide.  MiB loses this round of the match to jacob, when hurley exercises his free will and decides not to kill himself.

existence is merely energy.  because it is the nexus of the multiverse the eyeland has extraordinary powers.  the others are those who know about these powers and have learned to master some of them.  they are able to partially meld with the mindpool, which is how they are able to quickly learn difficult skills such as hand-to-hand combat, latin, etc.  this is also how they can remain in tight organization even when separated (e.g. – in S4, ben is held captive by the losties for a long period of time, but is still able to coordinate with the others.) and seem to have near-omniscient abilities.  this is also how they are victorious in many battles, despite being outgunned (.e.g- the US military, DHARMA initiative).

for those who know and understand the eyeland it is possible to influence events both on and off the eyeland.  in fact, there is a place on the eyeland from which one can greatly influence the “real” world.  an ancient civilization built a temple on these grounds and this is mainly what “the others” are protecting.  the others have used it to affect the “real” world.  examples include curing juliet’s sister’s cancer, the ability to amass great fortune (ben linus and charles widmore), charlotte malkin’s drowning, etc.  this is one of the things that makes the eyeland so valuable to greedy people who want to exploit its powers.  the dark entity believes the only way to keep it safe is to keep people off the eyeland.  it believes, in fact knows from experience, that people always corrupt.  the light sees the same thing, but sees that the struggle that precedes this corruption generates growth, or as its jacobian form explains “progress”.

since time immemorial civilizations have come to the eyeland to take an unknowing part in this ceaseless battle.  they are drawn to the eyeland by the light (jacob) as evidenced in the finale of S5  (“you brought them here”), but eventually they corrupt and become victims of their own fate.  eventually the cycle begins again.

the latest round of this endless game of “free will vs fate” occurs at the most recent peak of civlization… this time it is the height of the anglosphere (england / america).  the black rock is brought to the eyeland by the light (jacob).  the captain, magnus hanso, died and was buried on the eyeland.  many of the crew died as well, however the survivors formed a new society of “others”.  somehow the journal of the black rock’s first mate made it back to the outside world and was returned to the hanso family.  a few generations later, alvar hanso used the information in the journal to facilitate the DHARMA Initiative’s discovery and exploration of the eyeland.

the first mate also died shortly after the black rock’s arrival, but the entity used the first mate’s bodily vessel to manifest itself in a third form.  it did so in order to ensure fairness in this debate between fate and free will.  this third manifestation is known to us as richard alpert.  with jacob representing free will (future) and MiB representing fate (past), richard alpert is a “referee” of sorts.  more than an advisor, he is an observer condemned to live perpetually in the present until the outcome is determined.  his name is a clever clue by the LOST producers… richard alpert was the original name of ram dass who is best known for his work “be here now”, a book who’s central theme is awareness of the present.

over the years this group lived on the eyeland serving jacob.  originally limited to what they could find on the eyeland, they became parasitic… adopting the clothes, shelter, weapons and technology of first the army and then the DHARMA initiative.  occasionally they would be visited by other discoverers of the eyeland who were either worthy of joining their organization and were absorbed… or they would be killed or somehow removed.

sadly, like all of the previous civilizations the members of this society slowly began to corrupt.  although initially brought to the eyeland to serve jacob, eventually they inevitably became corrupted.   thinking they were receiving lists and orders from jacob, they were really being deceived into serving fate rather than free will.

eloise hawking is an example of an other who is serving MiB.  she wears the ouroboros and is determined to course-correct anything that strays from history’s “proper” path.  what she doesn’t realize is that there is no “proper” path for in this equation the constants can be variables because the factors in the equation are humans and they are blessed with the power of choice.

eventually the DHARMA intiative found the eyeland and settled on it.  they attempted to study the properties of the eyeland.  they used technology that was cutting edge for its time, but by today’s standards are crude and this was in many ways damaging.  because free will is such an integral part of the eyeland’s power, many of their experiments were psychological in nature.  after the purge, the others adopted their experiments in their parasitic manner.  this is another example of their corruption.  ben becomes sick because he has broken his communion with the eyeland.  when jack decides to communicate with the strange visitors on the freighter, he gets appendicitis.  when the others attempt colonizing the eyeland in earnest (rather than merely protecting it) under ben’s watch, they are unable to conceive.

although the others have been corrupted MiB is unaware of the other faction of the others.  once his own disciples became corrupted, jacob began hand-picking a new team off-eyeland.  the losties are jacob’s team and this is why they’re not on the “list”.  the list is not jacob’s… it is MiB’s.  the “personality flaw” that prevents the losties from being on the list is their dogged free will… their refusal to be controlled by the forces of fate.

although the eyeland is the nexus of the multiverse, there is no cross-dimensional story in LOST.  everything that happens in the show happens within a single universe.   this actually explains why everything that happens in the show is so bizarre…. because in this particular universe that’s how it happened.  the time loops and twisted chronology exist for two reasons.  the first is practical… it allows the producers to show us an extremely long timeline while focusing on the same key characters.  the second is a variation of the anthropic principle… the twisted timeline is possible because it is required.  in this particular universe of the multiverse, it is the only way for this story to happen.

the close interrelations and connections of the characters are also a dynamic of this bizarre universe.  more than a coincidence, this reality hinges upon convoluted character relations.  it is only in this time-twisted and incestuously-interrelated reality that the outcome of fate vs. free will can play out as it needs to.  as jacob says ‘it only happens once”.  in every other possible universe similar events may occur, but are hampered by, say, a lack of time-skips.  the characters exercise their free will in ways that create completely bizarre fates… to the point where eventually there will be no way to determine what is choice and what is destiny.

because ultimately, free will and destiny co-exist.  what happened happened, but witnessed in the present it is always an alternate.

Share with fellow Losties

Written by


2 thoughts on “unified theory of LOST

  1. This is absolutely, unquestionably my favorite theory of all time. That’s not just because you didn’t mention alternate time lines either. right on

Leave a Reply