So when I saw the episode "This Place is Death," I was stunned by the scene between Robert and Rousseau. When the French team first landed, Robert and Rousseau were very affectionate and very much in love. But then Roebrt went down the vent after Montand, and everything changed. When they have their standoff on the beach and Rousseau lowers her rifle, Robert's expression immediately turns very hard as he raises his weapon to kill his lover and the mother of his child. Something had to happen to him down in the Temple to arouse such a radical change in his behavior.
It got me thinking: there's some secret on the Island Robert became privy to down there. The look in his eye reminded me of all the times an Other has done something extreme, like when Ethan came after Claire's baby. So just what knowledge do the Others have that motivates them to do all this stuff? Who are the Others and what do they want?
I know the immediate answer is "They are protecting the Island." But at this point in the show, this answer has become less satisfying. There's got to me more to what's going on than just that and why the people who "know" the Island's secrets are so driven or militant. In other words, just what is motivating the Others?
Facts we've seen that characterize who the Others are
- The Island appears to have on it ancient man made structures, or at least very old ones (the Ruins, the Temple, the Four-Toed Statue, etc.). There's obviously some civilization of peoples that have lived on this Island for a very long time.
- The Island clearly has a number of "secrets" not everyone is privy to (the nature/identity of Jacob, the nature of the Monster, the scientific properties of the Island, how to get off the Island, etc.).
- There are people on the Island with some sort of "purpose," according to Richard Alpert, who relates this to Locke when Locke is questioning Ben's challenge to kill his father. Richard also tells Locke Ben has been fixated on fixing the problem of successful pregnancies and births, but that there remain more important reasons for some people being on the Island. What is that purpose?
- There are people on the Island who know some or all of its secrets (Ben, Richard, Jacob, Christian Shepard). But their very nature is mysterious: Richard is ageless, Jacob is invisible/maybe doesn't exist, Christian Shepard is dead, or a ghost, or at least can't be touched (he can't help Locke turn the wheel). Ben seems very material and normal, but he's not a native to the Island and hasn't died (that we know).
- The group of people Locke encounters in 1954 is lead by the ageless Richard, who according to Juliet is "really old." Richard appears to know just about everything, whereas his people don't always. When Locke tells Richard he was sent by Jacob, Richard immediately reacts. Young Charles Widmore who is holding Locke at gunpoint doesn't react to the name Jacob in the way Richard does. Is information about the Island shared equally among the Others? It doesn't appear so.
- There is a militance or fundamentalist streak about the people we call "Others." They are willing to kill, kidnap, lie, steal, use violence, and seemingly any means necessary to achieve their ends. (Consider some examples: When the Losties crash, they are tormented, killed, and kidnapped by the Others; they "purged" DHARMA and took over their facilities; young Charles Widmore kills his fellow Other when he's about to reveal the location of their camp; Ethan hangs Charlie by a tree to get Claire into a DHARMA station to check on her pregnancy; when DHARMA is active, they are in continual conflict with the Island's "original inhabitants.")
The rift among the Others
There is clearly some rift among the "Others." Charles Widmore was an Other but is now locked in some conflict with Ben Linus, the leader of the Others. Notice the two won't kill each other, even though from Ben's perspective Widmore "changed the rules" in killing his daughter. Ben's response isn't to kill Widmore, it's to kill Penny. We now know Widmore and Ben are both Others. Is there some code preventing them from simply killing one another?
Richard Alpert's role in all of this has yet to be explained. He doesn't answer to Ben, exactly. When Richard helps save Ben from Keamy and Widmore's mercenaries, Ben thanks him as if it would be entirely possible for Richard not to save Ben. Richard appeared to be leading the Others in 1954. What occurred that he is no longer in charge?
So we know there are people on this Island with mysterious powers, knowledge, and attributes. But most mysterious of all is what motivates them to their often extreme behavior. Any ideas?
My best explanation
The Island's properties of space-time bending, odd electromagnetism, its capability for healing, etc., have been viewed by those aware of it from two opposite perspectives: science and faith.
The Island's ancient history
The Island has an ancient history. For thousands of years, people have been coming there by one means or another. But they learn very quickly something about the Island is different: even coming and going is difficult. Long ago, an ancient Civilization set themselves apart by building a community on the Island, perhaps simply because they were unable to escape it. Having no knowledge of modern science in ancient times, they viewed the Island's properties from an ancient perspective: that everything going on was the work of some gods or God.
They built the Temple to worship and sacrifice to this God, and they did so on a special site of the Island where they noticed some especially odd properties. They created a security system for their temple, able to do so because of anomalous vents of electromagnetic radiation that transmute the properties of matter into a seemingly sentient black smoke. They built a statue of their God, who they believed had only four toes. They even managed to find the locus of the Island's mysterious properties in the underground caves of the Island, and built a wheel that was able to change and partially control the electromagnetism emanating from the underground source.
Ages came and went and so did the civilization. As time passed (or in the case of the Island, as time moved), new people found themselves stranded on the Island, and made similar choices to its previous occupants: try to escape or survive while there. Obviously, escape was very difficult, as the Island bent time and space around it. So most either died on the Island or lived. Some even managed to find everlasting life through the Island's unique space and time properties.
Jacob and Richard Alpert
Richard Alpert was one such person who ceased to age because of some interaction with the Island's properties. How he got to the Island, I have no idea. But because he happened into everlasting life but yet to be revealed means, he was a point of continuity over time for the people coming to the Island. Richard believes the Island to be a special place and believes its properties to be related to some spiritual being/God. Richard has some relationship with Jacob, who he believes is a prophet from God. Richard has been central to establishing long-term continuity of purpose and beliefs of the people we call the Others.
Jacob may or may not be real. His existence may be purely metaphysical. The important thing is, Richard and the Others believe in him. If he is real, he may have been an inhabitant from long, long ago who found eternal life through the Island's properties like Richard did. He may have been the developer of the Others' belief system, and saw himself as a prophet chosen by God to keep the faith.
The Others come to learn more and more about the Island over time through belief in Jacob and the empirical research their faith drives them to. They know the Island's properties of space-time bending, healing, and eternal life. But the Others don't believe the Island is for everyone, only a select few or "chosen" people. They are primarily concerned with keeping the Island safe from those who have not been chosen.
Charles Widmore, Eloise Hawking, and The Rift
We've seen the society of Others lead by Richard in the 1950's. We also know that not everything was peachy among them all. At some point a rift developed among competing camps of Others. Charles Widmore gave up his faith in Jacob and began to see the Island's potential for greater good in the world. He knew its properties could heal people, cease their aging, and even change space and time. Widmore wanted to use the Island for the benefit of mankind.
But Richard was explicitly against this as Jacob's message told him the Island was not for everyone. Widmore, having never seen Jacob, finally gave up his faith and instead, wanting to do good, saw the Island's secrets as explainable through science. He was banished from the Island and has spent his life since trying to get back to use it. And in doing so, he of course wants to make some money selling the healing and agelessness to the world.
Eloise Hawking was caught up in this rift as well. What her role in everything will be I can't ever guess at this point.
But science is very good at figuring things out. Alvar Honso and the DHARMA Initiative learned about the Island. They were a group of sixties radicals who wanted to create a Utopian society. They were highly educated and believed such a society could be created if the right scientific variables about human nature could be determined and thus manipulated. In his research, Honso learned about the Island, the Black Rock, and other interactions with it. He found the Island and determined it's properties could hold the key to Utopian civilization. DHARMA established a presence on the Island and began research into its mysteries.
Importantly, they built the Swan and the Orchid, stations for research into electromagnetism and space-time travel. They made a mistake in their experiments, and altered the key elements of the Island's properties.
As we know, Ben came to the Island as a boy whose mother died in childbirth. He was traumatized by his father's alcoholism and neglectful parenting, and began to see visions of his mother on the Island. He met Richard Alpert, who saw Ben as special because of his ability to see the dead. Over many years, Richard trained Ben and revealed to him the secrets of Jacob and the Island. Ben came to lead the Others per Jacob's selection as revealed to Richard.
Pregnancies on the Island
At some point, people on the Island stopped giving birth successfully due to DHARMA's experimentation, which altered some of the Island's properties. It's likely this ties to The Valenzetti Equation, a string of variables predicting the end of the world. But the variables had already been figured out by the ancient civilization long ago, hence the hieroglyphics. The electromagnetism and healing properties may have interacted to cause infertility or unsuccessful pregnancies. Ben was directed by Jacob to fix DHARMA's meddling. Ben was a good servant of Jacob, and the idea of a mother dying in childbirth weighed heavy on him due to his own life experiences. So he got very attached to this problem.
Oceanic Flight 815
Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on the Island. And we know what's happened since then. The ongoing crisis is one of how the battle between Widmore and Ben will play out, and the survivors of Flight 815 are simply pawns in a much larger game for the fate of the Island.