Have you ever wondered what Hurley meant when he said, “Australia is the key to the whole game?” Were you intrigued by the number etched on the wing of Kate’s toy airplane? Have you pondered the symbolism of the scene where Richard Alpert places six objects in front of five year-old John Locke? Would you like to know the significance of the blast door map and the question mark in its center? Do you thirst to know the meaning behind one of the most perplexing mysteries of all - the numbers 4,8,15,16,23,42? If so, then continue reading. The answers await you.
In addition to answers, you will also see for yourself how all of these maddening riddles, in addition to having meanings that stand alone, all add up to reveal one over-arching story that will leave you so spellbound that you will want to re-watch the entire series to see it for yourself.
I think it’s important to live life with a knowledge of its mystery, and of your own mystery. -- Joseph Campbell
We live in an age defined by the quest for personal achievement, scientific advancement and modern convenience. Our goals tend to center on climbing an endless mountain of to-do lists in the hopes that one day the invisible task master will reward our diligence with a tangible treasure sizeable enough to allow us the power to purchase peace and fulfillment.
Such a busy lifestyle is impossible to maintain 24/7, and so inevitably we turn to some form of escapism – something to make us feel less like automatons and more like human beings, if only for a moment, before we return to the grind. For many, this escape comes in the form of a good story – a grand adventure on the big screen, a riveting and cathartic television drama, or perhaps a page-turning sci-fi adventure or suspense thriller. There is something intangibly refreshing about immersing ourselves in a story that takes us out of the day-to-day and into the who-knows-where.
What is the source of these rejuvenating powers of story, and how is it that it never seems to stop flowing no matter how many movies and books and television series keep coming? It is a mystery.
Some of the best stories are mysteries – and these are not limited to just whodunits and treasure quests. These include stories where the reader and the characters have no idea what lies ahead. It is the voyage of discovery that attracts and attunes us for its duration.
The television series LOST is mystery at its finest. J. J. Abrams, one of the primary creators of LOST, enjoys a good mystery so much the he lives with one. As a child, he purchased a large wooden box promising amazing magic tricks inside. On one side of the box, a large question mark teases any owner to open the box and discover the magic inside. Despite its temptation, though, to this day J.J. Abrams has never opened his box. It is now commonly known as the mystery box. In a Ted Talk, J. J. Abrams shared his mystery box and some of the reasons that drive him to keep the mystery box closed.
There are times when mystery is more important than knowledge.
Mystery is the catalyst for imagination.
And then, finally, there’s this idea - stretching the sort of paradigm a little bit - but the idea of the mystery box. Meaning, what you think you’re getting then what you’re really getting.
That last statement resonates deeply: “what you think you’re getting, and what you’re really getting.”
What we may think we’re getting in the story of LOST is a plane crash and the character studies and struggles of the passengers who survive. And while this is true, what we’re really getting is much, much deeper. And the clues to what we are getting are hidden in plain sight all throughout the series.
Consider one of many mystery boxes within LOST. Consider Charlie Pace’s middle name. Do you remember it? It’s Hieronymus. At first glance, we might think that what we are getting is just an interesting middle name. Or maybe we think we’re getting a casual reference to Hieronymus Bosch, the famous fifteenth and sixteenth-century painter, who used his brush to illustrate mystical stories laden with mysterious symbols. Bosch is a fascinating possibility and may even be a secondary reference, but what we are really getting is another Hieronymus - one that reveals a great deal about the story of LOST.
Hieronymus Cardanus was a sixteenth-century Italian mathematician and inventor. He invented the combination lock and the gimbal. He also invented something called the Cardan Shaft. Today, we call it the drive shaft. Drive Shaft is the name of Charlie’s band.
So when we get Charlie’s middle name and the name of his band, what we're really getting is a deliberate reference to a man we’ve probably never heard of who has been dead for hundreds of years. Why?
In addition to inventing the drive shaft, Hieronymus Cardanus invented a method of hiding secret messages in plain sight known as a Cardan Grille. The secret message is written first using the grille, scattering the words and letters across a blank page. Then, when the grille is removed, a larger story is written on the same page in such a way that it absorbs and conceals the original message, preventing the unknowing eye from even detecting there is a secret message at all.
So, for example, the message…
Charlie’s middle name
…might become the following using a Cardan Grille…
“Changing the channel relieves me of mind-boggling riddles,” Nancy remarked.
The original message is now in plain sight, but indecipherable without the Cardan Grille (in this case the location of the bold characters). With the Cardan Grille, however, the secret message is easy to detect and decipher.
Through Charlie’s middle name, the writers of LOST are whispering to us their drive shaft - the power source that propels the story of LOST forward from within. They are telling us that there is a secret story embedded in the larger story. And this story within a story is hidden in plain sight. What we need to see it plainly is the Cardan Grille. Fortunately, the writers were generous with us and gave us clues, like Charlie’s middle name. Each clue behind the mystery of this hidden story is a piece of the Cardan Grille. Perhaps the writers of LOST placed all of the pieces of the grille scattered throughout the story. If so, then maybe enough immersion and meditation would yield enough clues to reassemble the Cardan Grille, at least partially, and to catch a clearer glimpse of the meaning behind the mystery.
I know who you are. And I know what you're looking for. Drive Shaft... -- John Locke
This blog is one viewer’s reconstruction of the missing Cardan Grille. It is heavy on definitive answers and light on conjecture. You are about to be led on a journey first through the clues and then to answers that can be supported thoroughly with multiple sources.
You are about to find out exactly what Hurley meant when he said, “Australia is the key to the whole game.” You will understand the precise meaning of Kate’s toy airplane and the number etched on its wing. The meaning of the blast door map will become clear to you. You will watch the scene where Richard Alpert places six objects in front of five year-old John Locke and know without a doubt what each object symbolizes. And, believe it or not, within this blog is the definitive explanation for one of the most perplexing mysteries of LOST: the meaning behind the numbers - 4,8,15,16,23,42. And as if that wasn’t enough, you will also see for yourself how all of these maddening riddles, in addition to having meanings that can stand alone, all add up to reveal one over-arching story that will leave you so spellbound that you will want to re-watch the entire series to see it for yourself.
Learning these secrets is a journey - just like the story written around them. Each chapter ahead will suggest episodes to re-watch and recommend books and articles to peruse before you dive into the answers. So take your time and enjoy the LOST story. Neither the writers of LOST nor the writer of this blog want you to discover the secrets without first exploring the story more deeply and meditating on the clues. If you move too fast, you will miss out on the joy of discovery. This blog is about enhancing, not spoiling, the LOST journey. Re-watch the episodes, digest the suggested readings, and meditate on their significance. You may find your mind’s eye beginning to open to the rich pleasure of discovering the deeper meanings behind the clues and symbols for yourself so that you can see - and feel - the mystery’s meaning come alive.
The Story Within the Story
Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives. -- Joseph Campbell
- Pathways to Bliss - Mythology and Personal Transformation by Joseph Campbell.
- Wikipedia: Joseph Campbell
- Lostpedia: Star Wars
Boone packed it in his luggage but lost it in the crash. Sawyer somehow found it and is seen reading it on the beach in multiple episodes of Season One. It is the book Watership Down.
Here we have a story within a story - Watership Down within LOST. For this book to get screen time there must be meaning behind it.
Most would say simply that the reason Watership Down is included in LOST is that both stories explore similar themes, such as the struggle of a group to form a community and survive. While this is true, there is a deeper reason. It is just as simple, but goes behind the story - behind the author. It points to the author’s well of influence for creating his story.
Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, credits mythologist Joseph Campbell with inspiring much of the story line and structure within his book. In the 1987 television documentary, The Hero’s Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell', author Richard Adams is the first person to speak on-screen of Joseph Campbell’s study of story and its direct influence on his own work. Richard Adams also included a few quotes of Joseph Campbell as epigrams in Watership Down.
The reason Watership Down is in LOST is to pay homage to the inspiration of Joseph Campbell.
If you doubt the strength of this connection between Watership Down and Joseph Campbell, consider a more outright reference in the extras found in LOST: The Complete Sixth and Final Season. There you will find a segment entitled A Hero’s Journey. This segment is broken into several parts, each beginning with a quote from Joseph Campbell and the writers of LOST discussing his influences within the story.
Who is Joseph Campbell? Even if you have never heard his name until now, chances are you know him well through his inspired works. Without knowing it, you have read his stories in books or watched them in movies. You have felt them in the deepest part of yourself as they came alive in you for some unexplained reason. If you watched LOST, then you most certainly know him.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a student of story. He studied the storytelling patterns and techniques of hundreds of cultures all over the world. What he discovered astounded him. He found that the greatest stories of every people all seem to follow a consistent pattern. He dubbed this pattern monomyth (one story).
In his many lectures and publications, Joseph Campbell asserted two basic principles…
- Great stories tend to follow a similar pattern - the monomyth
- When a story is created that intentionally or unknowingly follows the pattern of the monomyth, it does more than entertain the mind. It feeds the soul. It provides a pathway to discover the true meaning of life. It becomes an instrument of discovery and transformation for the participant.
The focal point of this blog is not the pattern of the monomyth itself, but the transformational power of one story that uses the monomyth as its core blueprint. LOST is this story. The writers whisper this to us this within the story itself by placing Watership Down in Sawyer’s hands in Season One as homage to the influence of Joseph Campbell and the monomyth.
Other famous stories, in addition to Watership Down, have transformed us because they also follow the pattern of the monomyth as described by Joseph Campbell. Some of them include…
- Star Wars. George Lucas publicly credits Joseph Campbell with the inspiration for much of the architecture of his epic sci-fi series. Years after the original Star Wars trilogy faded from the movie screen, George Lucas invited Joseph Campbell to Skywalker ranch to watch the movies and see for himself how his influence came to life in a modern mythology. Later, also on Skywalker Ranch, PBS filmed a six-part documentary entitled The Power of Myth as a series of conversations between Bill Moyer and Joseph Campbell. The Smithsonian Institution even created an exhibit illustrating the power of myth and the influence of Joseph Campbell on the story of Star Wars. You may remember that, in LOST, Hurley lived in Dharmaville in July, 1977 – the same time as the original movie Star Wars: A New Hope was just taking flight in theaters. Hurley took it upon himself to begin writing his own version of the yet unseen The Empire Strikes Back “with a few improvements” as a favor to George Lucas. Hurley’s writing is another example of a story within a story that leads us back to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.
- The Matrix. The Wachowski brothers deliberately chose to create their story following the elements of the monomyth.
- The Lion King. A screenwriter named Christopher Vogler was so overtaken by his studies of Joseph Campbell that he condensed the pattern of the monomyth down to a seven-page memo on how to create a great story. That memo led to the creation of The Lion King.
Many other stories were also influenced by the work of Joseph Campbell. LOST is now among them.
J.J. Abrams, one of the creators and producers of LOST, attended Sarah Lawrence College, where Joseph Campbell taught for 38 years. Though Campbell retired 12 or so years before Abrams' arrival, Joseph Campbell's influence on the campus and its curriculums, along with an archive of Campbell's lecture notes most certainly had a ripple effect on Abrams. As a fellow blogger put it, Abrams probably "sat a dimly lit room at Sarah Lawrence College and poured over the notes of a man whom I will forever call The Master of Stories."
Joseph Campbell retired to the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Here he lived out his final days and here he died. LOST was filmed on location almost entirely in Oahu.
In the discussion ahead, you will discover the story within the story – the keys to the transformational power of LOST.
Let the journey begin.
The Journey Begins
The beginning of a mythic world or a mythic tradition is a seizure - something that pulls you out of yourself, beyond yourself, beyond all rational patterns. -- Joseph Campbell
- Ab Aeterno (S6: E9)
- The Moth (S1: E7)
- Pilot (S1: E1/2)
- The Incident (S5: E16/E17)
- Deus Ex Machina'' (S1: E19)
In Season Six’s ninth episode, Ab Aeterno, Richard Alpert arrives on the island as a slave in the depths of despair. In the midst of a violent storm his ship, the Black Rock, crashes through the statue of Tawaret and comes to rest hundreds of yards inland.
Almost 140 years later, Jack Shephard and the other passengers of Oceanic 815 arrive on the island, each facing their own struggles. Their airplane splits apart overhead and crashes into multiple locations across the island.
Both crash landings, though very different on the surface, present us with the same underlying key symbol.First, let’s take the statue of Tawaret. Tawaret is the Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth. In each hand she holds an ankh - a cross with a loop at the top. The ankh is known in Egyptian mythology as the key to life. The ankhs stood watch over the island, in the hands of the full statue of Tawaret, until Richard’s dramatic arrival. It was then that the ankhs, or crosses, were broken.
The ankhs have evolved over time in meaning and appearance. One of the descendants of the ankh is known as the rosy cross, or rose cross. It is a cross with a blooming rose in the center. The rose replaces the loop, but the central symbol of the cross remains. This symbol has a wealth of meaning.
In San Jose, California, there is an Egyptian museum with a statue of Tawaret standing guard outside the front entrance that looks exactly the island statue. It appears to be the same color. She stands in a fountain of water. The goddess holds an ankh in each hand. If you look at either of her feet, you will count four toes.
What’s interesting about this museum is that isn’t just any Egyptian museum - it is the Rosicrucian Egyptian museum. It is owned and operated by the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crusis, or the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose Cross. This modern mystical order reveres as its highest symbol the rose cross.
The statue of Tawaret represents the rose cross, and Richard Alpert crashes right through it when he arrives on the island.Now consider Oceanic Flight 815. Just before the crash, Jack Shephard is seated in row 23, staring out of the window to his left. Through the window you can see sky, clouds, and the wing of the airplane. Jack is seated where the fuselage and the wing intersect, forming a cross. After a talking briefly with the stewardess and watching Charlie Pace run past, Jack talks with the female passenger across the aisle to his right. She seems nervous about the turbulence. Jack tries to comfort her, but in mid-sentence the plane lurches violently and the plane crash begins.
The passenger Jack is speaking with is none other than Rose Nadler. She is seated in seat 23D in the center column of seats. She is seated at the center of the cross formed by the airplane fuselage and its wing.
Oceanic Flight 815 is a rose cross.
If you’re not convinced yet, consider one more crash-landing on the island that also symbolizes the rose cross. In Season One’s Deus Ex Machina, Locke has a vision of a small airplane crashing on the island. He is convinced that this vision is the key to finding a way to open the hatch that he and Boone have discovered. Locke convinces Boone to search for the aircraft with him. The duo stumbles upon a set of rosary beads, which leads them to a body of a priest hanging in a tree. They continue their search and find the Beechcraft, lodged overhead in the tree canopy. Boone climbs up and inside, and in the center of the plane he discovers a number of Virgin Mary statuettes, all stuffed with heroin.
The numerous Virgin Mary statuettes represent the prayer of the Rosary. In the Rosary prayer, participants utter anywhere from 50-72 Hail Mary petitions. Boone confirms these statuettes as a symbol when he throws down a crate full of the them to Locke and says, “Here’s your sign.”
To punctuate the point even more, inside each statue of the Virgin Mary is a bag of heroin. Heroin is made from the opium poppy. If you look at any image of an opium poppy, you will see a pinkish flower with a stark, black cross in the center. In the center of the cross is a rose-like image, forming a perfect rose cross.
The rose cross symbol combines two familiar symbols into one. The rose, which represents life, is what we humans want - and we chase that life from the moment we are born until we draw our dying breath. The cross, though, is a different story. We avoid that at all costs. Who wants to be crucified?
The point of this symbol in the LOST story, however, is to illustrate that we cannot find life (the rose) without accepting and even embracing the unavoidable suffering and evil that comes our way. These things are our cross to bear.
What we find in LOST is the tension in the choice to accept or reject the cross that we are given.
Charlie Pace’s choice is shown in the opium poppy and Virgin Mary statuettes. To reject his cross he must choose to destroy the statuettes that represent the Rosary and reach for the opium poppy, whose blossom has been crushed for the sake of personal pleasure. If Charlie chooses poorly, the rose is destroyed twice over, symbolizing Charlie’s own destruction as well. But if Charlie chooses wisely, the statuette and its prayer of the rosary remain intact, the opium poppy becomes a flower instead of a drug, and Charlie has the hope of seeing his life bloom.
Charlie Pace’s choice to embrace his cross takes time, though. This is no easy choice. No easy path. In Season One’s The Moth, Charlie announces to a priest during confession, “I’ve made my choice. I have to quit the band.” To symbolize his determination, he makes the sign of the cross after exiting the confessional booth. Minutes later, Charlie’s resolve crumbles when Liam tempts him back into the band with a signed contract. Charlie’s life then spirals out of control as he abandons his faith and embraces the drug. Even during the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 itself, Charlie is in the bathroom trying to score another hit of heroin.
After the crash, he faces his biggest struggle - the choice to continue the drug use or to embrace the suffering of withdrawal in order to become whole again. With a bit of help from John Locke, Charlie resolves once more to quit the heroin, and this time he succeeds - though not without immense struggle - not without his cross. Locke highlights both the pain and the reward of Charlie’s suffering in The Moth in the parable of the moth’s struggle to emerge from its cocoon. Locke explains that helping the moth out of the cocoon and taking away its suffering actually destroys the moth’s life by rendering its wings unusable. Without the struggle, the moth fails to become what it is intended to be.
In other words - a human cannot blossom without accepting and embracing the cross. The cross is the beginning of the journey. For John Locke, this is also true. In Deus Ex Machina, Locke believes that the key to getting inside the hatch is inside the Beechcraft. When he and Boone find the wreckage, Locke explains, “What’s important is what’s inside.” But Locke didn’t seem to find anything beyond the statuettes of the Virgin Mary and the heroin. To make matters worse, the plane topples from its perch in the canopy and falls, mortally wounding Boone. Locke, in great confusion, delivers Boon’s broken body to the camp and returns to the hatch in utter despair. He presses his face to the dark entrance to the hatch and cries out to the island to understand.
It was then - at the height of Locke’s brokenness - that the light from the island began to emanate. “Deus ex Machina” - “God, out of the machine.” Locke does find what he needed. He discovers the rose cross. He just doesn’t realize that he was carrying it with him. Locke walks under the weight of the disappointment and suffering of what he expects to find, and what he does find. What he does find is brokenness and loss. This is his cross. In carrying it and falling down and experiencing his lowest moment, a light comes on from below – and from within. This light helps Locke, the rose who carries the cross, to begin to unfold and bloom and see the results of his faith come to fruition.
Jacob, the island’s mysterious leader, also demonstrates the blooming of his life by embracing his cross. And he does this while inside of a symbol of the rose cross itself - the four-toed foot of Tawaret.
In the opening scene of Season Five’s The Incident, Jacob is in the heel of the statue, weaving a tapestry. He emerges from his meditation to find a fish - a fish that he traps and kills. He inserts the knife into the fish twice - once in each breast - in order to filet it. Then he places the fish on the fire and cooks it. After his meal preparations are complete, he consumes the fish. He even offers some to the Man-in-Black.
This is a parable of Jacob’s death. It is Jacob who weaves the tapestry of the story, knowing it would end with his death – that it must end with his death. It is Jacob, and not the Man-in-Black, who lays the trap. It is he who allows himself to be stabbed - twice in the chest - just like the fish. It is he who allows himself to be placed on the fire - just like the fish. Jacob lays down his life for his friends. He embraces the cross and becomes a rose.
Oceanic Flight 815 represents the beginning of the path for the entire group of passengers. It is the rose cross that brings them to the island. None of them wanted the trauma of a plane crash, the isolation from society, the diversion from their intended life - but it is the crash that helps them all to see themselves for who they really are and what they are capable of becoming. The airplane and the crash is what they travel through to help them begin the journey of becoming true humans, unfolding in full blossom as a result of the cross they are given to bear.
The cross is the key to life. It is the compass that provides the direction we all need in order to navigate our path. A compass rose is the symbol of a cross that appears on a map to tell you which way is north, south, east, and west. Its four points help you orient yourself and know which way to go. If LOST is a map, then the rose cross is the symbol on the map that gives us the directions to find just where the journey begins. The compass rose and the rose cross are one and the same.
As if to drive the point home even further, the island itself is symbolized as a rose cross.
Oceanic Flight 815 loses radio contact six hours into its flight. The pilot attempts a u-turn back to Figi. Given the typical flight path from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California, this leaves a general area of the ocean where the flight would have gone down. Within this area of possibility is a very interesting location. It is the intersection of the equator and the International Date Line.
The equator separates space - the northern and southern hemispheres. The International Date Line separates time - one day from the next. This intersection forms a cross, and the island and the crash site rest in the middle.
Famed author Umberto Eco, the likely namesake for the character Eko, wrote a book entitled The Island of the Day Before, involving a man stranded on a ship on one side of the International Date Line with an island on the other. Umberto Eco’s first and most famous novel was The Name of the Rose. Combine the two titles, and you have the imagery of an island serving as a rose on the cross, or intersection, of the equator and the International Date Line.
Virtually every religion in the world has the concept of a sacred space - a location where the earthly plain intersects with the divine, enabling enlightenment and transformation. Such a sacred space that is available to everyone in the world is generally referred to as the Axis Mundi, or center of the world.
The island is an Axis Mundi - a sacred space where time and space cease to have meaning. The island could move through both space and time because it was ultimately unconnected with either. Remember the name of the Dharma station above the frozen donkey wheel that could move the island? It was the Orchid. Most orchids are epiphytes, meaning the orchid does not grow in the earth. It is not connected to the earth and as such can be easily picked up and moved.
The island as the location of the crash is represented by a rose cross. However, as if this were not enough, the time of the crash is an outright, deliberate symbol of the rose cross.
The Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose Cross holds only one annual public ceremony – an event that encourages the public to attend and witness its memorial to followers of the rose cross, past and present. This ceremony occurs every year on the autumnal equinox, also referred to as the September equinox.
Oceanic Flight 815 crashes on September 22, 2004 – the September equinox. Those of us who watched the original airing of the first episode, Pilot, witnessed the crash on the same day – September 22, 2004. We, the public, attended and witnessed a dramatic presentation of the 2004 celebration of followers of the rose cross.
The statue of Tawaret, Oceanic Flight 815, the Beechcraft, the location of the island, the date of the crash – all of these symbols drive home the point that the rose cross is the symbol that we must go through in order to begin the journey. It is the doorway through which the hero must travel in order to begin the quest.
The rose cross presents an unexpected key to happiness and purpose on earth – suffering and sacrifice. Before entering the path, the cross is unwanted. It seems difficult to bear. It represents pain and suffering - something we think we have to avoid in order to find real life. But in the end, those that choose to deny themselves and pick up their cross and make sacrifices for others – they find the true meaning of life – or as Joseph Campbell calls it, bliss. They die to themselves on the cross, but in so doing find true life, unfolding as a rose, full of vitality, and become something beautiful to all who see them.
To avoid the cross is to miss the doorway to the ultimate journey and where it leads – to the meaning of life. A life that has not yet embraced the path is a moth whose wings are undeveloped. It has not yet chosen to embrace the struggle of emerging from the cocoon of safety and sensuality and self. Such a life reduces itself from hero to mere survivor, looking only within its dark cocoon – its immediate surroundings – to find physical objects that please and develop the ego.
Joseph Campbell said it best in his book, Pathways to Bliss…
Survival, security, personal relationship, prestige, self-development – in my experience, those are exactly the values that a mythically inspired person doesn’t live for. They have to do with the primary biological mode as understood by human consciousness. Mythology begins where madness starts. A person who is truly gripped by a calling, by a dedication, by a belief, by a zeal, will sacrifice his security, will sacrifice even his life, will sacrifice personal relationships, will sacrifice prestige, and will think nothing of personal development; he will give himself entirely to his myth. Christ gives you the clue when he says, “He that loseth his life for my sake will find it.”
Richard Alpert said it best in Season Six’s Ab Aeterno. After riding miles in a storm to find a doctor and retrieve medicine to save Isabella’s life, he surrenders all of his money in the hope it will be enough. It is not, and the doctor attempts to turn him away without the medicine for such a paltry offering. In desperation, Richard reaches into his pocket and retrieves the cross that Isabella wore around her neck. Richard hands it to the doctor and says, “Now you have everything.”
The cross is everything. The rose on the cross is you.
The Oceanic Feeling
When the call isn’t answered, you experience a kind of drying up and a sense of life LOST. -- Joseph Campbell
- White Rabbit (S1: E5)
- The Moth (S1: E7)
- Whatever the Case May Be (S1: E12)
- The Greater Good (S1: E21)
- Through the Looking Glass (S3: E22)
- The Beginning of the End (S4: E1)
- What They Died For (S6: E16)
The epigram above from Joseph Campbell is the likely source for the title of this epic TV series, LOST. It describes the state of the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 when they crash land on the island and how they struggle to be found – not in the physical sense, as they first think, but in the deepest personal sense.
A hero cannot reject the cross without also rejecting the rose. He cannot bloom to be the hero without first bearing the cross. Yet, in the pattern of the monomyth, every hero struggles with his calling and initially rejects the call to suffer for the sake of a grander purpose. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker tells Obi Wan that he cannot possibly leave Tatooine and fight the Empire because he has a family and chores. In The Matrix, Neo refuses the first call of Morpheus when he does not climb onto the scaffolding outside the skyscraper because it is too risky. In The Lion King, Simba runs away from home in sorrow, abdicating his right and responsibility to sit on the throne in place of his father.
Jack’s refusal of his call is the subject of Season One’s White Rabbit. In this episode, in a childhood flashback, Jack attempts to fulfill the early callings of being a hero by defending a friend. When he tries, a bully stops him and says, “You should have stayed down, Jack.”
That same day, Jack sits dejected before his father, hearing the words that would haunt him for most of his life, “You don’t want to be a hero…. you just don’t have what it takes.”
On the island, Jack’s refusal to accept his calling to be leader of the passengers of Oceanic 815 is demonstrated in several key events. Notice how each event is permeated by the same symbol.
In the first event, Jack hears the call through Charlie, who points him to a woman drowning offshore. Jack enters the water, but fails to reach the woman. He finds Boone instead. Jack can’t decide what to do and saves only Boone. The woman drowns. Jack later tells Kate, “I decided not to go after her.”
While speaking with Kate, Jack sees the image of his dead father standing in the water on the beach.
Jack’s next challenge is brought to him by Hurley and Charlie. They prove to Jack that the fresh water supply has dwindled to a handful of bottles. They ask him what they should do. Jack provides no direction and no leadership. Instead, he walks away shouting, “I’m not deciding anything!”
In a flashback, Jack is challenged by his mother to go find his missing father and bring him home. An argument ensues. To rescue his father, Jack must cross the sea to reach Australia and search for him.
Back at camp, Jack’s refusal to deal with the dwindling water supply has left Boone a water thief, Claire dehydrated, Sawyer developing a black market for water, and the danger of a riot in the camp.
While the passengers await a leader, Jack chases the image of his dead father through the forest. He loses his footing and stumbles down an embankment and over the edge of a cliff. He manages to grab hold of a limb protruding from the side of the cliff. Jack dangles hundreds of feet above a dry river bed. If he let’s go, he will plummet to his death on the rocks below.
Jack’s predicament above the dry river bed is a metaphor that describes how Jack will feel if he refuses the call on his life to be a leader - to be a hero - on this island. Even if he lives, physically speaking, he will, as Joseph Campbell said, “experience a kind of drying up and a sense of life LOST.”
If refusing the call leaves us dried up, what is the metaphor for how we feel if we embrace the call?
As Jack hangs from the vine, symbolizing his indecision to become the hero, John Locke’s hand appears from the ledge above and offers it to Jack so that he can be saved. Only when the man of science chooses to grab hold of the man of faith is he saved from his fate on the rocks of the dry river bed.
Later, as John squeezes a few drops of water from a plant leaf, he and Jack talk…
JACK: How are the others?
LOCKE: Thirsty. Hungry. Waiting to be rescued. And they need someone to tell them what to do.
JACK: Me? I can’t.
LOCKE: Why can’t you?
JACK: Because I’m not a leader.
At the end of this scene, Locke convinces Jack to keep chasing the ghost of his dead father because, “a leader can’t lead until he knows where he is going.”
Jack does follow the ghost of his dead father. He doesn’t find his father - or even his body in the empty coffin - but Jack does find a limitless supply of fresh water along with the shelter of the caves.
Jack returns to the camp and sees the other survivors living in fear and chaos. It is then that Jack decides to stop avoiding the call. To stop staying down. To stop listening to the ghost of his dead father telling him that he doesn’t have what it takes. He stands up among the people, announces that he has discovered water, and in that moment becomes their leader. He has accepted the call. At least, in its early stages as he understands it.
The symbolism surrounding each scene that highlights Jack’s refusal of the call is water. To refuse the call is to lay lifeless in a dry river bed. To wither. To be lost. To embrace the call is to discover fresh water. To dive in. To embrace the unknown. To experience a life where you are not in control. To discover that oceanic feeling. Jack Shephard is destined to experience the oceanic, but only after embracing his call.
It takes all six seasons before Jack takes on the ultimate call - to be the new Jacob. When he does accept this call, (Season Six’s What They Died For) Jacob gives Jack a cup of water from the creek and asks him to drink it. Only after Jack consumes the water does Jacob announce, “Now you are like me.”
The phrase oceanic feeling was coined in 1927 by Romain Rolland in a letter to Sigmund Freud as he attempted to explain the feeling of transcendence that overtakes humans when they sense a connection to the divine and the eternal. The phrase has gone on to be used by many to describe the ideal state of the human mind - a state that occurs on the journey of life after a hero has chosen to embrace his call, even when he knows there are many more unknowns and obstacles ahead.
The word Oceanic is placed side by side with the numbers 815 on the airplane that delivers Jack Shephard and the others to the island. There is a reason for this. The numbers 815 symbolize water. H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. O is the 15th. H (hydrogen) and O (oxygen) are the two elements that combine to form water. 815 symbolizes that oceanic feeling - that next stage on the journey of a life well lived.
If the rose cross is the call of the hero to deny himself and pick up his cross and follow his calling, then the oceanic feeling is the baptism that follows. It is the rush of peace and transcendence that occurs after the hero surrenders his own will to the will of the divine to live for a transcendent purpose.
Water as the next stage of the journey is also depicted vividly in the character arc of Charlie Pace. In Season One’s Whatever the Case May Be, Charlie is distraught over the loss of Claire to “other man” Ethan Rom. He feels that her abduction is his fault. He wanders the beach in a daze, overwhelmed with grief. He turns to Rose Nadler for comfort. “Help me,” he pleads. Rose responds, “Baby, I’m not the one that can help you.” And then, Rose embraces Charlie and begins a prayer, “Heavenly Father, we thank you. We thank you for bringing us together tonight, and we ask that you show Charlie the path.”
“Show Charlie the path” are the last words we hear from Rose's prayer as we fade into the next scene - the scene where the prayer is answered – at least for the viewer. We are shown Charlie’s path.
Shannon comes to Sayid in the firelight to explain that she has finally deciphered the meaning behind the French notations on Rousseau’s maps. She relates that she used to babysit the child of a man she knew in Saint Tropez, France. Saint Tropez is where, in 1944, the Allied invasion of Southern France began on August 15, or 8/15. Shannon then relates that Rousseau’s notes are the lyrics to a song called La Mer (“The Sea”). Shannon then sings the lyrics. Here is the English translation of what she sang…
The sea has rocked them along the clear gulfs
And with a song of love, the sea has soothed my heart for life
The song on the map give us the clue to Charlie's path and to Australia as the key.
I have read about aboriginal tribes in Australia who use songs and stories in case they get lost. These songs contain information like a map. So if you know the words to a particular song, you can, for instance, find water in an unfamiliar area because you know the song for that area. Besides saving lives, stories can also tell us how we should live. -- Brian McDonald (Invisible Ink)
Charlie’s path is here foreshadowed to be one of baptism in water. To experience that oceanic feeling. To experience the sea in some way that makes his life beautiful. And we can see clearly throughout the series how water plays a central role in Charlie’s life.
In Season One’s The Moth, Charlie confesses to a priest that his life has been spiraling out of control because of the temptations that come along with being in his band. Charlie realizes that he has to make a change in his life, so he announces to the priest that he will quit the band. Resolved, he emerges from the confessional and dips his hand in holy water and makes the sign of the cross. This marks the beginning of Charlie’s journey toward that oceanic feeling.
Later, in Season One’s The Greater Good, Charlie carries Aaron along the beach and sings the childhood song, Itsy Bitsy Spider. He sings the lyrics incorrectly, however. He sings, “down came the rain and drowned the spider out.” Hurley is quick to correct him, “Dude, it’s washed. Washed the spider out. Unless it’s come kind of British version?” Charlie’s death by drowning is foretold here, but we are also told that this drowning is not a death. It is a washing. It is a new life, illustrated by the baby Charlie carries. It is the ultimate experience of that oceanic feeling – to give his life out of love for someone else.
In Season Three’s Greatest Hits, the episode just prior to Charlie’s drowning, we learn the five greatest moments in Charlie’s life - in a countdown from five to one. Each flashback that recounts Charlie’s greatest hits is bathed in the symbolism of water.
The first time I heard myself on the radio (#5)
The flashback shows Charlie, frustrated and standing in the rain, attempting to change a flat tire. He’s ready to give up the band, convinced they are all wasting their time. His calling to inspire people through the gift of song seems lost. But then, as he stands in the pouring rain, he hears himself singing on the radio. He feels validated. Worthy. That oceanic feeling.
Dad teaching me to swim at Butlins (#4)
Charlie doesn’t want to enter the water. He is afraid. He doesn’t know what will happen. He hesitates but finally chooses to trust his father. He makes a leap of faith, diving into the water. Though his father doesn’t catch him as promised, his ultimate goal is realized - Charlie doesn’t die. He comes back up out of the water, shouting “I did it!” His father is proud of him. And he’s alive.
The Christmas Liam gave me the ring (#3)
At first glance, the pattern appears to be broken. There is no water in this scene - unless you look deeper. The symbol is hidden within the first three words. Liam enters a hotel room to find Charlie in bed with two groupies. He shouts, “HO HO HO. It’s here, baby brother. Christmas is here.”
H is the eight letter of the alphabet. O is the fifteenth. HO = 815. The oceanic is inescapable. Charlie’s thrill at receiving the ring is forever associated with Christmas and the sound of his brother uttering, “HO HO HO.”
Woman Outside Covent Garden calls me a hero (#2)
Charlie is singing a song by the band Oasis, called Wonderwall, when it begins to rain. Charlie puts his guitar in its case and walks away, stumbling onto a robbery in progress. Charlie comes to the aid of the victim, who turns out to be Nadia. She calls him a hero.
If Charlie hadn’t been interrupted by the rain, he may have never been a hero. The rain initially seemed to stop the music and bring on sadness, but in reality the water was the vehicle that led him to his opportunity to become and feel like a hero.
The night I met you (#1)
Charlie meets Claire surrounded by the wreckage and luggage of Oceanic Flight 815. He meets her next to the ocean. Charlie comforts her, offering her peace and laughter in a chaotic situation.
Charlie recalls this last flashback and writes it down while sitting in a small boat, floating above the Looking Glass Dharma station. He then hands his completed list – his greatest hits - to Desmond and asks him to give it to Claire. When Desmond tries to take Charlie’s place and swim down to the Looking Glass, Charlie makes a decision. Knowing his destiny, he politely raps Desmond over the head. He then has a good cry, puts on the weight belt, and dives deep into the water for the Looking Glass.
Charlie’s character arc climaxes in Through the Looking Glass, when he chooses to save Desmond from the rushing water and closes the door to the communications room. He spends his final moments ensuring that Desmond understands the boat offshore is not here to rescue them. It is “not Penny’s boat.” Charlie is thinking only of Desmond, Claire, Aaron, and the others. His last act is to make the sign of the cross.
After his death, in Season Four’s The Beginning of the End, Hurley sees Charlie off the island in a convenience store, standing by the HO-HOs - another reference to 815 and the oceanic. Even after Charlie’s death, the symbol of water surrounds him.
The oceanic awaits us all. It calls to us from beyond the rose cross. It offers peace and freedom from the angst and worry and frustration of fighting against the call. Contrast the oceanic feeling ultimately experienced by the heroes of the LOST story with that of the Man-in-Black.
His primary nature was not clear water, but black smoke. His goal, to cross the sea and explore the rest of the world, was all he wanted - no matter the cost. He spent a thousand years or more attempting to get off the island. He spent hundreds of years plotting Jacob’s demise by creating a loophole. When he finally accomplished it, he thought he had won. He then descended Jacob’s ladder to the cave with Sawyer, where he took the white rock from the scales and threw it into the ocean. Though the Man-in-Black viewed this as a satisfying metaphor of his defeat of Jacob, the act in reality symbolized Jacob’s victory of sacrifice. In giving away his life for the sake of his friends, Jacob experiences the oceanic. The black rock, left on the scale in view of the ocean parallels the fate of the Man-in-Black. He makes it only as far as the edge of the island, just out of reach of the ocean. His body, not even his own, forever lies dry and lifeless on the rocks.
The story of LOST places the scales before us. The choice is ours. On the one side is the black rock, a dark life of self-centered pursuits - destined for frustration, bitterness, angst, and the never-ending battle of attempting to manipulate circumstances in our favor. On the other is the white rock, a life that reflects the light and gives, yielding to the pressures of life with grace and peace, making sacrifices for others.
It is only once we are immersed in the water, out of control and on the high seas, that we are able to begin the journey to the next stage of life.
Australia is the Key
The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. -- Joseph Campbell
- Whatever the Case May Be (S1: E12)
- Hearts and Minds (S1: E13)
- Lockdown (S2: E17)
- S.O.S. (S2: E19)
- The Shape of Things to Come (S4: E9)
- Because You Left (S5: E1)
- Lighthouse (S6: E5)
From Season One’s Hearts and Minds…
LOCKE: What are you doing out here, Sayid?
SAYID: Orienteering. I’m trying to make something of Rousseau’s maps…
Orienteering is a term first used in 1886. It is the act of crossing over or through an unknown land using only two tools: a compass and a map. Sayid isn’t having much luck because his compass says that North is one way and the sun says it is another. Sayid conjectures that either the compass is bad or that there is a nearby source of immense magnetic interference.
In one episode prior, Whatever the Case May Be, Sayid spends the entire episode studying Rousseau’s maps and trying to make sense of the mathematical equations and the French notations. Even with Shannon’s assistance at translating the French, Sayid is left without a full understanding of the maps.
Meanwhile, Sawyer spends most of the episode doing his best to make sense of the silver Halliburton case that he and Kate found and why it is so important to her. His desire to understand drives him to spend all of his time trying to crack open the case - and to crack Kate’s resolve to keep her secret. He is unsuccessful on both counts. Sawyer’s and Sayid’s struggles are intentionally parallel. They are the same struggle illustrated with different metaphors.
The key to understanding both metaphors and their common focal point is delivered with two actual keys. The first key is in Kate’s back story and how she originally obtains the object of her desire that now resides locked away in the Halliburton case.
Kate and a group of accomplices stage a bank robbery. Only Kate knows that her real goal is not the money in the bank, but the contents of safety deposit box #815. After exposing her real motives and wounding her unwitting accomplices, Kate turns to the bank manager, Mark Hutton, to get the bank’s key to the safety deposit box. With both the bank’s key and the one she carries, she manages to open the safety deposit box, retrieve the personal contents, and escape.
The banker’s name, Mark Hutton, is borrowed from a former U.S. professional baseball player with the same name. He was born in Australia, in the city of Adelaide. While the fictitious Mark Hutton provides Kate one key to the safety deposit box, the real-life Mark Hutton does the same for the viewer. He gives us one key to the mystery of why Australia is the key to the whole game. But we need one more key to open the mystery box.
Back on the island, Kate is desperate to obtain the same object as before, which is now locked away in the silver Halliburton case. Once again she needs a key. Once again she needs the help of someone else to get that key. This time she turns to Jack. Jack now takes the role that Sawyer took previously - he calls on Kate to be honest with him about why she is so desperate to get inside the case.
Kate explains to Jack that the key to the silver case is located in the wallet of Edward Mars, who is now dead and buried. Kate needs to know where Jack buried him so she can get the key.
The two dig up the body. Kate manages to retrieve the wallet, but drops it in disgust when she sees maggots inside. Jack picks up the wallet and searches for the key.
JACK: Key isn’t in here
KATE: It isn’t?
JACK: No, but that was real good sleight-of-hand distracting me with the wallet.
Jack then forces open Kate’s hand to find that she is holding the key. He takes the key from her and walks away.
This is an important exchange. The key is not in the wallet. The wallet is a distraction.
If you re-watch this episode, you will see that money is juxtaposed with the real object of Kate’s affection at least four times. In the first instance, Kate and Sawyer discover the silver case underwater while swimming. Sawyer ignores it and opts to loot the dead man. When the two come up for air, he announces “Hey, I got myself a wallet.” The second time is during the bank robbery in Kate’s flashback. Everyone including the bank robbers think that this heist is about money. It isn’t. It is about the contents of safety deposit box #815.
The third time is when Kate attempts to take the key while distracting Jack with the wallet.
The fourth time is when Jack obtains the case from Sawyer. He and Kate find a secluded spot where they can open it together. Jack inserts the key and opens the case. Jack reaches inside and pulls out a stack of money. He sets it aside, because the money isn’t what has driven Kate to the case. Jack also removes some guns and some ammunition, laying those aside as well. Finally, he retrieves an envelope labeled Personal Effects. Jack reaches into this envelope and hands its contents to Kate. From that inner envelope, Kate removes a toy airplane. Jack asks what the toy represents, and after several prompts, Kate breaks down and says that the toy belonged to the man that she loved - and the man she killed.
The title of the episode, Whatever the Case May Be, teases us. What is the case? What does it represent? Before answering what it is, we can it least say what it isn’t, or what it isn’t about. It isn’t about money. Money is a distraction.
Now let’s move to the end of this episode. It is just after nightfall. Sayid is sitting near a fire, still struggling to understand Rousseau’s maps. Shannon arrives and sits next to him and shares that she has determined the meaning behind Rousseau’s notations on the maps. The notations are really song lyrics about the sea. Sayid leans forward into the firelight, hoping what he hears will help him understand the mystery behind the maps. At the same time, we see Jack struggling to understand what it is that Kate pulled from the silver case and why it means so much to her. He walks by and turns to look at her. She sits near the fire, staring at the airplane, twirling it in her fingers. Several times we see the number 5025 on the right wing of the airplane, illuminated by the firelight.
Edward Mars’ key to the case is the second key in the story, and it leads directly to the second key for us. The number on the wing of the airplane is our key – 5025. This key opens the safety deposit box of our mystery. Along with the name of the banker - Mark Hutton – we now can see exactly what the case is and exactly why Australia is the key to the whole game.
Flinders Park is named after Matthew Flinders, an English explorer, navigator, and cartographer who lived from 1774 to 1814. Matthew Flinders is the reason Australia is named Australia. He suggested the name Australia in a book that he wrote while circumnavigating and creating the very first full map of the new continent. On this same journey, Matthew Flinders discovered his ship’s compass seemed to be too inaccurate at times. He traced this problem to a magnetic deviation that caused the compass needle to pull away from magnetic north and toward the iron in the ship itself. He invented a device called the Flinders Bar to cancel out the effects of the ship’s iron, rendering his compass much more accurate. His invention is still used to this day.
With this in mind, go back to the island, to the end of Whatever the Case May Be. We see Sayid and Jack, in turn, both hoping to understand two different mysteries before them. Or are they different? Sayid wants to understand the maps. Jack wants to understand the toy airplane. We now know that the number 5025 on the airplane leads us to a mapmaker. Both mysteries involve maps.
This is even more intriguing if we consider Sayid and Jack’s numbers, which aren’t revealed until Season Six. Sayid’s number is 16. Jack’s is 23. We see 16 and 23 on the beach at the same time, each catching a glimpse but not the full meaning of the mysteries before them - two mysteries that turn out to be one and the same.
Fast forward to Season Four’s The Shape of Things to Come - a teasing episode title. On the table in a little yellow house in Dharmaville is a map of the world. Locke, Hurley, and Sawyer (numbers 4, 8, and 15, respectively) sit around the table playing a game of RISK. Hurley, frustrated by Locke’s strategy against Sawyer, says. “I can’t believe you’re giving him Australia. Australia is the key to the whole game!”
As Hurley utters these words, Keamy and his men from the freighter arrive at the sonar fence. They are approaching Dharmaville in anticipation of capturing Benjamin Linus. Keamy forces Ben’s adopted daughter, Alex, to turn off the sonar fence so that they may pass through unharmed. She does so, entering an emergency code on the keypad. The code she enters is 1623, which triggers an automated phone call back to Dharmaville, interrupting the game of RISK. Locke hears the phone ring and answers. He hears a female voice repeating “Code 14J. Code 14J.”
Hurley then asks, “Who is it?”
Hurley asks the right question, because the code 14J refers to a person. And 1623, the code Alex enters at the sonar fence, is a date.
In 1623, Dutch explorer Jan Carstenszoon (whose name is spelled with a J followed by fourteen letters) was working for the Dutch East India Company when he sailed in search of the truth behind reports of previous sightings of a great unmapped land in the south. He led a two-ship expedition southward until they spotted land. They made landfall on the northern shores of Australia and made contact with aboriginals. Jan Carstenszoon stood on this beach and surveyed his surroundings, bathed in the mystery of this new and yet unknown continent. His awe of the mystery in the year 1623 hearkens back to Sayid and Jack, 16 and 23, on the shoreline at the end of Whatever the Case May Be in awe of their own mysteries - both of which ultimately point to the same place as the mystery of Australia for Jan Carstenszoon.
Jan Carstenszoon documented his view of the lands he had seen and returned home. His discoveries made their way onto the very first map of the world in history to show any portion of Australia. Published in 1631 and created by Hendrik Hondius, it is considered one of the most important maps in history. Though far from complete, this map revealed to the world that the long-fabled land of Terra Australis Incognita may actually be a reality.
This map is actually included in LOST as an easter egg in Dr. Linus. Ben has just dismissed his class when the principal arrives. Ben looks up and the shot reveals this very map over Linus' right shoulder, hanging on the wall.
The idea that there was a probable but unknown continent in the south originated with Aristotle. He reasoned that the known continents of the globe north of this area made the world somewhat top-heavy, and that a land in the south should exist to balance everything out. Aristotle referred to this land as Terra Australis, or “land of the South.” Nearly 2,000 years later, during the Age of Discovery in Europe and across the world, explorers and cartographers still believed that Aristotle was right about this missing land mass. They referred to it as Terra Australis Incognita, or “unknown land of the South.” The simple phrase Terra Incognita was a phrase that grew out of cartography to refer to any suspected but unmapped region of the globe. It was, simply, a mysterious land – a hidden land.
Today, terra incognita now refers to any area of research that is still in need of exploration and understanding.
The continent of Australia, the most famous Terra Incognita, and its discovery and cartography and revelation to the world serve as a real-life metaphor for one more unknown land. Even the episode title hints at it: The Shape of Things to Come. We’ve caught only the barest glimpse of this last Terra Incognita. It is the primary mystery behind the series LOST. It is what the silver case symbolizes for Kate. It is what Rousseau’s maps symbolize for Sayid. It is what they both symbolize for the viewer. It is what the entire series symbolizes for you. It symbolizes your soul.
You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. -- C.S. Lewis
The silver case represents Kate’s soul. Inside of it are money and guns, which have defined her life for so long. But deeper, way down there in her innermost self, is what really drives her: the memory of love, the pain of regret, and a faint longing for the hope of redemption. The miniature airplane is at the core of the silver case - and it represents the core of her soul. As she sits in the firelight, twirling it in her fingers and meditating on this cross-shaped symbol in her hand, she is slowly discovering the depths of her soul. The number 5025 on the airplane wing is for our meditation. As the postal code of Finders Park, Australia, it symbolizes the discovery and cartography of Australia - Terra Australis Incognita - by Matthew Flinders.
Rousseau’s maps represent Sayid’s soul. Though outwardly he searches for a meaning to the maps in hopes that he can find some way of rescue off the island, inwardly he searches for some sign of his soul and a way that it can be rescued from his torturous past. Rousseau tortures Sayid, the torturer, before Sayid escapes from her with her maps. Sayid’s struggle to understand the maps of his torturer are really the struggle to map the shoreline of his own soul. His journey to do so is represented by the numbers written on the map: 4 8 15 16 23 42.
LOST has taken us on a journey to the soul that mirrors that of the early explorers of Australia. The earliest visitors saw it, but did not understand it. In 1623, enough data was gathered to put a partial glimpse of it on a map of the world for the first time.
The very first scene in LOST is of Jack's eye opening. The eye is the window to the soul. This is our clue that the entire series of LOST is a journey into the soul - an eye-opening experience for us all as we journey inward toward the true meaning of life. It is not until Jack has completed his hero's journey that we see that same eye close, indicating that the journey and the cartography of the soul in the story of LOST is complete.
When Matthew Flinders made shore in the area now known as Flinders Park and Adelaide, he had just mapped enough of the unknown continent to prove conclusively that what was formerly thought of as two separate lands (New South Wales and New Holland) was actually one great land. It was the great land that the world had longed to find for so long. When Matthew Flinders caught sight of this shoreline, the mystery of Terra Australis Incognita was finally solved.
Australia is the key to the whole game. It was Matthew Flinders who solved the mystery of Australia by exploring and mapping it for the first time in history. The mystery of LOST is glimpsed when we realize that the story and its riddles all point the way to teaching us how to explore and map our very souls, accurately, using a good compass (the rose cross) free of the magnetic interference of earthly things; with the courage to undergo a baptism of faith in the divine call to be a hero and enter the deep waters (the oceanic feeling) until we are able to sail close enough to the deepest part of ourselves (our soul) to see and understand who we really are. Only when we complete this journey in its entirety will we discover the true meaning of life.
LOST is your journey to discovering the mystery of yourself - of your soul.
This allusion to Matthew Flinders and his cartography of Australia as a metaphor for the cartography of the human soul is yet another homage to the influence of Joseph Campbell.
In Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero’s Journey, the introduction says this of the author…
As a mythologist with a metaphysical slant on life, a doctor of things-beyond-appearances, he dedicated his life to mapping out the experience of plumbing those depths, which is the journey of the soul itself. The cartography, as he drew it, was the geography of the inner or underworld, showing perilous territory to be traversed not by the faint, but by the stout of heart.
The dust jacket of Joseph Campbell’s book, Pathways to Bliss, has this to say…
Joseph Campbell….said that one of the basic functions of myth is to help each individual through the journey of life, providing a sort of travel guide or map to reach fulfillment - or, as he called it, bliss.
When Joseph Campbell died, he was still in the middle of his most monumental work, A Historical Atlas of World Mythology, which attempts to map the world’s stories into one super-continent whose shoreline brims with common themes that all tell the story of discovering the human soul.
The writers of LOST appear to have taken the words of Joseph Campbell to heart. Using the monomyth as their guide, they created for us a new mythology that presents an engaging story aimed at transforming our souls through engaging characters, meaningful symbolism, and powerful storytelling.
J.J. Abrams considers Aristotle a major source of inspiration, probably because the three-act structure for writing screenplays originates with Aristotle in his Poetics. Given that Aristotle first posed the idea of Terra Australis Incognita and is also one of the earliest writers to attempt a scientific approach to understanding the soul, it is no wonder that Abrams used the former as a metaphor for the latter.
Consider another compelling piece of evidence - Sayid's last name: Jarrah.
Jarrah is an Australian wood or tree, one of the most common varieties of the Eucalyptus in Southwestern Australia. Nearly all of the Jarrah wood in all of Australia is contained in a single forest. At the center of this forest on the coast, at the southwestern-most tip of Australia, is Cape Leeuwin. It is this point of land that Matthew Flinders first spotted land and began his 1801 journey along the southern coast of Australia. It was on this particular journey that Matthew Flinders proved that Australia was an actual continent, solving the age-old mystery of the new and mysterious land located somewhere in the South. Flinders continued on to Sydney, Australia, and then circumnavigated the entire continent, mapping it as he went, and completing his journey again in Sydney. In his writings about these journeys he named the continent Australia.
Jarrah was chosen to pay homage to Matthew Flinders and his exploratory journey of a new and hidden island continent where he solved the mystery of Australia and gave it a name. It goes hand-in-hand with Hurley's clue that "australia is the key to the whole game."
In addition, Jarrah wood is so durable that there are businesses who thrive on recycling it from old, torn-down houses and even fires. Young Jarrah trees can actually survive devastating fires because they possess an underground source of life, giving them the ability to re-grow after they were seemingly destroyed. Sayid's physical resurrection after his death at the temple is illustrated in this property of Jarrah wood. You can also hear echoes of it in Sayid's return from the dark side. Where once his soul seemed lost at Sundown when he aided the MiB in gaining access to the temple, he later restored his soul as he sacrificed his life to save the life of his friends on the submarine.
The restoration of Sayid's soul is foretold in the meaning of his last name, Jarrah.
This cartography of the soul is also hinted at in the usage of the Apollo Bar scattered over various episodes in the series. On the surface it looks like just another candy bar, but its repeated appearances tell us something deeper.
Inscribed over the doorway of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece, were the words “Know Thyself.” In other words, “Understand yourself from the surface of your skin down to core of your soul - the real you. Explore. Understand. Know. Because you can’t discover the meaning of life until you do. You can’t get where you are going until you know where you are.”
John Locke has an Apollo Bar next to him while he tries his own hand at cartography in Season Two’s S.O.S. We see Locke attempting to reconstruct the details of the blast door map. The Apollo Bar hints to us that Locke’s struggle to remember and understand the blast door map is a metaphor for discovering himself and the depths of his own soul. Two episodes earlier, in Lockdown, John Locke’s legs are pinned by the blast door. It is only in this position of helplessness that John is able to see the map. If Locke hadn’t been pinned down, he would have never even known about the map. This is a metaphor for Locke’s struggle with his paralysis. Only while his legs were rendered immobile did he begin to look inward and catch the first glimpse of his true self - of his soul.
In Season Five’s The Incident, Jacob helps Jack get his Apollo Bar out of the vending machine because it is stuck. On handing the candy bar to Jack, he touches Jack’s hand and says, “I guess it needed a little push.”
Jack needed a little push in order to know himself - in order to truly understand his own soul. The story of LOST is largely the story of Jacob’s push on Jack’s life. Consider Jack’s soul as it was mapped out for himself and for us over the course of six seasons. When Jack awoke in the bamboo forest on the island, he was broken inside. He was driven to fix everything around him, thinking somehow it would fix everything inside him. He was mourning the loss of his father and their years of estrangement. He was fighting the echoes of his father’s voice saying, “You don’t have what it takes.” He was angry and controlling and bitter and LOST.
Before Jack rises from the ground, he turns his head and sees Vincent the dog - a sign of life. He then stands up and stumbles onto the beach and into the chaos of the crash site. He rushes to save everyone and fix everything. What he doesn’t realize as he moves from crisis to crisis is that the wreckage and the carnage are as in as desperate need of attention as his own soul. Inside Jack is desperate to fix everything that is broken, but he can’t. He tries to cover his problems by doing good deeds on the outside, but it isn’t enough. He can’t save everyone on the beach, and after six seasons he finally realizes that he can’t fix everything inside.
HURLEY: Why’d you come back, you know, to the island?
JACK: Why’d you come back?
HURLEY: Back in L.A., Jacob hopped into the back of my cab, and told me I was supposed to, so I came. What? If you have a good reason for coming back, let’s hear it man.
JACK: I came back here because I was broken. And I was stupid enough to think this place could fix me.
Jack utters these despairing words as he follows Hurley through the jungle on their way to the Lighthouse in the episode by the same name. Jack has reached the climax of his brokenness. The voice of his father has echoed in his heart for his entire life. You don’t have what it takes. Jack thought he carried this pain alone, but now someone has exposed his secret. Jacob has somehow caught a glimpse of Jack’s soul. But Jacob says he has seen something different in Jack.
You have what it takes.
Desperate to confront Jacob and this invasion of the soul, Jack climbs to the top of the lighthouse. He there discovers that Jacob has written down his name. He has given him a number. He has been watching Jack - perhaps for his entire life. He has circumnavigated Jack’s soul. He has created a map that looks different from what Jack thought it looked like. And he has planted a lighthouse on shoreline of Jack’s map to shed light on the truth of what he sees.
The revelation is too much for Jack. He can’t absorb it. He smashes the mirrors and leaves the lighthouse. He walks some distance away and finally sits down on a steep embankment, staring out at the ocean. And as he does, his soul begins to come into full view. He sees it clearly for the first time. He understands that he has a purpose. He finds a readiness to fulfill that purpose. The man of science has become the man of faith.
After Jack does fulfill his purpose - to become the new Jacob, to save the island and the world, and to send his friends home - he returns to the bamboo forest. He lies back down in the very spot where it all began. When he arrived on the island, his body was miraculously whole but his soul remained undiscovered and fragmented. And now, though his body lies broken and dying, his soul has never been more alive.
The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a “raft that leads to the far shore." -- Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (one of Joseph Campbell's influences)
The Meaning of Life
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -- Joseph Campbell
- Numbers (S1: E18)
- A Tale of Two Cities (S1: E1)
- House of the Rising Sun (S1: E5)
- Cabin Fever (S4: E11)
- Because You Left (S5: E1)
- The Incident (Part 2) (S5 E:17)
- The Candidate (S6: E14)
- A Hero’s Journey (LOST: the Complete Sixth and Final Season: Extras)
4,8,15,16,23,42. These numbers represent four stages on the road to the meaning of life; the hero’s journey of the monomyth; Joseph Campbell’s pathway to bliss.
In LOST: The Complete Sixth and Final Season, the extras section contains a segment entitled A Hero’s Journey. A transition for this segment displays the words “A Hero’s Journey,” underscored by the numbers 4,8,15,16,23,42. The writers are telling us plainly that the numbers and the hero’s journey are one and the same.
Some will argue that there are six numbers and that there should be six distinct meanings – one for each number. However, it makes perfect sense for the six numbers to be connected in such a way that they represent four stages along the path. We simply need to look back at the rose – Santa Rosa Mental Health institute – for proof.
Hurley first hears the numbers “4,8,15,16,23,42” while in this psychiatric ward. Leonard Simms is playing Connect Four while chanting the numbers over and over and over again. This was our clue to listen to the six numbers and “connect four” meanings to them. The number of available slots in the game of Connect Four is 42 – illustrating that for us to connect four is to discover the meaning of life and that the six numbers are the hero’s journey.
The number four represents the rose cross - the entrance into the life of true meaning. It is the compass rose with its four compass points that show us the doorway to accepting the call to be a hero. Most of us avoid this entrance, at least for a time, and search for life’s meaning in some other way – whether money or power or fame or pleasure. But Eko’s staff calls to us, “Lift up your eyes and look North.”
For the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815, the plane crash and the island are the rose cross. It was Rose Nadler, seated at the center of this cross before and during the crash, who held the answer - faith. Faith provides her with direction and hope. As she tells Charlie in Season One’s Whatever the Case May Be, “It’s a fine line between denial and faith. It’s much better on my side.”
In Season Two’s S.O.S., John Locke, who represents the cross and has been given the number four in the Lighthouse and the cave, is seated on the beach by himself. Locke's legs are injured (see Lockdown) and he's frustrated about not being able to remember the details of the blast door map. The camera pans over the sand to Locke's crutches, where he has laid them down in the shape of a cross. The camera then pans up to Locke's face. While focusing on Locke's face, we hear a familiar voice say, "You're in my spot." It is the voice of Rose. She sits down next to Locke and the two have a conversation.
This is her spot - the rose and the cross occupy the same space. You cannot have one without the other. And the rose cross is the beginning of the hero's journey - the first step. We are even teased by this as the scene culminates. The conversation is done and the camera pans to show Rose's face in the foreground and Locke's in the background. The scene fades to a flashback. The first words we here in the next scene are, "Right this way..."
Right this way. Begin your journey at number four - the Rose Cross.
Another way this is illustrated is in Season Three’s A Tale of Two Cities. Juliet is hosting a book club in our first view of Dharmaville. The attendees are arguing about her choice of Stephen King’s Carrie when Juliet is interrupted mid-sentence to the sound and shock of what seems to be an earthquake. It is no earthquake – it is the sound of Oceanic 815 entering the airspace above the island. It is then that Juliet breaks the silence. Her words to her friends are a motivation to find a place of safety. Her words to us are a metaphor for what is overhead in the sky.
The doorway. Get into the doorway.
Boone died after entering through the doorway of another rose cross - the Beechcraft. It was inside that he discovered the sign of the rosary (the Virgin Mary statuettes) before the cross fell and mortally wounded him. Later, Locke and Jack would discuss the meaning of Boone's death...
LOCKE: Boone was a sacrifice that the Island demanded. What happened to him at that plane was a part of a chain of events that led us here -- that led us down a path -- that led you and me to this day, to right now.
JACK: And where does that path end, John?
LOCKE: The path ends at the Hatch. The Hatch, Jack -- all of it -- all of it happened so that we could open the Hatch.
Boone's death in the Beechcraft was a sacrifice - as the rose cross and its number 4 represent. And that sacrifice ultimately leads Jack and Locke and the others to the hatch - the hatch labeled with the numbers. The number 4 leads them all to the rest of the numbers: 4,8,15,16,23.42. Once inside the hatch, Locke discovers that these numbers are the key to saving humanity. The Hero's Journey must be repeated over and over again by those that choose to embrace its path or the world will die.
Sun Kwon embraces her own rose cross in Season One's House of the Rising Sun. A promising relationship turns sour as Jin loses himself to his work for Sun's father. He becomes distant, controlling, and angry. Sun is devastated. She secretly learns English and plans to leave Jin. Her guide tells her to watch the clock at the airport and to walk out at 11:15am to a waiting car. The guide makes her repeat the time over and over again. The viewer hears it roughly eight times - "11:15, 11:15, 11:15."
At 11:15am at the airport, Sun stares in sadness at the clock. She begins to walk toward the door. She glances back and forth from the exit to Jin. She takes one last look, and it is then that their eyes meet. Jin reveals a white rose and smiles at her. In that critical moment, at 11:15am, Sun makes her choice. She abandons her escape and returns to Jin's side. She embraces the cross of her embittered relationship with Jin for the hope that lay behind the symbol of the rose. At Jin's side she says of the rose, "It is too beautiful."
The time of Sun's decision to embrace her rose cross is important: 11:15. Followers of the rose cross, Rosicrucians, trace their origins back to the year 1115 A.D. The rose cross begins at the year 1115 for the world, at 11:15am for Sun.John Locke, whose number is 4, is one of the first survivors to have faith on the island – in the island. After spending four years in a wheelchair, enduring his cross, he crashes on the island and soon becomes the man of faith. He then helps Jack Shephard – the man of science – learn to have a faith of his own.
In Season Five’s Because You Left, a time-shifting and wounded John Locke is leaning against the Beechcraft wreckage when Richard Alpert emerges from the jungle and hands him a compass. Both the Beechcraft and the compass are symbols of the rose cross. John Locke asks what the compass does. Richard responds, “It points north.” Richard then explains to John that to save the island and his friends, “You’re going to have to die, John.” John Locke embraces this cross, though he doesn’t understand it, and does indeed late die in fulfillment of his calling.
When John Locke does die at the hands of Benjamin Linus in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, his body lay in the form of a cross with a loop (the extension cord) around his neck. John's death posture forms an ankh - a grandfather of the rose cross and the symbols held by the statue of Tawaret. John Locke's death is paralleled with the ankh again later in two similar scenes.
- When Hurley gives Jacob's Ankh to Dogen, the camera slowly pans over the open guitar case for the reveal of what is inside.
- When Jack goes to Hoffs Drawlar Funeral Parlor, the camera slowly pans over the Locke's coffin for the reveal of who is inside.
Both scenes are deliberately parallel to indicate that Locke is the ankh - the rose cross. He is number 4.
In the episode Numbers, Hurley finds that the he now owns a box company - the same box company that Johne Locke works for as a regional collections manager. In this same episode, Hurley visits Lenny in the mental institute to find out the source of the mysterious numbers 4,8,15,16,23,42. When Hurley tells Lenny that he has used the numbers to play the lottery. Lenny tells Hurley. "You shouldn't have done that. You've opened the box."
Indeed he has. The series of numbers open with John's number: 4. What happens if you actually open one of the boxes at John's box company? Remember, John Locke's Box company was called Box2, or Box Squared, so let's assume for a moment that some, if not all, of the boxes are cube-shaped - formed by six squares. If you open and unfold such a box, you get a cross. John's cross.
Jacob himself showed us the entry point to the path by embracing his cross in what is left of the statue of Tawaret, a symbol of the rose cross. Here he willingly gives away his life. This giant foot is a marker that shows us where we must go to set foot on our own journey. The toes of this foot lead the way. Count them – there are four.
The numbers 8 and 15 go together as 815 to represent water and that oceanic feeling. This is the stage of the journey you experience once you have resolved to embrace your cross and endure the road of trials so that you can complete your calling.
Hurley is the number 8 and Sawyer is the number 15. Both are far from the oceanic feeling when they crash on the island, each living under their own curses. Hurley lives under a curse of bad luck - which he assumes are actually caused by the numbers. And yet, it is the numbers – the path – that lead him to this island and show him the way. By the end of Hurley’s arc, he accepts a water bottle labeled Oceanic from Jack and takes a drink, making him the last known leader of the island.
Sawyer suffers from the memory of the death of his parents and the resulting vengeance that drives him to pursue and destroy the con man who called himself Sawyer. Before he realizes it, James Ford has become the very man he wants dead. His motto for much of his life becomes simply "to survive" - even if it means abandoning the people who care about him.
James Ford slowly learns that life has more meaning than getting back at those who hurt him. He even chooses to dive out of a helicopter and into the ocean, not knowing if he will survive, in order to save the life of Kate and the others with her. He does survive and comes to the surface, watching the helicopter fly away as he floats freely in the ocean. Both Hurley and Sawyer find the oceanic in their own way, as do Charlie and many of the others.
The numbers 16 and 23 combine to form 1623, referencing the year of an early sighting of Australia. This sighting led to the first map of the world to reveal the existence of the new continent. This serves as a metaphor for the discovery and cartography of the human soul - your soul. You experience this cartographic journey in part as you live vicariously through the characters in the LOST story.
John Locke doesn’t realize it when he finds the blast door map, but the question mark he sees glowing in its center represents the very center of his own soul. It is later at the actual question mark, leaning against the Beechcraft, wounded and confused, that John Locke must know his soul to its depths when he hears Richard Alpert say to him, “You’re going to have to die, John.” The compass in Locke's hand and Richard's message are the same - they represent the cross, the doorway that leads Locke to find his soul.
Sayid, number 16, spends much of his early days on the island searching for the meaning behind Rousseau’s maps. He spends the rest of his days there discovering his own soul. He almost loses sight of himself when he helps the Man-in-Black enter the temple grounds and massacre its occupants in Season Six’s Sundown. But in The Candidate, Sayid decides that it is better to give life than to take it. He utters his final words, “It’s going to be you, Jack” and willingly runs away with the bomb and sacrifices his life for his friends. Sayid realizes that his soul was designed to give life and not to torture it or take it away.
And then we have Jack - number 23. He arrives on the island unaware that deep inside of himself he does indeed have what it takes to be a hero. But he doesn’t want to accept the call. He doesn’t want to explore his soul. It takes a push from Jacob before he finally comes to know himself at the lighthouse. Somehow, after all of this time on the island, not a single survivor has ever noticed the lighthouse. This part of the island is yet unknown and unmapped. As Jack and Hurley emerge from the jungle and see the lighthouse for the first time, Jack shakes his head.
JACK: I don’t understand. How is it that we’ve never seen it before?
HURLEY: I guess we weren’t looking for it.
Even though he isn’t looking for enlightenment, Jack finds it. He sits high above the shoreline, staring out at the sea, seeing this part of the island and this part of his soul for the first time. And 1623 whispers this early sighting of Jack’s soul by reminding us of the year that Jan Carstenszoon sighted Australia and helped put it on the world map for the first time.
And finally, the number 42 represents the end result of staying on this path - it represents the joyous discovery of the meaning of life. It represents bliss.
In Douglas Adams’ comedic series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the planet earth is actually a computer named Deep Thought. This computer was designed for the sole purpose of determining the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” The program ran for millions of years before arriving at the answer: the number 42. The designers of the program, upon hearing the answer, realized that they had never taken the time to really formulate the question.
David Fury, a Season One writer, confirms that the number 42 is homage to Douglas Adams and its reference to the meaning of life.
Jin and Sun Kwon, whom either or both is referenced by the number 42, learn to discover the meaning of life themselves. When the LOST series begins, their marriage is so broken that Sun plans to leave Jin before even boarding Oceanic Flight 815. She stands in the airport, about to make her escape when she glances back at Jin. He smiles and holds up a white flower - the symbol of what could be if they do stay together. In tears, Sun rejects her plan to end her marriage and returns to Jin’s side, embracing her cross in hope that the rose in Jin’s hands holds promise.
Jin, who before the flight had lost sight of his wife while focusing on the pressures of his job, falls so in love with Sun after the crash that he chooses to die with her in the ocean rather than live without her. The couple learns that the meaning of life is each other - not themselves.
And finally we come to the number 108, the sum of the numbers 4,8,15,16,23, and 42. What does this number mean?
In Season Two, we see a critical metaphor for the number 108. Every 108 minutes, someone – anyone – must enter the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 to reset the counter and “save the world.” And when the counter reaches 108, those numbers must be entered immediately. This metaphor illustrates that the world must always have heroes - human heroes. When one fades, we need another. And at the critical time, we need a hero now. And our heroes cannot be substituted with technology or invention - this is why a human was always required to enter the numbers in the hatch.
This emphasis on entering the numbers now when 108 minutes had passed is shared with us by Richard Alpert (the real-life Richard Alpert) who changed his name to Ram Dass and became a spiritual seeker and teacher. He wrote a book, Remember, Be Here Now, pleading with we humans to stop regretting the past and worrying about the future and instead to live in the now, relishing the current moment because it is all we have. It is a parallel call to Joseph Campbell’s summary of the meaning of the monomyth: follow your bliss.
The real-life Richard Alpert and Joseph Campbell both taught at The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. This organization’s statement of purpose says…
Esalen Institute exists to promote the harmonious development of the whole person. It is a learning organization dedicated to continual exploration of the human potential, and resists religious, scientific and other dogmas. It fosters theory, practice, research, and institution-building to facilitate personal and social transformation.
The book, Remember, Be Here Now has a section in its middle that is comprised of Richard Alpert’s handwritten notes and drawings on off-color paper. It is a stream-of-consciousness plea that focuses on the importance of allowing the soul the freedom to live with peace and joy in the present moment. There is a section of numbered pages - all double-page spreads - offset from the rest of the book. There are exactly 108 pages.
108 is also the number of beads in the Hindu and Buddhist rosary.
108 reminds us to make the choice to be on the path of life now. Don’t wait. Don’t consider it for later. Don’t ponder it as a possible option. Choose the path today. Follow your bliss.
LOST's Richard Alpert, in Season Four’s Cabin Fever, is struggling to understand whether or not John Locke really is the promised leader of his people. Having been promised by a time-traveling adult John Locke that he would one day be their leader, Richard Alpert travels away from the island to the United States to visit with then five-year-old John Locke. He places six objects on the table in front of the boy, hoping that young John will select the “correct” object and prove to Richard that he is predestined to be his leader.
On the table are these objects...
- A knife
- A compass
- A book entitled “Book of Laws”
- Mystery Tales #40, a comic book from 1956. It reads “What was the secret of the mysterious HIDDEN LAND!”
- A vial containing sand or earthen granules
- A baseball glove
With everything we have learned, the meaning of these objects should be a bit easier to decipher.
The knife represents us in our initial, LOST state. We are lost, not on the path. We take things by force. We kill. We destroy. We wield the weapon in fear and in a desperate attempt to survive.
In Season Five's The Incident (Part 2), as Benjamin Linus grapples with the temptation to murder Jacob, he asks Jacob an important question. "What about me?" Jacob replies to Ben with a soul-searching question. "What about you?" In that moment, Ben assumes that the question means that he doesn't matter to Jacob. On the contrary, Jacob wants Ben to consider the question deeply. What Jacob really seems to be asking is "What about you, Ben? Do you know yourself? The time has come to know thyself. Explore the HIDDEN LAND of your soul to see if you have it in you to lay down the knife and save not my life, but your own."
Richard's knife is on top of the comic book – meaning the book cannot be opened. The mystery cannot be solved and the HIDDEN LAND cannot be seen until the knife is set aside.
When we refuse the call of the hero's journey, we are Benjamin Linus, refusing to lay down the knife and plunging it into the very one who would otherwise save us.
Because the knife is not part of the path, it has no number to represent itself. The remaining items do.
The Compass (4)
The compass represents our entrance onto the path. It is the compass rose. It is the rose cross. It is the choice we make to embrace the difficult in life in order to bloom. It is what provides us with the direction we need to find our way on the journey.
The Book of Laws (815)
The Book of Laws is a reference to the Jewish Torah, also known as the “Book of the Law of Moses.” In Nehemiah, Chapter 8, in the Old Testament, the Jewish people have just returned to Jerusalem after a long period of exile. They have rebuilt the walls and resettled their country. To culminate their return to the homeland, all of the people come into Jerusalem to hear Ezra the prophet read the Book of Laws. They gather in front of the Water Gate - a gate in the city walls near Hezekiah’s tunnel, a famous underground source of fresh water for the city. As Ezra reads from the Book of Laws, the people of Israel are overcome by the oceanic feeling. They weep. Their tears flow as they sense their need to return to living in the presence of God – all of this in front of the water gate. The book of laws signifies water and that oceanic feeling.
Mystery Tales #40 (1623)
“What was the secret of the mysterious HIDDEN LAND?” This is yet another reference to the discovery and cartography of the last remaining hidden land – the human soul. Your soul.
Vial of Granules (42)
The vial of granules indicates that you have actually arrived on the shores of the hidden land, explored it to some degree, touched its soil with your hands, and captured its essence in a vial for safe keeping. Whereas 1623 refers to the initial discovery and mapping, the vial (42) refers to an actual arrival and procurement of its essence. The vial is a place to store this sacred substance of the soul and hold it close to the heart. It is the meaning of life. It is bliss.
The Baseball Glove (108)
A baseball contains 108 stitches. It, like the knife, requires the hand in order for it to perform its functions. Whereas the knife was used as an instrument of force and death, the glove is used as an instrument of reception. We are called to drop the knife and open our hand and insert it into the glove to receive the baseball. We are called to do this now – to walk on the path of life, referencing the 108 pages in Richard Alpert’s book, Remember, Be Here Now.
Just as Richard Alpert placed six items in front of a young John Locke to see if he had yet realized his calling, so the creators of the television series LOST have placed six numbers in front of us to see if we have yet realized our own calling to enter and follow pathway to bliss.
The message of LOST is to embrace the cross of giving and sacrifice, to be baptized in the water of peace despite the unknown, and to discover yourself – across the sea of your consciousness and to the shoreline of your very soul. Then and only then will you discover the meaning of life.
The challenge of LOST is to accept this message and choose to be on this path – to be here now.
This challenge is never more evident than in Jack’s final moments in this life as the numbers are all paraded before us. We see all six numbers together at the same time, for the last time.
4. The Rose Cross
Jack looks up, beyond the ceiling of the bamboo forest, and sees a cross in the sky - Ajira Airlines Flight 316, carrying Kate and the others home to safety. It flies directly overhead, revealing him as the rose in the center, now fully bloomed.
815. The Oceanic Feeling
There is no ocean in view. Jack is inland, lying in a forest. It isn’t raining. There appears to be no water in sight. But there is an astonishing symbol in its place. The ocean is represented by Vincent, the dog, who lies next to him, providing comfort.
When Matthew Flinders approached present-day Flinders Park and Adelaide, where the mystery of Australia was finally solved, his boat rocked in unnamed waters. As the revelation struck him that he had just discovered a new continent, he named the waters beneath him Gulf St. Vincent.
Gulf St. Vincent hugs the coastline of Australia, just as Vincent the dog lies close to the soul of Jack Shephard as it departs from his body and makes its way into the alternate timeline and eternity - into the light through the doors of the church with the rest of his friends..
1623. The Discovery of the Soul
Though Jack’s outer eye is closing for the last time, his inner eye now sees his soul complete for the first time. He is a hero. He does fix something. He fixes what matters most – himself. His soul. He does have what it takes.
The story of LOST as the story of of the discovery of the soul is indicated by the very first and the very last visual we see in the LOST story - Jack's eye. The eye is the window to the soul.
42. The Meaning of Life
The final number, 42, is an obvious reference and conclusion to the meaning of the others. It illustrates that to accept the cross as our destiny, to be immersed (baptized, washed) in water and proceed into the world of our calling and its unknown and unexpected offerings, and to continue on the journey until we see ourselves and our purpose fully - this is the meaning of life.
Is it any wonder that an epic story about the soul itself ends with our favorite cast of characters walking into the light in the form of living souls that survive beyond death? How could it have ended any differently? This is the story of LOST - the discovery and triumph of the human soul.
Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? -- Matthew 16:24-26 (The Message)
4 815 1623 42