This article is devoted to examining the sources and meanings behind the character and place names in LOST. It is a work in progress.
Recently added: John Locke. Recently updated: Boone Carlyle, Jin and Sun Kwon, Vincent and Sayid Jarrah. Both Vincent and Sayid's last name, Jarrah, are tantalizing puzzle pieces that connect directly with another - Hurley's statement that "Australia is the key to the whole game." The pieces are beginning to really come together.
Is it even possible to determine the source for the title of this epic series? It's such a simple, short word - it could come from just about anywhere.
If you watch LOST for long, however, you may begin to notice the inspiration of Joseph Campbell and the monomyth just about everywhere. The writers of LOST even give Joseph Campbell noticeable credit in LOST: the Complete Sixth and Final Season: Extras released on DVD in a segment entitled A Hero’s Journey.
In his book, Pathways to Bliss - Mythology and Personal Transformation, Joseph Campbell examine's the quandary we humans create in ourselves when we feel the call from within to do something meaningful and selfless, but rather than follow that calling we settle for something more self-centered, worldly, and ordinary. We refuse the call, much like Jack Shepard did initially in Season One's White Rabbit. And like Jack, we struggle. We refuse the call, leaving the soul to fight the body in an endless wrestling match. Joseph Campbell addresses the state of our minds when we deny the call of our souls...
When the call isn’t answered, you experience a kind of drying up and a sense of life LOST. (emphasis mine)
Jack Shephard, in White Rabbit, initially refuses the call to save the drowning woman and the call to solve the camp's water shortage and lead the survivors to safety. Instead, he runs away, chasing the ghost of his dead father and fighting his father's voice that he doesn't have what it takes to be a hero. At one point he finds himself hanging from a branch on the edge of a cliff over a dry river bed, symbolizing his refusal to embrace his call and his LOST state. It is only after John Locke (the man of faith - faith is a work of the soul), appears and rescues Jack (the man of science - science is a work of the mind) that Jack finds fresh water in the caves and then chooses to become the leader of the survivors of Oceanic 815.
All of the survivors were LOST - each in their own way. They didn't know it until the crash forced them to face who they were. Jacob emphasized this in Season Six's What They Died For.
I didn't pluck any of you out of a happy existence. You were all flawed. I chose you because you were like me. You were all alone. You were all looking for something that you couldn't find out there. I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.
Jack in particular experiences his emergence from lost shadows and into enlightenment in LightHouse, when he realizes that his life has a meaning and purpose far greater than than the one he had planned for himself.
This is the story of LOST.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -- Joseph Campbell
John Locke. His name must be a patent reference to the philosopher John Locke, right? But if so, why? And why so obvious? And is it possible that there is a double reference - one to the philosopher with the same name and one that goes a bit deeper - perhaps one that explains why Jacob assigned John Locke the first number in the series (4,8,15,16,23,42)?
John Locke the philosopher is well-known for writing An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which he postulates that the human mind is a blank slate, or tabula rasa. If that latin phrase sounds familiar, it should. It's the title of the first LOST episode to follow the two-hour pilot.
The works of philosopher John Locke were heavy influences for David Hume (the probably source for the character name Desmond David Hume) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (whose last name is probably the source for Danielle Rousseau).
So many philosophers. So little time. Let's stick with Locke.
The philosopher John Locke grappled with the roles of both faith and reason in human consciousness, but in the end held firm that both are valid and both work together. This idea of faith standing toe-to-toe with reason figures prominently into the LOST character arc of John Locke.
Locke was known as the man of faith. He believed in the island, but not without many trials that would test his faith to the limits.
Locke's faith is tested sharply in Season One's Deus ex Machina.. This Locke-centric episode focuses on the betrayal of John's birth parents, who con Locke into believing that he has a father who cares about him, but secretly only to convince John to donate his kidney. Once the transplant is complete, John's father abandons him - leaving Locke in despair of both faith and reason. What kind of God would allow such a thing to happen? What kind of human could be so cold as to steal a kidney from his own son? The final scene in the set of flashbacks shows John driving away from his father's house, alone and heartbroken, pounding on the steering wheel and screaming.
On the island, John goes through a similar crisis of faith. When Locke crash lands on the island four weeks earlier, he discovers he can walk again after four years of paralysis - a paralysis we later learn is due to attempted murder by the same cruel father. Now, the man of faith is being tested again. Locke believes the island has given him his legs back. And he believes the island wants him to find a way into the hatch that he and Boone have discovered. But after their trebuchet fails and Locke's leg is injured, he begins to struggle with his faith. He then sees a vision of the Beechcraft crashing on the island and believes that what is inside the plane will give him a sign that shows him how to open the hatch. He and Boone manage to find the Beechcraft, but as they do, both of Locke's legs begin to fail him. Boone climbs up inside the plane (because Locke can't) and finds Virgin Mary statuettes filled with heroin. Boone throws down a box to Locke and announces sarcastically, "Here's your sign." And then, the plane tips forward and crashes to the ground, mortally wounding Boone.
Locke is distraught. His partner in the hatchwork is now dying. The sign he sought seems meaningless. The strength in his legs that the island seemed to give him is now being taken away. After Locke manages to carry Boone back to camp, Jack and the others suspect foul play and that Locke is responsible. All seems lost as night falls.
Locke struggles back to the hatch in the darkness and falls down to his hands and knees, his face hovering over the hatch. He weeps and pounds on the metal doorway. It is here in his most desperate hour that he cries out...
I've done everything you wanted me to do, so why did you do this to me?!
It is at this moment - when Locke is at his lowest and finally addresses the island personally in something resembling a psalm of lament - that a light from within suddenly emerges. Deus ex Machina - God, out of the machine.
Locke's experience in both his flashbacks and his on-island experience are best described by a metaphor known as the dark night of the soul. This arduous trial is said to test any true pilgrim of faith by stripping him of any and all hope other than the actual source of his faith itself. For John, his faith in the island is tested by the failure of the trebuchet, the lack of any seeming sign in the Beechcraft, the death of Boone, and the loss of the use of his legs. He falls on the hatch in the darkness crying out to the island to understand. This episode, Deus ex Machina, is John Locke's dark night of the soul.
The concept of the dark night of the soul is attributed to another John - Saint John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Christian mystic. He wrote a poem by the same name, followed by a commentary that explains how those on the journey of faith must inevitably endure such a trial before finding divine union with God.
Saint John of the Cross is the primary source of John Locke's first name. Locke is added secondarily to illustrate the role of faith and reason together in the character John Locke's spiritual journey on the island.
Not convinced? Consider a reference to John Locke and the cross in the episode Deus ex Machina. John Locke attempts to build a machine that will allow him to find entrance into the object of his faith - the island. The machine is a trebuchet. Locke reasons that his faith in gaining entrance into the hatch will lead him to be successful in using the trebuchet. But it doesn't work. The trebuchet fails. This is John's cross to bear - the beginning of his dark night of the soul. And it is foreshadowed right before our eyes in a short conversation early in the episode, right before the failure of the trebuchet...
Boone: I don't think I can spell trebuchet.
Locke: There's a 'T' at the end.
The trebuchet ends with a "T" - a cross. John's cross begins when the trebuchet ends - with failure and misunderstanding and a chain-of-events that lead him into a dark night of the soul, climaxing with his despair at the hatch, crying out to the source of his faith for answers.
And that's just the close-up view of John Locke and the cross in this episode. Take a step back and look at his character arc in its entirety and you will see this dark night of the soul repeat itself - most vividly when John Locke is told by Richard Alpert that he has to die in order to save the island. When Richard Alpert tells John Locke these words, he hands him a compass. On the compass is a cross - the intersection of north/south and east/west. This cross is also called a compass rose, referencing the symbol of the rose cross. The compass is John's cross - it points him in the way he must go. He must embrace the cross - the dark night of the soul - by dying in order to save the island, save his friends, and save the world. After embracing the cross and enduring the dark night, his faith will lead him to the rose on the cross - the light at the end of the night. God, out of the machine.
As John Locke receives this compass (representing his cross) from Richard Alpert, he is leaning against the wreckage of the Beechcraft - yet another cross. It is the same cross that drove him in anguish back to the hatch to ask the island why and complete his dark night of the soul. It is the same cross that had inside "your sign" (as Boone put it). The sign was a box of Virgin Mary statuettes filled with heroin. The numerous Virgin Mary statuettes represent the prayer of the rosary, where petitioners repeat the Hail Mary anywhere from 50 to 72 times. This makes the Beechcraft not only a cross, but a rose cross. In addition, the heroin inside is made from the opium poppy, whose bloom reveals the startling image of a rose cross.
There is your sign. Locke's sign. John's cross.
John Locke's name and character arc are modern-day metaphor's of Saint John of the Cross's dark night of the soul. This is why the writers chose his name. And it ties in directly with John Locke's number: 4. The number 4 in the series 4,8,15,16,23,42 represents the rose cross.
The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed. -- Joseph Campbell
It's no secret that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were serious fans of Charles Dickens and his ability to to write character-driven stories.
Dickens, in his early years, had a friend and mentor named William Harrison Ainsworth. As Charles Dickens was enjoying his fame for the serialized publication of Oliver Twist, Ainsworth was working on his serial novel, Jack Sheppard. The fictionalized histories of both publications overlapped each other.
Ainsworth also authored Auriol Or the Elixir of Life. This book has an interesting chapter entitled, The Tomb of the Rosicrucian, concerning a character's search for a hidden burial place. The legendary founder of Rosicrucianism was named Christian. Jack spent his entire time on the island wondering where the final resting place of his father, Christian, really was.We also know that Jack's number is 23. In the finale, Kate even jokes about Jack's father's name, Christian Shephard. It's clear that there was a deliberate allusion of Jack's last name to Psalm 23, which begins The Lord is my Shepherd.
As the Losties journey from the green pastures and quiet waters of the island, to death, and then into the light with Christian Shephard in the finale, you can almost hear the words from Psalm 23...
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Jack Shephard was chosen as a nod to Dickens, Rosicrucianism, and Psalm 23.
Katherine Anne Austen
Kate's name is a reference to Katherine Anne Porter, an early 20th-century author. Her most famous work, Ship of Fools, as described in Wikipedia, focuses on "a group of disparate characters sailing from Mexico to Germany" and "looks metaphorically at the progress of the world on its voyage to eternity."
The Ship of Fools concept is hundreds of years old, and the metaphor conjours a picture of people blissfully pursuing the shallow offerings of life while unaware that they are missing out on the real meaning behind life's journey. Ship of Fools is also the title of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Charlie Pace's middle name is Hieronymus.
The last name Austen is an allusion to Jane Austen, primarily for her novel Sense and Sensibility, which explores the balance between being led by our outward senses and our inward feelings - or with a deeper spin, the balance between the scientific approach to life and the mystical approach. Initially, our Losties were the ship of fools, but in the end they learned the real purpose of life.
Hugo Reyes is a direct reference to the author Hugo Raes, a Belgian author whose works are a "revolt against the everyday grind." Raes uses a mixture of reality and supernatural events to help his readers revolt and escape a humdrum life - particularly life that is simply going with the flow of culture without questioning the deeper purpose of living.
Thanks again to my friend Michael H for helping me with this one.
Umberto Eco is a famous Italian author. His third book is 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. "The protagonist's writings indulge in increasingly confused speculation of the physical, metaphysical and religious import of the date line." This book lends credence to my theory on the location of the island.
Eco's second book is entitled Focault's Pendulum. Remember The Lamp Post? This Dharma station, the only one known to be off-island, is where the island's original location was discovered. It was also used to predict its current location. The primary tool used to pinpoint the island's coordinates? A pendulum set up like Focault's.
In addition to being an author, Umberto Eco was a semiotician. A semiotician studies signs, symbols, and the process by which they communicate to and effect those who encounter them. The philosopher John Locke spoke heavily of semiotics in his works.
Umberto Eco's works are exhibited by semioticians today as one of the great ways to tell a story within a story - to have an over-arching story but to also have a deeper story within.
Eko's name alludes to symbolism, telling stories within stories, and the inescapable mystical order of Rosicrucianism.
Oceanic Flight 815
I first read about that Oceanic Feeling on the Lostpedia blog and have to agree wholeheartedly that this is the source for its choice of name. We all long to experience that oceanic feeling, where all is right in our soul. The story of LOST is a myth aimed at teaching the Losties (and us) how to stop focusing so much on our bodies and return to nourishing our souls. Ironically, this oceanic feeling comes even or because of the greatest of tragedies. Oceanic Flight 815 crashed and stranded our friends, but it was that crash and the trials of the island that eventually led them to that oceanic feeling.
He has explained that the word 'Osho' is derived from William James' expression 'oceanic experience' which means dissolving into the ocean. "Oceanic describes the experience," says Osho, "but what about the experiencer? For that we use the word 'Osho'."
This reminds me of my favorite quote by author C.S. Lewis. "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."
After the first episode that featured the Dharma station The Orchid, I walked into a coworker's office and said, "Hey - I hear you raise orchids. What is so special about orchids as compared to any other flower?" He reached over to his bookshelf and gently removed a glass bowl. Growing inside of it was an orchid. He lifted the orchid out of the bowl entirely, roots and all. "Orchids don't grow in soil. In fact, they'll die if you try to make them grow in soil. They need to grow in something like this." He pointed at the bowl, which was filled with loose debris. "They grow in trees and other places - they just don't grow in the earth."
I immediately understood why the Dharma station The Orchid was so named. This is the station that allowed you to move the island. The island is not connected to the earth. It can be lifted up, roots and all, just like the orchid and relocated. This is a parable for our Losties. They, too, are to be "not of this world." They were placed on the island to learn to let go of earthly things and to give themselves to the things that really matter. Remember Rose's words to Jack in Season 6 in the first flash to the purgatory/heaven world? She said to Jack, "You can let go. You can let go now. I think we made it."
This name has many possibilities because it is so common, but I think its most likely reference is James Ishmael Ford, a Zen Buddhist who authored a book entitled This Very Moment. One of the many concepts in Zen Buddhism is to focus on the present instead of the past or the future, and to seize it for your soul. Sawyer spent his moments prior to the crash focused solely on his past. It took many trials and lessons for him to begin to see beyond his past and into the present.
This origin for Sawyer's name dovetails nicely into the next character.
Many have already pointed out that Richard Alpert's name is an obvious reference to the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Dass was born Richard Alpert and later changed his name. He authored the book Remember, Be Here Now - another work emphasizing the importance of living in the now versus the past or present.
Ram Dass / Richard Alpert was also an early leader at the Esalen Institute, an organization eerily similar to the Dharma Initiative. It's purpose is to help humans achieve their full potential, focusing on mysticism, art, music, and more. Esalen hosted The Third Annual Esoteric Renaissance Conference in 2006. The notes on this conference are a fascinating read. In short, the conference focused heavily on "authors who, although they wrote in fiction, had a deep concern with the direction of twentieth century European civilization, and their esoterically-inspired fiction is clearly a tool to analyze, critique and attempt to change that civilization." The first day's lectures included one by a prominent Rosicrucian. The Esalen Institute and its role in the formation and symbolism of LOST go much deeper. Read more here.
The real Richard Alpert was involved in a scandalous experiment at Harvard University in 1962. He and a colleague supported an experiment where a drug from hallucinogenic mushrooms was supplied to a group of students attending a special chapel service. The intent of the experiment was to see if such drugs could serve as entheogens, inducing or enhancing a mystical experience.
Most of the students who received the drug reported that they did indeed experience something other-worldly. Many say their lives were changed forever.
The Richard Alpert of LOST, Jacob's intermediary and spiritual advisor of the island, is likely intended to allude to the Harvard experiment as parallel to the purpose of the island. Richard is the entheogen. Richard is also clearly a reference to the intentional use of literary fiction as a vehicle to promote a renaissance movement in Western esotericism.
Before you read this entry about Benjamin Linus, please first read the entry on Richard Alpert, which serves as an introduction.
Benjamin Linus, in LOST lore, was born 32 miles outside of Portland, Oregon. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon. He, like the real-life Richard Alpert, was one of the first leaders of the Esalen Institute, a real-world Dharma Initiative. The Esalen Institute promotes the use of fictional story to focus humanity on the benefits of mystical and spiritual growth.
The name Benjamin could, as some have said, be related to the twelfth son of Jacob in the Bible. The biblical Benjamin's mother, Rachel, died shortly after Benjamin was born - much like Ben Linus' mother, Emily (see Genesis 35). I believe this is true, but also believe there is an intentional double-meaning here. Benjamin Linus's first name also refers to Benjamin Franklin, a role model for Linus Pauling and a supposed early-American member of the Rosicrucian movement.
Others have come before me to point to Linus Pauling as the source for Ben's last name. I concur, and given that Linus Pauling and the real-life Richard Alpert were directly connected by the Esalen Institute, it leaves little room for doubt.
The name Benjamin Linus refers to the intentional use of fiction as an instrument to help induce a renaissance in Western esotericism. It also takes us back to the story of of the biblical Jacob and his deep love for his youngest son Benjamin. Lastly, it alludes to Benjamin Franklin, an early-American Rosicrucian.
Emily Linus was hiking with her husband, Roger, when she gave birth prematurely to her only child, Benjamin Linus. She died in Roger's arms on December 19, 1964. The date of her death (and Ben's birth) is significant. It not only reveals to us the source of Emily Linus' name, but also serves as an ingenious metaphor for the birth of Benjamin Linus' character in the writing room.
Emily Brontë, in her novel Wuthering Heights, created her protagonist, Heathcliff, as an early example of an evolving literary character type known as a Byronic Hero. Originated by Lord Byron, a Byronic Hero is a "rebellious antihero who is sympathetic despite his rejection of virtue." Characteristics of a Byronic Hero include "a strong sense of arrogance, high level of intelligence and perception, cunning and able to adapt, suffering from an unnamed crime, a troubled past, sophisticated and educated, self-critical and introspective, mysterious, magnetic, charismatic, struggling with integrity, emotional conflicts, bipolar tendencies, a distaste for social institutions and norms, being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw, "dark" attributes not normally associated with a hero, disrespect of rank and privilege, jaded, world-weary, cynicism, and self-destructive behavior."
These attributes are the defining characteristics of Benjamin Linus.
Emily Linus' untimely death immediately following the birth of her son deliberately parallels the untimely death of Emily Brontë shortly after the publication of her only novel. The heartbreaking scene in LOST where Emily Linus dies during childbirth is an utterly fascinating homage to Emily Bronte's choice of anti-hero and how it paralleled the writers' own. Both Heathcliff and Ben are derived from the same archetype - the dark, rebellious anti-hero of Byron.
The place of Emily Linus's death and Benjamin Linus' birth is also significant - 32 miles from Portland.
Thy Byronic hero of the 19th century was somewhat controversial given the depth of depravity of the anti-hero and the events surrounding his life. A contemporary and similar controversy surrounded the Newgate Novel, which glamorized the lives of criminals. Charles Dickens, a favorite of Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, was caught up in this controversy himself with his novel, Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens' friend and mentor, William Harrison Ainsworth, wrote the premier Newgate Novel with his work entitled Jack Sheppard.
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail. — The Hero’s Journey - the Ultimate Boon (Wikipedia).
If the boon of the hero’s journey is the goal of the quest, how does Boon Carlyle represent this? His character barely seems to evolve before he dies in a “plane crash.” In Deus Ex Machina, John Locke convinces Boone that the key to opening the Hatch is a sign provided by the island - something they can only find inside the Beechcraft that is lodged in the tree canopy.
Boone climbs up and into the airplane. Inside he finds a box of Virgin Mary statuettes. He throws one down to John and says, “Here’s your sign.” The statuette breaks open and reveals a hidden stash of heroin. Locke is distraught and exclaims, “I don’t understand.”
Moments later, the plane tips over and slides out of the tree canopy, mortally wounding Boone. Desperation and confusion mount as his Locke’s faith falters.
John carries “the boon” back to camp and leaves him with Jack and the others. Distraught over what has happened, Locke stumbles back to the Hatch and falls down, saying to the island, “I’ve done everything you wanted me to do, so why did you do this to me?” In that dark moment, the Island brings John Locke a light from within.
In the Hero’s Journey, the hero carries the boon back to his community to share with them the elixir of life that he has discovered. Often the hero’s people do not understand the boon’s significance and ignore or even reject it in anger. This is exactly what happens in John Locke’s journey, because Jack does not understand what has happened to Boone. Jack misunderstands this event so much that in the next episode, Do No Harm, he sets out in a rage to find John Locke and to do him harm to avenge Boone’s death.
Given these events, how in the world can Boone Carlyle possibly represent the ultimate goal of the quest - the elixir of life? How can he represent anything? He dies!
And there it is.
Death is the boon. This is what the hero John Locke discovers and carries back to his people: death, or sacrifice.
The boon of the hero's journey of LOST for John Locke is death. What happens to Boone in the Beechcraft is the sign John Locke is looking for - he just doesn't realize it at first. John Locke discovers this even more deeply later, while wounded and confused and time flashing and leaning against the very same Beechcraft. It was here, in the darkness of night and in the darkness of Locke's own soul, that Richard Alpert appears from the jungle and prophetically announces Locke's destiny in Season Five's Because You Left...
RICHARD: The only way to save the Island, John, is to get your people back here--the ones who left….You have to convince them to come back.
LOCKE: How--how am I supposed to do that?
RICHARD: You're gonna have to die, John.
How does this make any sense? How can death be the boon? Death is not an elixir of life.
Oh, but it is. And Locke tells us this plainly in Exodus Part 2.
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.
Boone was a sacrificial death. The ultimate boon of LOST is sacrifice through death. We see this over and over again in so many of these beloved characters. Charlie sacrifices his life in The Looking Glass for Claire and Aaron and the rest of his friends. Sayid runs away with the bomb until "there is no Sayid." Jin chooses to stay with his wife in the submarine and die with her rather than live without her. Jacob willingly allows Benjamin Linus to stab him to death so that the MiB can be exposed for what he is and be destroyed. Jack fights and is ultimately killed by the MiB, but he watches and smiles as Kate and Sawyer and Claire fly home to safety just before he breathes his last. Locke dies at the hands of Benjamin Linus to save the island.
In many cases, the death is not physical, but it is still a very real death to self - to the ego, so that the character is transformed into a new creation. Sawyer arrives on the island hunting to kill a man and concerned only with himself. He leaves as a man who is willing to jump out of a helicopter and risk his life to save the woman he loves. Benjamin Linus begins as a mass murderer bent on a single goal: to own the island for himself. The story ends with Ben willingly serving as number 2 to Hurley, the new leader of the island. The list goes on and on and the message is always the same: true life is not found in running away from your divine calling and being free from the responsibility of others so that you can love and serve yourself. True life is found by sacrificing your self - your ego, who you think you are - in order to pursue your divine calling and to to be free from the responsibility of yourself so that you can love and serve others.
This is the ultimate boon of the Hero's Journey. This is the story of LOST - to sacrifice your self to death. Could the message be any more plain when the story ends with our hero, Jack Shephard, closing his eye as his body yields to death at the same time his soul finally learns to really live?
Adding further strength to the deliberate intent of Boone's first name as the boon of the hero's journey is his last name: Carlyle.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a Scottish author and historian who wrote a book entitled, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Carlyle's work on the study of the archetypical hero was a major influence to contemporary and later authors, including Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens credits Thomas Carlyle's studies in the French Revolution as a source for his book A Tale of Two Cities. Season Three's opening episode is entitled, A Tale of Two Cities. Lost Writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were serious fans of Charles Dickens and his writing techniques.
Boone Carlyle's name is a beautiful allusion to the ultimate boon of every hero - to lay down his own life to save others, fulfilling the divine call of God on his/her life.
The greatest love a person can show is to die for his friends. -- Jesus (John 15:13 NCV)
Shannon Rutherford was a lost soul. She lost her father. She lost her inheritance. She lost her way amidst a maze of men and money that led her around the world. The plane crash left her feeling more lost than ever. On the island, she lost her inhalers. She lost Vincent. She lost her brother. She found love briefly in Sayid before she lost her life.
Claude Shannon is the father of information theory and cryptography. Claude Shannon deciphered codes. Shannon Rutherford translated Rousseau's message and deciphered her cryptic map notes. Claude Shannon also invented Shannon's Mouse, also known as Theseus. This magnetic mouse could be dropped in a maze and learn how to find its way to the target, even if the maze was rearranged. Shannon's Mouse, like Shannon herself, was dropped in a maze in the hopes of finding the way home.
Ernest Rutherford is the father of nuclear physics and the inventor of the earliest magnetic detector, which was instrumental in detecting and replaying radio signals. Shannon was instrumental in translating Rousseau's radio signal.
Shannon Rutherford is a reference to discovery and finding the way home. She is the namesake to two men of discovery - scientists who found out how and why things worked the way they did and leveraged those discoveries to create better lives for everyone around them. Shannon, lost in the maze and unable to breathe, began to find the way home and find air for her soul when she was tasked with taking care of Vincent, when she fell for Sayid, and when she began to realize what a good brother she had in Boone. Shannon's character reminds us that the search for our purpose in the maze of this world is found in letting go of greed and self and giving ourselves to others.
Michael Murphy is one of the two founders of the Esalen Institute, a real-world Dharma Initiative of sorts whose early scholars included the real-life Richard Alpert and Linus Pauling, the two likely sources for the character names Richard Alpert and Benjamin Linus. Michael Dawson's first name is likely derived from Michael Murphy.
Dawson alludes to Monk Dawson, the third novel of author Piers Paul Read. If you don't recognize either the book title or the author's name, you probably will recognize his first non-fiction book, entitled Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors. Alive details a real-life LOST story of a plane crash and the 72-day struggle of its 16 survivors to stay alive and find a way home long after rescuers had given up hope.
In describing Piers Paul Read's works of fiction, Wikipedia says, "Most of his main characters are fairly unsympathetic and some of them commit horrific deeds before they finally convert to God." The LOST character Michael Dawson certainly falls into this category.
Piers Paul Read also wrote a novel entitled Knights of the Cross. This book's lone Amazon review states The humble human condition is the victor as our hero eventually settles for his lot. 'Be happy with what you have...' This resonates deeply with one of the central themes of LOST - to embrace your life now, forgetting the past and future, in order to find fulfillment now. It also alludes to the consistent theme of the rose cross throughout LOST.
Seth Norris (The Pilot)
Seth Norris is played by actor Greg Grunberg. Greg Grunberg played a character named Eric Weiss in the TV show Alias. Alias, like LOST, was created by J.J. Abrams. There are many deliberate overlaps between LOST and Alias.
There is a real-life Eric Weiss who serves as a scholar for the Esalen Institute, a real-world Dharma Initiative (see the name studies on Richard Alpert and Benjamin Linus for more). The real-life Eric Weiss also serves on the faculty of the Holy Names University, which is devoted to the study of divine mystery and helping humans discover and fulfill their destiny and purpose. Here we have the pilot of Oceanic 815 emphasizing the holy significance of names, mystery, and purpose.
The pilot's last name, Norris, is a likely reference to Gunilla Norris, a popular mystic and author.
The pilot's first name, Seth, seems a deliberate reference to the Egyptian god Set(h). Set was once though to have stood in the bow of the sun god Ra's flying ship, fighting the evil god of darkness and chaos known as Apep, who would attack the sun each evening at sundown. At times, it would appear that Apep had defeated Set and Ra - for example, during thunderstorms in the middle of the day when the sun could not be seen. In the end, however, Apep would be defeated and the sun would rise again.
The pilot of Oceanic Flight 815 was the first human we saw killed by the Black Smoke Monster. He was killed during a thunderstorm, pulled directly out of the front of his flying ship. In Season 6, Episode 6, Sundown, the Black Smoke Monster appears to have gained the upper hand. Our beloved Sayid murders Dogen and Lennon and allows the Smoke Monster into the temple to murder everyone in his path. But the sun is soon to rise again.
The name Seth Norris, is full of meaning. It points us to the Esalen Institute and its focus on the use of fiction to promote mysticism and esotericism. It also reminds us of the continued focus in LOST on Egyptology and its mythologies, which are central to Rosicrucianism. And finally, the actor himself who portrayed Seth Norris is a deliberate reference to the hidden meaning of names and the purpose and destiny God has placed on each individual life.
Jin and Sun Kwon
Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun-Hwa (Paik) Kwon were so estranged in their marriage that their relationship was nearing an end before the flight of Oceanic Flight 815. After the crash and their trials together, they loved each other so much that they chose to die together rather than live alone.
Jin is the Korean word for truth. Soo means water. A possible translation for Jin-Soo is True Water.
Sun means goodness. Hwa means flower or rose. The national flower of South Korea is the mugung-hwa, or Immortal Flower, known in the West as the Rose of Sharon. Paik, if we are to consider Sun's maiden name, means white or pure. A plausible translation for Sun could be the Pure Rose of Goodness.
Now we come to Kwon. The most obvious and popular translation would be fist or punch as it may mean in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. Given this popular, literal translation that doesn't seem to fit, is there another option that fits without forcing?
LOST often uses anagrams. Ethan Rom is an anagram for Other Man. Hoffs-Drawlar is an anagram for Flash Forward. Is it possible that Kwon is an anagram as well? If so, there is only one obvious choice: Know.
There is strong evidence for this in the first KWON-centric episode, House of the Rising Sun. If you read the transcript, you will see that the word know is used 30 distinct times, all non-gratuitous. In fact, the theme of the entire episode seems to center on knowing. There are well over 100 questions asked because everyone wants answers.
A key scene in this episode is an exchange between Jin and Sun...
JIN: Sun, look at me. I love you—but I don't want to elope with you.
SUN: It's the only chance we have.
JIN: Your father would never allow it.
SUN: It's not his place to allow. It's our decision.
JIN: I will talk to your father. I'll make him understand.
SUN: You're saying that now because you don't know my father.
JIN: I know me.
Jin reveals a white flower. Sun smiles, smells it, and laughs.
SUN: It's beautiful.
The presentation of the flower as Jin says, "I know me" touches on a key theme of LOST - to know thyself.
This makes sense given the numerous messages to Know Thyself through the Apollo bar. If the name Kwon really is an anagram for know, then here are the translations for our Korean couple...
Jin-Soo Kwon means Know the True Water. This is a likely reference to the Oceanic experience/feeling and is a message that tells us to seek happiness in our souls and not just our bodies. Jin discovered this in its ultimate form when he chose to stay in the water with Sun and die with her.
Sun-Hwa (Paik) Kwon means The Pure Rose of Goodness. This is one of an infinite number of references to the rose. It calls us to bloom from within, and is the central emblem of the rose cross. Sun learned to allow her love for Jin, once nearly withered and gone, to bloom fully until she loved him enough to leave her child and go back to the island to find him.
Let's not forget that the Kwon's number was 42. The writers of LOST admittedly included 42 in the series 4,8,15,16,23,42 as an homage to the use of the same number in Douglas Adams' book The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is a reference to the meaning of life.
So if we go all the way and include all of the meanings behind the names and the number itself, we have, Know the True Water and the Pure Rose of Goodness. They are the meaning of life.
Sayid Hassan Jarrah is an Arabic name at face value. This makes sense considering that Sayid is Iraqi and his name needs to be organic for his character. However, the derivation of his name in the creation of LOST leads us on a journey around the world.
Some have claimed that Sayid's name is a direct reference to Ziad Jarrah, the terrorist pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. I believe any resemblance between the fictional Sayid and the terrorist Ziad are purely coincidental. A side note: I boarded a plane in 2006 in New York City headed for Dallas, during the height of LOST, and filed past Naveen Andrews (the character who plays Sayid) sitting in the first class cabin.
The name Sayid is very common in the Arabic world, and generally is used not as a name but as an address for a male dignitary. It can also be used to indicate someone who is a direct descendant of Mohammed within a particular lineage.
Given that LOST and its character names generally refer back to real and historically significant people (philosophers, authors, mystics) and given LOST's focus on mysticism, I believe Sayid could be a reference to Sayid Isries Shah, an important Indian author of works on Eastern mysticism, including what may be the modern definitive work on sufism. Sufism is often called the "mystical dimension of Islam," which makes perfect sense for a character who grew up in the Islamic world and has now found himself stranded on a mystical island.
Now we move on to Sayid's middle name: Hassan. Hassan is also a common Arabic name, but its origins may be pulled from Egyptology. Dr. Selim Hassan is a noted Egyptian Egyptologist. Dr. Hassan is famous for his excavations at the Necropolis of Giza, a famous historical site just outside of Cairo, Egypt, which includes the Sphynx and the Great Pyramids. Dr. Hassan discovered an underground tunnel system in necropolis in the early 1900s. To this day, there is confusion over whether or not the tunnel system expands into secret initiation chambers below the Sphynx. Rosicrucians, who are Egyptologists themselves, have hailed Dr. Hassan's work as providing definitive proof of their belief that there is an initiation chamber and other mystical locations hidden beneath the Sphynx.
And finally we come to Jarrah. Jarrah is an Australian wood or tree, one of the most common varieties of the Eucalyptus in Southwestern Australia. Here there is a large Jarrah 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. On this particular journey, Matthew Flinders proved that Australia was an actual continent, solving an age-old mystery of a 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.
Sayid Hassan Jarrah was chosen for its references to mysticism, the rose cross, and Australia.
Desmond David Hume's name is an obvious partial reference to yet another famous philosopher: the Scottish philosopher David Hume. I believe that the primary reason for this reference is Hume's insistence that belief supersedes reason in governing human behavior. In LOST, belief took precedence over reason. Even the most rational Lostie, Jack Shephard, eventually sat outside a Lighthouse and came to the belief that he had come to the island for a reason.
But where did Desmond originate? The name Desmond is indeed of Scottish origin, but the source for the character name is much closer to home.
The clues come from our previous character - Richard Alpert. The real Richard Alpert, when he participated in the Harvard Psilocybin Project, had a colleague who endorsed the project with him named Timothy Leary.
Back in California in the 1950's was a jazz musician named Paul Desmond. Paul Desmond was an avid reader, just like Desmond of the island. He read and supported Timothy Leary and his ideas about mystical-enhancing drugs. And, he had a famous addiction to Dewar's Scotch Whisky. This, of course, reminds us of Desmond's lifelong quest to one day be worthy of drinking Widmore's MacCutcheon's Scotch Whisky.
Paul Desmond is most famous for penning the jazz tune, Take Five, while a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. If you take time to listen to the song, you'll probably recognize it. Paul Desmond received more money for his work on this song than he knew what to do with, so he gave most of it to the Red Cross. He even willed all future royalties for that and other songs to the Red Cross, which to this day amounts to around $100,000 per year. Paul Desmond's legacy in the Red Cross reminds us once again of the Rose Cross.
Take Five reminds me of Jack's tattoo and the many meanings of the number five in Lost.
And finally, the musician Paul Desmond could never maintain a relationship with a woman. This reminds us of LOST Desmond's own struggle to do the same with Penny. In the end, though, Desmond ended up with Penny and forgot about the Scotch. He "took five" from his selfish dreams and gave them away in order to find true love.
Charles Hieronymus Pace
Charles means "free man." I think "Pace" may actually refer to the pace of the story - the underlying rhythm of LOST. And Charlie's middle name, Hieronymus? I think that may mean more than anything.
Hieronymus Cardanus was a sixteenth-century mathematician who invented something called the Cardan Shaft, or as we call it today, the Drive Shaft. Drive Shaft is the name of Charlie's band. Hieronymus Cardanus also invented a method of hiding secret messages in plain sight known as a Cardan Grille. This method involved writing a short story (the message) and embedding it into a larger story - a good story - so that the secret message was hidden in plain sight before your very eyes, while at the same time being so organically embedded in the larger and engaging story that you don’t see it - unless you have the Cardan Grille. For more on this subject, please see my other blog on the use of symbolism in LOST.
There is also another Hieronymus that I think also is alluded to in Charlie's middle name: Hieronymus Bosch. I could write for days on the significance of Hieronymus Bosch to LOST, but I will sum up with this. Bosch created paintings rich in symbolism. He created a painting we call Ship of Fools, which as we have already seen is also a book by Katherine Anne Porter, the source for Kate Austen's name. He is considered one of the earliest members of the Rosicrucian tradition. And finally, his influences may have come from someone known as the Grand Master Jacob. If you want to know more, I highly recommend the book The Unknown Hieronymus Bosch by Kurt Falk.
Vincent, like many dogs, seemed to be able to sense things ordinary human beings cannot. On the island, however, Vincent seemed to have an extraordinary ability to sense the mystical elements of the island. Vincent could see Christian Shephard on the day of the crash and respond to his command to "Go find my son." Vincent does as ordered, awakening Jack his first day on the island. He would later comfort Jack in the same spot as he lay dying on his last day.
A study of the most famous Vincents of the world might lead us to believe that the source for our canine companion's name is Vincent Van Gogh or Vincent Price or even Saint Vincent. None of these seems to quite fit, however. Van Gogh, the "super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis," seems too tragic a figure. Some mystics (including OSHO, one of the possible sources for the name Oceanic) argue that Van Gogh killed himself because his life was so complete in the rapturous joy of painting that suicide was the only obvious choice that remained. I don't see the parallels there with our own two-eared Vincent. Vincent Price, one of my favorite actors, has more in common with the charging polar bears than Vincent-the-dog (unless you think about the scene where Vincent brings in a decaying arm with a key dangling from it). The Saint is an honorable fellow, but his martyrdom seems to stand in contrast to Vincent's tail-wagging exploration of the island and its characters.
Vincent's name, I believe, is derived from a body of water in Australia called Gulf St. Vincent. This body of water is closely related to Hurley's statement, "Australia is the key to the whole game." This body of water was where Matthew Flinders, the famous Australian explorer who named Australia, finally realized he had discovered a new continent. It was in this gulf that the mystery of Australia was solved.
Vincent, the dog, is a key component in helping us understand how to solve the mysteries of LOST. Hurley was right. Australia is the key to the whole game.
The origins for the name Charles Widmore lay in the Southwest Transept of Westminster Abbey. It is there that we find Poet's Corner. In this sacred hall is the grave of Charles Dickens. It is well-documented that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were huge fans of Charles Dickens.
Widmore comes from Richard Widmore, author of a comprehensive history of Westminister Abbey, written in 1743.
Dickens is buried beneath a memorial to William Shakespeare. An eyewitness present during Dicken's burial there said this...
"Early in the morning of 14 June 1870, Dickens was buried in Poets' Corner. Only members of the family and a few close friends were present. As the brief service was held, the statue of Shakespeare fittingly appeared to look down." (Alan S. Watts, The Life and Times of Charles Dickens, 137)
On this particular memorial to Shakespeare, there is an inscription - an excerpt from The Tempest. Some claim that hidden within this excerpt is a secret message - a cipher that reveals the name of Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon is, you guessed it, a prominent Rosicrucian. If Francis Bacon really is William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens' body forever lies directly below his watchful eyes.
The name Charles Widmore is an homage to Charles Dickens, secret messages embedded within writings, and the followers of the Rose Cross.
Claire Littleton is derived from the author C. Scott Littleton, a professor in Los Angeles who has authored non-fiction works on mythology and storytelling and one sci-fi book (Phase Two) published by The Invisible College Press. The Invisible College Press has published only a handful of books, but they also include The Rosicrucian Manuscripts. The Invisible College is often referred to as the Rosicrucian Invisible College. In fact, the Wikipedia article for The Invisible College uses as its primary image The Temple of the Rosy Cross.
This lends further credence to my conspiracy theory that LOST is an epic Rosicrucian myth.
Once again, I have to give credit to my friend Michael H for giving me the breadcrumb trail that led to this discovery.
Rose and Bernard Nadler
The current leader of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (or Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose Cross) in America is named Christian Bernard. I believe the LOST character Bernard was named after this leader of the Rosicrucians in America. His wife, Rose, is so named because she represents the rose on their chief symbol - the rose cross.
But what about their last name. Why Nadler? If everything in LOST has meaning, then what is the significance in this choice of last name?
Steven Nadler, as of this writing, is a Jewish philosopher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of a book entitled Spinoza: A Life. Nadler was chosen as the last name for Bernard and Rose because he authored a (if not the) definitive biography of this historical figure.
Baruch de Spinoza was a seventeenth-century Dutch/Jewish philosopher. He is considered one of the most important rationalistic philosophers in history. Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish faith for his teachings, but was also ironically given the nickname the God-intoxicated philosopher. Spinoza was also a mystic. More specifically, he was a Rosicrucian according to Rosicrucians themselves and many others.
Spinoza's signet ring contained three things: his initials (BSD), the Lain word caute, meaning caution, and the emblem of a rose.
Sometimes LOST is obvious with its choice of names that alluded to philosophers - as it was with John Locke and Rousseau. Most of the time, however, they are much more subtle. To name the married couple Rose and Bernard Spinoza would have been a bit too obvious (if not plain weird). Instead, they chose the last name of Spinoza's latest biographer.
If Spinoza was the God-intoxicated philosopher, then LOST is the God-intoxicated television program of our generation. I still find myself drawn deep down into its well of mystical intricacies, mind-blowing symbolism, and its call on we humans to let go of our shallow self-centered pursuits so that we can embrace the soul-stirring pursuit of giving our lives away to God and to others. Rose and Bernard gave themselves unselfishly to each other, even in the face of cancer and plane crashes and separation and atomic bomb blasts. These hardships may have been their cross to carry, but rather than die on that cross they chose to blossom. In this loss of self to another they found their true selves - souls enraptured by giving and unwilling to ever go back to anything less.
What was said to the rose
To make it unfold
Was said to me here in my chest
So be quiet now and rest
--David Crowder, from Here is Our King