“That’s not a bad theological idea…You find yourself facing yourself.”
–Phil talking about Judgment Day in VALIS
Normally, I don’t offer theories about how Lost will end. The “how” of the show doesn’t interest me nearly as much as the “why.” I enjoy teasing out obscure associations to deepen the meaning(s) of Lost, without addressing “what happens next.” But two things have led me to believe I might know what’s going on here: a science-fiction novel, VALIS, which has been referenced in the show more than once, and the most recent episode, “Ab Aeterno.” Both reveal evidence that the narrative strings of Lost will be pulled together to create a satisfying end. So, without further ado, I will offer my prediction through a close “reading” of the show.
The foundation of this proposal rests on the fact that each character faces himself as the ultimate judge. From the beginning of season one, the castaways were compelled to turn inward and scrutinize their lives, as illustrated by the flashbacks. Within each person there are two opposing forces, sometimes represented as mirror images, which are designed to maintain balance within the individual, like the white rock balances the black rock on Jacob’s scale. The island signifies the typical human being, striving to keep his own destructive forces at bay. With that in mind, the island is all “id” at this point in the season, “id” being a Freudian term for a force that “has no organization, produces no collective will, but only (strives) to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs” (Sigmund Freud). I would suggest that when all of the characters find equilibrium within themselves, the island can also be redeemed, or vice versa. That is the basis of my theory, but here’s how I think it will be played out: John Locke will either defeat the Smoke Monster in a face to face confrontation (either by traveling between splintered universes or by rising from the dead) or he will overcome the Smoke Monster from within. There are signs that a component of John Locke dwells somewhere inside the monster, even if the two never actually shared the same body. Not only does he seem to have John Locke’s memories, but he also uses John’s catch phrase “ don’t tell me what I can’t do.” It doesn’t matter if Locke materializes as an external force or an internal one; the idea is that 1.) John will be the savior by balancing or overcoming the destructive forces of the Smoke Monster, 2.) John will face himself as a judge, and 3.) John will finally be redeemed.
Let me briefly present two superficial clues that foreshadow this idea. First of all, the only notable thing we have seen lying “in the shadow of the statue” is John Locke’s body. And we all know what lies in the shadow of the statue: Ille qui nos omnes servabit, meaning “the one who will save us all” or “he who will protect us all.” The next bit of evidence is buried deeper, but it is a surprisingly relevant quote. In season one Charlie tells Jack that if anyone could save them, it was John. “If there was one person on this island I’d put my absolute faith in to save us all, it would be John Locke” (Hearts and Minds).
John-as-savior makes the most sense as a resolution to the story simply because of the significance with which John has been branded. If all of the main characters are destined for redemption, as promised by Team Darlton, then how could they leave such an important man to die such a pitiful death without fulfilling his purpose? The only thing he has fulfilled thus far is the Smoke Monster’s wishes, with the help of Benjamin Linus.
Which brings me to one key component of my theory: Benjamin Linus, always the shape-shifter, has been working for the Smoke Monster, sometimes wittingly, as when he unleashes it after Alex’s death, but sometimes through a veil of confusion, as when he visits “Jacob” at the cabin and heeds the instructions to move the island. The Smoke Monster takes advantage of Ben’s weaknesses (his jealousy of Locke and his raging despair over the death of Alex), forming a union between man and monster that spirals into the chaos we see in “The Incident.” Ben struggles to be a good person and prides himself on his blind faith in Jacob, but his fragile ego succumbs to a darker side. Ben’s better nature can’t withstand Jacob’s question: “What about you?” It is too big of a blow to the self he has constructed.
Ben’s jealousy of Locke begins early on, probably even when he is first captured by the castaways. Recall, too, that Richard tells John in “The Brig” that “Ben wanted to embarrass you and have everyone watch you fail. Ben doesn’t want anyone to know that you’re special.” Apparently the Others were excited when they heard a man with a broken spine had been healed by the island. They thought he was special, a new leader to replace Ben. For whatever reason, he seemed to be leading his flock astray. Perhaps Ben is part of the Smoke Monster, deep down. Perhaps he was healed (or “infected”) by the smoke when he was brought to the Others as a boy. When Charles Widmore says to Ben, “I know who you are, boy. I know what you are,” maybe that’s what he means.
So the question is, was John Locke really “supposed to” die? Recall that it was the Smoke Monster in the form of Locke who instructed Richard to tell John that he was going “to have to die.” In committing suicide John would have fulfilled his fate, but it was a malevolent prophecy from the get-go. Ben does seem sincere as he pleads with John to not kill himself and, again, reiterates the special nature of John’s purpose. But then he is gripped with the same old jealous rage when John reveals that he has the inside scoop. He’s been told to find Eloise Hawking. And so Ben does the dirty deed for the Smoke Monster, delivering a body, and perhaps a soul, to the island.
So how does VALIS enter into the picture? If you recall, John brings this book to Ben in the basement (“Eggtown”) where he is being held prisoner. John suggests Ben re-read it saying, “You might catch something you missed the second time around.” This comment is a valid statement considering the complexity of the novel, but it is also an inside joke (for those who have read the book) which I don’t have time to address here. VALIS is a strange spiritual quest story about faith, the illusion of reality and the nature of time. One of the main characters, Horselover Fat, spends his time searching for a savior as his mental health disintegrates. He receives information through a pink beam of light and believes that the truth about reality is being revealed to him alone. He has plenty of faith, like a certain Lostie we know, but it turns out that he is schizophrenic. At the same time, he is still genuinely special, a chosen one, so to speak, but desperate to find a savior. The first-person narrator (who turns out to be the same person as Fat) says, “I don’t dare tell Fat that he is searching for himself…like the rest of us he seeks an external savior” (132). This is exactly what John Locke needs to be told. Looking for an external savior only got him into to trouble, even when it was Jacob he sought. Horselover Fat is a misguided soul, but he comes to realize that having faith in himself and in humanity is what is most important. If Locke could have realized this, he could have attained salvation. As the “fifth savior,” a voice of wisdom in VALIS says, “Man is holy, and the true god, the living god is man himself. You will have no gods but yourselves” (198).
There’s been so much talk about gods and devils and saviors in Lost, but the man in Black and Jacob are, of course, just representations of traditional religious figures. And, according to VALIS, gods are just representative of the forces within each human spirit—the good, the evil, the creative, the destructive, the charitable, the jealous, the merciful, the cruel, etc. As the fifth savior, proclaims “you are to follow one rule: you are to love one another as you love me and I love you, for this proceeds from the true god, which is yourselves.” So if the Lostaways can face themselves as judges and turn toward each other for salvation, rather than seeking external gods, maybe they will be redeemed after all.
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