The more I think about it, the more I like it. Initially, I was disappointed. Then I was okay with it, interpreting it in a way that is all over the internet (in much more popular stops than this one). (The island was real, the flash-sideways was the after death yadda yadda). But that theory is unsatisfying in that it pretty much ignores the island and all the mysterious things that happened there.
But I still thought “But what if they were supposed to be dead all along? Then that stinks.”
I complained that it was like waving a magic wand over the whole thing. But then….I began to think of it this way….
Everyone was lost, between life & death, when they boarded the plane in Sydney. In fact, they weren’t in the Sydney airport at all. They were at the way-station between worlds, between life & heaven (and hell), and that is why all of these flawed but redeemable people ended up on the same plane. That, and the final episode’s assertion that there is no “now” here (in the flash-sideways reality), because if these people were destined to come together in a sort of unhellish purgatory before they could move on, then they were bound together across all time.
You may recall that it wasn’t Hurley’s plane. He was the only character who required no redemption (though he did have issues). Because Hurley chose to be on the plane, the indication is that he was Bodhisattva. And ultimately, it was because of him that most everyone was able to move on. He didn’t remember this was his role however, as forgetting oneself was part of the process. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Here’s how I see it:
The island was a place between this life and the hereafter – a sort of stepping-stone between worlds. When “Mother” said there was nothing other than the island, she wasn’t lying. On that particular plane of existence, there truly wasn’t. And the light was, just as indicated, the light that glows in each of us.
People who died on the island were indeed (then) dead. In my theology, they could move on (up), if at peace (like Eko) – or they could move on (down) like our jewel thieves. In other theologies, the destinations might be different, but regardless, they were no longer “on the island”. Still – if wracked by guilt, if unredeemed on the island but not quite damnable, they could be stuck there – like Michael – and everyone else whispering around us. This, not the island itself, would be the equivalent of purgatory.
People who left the island (by plane, sub, or by turning the “donkey wheel”) could return to the world of the living. The wheel certainly appeared to be the Dharmacakra.
While I am not an expert in Buddhism, I do know this wheel represents the paths to enlightenment. But on the island, it seemed to short-circuit the process, allowing the unenlightened to come and go. Richard, as Jacob’s representative, was the only being who was supposed to be able to do this. Yet people pulled it off again and again. Most of the people who broke this rule died on the island – because death on the island, under Jacob’s law, was supposed to be the only path onward.
And the church at the end? All those symbols were not random. Aspects of each religion were present in the story. Because my knowledge is limited, and because I don’t want to write a thesis on this, I will limit it here.
I have all ready talked about Buddhism. As for Christianity, I don’t think it’s the “purgatory-ish” nature of the place – other than the way in which Michael experienced it. I do think Eloise Hawking represented God (and Daniel therefore was a Christ figure). Eloise tried, several times, to lead our characters. But it didn’t always work out. And you’ll recall that in the end, she didn’t want to lose her only son again.
We also saw the Om symbol in the church. It can represent 3 worlds….and although this is probably not what is intended in Hinduism, one could interpret it to mean the world of the living, the island world, and whatever comes after.
The island world became the “flash sideways” world for our beloved Losties. Jack took over for Jacob so that Hurley could take over for Jack. Hurley then allowed something totally new to happen in the transmigration of souls – instead of the island, our cast of characters were able to come together in a way-station between worlds that was not “the island”. It was, in fact, a way-station of their own creation. But because they were not gods, they had to remember the island and what they learned there before they could go on.
The light when the tail of the plane ripped away was the same as when the door of the church opened – both times, we were moving from one plane to another, with changing awareness. And the first time, it was perceived quite literally.
Here are some things this theory can’t easily explain:
The Dharma food drop. I can come up with some explanations, but I’m stretching. Perhaps it was the pilot’s lot to deliver the food again & again, much as Desmond had to push, push, push that button. Or maybe it was just to tempt Hurley…
Charles Widmore’s behavior. Though it’s possible every single thing he did was because he was told to do so by Jacob (when or before he was banished back to the land of the living).
Rose, Bernard, & Vincent – Really. Why did they need any redemption?
Here are some things this theory explains:
Michael was special because he could control “reality” on the island, which he was not supposed to be able to do. I suspect he was aware of where he was and had a made a choice to get to know his father. He returned to the land of the living, with his father’s assistance, but was unable to forgive what it took to get him there.
Women who arrived on the island pregnant could give birth. Sadly, this would mean both mother and baby were dying. Getting pregnant “on the island” however, wouldn’t work out well because new souls couldn’t be born into an in-between place. If one could return to the land of the living, however, one would remain pregnant and potentially give birth (like Sun). As for Ethan’s birth on the island – do we know for sure where he was conceived?
Black Smoke Monster – Well, we know who he was and how he got that way, but why? After the Cain and Abel scene, he was cast into the light. His soul couldn’t enter one of the 3 possible states that way and he became something…monstrous.
The Losties kept coming together again and again because they were bound together across all time. Jacob only thought he selected them. In fact, the whole process was bigger than Jacob with the ultimate goal to leave Hurley in charge of the island – and therefore its rules. Because, let’s face it, Jacob was kind of an ass.