For my first theory (which originally was my first post on the forum), I wish to explain how I understand the Incident and the flash sideways (plus a bunch of random thoughts along the way). Actually, I’m often pretty surprised to see how the finale of season 5 seems underrated since The End and the revelation about the nature of the sideways. In advance, I would like to present my apologies for my poor grammar (I'm French and, even if I understand and speak, writing in English is always tricky for me). So, take a deep breath, here we go...
About the importance of The Incident:
In my understanding of LOST, I think that the Incident is the most important and iconic moment of the show; like a keystone or something. Why? Essentially for two reasons (and I see the reversed title at the end as another clue):
1) First of all, I think that the castaways never were and never will be more interdependent. Setting off an hydrogen bomb thirty years in the past, BELIEVING that it'll erase their on-island adventure (btw, I’m a big fan of the “believe-theory”. I think it wraps up so much things like the rules and that it has be more or less confirmed by Miles in The End. But I digress…) and cause 815 landing in LAX can’t be just for the twist, don't you think? Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet... all of them were persuaded that this last try will change their past, or their future. But whatever happen, happened.
2) And last but not least, the Incident is really the beginning and the end of all the events on-island (at least for our Losties) and a major symbol of the traditional "loop theme / we are the cause of our own suffering yada yada".
I wouldn’t teach you anything about the beginning: without it, no Swan Station, no 108 min button and no crash of the 815 (and like always in a timeloop, no Incident without crash. God, I love that idea). And the end because it's also what closes the 70s arc, flashing-forward our Losties back to where they belong (in 2007, for the final act of season 6).
No limbo, nor purgatory:
That being said, here's my theory: when Juliet hits Jughead, crying to death "come on son of a bitch", the universe has to deal with a time paradox due to the time loop briefly explain in 2). So, it created two timelines; exactly like in the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment with the multiverse interpretation of Everett:
> In the first one (the Original Timeline that we saw from season 1 to 5), Jughead didn't go off and just flashed them to 2007. Why? Because this OT is a LOOP with no beginning and no end. So to avoid any inconsistencies, the Losties always had / have to crash on the Island in 2004, travel back to 1977 and try setting off that H-bomb. In fact, the explosion of Jughead literally and immediately erases its chance to explode. That’s weird, but that’s how time loop works. Just like Miles had suggested, they just “made history” and changed nothing… or not.
Because even more important: the Alt Timeline is built on that loop. If the Original-Losties don't crash on the Island and if the chain of events doesn't "flow" properly, any split of time is impossible and the Alt-Losties won't live their life without the Island (but we’ll get back to this later). It's interesting to say that in this OT, the Losties are LOST. They struggle continuously with their past, thinking that it'll decide their future, like if they were trapped... in a loop.
> The second timeline exists in fact all along like the counter-result (or side effect) of the Incident. In the Flash Sideways or Alt Timeline, Jughead went off, negating the energy on the heart of the Island.
Before continuing, let me just tell that I don't think that it’s only to mislead us if Darlton showed a submerged Island in LAX and, 16 episodes later, tell us that when the "light goes out" (after that Desmond withdraws the cork) the Island begins to sink… And, when I see the Light like the symbol of life(and)time ("The warmest, brightest light you've ever seen or felt. And that's why they want it. Because a little bit of this very same light is inside of every man. But they always want more."), I'm not very surprise hearing Christian Shepard saying: "Well there is no "now" here”. Finally, note that when the countdown reach 0, the hieroglyphs say "Underworld", letting us foresee what really happened if Desmond DIDN'T turn the failsafe key (Jughead finishing by releasing all its unstable energy and negating the electromagnetic pocket / light under the Island).
So... the heart of the Island is destroyed and everything begins to fall apart, giving time to the last Dharma folks (and the Others with Eloise, Charles and co) to get the hell out of here.
Now underwater, the Island (and Time) doesn't exist anymore, and all the lives that were connected to her take another path (which explains the differences between the OT and the FST). So this change of destiny, this new timeline, is the belief of Losties literally coming true during the Incident. At this time, they only wish to live a life without their past and out of the influence of the Island, hoping that all of their problems will be solved. BUT.
I’m hitting the box, ready to die:
I don't know how you felt it, but the FST always appears to me as a strange and slightly too beautiful place (for example, all the scenes seem to be engulfed in a bizarre white light). I think it’s because this timeline is against nature: the result of a paradox where Time itself doesn't flow anymore. In fact, I think that the FST is totally fake and was never supposed to exist (like in quantum theories, alt universes always collapse to let the original one be), and that's what people “living” in it have to figure out when they "move on". So the FST is really only a construct made by the Losties to "remember and to let go", a collective fantasy made real by the “imagination / believe / hope amplifier” of the Island.
In Buddhism, the enlightened one reaches the Nirvana when he's capable of breaking the loop of existence – the Samsara -. The only way to do that is to understand the meaning of life - basically that anything is pain or Duhkha (as the result of impermanence and human hunger) - and to accept it. Note that this state is only reachable in death, when the soul doesn't want to reborn anymore (= quits his Samsara) and that to do this, the disciple has to rely on the Buddha, the Dharma – the rules or the teachings – and the Sangha – the people -.
I don't know what you think about that, but that's exactly what I saw in the final scene of LOST (and by extension in the purpose of the FST)... and not speaking about all the references about Buddhism dispatch along the way. By reconnecting their constant and by remembering their ON-ISLAND life, all the struggle, all the pain and all the issues with their past they had in the OT; they understood the "fakeness" of the FST and that living "happily ever after" without struggle isn't the right way. All the Losties who are ready to understand that life is all about acceptance (in particular of who you are and of the necessity of suffering) can finally break the cycle and "move on to the next stage". Note that Desmond is the most aware of all and the one who hastens the awakening by gathering them in the church. A lot of you thought that he was the one named Wallace, the candidate with the number 108. I think you were right. 108, besides being the sum of the other main candidate, is sacred in Buddhism. It’s the number of afflictions to overcome to reach enlightenment. Moreover a mala is composed of 108 beads and also a lot of temples have 108 steps.
Like Jacob said in "What They Died For”: "You were all flawed. I chose you because you needed the Island as much as it needed you.” The Island needed them in the OT to save her (and the world) while it’s her who saves them during their path to enlightenment in the FST.
Speaking about the end of the world, I also really like the interpretation we can make about the numbers. The LOST Experience told us that 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 were the core values of the Valenzetti’s Equation, which supposed to predict the date of the extinction of humanity. This is partly why the Dharma Initiative came to the Island: to try to manipulate the environment in order to change one of the values. But they failed. Then in season 6, each number became associated to a candidate (due to his coordinate on the Lighthouse). We understand now why the DI didn’t succeed, cause the core values didn’t represent the environment but were in fact human values all along. Only the psychological change of a candidate can keep the end at bay. We all know it, but Jack becoming a man of faith through the death of John Locke (“the one who save us all”) appeared to be a critical change. Now Jack is ready to sacrifice himself in order to fix nothing more than everything (let us recall that by saving the OT from destruction, he maintains the existence of the FST too). So Jack is finally a shepherd, allowing all humanity to “lift up”.
One last word about sacrifice: I compared the Incident to a Schrödinger’s Cat experiment. But now, we can see it more like a Quantum Suicide situation. The Quantum Suicide is exactly the same experiment that the cat one, except that the observer IS in the box. This thought experiment is used to demonstrate (by metaphysical interpretation) the immortality of the mind (or quantum immortality). In fact, it basically says that the observer can see the result of his experiment only in universes in which he survives, making him more or less invulnerable. That’s not very important, but I like the link between this experiment in quantum mechanic, the karmic interpretation and what’s going on in The End. LOST always seemed to oppose Faith / Science, Free Will / Destiny, Life / Death… and succeed at last to wrap everything up pretty well.
ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ :
To finish, I just want to quote the Dalai Lama explaining the difference between a Creator God and Buddha. For the lazy ones, I put in capital letter the important sentence:
« I understand the Primordial Buddha, also known as Buddha Samantabhadra, TO BE THE ULTIMATE REALITY, THE REALM OF THE DHARMAKAYA – THE SPACE OF EMPTINESS - where all phenomena, pure and impure, are dissolved. This is the explanation taught by the Sutras and Tantras. However, in the context of your question, the tantric tradition is the only one which explains THE DHARMAKAYA IN TERMS OF INHERENT CLEAR LIGHT, THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF THE MIND ; THIS WOULD SEEM IMPLY THAT ALL PHENOMENA, SAMSARA AND NIRVANA, ARISE FROM THIS CLEAR AND LUMINOUS SOURCE. Even the New School of Translation came to the conclusion that the "state of rest" of a practitioner of the Great Yoga --Great Yoga implies here the state of the practitioner who has reached a stage in meditation where the most subtle experience of clear light has been realized-- that for as long as the practitioner remains in this ultimate sphere he or she remains totally free of any sort of veil obscuring the mind, and is immersed in a state of great bliss.
We can say, therefore, that this ultimate source, clear light, is close to the notion of a Creator, since all phenomena, whether they belong to samsara or nirvana, originate therein. But we must be careful in speaking of this source, we must not be led into error. I do not mean that there exists somewhere, there, a sort of collective clear light, analogous to the non-Buddhist concept of Brahma as a substratum. We must not be inclined to deify this luminous space. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN WE SPEAK OF ULTIMATE OR INHERENT CLEAR LIGHT, WE ARE SPEAKING ON AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL.
Likewise, when we speak of karma as the cause of the universe we eliminate the notion of a unique entity called karma existing totally independently. RATHER, COLLECTIVE KARMIC IMPRESSIONS, ACCUMULATED INDIVIDUALLY, ARE AT THE ORIGIN OF THE CREATION OF A WORLD. When, in the tantric context, we say that all worlds appear out of clear light, we do not visualize this source as a unique entity, but as the ultimate clear light of each being. We can also, on the basis of its pure essence, understand this clear light to be the Primordial Buddha. All the stages which make up the life of each living being – DEATH, THE INTERMEDIATE STATE, AND REBIRTH – REPRESENT NOTHING MORE THAN THE VARIOUS MANIFESTATIONS OF THE POTENTIAL OF CLEAR LIGHT. It is both the most subtle consciousness and energy. The more clear light loses its subtlety, the more your experiences take shape.
In this way, death and the intermediate state are moments where the gross manifestations emanating from clear light are reabsorbed. At death we return to that original source, and from there a slightly more gross state emerges to form the intermediate state preceding rebirth. At the stage of rebirth, clear light is apparent in a physical incarnation. At death we return to this source. And so on. THE ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE SUBTLE CLEAR LIGHT, ALSO CALLED THE PRIMORDIAL BUDDHA, IS EQUIVALENT TO REALIZING NIRVANA, WHEREAS IGNORANCE OF THE NATURE OF CLEAR LIGHT LEAVES US TO WANDER IN THE DIFFERENT REALMS OF SAMASARIC EXISTENCE. »
Thanks A LOT for reading. I hope that was pretty interesting.