Not since Star Trek has a television show attracted such a devoted following as Lost. There are scores of websites based on the show itself and even websites centered on aspects of the show. There are books and magazines devoted to Lost and magazine articles on books that have appeared in Lost.
The attraction of the show is a strange setting, attractive yet deep and complex characters, and dangerous situations. But from the first episode, the allure is the mystery intertwined with the plot. It cannot even be claimed with confidence that this story is an adventure or science fiction. Many have asked: Are the characters actually dead? To which the creator of the show, J.J. Abrams, claims the answer is, no. He has not convinced the fans.
The characters appear to all be in need of redemption and are stuck in a place that blends purgatory with the Twilight Zone. Jack, the doctor, bears the guilt of having turned his father in to the medical authorities, an act that left the man on a slippery slope culminating in his death. Jack was on a trip to Australia, “down under,” to claim his father’s body. Kate is a bank robber, a murderer, and an accessory to murder and in the process of being brought to justice (and judgment). Charlie is a heroin addict whose destructive path has hurt those around him. Boone and Shannon bear the guilt of a brother-sister (well, step-sister) relationship. And Sawyer is a career con-man led by a need for vengeance. He witnesses his father kill his mother and then himself in the bitter aftermath of being conned by a man named Sawyer. Like the Irish mythological hero Cu Chulainn, he takes a new name for himself after an act of violence. Then there is John Locke, named for the philosopher. Locke tips us off to the true nature of their situation when he famously says, “Everyone gets a new life on this island.”
All have made the journey to the underworld, in the form of the down under. It is a literary device used in Homer’s Ulysses that is required to become initiated, “born-again” or redeemed.
Not even close to last is Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. A hapless victim of luck, both bad and good, he seems to have committed no crime. There is one hint. He used a series of numbers to win the lottery. He received the numbers from a man, Lenny, who he met in a mental institution. Lenny and another man, Sam, had heard them while monitoring for transmissions in the Pacific. Lenny had gone insane, but the other man, Sam, who heard the transmission, would commit the same crime as Hurley. He used the numbers to win money. A series of bad things then rained on this man that led to his suicide. Hurley uses them to win the lottery, but within months loses his grandfather, sees his brother lose his wife, buys his mother a house which goes up in flames, and is arrested for being Mexican in an upscale neighborhood.
He says the money is cursed, and then comes to believe the numbers are cursed. It just may be that using the numbers for material wealth is the sacrilege. This is another clue that the numbers are sacred. I know someone who is consistently rebuffed by his brother, a priest, who refuses to place his lottery tickets on the altar when he says mass. Was this Hurley’s crime? And if so, how are the numbers sacred?
Numbers have played a significant role in religion from the earliest time. They codify secret knowledge of the sacred and make such knowledge available to the initiated. Numbers have also played a role in Lost as an undercurrent. A set of six numbers in particular have mystified viewers. The number of the plane that brings the survivors to the island is Oceanic Flight 815. This is the same number as Kate’s safety box which conceals the toy plane.
Eight is a most sacred number. In Egypt 8, 18, and 108 were the numbers of the goddess Isis. Her brother and lover was Osiris. When Osiris was killed and dismembered, she brought about his resurrection by putting together the pieces of his body. Osiris was not whole until fifteen pieces were found. And even then, he was confined to the Underworld. Our passengers left the land “down under” for a netherland of the unexplained, on Flight 815, or Flight Isis Osiris.
The mother of Isis was Nut. She is the chaos of nothingness and her number is zero. A number written on the wall in the hatch, and the amount of time the machine must be served is 108. 8, 18 and 108 are all numbers important to the goddess. Eight itself represents infinity and rebirth. This number was sacred to the Knights Templar who used the octagon in building their baptistries in numerous locations. Because it has become evident that these structures can calculate activity of both the sun and moon, there are certainly deeper secrets concealed. St. Bernard, the moral force behind the Templars, said God is height and length and depth. The baptismal fonts in modern churches all have an octagonal base symbolizing the rebirth. The “cult” of Isis had arrived in Rome a century before Christianity. Egyptian dualism is embedded in the Christian religion, although the worship of the goddess was removed. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would be depicted holding the child as Isis had been depicted holding her son Horus. Titles of Isis as Queen of Heaven (Regina Coeli) and Star of the Seas (Stella Maris) would become titles of Mary’s.
The sacred numbers of Lost were introduced in Episode 18. They are: 4-8-15-16-23-42. Together they add up to 108, the number of Isis. When the hatch is found, the numbers are on the door. The passengers are instructed that every 108 minutes they are required to enter the numbers in a computer.
Have we come full circle? A transmission of the numbers from an unnamed Pacific island, picked up by two men who soon become institutionalized and dead. One of the men gives the numbers to Hurley. Hurley ends up on an unnamed Pacific island where fellow refugees are required to input the numbers in a computer and transmit them. Along the way the producers let us know it is not just a little significant. Hurley, in the airport passes six girls bearing soccer jerseys each with one of the numbers. When his car breaks down all six appear on his dashboard. To his horror the numbers appear on the hatch door. He even finds they were the transmission that lured lone survivor Danielle and her group to the island.
The significance of the numbers is not in question, but just to whom the numbers were significant may provide an answer. In the religion of the ancient Egyptians, such numbers were significant and were a means of passing on knowledge.
The number Four is regarded as the building block of Man, specifically the human male. While Isis was the supreme goddess, she shared her creation with Osiris, her brother and lover. Osiris is regarded as good, and having been put to death by evil. Isis and Osiris each had twins exhibiting the dual nature of creation. The dark sister of Isis was Nephthys (this death goddess has the number 28). The dark brother of Osiris was Set. Set served as the basis for Satan, the Devil, or Lucifer in the Judeo-Christian world. Dualism, found in older religions from Africa to Asia, is not accepted in Western religion. The nature of Man is both light and dark, good and evil. Black and white, like Charlie’s checkered sneakers, play another part in the theme of dualism. As the philosopher John Locke holds up the backgammon pieces to show Walt he proclaims, one is light, one is dark. Dualism is the yin and yang of the world of Jin and Sun.
The number 8 is the number of Isis. She is the seeing eye of Egyptian symbols. The first thing we see in the pilot of Lost is the eye, specifically Jack’s, as he absorbs his new world.
The number 15 is the sum total of the parts of the male. When Osiris was killed by his brother Set, he was dismembered. Isis set out to find the last piece. This was necessary for his resurrection. This story is recalled in Buddhist philosophy that a sage must spend fourteen days in the after-world, before, on day fifteen, becoming enlightened. If anyone was in need of wisdom, it might be Sawyer. He takes seat 15D.
The number 16 is the work of Man in creating his world. St. Bernard preached that understanding God is in understanding Geometry. His Cistercian order, along with Templars, did his work in constructing structures as large as cathedrals, and as small as bridges. Man building on an area creates 16 as 4 x 4. Again he creates the boundary of his work as perimeter 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16. Not all man’s work is good, however. The work of Sayid in serving his country is bringing cruelty to his fellow man. It is a job that brings him the greatest guilt. He sits in 16A.
The number 23 recalls the 23rd Psalm of the Old Testament which copies an older Egyptian text. This older text appeals to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to “green pastures” and “still waters” of what the Egyptians referred to as the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul to the body and give protection in the shadow of death. Jack, the doctor is the island’s protector, yet at the same time, in need of restoring his own soul after his actions. He sits in 23A.
The number 42 is the culmination of good vs. evil. The number of the Sun is 6. This is the Egyptian god Ra and as the sun, marks the passage of the day and the year. The opposite of light is darkness, and the number of Set is 7. He is the Satan, the Lord of the Dark. 6 x 7 is 42. On a lighter note, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the question is asked, “What is the meaning of Life.” The answer is number 42. Then again, it may serve little purpose except for completing the total of the six numbers at 108. 42F is also the seat for Ana-Lucia.
The combination of Jack (23A) as the protector of life, and Ana-Lucia, (42F) as the taker of life is just one exhibition of the show’s dualism. Claire’s child being born, seemingly in the same moment as Boone’s dying, is another message.
Every religion offers redemption through a prescribed path. In Buddhism it is the Tao, or Dharma (as in Dharma Project), meaning the Way. To reach a higher level, the initiate must be willing take the correct steps and ask the right questions. The Renaissance thinker and philosopher Pico Della Mirandola was regarded as a Christian Cabalist. He believed: “By number, a way may be had for the investigation and understanding of everything possible…” Will they reveal the secrets of Lost?
Steven Sora is the author of several books on esoteric history including The lost Treasure the Knights Templar.