Fans of the hit TV show LOST speculated after the first couple of seasons that it was secretly a presentation of Purgatory.  The buzz over this thesis grew to such large proportions that the producers had to release a letter denying the rumors.  Now two years after the show is finished, one of the writers is admitting it is Purgatory in a “literal and figurative” sense.  Or to use Douthat’s formulation, it is “not Purgatory, but Purgatorial.”  The show’s souls are LOST morally and spiritually.

The writer goes on to say this religious notion is detached from the idea of a Personal God who judges and forgives his creatures.  Instead, God is impersonal like the Greek Logos or Hindu Brahman.  This impersonal God made it easier to pacify the scientific materialist crowd which was a subset of the show’s fan base.  Divine judgment and mercy is replaced with Modern Autonomy:  The LOST characters forgive and find themselves.  The show is a synthesis of catholic and secular ideas, which is probably due to the writers trying to please different fans or factions.  It has been said all synthesis is a miracle and so one element must be watered down for the sake of the other.  In this case, the pre-modern elements seem stronger.

The denial of an external authority is only in regards to a person’s vertical duties (God); it does not apply to his horizontal duties to other people.  Early in the show, Jack Sheppard says they must either “live together or die alone.”  The series finale reveals the characters must enter Heaven together.  The Writers believe Heaven, not Hell, is other people.  A person’s worth is measured by his fulfillment or failure to live up to his social duties.

The role of memory is another example of how the LOST characters are not ‘unencumbered individuals’; on the contrary, they past weighs them down. Their previous misdeeds haunt them and form the material for their current dilemmas.  However, their prior experiences do not determine their current actions; the crux of every episode focuses upon whether a character will use his freedom to break from his past or remain mired in it.

There were plenty of problems with the show e.g. unanswered questions and a six season run when five would do; nevertheless, its vision of the human person is what made this drama work.

Articles by Jason Joseph

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