I wrote an article on Lost and the occult for Key 64. Probably nothing new for readers of this blog.
ABC’s Lost isn’t the first pop culture phenomena to crib from occultism – movies, television shows, and video games have integrated occult themes and rituals for years. But one thing that sets Lost apart from the crowd is the apparent sincere interest on the part of executive producer and co-creator Damon Lindelof. While most pop cultural attempts at integrating magic and the occult are done merely to add atmosphere to the story, Lindelof has a deeper interest in the material. And rather than beating the viewer over the head with “authentic” occult rituals, Lindelof is more content to pepper the series with references and concepts, leaving the the viewer to decipher their significance.
In “Confirmed Dead” we learn that John would have died when Ben shot him in the back if he’d still had his kidney. This sounds a lot like “retroactive magic.” Retroactive magic is either the most cutting edge arena of modern magical practice or the most self-delusional (or both). According to Edward Wilson: “Retroactivity is the idea that actions taken in the present or the future can affect the past and therefore the affect can proceed the cause… It creates of causation an Ouroborus or Mobius strip.” In other words an occulist can alter the past as well as the future.
There’s some interesting possible uses of these concepts earlier in the series as well. Reversing the audio played while Karl is in Room 23, you can hear the mantra “only fools are enslaved by time and space.” Author and occultist Taylor Ellwood, author of Space/Time Magic once wrote an article on the use of “mind machines” for retroactive magic:
Mind Machines are technologies that can be used to induce altered states of mind. The mind machine uses audio strobe technologies to do this. The goggles have strobe lights in them, which a person looks into with his/her eyes closed. The audio part is the music or sounds, which are translated into light pulses, which are then beamed into your closed eyes. The different frequencies of sound shape the light frequencies, although you can also adjust the light intensity of the strobe lights, dimming them or brightening them as needed. This is especially useful if you want to overload your senses and put yourself into an excitatory state.
Is it possible that the Others were not just trying to brainwash Karl, but also to cause some sort of retroactive change? This idea is supported by Desmond’s experience in “Ms. Hawking. However, another possibility is that his past is being engineered by himself or by the Others or Dharma. It could be that in his original life, he DID buy the ring and ask Penny to marry him but he or someone else decided it would be better to end up at the island pushing the button.