March 24, 2010 From Eternity
In “Ab Aeterno” Richard is chained to the Black Rock Ship. A corrupt priest offered him no absolution, but instead sold him as a slave to Alvar Hanso, who owns The Black Rock. In a strange twist of fate, the ship crash lands on the island and Richard is offered a chance to redeem himself after all.
The first person that Richard sees is his dead wife. It was his love for her that led him to accidently kill the doctor he sought out to heal her. In some way or another, it seems, everyone on the island has blood on their hands. Later, the Man in Black appears to free Richard and offer him a deal. Richard agrees to kill Jacob. Jacob was waiting and ready this time. After a good ass-kicking and violent baptism in the sea, Jacob sits down and explains some things to Richard.
The island is like a bottle. The wine represents evil. Jacob is like the cork the keeps the evil inside the island. Richard then questions Jacob’s approach to redemption. Why bring people to the island but refuse to help them? Jacob explains that he requires everyone to find their own way; the redemption is no good if he forces it up on them. He does, however, allow Richard to help others on his behalf and grants him eternal life.
Although the episode focused on Richard’s Spanish Catholicism, I couldn’t help but think of two books I recently read on Buddhism: Open to Desire by Mark Epstein and Living with the Devil by Stephen Batchelor. In Living with the Devil Batchelor describes the Buddhist Devil Mara. Unlike the Christian Satan, Mara is mundane. In fact, Mara is more a symbol for our egos. Mara represents our unskillful way of dealing with our emotions. The devil is inside of us, tempting us with lustful, violent and destructive behaviors. The only way to overcome these behaviors is with love and compassion for ourselves and others. Mara may block our path to Nirvana, but we can move past the devil be refusing to fear it. Instead of angrily resisting and violently fighting, we simply must deal with whatever the issues in and move onward.
The Man in Black on Lost is more like Mara than the Christian Devil. Instead of needing to be defeated, Mara needs only to be kept in check. Hence, Jacob needs to live to keep the balance. Yin and Yang. Nirvana cannot exist without Samsara.
As for Hell….Well, I think the island is more of a portal to the underworld. It is a place in between, neither here nor there. It is neither heaven nor hell. Keep in mind the Greeks viewed the Underworld as neither good nor bad in and of itself. Your actions determined if you went to Tartarus or the Elysian Fields, but bother were contained in the underworld. The island is a microcosm of the entire world and the eternal struggle between light and dark and love and fear. The island is a living symbol.