One definition of mysticism is “a belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension.” That’s a pretty heady term to apply to a TV show–but “Lost” isn’t an ordinary show. The series begins with a plane crashing en route from Sydney to Los Angeles, stranding 42 surviving passengers on a tropical island. However, it becomes immediately clear that something is unusual on the island: A monster eats the plane’s pilot, polar bears appear out of nowhere, and people who already live on the island (“The Others”) begin kidnapping passengers.
The character John Locke (yes, named after that John Locke) has established himself as the island mystic. Locke, a Christian before the crash, has now started to believe in the island as his god. The main cause of this change was Locke’s miraculous healing: Wheelchair-bound when he boarded the plane, he was suddenly able to walk after the crash. So far, there has been no explanation for why–or how–Locke was healed, and Locke gives the island all the credit. The island has enabled Locke to reinvent himself and start his life over. He may not know the island’s motivation for curing him, but he suspects that the island has some greater purpose for him that will be revealed later. That faith propels him onward.
When supernatural things start happening, Locke argues that there are some things beyond human comprehension–and that the island is making decisions for itself. Locke is one of the only “lostaways” to have seen the monster; instead of being scared or trying to kill it, his only response was to call it “beautiful.” He recognizes the monster as being part of the island’s master plan, another clue in the larger puzzle he is working toward solving.
When his protégé, Boone, dies in a freak accident, Locke lashes out at the island, crying out “I did everything you asked me to do!” Clearly, Locke believes that he and the island have a bond of some sort, and that he knows what the island wants. When telling the others about the death, Locke refers to it as “a sacrifice.”
Locke’s survival skills make him an early leader, and his island-religion is the motivation behind his choices. Although he and Jack–the man of science–are opposites, they aren’t rivals. Even when they disagree, they work together. The flaw with Locke’s mysticism is that he thinks he is the only one who understands what the island wants. It’s as if the island is his own private god, which he doesn’t want to share for fear someone else might benefit more than him. Mysticism is about identifying a greater unity, something that Locke is utterly failing to do. If he really does have insight into the strange things happening on the island, I’m sure the others would benefit from hearing about it.
Locke’s interference in the lives of other characters is often paternalistic. He insists that he knows what is best for someone else, even when his motivation is questionable. Positioning himself as a mystic might turn out to be a way of covering up a secret agenda. Maybe it isn’t the island he thinks is a god; it’s himself.