Here it is. This is my attempt at an understanding of the whole story.
It is very difficult to re-create the historical timeline of the island with certainty, and the fact that it exists outside of normal space/time is the least of the difficulty. Most problematic, indeed, is the fact that the majority of what is on record comes to us from the perspective of individuals whose knowledge of the larger picture is limited in the extreme, though their impact upon that picture may well be crucial. In other words, the "main" characters of the narrative are at this point in the dark, or at least as much so as we are. They know little more than we do, or in many cases less (with the possible exception of Benjamin Linus and the "Shadow of the Statue" crew). Furthermore, the motives and agendas of the characters most in the know regarding the larger story (Jacob, the Nemesis, Richard, Eloise, Charles Widmore) are still murky. And, as a final layer of obfuscation, we have observed that some of these characters who are "most in the know" have likely been manipulated to large extent without their knowledge. Therefore, we are dealing with limited information at best. For this purpose, I will be indulging to a great degree in speculation and assumption, but unlike other posts, I will try to draw fairly rigid lines between what is being assumed and what we know for a fact.
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So. There is an island. It exists in what I will call, for want of a better term, a "situation" regarding space and time that is unique as compared to "our" world. There is evidence that it has been interacting with our world for a very long time, and has also been inhabited for an even longer time. Though there is no evidence to conclusively prove that its oldest residents are the entity known as Jacob and the unnamed entity that will here be called "The Nemesis", it seems relatively safe to presume that they are, and that they exist with the island, or perhaps as an inseparable part of the island. In any event, it seems likely given the tenor of the first conversation between the two that they are the primary and most enduring residents.
It's unknown how long the island has existed, but given the record of architecture and artistic rendering left behind, it seems safe to assume that its history of interaction with "our" world extends back at least as far as Ancient Egypt, that is to say, back to the earliest great human civilization on record. Sorry, Mesopotamia. You get no love here. Pyramids, fools. Respeck. Given the information at our disposal, it must be presumed that these Egyptians were drawn to the island by Jacob. (Taking as a clue the presence on the island of urim and thumin (ancient Biblical Judaic casting stones), it is not impossible to suppose that these "Egyptians" may have been members of a recently freed tribe of slaves, wandering aimlessly in the desert. These slaves would have spent their entire lives, up to the point of their release, living in Egypt, and had heretofore been tasked by their Egyptian masters in the building, among other things, of pyramids. For this reason, the ability to erect these man-made structures, Egyptian-influenced, some of great scale, which have been seen on the island, would have been within their grasp. Whether what they saw on that island would have fulfilled the creation account in their leader Moses's Torah, or inspired it, would be difficult to say. But now we are afield in the arena of pet theory and high speculation. It's still possible, though. Bear with me.)
An Egyptian contingent came to the island, and other, later, groups were, as well. It is presumed that they would have seen their arrival as an accident, but they had been drawn there specifically by Jacob, for vague purposes. As they arrived, they were assimilated into the island's inhabitants became his followers, his worshipers. They built pyramids and labyrinths to him. Some of the rooms that were built on the lower levels suggest that some of them may well have worshiped the Nemesis, as well. On the beach, they constructed an immense statue of the fertility goddess Taweret, looking out to sea. The arrivals of this era best known to us, the sailors aboard the merchant ship The Black Rock, would have seen it as they approached, and by the time of their approach, Jacob had taken up residence in the base of it.
It is unknown if the man who would become known as Richard Alpert was one of the original Egyptian settlers of the island, or a sailor on the Black Rock, or an unrecorded arrival. However, he did become the one who began to act as the liaison, or perhaps the high priest, between Jacob and his followers (who I will from here on refer to as the Jacobians). It was to him that Jacob gave the messages he sent to his people. It was to him that he entrusted with the entrance to his abode. And it was through him that he communicated his will to the leader of the Jacobians, and by which he communicated his appointment of these leaders. It was Richard that Jacob chose to live an unending life, never aging, never dying. (It is possible that all Jacobians were at some point given this gift, but we have no hard evidence of this. For the purposes of this narrative, I assume it was only Richard, and I will further assume that it was in fact Jacob with whom he was communing, and not the Nemesis in the guise of Jacob.)
Somewhere in this early era, after the statue had been built, a group of people appeared in a flash, looked around wildly, and disappeared in a flash a few minutes later. Let's not pretend we don't know their names, which are James "Sawyer" Ford, Juliet Burke, Miles Straume, and Jin-Soo Kwan. Simultaneously, there appeared in various other places on the island a married couple named Bernard and Rose Nadler, a dog named Vincent, and a man named Daniel Faraday, tending to a sick woman named Charlotte Lewis, who died in his arms. As far as we know, nobody living on the island saw them.
Simultaneously, somewhere in the ground deep beneath them, a man named John Locke spoke to one of the entities. The entity, who I am presuming was the Nemesis in a disguised form, spoke to John Locke in words that would be cryptic if you hadn't been watching the television show LOST. He told him, among other things, to "bring them all back." Locke, badly injured, dragged himself as instructed to a wheel set in rock. This wheel was out of its track and spewing some indeterminate form of energy. John Locke put the wheel back in its track, and then disappeared in a flash, at the same time as the Others on the surface did the same.
A few words about this.
First, though nobody living in the past would know this, we know that the wheel that was out of joint was put out of joint hundreds, or perhaps thousands (I'll stick with thousands, as it is more dramatic to do so and for the purposes of this discussion it doesn't matter) of years in the future. Got that? First it was fixed, and then it was broken. It was broken in the future so that it had been fixed thousands of years in the past. I think I just invented a new verb tense. Pluimperfect? Quantum past tense?
Second, we know that these Others (I use this word very purposefully) who appeared, and then disappeared, were doing so because they were jumping around throughout the island's chronological time. They were doing this because the wheel was going to be put off-track some time in the future. They stopped doing it precisely because the wheel had already been put back on-track, back in the distant past. Got that? The wheel was broken thousands of years in the future, which caused these people to jump around to points in time before the wheel was broken, and then they stopped because the wheel was fixed thousands of years before the wheel was broken. And people say that Season 5 was hard to follow.
From these two points, we can determine that the wheel, and anything that is done to it, and the cavern in which it is found, and the people who are time-jumping as a result of its being put out of joint, are all interacting in a unique situation relative to the island's time-space, or perhaps outside of the island's time-space entirely. Whether this relationship between wheel and island is of the same kind as the relationship between island and "our" earth, or of a different kind, is unclear.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the Nemesis appeared to John Locke in the guise of a man that Locke did not know, but who was a real man who would live and die thousands of years in the future. This real man's name was Christian Shepherd, the father of a man, Jack Shepherd, who was well known to Locke, and that connection allowed Locke to one day, thousands of years in the future, convince Jack to return to the island . . . which was something that would affect the island's destiny greatly. This means that the Nemesis, thousands of years ago, had knowledge of people and relationships that would not occur until the far future, and was able to use those relationships to further his own ends.
There are a few possibilities to explain this. The first is that the Nemesis (and, we presume, Jacob) also exists outside of space and time, and moves within it. The second is that the Nemesis has lived all this before, and remembers that he has. The third is that the Nemesis exists in chronological time, but within those confines is able to enter the cavern, outside of the island's time, to manipulate this event. The other manipulations in which we will see the Nemesis has been involved, which extend beyond this cavern, make this third possibility unlikely. Other hints lead me to the second explanation, but that may be a matter of preference.
Finally, we should point out that the Nemesis used the guise of Christian Shepherd, who was unknown to Locke, in order to give Locke the ability to convince his acquaintance and oft-time enemy, Jack, to return to the island. Which means that Jack (and others) returning to the island was something that the Nemesis desired. Make of that what you will.
It was upon the arrival of (what I assume to have been) the Black Rock to the island that one of the only two conversations on record occurred between the Nemesis and Jacob. As they watched the boat approach, the following points were divulged:
(1) Jacob had brought the people on the boat to the island, with the unspoken implication that bringing people to the island was something that he had done before;
(2) The Nemesis held that these people would be just as hateful and destructive as those who had come before, while Jacob maintained hope for some sort of progress;
(3) The Nemesis wanted to kill Jacob, but was unable to because of some unspecified regulations;
(4) The Nemesis was actively seeking some sort of loophole in these regulations to allow him to finally kill Jacob.
This conversation provides us with the framework for our understanding of the central conflict of the entire story. It's kind of a big deal.
Most of what happened in the ensuing century is unknown to us. However, we do know that:
(1) the Black Rock came to be shipwrecked miles inland without detonating its cargo of dynamite;
(2) the journal of the first mate of the Black Rock (and, it is logical to assume, somebody from the island carrying it) was discovered off the island, and eventually came into the possession of the Hanso family, owners of the trading company that owned the Black Rock;
(3) The Jacobians continued to live on the island. This may have been exclusively the crew of the Black Rock, or it may have been some prior group(s), or it may have been some mixture.
(4) The actor Billy Dee Williams was born. He doesn't really have anything to do with this, but he is a fine malt-liquor picker.
It's not entirely clear when a group of Islanders began living off the island, but it may have been at any point from here on. Suffice it to say, there is ample evidence that there has been, for some time, a network of Islanders (or at least people who are secretly island-aware) living off the island, and that they are aware of one another, and at least somewhat organized. It isn't clear that all of these Islanders are Jacobians, or of the same faction, but they are there. All evidence suggests that most at least remain loyal to their understanding of Jacob, and are working toward their understanding of what would benefit the island; however, it also seems clear that an understanding of Jacob and an understanding of what would benefit the island may vary greatly from person to person. It appears from statements made by Richard Alpert in 1954 that the Jacobians were aware of how to travel to and from the island, so we can assume that by this time, the process of off-island Jacobians had begun.
It was in the 1950s that something happened on the island that it seems had not happened before. Heretofore, it seems that the people who had been drawn to the island by Jacob hand been drawn subtly, and would have thought themselves to have come there by accident. But in 1954, a contingent of the United States Army came to the island, and it is safe to say that they meant to come, and came with a mission. I make this assumption first because we know that later on, there will be others who would reach the island on purpose, and second, because they brought a friggin' hydrogen bomb, which usually you don't just roll with unless you have a plan. I'd say a test detonation is a pretty good guess.
The Jacobians killed them all. It's safe to say that they were pretty freaked out that somebody had found the island, and they were definitely freaked out that the hydrogen bomb appeared to have a breached hull. For this reason, I suppose we have to cut them some slack for what happened next.
About a week after the Jacobians slaughtered the Army, a large group of people, dressed more like castaways than like military, appeared on the beach in a flash of light. It's doubtful that the Jacobians saw the flash or the sudden appearance, but we know that they did detect the presence of these Others on the beach, because without any warning, they killed most of them that night with flaming arrows, including a man that everybody called "Frogurt". The surviving Others fled into the jungle, where a lot of them ran afoul of Claymore booby traps that the now-dead Army had left behind.
The only survivors were a married couple, Rose and Bernard Nadler, a dog named Vincent, and, separate from them, the group that had been on the island once before. Hundreds or thousands of years before, that is. They were separated from one another now. The groupings were John Locke, by himself; Juliet Burke and James "Sawyer" Ford; and Daniel Faraday, Miles Straum, and Charlotte Lewis. Jin Soo-Kwan was not with them on-island. He was about a mile out in the ocean, trying to not drown.
Ford and Burke were captured that night by two young Jacobians, one of them a senior ranking member of their group (however such things are figured among them) named Charles Widmore. Locke's arrival turned the tables, and the Jacobians were in turn captured. When his companion seemed about to give away information to the Others, Widmore snapped his neck and ran into the jungle. Locke had a shot at him but declined to take it, claiming that Widmore was "one of his people."
Straume, Lewis, and Faraday were similarly taken prisoner by Jacobians, this one led by a young woman named Eloise Hawking. They were brought into the Army camp, which had been appropriated by the Jacobians, and were held in one of the tents as prisoners. Here Faraday ascertained from burns on the arm of one of his captors that they had a radiation leakage problem, with which he offered to assist. He examined the bomb and recommended that the Jacobians bury it as deeply as possible.
Later that morning, Locke walked into the camp, and asked to speak to Richard Alpert. Widmore wanted to shoot the intruder, but Alpert intervened. (Upon hearing Widmore's name, Locke seemed to know him.) It is likely that their surprise at his knowledge of the Jacobian Priest's (for want of a better term, that's what I'll call him) name was enough to give him access. In this brief meeting, Locke told Richard some things that affected Richard dramatically, and for years after. This was the content of that fateful meeting:
(1) Locke claimed to be from the future;
(2) More to the point, Locke claimed that, in the future, he was the leader of the group thatI'm calling "Jacobians";
(3) Locke claimed that he needed to get off the island to do some very important work, but he didn't know how to do so; and
(4) Locke gave Alpert a compass that Alpert had never seen, and told them that he, Richard, would give that compass to Locke at some point in the future.
(5) Locke told Alpert the date of his birth, about two years in the future, and suggested that Alpert pay him a visit.
At that time, and before a deeply disturbed Richard Alpert would comply with Locke's plea to tell him how to get off the island, all of the Others disappeared in a flash of light. It is assumed that nobody was out in the ocean to observe Jin Soo-Kwan successful non-drowning.
A number of things happened over the next two decades.
Richard stayed in the tents for the next fifty years, waiting for Locke to return. He continued to serve as "Priest" (probably), and to act as go-between for the leader of the Others and Jacob. He was present at the birth of John Locke. When the boy Locke was five, Richard visited him, presenting him with a "test", a group of objects, including the compass. Young Locke was told that one of them already belonged to him, and he was to choose. Locke did not choose the compass, and Richard left, deeply conflicted. On the one hand, Locke's arrival, his disappearance, his demeanor, the sensitive information he'd had knowledge of, and especially his invocation of Jacob's name, suggested that Locke had been telling him the truth. On the other hand, Locke had no knowledge of some things, such as how to get off the island, that a man in the position he claimed would have naturally known. And the boy hadn't known the compass. If Locke were telling the truth, then Richard needed to obey Jacob by obeying him. But if Locke lying to him, than who was he? What was he? More importantly, what did he want?
And why was Jacob silent about all this?
OK. Richard's thought process is me indulging in assumption a bit. But given the circumstances and the actions Richard takes, I think that is reasonably close. Let's keep going. Other stuff happened, too.
The fiery, impulsive Charles Widmore became leader of the Jacobians, and became involved romantically with Eloise Hawking.
A lot of people who would become important (or who already were important) were born.
The Jacobians didn't bury the bomb, exactly, but they did hide it away deep in the labyrinthine caverns beneath their temple, the caverns devoted to the creature made of smoke who was their . . . we don't know what it was to them. Benefactor? God? Servant? Warrior? Did they see it as a being separate from Jacob, or did they believe that it was Jacob? Did it help them, or did they fear it? Or both?
We know this. There were caverns beneath the temple, devoted to the creature. And the Jacobians felt that those caverns were the safest place to put a breached hydrogen bomb. Make of that what you will.
We also know this. It's very likely that the creature is the Nemesis.
L O S T
Next: Timeline, Pt. 2 - The Rise and Fall of the Dharma Empire