The Timeline (Main Theory)

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The Timeline (Main Theory)

 Timeline Illustration: Click To Open for Reference Late 1800’s (first iteration): The Black Rock was a slave boat crossing the Pacific. The boat was transporting a large assortment of metallic minerals, which were highly reactive to other forces of magnetism. Unexpectedly, the boat encounters the island of LOST. Being that the island has unique magnetic properties, the magnetic materials on the boat “react” with the magnetic forces on the island, and the boat is literally hoisted onto the island. The boat, having strong levels of magnetism, creates a hole in the invisible bubble that surrounds the island – this hole is at coordinate “305”, or the “special location/coordinate” that Daniel’s team travels through to get to the island. Once the Black Rock crashes, the occupants go fourth and populate the island. Richard is one of their descendants.

1970-2007 (first iteration): Richard is born and becomes the leader of "the others." Around 1970, The DHARMA initiative comes to the island to begin experiments. The DHARMA initiative was originally created for the enhancement of the human race and may have never had any intention of using the island for time travel; however at some point after 1970, they discovered that the island was able to actual leverage the magnetic properties to bend time and space. There was a single point on the island that, when "moved," would disrupt time and space, causing the island to move through time. In short, it could turn island into a large-scale time machine. Unfortunately, DHARMA was not able to control the "time jumping" of the island when using the donkey wheel. Instead of fiddling with the donkey wheel, they worked to leverage the island's time-traveling capabilities to create a smaller-scale time machine - one which could send individual people/animals back in time (but not the entire island).

In the beginning stages of testing the time machine, DHARMA chose to run tests on animals (namely, polar bears and rabbits), as to avoid creating any major time-related catastrophes or paradoxes. The first major experiment with the new time machine was a test to see if they could extend the life of an animal. They sent a polar bear back in time a few years (via the time machine in the Orchid), and then changed its habitat to see if it could “survive.” For example, DHARAMA would take a polar bear, send it back in time a few years, and then drop it in the desert. If fate had deemed that the polar bear live for a certain number of years, in theory, sending it back in time would allow it to "survive" under any circumstances (much like we see many characters of LOST dodge death by jamming guns and other acts of nature).

Shortly after the experimentation with the polar bears, DHARMA starts sending people back in time. Over a few years of researching the time machine, DHARMA becomes curious to see if this time machine can allow people to alter the course of history. In order to see if people can “change a future that’s already written,” DHARMA begins tasking their time travelers with doing things to alter the course of history. Unfortunately, these time travelers were not able to do anything to permanently alter the future that was already laid out. It should be noted that people can do "certain" things differently when traveling back in time - they simply cannot alter the events that are fundamental to a pre-written timeline.

Now getting desperate to prove that there’s ANY benefit to the new time machine, the leaders of DHARMA find a group of people on the island to involuntarily become “test subjects” of their next experiment involving time travel. This being: can sending people back in time permanently cure them of a deadly virus? Without proper warning, DHARMA releases a virus in an area of the island that infects many of Richard's people. Then DHARMA claims that they can cure the disease with this special “device,” that device being the time machine. This, however, is NOT obvious to Richard's people - they just want to get cured, and think the time machine is some type of complex vaccination. As fate would predict, the test subjects go back in time and are cured of the virus, only to be later killed by the smoke monster, as the monster is the “physical means” in which the timeline course corrects itself. DHARMA, seeing this smoke monster for the first time, is now officially fearful that this time machine will end up serving no purpose whatsoever. The only thing DHARMA has accomplished is pissing off the natives of the island, thus giving the others their true name: "the hostiles."

Below are the rules of this newly created time machine:  


When you go back in time, you do not de-age. For example, if you are 50, and go back 10 years in time, you do NOT have your 40-year-old body. HOWEVER, while you are re-living 10 years of your life, you body will not age until you catch up with the time in which you entered the time machine.


When you go back in time, you will still have your current hair style, tattoos, bodily organs, and memory. However, say you were paralyzed; fate would need to do some course correction to make sure that you are still able to play your past role in life. Thus, time travel can TEMPORARILY cure any physical ailments you may have had prior to entering the time machine. However, fate will still find a way to paralyze you once you catch up with the current time. Say the first time you were paralyzed, it was because you were pushed out of a window. Because “the universe has a funny way of course correcting,” you may get hit by a car the second time around.


When you go back in time, you can only “change” things that don’t have an impact on your destiny. In other words, if you went to church on a specific date in the past, and then went back in time, you wouldn’t necessarily go to church in your new timeline. However, if you changed a belief as a result of going to church the first time around, “fate would find a way to influence you into that belief.” Perhaps you would have a near death experience, or maybe a mysterious person would greet you in a jewelry store and tell you that you need to change your beliefs… or, maybe fate would just kill you since it couldn’t find a way to change your belief.


If you go back in time and die, you are not “totally” dead because there has already been a variation of the universe where you were alive in the future. Thus, you become “half dead” until time catches back up. In other words, your presence may be known to some people but not others. Your presence would only be known when you are required to make an impact to fate.


If you have never had a child, you cannot go back in time and give birth. Fate does not allow for a new entity to exist in a past where it originally did not exist. Thus fate would either have to kill the mother, the baby, or both in order to course correct. UNLESS, fate decides to use the baby or mother to “replace” someone else in the timeline.

Basically, the “rules of the time machine” are not governed by any physical definitions of time travel. The “rules,” if you will, are governed by how FATE decides to preserve the timeline. Thus, if you are required to do something profound in a future timeline, fate will find any way possible to preserve the timeline – we’ve seen ghosts and smoke monsters in LOST. So according to the show’s definition of time travel, fate “does have a funny way of course correcting.”

1988 (first iteration): Rosseau’s crew was an opposing force to DHARMA. They weren’t affiliated with the Others; however, they were going to the island to investigate “shady business practices” being conducted by DHARMA. In this first iteration of time, Alex was never kidnapped by Ben. Rosseau actually raised Alex all the way to the year 2007 on the island. Also, Rosseau may have never killed off her entire team!

2007 (first iteration): A group of religious zealots learn of the island's ability to bend time and space. Alex (Rosseau's daughter) is possibly the leader of this group. They decide that the island must be destroyed to preserve the future, so they bring a bomb to the island in attempts to destroy the island and all of its inhabitants. Richard gets wind of this imminent disaster and, in a panic, manages to bypass DHARMA security and gain access to the Orchid's time machine. He hops in the time machine and sends himself (in his 45-year-old body) all the way back to the year 1900! In season 5 of Lost, we are seeing Richard in his "second iteration" through time, where he has already lived out time to 2007 (or beyond), and then traveled all the way back in time to 1900, therefore he never appears to age.

1900-1950 (second iteration): Richard has now traveled back in time over 100 years, and the timeline starts its second iteration from Richard's perspective. Richard is unique in that he will not continue to age until time catches up with him (in the new 2007). It is his goal to find a way to stop Alex from destroying the island. He also has a very good sense of where poeple will be, and what events will happen given that he has traveled back in time. During the pre-DHARMA time on the island, Richard uses his foresight to recruit the descendents of the Black Rock - Widmore is one of them.

1970-1988 (second iteration): Ben is born off of the island, and with the help of Horace and Richard, Ben is brought to the island. As Ben grows up on the island, he works with Richard toward a plan to prevent Alex (and the group of Zealots) from attempting to destroy the island in 2007. Thus, Ben kidnaps Alex so that he can "shield" her from forming her faction and attempting to destroy the island. However, since "fate has a funny way of course correting," the second iteration of time choses Charles Widmore to "replace" Alex as the leader of the group who would destroy the island in 2007.

2007 (second iteration): Widmore is an unstoppable force and is about to fulfill Alex's task (in the first iteration) of destroying the island. Ben (just like Richard) manages to penetrate DHARMA to gain access to the time machine and he goes back in time to the year 1970 (when he was born). This begins the third iteration of time (from Ben's perspective). This is why Ben claims to have lived "his whole life on the island." 1970-1996 (third iteration): Ben and Richard now know that they cannot stop "someone" from trying to destroy the island in the future (in 2007). Like all the references in season 5, there is only ONE timeline. If something fundamental is going to happen in the future, fate will find a way to make it happen. The only solution for saving the island is for Ben to find a way to STOP TIME on the island.

1995 (third iteration): In Ben's past iteration of time on the island, he worked with a man named Jacob. Unfortunately, Jacob has unexpectly died in this new iteration of time for Ben. However, since Jacob was alive in a previous iteration, his spirt is allowed to communicate with Ben to help Ben fulfill his destiny. Jacob instructs Ben to "purge" all of the members of DHARMA as fate does not deem them necessary for the future of the island, Ben's Time Loop. However, as we see in seasons 1 & 2, the losties hear "whispers" in the jungle. These whispers are DHARMA trying to communicate because they were alive in an earlier iteration of time (in the first and second iteration). In addition to instructing Ben of the purge, Jacob also informs Ben that Widmore needs to be removed from the island, otherwise Widmore will become a "risk." Ben heeds this advice and sends Widmore off the island. 1996 (third iteration): Ben, Richard and Mikhail find a way to "sync up" the Orchid's donkey wheel with the computer in the Swan station. Thus, when Desmond pushes the button in the Swan station, he is actually moving the island back in time 108 minutes, keeping time on the island suspended for a great number of years! The only way to pass through the island time and the real world time would be to use the “special” coordinate, which is referenced in season 4. Note that in season 3, Ben makes a comment to Richard “Remember when we used to celebrate birthdays?” Well, there wouldn’t be any reason to celebrate birthdays if the Others are repeating time every 108 minutes, and thus not aging. Also, since time is not elapsing and people are not aging, it would be very hard to pro-create!

1996-1996 Time Loop (third iteration): several years elapse on the island, as Kelvin and Desmond push the button in the Swan. The island is theoretically invisible to the outside world because time is physically being reset every 108 minutes, so only people inside the magnetic bubble of the island can actually experience the looping 108 minutes of time. What Ben is trying to do is two-fold: first of all, he wants to stop time from ever reaching 2007. Second, he wants to create a utopia on the island such that people can live forever! Ben, in fact, isn't the bad guy. He's trying to preserve the timeline to prevent disaster and create a fountain of youth. True, he has a rough way of going about his work, but can you blame him? He can't tell many people about the "time loop" because their knowledge could lead them into actions that may alter the future, and possibly screw up his plan.

1996-1996 Time Loop (third iteration): When Desmond fails to hit the button in the Swan station, he temporarily moves the island to the year 2004. For a split second, he is exposing it to Oceanic's flight path. Since Ben is trying to "break the rules of fate" by stopping time on the island, Fate has decided to cause a "disturbance" in the space time continuum by bringing our Heroes to the island of Lost. It is important to note here that Oceanic NEVER crashed in the first and second iterations of time. This is because the previous iterations of time did not require the aid of the Losties to shape the future. Now, however, things are different: Ben has kidnapped Alex and has also put Widmore into exile. Fate would deem that "something" stop Ben from fulfilling his role of preventing the destruction of the island in 2007.

1996-1996 Time Loop (third iteration): All of the "werid" things that we see happen in seasons 1 & 2 of LOST are a result of the Losties now existing in the year 1996 on the island. This is why Locke can walk, and why Rose is Healed - their bodies are now existing in a time prior to them contracting their illnesses. This is also why some characters, such as Walt, have extraordinary perception - because they're technically from the future. Additionally, the smoke monster is a byproduct of time and space. Is is the physical manifestation of the timeline and it's job is to help course correct to prevent things from changing a pre-written future. The ultra-sonic fence is a "time barrier" that when activated exposes the present time. That is why the smoke monster cannot get through - there would be no need for a "course corrector" to enter the present time. Also, people have trouble walking through the fence if they are technically dead in a future timeline (like Mikhail).

2001 (third iteration): Widmore ha been exiled from the island by Ben. He is greedy and used his foresight into the future to place bets off the island - which ultimately lead to him becoming a multi-billionaire in the real world. However, he was currently off the island when Ben started the time loop, and now he can't find the island because the island is constantly existing in the year 1996. However, Widmore eventually acquires the Black Rock journal at the auction, because he knows this will give him the coordinates to get back to the island. Widmore hires Libby’s husband to be the first “test subject” to try to reach the island. However, Libby’s husband unexpectedly dies, and she hands the boat over to Desmond. It’s unclear whether or not Widmore is intentionally sending Desmond to the island just to get rid of him, or if it’s a total coincidence that the boat ends up in Desmond’s hands. Since the boat was originally provided by Widmore, Desmond inadvertantly navigated to Widmore's coordinate and ended up on the island in the time loop!

1996-1996 Time Loop (third iteration): All of the events in the first 2 seasons of LOST take place. The hatch is discovered and Locke ultimately ends up not pressing the button and Desmond turns the fail safe. The turning of the fail safe disconnects the Swan and the Orchid, and now the island time is officially moving again; however, the island is now existing in the year 1996 (not 2004)! When Desmond turned the fail safe key, his life flashed before his eyes... Well, actually, he got to “re-live” about 9 years of his life! He got to relive being rescued from the island, witnessing Charlie’s death, and then starting his life up again off the island, meeting Penny, and then ultimately coming back to the island, thus creating a full loop for his life story. Desmond could not escape his fate. The reason only Desmond got to re-live his life was some function of him being the “key turner” OR the fact that he was exposed to the extreme magnetic radiation levels in the hatch (which is referenced in Season 4). I’d venture that he was probably “at the heart of magnetic bubble” thus, he was a little more clairvoyant to his alternate future than say, the folks who were out on the beach. And, that is ultimately how he gets “flashes” of Charlie’s death. Who knows how many times Desmond actually got to “re-live” his life. And, each time Desmond re-lived his life, he saw what would ultimately lead our heroes to getting off the island – and that would be Charlie sending out the message.

2004 (third iteration): Widmore has witnessed that Desmond has disappeared circa 2001. He knows that the island is still existing, but he doesn't know what time. He can also deduce that the disappearance of Oceanic is also a result of Ben controlling time on the island. It is at this point that he fakes the Oceanic crash so that he can dispatch his team to infiltrate the island. He wants to kill Ben and gain control of the time machine so that he can continue to go back in time himself, in theory, creating a fountain of youth for himself! Unfortunately for Widmore, fate will not allow him to just "take over." Fate, manifests into a human form and hires Naomi, Faraday, Lapidus and Charlotte, knowing that they will be able to help the Losties take out Widmore's crew. Again, "fate has a funny way of course correcting."

1996 (third iteration): As Sayid and Desmond leave the island, they pass through the special coordinate and rapidly switch form island time of 1996 to the outside world time of 2004. Desmond has "flashes" because his mind is temporarily being meshed with 2004 version of himself! Once all of the "6" reach a safe distance from the island, it disappears. This is because Ben has turned the donkey wheel, which sends the island to random time periods between 1900 and 2004.

2005 (third iteration): When Ben turns the crank in the Orchid station, fate immediately places him off the island, in the year 2005, in the desert. His role is to now use Sayid to help course correct to ensure that 2005 - 2007 plays out according to plan. Sayid is likely working for Ben because he has promised Sayid that they will go back in time “after their work is done” and Sayid would get a second chance with Nadia. It is likely that Ben’s targets must die in order to preserve the new timeline – perhaps they are members of DHARMA, and once Ben can eliminate all of them, they will be able to easily reach the island. It’s clear, however, that Ben’s interest is now taking over DHARMA and regaining control over their time machine. 2007 (third iteration): When Locke turns the donkey wheel, he (just like Ben) is cast from the island to a time outside the island. It is now Locke's role to get the 6 back to the island. Locke needs the 6 to go back to the island because they will play a critical role in preventing the island from destruction (in the fourth iteration through time). There may be some type of "prophecy" regarding Locke in that he is the chosen one who can "beat fate" and prevent the destruction of the island. One thing is for certain: there is something different about locke - something that suggests that he has the power to do something that Ben couldn't in the past. 1970 (fourth iteration): The 6 and Ben take a flight which brings them back to the island, which is now existing in the year 1970. The core mission of Seasons 5 & 6 will entail Ben, Locke and Richard in helping the Losties "change the past" in order to create a future where Oceanic never crashes in 2004 and the island is never destroyed in 2007. Ben at some point, promises all of the characters that he has the ability to alter their pasts to give them the future they always had. However, this brings us back to the core theme of the show: regardless of what Ben/Richard do, can they truly change the future? Perhaps they just need to "change" something that went wrong in the past? Perhaps changing that one thing will prevent all pre-written catastrophes in the future? Or maybe LOST will take a religious approach and one of the characters will be some type of prodigy that will allow them to "break the rules of fate." I'm sure once we get deeper into season 5, we will have more insight into "what" this catastrophe is. Only time will tell!

Timeline Illustration: Click Here Conclusions: LOST is about fate vs. free will. If something has happened in the past, is there any way that going back in time can create a new scenario where there will be a different series of events? So far, in LOST, no one has successfully been able to re-write the future. Now that Locke has taken the island back in time, even he has failed to create a perfect world on the island, much like Ben's time loop failed. For some reason, Locke believes that bringing Jack and everyone back in time and to the island will allow them to use "free will" to build a new, perfect world on the island - where it is free from the rules of fate, and from the outside world.

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Jason Hunter
Jason Hunter
My name's Jason Hunter. I've been conceiving this theory for almost 2 years, so don't worry, I didn't just run out of free time and decide to create this website. Currently, I'm a manager in the Strategy department at an IT company in Northern Virginia. I started watching LOST between the first and second seasons. If you haven't seen the entire series to date, I highly recommend you get the DVD's and start from the beginning! Please feel free to share my website with all of your friends, or with anyone else who may be interested. And, definitely share any thoughts or questions on my message board. At this time, I cannot personally respond to questions regarding the theory via email. So, please post any questions directly to the message board, and the forum moderators will engage in discussion. If you have any feedback on the theory, or questions not directly related to the theory, please contact me at [email protected] Finally, thanks for taking the time to read the theory!