Welcome, Lost fans, to our most timely — and possibly most ridiculous — theory-hunting adventure ever. Earlier this week, I postulated that perhaps Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol might share much in common with a different kind of crypto-thriller, ABC’s Lost, and I pitched y’all on reading through the blockbuster book together to search for potential overlap with the show’s spooky-bizarre mythology. Think of it as a comparative literature class… at an underground university run by The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files.
Today, we’ll look at the first five chapters of The Lost Symbol — and we’re going to start with the very first sentence: The secret is how to die. That hushed-voice thought belongs to a character who appears to be the novel’s chief villain, who has infiltrated a shadowy secret society and managed to rise to its top ranks of knowledge and power. LOST APPLICATION: The line “The secret is how to die” functions as a Lost theory all its own — a simple skeleton key that unlocks its hatch of secrets. It reminds me of one of my earliest Lost conjectures, inspired by an old issue of the comic book Swamp Thing in which the mystically mucky hero encountered a plane full of ghosts — dead people who have died in a horrible crash, but who have stubbornly refused to accept it, either because their hold on life was too strong or because of unresolved issues. My theory argued that Lost is a lot like that: It’s about a group of people who have somehow cheated death — but they should be dead, and they need to die per the rules of the cosmos, and for that to happen, they must recognize their fate and accept it. In other words, Lost is the ongoing story of people who need to learn “how to die.” Which could sound like I’m saying that The Island = Purgatory, which the producers have denied — but I kinda like this idea, anyway.
Now, about this secret society. We know that it’s global, we know that it incoporates a variety of cultural tradtions (Egyptian, Hebraic, and Christian among them), and we know that it involves a temple and creepy ceremonies and rituals. The prologue doesn’t come right out and say it, but most likely we’re dealing with the Freemasons here. I’m not going to dote on them at this point, because my guess is that unpacking the group’s history is one of the novel’s ongoing concerns. So we’ll analyze as we go. LOST APPLICATION: Lest you think that clandestine clubs and conspiracy theory actually have nothing to do with the show, check out the ongoing mock-documentary series “Mysteries of the Universe” over at abc.com, a very nifty spoof of the old TV show In Search Of… that purports that The Dharma Initiative is essentially a secret society pursuing a maybe Utopian, maybe nefarious world-shaping agenda.
Finally for today, Brown makes mention of a character who will loom large later in the novel — an expert in the “cutting-edge discipline called Noetic Science,” which I suspect will also figure prominently in the story’s patchwork of fringe culture references. At this point in the book, Brown doesn’t spell out what exactly “Noetic Science” is, but cryptologist Robert Langdon dismisses the pursuit by saying, “Sounds more like magic than science to me.” LOST APPLICATION: Since season 2 of Lost, I have wondered if The Dharma Initiative might be loosely based on a real-life outfit called The Institute of Noetic Sciences. In the orientation film for The Hatch, we learned that Dharma blended legitimate science like psychology and zoology with the dubious field of parapsychology — stuff like ESP, telekinesis, forecasting the future. Subsequent seasons have revealed that Dharma was also interested in harnessing The Island’s unique electromagnetic energy to engineer a time travel machine — and it should be noted that a key component of most fringe science involves harnessing speculative earth energies to do freaky things. As it happens, the Institute of Noetic Sciences is all about weirdness like that. According to Wikipedia, the organization sponsors research into extrasensory perception, life extension, Gaia Theory, mystical healing, human interconnectedness, and some other way-out stuff.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the Noetic Sciences thing plays out in Brown’s book — and if somehow, it will lead Robert Langdon to a certain island somewhere in the South Pacific. Don’t tell me if I’m right or wrong — I’m still reading! My next report on Monday. Feel free to offer your own thoughts — or, if you think this mash-up of Lost and The Lost Symbol is kinda dumb, feel free to just discuss the book below. Like it? hate it? How does it compare to The Da Vinci Code?