Lost: Yes, Purgatory – UPDATED

I find it amusing to see how many words a co-worker of Julie’s has to use to avoid the word “Purgatory”:

Then he said, it was like a halfway house between life and death where you had to be so you could sort out everything that was true about your life and see it with complete clarity.

Or, as Julie responds, “Yes, Purgatory!”

Speaking of Julie, I love that she sends us to places like this.

Allahpundit: Never watched it; here is what he thinks.

Joe Carter: The Unnecessary Christ of “Lost”

Tony Rossi: The Intense Afterlife of Lost

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • suzyq

    In purgatory
    I will know tomato truth
    If I make it there. :o

  • nitpicker

    You didn’t understand the show at all.

  • Nerin

    Well, “nitpicker,” care to enlighten the rest of us?

    I clearly got the feel of purgatory out of the finale. Originally I thought the whole show was an exercise in purgatorial cleansing, but it seemed like the “sideways” world was purgatory (v. the island). Notice that Ben does not enter the church because he says he’s “not ready.” Also, when Daniel’s mother talks to Desmond and asks if he is taking Daniel with him, Desmond says, “not yet.”

    I love that a man named “Christian Shepard” is the one who welcomes Jack into the church along with everyone else. Salvation through Christ.

  • Madeline

    I, too thought it was Purgatory, but not til the very end. Despite all the religious symbolism in the show, there was enough violence and mystery for all to be hooked. I thought it was interesting how Linus wasn’t “ready” to go into the church yet. He remained on the bench outside the church. But I really cried when the yellow lab came bounding out of the jungle and laid down beside Jack til the end. I was satisfied and happy with the ending.

  • Aimee

    Me too, Nerin! I read it exactly that way. And the light at the end is like the light that needed to be restored on the Island. I loved how Desmond’s rather new-agey take on things was specifically repudiated when Jack says “what’s done is done. It happened. It matters” or something like that–no gnosticism here! I read the whole thing, actually, as a rejection of the pagan world view in favor of the Christian worldview–and it was underscored particularly when Jack uses the old water bottle to pass his role on to Hurley–no incantations, just some muddy water in an old container.

  • Aimee

    And Madeline, yes–when Vincent the dog comes to lay down with him–well, I was very moved by the finale, and especially that part. I also wondered if the writers were having a little fun-when C.S. says that they created the sideways world, I wondered if it was a wink at the idea that Purgatory is said by some to be a human invention–but here, it’s real. I also thought he meant that it was a place for everyone, all people, not just the Losties.

  • Jeff

    Nitpicker, on the contrary, you don’t understand purgatory at all.

  • Dale B.

    Here’s a thought: turn the set off and go get “lost” in Dante!

  • SuzyQ

    I’m totally cool with the Lost finale (and I’ve been a devoted fan from the start). Mysterious things should be dealt with mysteriously. A too-tidy ending would have been ridiculous.

    Ultimately, I loved the themes of redemption and forgiveness, even for some of most appalling acts and characters and conflicts. And the function of free will within the scope of a greater design.

    How wonderful was it to have a TV program that dealt with spirituality, human failing and achievement, and the will to fight and survive because living is worthwhile. And all while using symbolism and alluding to great philosophers and religions – without being judgmental or belittling of them.

    Loved it.

  • Jeff

    Agree SuzyQ about allusions to philosophers without condemnation.

    Yet the show I think was pretty masterful in showing the futility of some, like John Locke (careful now, libertarians).

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Except it WASN’T Purgatory.

    What happened on the Island and for the first five seasons certainly was NOT Purgatory in any sense of the word. As Daniel said, “everything that happened, happened.”

    For example, Jack did NOT die in the original crash. He died as we saw him die, after being stabbed in the side by the Man in Black, while James and Kate and Claire and Miles and Richard and Lapidus all got away, and Hugo became the new “Jacob,” with Ben as his sidekick. ALL OF THAT REALLY HAPPENED.

    And the Sideways World was not Purgatory, at least not technically. It might have been a quasi-Purgatory, a waiting room, an intermediate place, but none of these are “Purgatory.”

    As stated here previously, Purgatory is not so much a place as it is a process — a process of purging, hence the name. It is a process of purification, of perfecting, of making the imperfect person pure enough and perfect enough to enter into the perfection that is heaven. Typically, that is depicted as a kind of “fire.”

    Sideways World was certainly a place where they could see how life might have been different, and it was an intermediate place before “moving on” into the bright light that appeared when Christian opened the church doors, but that is NOT Purgatory.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And, it wasn’t all a figment of someone’s imagination in the final milliseconds of someone’s life, e.g. Jack, before dying in the crash, a la Occurrance at Oak Creek Bridge.

  • CV

    I love how folks like “nitpicker” think there’s a definite answer to this question. Unless the creator or producer or other artist specifically says, “this is what I was going for here”… aren’t these things open to interpretation?

    Many people obviously saw a version of Purgatory in the Lost finale, but nitpicker is just CERTAIN they’re not getting it :-)

    I thought the HBO show Six Feet Under often dealt with subjects like abortion and other issues of life and death in an intellectually honest way (that often supported my own world view). Others may read the same content differently, but so what?

    My own take on the Sopranos finale was that is was a commentary on hell. The end came as an abrupt cut to black (after Tony and his family carelessly indulged in heaping plates of fried onion rings and a discussion (between Carmela and Tony) about daughter Meadow’s need to change birth control (since hers “didn’t work” I assumed an abortion took place). Sure, nobody knows whether Tony’s brutal life of crime continued or not, but the way I read it, the end came for Tony Soprano and it was black nothingness. Complete separation from God. If that’s not hell, what is?

    Sorry to get off track there. Back to your regularly scheduled Lost programming…

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    My initial analysis immediately after the show and the day after here.

    What I found interesting in the various blogs and comboxes is that those viewers with some measure of faith tended to “get it” throughout the six years of the series, while those who resisted things like faith struggled and struggled to understand what was going on.

    To be sure, the story was not strictly and 100 percent Christian, it incorporated a number of ideas from multiple faiths (with some artistic license thrown in too), but it WAS predominantly Christian in its themes and outlook. The Christian — and often very blatant Catholic — symbols jumped out at every major plot point.

  • Nerina

    Bender, I agree that it was not a theologically exact presentation of purgatory, but it certainly displayed aspects of it. Matthew Fox was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel live after the finale and he mentioned a “belief” held by some that we endure a “time – it could last for a nanosecond or longer” where we face our life and people in it before “going on.” Again, not perfect, but hints at purgatory. Heck, I can’t even get my priest to talk about purgatory, but this TV show can!

    As others, I loved that Vincent came to be with Jack in his dying moments. And Jack seemed to die a “happy death” knowing that his life ultimately had purpose and meaning. If only all people felt that way.

    I am so happy that Sayid ultimately acted in a self-less and sacrificial way. I was very upset when he seemed to be completely taken over by evil.

    There were so many moments of redemption, forgiveness and humility. So many expressions of faith in a life beyond this world. I will miss this show.

  • http://www.christophers.org/closeuppodcast Tony

    Considering they made a joke about the fact that they have a character named “Christian Shephard,” I think the writers know that most of their imagery was overtly Christian:-)

  • Jeff

    So Bender, you seem to be arguing that what happens in Purgatory doesn’t “really” happen?

    The main reason you gave for thinking it’s not about Purgatory is that the script said “everything that happened really happened.” I don’t know how to take that except that you don’t see happenings in Purgatory as real.

    You’re confusing empirical with real. You think what happened must have empirically happened. That’s quite different from something that “really happened.”

    Real does not equal “embedded in space and time.” You’re taking a very narrow view of what the characters claimed.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    So Bender, you seem to be arguing . . .

    No, I am saying exactly what I said, the way I said it.

  • Joe

    I watched Lost for the duration and fell asleep in the finale. That says something.

    From what I can piece together, they were not in Purgatory. The funeral at the end was for Jack but it is not necessarily linear from Jack’s death. Other charactors lived their lives and then this funeral took place and the charactors moved on (given they are a tv show that after life is of course, syndication).

    To me it was a lame version of Seinfeld’s end (which was pretty lame too).

    Let’s just say the highlight of that Sunday was eating some of those shot glass shortbread cookies my daughter made from the Anchoress’ recipe, not the Lost finale.

  • saveliberty

    I love Cooking with Monkey! The grilled cheese with an iron is hilarious. Thank you to Julie and you for introducing it to us.

  • Jeff

    “So Bender, you seem to be arguing . . .

    No, I am saying exactly what I said, the way I said it.”

    My goodness, I’m didn’t jump down your throat. My critique was filled with qualification and willingness to accept I might be incorrect, and all you have to say in — let’s face it, a a friendly thread about a television show — all you had to saw was “you’re wrong, drop dead?”

    Dearest readers, most Catholics are very intellectually curious and open to friendly give and take.

    The so-called “traditionalists” are sort of nasty in my experience.

    [In my experience, Bender always comes off more crotchety than he intends. I was of the opinion that he was permanently annoyed with me, myself, but he swears it is not so! :-) -admin]

  • Delores

    Yes! I thought I was alone in thinking it was purgatory. I still think the ending was awful… so many questions left unanswered. But I guess I should have seen it coming since I was inclined to think it was purgatory. Oh, I feel so vindicated!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender


    I’m sorry that I came off more harsh than necessary, but after the experience of the analysis by the Washington Post bloggers repeatedly trying to push this square peg of the-Island-was-Purgatory-all-along into the round hole of Lost (including some incessant foot-stomping by another Post reporter), I’m rather annoyed. (Normally, the Post bloggers did quite well in their weekly analysis, but this season they have been frequently clueless.)

  • Trump

    Lovely ending. I particularly was struck by the contrast between Ben and Sayid. Those two were probably the baddest men in the whole group- don’t forget Sayid basically went on a killing spree at one point during the season, and Ben….well, Ben did all sorts of bad stuff including killing Locke, Widmore and Jacob.

    Yet Sayid was in the Church, a member in good standing – mainly because (I believe) of his redemptive act of sacrificing himself with the bomb on the sub. Ben also sort of redeemed himself by what we presume to have been a long period of service to the island and Hurley- he was offered a spot – but chose to stay outside and not move on, knowing in his soul that he needed more before he could move on, more than even Locke’s forgiveness could provide.

    I like to think that Ben finished the job by being as much a father to Alex in the “sideways” world as he never really was in the real world. And maybe at the end, Ben does move on along with Alex and Rousseau.