Divine Punishment

Divine judgment means the judgment of God or other supreme beings within a religion. The concept is prominent in Abrahamic religions, most significantly in the Last judgment.

Ancient Beliefs

The idea of a final readjustment beyond the grave, which would rectify the sharp contrast so often observed between the conduct and the fortune of men, was prevalent among all nations in pre-Christian times. Such was the doctrine of metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls, as a justification of the ways of God to man, prevailing among the Hindus of all classes and sects, the Pythagoreans, the Orphic mystics and the Druids among the Celts. The doctrine of a forensic judgment in the unseen world, by which the eternal lot of departed souls is determined, was also widely prevalent in pre-Christian times.

The Pharaonic Egyptian idea of the judgment is set forth with great precision of detail in the “Book of the Dead”, a collection of formulas designed to aid the dead in their passage through the underworld.

The Babylonians and the Assyrians made no distinction between the good and the bad so far as the future habitation is concerned. In the Gilgames epic the hero is marked as judge of the dead, but whether his rule was the moral value of their actions is not clear.

Greco-Roman Beliefs

The so-called “Book of the Dead” (Nekyia) in the Odyssey depicts judgment in the afterlife by Minos, the “radiant son of Zeus” who in his mortal life had been king of Crete. Three egregious sinners are singled out for eternal punishment, but the theological implications of the scene are unclear. Plato elaborates on the concept in the myth of Er at the end of the Republic. Each misdeed receives a tenfold penalty, with rewards also proportional. Elsewhere, Plato names the judges as Minos and Rhadamanthys, but he also draws on the tenets of Orphic religion. A third judge was Aeacus; all three were once mortal kings whose excellence as rulers among the living was transferred to the dead. Vergil’s depiction of the afterlife in the Aeneid is consonant with the Homeric view as well as that of Plato, and he makes it clear that everyone faces judgment.

The mystery religions of the Hellenistic era offered initiates the hope of salvation through confession, judgment, and forgiveness, as well as ritual purity. The Isaic mysteries were influenced by the traditional religion of ancient Egypt, which had symbolized the judgment of the soul through its weight on the scale of truth. Orphic initiates were buried with devotional texts that provided instructions for navigating the hazards of the underworld and addressing the judges; the soul who speaks correctly will be given a drink from the pool of Memory before joining the heroes who have gone before.

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Punishment in Hell

Punishment in Hell typically corresponds to sins committed during life. Sometimes these distinctions are specific, with damned souls suffering for each sin committed (see for example Plato’s myth of Er or Dante’s The Divine Comedy), but sometimes they are general, with condemned sinners relegated to one or more chamber of Hell or to a level of suffering.

In many religious cultures, including Christianity and Islam, Hell is traditionally depicted as fiery and painful, inflicting guilt and suffering. Despite these common depictions of Hell as a place of fire, some other traditions portray Hell as cold. Buddhist – and particularly Tibetan Buddhist – descriptions of hell feature an equal number of hot and cold hells. Among Christian descriptions Dante’s Inferno portrays the innermost (9th) circle of Hell as a frozen lake of blood and guilt. But cold also played a part in earlier Christian depictions of hell, beginning with the Apocalypse of Paul, originally from the early third century; the “Vision of Dryhthelm” by the Venerable Bede from the seventh century; “St Patrick’s Purgatory”, “The Vision of Tundale” or “Visio Tnugdali”, and the “Vision of the Monk of Enysham”, all from the twelfth century; and the “Vision of Thurkill” from the early thirteenth century.

Ancient Egypt

With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the “democratization of religion” offered to even his humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person’s suitability. At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the Goddess Maat, who represented truth and right living, the person was welcomed into the Two Fields. If found guilty the person was thrown to a “devourer” and didn’t share in eternal life. The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated. These depictions of punishment may have influenced medieval perceptions of the inferno in hell via early Christian and Coptic texts. Purification for those who are considered justified may be found in the descriptions of “Flame Island”, where they experience the triumph over evil and rebirth. For the dammed complete destruction into a state of non being awaits but there is no suggestion of eternal torture; the weighing of the heart in Egyptian Mythology can lead to annihilation. Divine pardon at judgement was always a central concern for the Ancient Egyptians.


In classic Greek mythology, below Heaven, Earth, and Pontus is Tartarus, or Tartaros (deep place). It is either a deep, gloomy place, a pit or abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides within Hades (the entire underworld) with Tartarus being the hellish component. In the Gorgias, Plato (c. 400 BC) wrote that souls were judged after death and those who received punishment were sent to Tartarus. As a place of punishment, it can be considered a hell. The classic Hades, on the other hand, is more similar to Old Testament Sheol.


Sisyphus & Tartarus

King Sisyphus was sent to Tartarus for killing guests and travellers to his castle in violation to his hospitality, seducing his niece, and reporting one of Zeus’ sexual conquests by telling the river god Asopus of the whereabouts of his daughter Aegina. Zeus had taken her away but regardless of the impropriety of Zeus’ frequent conquests, Sisyphus overstepped his bounds by considering himself a peer of the gods who could rightfully report their indiscretions. When Zeus ordered Thanatos to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus upon his death, Sisyphus tricked Thanatos by asking him how the chains worked and ended up chaining Thanatos which caused no one to die. This caused Ares to free Thanatos and turn Sisyphus over to him. Sometime later, Sisyphus had Persephone send him back to the surface to scold his wife for not burying him properly. Sisyphus was dragged back to Tartarus by Hermes when he refused to go back to the Underworld.

The ‘Sisyphean Task’

In Tartarus, Sisyphus would be forced to roll a large boulder up a mountainside which when he reached the crest, rolled away from Sisyphus and rolled back down repeatedly. This represented the punishment of Sisyphus claiming that his cleverness surpassed Zeus causing the god to make the boulder roll away from Sisyphus binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration.


Associated LOST Characters









‘Pushing The Button’

Swan Computer (Inputting the Numbers)

During the second season of Lost, the survivors discovered a computer inside the Swan station which required the Numbers to be entered into it every 108 minutes. A timer set into the wall provided a continual countdown – and an alarm would sound as the timer neared zero. Entering the Numbers sequentially and pressing Execute (a.k.a. pushing the button) on the keyboard would cause the timer to reset to 108 minutes and begin the countdown anew. It was initially unclear what would happen if the button was not pushed.

Countdown Sequence


The timer began a countdown from 108 minutes.

  • With 4 minutes to go on the timer, an alarm was triggered at a rate of one beep every two seconds. The Numbers could then be entered, followed by the Execute key.
  • When the final minute was reached, a second alarm sounded at a rate of one beep every two seconds.
  • With 10 seconds remaining, the second alarm would speed up to a rate of one beep every one second.
  • When the timer reached 0, the timer flipped to a set of static red and black hieroglyphics – and “system failure” was broadcasted repeatedly over the station’s loudspeakers.



Desmond described the process of entering the Numbers, as told to him by Kelvin Inman, as “saving the world” (“Orientation”)  (“Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1”). Kelvin remarked in “Live Together, Die Alone” that a “charge” progressively “builds up” in or near the Swan, with an accompanying magnetic field. The procedure of “pushing the button” effectively discharges the amassed energies.


According to the Swan Orientation Film, DHARMA personnel were stationed in teams of two at the station for a tour of duty lasting 540 days. It was recommended that they work in alternating shifts in pushing the button. (“Orientation”) At some point Kelvin Inman joined the DHARMA Initiative and was assigned to the Swan with his partner, Radzinsky. (“Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1”)

Season 1


Desmond failed to enter the Numbers in a timely fashion on September 22, 2004, triggering a system failure. Although the sequence was entered just after the countdown expired, the resulting massive magnetic surge caused Flight 815 to break-up in mid-air and crash on the Island. (“Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1”)  (“A Tale of Two Cities”) Alone in the Swan, Desmond continued to man the station for the next 40 days, carrying on the duty of pushing the button all by himself until the survivors blew open the hatch. (“Orientation”)

Season 2


Jack and Locke were the first two survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 to learn of the station’s protocol. Desmond, the lone caretaker of the station, disclosed the bare facts of the situation and pointed them to the orientation film. He fled the station after the computer became damaged in an accident, thinking it was destroyed. With Sayid’s help, they managed to repair the computer – and Locke made a decision to take on Desmond’s role pushing the button with the help of the other survivors. (“Orientation”)


Days later, Locke inadvertently allowed the timer to reach zero, at which time a loud sound was heard as if something were powering up — and the timer then flipped to a series of red and black hieroglyphics. Locke discovered it was still possible to enter the Numbers and, on pressing Execute, the counter reset, flipping back to 108. (“One of Them”)


Following the DHARMA protocol, the survivors made an effort to set up shifts of two people in the station to operate the computer – with Locke initially taking on more shifts than anyone else. Locke’s faith in the station, however, began to fall apart after Ben’s arrival – and Ben’s description of the Swan as a “joke.” This feeling intensified for Locke after he and Eko visited the Pearl – when he came to view the protocol as a meaningless psychological experiment. Mr. Eko, however, took over the duty of pressing the button. (“Dave”)  (“S.O.S.”)  (“?”)

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‘Notes to Nowhere’ (Observation Notes)

Pearl Station’s Purpose

The exact purpose of the Pearl station is ambiguous. According to the orientation video, the station’s purpose is to monitor the inhabitants of the Swan via a video surveillance system – particularly with an eye towards monitoring their psychological state as they continued to perform their duties. The video also appears to imply that “pushing the button” was of no significance. However, other evidence suggests that the Pearl staff themselves were the ones who were subjects of an experiment, rather than those they were monitoring. 

Pearl Orientation video


The Pearl Orientation video was discovered in one of the station’s cupboards. The video is hosted by a man who introduces himself as Dr. Mark Wickmund (who is, in fact, Dr. Pierre Chang). According to the film, the staff of the Pearl would work in teams of two, continuously monitoring activities of DHARMA Initiative projects elsewhere on the Island. While not referred to directly, video feeds from the Swan are visible in the background on some of the Pearl station’s monitors. Dr. Wickmund notes that the subjects seen on the monitors are unaware that they are under observation or that they are subjects in an experiment. Team members would take an eight hour shift, recording their observations carefully in provided notebooks. Each time a notebook was filled, it was to be placed in a pneumatic tube where it would be immediately transported to their superiors. At the conclusion of their shift, the staff would be transported back to the Barracks via the Pala Ferry. The use of the word “projects” by Dr. Wickmund suggests that other stations on the Island may be monitored from the Pearl. (“?”)  (“The Cost of Living”)

Pneumatic Tube Dump

In one corner, the Pearl contains a functioning pneumatic tube. Upon completing a notebook of observations, the station’s personnel were instructed to insert their notebooks into one of the plastic capsules and place the capsule inside the tube. The Pearl orientation video then maintained that the capsule would be transported directly to “us”. The terminus of the pneumatic tube, however, was later revealed to be a large garbage dump deep in the jungle where containers of notebooks were simply piling up without anyone checking or collecting them.


Locke took his rough sketch of the blast door map and sent it through the tube where it was later found by Sawyer at the capsule dump. In examining one of the completed log books at the dump, Kate found several references to an “S.R.” It is highly likely this was shorthand for Stuart Radzinsky – indicating the Pearl was to be staffed after Radzinsky took up operation at the Swan. (“Live Together, Die Alone, Part 2″)

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Associated DHARMA Stations


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