In some religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism, there is a belief that a spirit of a dead person must go through a certain process before reincarnation is possible. This is for two main reasons: dead people are unaware that they are dead (so they cannot let go of the material world) and they have issues to solve before being ready to evolve to another spiritual level and reincarnate.
This theory is based on the hypothesis that the survivors are in a kind of afterlife but are unable to reincarnate. In this context, the Island is where they have to overcome their own issues to be ready to return to life, in another body.
This hypothesis shares some similarities with the purgatory debunked theory, but is different in many ways. It has nothing to do with sins or with going to heaven or hell. In fact, it has very little to do with occidental religion at all. The Spiritual Evolution Theory deals with the reincarnation process (denied by the Roman Catholic creed), and with the Karma and DHARMA process, two concepts very often used in the series.
One of the many ways to translate the very rich notion of DHARMA is "evolution." The survivors must deal with their own spiritual evolution before they are ready to come back to reincarnate. This is the meaning of the term DHARMA in the DHARMA Initiative. Although many facts displayed below are copied from the purgatory debunked theory, they are here now in another context. So, fell free to compare both pages.
- Each survivor has some major problem each one is trying to work out
- Each time a character works out his/her problem, s/he dies (go to another stage of spiritual evolution, to get ready to reincarnate).
- The fact that no child can be conceived on the Island is because their mothers are dead. No birth can occur in the not-incarnated state.
- The show starts with an airplane crash, from which normally nobody would survive. Maybe all the ‘survivors’ died and are now in some sort of purgatory, limbo or an other place between earth and ‘the hereafter.’ The ones who are killed in the crash went directly to the afterlife.
- In "", Kate approaches Jack on the beach and wants to tell him what she did. He says to her, "It doesn't matter what we did before this, before the plane crashed. (dramatic pause) Three days ago, we all died. We all deserve a second chance." (referring to the real-life | "Tabula Rasa" concept, the episode's namesake.
- Sayid says to Ana Lucia, upon her asking him to take revenge on her in "Collision," "What good would it do to kill you when we're both already dead?"
- Jacob is allegedly seen by Ben but not by Locke.
- There are numerous references to "a previous life" and "the next life" throughout the show.
- Michael tells Jack that "In a previous life, I was an artist."
- The inscription Nadia writes on the picture she gives Sayid says "I will see you again in the next life, if not this one."
- Desmond has said many times to Jack, "See you in another life, brother" (at the stadium, when running from the Hatch, before triggering the fail-safe, etc.).
- Apparitions of other characters in the Island: Jack's father, Ben's mother: note that every character that miraculously appears in the Island are all dead too. They are relatives trying to comfort the survivors.
- Survivors seem to miraculously ‘heal’ from earthly diseases. Locke can walk again, Rose healed form cancer.
- The Monster forms a tunnel in front of someone, Eko and Locke became very calm facing it, looking inside one (Eko) sees flashes of major events of his own life and Locke refers to what he saw as ‘beautiful.’ All these properties (tunnel, calming, life review, experiencing beauty) are mentioned in near-death experiences, the biggest difference is that the smoke is black in contrast to a ‘tunnel of light.’
- Anthony Cooper's presence on the Island.
- That some survivors can contact the external world (like Jack watching the baseball game inside his cage, or Charlie talking with Penelope from the Looking Glass Station) doesn't necessarily contradict the fact that they are dead. Some religions accept the fact that the dead can coexist with the living and even interfere or communicate with them.
- Canton-Rainier carpet cleaning van, seen driven by Ben in season 5. 'Canton-Rainier' is an anagram of 'reincarnation.'
- The authors debunked the purgatory theory like in the Zap2it interview published in March 14, 2005, but didn't say anything about other religion concepts, like reincarnation or karma / DHARMA.
- We aren't aware of the issues facing some of the people who died (e.g. Nathan, the Marshal and Libby).
- It's said that Leslie Arzt died after getting over being a social outcast, but first, this problem is not serious enough to get him in purgatory and second, the process of overcoming it is no more than realizing and admitting it to Hurley.
- The Marshal had an unfulfilled duty; upon passing on that duty to someone else, he died.
- It does not explain the Numbers. (Unless the Numbers are simply a problem of Hurley which he is confronted with on the Island)
- How come Aaron is able to be born on the Island, if dead mothers can't conceive? (see first pro).
- If the Island is purgatory, all "redeemed deaths" would be caused by the Island. At the very least, that calls into questions the deaths of Ana Lucia and Libby.
- Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse again debunked this theory in a Lost recap special when they added that the Losties are not dead and "do exist somewhere in the space time continuum."