Main DHARMA Initiative logo.

The DHARMA Initiative (Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications Initiative; sometimes spelled Dharma) is a research project, which had a large presence on the Island prior to the purge.

Most information on the project is derived from the orientation film found at the Swan DHARMA Initiative station and the ARG The Lost Experience.

According to the various films, the initiative was founded in 1970 by Gerald and Karen DeGroot, two doctoral candidates at the University of Michigan. It was or is financially backed by Danish industrialist and munitions magnate Alvar Hanso and his Hanso Foundation. The alleged purpose of the Initiative was to create "a large-scale communal research compound where scientists and free-thinkers from around the globe could pursue research in meteorology, psychology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism, and Utopian social-" (static)

Note: the last research subject of the initiative was not fully made clear in the Swan Orientation film and is unknown (some have suggested Utopian Social Engineering or Utopian Socialism).

The Barracks video said that the mission of the Initiative on the Island was to study its unique properties for the betterment of mankind and advancement of world peace.

The Sri Lanka Video of The Lost Experience has revealed that the DHARMA Initiative was part of a project tied to the Valenzetti Equation. The purpose of the DHARMA Initiative on the Island was to use scientific research to manipulate the environment to change any one of the core factors of the Valenzetti Equation in order to change the course of the human race. They were also interested in researching the unique properties on the Island found nowhere else in the world. Hugh McIntyre of the Hanso Foundation said in an interview as part of the game that the DHARMA Initiative's funding was cut in 1987 but the truth of this is uncertain. The DHARMA Initiative team were wiped out after the Hostiles gassed them all at the Barracks during the purge. The date of this is uncertain.

The name


The memory game, revealing the acronym

The word DHARMA was revealed to be an acronym in the Official Lost Podcast. Later in the ARG The Lost Experience, through the clues of Rachel Blake (known as the hacker Persephone at that time), players were directed to play a memory game available at the Hanso Foundation's website. Gradually the acronym was revealed and at reaching level 42 (the largest of the Numbers) the full acronym DHARMA was revealed as being "Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications". The acronym was later confirmed by an appearance in the Sri Lanka Video and an ABC press release [1].

Little is known what the actual explanation behind the name is, although a heuristic is a particular technique of directing one's attention in learning, discovery, or problem-solving.[2] Also, in the Sri Lanka Video, Alvar Hanso (standing in front of the DHARMA acronym) says "it also stands for the one true way", a reference to the word's meaning in Sanskrit (see below).

DHARMA Initiative stations

The DHARMA Initiative conducts its research and activities on the Island through a series of stations. They seem to be the only signs of advanced civilization on the Island. They all have (or had) power and a water supply as well as various kinds of equipment (e.g. machinery, living quarters, computers, medical equipment, etc). Each facility has its own, octagon-shaped logo.

It is known from the orientation films that there were at least six stations in 1980 (the Swan Orientation film: 3 of 6; the Pearl Orientation video: 5 of 6). However, a total of seven different stations have already been visited on the show, suggesting that either additional stations (and additional films) were made after 1980, and/or that an unknown number of stations without associated films exist in addition to those with films.

On the blast door map, the Flame is possibly referred to as number 4 ("Alleged location of #4 - The Flame") and the The Staff as possibly number 6 ("But could be #6"). This is unlikely however because in the Orchid Orientation Outtakes video seen at comic-con 07 Dr. 'Edgar Hallowax' (Aka Dr Marvin Candle) specifically refers to the Station 'The Orchid' as "...Station Six of the Dharma Initiative...". (If you haven't seen the video click on this link: link title

In the feature "Secrets of the Hatch" on the Lost: the Complete Second Season DVD, it is said that the Arrow is the first Hatch. This may be mistaken information, because the Swan was referred to as being the second. (this may have been a reference to the order in which they were discovered by the Losties and Tailies).

Discovered stations and their purposes/station numbers

Presumed stations

The Door was presumed to be the Hatch to another station, but when opened by Sayid in "Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1" it was revealed to be a facade covering a rocky wall, however, this may be the aborted #7 station on the blast door map but there are no facts to prove it one way or the other.

There may also be a meteorological station, as meteorology is listed among DHARMA's main research areas in the Swan orientation film, and notations on the blast door map reveal a potential location.

Possible stations

These were documented on the blast door map but not yet discovered:

  • Two stations labeled with "C3?" and "C4?".
  • A seventh station that was crossed out. It may not have been built, or might have been destroyed, or might be the presumed station the Door. It may also have been crossed out because they were not sure it existed, explained by the "Unknown!" notation above it. Elsewhere on the map, the text "Alleged location of aborted #7. Large number of underground springs, heavy water table" appears. The text may refer to the seventh station.
  • Numbers written in the corners, in the form C#/# appear only on the jigsaw puzzles and do not appear on the actual blast door within the show.

Names of the stations

One set of the stations has names related in some way to the stories of Apollo in Greek Mythology. Apollo was born on the island of Delos which at the time floated freely in the ocean and was difficult to reach because of swirling tides surrounding it.

  • The Arrow
Apollo's most common attribute was the bow and arrow. He was a god of archery.
  • The Staff
The Caduceus staff originally belonged to Apollo. Apollo was a god of healing (and of plagues). Apollo traded the staff of Caduceus to Hermes for a lyre.
  • The Swan
When Leto gave birth to Apollo, the island on which he was born was encircled by a flock of swans. Swans were afterward sacred to Apollo.
  • The Flame
Apollo was a sun god.
  • The Hydra
Apollo sent a crow to fetch water. The bird stopped to eat figs and wasted lots of time. Knowing Apollo would be angry, the crow captured the Hydra and attempted to blame it for causing the delay. Apollo saw through the ruse.

The Apollo theme also might extend to the Apollo Candy Company and their product, the Apollo Candy Bar

Other stations, which also feature inverted DHARMA logos, seemed to be named according to a different scheme.

  • The Pearl
Much like a pearl inside of a shell, the name could possibly be alluding to the fact that it is in the center of the island and central to the DHARMA Initiative stations, both in its surveillance capabilities and geographic location. For Hindus, the pearl is one of the planetary gems, associated with the moon (N.B. in Greek mythology, Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, was the moon goddess).
  • The Looking Glass
The most apparent reference seems to be towards Lewis Carrol's sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland titled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

DHARMA Initiative orientation films

To instruct its members, the DHARMA Initiative has created several orientation films. Known films are:

DHARMA Initiative members

Below is a list of the DHARMA Initiative members that have been introduced into the show.

Picture Name Role Overview
Alvar Hanso Prominent Founder of the Initiative, and narrator of the overall orientation video from 1975.
Gerald DeGroot Prominent Co-founder of the Initiative.
Karen DeGroot Prominent Co-founder of the Initiative.
Marvin Flame
Marvin Candle/Mark Wickmund/Edgar Halowax Prominent Narrator of the DHARMA orientation films at the Barracks, the Swan and the Pearl. Hosted the video menu system on the computer at the Flame. He identifies himself in the Pearl film as Mark Wickmund.
3x20 annie02
Annie Prominent Attended the DHARMA Initiative school on the Island. A childhood friend of Ben.
Season 3 Ben Promotional
Ben Linus Prominent Attended the DHARMA Initiative school on the island and eventually became a DHARMA workman. He allied himself with the Hostiles.
3x20 Olivia teacher
Olivia Minor DHARMA Initiative school teacher.
3x20 opal headshot
Opal Minor DHARMA Initiative Nurse.
3x20 casey headshot
Casey Minor DHARMA Initiative Gemologist. Greeted DHARMA staff arriving on the island.
Mike the technician
Mike Minor DHARMA Technician. Wore the badge of the Pearl Station.
3x20 june headshot
June Minor DHARMA Technician. Greeted DHARMA staff arriving on the Island.
Dharam Rep
Dharma Rep. 1 Minor DHARMA Rep. 1. Called Roger Linus for assignment at the registration table ("The Man Behind the Curtain")
Doris Minor At the registration table. Her badge indicates she is a Mycologist. ("The Man Behind the Curtain") Her badge is visible only in the Season 3 DVD extras.
3x20 horrace
Horace Goodspeed Minor Mathematician. Wore the badge of the Arrow station. Brought Roger & Ben Linus to the Island. Died during the Purge.
3x20 roger linus
Roger Linus Minor Workman who wore a Swan badge and operated a DHARMA van. He is the father of Ben Linus. Killed by Ben during the Purge.
Fern Minor DHARMA worker. Among the dead at the Barracks after the Purge.
Wayne Minor DHARMA Cartographer. Among the dead at the Barracks after the Purge.
Buzz Minor DHARMA Workman. Among the dead at the Barracks after the Purge.
Radzinsky Minor Member of the team at the Swan Station. Died before 2001.
Kelvin Inman Minor Member of the team at the Swan Station. Former US military intelligence officer. Died in September 2004.
Further Instructions 11
Skeletons (polar bear cave) Minor Two skeletons were found in the Polar Bear cave wearing DHARMA clothing with the Pearl Station badge.
3x20 LockeMassGrave
Skeletons (mass grave) Minor The remains of a large number of DHARMA staff thrown into a mass grave after the Purge.

DHARMA Initiative logos

Main article: DHARMA Logos
Station3Swan logo

The Swan station's logo

The DHARMA initiative is represented by a series of distinct 8-sided logos. These octagon-shaped logos used by the Initiative appear on many items and are seen in the various DHARMA Initiative stations on the Island; they also featured in the orientation films.

The logos are all based on an octagonal design incorporating eight trigrams surrounding a central symbol. The central symbol is unique for each station. The design of the logo was derived from a Chinese concept known as "Bagua" [3] although the trigrams are all inverted (inside-to-outside) from their normal "Later Heaven" order.

Status of the DHARMA Initiative

The current status of the Initiative is unknown. Hugh McIntyre, head of marketing and promotion for the Hanso Foundation stated the DHARMA Initiative was canceled in 1987. He made these claims in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, broadcast on 24 May 2006, and also claimed that the information shown on the TV show Lost is fictional. However in the Sri Lanka Video, filmed by Rachel Blake in July 2006, Thomas Mittelwerk is seen showing several people a DHARMA Initiative orientation video, suggesting that the project might still be active in some form. The Swan station on the Island also received supplies with DHARMA-branded food and necessities up to at least December 2004 and Kelvin Inman is known to have joined the DHARMA Initiative after the Gulf War in 1991, both indicating that the Initiative did not end its operations as McIntyre has implied.

In a hacked section of the Hanso Foundation website on June 19, the hacker Rachel Blake (Persephone) posted a message, questioning the status of the DHARMA Initiative and its members.


In the Sri Lanka Video, Thomas Mittelwerk claims "we all know what happened - the DHARMA Initiative failed."

In the Official Lost Podcasts, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse make frequent references to DHARMA's fall as a "collapse", though they do not give specifics. In the 10/30/06 podcast, they confirm that the polar bears escaped from their cages during the collapse, comparing the situation to when lions escaped the Baghdad Zoo during U.S. bombing of the area.

The Purge

Main article: The purge The DHARMA Initiative fought an armed conflict with a group it called the Hostiles for many years. The reasons for the conflict have not been revealed.

The conflict ended with an event known as the Purge. The Hostiles/Others launched a toxic gas attack on the Barracks and possibly other locations which killed nearly all the staff of the Initiative on the Island. Ben Linus, a workman for the Initiative, survived by joining the Others. The team at the Swan survived by being sealed in the station. The bodies of the Initiative members were piled into an uncovered mass grave in the jungle. It is unclear when exactly the gassing occurred other than it happened on December 22 at 4pm.

Mikhail Bakunin claimed that the DHARMA Initiative was destroyed in a conflict with the Others. Bakunin said that the DHARMA Initiative had initiated the conflict and that every member of the initiative on the island had been killed.

The Swan station remained under the control of the DHARMA Initiative until 2004. Supplies were dropped on a regular basis to the station but replacements for the crew stopped arriving on the Island at some point before 2001.

The last known working member of the initiative on the Island was Kelvin Inman. He arrived on the Island at some point after 1992 and was sealed in the Swan station, he was left alone by the Others and seemed to be unaware of the Purge. Inman died in 2004.

Former members of the Initiative including Ben Linus are still present on the Island. These former members allied themselves with the Hostiles and are now make up a part of the Others.

Cultural references

  • The word Dharma comes from a Sanskrit word that literally means "to hold"
  • The word Dharma means "moral duty" - literally "to hold" a person to his/her purpose.
  • In Hinduism and Buddhism, dharma is:
    • In Eastern religion, Dharma (Sanskrit धर्म) means Natural Law or Reality, or the "Way of the Higher Truths".
      • The principle or law that orders the universe.
      • Individual conduct in conformity with this principle.
      • The essential function or nature of a thing.
    • In Hinduism
      • Individual obligation with respect to caste, social custom, civil law, and sacred law.
    • In Buddhism
      • The body of teachings expounded by the Buddha.
      • Knowledge of or duty to undertake conduct set forth by the Buddha as a way to enlightenment.
      • One of the basic, minute elements from which all things are made.
      • Teaching - the lessons given to the student by the teacher
      • The Path of the Teaching - the journey of the student that ends ultimately in the alleviation of suffering and/or the undoing of karma
      • Ultimate Reality - the realization that the most fundamental element of the universe is happiness, bliss, or Nirvana
  • In Italian the word "dama" (which is pronounced exactly the same as "Dharma") means the board game draughts (or checkers)


  • During DJ Dan's 7/05 podcast, a listener by the name of Anthony called in saying that in the 70s his grandmother joined what he thought was a cult. He said that the cult was called the "KARMA Imperative", although he probably meant to say the DHARMA Initiative but simply misspoke the name. According to Anthony's story, his grandmother joined the "KARMA Imperative" while attending the University of Michigan and was taken to an unknown location in the South Pacific and was never seen again, declared dead.
    • In DJ Dan's First Live Podcast of August 11, 2006, Dan identified Keith Strutter as the guitarist and founder of Geronimo Jackson, and noted that Strutter's previous band was called the Karma Imperative.
  • The word "Dharma" is defined, in Hinduism, as the basic idea of "Law"; sometimes Hinduism is called 'Sanatana Dharma' or 'eternal truth'. It is also the duty of Hindus according to their stage in life.
  • Dharma & Greg was an American television situation comedy broadcast between 1997 and 2002 on ABC.
  • Capitalization: Since DHARMA is an acronym (source: The Lost Experience), its proper spelling is in all capital letters. However the canonical exceptions using "normal caps" have been the welcome sign at the submarine arrival dock in "The Man Behind the Curtain", as well as ABC press release for that episode that lists the three characters, Dharma Welcomer, Dharma Rep. 1 and Dharma Rep. 2.

From the jigsaw puzzles

References in popular culture

Main article: Outside references to Lost

  • In the October 19, 2006 episode of NBC's The Office, Dwight asks Ryan, "What is the DHARMA Initiative?"
  • In the sixth chapter of Half Life 2: Episode Two, Gordon Freeman can see a corridor behind a gas tank next to Uriah the vortigaunt, where the Swan's numbers input terminal can be seen opposite a concrete wall bearing a DHARMA logo with an unknown symbol (actually is the White Forest symbol, the rebel base where the game concludes).

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: DHARMA Initiative/Theories
  • How did they find the Island in the first place if it is hidden from the outside World?
  • Why have DHARMA food drops continued after the purge?
  • Were any DHARMA employees ever allowed to leave?
  • Why does the DHARMA Initiative brand all its food (not to mention equipment and personnel?)
  • Why did DHARMA study the particular fields that it did?
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