Remarkable: LOST: A Tale of Two Drafts
This is what I've always expected happened as well.
This is an excerpt--click through for it all.
So how to make sense of LOST. Here is what I think happened. Not a ton of evidence, but it explains a lot of what I wanted explained.
LOST started out as a show about a plane that crashed. Everyone on the plane died. The characters on "the island" were actually in the kind of purgatory that we would later see a version of in the "Alt U" of season 6, except the island, rather than the mainland, was the purgatory. But like they said in Season 6, the dead are all connected and created this place -- the island -- in part out of their subconscious, a place where they had to work things out before they died. This is why when Walt reads about a polar bear one appears -- because the place they are in is a creation of the mind, a collective dream world.
This is why children are taken by the others -- because they are innocent and have nothing to work out, they can go straight to the afterlife. This is why the others can take people like the tailies with supernatural force -- because they are supernatural in nature. This is why even though the Others kill people they keep saying they are the "good guys" -- because in the larger scheme, they are. This is why children cannot be born if they are conceived on island -- because this is a place of the dead, not a place for new life. This is why people are healed -- because it is a spiritual place of second chances, and physical limitation has no place here. This is why the island cannot be just accidentally "found," or easily left.
Getting to the island is like getting to Hades. The smoke monster, like the Others, is some important force for sorting out people who need to go wherever they need to go. To destroy some, and leave others, still working things out, be (which is why it leaves Locke alone early on). This is why Christian's body is not in the casket in season 1 -- he was dead already at the time of the crash. This is why in the early seasons people "die" (read: move on) when the have worked out their issues, the issues from the past we see in flashback. This is in fact the point of the flashback structure -- to show us what they have to work through on the island. This place has been put together not only by the castaways but also by previous inhabitants. The Dharma station could be the remnant of a group of scientists who died in some kind of science disaster similar to "the incident" and have since moved on to the upper levels of the afterlife. The statue could be the remnant of some much earlier culture who died, who marked the place as the land of the dead with an Egyptian statue. They statue may simply be like the statues that mark the underworld, the products of gods or something.
Lost became a huge hit, a bigger hit than anyone could have predicted. And the fans were obsessive and rabid, and loved to theorize. And the "purgatory" explanation was the explanation that a lot of people landed on. And it was rejected by a lot of other fans as super-lame, because it is frankly, just a notch away from "it was all a dream." And at the end of season 2 or the beginning of season 3 the writers freaked out. They did not want to disappoint this awesome fan base. And they changed the story -- the overall story of the show as a whole.