Origins of the Island
I'm not sure where the island came from or where it got it's properties. There is no sense speculating about it's origins since there is very little evidence either way. The island does have an abundance of energy (time-space travel energy, electro-magnetic energy, healing/life energy, etc). This could be just a neat natural phenomina, or some kind of extraterrestrial doing, or some kind of spiritual religious thing. The exact origins aren't really important.
Some group of people in the distant past learned how to harness some of the energy though. This is why the donkey wheel in the Orchid well is made of wood and metal and stone, and does not appear to be some kind of alien technology. This early group of people built the well and the donkey wheel (which predated the orchid since there wasn't even wreckage left when the well was present), the temple, and possibly Cerberus the smoke monster. These are all primitive human technologies for harnessing the energies of the island.
The island also has a certain amount of consciousness/soul "energy", which is why the dead seem to come back to life. It also explains Jacob, who is like a ghost consciousness of the island. It's this energy that the ancient people harnessed to make Cerberus, which appears able to make decisions and animate smoke and stuff.
Circa 1954, Charles Widmore becomes the leader of the others. He is shown to be impetuous and absolutely dedicated to the island, which seems like the kind of thing that the others needed when they are being invaded by enemies with nuclear weapons.
The Hanso Foundation is set up to examine the Valenzetti Equation. This is the equation whose 6 results are the numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The Valenzetti Equation is used to calculate the exact date and time that Humans will become extinct. Each number corresponds to a different factor that influences this. The Hanso Foundation sets up 6 research stations, one to study and attempt to influence each number (in order to push back armeggedon). These stations are the Arrow, Flame, Swan, Hydra, Pearl and Orchid. Research and experiments in these places eventually prove to be ineffectual at altering the numbers. Alvar Hanso, leader of the DHARMA initiative is replaced by the radical Thomas Mittelwerk. Mittelwerk decides to take a more active approach, and creates three new stations: Tempest (poison gas), Staff (biomedical and biological weapons) and Looking Glass (to obscure communications to hide the new evil purposes).
The Incident And Mittlewerk
The Valenzetti equation includes overpopulation as a factor in it's calculation, so Mittelwerk decides to reduce human population to try and change the numbers. He creates a virus that causes the others to become inable to have children (and tests it on them too!), and starts working on poison gas for further drastic population control. It is unknown why these numbers seem to pop up so frequently, it may just be a destiny thing.
The Swan station is also used in a drastic experiment to try and change the numbers by using them recursively. The magnetic reactor in the Swan is made into a doomsday device, where the numbers themselves are used to prevent catastrophy. The hope is by using the numbers to cause or prevent armeggedon, the numbers will be forced to change in order to stay accurate. This does not work, the reactor becomes unstable and is eventually sealed off. The reactor isn't able to be disabled completely, and the numbers must still be entered into it regularly in order to prevent further incidents from occuring. After the initial incident, the Swan is broken irrepairably and the experiment cannot be shut down without the failsafe switch to destroy the whole station.
Ben and the Purge
Alarmed by the dramatic and harmful work the DHARMA initiative is doing, the others turn to Ben who is conviving and scheming. He agrees to purge DHARMA from the island in exchange for becoming leader of the others. Jacob and Richard (or whoever makes the decisions) decide that Charles must be "sacrificed" for the good of the island, and must leave it forever in order to get the help from Ben. Charles grudgingly leaves the island (developing quite a distaste for Ben) forever, and Ben releases the poison gas to purge DHARMA from the island. Ben becomes the leader of the others, although they all aren't entirely happy with it because he schemed his way into the position, he wasn't specially chosen like other leaders were. Jacob and Richard both make comments about how they aren't happy with him in the show.
Charles Widmore can really have one of three motives (I'm not sure which without more info):
- Charles is still loyal to the island itself, and feels he must protect it from Ben, who he views to be an interloper and enemy of the island. This is why he tries to capture Ben and have him removed from the island at all costs
- Charles is intensely vengeful that Ben took control of the island from him, and thinks that if he can't have the island, nobody can.
- Charles is forced by Ben to leave the island before he can learn some of the islands secrets. He wants Ben captured so that he can learn the additional secrets of the island and use them (for good or evil, I do not know).
There are a lot of aspects that I haven't touched on here, because there are many areas of the show mythology that haven't been explained well enough or where not enough evidence exists to support any one conclusion. I think the next one or two episodes are going to be very informative, and will conclusively prove or invalidate at least one prediction made here.