The DHARMA (Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications) Initiative was a scientific research project that had a large presence on the Island between the 1970s and the early 1990s. The project is represented by variations of an octagonal logo that appear on most of its products and facilities.
Most information on the project is derived from the Swan Orientation film and the ARG The Lost Experience. The former detailed some of the project's aims and a brief history, while the latter expanded greatly on this information, particularly with regards to the company which funded the Initiative, the Hanso Foundation. It seems that the Initiative's general goal, with specifics still unknown, was to manipulate scientific laws in order to change any of the six factors of the Valenzetti Equation, a sequence believed to have some connection to the date marking the end of humanity, in hopes of delaying such a date.
The DHARMA Initiative, in large part, ended after the Purge in 1992, an event that saw the death of almost all of its members on the Island at the hands of "the Hostiles." The Lost Experience confirmed that the Hanso Foundation cut the DHARMA Initiative's funding in 1987.
An as of yet unidentified man was able to find the location of the Island in the 1960s (well before 1974, when the DI was well-established), by way of the Lamp Post station in Los Angeles -- as explained by Eloise Hawking. Located underneath a church, the Lamp Post harnessed the unique pocket of energy in that area and used it to find other similar pockets around the globe. Though this man was only interested in one specific area: the Island. Since the Island was always moving, the Lamp Post was integral in finding the Island's location. Within a few years' time, the location was uncovered, and a tiny commune was formed on the Island, called the DHARMA Initiative.
Not long after settling on the Island, the DHARMA Initiative fought an armed conflict with a group they called the Hostiles in the early 1970s. The reasons for the conflict are not known, though Horace Goodspeed stated that the Hostiles were natives to the Island, implying that a conflict could have arisen from DHARMA moving into their territory or intruding on the Island. On August 1973, DHARMA and the Hostiles agreed to a Truce, and an uneasy peace existed for nearly two decades.
DHARMA appears to have taken steps as the conflict escalated, including devoting one of their stations (The Arrow) to developing new strategies against the Hostiles, installation of security cameras and other monitoring systems, weapon stockpiles (unusual for a utopian community) and even having a professional interogator on their staff. The conflict between the two does not appear to have been helped by the appearance of the time shifting survivors in 1974-1977.
Regardless of the cause, the conflict ended in December 1992 with an event known as the Purge. The Hostiles launched a toxic gas attack on the Barracks (and possibly other locations) that killed nearly all DHARMA personnel on the Island. Staff at The Swan survived per being sealed inside their station, and other DHARMA members, including Benjamin Linus and Ethan Rom survived by joining the Hostiles. The bodies of those killed in the attack were piled into an open mass grave in the jungle. The Hostiles continue to survive today as the group Danielle Rousseau, the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and the survivors of the freighter Kahana call "the Others".
In the March 20, 2007 Official Lost Podcast, Carlton Cuse said he did not believe that The Others knew about the Swan station, but acknowledged that they might have observed the Swan through the monitors at the Pearl. The last known working member of the Initiative on the Island was Kelvin Inman, who died September 22, 2004.
Hugh McIntyre of the Hanso Foundation said in an interview as part of The Lost Experience that the DHARMA Initiative's funding was cut in 1987. Thomas Mittelwerk also claimed in the Sri Lanka video, "we all know what happened—the DHARMA Initiative failed." In the Official Lost Podcasts, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse also make frequent references to DHARMA's fall as a "collapse", explaining that the polar bears escaped from their cages during the collapse, for example.
However, the truth of when the Intiative collapsed or if indeed it did at all is uncertain due to the events of the Purge, which reportedly occurred five years after the date quoted by Hugh McIntyre. Furthermore, in the Sri Lanka Video, it is shown that even in 2006 similar work on the Valenzetti Equation is being conducted, suggesting the project's major aims are still being investigated in some new incarnation by Thomas Mittelwerk. It has also been shown that the Swan station received supplies with DHARMA Initiative-branded food and necessities up to at least December 2004, and that Kelvin Inman joined the DHARMA Initiative after the Gulf War in 1991, both indicating that the Initiative did not end its operations in 1987 as McIntyre stated.
In the Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project of 2008, unknown benefactors attempted to restart the Initiative but failed due to constrains by the 2008 financial crisis. The "Project" consisted of a series of tests that dealt with different areas of expertise. The tests measured various skills of recruits, and official Volunteer Assessment Dossiers were sent out to recruits on November 18th. The "Project" was unable to continue spending due to the financial crisis, and sold the Dharma Initiative to the T.V. show Lost. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse started a new website called Dharmaspecialaccess.com that gave recruits exclusive information on upcoming Lost info.
According to various orientation films, the Initiative was founded in 1970 by Gerald and Karen DeGroot, two doctoral candidates at the University of Michigan. It was financially backed by Danish industrialist and munitions magnate Alvar Hanso and his Hanso Foundation. The alleged purpose of the Initiative, according to the Swan Orientation film, 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]."
The Barracks video also 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 appears to build on the last statement, explaining that the DHARMA Initiative was part of a project begun in response to the Valenzetti Equation commissioned by the UN in 1967, a mathematical formula that reportedly predicts the amount of time until the extinction of mankind. The purpose of the DHARMA Initiative on the Island was to use scientific research to manipulate the environment in order to change any one of the core factors of the Valenzetti Equation which, in turn, would change the Equation's result and thus change mankind's destiny. They were also interested in researching the unique properties on the Island found nowhere else in the world, again for the betterment of humanity.
The word DHARMA was revealed to be a backronym 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 upon reaching level 42, the full acronym DHARMA was revealed as being "Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications". The acronym was later confirmed by Alvar Hanso in the Sri Lanka Video and in an ABC press release .
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. 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).
The DHARMA Initiative's logo is a representation of the I Ching, a Taoist method of divination. Dharma as a word is the governing essence of the universe in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. These together with Dr. Chang being the "face" of the DHARMA Initiative suggest it represents a Taoist/East Asian alternative to the Egyptian/manichean view of the universe suggested by Jacob and his nemesis.
The Barracks appear to be the DHARMA Initiative's central area of activity on the Island. The location is a secure residential compound comprising houses, offices and other surface buildings with electricity and water, plus an unknown number of underground facilities. Other buildings include a cafeteria and adjoining kitchen, recreational hall, school, infirmary, and security office. Outside is a small playground area, numerous walkways, benches, picnic tables and a gazebo. A motor pool location at the Barracks houses a number of DHARMA vans used by personnel to travel about the Island. Close at hand to the main residential area is a small harbor and wharf where submarines dock coming to and from the Island. The entire Barracks and the surrounding area is enclosed inside a sonar fence.
While all of the DHARMA stations appear to have had their own logos, the Barracks itself did not have one. However, the security outpost beneath the Barracks did have its own - and similarly the kitchen and maintenance areas within the Baracks had their own identification. The infirmary, however, does not.
The DHARMA Initiative conducted research and other activities on the Island in a number of stations. They all have (or have had) power (from an unknown source) and a water supply as well as various kinds of equipment (e.g. machinery, living quarters, computers, medical equipment, etc). Each facility also has its own octagon-shaped logo, utilizing a different symbol to designate which station items or personnel correspond to.
It is known from the orientation films that there were at least six stations at the time they were filmed in 1980, with the Swan station shown as "3 of 6", for instance. However, a total of nine different stations have already been visited on the show, suggesting that either additional stations and films were made after 1980, and/or that an unknown number of stations did not include "Orientation" films (possibly ones kept secret from general DHARMA staff). Other stations to be identified with numbers include the Pearl as number 5, the Arrow as number 2 and the Orchid as number 6. The Flame was also referred to as number 4 on the blast door map, though this may not be accurate.
|The Staff||Unknown||Medical Research Facility.||The Caduceus staff originally belonged to Hermes, a figure sometimes associated with Apollo. Apollo was a god of healing (and of plagues). The short and long bars around the edges are the I Ching.||Unused|
|The Arrow||2 of 6||Develop defensive strategies and gather intelligence on the Hostiles.||Apollo was the god of archery.||Destroyed|
|The Swan||3 of 6||Electromagnetic Research and Containment.||Swans are sacred to Apollo. Swans encircled the birthplace of Apollo when he was born on an Island (Delos).||Destroyed|
|The Flame||4 of 6||Communication Technology Facility.||Apollo was the sun god.||Destroyed|
|The Pearl||5 of 6||Psychological Research and Observation Facility.||Hindus associate the pearl with the moon. Artemis, twin sister to Apollo, is the moon goddess. Could also be a literary reference to "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck.||Unused|
|The Orchid||6 of 6||Space Time Travel Facility. Disguised as a botanical station.||Possibly references the station's greenhouse exterior.||Unused|
|The Hydra||Unknown||Zoological Research Facility.||Guardian of the Underworld (like Cerberus). Apollo sent a crow to fetch water, and blamed the Hydra as an excuse for not fulfilling the task.||Being Used by flight 316 survivors|
|The Looking Glass||Unknown||Underwater Submarine Guidance Facility, Radio Jammer.||Most likely a literary reference to Lewis Carrol's sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland titled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.||Unused, partially destroyed|
|The Tempest||Unknown||Toxic gas Development.||Possibly a reference to William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, which takes place on a mysterious desert island. The wave symbol could signify the ship that was wrecked on the island due to Prospero's magic.||Unused|
|The Lamp Post||Unknown||Locates when the Island will appear.||Most likely a reference to the The Chronicles of Narnia. The lamp post in Narnia marked the entrance and exit to the world of Narnia.||Being Used|
To instruct its members, the DHARMA Initiative created several orientation films, most of them featuring Pierre Chang under various aliases.
Known films are:
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. DHARMA members also wear uniforms embossed with the logos, and this can also designates which station they belong to. Notable members of the Initiative include Pierre Chang and Horace Goodspeed, who wore various uniforms connecting them to particular DHARMA stations. According to information obtained in He's Our You, an unknown person or group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, (presumably the DeGroots), make large decisions and are the leaders of DHARMA. Horace Goodspeed appears to be the leader of all the DHARMA members on the Island, but ultimately does not make all decisions. Other seemingly high-ranking members of DHARMA are Jim LaFleur, the Head of Security, Stuart Radzinsky, the Head of Research and presumed architect of The Swan, and Pierre Chang, who appears to have some leadership at The Orchid.
The logos are all based on an octagonal design incorporating eight trigrams surrounding a central symbol. These are the trigrams of the I Ching, in which the broken bars represent yin and the solid bars represent yang. The central symbol is unique for each station. The design of the logo was derived from a Chinese concept known as "Bagua"; the trigrams are all inverted (inside-to-outside) from their normal "Later Heaven" order.
In Sanskrit, the word Dharma (धर्म) means "religion, moral duty",  with the etymological sense "that which is established firmly".  
In Eastern religion, Dharma means Natural Law or Reality, or the "Way of The Higher Truths" By this, it stands as the principle or law that orders the universe, individual conduct in conformity to this principle, and the essential function or nature of a thing.
In Hinduism, Dharma refers to individual obligation with respect to caste, social custom, civil law, and sacred law. Meanwhile, in Buddhism, it stands for the body of teaching expounded by the Buddha, and therefore the knowledge of or duty to undertake conduct set forth by the Buddha as a way to enlightenment. In addition, it is one of the basic, minute elements from which all things are made. It also refers to the Path of the Teaching, the journey of the student that ends ultimately in the alleviation of suffering and/or the undoing of karma. Finally, it also references ultimate reality, the realization that the most fundamental element of the universe is happiness, bliss, or Nirvana.
Surrounding the logo are 8 trigrams which are derived from belief in Bagua. Under Chinese legend, the 8 trigrams were represented to the Yellow Emperor in 3000 BC by heaven, each symbol allocated to a particular plane of existence, a family member, an element etc... and grouped into both Yin and Yang. Cross multiplication of the 8 trigrams yields the I-Ching which is an old method of divination in which coins or sticks are randomly shaken to produce lines making up the trigram. The I-Ching is then used to interpret the meaning of the combination of trigrams.
Main article: Outside references to Lost