This speculation is actually an outgrowth of thoughts I posted to Suffer the Children and the Mind of Magnus. As noted previously, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series describes a hyper-empathic mutant (the Mule) whose special mental abilities disrupt a centuries-old mathematical prophecy reminiscent of the Valenzetti Equation.
I'm struck by parallels between Ben's experience as "Henry Gale" and the plot line of Foundation and Empire, the second novel in the series. The similarities are such that I have a hard time believing it's mere coincidence, though we all know what Mr. Eko (RIP) might say to that...
WARNING: MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR ISAAC ASIMOV'S FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE.
In the novel, a husband and wife are sent on a mission to learn more about the Mule, a mysterious conqueror whose empire is expanding at an alarming rate. After unsuccessfully seeking an audience with the Mule, the couple stumbles instead on his court jester, Magnifico Giganticus, who has apparently escaped from the palace.
Since Magnifico is one of only a few to have seen the Mule in person, they rescue and return with him to their ship for questioning. Magnifico charms them with his antics and chills them with descriptions of the Mule's strength and vindictiveness. After hearing from another source that the Mule is a powerful mutant, the couple flees with Magnifico to friendly space.
Shortly thereafter, however, they learn the Mule has targeted their territory for conquest. As the attacking forces advance, Magnifico becomes terrified that the Mule is coming for him:
The clown shrank in horror. His eyes were glassy.They flee the invasion only to learn a terrible truth -- Magnifico is actually the Mule pretending to be a meek clown. He allowed himself to be captured to spy on his enemies and manipulate them from within using mental telepathy. That reminds me a lot of Ben's capture and mind games, right down to the line about "His" brilliance and cruelty:
"The Mule," he shrieked. "The Mule is coming for me."
He thrashed wildly at her touch.
Because the man in charge -- he's a great man, John, a brilliant man -- but he's not a forgiving man. He'll kill me because I failed, John. I failed my mission.Compare that line with this description by Magnifico of the Mule:
He is a man of overpowering might, respected sir, and cruel in the use of his power -- and his eyes, respected sir, no one sees.Note the emphasis on the Mule's eyes, which Magnifico claims have the power to kill. Eyes are obviously a huge theme on Lost, and the Eye of the Island (i.e., Smokey) has apparently killed more than once. The Mule also reportedly wears glasses:
He wears spectacles, respected sir, of a curious nature. It is said that they are opaque and that he sees by a powerful magic that far transcends human powers. I have heard,” and his voice was small and mysterious, “that to see his eyes is to see death; that he kills with his eyes, respected sir.Ben's eyes are among the most intense and expressive on the show (thanks, Juniebun) and I can't help thinking of one of my favorite shots of him staring intently at the Hyrda monitors through big round specs.
So is Ben just an expert con, or does he have some special ability to sense and manipulate emotions like the Mule/Magnifico? There are at least two reasons to think it's actually the latter. First, this may again be coincidence but I note that Dave appears to Hurley on the Island during Ben's imprisonment in Swan.
Second, the name Mule is a reference to sterility caused by his mutation. Could it be yet another coincidence that Juliet just happens to be a fertility doctor? Doubtful -- I suspect Ben has wanted a child for some time. My guess is that he raised Alex as his own, which is why he asked about her right before going under the knife.
Perhaps their relationship soured when she learned the truth about her kidnapping, which is why she helped Claire and Aaron. Maybe Ben wanted another child and brought Juliet to the Island in hopes of curing his condition. She subjected him to a battery of tests and X-rays, which is when Ben learned about his tumor...
So what say you now, Mr. Eko, coincidence or something more?