The "Iteration Theory" or the "Cycle Theory" is a popular theory about EMH that speculates that the current cast is the most recent in a long line of "iterations" or variations of themselves that have appeared throughout decades, if not centuries.
The theory posits that Jeff, Vince, Evan and Steph, along with HABIT, Slenderman, The Rake and possibly Dr. Corenthal are avatars, or embodiments, of a group that are engaged in an eternal struggle. Every so often these players are incarnated as earthly manifestations of themselves who struggle against each other in pre-determined roles. The idea being that, much like a video game, after death the characters "re-spawn" and begin the game again, in a new iteration.
Some versions of the theory say that in order for the cast to survive their current predicament they must break the cycle, or work against type in order to avoid the fates prophesied in the edition of "Everyman" found in Box 5, and not be forced to live through another iteration.
Before and after taking part in a cycle, or an iteration, the cast is speculated to exist in a place dubbed "The Candleverse."
The Iteration theory was first posited as an explanation for the Fairmount versions of the cast. It was first revealed in Corenthal Report dated 11-17-1971 that Dr. James Corenthal had treated a patient in 1971 with the same name as Evan. It became apparent through subsequent pieces of the Corenthal Papers that each of the cast had a namesake in that era. Dr. Corenthal had treated children with names matching each of the modern cast members and each of the children had been haunted by the monsters that also plague the cast.
In the video "Jeff" Evan and Vince find a copy of House of Leaves with a passage circled reading "Why did God create a dual universe?" Some believe that the "dual universe" refers to the cast and to their universal avatar incarnations.
In one of the Leaked Videos entitled "Welcome to The Ark," Jeff can be heard saying "What does he have us doing this time?" while watching one of the early videos from the series on a laptop. This has been taken to mean that the cast seen in this video are not the standard cast, but the universal avatars. However it must be noted that the canonical status of this video is still hotly debated.
On page 58 of the edition of "Everyman" found in Box 5 the following is denoted: ""THE GREAT FLOOD SHALL WASH AWAY ALL THE ASH, READYING THE WORLD FOR ANOTHER GREATER, CYCLE" This became the strongest evidence for the cycle theory. Elsewhere in the text are descriptions of what seem to be universal archetypes, The Firebrand, The Voyuer and The Guardian. These archetypes have been connected to the cast and have been theorized to be the names of the universal versions of the cast.
The word "iteration" was first uttered during a video by Jeff in on of the hidden videos entitled "-.-. ." During one of the segments in the candlelit scene Jeff can be heard saying "I guess when we're done with this iteration we'll have a nice little war buddy talk with him." This heavily implies that the cast that we are seeing in this segment of video are not the standard cast, but are the universal avatar versions of the cast discussing the current iteration. Throughout this video they discuss Corenthal and HABIT in a detached and clinical way implying that they are seperate entities.
In the video "Sigma" Evan uses the Black Box Device to test a sample of his blood, which tests positively for Sigma Radiation according to this device. On August 11th Jeff tweeted that he, Evan, Vin, and Steph had all tested positive for Sigma radiation. Alex, however had been a negative test. The presence of this radiation links the four characters. However, according to the Corenthal/Adam Roberts Notes and the Corenthal Letters dated 7-22-1995 and 7-23-1995 this also links them in some way to Slenderman, who the Black Box Device was created to detect.
The Candleverse/The ArkEdit
The Candleverse, also called "Candle Cove," or "The Ark" by some, is speculated to be the other universe where the universal avatars of the cast reside while not participating in an iteration, and where their spirits reside after their deaths here.
The Candleverse gained its name following the video "-.-." where a version of Jeff, Evan and Vince can be seen sitting around a small grouping of candles discussing the events of the series. It is also speculated that the portions of the video "Ryan & the SEVENTRIALSOFHABIT" showing Evan at the kitchen table may also take place in the Candleverse.
The Candleverse may also act as a "pass between," being the portal between certain points in our world, as seen in the video "Last week/Taking it back" where Evan, Jeff and Alex seem to be instantly transported between Jeff and Alex's home and Baldpate Mountain.
Further evidence of this theory can be seen in The property where Vince travels not only to multiple locations in all of the homes of the major cast members, but also into a space where he sees himself and the rest of the cast sitting in a version of Evan's basement, and finally to an unknown location where he meets Dr. Corenthal who appears to have been hiding there since his disappearance.
In Tribe Twelve's video "Bridge To Nowhere ", Jeff is seen in the Candleverse. He appears to be running from HABIT, who hints that he is trying to catch Jeff, and "a couple others", for reasons unknown to the viewers. It has been speculated, among other theories, that Jeff is possibly reiterating in the Candleverse at this point in time.
A sub-theory or variant of the Iteration theory is that the current EMH crew is experiencing frequent, smaller iterations (or pseudo-iterations) throughout the series. Born from the “Consensus” video during speculation on the unexplained loss of Vince's beard, the sub-theory offers an explanation for the multiple scenarios in which extremely perilous situations have often led to inexplicable jumps in time and space (that often coincide with jumps in continuity), and the unexpected survival of the crew. The theory suggests these are actually events in which the cast member or members in question have, in fact, died, and have either reiterated in a slightly different universe, or been replaced with a new version of themselves with altered bodies and/or memories. There is speculation that Slenderman is involved in these events, though there are currently no theories as to why.
Major examples of these occurances:
- “Ashen Waste”- The crew attacks Slenderman twice; once with a bat, once with the car. After a "black out" period, they wake up in Jeff's basement, healthy, clean, and confused.
- “Ryan & the SEVENTRIALSOFHABIT”- Jeff films inHABITed Evan threatening an unknown entity, and upon being caught, is also confronted with Slenderman. Though the threat is very evident in the clip, no harm seemed to have come to Jeff.
- “Consensus”- Vince and Alex experience a jump. Vince wakes up in a deserted area with Alex dead and Slenderman visible in the distance. His beard is also somehow gone. As Alex is not known to be in the core group, the theory wouldn't apply, and he is officially considered dead.
- "Twenty-four months," in which we see Jeff and Vince involved in a car crash as well as Jeff apparently overdosing, however both are fine later.
- "L'esprit de l'escalier," in which Evan describes having been disemboweled by the Rake, and yet surviving without any scars.
By now, certain members of the Four have died without reinstantiating. It is not known under what conditions one of the Four can be killed permanently. It has been thought that only Slenderman or another one of the Four can permanently kill one of the Four (allowing HABIT to kill them indirectly through possession). It is also possible that when one of the Four reaches a pre-determined "plot point" corresponding to the Everyman Play, they lose their ability to reinstantiate.
- It is speculated that Linnie is also a re-iterating avatar; evidence to support this includes the dead girl being killed the same way that Dr. Corenthal said Linnie died, but 20 years later. However, there has been no appearance of Linnie after the dead girl's body disappeared.
- So far there has been no evidence of other versions of Jessa. It is unknown if she is part of the cycle, or has simply been caught up in it.
- Daniel is mentioned by Evan/HABIT to be "caught in the crossfire" in Next
- After Alex's death it was questioned whether or not he was part of the cycle. Recently a figure that appeared to be Alex was spotted in Next, which stirred these questions again.
- In “Bridge To Nowhere" Noah from TribeTwelve enters the Candleverse.
- It has been confirmed that the Firebrand from the edition of "Everyman" found in Box 5 and Firebrand from TribeTwelve are not the same.
- It seems that Noah Maxwell is also part of the Iteration Theory. Citing the "TribeTwelve Veterans Day Special", future Noah states that if he messes with his timeline the loop will break and they will "take all the control we've built up over iteration after iteration to get to where we are at this point". This seems to indicate Noah has gone through several iterations.