Supernatural University: Speculations on the Origins of Monsters And Other Insanity
The origins and destinies of monsters are a major theme underlying the season six mythology and storyline of Supernatural. I thought I’d play a little with some of the pieces we’ve been given as a means to while away part of the current hellatus. Feel free to chime in: this is all pure speculation, with no spoilers for anything that hasn’t already aired in the
In this little midseason class in
The Origin Of Species
So far, we know very few monster origin stories. We know from our many season four lessons in demon and angel Sunday school that God reportedly created both angels and humans, and that Lucifer, in his fit of pique over God being more solicitous of His human creation, figured out how to spite God by making demons out of His precious human souls through warping them to evil, beginning with Lilith. We got confirmation from Tessa during In My Time Of Dying and Death Takes A Holiday that ghosts and other restless spirits are the remnants of human souls who refused to accept their deaths and accompany Reapers on to wherever they were supposed to go, be it Heaven or Hell. We learned in Abandon All Hope and Appointment In Samarra that Reapers serve and answer to Death, even though we still don’t know whether Reapers were established by Death, God, or something else. According to season one lore, a human who turned to solitary cannibalism out of grim determination to survive at all costs sometimes became a Wendigo. According to Clap Your Hands If You Believe, all the various creatures of faerie are inhabitants of an alternate or parallel dimension who can create or make use of dimensional gates between worlds. And we learned from the experience with the tulpa all the way back in season one’s Hell House that communal human thought, if sufficiently focused, could theoretically make anything real and self-sustaining.
This season, much has been made of each breed of humanoid non-angel, non-ghost, and non-faerie monster having derived from a single Alpha, the first and most powerful of its kind, endowed with the ability either to reproduce itself by breeding with humans, as we’ve seen with shapeshifters in Two And A Half Men and rugaru in Metamorphosis, for example, or to infect humans and thus transform them, as we’ve seen with werewolves in Heart, skinwalkers in All Dogs Go To Heaven, and vampires in Bloodlust, Fresh Blood, and Live Free Or TwiHard. How others reproduce isn’t entirely certain: we know from Jump The Shark that ghouls can have children and from Exile On Main Street that djinn can do the same, but the mechanisms for those species to reproduce wasn’t revealed. We learned in Family Matters, however, that all such monster souls or spirits are evidently destined for Purgatory, not Heaven or Hell.
What we haven’t yet learned is who or what created or made each Alpha, when and how they were made, and how and why monsters were designated for Purgatory. We also have the question of why the rules under which monsters have traditionally operated have changed, although I suspect the answer to that one is simply that the aborted apocalypse of season five, possibly combined with the Winchester brothers’ very existence violating every normal rule of nature, as I explored in my review of Appointment In Samarra, tripped some supernatural reset switch that put everything in our shared creation off its former expected course.
Several options on the who, what, when, how, and why of monster creation in Supernatural come to mind. One is straightforward creation by God, although the nature of monsters as intentional competitors with and predators on humanity would seem to contravene the typical Western religious understanding of God as benevolent father-creator. Then again, every non-human creature in nature has competitors or predators of one type or another, so why not monsters as a potential natural curb on human expansion? There’s a potential logic to that concept, even if it is a distasteful one from the human viewpoint.
Another option could be more tinkering by Lucifer or the higher level demons he produced. Many monsters seem to be perversions of human beings: an evolutionary approach would suggest that all the ones who can cross-breed with or infect humans to produce more of their kind pretty much had to have started from human stock in order to be able to do that. I could see Lucifer and his demonic followers setting out to further thumb their noses at God over time by warping humans into monsters through spells and witchcraft or selective breeding. That would appear to be a pretty simple variation on what Lucifer did in twisting a human into a demon, and would also explain why humanoid monsters developed to be innately monstrous, with their instincts skewed toward terrifying and killing other humans or turning them into monsters themselves. Everything Lucifer has done has furthered the cause of evil and chaos, and developing humans into multiple varieties of monsters would both fit that bill and continue his pattern of disdain for and denigration of humanity.
A third option could be simple independent existence. According to Death in Two Minutes To Midnight, he was not part of God’s creation, but exists independently of God – and perhaps even existed first, since he professed neither of them could remember. The relationship in Supernatural’s universe between the biblical God and the dimension/realm of faerie is also undefined, as is the relationship between the biblical God and the multiple gods of other faiths we met back in Hammer Of The Gods. Supernatural has at least suggested that the Judeo-Christian God of biblical and apocalyptic fame may not have created everything we can perceive. If that is the case, then perhaps the creative force of other gods, entities, or universe views – possibly including the origins of God and Death – was behind the generation of monsters.
A fourth option could be evolution itself. Certain spontaneous, dominant, predatory mutations could have provided evolutionary survival advantages over normal humans that encouraged individual humanoid monsters to live and successfully reproduce. A mutation that began as a sport could have become established as a genetic pattern for future generations. That wouldn’t necessarily explain why each Alpha was still alive, however, unless that initial spontaneous mutation included virtual immortality, absent violent death, and the inbreeding with or infection of still-mortal humans just diluted the immortality gene in the individual Alpha’s makeup.
A fifth option – and the one to which I’m personally most inclined – is the tulpa one. Since we already know from Hell House that pure, shared, focused human belief can be strong enough to create independent reality, it makes a lot of sense to me that we humans could have created our own monsters – and our own gods – out of our own fears and aspirations … especially if those fears and that semi-divine human creative impulse could have been channeled and intentionally directed by demons or other intelligent forces of evil, as well as by angels, prophets, or other intelligent forces of relative good. Accordingly, this theory could also incorporate the idea of Lucifer and his demons having possibly influenced the development of other evil things by utilizing the creative power of humanity, and deliberately perverting it. Something about that concept seems almost poetic to me. It could also explain the emphasis this season on the incomparable value and power of souls; what if part of that value is the human soul’s ability to communally decide upon and create our shared reality?
Another reason I favor the tulpa theory is that it could account for all the oddities about monsters. Theoretically, anything humans could communally imagine and truly believe in could be made real, so any monster, no matter how outlandish or improbable, could be justified. This could even account for the creation of alternate or parallel dimensions, the worlds of faerie, the seeming creative powers of Tricksters, and all the numerous gods and religions representing human cultures around the world. Focused, organized, communal belief dictating truth could further explain so many things, including the weird specifics about why silver is the only thing that actually hurts all varieties of shapeshifters, beheading is required to kill vampires, and fire is necessary to kill wendigos and rugaru. Remember how Dean and Sam sought to manipulate the weakness of the belief-created haunting spirit in Hell House by changing the story to make it susceptible to wrought-iron rounds fired by a gun? Same principle.
Purgatory, Samuel Campbell, And Rampant Craziness
The most curious questions to me aren’t so much the specific origins of monsters – since I can posit a number of possible theories to account for them – but instead concern Purgatory and the reason Samuel Campbell was brought back to life. Those things really are mysteries to me, and I don’t have easy answers to suggest for them.
I already discussed in my review of Family Matters how different Supernatural’s take on Purgatory is – as the afterlife destination of monsters – from the traditional Judeo-Christian one of Purgatory as simply a waiting room or an essential purification step for human souls on the road to Heaven. The vampire Alpha basically concurred with Crowley, at least to the extent of saying he knew his soul/spirit was destined for Purgatory when he died, and that other monsters were bound for the same place.
I wondered then, and I still wonder now, whether all human-derived monsters – possibly even including human ghosts who never accepted their deaths and wound up being destroyed by bone-burning or other means – may be destined for Purgatory simply because they aren’t human enough any longer either to achieve the energy of Heaven or to sink to the doomed depths of Hell. Heaven and Hell both seem places very much designed for the reward or punishment of humans, and for the planned service of faithful angels or the ultimate imprisonment of rebellious ones. Supernatural’s Purgatory, on the other hand, seems a place intentionally different and separate from both. If that’s the case, I wonder whether it’s possible for souls in Purgatory to become human enough again to make the appropriate transition, given the right circumstances; for example, Molly in Roadkill or Father Gregory in Houses Of The Holy coming to acknowledge and accept their own deaths, and thus accepting the need to move on to their appropriate human afterlife. If so, then Purgatory may still be a state of transition, an unstable realm whose inhabitants may shift it closer to either Heaven or Hell, depending on their ability to accept their appropriate human destinations and the natural inclinations that drove their deliberate or inadvertent choice of direction in the first place. That sort of instability could make Purgatory a potentially powerful force for either good or evil, depending on the eventual inclination of the majority of souls consigned to that place. The ability to influence the direction of such souls could be a key to power for whoever could find the way to turn it to the ultimate advantage of either destination, whether Heaven or Hell, and that could be the motive for powers like Crowley – and perhaps Balthazar, Raphael, or even Castiel – seeking to find the way to reach the souls in Purgatory.
I also sometimes wonder if Purgatory may be the spiritual destination of monsters precisely because monsters were not the product of God’s creation, but of human thought and belief, and as human creations, weren’t empowered to enter Heaven or Hell, but were limited intrinsically to something lesser precisely because they lacked the power of God’s direct creation. Wouldn’t that be a kick?
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I’m enjoying asking the question. I wonder if we’ll learn the truth before this season ends, or whether this may be an enduring mystery. I’m good either way.
And that brings me to my last, also unanswered, question: why is Samuel Campbell walking the Earth again, when we know from In The Beginning that he died back in 1973? Samuel suggested in Exile On Main Street that he had been in Heaven – he said he and Sam guessed that the same force that had pulled Sam up from Hell had pulled him down – and said in Family Matters that he had been promised the return of his daughter Mary if he cooperated with Crowley in the Alpha hunt. Even assuming Samuel was telling the truth both times, that begs the question why something would have brought Samuel – of all dead hunters in history – back to life after so long.
I think the answer to that is likely to be twofold: first, that Samuel fell within the critical, all-important definition of family to Sam and Dean, which mattered because manipulating the unique impact of the Winchester brothers on the natural order of things was part of the goal of bringing him back; and second, that Samuel, as one of the last fully adult and experienced hunters from an ancestral family tree comprised of many generations of hunters, was the most recent and complete repository of information assembled by that family. Let me explain.
I’m going to hit the latter point first. We learned with Sam in The Kids Are Alright that Mary’s family had been virtually wiped out after her death; every friend or relation Sam checked out had been methodically eradicated, one way or another. The few Campbells we met in Exile On Main Street, apart from patriarch Samuel, were all young and relatively distant cousins who likely survived the pogrom precisely because they were too young to know much and too far removed from the core of Mary’s family to matter, lacking essential information and any connections to Mary, John, Sam, and Dean. I’m betting that Christian, Mark, and Gwen were all relatively green in hunter terms, pretty much alone and disconnected until Samuel brought them all together and provided the link of their common family history.
I’m guessing a lot of Campbell hunter family intelligence was lost with the many family members who died in the aftermath of Mary’s demise. All that history of Campbell hunting – things like Samuel’s knowledge of a cure for someone infected by a vampire, for example, or his record of the lore on Alphas – was probably decimated by the deaths of hunters who hadn’t yet been able to pass knowledge on to the next generation. Even people who inherited hunter journals wouldn’t necessarily have had the key to decipher all the information contained in them; just imagine someone – like the sheriff in the pilot – trying to make sense of the often cryptic and outright outré entries in a hunter’s journal. Even if they had been raised to the family business, they wouldn’t automatically have known what the entries meant; just think of Dean in Home, learning Missouri was the name of a psychic, totally reinterpreting the very first words of John’s journal, which he’d known most of his life: I went to Missouri, and I learned the truth.
I suspect Samuel may have been the last fully trained, completely experienced Campbell family hunter – the last one who had access to every bit of intelligence assembled by generations of Campbells – who also had a direct, meaningful family connection to Sam and Dean. We know from the entire history of the show that family is the key to the Winchester brothers, both their strength and their weakness. My guess would be that Samuel was selected precisely because the Winchesters would suspend judgment on him for a time because he was family, and because he had access to more information than any other hunter currently alive. As someone raised in the business from before birth, Samuel had an advantage over any non-family-line hunter – the people like Bobby and John – who came into the business only because of a personal tragedy that opened their eyes to the supernatural. Unlike them, Samuel had access to hundreds of years of direct firsthand information, not just whatever he could glean from scattered, piecemeal records and hearsay evidence. For anyone hunting Purgatory who also wanted to be able to manipulate Sam and Dean, I think Samuel would have been the ideal tool of choice. Mary, apart from being in an indeterminate location now – something I’ll discuss a bit later – also had been very young when her parents died and she deliberately left the hunting life. She wouldn’t have known everything Samuel had on tap. I suspect even Deanna, Samuel’s wife, wouldn’t have known everything Samuel had been raised to know, even though she clearly accepted and adopted the hunter life as part of her marriage.
While I’m sure there are other family trees of hunters – the forebears and descendants of Samuel Colt come to mind as a distinct possibility – those hunter lines wouldn’t have the same personal impact on Sam and Dean because, unlike Samuel Campbell, they weren’t family. I’m guessing Samuel served as a very effective lever to help move the Winchesters. Crowley definitely found him useful. But I still don’t believe Crowley was the one to bring him back. If Samuel was indeed in Heaven, Crowley – as a demon – wouldn’t have had access to him unless someone had made him the subject of a crossroads deal. I don’t doubt that Crowley took advantage of his situation to make the deal to have Samuel hunt for Alphas in exchange for the promise of Mary’s restoration, but I don’t think Crowley had the jets to talk to Samuel in Heaven or to bring him back in the first place. Whether Samuel remembers this or not, if he’s telling the truth about having been in Heaven rather than in Hell, I suspect the hand of an angel being behind his return to life. As we learned in Point Of No Return, Zachariah had no problem speaking with Adam in Heaven and making the deal for his return to Earth; why not Raphael, Balthazar, or some other angel doing the same with Samuel in order to use him, but scrubbing his memories to erase that knowledge? Alternatively, God may have been behind it, once again influencing events from behind the scenes, or it could have been step one in Death’s own plans. There are too many potential players for me to start betting.
What will happen to Samuel now is an open question. With Crowley destroyed – and I think he truly is gone – I think the deal he made with Samuel is null and void. Unless someone else in the Hell hierarchy takes his place to pursue his same interest in acquiring Purgatory, there wouldn’t seem to be a demand from Hell for Samuel’s services. I wouldn’t put it past Heaven to make an offer, however – or perhaps even to suggest that Samuel should be looking for Purgatory himself if he really wanted to find Mary. After all, we saw in Home that Mary’s spirit had haunted their old home and took on and defeated a poltergeist to save her sons, apparently being destroyed in the process, and Ash said in Dark Side Of The Moon that he couldn’t find Mary in Heaven while Zachariah played games with what he called just a version of her “blessed memory.” If restless human spirits who declined to go with Reapers when they died lost their chance at Heaven or Hell because they became classed as monsters and eventually wound up in Purgatory when they were destroyed, that could have been Mary’s fate. Rescuing Mom from Purgatory might be enough of an incentive to persuade Dean to work with Samuel again despite how Samuel betrayed the brothers to Crowley, although I submit their goals would still be different: Samuel would likely still want his daughter restored to life, while Dean, having learned his lesson about death, at most would want her safely in Heaven, and re-ensouled Sam, who always felt her lack, would probably wish to get to know her. That situation could set up an interesting tension while further exploring the interaction of Sam and Dean with their grandfather. And since Ash couldn’t find him in Heaven either, it makes me wonder where John wound up after his soul’s escape from Hell in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2 ...
I can weave pretty wild cloth when I let my imagination run loose on the loom, hmm?
I posited in my review of Appointment In Samarra that the Winchesters might be useful even to supernatural entities as powerful as Death and God precisely because of the unique way in which they violate and continue to disrupt the natural order. The brothers, I think, are agents of change just by existing, and because of that, the decisions they make have effects more far-reaching than they know. Who’s to say they aren’t being influenced and moved deliberately around on the board to continue affecting the course of world events? We still haven’t been given any real explanation of why or how soulless Sam was extracted from the cage and released on Earth. My thought would be that someone wanted or needed to use the Winchesters to change the course of events. The surest way to manipulate Dean is to employ Sam, so getting him out of that cage in whatever condition would have been essential. I suspect all this has been orchestrated, and while nothing involving the Winchesters ever goes according to plan – prophesied apocalypse, anyone? – I think they’re still part of a bigger picture we have yet to see. I think they’re tied in to the civil war in Heaven, the leadership vacuum in Hell, and the revolution in monster behavior, and will have much to do with the role of Purgatory and the importance and value of souls.
If I’m right about any of this, we have a lot more twists yet to come in this plot, and we still haven’t seen the hands or the faces of all the players at the table. I’m guessing the Winchesters are both chips and wild cards, sought by all sides because they can change the very nature of the game depending on where they are and what they do. I think whoever’s using them to bet or play, however, couldn’t ever be certain of the outcome of the game.
And the only thing I’ll bet on as a sure thing is that Sam and Dean will be brothers at the end. :)
Please feel free to throw in your comments on my insane speculations. In doing so, however, please do NOT include any spoiler information in comments: this is a spoiler-free zone!
Thanks. Class dismissed. The professor’s office hours are irregular, but the door’s always open; drop by any time!