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In season 6 of Supernatural...

Sam is brought back from hell without his soul.

We spend a good bit of time in the early episodes of this season trying to figure out what's wrong. Eventually, Castiel figured it out by performing what is later humorously referred to as an "Angelic Cavity Search" or "Soulonoscopy". However, not much later in the season, creatures of presumably lesser power are easily able to sense the problem even from across the room.

The Alpha Vampire mentions this in "Family Matters" (S6E7) The Leprechaun also calls it out, in "Clap Your Hands If You Believe" (S6E9)

In previous seasons, we've been led to believe that Angels are among the ultimate powers when it comes to supernatural beings. Their power is just a bit below that of pagan deities, super-high-ranking demons, and Arch-Angels (who seem to be just below God).

So, why is it that so many other seemingly lower monsters are able to figure out this problem without such intense investigation as Castiel required?

P.S.: Please note that I haven't seen anything past S6E9 yet. So, if any answers require spoilers from later episodes please make special mention of that and use appropriate Markdown.

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I have two possible ideas that explain the quandary. The primary reason that Angels and Demons are less aware of Sam's problem than the monsters who seem easily aware of it, is many monsters prey on souls. The soul is often the source of mystical nutrition being sought by the monster, or is the element they themselves are lacking so the lack of a soul may be more resonant with them. I do not presume that all monsters are soul-less, only that mythology says some might be.

Also consider the idea that Angels, (fallen angels or powerful demons) may simply be unable to see our souls since their own spiritual power (as mentioned earlier) is simply so much greater than ours. Imagine searching for an active flashlight on the Sun. It's not that the flashlight isn't on, it's that the Sun is so much brighter, it might be hard to see until you reach down and feel around for the physical presence of the flashlight, hence the need for the Soulonoscopy.

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    Nice idea, here. Regarding monsters and souls, though: In Season 6, we found out that (at least, I presume, for the most part) monsters do have souls. They are sent to Purgatory when they die, whereas humans go to either Heaven or Hell. – Iszi Mar 12 '12 at 17:44
  • I would question the validity of this answer. We know angels and demons use souls as a source of power (literally, not just for show). The only monsters that I remember directly sensing he was soulless were alphas. Cas and Crowley are just pretending not to know. – AncientSwordRage Aug 23 '12 at 10:47
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I think this is a great question, and I have no good answer--only speculation (and I have seen every episode of Supernatural, and can't find a good explanation for this).

It seems like demons also can't sense Sam's lack of soul as the brothers have a couple of encounters with Crowley and he never mentions it--which is sort of unusual because Crowley isn't the sort to keep quiet about things like that. He would certainly have tried to use that information to his advantage somehow.

The creatures that can sense it are, more accurately, monsters. Even the goddess Veritas (S6E6) didn't exactly identify that his soul was missing, but recognized that something was certainly amiss when Sam was unaffected by her spell. So it seems like angels, demons, gods, and goddesses can't sense it directly.

Perhaps the angels are too busy with the war in heaven to notice, and the demons sans leader, since Lucifer is locked in the cage with Michael, aren't likely to notice either. But the monsters are a whole different breed which may have something to do with stuff you'll encounter later in the season, though I don't think anything is explicitly said as to why monsters can sense his missing soul and those you would expect to sense it can't.

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    Erm... SPOILER: Crowley is completely aware of Sam's issue. Not because of some sort of sense, but because he's the one who instigated it. We've discovered this by S6E9, though I can't recall exactly when. I wouldn't expect common demons to sense it when angels can't, but the fact that a leprechaun and vampire could still baffles me a bit. – Iszi Mar 12 '12 at 15:57
  • @Iszi, I wouldn't be so sure of that...see my answer if you've seen season six. – AncientSwordRage Aug 23 '12 at 13:51
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Castiel didn't have to do the search.

He's putting on a show. Castiel was the one who fished him soulless, out of the cage, on purpose. He and Crowley are poor examples of angels and demons, as a) they are both extremely powerful by standard...standards and b) both were involved to begin with.

Later on we see lesser angels and demons who don't know. It only seems as though 'alphas' are keyed in on the information.

  • I was under the impression that it was Crowley who pulled him out, specifically to recruit the most skilled hunter(s) he knew for the job. Did I miss something? – Izkata Aug 8 '12 at 23:38
  • @Izkata just before Cas goes 'rogue', shall we say, he ends up owning up to it, and implies he left the soul behind on purpose. – AncientSwordRage Aug 9 '12 at 0:06
  • @izkata its in 6.20 "The man who would be king" – AncientSwordRage Aug 23 '12 at 13:48

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