Many much more experienced meta-writers have written theories regarding Beacon Hills and more specifically the Nemeton as existing on a leygate of sorts between life and death - the literal physical embodiment of Bardo. Here are my thoughts on how I think Jeff Davis has carefully incorporated an infusion of both Western and Oriental philosophical thoughts that make us question the entire fabric of reality in Teen Wolf.
Even from “Anchors" it was obvious that the overarching theme of 3b would be the core character’s inability to differentiate between reality and fantasy. The aftereffects of their sacrificial ritual to the Nemeton left them with a "darkness in their hearts" that supposedly - and I say supposedly because I continue to doubt its repercussions to this present moment - affects them up until this point in the narrative. This has been explained canonically as the effects of Bardo - a liminal space in Buddhism that occupies the gap between life and death [x].
Kira: I couldn’t help overhearing what you guys were talking about. And I think I actually might know what you’re talking about. There’s a Tibetan word for it. It’s called “Bardo”. It literally means “in-between state.” The state between life and death.
But in all thoroughness, the idea that reality and fantasy are not two separate spheres of existence and instead coexist in a demimonde of sorts begins with Lydia in season 2. She exposes the protean surface texture of reality in Beacon Hills. She demonstrates with clarity that life and death are as codependent and symbiotic as reality and fantasy. Although this could be argued to simply be the result of Peter’s bite, it proves that the dead - to a degree - have power to retrace that boundary and exert influence over the living. Hallucination!Peter himself remains conflicted regarding the nature of his being.
Lydia: Are you real?
Peter: Interestingly, that question can also be answered not yet.
“Party Guessed" 2x9
What we see here is extended upon in Season 3b with the opening and closing scenes both being this lucid confusion of reality and illusion, which traditional bardo argues can correlate to life and death. Stiles and Derek both doubt the reality of the scene they are experiencing and so indirectly question the nature of their existence in the classic philosophical question: is this real?
This age-old question echoes back to several philosophical skepticisms that break down the foundation of what we believe to be the texture of reality. The aforementioned scenes recapitulate Descartes’ “Dream Argument” hypothesis in which he claims that reality is virtually indistinguishable from dream [x]. When this translates over to Buddhist scripture it becomes clear that what Descartes named “reality” and “dream” correspond to “life” and “death” according to Buddhist schools of thought. This further lays ground to Peter’s confusion about the state of his existence.
Solpsism refers to the philosophical concept which also resonates with that philosophical line of reasoning [x]. It nullifies the empiricist argument that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience because it argues that one cannot validate any experience that exists outside one’s own consciousness because that is all one can be sure of [x]. This falls in line with Descartes’ “Evil Demon” theory [x] in which he argues that what we perceive may all be the illusory work of a malicious entity. Possession has been a frequent topic of discourse in many religions and societies but few claims have been made that reality according to the victim has been warped - as is the case with Stiles - whereas in most possessions, the victim retains full consciousness but instead exhibits a loss of bodily control. This is where I believe Jeff Davis drew his inspiration from for the manner in which the Nogitsune possessed Stiles - if you do follow that interpretation of the narrative.
Lydia - the one who first truly presented us with the notion of a liquid relation between life and death / reality and illusion - was also the last to similarly question empiricism and constructivism [x]. Instead, she invokes yet another Buddhist school of thought called Dzogchen in which perceived reality is assumed to be unreal [x].
Lydia: The ashes weren’t ashes. The study isn’t a study. The record player isn’t a record payer. So..So maybe the wine isn’t wine.
So…So maybe what’s real isn’t real. This is a very good foundation for the audience to raise doubts as to exactly what have we been shown that we can ascertain is real. The Benefactor once exposed was believed to be Meredith, which was later proven to be a false revelation due to Peter’s comatose ravings. Stiles is believed to be human, but many examples which have been listed by far better meta writers than I have given good ground to doubt that claim. I wonder what else have we been led to assume true? The fandom has already raised doubts about Derek - or what we see to be Derek - and his existence. I suspect that much more is to be revealed in the following two episodes.
I think it was calicokat-teenwolf who wrote something specifically on the question of reality in Beacon Hills and she probably did a much better job than I but I don’t recall seeing anyone mention these philosophical concepts before. So I thought I’d shine a light as to how I not only think the characters themselves perceive reality but how we, as an audience, are also meant to.