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Lost Discussion Group: What Is Smokey?

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We’ve spent a couple of weeks on the season 3 finale here at LDG, so for this week I thought I’d take a different tack, go (slightly) back and toss out one of the bigger questions about the island’s mythology:

What (or who) is the smoke monster, anyway?

There are a lot of subquestions implied in that. If Smokey is an independent entity, where did it come from? If it’s controlled by someone (as a “defense mechanism”), who controls it and how? (And should we take seriously Juliet’s statement that the Others don’t know what Smokey is?) What’s he made of? How is he able to show people images from their pasts? And how is he able to take sufficient corporeal form as to body-slam Eko and hang Greg Grunberg from a tree?

My favorite current theory–which I didn’t come up with myself, but I can’t recall where I first heard it–is that the matter that composes Smokey is controlled psychically by someone. One surmise is that someone is the collective consciousness of The Island, but I now wonder if the monster might be a psychic manifestation of Jacob. And the ring of grey dust Locke saw around Jacob’s cabin? Smokey in dormant form.

Or am I blowing smoke? Tell me what you can mentally conjure up.