All the world’s a stage, And (we are) merely players

February 8, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 7:39 am   Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,Theology

For some reason I cannot read that Shakespearean line in my own voice — it always is in Geddy Lee’s voice in my head. I doubt the illustrious Hugh Nibley has that problem. It is his marvelous essay from 1999 called Abraham’s Creation Drama that has spurred this post. I read it today at the provided link and was, as usual with Nibley, thoroughly impressed. I highly recommend it.

One of the primary themes of the essay is that the creation drama we have from Abraham via the prophet Joseph Smith is just that, an example of a dramatic play. Not only is the story a play to be read and acted out by different actors at different times and places, but that in essence our entire existence on earth is part of the very same basic play. The world really is a stage and we really are players. This has all (meaning the general plot of our world) happened before throughout the eons past and will happen again and again throughout the eons to come. In essence, the creation dramas in Abraham and the temple and many ancient documents are in fact small scale dramas of the universe…

I know — this stuff can make one’s head hurt. However, I think these are some of the big questions and they certainly deserve some serious pondering.

Whether you read the essay or not, what do you think of the idea? Is this world with its plot the same play as ever with us as the actors?


  1. […] ve database b. Since the course of the Lord is one eternal round, I am going to assume the basic plot of the human play is the same for all previous worlds c. God’s superior intelligence works as an u […]

    Pingback by New Cool Thang » The Natural Man = Causally Determined Man? — March 27, 2005 @ 1:06 am

  2. Geoff- I always hear Sean Connery, but then again I always hear him when I read Shakespear.

    I just read the Hugh Nibley, Whoa, what insight, so, if all of this is part of a play and an we all have part most of this is improvised. Again allowing for freewill but also allowing for a perfect plan.

    Also I will never look at the temple the same seeing it through the eyes of all temples or even all ancient celebrations and how it has now been restored for us to learn as a school. The loss of Hugh was a huge loss. Then did you catch what he said about his children, he said they ran circles around him brain wise. Can you imagine family dinners at the Nibley house?

    Comment by Casey Blau — July 1, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  3. Yes! This was one of my favorite posts ever and you may be the first person to actually take time to read the article and consider the implications.

    Perhaps you can see why I also see this as evidence supporting the idea of the Heber C. Kimball model of eternity (aka MMP). If each planet has a similar plot but a new cast it allows for both tremedous predictive ability and free agency and an open future. Perhaps the players get to advance to more leading roles from one production/planet to another (?)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2005 @ 12:32 pm

  4. Interesting trickle effect, I wonder if that leaves a certain place for backstage players, aka terrestrial and telestial, or the Angels that Abraham met or that visited Lot. These were physical beings that would have visited our world before the resurection. I have always questioned that.

    Comment by Casey Blau — July 1, 2005 @ 12:47 pm

  5. I was looking at Jeffrey’s post on the other thread and he had a good point on the multiple birth theory in the MMP but maybe that part is not so difficult to explain with the “play”, “player”,and “stage hand” theory. Those who have progressed to a reward who have not yet gained “the highest” realm of the Celestial Kingdom, or even those who have gained rewards in a lesser kingdom could return to another Play in progress as a stage hand as part of a secodary probation.

    Comment by Casey Blau — July 1, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  6. Great points Casey. I’ll respond in more detail to both you and Jeffrey at the MMP thread and link back your excellent comments here.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  7. Yes I remember you posting this a while back and I guess I didn’t comment because I have the audio version of the talk and have listened to it about 15 times. It is a great talk with a lot of insight in it, but there are quite a few things which I’m more than a little skeptical of. In his “Abraham’s Creation Drama” Nibley argues at far greater length that those verses in Abraham are actually stage directions for the temple presentation. I thought that was interesting, but speculative at most. I think the phrase “Like unto God” doesn’t refer to an actor playing God, but to the actual transliteration of the name “Michael”. The “Lord their God” of course would be “Jehovah” (remember, JS was very influenced by his newly acquired Hebrew in the entire translation) and the one like unto the Son of Man would of course be Jesus. Eloheim would naturally be the “gods.”

    One of the main things which I disagree with Nibley over would be evolution. He seems to believe in some form of it according to his “Before Adam” but a lot of creationist ideas shine through from his anti-evolutionary past. He rejects the “purposelessness” of evolution saying that it supplies no plot. It’s true, evolutionary algorithm can hardly be considered to supply a plot of any kind, but this is hardly an argument against it. Nibley rightly rejects Spencer and Huxley on their social implications of Darwinism, but it would seem for all the wrong reasons (just like everybody else always has).


    I just realized that you are commenting on the Creation Drama and not Nibley’s “A Stage Without a Play.” Anyways, you really should check out his “Stage Without a Play” lecture which can be purchased at FARMS.

    Now for the intended topic. I do think that Nibley supplies some good information to defend a “play write” version of the creation. Some have argued that the 7 days correspond to the 7 days in which the creation is presented, not accomplished, for this is how it is done in some societies. This would really help resolve a lot of the rathe absurd notions which we find in the creation accounts. Nevertheless, I’m still not fully persuaded that the record as we have it now should be taken as far as Nibley tries to in his presentation.

    Aside from the account being highly influenced by the presentational manner in which the author was surely taught the creation material, I don’t find the notion of stage directions and the like very persuasive at all.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 1, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

  8. […] ject. One of my early posts here at the Thang was a discussion of a paper Hugh Nibley wrote late in life on the concept that the world lit […]

    Pingback by New Cool Thang » A Life at the Improv — October 3, 2005 @ 1:59 pm