Life—the Second Act In a Three Act Play

Knowing the plot of any play in some ways is a spoiler, but knowing or hoping for a happy ending keeps us in the theater until the curtain drops. In Thom Harrison‘s new e-book “7 Keys to God-Centric Mental Health” he likens life on earth to Act 2 in play, but far too many do not know there is a happy ending coming. Nor do we keep in mind Act One, the one just before we came to earth.

ACT ONE

In the world of English composition, a three-act play is among the most common writing styles for novelists, screenplay writers, and playwrights. In their compositions, Act One sets the stage. In that Act, we discover some things about both the protagonist and antagonist, what daily life is like for the actors and what matters most to them as the drama unfolds.

Act One, then, is where we came from. Thom Harrison in his e-book, explained: “Your core self didn’t begin at birth, but started in a first act before your experience in this second act on earth.”

Harrison is not alone in this thinking. For example, among the great ancient Greek thinkers, Plato believed human souls existed before being born and that the mind comes to earth with beliefs, knowledge, and ideas from a pre-earth realm.

Similarly, Origen, a second and third-century Christian father, believed that all human souls were created by God at some time prior to conception as shown in Jeremiah 1:51

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Knowing this helps us realize that we were someone with personality and promise before we were born.

Centuries later René Descartes, a sixteenth-century French mathematician, scientist and father of modern philosopy submitted the idea that we are born with knowledge from our premortal life, although subdued, it must be relearned. “He saw all attainment of knowledge not as acquiring new information, but as remembering previously known information. Before we were born, we existed in a perfect world where we knew everything.”2

Islam teaches that all of us were created in adult form before earth life.

Hinduism most sacred work states: “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”3  And the Bible in Genesis 2 has this to say about a premortal state: “

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, …
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew

Continuing in Moses 3:5

…And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;

Verse one tells both Jew and Christian, or anyone who believes in the Bible, that God was done with creation, which was carefully described day by day in Genesis 1. Yet it was only spiritually complete as described in the last part of Moses 3:5.

Thom in his e-book reminds us that, “The first essence of healing is spiritual. For all things are first spiritual.” As we connect back to our premortal origin, we are reminded of our wholeness and perfection.

All of what we enjoy here on earth is what God made during Act One, including each of us. And like Jeremiah, God formed us and knew us. He wanted us to be happy then and as he opened the doors of Act Two we stepped into earth life, he trusted us to find happiness again, even in a world of pain.

ACT TWO

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

William Wordsworth, “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:”

Entering this act without memory of our premortal existence, we become the protagonist of our own story. In theater, this act develops the lead character’s journey with ever increasing action as they pursue their goal, which is remembering the hero they were meant to be.

There is an interesting story in Plato’s Meno, where he recalls his mentor Socrates questioning a slave boy about a geometric theorem. Though the boy had no experience in that kind of math, he offered correct responses. Plato reasoned that this was due to his innate knowledge from birth.5 It was his view that we all came to earth with some recollection of our former life and such innate knowledge should prompt our own study of who we might have been, and if for no other reason than to see the perfection God has for us.

Descartes argued that such innate knowledge came through birth through the higher power of God. “He suggests that something that is ‘innate’ is effectively present from birth and while it may not reveal itself then, is more than likely to present itself later in life.”6 And as the main character in this play, we are usually more reactionary than proactive in this phase of existence.

So as we begin this act without recollection of the perfection we once were, we start to exercise choice in pursuit of our goal. And as the protagonist in our story, we start to learn more about the road ahead. We struggle to find happiness and to have our Godly innate knowledge revealed a bit at a time. Adapting and making changes so that we can become the champion of this act.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

—Kahlil Gibran

Yet unlike Act Two in theatrical plays, our second act is shorter than the other two acts. We don’t have much time to get it right. The antagonists in our story, some real and some imagined, begin to place roadblocks in our way. Suddenly our play is filled with subplots and complications to life.

Midpoint

It should not surprise us that Act Two’s Midpoint usually involves something going wrong. Life is fraught with temptations, trials, and tragedies of all kinds, and one thing for sure, it comes with pain.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

—Buddha

As chief character, none of us can recall Act One, and therefore we do not see ourselves as God does, “finished and complete” as Harrison described it in his e-book. And yet we carry our premortal character, a God like DNA if you will, with all of its possibility.

With that potential and as the protagonist, we must refocus on our goal whenever it is being threatened. We must become even more acutely aware of the stakes at hand.

Plot Point Two, Three, and so on

In this second act, the midpoint repeats itself as plot point two, three and so on. Until this act is complete, new plot points will keep showing up. But sadly, as Thom warns, “When your focus lies solely in this second act, you limit your experience in this imperfect world. This ‘world” focus reflects back to you, a law of the harvest in all its struggles and pain” and with that, you might miss the beauty and love available to all who live here.

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.

—Jewish proverb

James McWhinney suggests, “Within every single moment lies a gift for us to discover, and when we are present we can take what the moment provides us with… The present moment provides you with the opportunity to build the foundations for a lifetime of fulfilled potential.” 4

ACT THREE

Pre-Climax, Climax, and Denouement

In the usual play, there are three parts in the final act: Pre-Climax, Climax, and Denouement. Every hero or heroine has weak spots in their armor. The antagonist in our play of life continues gearing up to defeat the protagonist using the hero’s deep-seated fears and flaws and tries to take them down. This clash between hero and foe is often called “The Dark Night of the Soul,” and comes with melancholy and a feeling of hopelessness.

Most readers or theatergoers expect the protagonist to win the day; we all look for that ending. But before this happens our hero is caught off guard by the power of the antagonist, whether it is addiction, mental illness, relationships problems, health challenges or our crazy kids, this part of the play will actually play out as the final plot point in Act Two.

“If a man die, shall he live again?”

Job 14:14

Which brings us to the final scene in our three act play: death. And though our physical bodies die, that is not the end of existence. In fact, most human cultures world wide believe in some sort of afterlife.

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

—Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to earn a B.a. degree, WAS A LECTURER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST, AND author.

Montaigne, a French philosopher, had a terrible fear of death growing up. Then in a riding accident, where he was knocked unconscious, a near-death experience changed that, as Sarah Bakewell explained: “His own experience was of a very a different kind. He seemed to be floating on a cloud of pure pleasure. It was like drifting off to sleep, but even more sweet and luxurious. The pleasure faded only when he returned fully to consciousness, and felt the pain of his bruises.”

“As he recuperated,” she wrote, “he reflected on the experience and deduced that death must hold very little to be scared of. In fact suggesting, “Don’t bother your head about it.'”7 His thoughts on death produced a whole new direction for philosophers of the day and ever since.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 
22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ


1 Corinthians 15, New Testament, NRSV

Judeo-Christian faiths believe in the soul’s existence in an afterlife with rewards or punishment for deeds done during Act Two, but most members of those faiths imagine returning to a loving God. They teach of an afterlife as a place of perfection where pain is gone, love abounds. Many Christians expect to receive a perfect body in a resurrection. Resurrection is part of an Islamic belief too and their afterlife is described in The Six Axioms of Faith.

But before there was a Muslim, Jewish or Christian faith, there was Zoroastrianism. This faith, centered in Iran, teaches that death is a new birth, it is a cause for celebration, not mourning. Their memorial stones list the date of a person passing from this existence into the next. For them “the soul receives in the afterlife what it has given out in this life.”8

“For the soul, there is never birth nor death.
Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be.
He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”

—Bhagavad Gita, the most important and beloved Hindu text

The idea of a new birth is part of non-theistic faith traditions. Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, believe that one’s status in the afterlife is a reward or punishment for their conduct during life. With each reincarnated state, they can progress to a better status and are born again.

In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

Ether 3:16

In the Bible and other scripture, we learn that Adam and his posterity knew that after living they would return to God in a spirit world. This brings hope into our lives and the truth about our existence: death is not the end. Thom, in his e-book, writes, “With this knowledge, you begin to comprehend that you are far different than you ever considered. …Your core self is powerful and eternal like God is powerful and eternal.”

And so our play closes… yet it goes on and on into eternity.


                                        Read Next in This Series >>

FOOTNOTES

1 Medieval Sourcebook: Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II, 553Fordham University, 1996.
2  Stich, S. P. (1975). Innate ideas. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
3  “Chapter 2 Verse 12”. Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.
4 James McWhinney, 3 Ways to Create a Life That Makes Sense
5 Lacewing, M. (n.d.). Innate knowledge. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
6 Stich, S. P. (1975). Innate ideas. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
7 Sarah Bakewell, Montaigne, philosopher of life, part 2: Learning not to be afraid, The Guardian, May 17, 2010 8 K. E. Eduljee, After Life and Funeral Customs, Zoroastrian Heritage.

Comments on Life—the Second Act In a Three Act Play

  1. Jhoei says:

    I love this quote, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *