Are We “Merely Players”?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts….
William Shakespeare, As You Like It

In one of my journeys a year ago, I saw many nonphysical beings present as the audience in a large theater arrayed among balconies and tiers and on the floor of the theater, who observed human performers acting their parts in the drama of life. I came to understand that these beings found us humans assuming roles of our imagined selves, playing the parts we thought others had expected of us or acting out imaginary protagonists that we defined as ourselves. The nonphysical beings seemed fascinated and even amused by the efforts of humans to become something other than their true selves. These intergalactic beings understood that these humans were blurring the lines between their real selves and these imagined characters and thereby losing the ability to understand their true natures.

The spirits explained to me that we humans continue to play parts of fictional characters that we have created to explain ourselves according to expectations of others and our ego self’s need to create a façade to conceal some truth that we fear. This avoidance of knowing and being ourselves stems from a distorted belief that we are somehow not good enough or worthy of the life we have been given, and the spirits were puzzled by this odd sense of ourselves because they saw and understood us in the context of a perfect universe, unified in a wholeness and completeness that belied any sense of unworthiness. These beings had one identity—their true nature and the role they played in existence being the same—and they did not distinguish their essence from their behaviors. The intergalactic beings were both bemused and amused by the strangeness of our mentality that had a need to create caricatures of ourselves rather than realizing that the reality of who we really are is more than sufficient, even magnificent.

I thought of the way in which we observe actors portraying characters that cause us to imagine that the actor is the person she is portraying and how we come to believe that the performer embodies the fictional character until we see her in a real life setting where we are reminded that the two persons are distinctly different. The real and the imagined coexist but only one bears the truth of the person’s nature. Watching a situation comedy or drama on television we identify with the character being portrayed as a quick wit, a buffoon, an anxious individual given to panic, a courageous hero, or any of a million other imagined stereotypes and lose sight of the person behind the performance mask. If an actor plays a character often enough, he may even become typecast and struggle to get a different role because of how the audience has come to identify with the fictional character. We are sometimes shocked and surprised when we observe the performer in a real life situation and discover that they are very different from the character they play. In the same way, we allow others to see who we imagine they want us to be and we may even begin to believe that we are the person we are creating. The intergalactic beings were most puzzled by our self-deception in our believing that what we pretend to be is somehow better than what we truly are. Their puzzlement stemmed from their knowledge of the perfection of the universe and that in our oneness with the cosmos we could not be less than perfect. In fact, these beings seemed most concerned that we in subtle ways imparted our imagined flaws to the characters that we played rather than using all of that energy to find the perfection within ourselves.

This is a lesson to be learned well and a truth that can alter both individuals and social systems. When Shakespeare in Hamlet has the character Polonius say, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man,” the playwright references Hamlet’s tragic flaw—a great man’s failure to be true to that which he knows is his authentic self. We fool ourselves by our playacting, but deep within we constantly hear voices that keep us aware that something is not resonating with our inner selves when our pretenses are displayed to others. These voices are the spirits subtly reminding us that we are making unnecessary choices to not display our true natures. The spirits know that this inner self is the better self and that if we can discover and exhibit the perfect being that lies within us than we and all around us will be the better for it. This better self is the True Self.

I have spoken and written often of the need for alignment—the positioning of all things in the universe in their proper and true orientation that allows for the ascendancy of humankind into a oneness with the cosmos. The first effort in achieving this cosmological alignment is to look within and discover our true selves and align our actions and behaviors to this primal reality of ourselves, the first form of our essence that was imparted to us in our beginning but which we may have distorted by denying its existence or failing to see its truth. The achievement of this inner alignment will immediately begin to alter the universe because the cosmos awaits us. The universe waits patiently in its perfection and harmony for humans to discover their true natures and recognize that their assumption that they are separate entities is an artificial construct and a personal deception. Once we have overcome these artificial barriers of separate identity, we flow freely into an accord with the universe and realize that our lives hold more meaning because we are the universe and we are one with the cosmos. This is the ascendancy to which I have referred often. It is not physically being caught up into the heavens but unifying with the essence of existence and ascending to a higher plane. It is available to all of us. I believe that we are at a critical moment in human history that was predicted by many indigenous cultures in their primal understanding of being in unity with their world and seeing themselves as in harmony with an environment that provided for their needs and that they in turn had a responsibility to nurture and protect. When we in the Western World began to believe that we were the masters of our environs and that we could mindlessly extract the bountiful resources of the earth and deplete the natural assets without regard for our dependence on a clean and healthy environment, we disrupted the natural harmony of life that we participated in and broke the natural state of interdependence that governs an innately unified system. There is a parallel between this larger scheme of things and our internal being. Being true to ourselves means to understand that we have access to bountiful resources within ourselves when we are in harmony with our true essence and this inner harmony allows us to come into congruence with the universe. If we act out our pretend natures we disrupt this harmony and our true selves are denied.

Let me extend my allusions to Shakespeare with one additional reference. In the final act of his tragic life, Macbeth delivers the following soliloquy:
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth is defeated and his ambition has caused him to act in ways unnatural to his noble nature. His life has been one of failure and mistaken action. His analysis of life in his speech is to the life that he has wasted and the missed opportunity to have been true to his potential for greatness. We too may strut and fret upon the stage and end signifying nothing or we may look deep within ourselves and discover the greatness that resides within our reach if we, unlike Macbeth, discover our true self.

The spirits have made it clear that we must recognize that we often fool ourselves by acting out roles that we imagine to be true but are not reflective of our true nature. We possess the power to make a dramatic shift to a different way of being and in ascendency with a universe of oneness. In the drama that is our life, we must remember that we are not only the actor, but also the playwright, the director, and the set designer; we have the ability to create a true and meaningful performance for the ages—one that is real and wonderful.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Engels-Smith is a graduate of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies and has trained with individual shamans. She has had a thriving shamanic practice since 1994. She has performed over 3,000 soul retrievals and viewed as an expert in her field. She is an author, Shamanic Practitioner, Reiki Master, a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Chemical Dependency Specialist, a Marriage and Family Counselor a Hypnotherapist and a Reconnection Healer.

Jan founded the LightSong School of Shamanic Studies, which has eight associate teachers and is the first of its kind to offer three accredited degrees in shamanism: Internship (IP), Licensed Master Practitioner (LMP) and Doctorate in Shamanism (ShD). You can learn more about these programs at
Jan also conducts individual and group healing seminars for intensive personal growth.

Her training and experiences have been extensive both in the traditional philosophies and metaphysical traditions. Her personal philosophy is to assist individuals in gaining their own personal empowerment, which will in turn, promotes self healing, better communities and a healthier world.

Contact Jan at or call 503-669-3013 (Portland, OR).

Please go to and sign up for my newsletter & receive a free gift!