9.12.2008

The Fourth Dimension

Yes, its Friday night. Yes, I'm sitting in my room blogging.  Yes, when you're older maybe you can aspire so such things as well. :)

So, every semester there seems to be a class that "keeps me going" as it were.  This semester=C.S. Lewis and Wendell Berry.  Great class.  In general, it is a discussion class, but the first class (well, i guess it was the second, technically, but i slept through the first one...oops) he lectured on a Chapter of "The Weight of Glory" called "Transposition."  I read this back in the day, like, Junior year of high school or something, so I'm not quite sure i haven't read it MANY more times since then. Terrific stuff.

The basic idea that Lewis addresses here is that of how "supernatural" things manifest themselves in the "natural" world.  He begins with the seemingly striking parallel between speaking in tongues and hysteria, between the the acts that comprise justice versus revenge, the consummation of conjugal love versus that of biological lust.  It seems that it is impossible to separate those things that we consider "higher" from those which seem base, or natural.  

Lewis discusses these dichotomies by making a parallel: "If you are to translate from a language which has a large vocabulary into a language that has a small vocabulary, then you must be allowed to use several words in more than one sense...We are all quite familiar with this kind of transposition or adaptation from a richer to a poorer medium.  The most familiar example of all is the art of drawing.  The problem here is to represent a three dimensional world on a flat sheet of paper.  The solution is perspective, and perspective means we must give more than one value to a two-dimensional shape.  Thus in a drawing of a cube, we use an acute angle to represent what is a right angle in the real world.  But elsewhere an acute angle on the paper may represent what was already an acute angle in the real world..."

The interesting thing about this picture is, though, that if one were not accustomed to the three dimensional world, the cube would be nothing but two dimensional lines, with no way to be understood outside of the two dimensional world.  What is happening in the lower medium can only be understood if we know the higher medium.  Therefore, the skeptics conclusion that the "so called spiritual" is really only a derivative of the natural world is a conclusion that is to be expected from one who is only in touch with the lower medium. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

Even those who can spiritually discern a higher dimension are limited to natural words.  We can only talk about this in terms that exist within the fourth dimension.  And, those who have not experienced this fourth dimension can only explain things in terms of the third dimension.  It seems as if we are conversing about the same things, however in one case the language is a limitation, and in the other the language is a representation.

Perhaps, Hell is being obsessed with our own dimension, as if there is nothing more, as if those who strive for more are seemingly striving for something less, when all those wrapped up in this dimension can see is a cross-section of that which exists in the fourth dimension.

It is not that this fourth dimension is a dream, a flimsy thought, a see-through, phantasmal mirage that with the blowing of a slight breeze might vanish into obscurity, no. "Our natural experiences are only like the drawing, like pencilled lines on flat paper.  If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun."

"If flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, that is not because they are too solid, too gross, too distinct, too illustrious with being. They are too flimsy, too transitory, too phantasmal."   


Anyway, it has just become more clear to me, after reading this chapter, that this was one of those ideas that the writer, Lewis, was obsessed with for his whole life.  It permeated most of his writings.  The whole idea of "The Great Divorce" rests on it.  In the Silver Chair the kids try to explain the overworld to those in the underworld (with little success).  In Til We Have Faces, three dimensional speech (yea, what a cool concept) will not provide the necessary words for the utterances she wishes to speak, things that may be too definite for language.  In Perelandra there is as constant relation between the higher and lower dimensions and when it is at one point being described to Ransom (a man), a higher being tells him that there is "no holding place in his mind for this." And the list goes on...

Also, it deepens my respect for fiction.  Stories, abstraction, may, in fact be one of the only ways that this can become clearer to us, in describing things that could be labeled "out of this world," we  may get a picture of that which is existing in a higher dimension, within this world.

Sorry to be a bore, but how exciting is it to think that this fourth dimension may, indeed, require different senses to sense things that, when on this earth, were pitifully sensed with the senses which are only suited to perceive that which exists in the third dimension.

Recommended reading: Many Dimensions by Charles Williams, A Wrinkle in Time (after all, just like we can fold two dimensional paper to make points touch, could not something in the fourth dimension fold our three dimensional time so that points could touch?), Flatland by Edmond A. Abott (I have not read this.), The Image in the Mirror by Dorothy Sayers (haven't read this one either)

Alright, i suppose thats plenty for a friday night.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Annie D...

Heavy thoughts for a Friday night. I spent mine watching my new favorite TV show, House.

However, it is awesome to think that my words cannot describe what God is going in my life. I struggle with this dilemma as well because I am supposed to be able to teach kids about it. You always being relevant topics to the table. Kudos to you, Anne Marie.