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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nature and Supernature

I'm thinking of posting some of my longer, out-of-print writings. We shall see. But I believe I may occasionally share some excerpts. The following is from "Rebuilding the Tower: the revival of paganism," the final chapter of The Serpent in Babel: Fire-worship, Astrology and the Mystery Religion.

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Nature is simply time and space, and everything that is subject to the laws identified by the physical sciences. As for the supernatural, I have found it most useful to envisage the "transcendental" world as extra-dimensional, as conceived in mathematics or physics. If we think in this way, then "Flatland" becomes an edifying analogy.

Think back to high school geometry and recall the idea of a plane, having only two dimensions, of width and depth, of right/left and near/far; a plane is just an infinite flat surface, where "area" is the significant measurement. If we add to this plane a third dimension, of height, then we are dealing no longer with a plane, but with space — which we would measure not in "area" but in "volume". We live in this three-dimensional universe of space, but (always here ignoring the dimension of time) imagine a universe which exists only in two dimensions: Flatland.

Imagine a civilization in Flatland, populated with tiny, two-dimensional intelligent people who eat and sleep, love and hate, just as we do. They mirror us in every respect and are in no way our inferiors, save that they do not extend into space — being, poor souls, utterly flat, unable to go "over" or "under", but only "around". Imagine that from our world, one of our solid, three-dimensional scientists discovered a way to observe Flatland, and could even interact with it. He could see it spread out before him as a vast panoply; indeed, from his vantage he could see far more of Flatland than could any of its citizens. He could see inside them, to their very organs. He could operate on them without cutting their "skin."

By sticking a finger into its plane he could suddenly manifest himself before its inhabitants, as if out of nowhere, and when he pulled his finger out he would disappear by shrinking to a literal vanishing point. In fact, he could appear in several different places at once simply by sticking in several fingers, which would appear out of thin air in Flatland, as mysterious, metaphysical ovoids of indeterminate diameter. Perhaps by using the bowl of his palm the scientist could scoop up a Flatman from out of his plane (as one might scoop a leaf off the surface of a pond), thus imparting to him a sort of three-dimensionality, and revealing something of the nature of "space".

What must Flatlanders think of such a phenomenon, except that it is miraculous. Their scientists might theorize, their philosophers might speculate, their priests might pontificate about the mysterious "third-dimension" whence come such apparitions. But the average Flatman could grasp the subtleties of "height" only by analogy, perhaps illustrating the concept with the parable of "Lineland".

Now, by analogy, let's think of ourselves as living in "Spaceland." We, poor souls, are limited to a paultry three dimensions — limited by being merely and utterly solid. Imagine some four-dimensional "scientist" who discovers the "ball" of our universe, and pokes in his "finger" to interact with us. He would appear to us as a miraculous shape-changing entity able to fade in and out of our perception, able to transport himself instantly across vast distances, able perhaps to pluck out some Spacelander and translate him to a place that is starkly and thoroughly other.

What shall we call this four-dimensional domain? I would call it "Spiritland," except that there are already so many names for it: heaven and hell, the afterlife, the spirit world, the ethereal plane, Cloud-cuckoo Land. And who are or will be its citizens, good and bad? Angels, demons, the dead and the risen, and any other possible entities of whom we are not told.

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It goes on, but that's that.



J

3 comments:

paul asjes said...

you sound like hugh ross.

Jack H said...

Took me a moment to place the name. Haven't thought of him since the mid ninties. I've done a great deal of writing along similar lines, but with a slightly different interpretation.


J

Anonymous said...

If you liked the book, you should check out the movie. www.flatlandthemovie.com