|Home -> Paul Elder -> The Fourth-Dimensional Reaches of the Exposition -> General Status of the Fourth-Dimensional Theory|
General Status of the Fourth-Dimensional Theory
The human mind has so long followed its early cow-paths through the wilderness of sense that great hardihood is required even to suggest that there may be other and better ways of traversing the empirical common. So it is that the fear of being proclaimed a Brazenhead has restrained me until this eleventh hour from telling of my discoveries concerning the fourth-dimensional reaches of our Exposition. That I have the courage now is due to my desire to help in its preservation; not to the end of enclosing it in a brass wall, but to lift it out of the realm of things temporal and give it permanent meaning for our thought and aspiration. Would we save our Exposition from the ravages of Time we have to exorcise that monster with the enigmatical utterances of the aforesaid Brazen Head. The philosophers are telling us that Time is the fourth dimension in the process of evolving for our consciousness. I take it that there are three stages in this evolution; the first, that of immediate experience, is subsumed by the phrase 'Time is'; the second is a passing from the concrete to the abstract through the fact that 'Time was'; and the glory of the last is visioned only when we can say 'Time is past.'
While many books have been written descriptive of the Exposition, none has succeeded in accounting completely for the joy we have in yonder miracle of beauty. And this through no fault of the writers. When all has been said concerning plan and execution there is still a subtle something not spatialized for consciousness. Length, breadth, and height do not suffice to set forth the ways of our delight in it. What of this perceptual residue? Obviously to give it extension we shall have to ascribe to reality other dimensions than those of our present sense realm. Some disciple of Bergson interrupts: 'Ah, this whereof you speak is a spiritual thing and as such is given by the intuition. Why, then, do you seek to spatialize it?' And the layman out of his mental repugnance to things mathematical echoes, 'Why?' We have to answer that the process of creative evolution makes imperative the transfixion by the intellect of these so-called spiritual perceptions. Although the intuition transcends the intelligence in its grasp of beauty and truth, we may attain to the higher insight it has to offer only if the things of the spirit become known to the intellect - a point in Bergson's philosophy which the majority of his readers overlook. 'We have,' he says, 'to engender the categories of our thought; it is not enough that we determine what these are.' Bergson is preeminently the prophet of the higher space concept. We had done better to have held to Kant, for now we are not only confronted with the fourth dimension as a thought-form, but with the duty as well of furthering its creation. And in that light we have to regard what of worth and meaning the Exposition has for us.
Although the scientist has found it useful on occasion to postulate the fourth dimension, he has not thought necessary as yet to put it in the category of reality; much less has the layman. Consequently the mathematician holds the sole title to its knowledge unless we recognize the claims of the medium to a fourth-dimensional insight.
There is much, however, today which points to our coming to such perception as the natural result of our evolution and quite apart from geometrical abstractions or occultism. It is as though some great tidal wave had swept over space and we have, quite unbeknown to ourselves, been lifted by it to new heights. And when we have once obtained our spiritual balance we shall doubtless find that our space world has taken to itself another direction, inconceivable as that now seems.
Space is more than room wherein to move about; it is, first of all, the room in which we think, and upon how we do so depends the number of its dimensions. If the attention has become 'riveted to the object of its practical interest' to the extent that this is the only good the creature knows, then is its thought-form one-dimensional even though its bodily movements are three-spaced. The great Peacock Moth wings a sure course mateward to the mystification of the scientist; the dog finds the direct road home - his master cannot tell how; Mary Antin climbs to an education over difficulties apparently insurmountable; Rockefeller knows his goal and attains it, regardless of other moral worths. For these the way is certain. They can suffer no deflection since there are no relative values, no possible choices. Their purpose makes the road one-dimensional. That the majority of persons are still feeling their way over the surface of things is attested by the general mental ineptitude for the study of solid geometry. Depth and height play little part in our physical perception. For most of us the third dimension is practically unknown beyond the reach of a few feet. A Beachey soaring aloft - why all the bravado of curve and loop? Sooner or later he will fall to his death. Ay, verily! but his is a joyous martyrdom making for the evolution of consciousness. Not always shall we crawl like flies the surface of our globe!
While a man's space-world is limited by his thought, it is, on the other hand, as boundless as his thought. That the world evolves with our consciousness, is at once the philosophy of 'Creative Evolution' and of the higher space theory. Our present spatial milieu has settled down to a seemingly three dimensional finality because our thought-form has become so habitual as to give rise to certain geometric axioms. All we need in order to come to a fourth-dimensional consciousness, said Henri Poincare, 'the greatest of moderns,' is a new table of distribution; that is, a breaking up of old associations of ideas and the forming of new relations - a simple matter were it not for our mental inertia. Lester Ward speculates that life remained aquatic for the vast periods that paleontology would indicate; Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous - a duration greater than all subsequent time - for the reason that the creature had not progressed beyond the stage when it could move otherwise than in a straight line when actuated by desire for food or mate. Life was not able to maintain itself on land until it had overcome this one-dimensional limitation. A venturesome Pterodactyl was he who first essayed to make his way among the many obstructions to be found ashore! By what intuition was he impelled?
It is a matter of common observation that the growth of the higher perceptive faculty is strangely concomitant with adversity. The intuitive person is a person who has suffered. When conditions press sufficiently hard, a new table of distribution may be the only means for survival. Thus we proceed to make a virtue of necessity and so come to the recognition of other values which we denominate spiritual because we have not as yet spatialized them. The caterpillar has to mount the twig to find the tender green that is his food, but, he solaces himself for the journey by thinking himself a creature of the light. Mr. Carpenter, in an interesting study of what he calls Intermediate Types, shows that the seers and spiritually-minded come to be such because they found themselves differing in some wise from their fellows, and dwelling on that difference had their minds turned inward. Progress in thought and imagination naturally followed, with the result that these were lifted above the majority and came thereby to larger vision. Failure may well be the measure of extension in a new dimension.
The significance of the much fumbling and groping of earth's creatures is the desire for a larger outlook. Man has to feel his way out of a three-fold world even as the worm out of his hole. That we are hearing much of the principle of relativity is perhaps the best indication we have that the collective human consciousness is about to enter a higher dimension. So long as man knew only an absolute good was his world a definitely determined world. Now that the question of relative values obtrudes itself on every side the range of consciousness promises to be infinite.
Man's interest having in these latter days become largely centered on value-judgments and estimates of worth, an exposition affords perhaps the most general application of the principle of relativity, bringing it home to the collective mind in an intimately human way as nothing else could: - With nation vying with nation and individual with individual in all of the arts and crafts of human industry, absolute standards must needs vanish, and with their going we may be able to set up such a distribution of values as will give new direction to our efforts. However that may be, the industrial competition to which, in the last analysis, the Exposition owes its inception, is pushing many aside from the beaten highways into hitherto unexplored regions of thought and endeavor, and who is to say that we may not in consequence find a direction quite at right angles to all of our wonted ways of thinking. Certainly there could be no more fitting occasion for the launching of a new thought-form than a great international exposition.
A Structure Brave
Palace of Fine Arts
From an etching by Gertude Partington