New Ideas of the Fourth Dimension: Part Two

In part one of these postings, we saw that that we cannot depend upon three-dimensional scientific proofs and facts to inform us about the attributes or existence of the 4th dimension.

Now I am going off an a tangent, because after all, in order to create space for a 4th dimension, we must postulate a domain that is inexplicably perpendicular to length, width, and breadth — an impossible feat, which nevertheless . . .

In the early 20th century a handful of artists — Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Ferdinand Léger, George Braque and others, decided that the depictions of perspectival space that had dominated Western Art since the Renaissance was not the only way to look at things, or not even the most thorough and accurate way to do so.  Since painting was the reduction of 3-dimensional objects into 2-dimensional space, why could they not add a fourth-dimensional perspective and also make it visible in 2-D space?  “Not possible,” you say.  True.  It is not possible.  But they did it anyway.  The critics howled their derision, and denounced their atrocities as “cubism,” but the painter-poet-magicians persisted.  They presented several “views” of an object or objects on the same 2-D plane.  They did this by adding the dimension of time, expressed as the artist’s movement around the object.  By the application of such techniques as faceting and passaging, they created paintings in which the past could flow into the future and the future could flow into the past.  And thereby they were able to create multiple viewpoints as a simultaneity.  “But wait,” say the skeptics, “Einstein already has demonstrated that space and time are two aspects of the same entity: space/time, and all this can be explained by the application of a new kind of mathematics, without resorting to miracle.  Time is the fourth dimension.”  True, but from the point of view of Newtonian physics, relativity is a miracle.  Plus, in this new 4-D space-time world, time is still just a line that goes in one direction only, straight as the flight of an arrow towards the high entropy heat death of the universe.  In this world, time is not even a plane, let alone a volume.  (Yet, by my mere magical mentioning of these possibilities of “planer-space-time” or “volume-space-time,” we can begin to picture domains which operate by very different rules than those of the 3-D world.)  Enter Niels Bohr and the Copenhagen School with their quantum strange effects such as  “spooky action at a distance,” where the present can effect the past and light can be two different things — particle or wave — at once. 

Now you may ask (cue that creepy music again, Maestro) “How  are artists able to anticipate and utilize such uncanny effects without the fact-savvy methodologies of physicists?”  Puzzle, cogitate, ruminate, deduce.  The answer will appear following the following parenthetical aside.  (By the way, writers were on to the magic too.  See James Joyce, Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, Federico Garcia Lorca, to name a few.  The history of this can be read in Leonard Shlain’s book Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light).  Parenthesis concluded, we can now proceed to answering your question. “How are artists able to anticipate and utilize such uncanny effects without the fact-savvy methodologies of physicists?”  The answer is by applying a fourth dimensional attribute: IMAGINATION.  By imagining, artists of all kinds can create alternatives to this 3-D world, which has entrapped their 3-D bodies, but not, as it turns out, their 4-D minds.

I am not saying here that the imagination is the 4th dimension. But I am saying that imagination is one of those things, like dreams, intuition, inspiration, that cannot be accounted for by any 3-D explanation.  The same is true for consciousness itself, and the same is true for language.  At some other time, we will explore the vast implications of this.  Mainly, is it possible, or even likely, that linguistic events, which are not subject to the physical 3-D laws of entropy or the conservation of energy, can bend the laws of physics as we know them?  Is it true, that in the beginning, it really was The Word?  I would submit here that that is precisely the case.  Yet this is a complex piece of magic best suited for another time (or times).  Hint: Poetry may yet prove to be more elucidating than physics.

Careful readers will have perhaps noticed that the style of this posting (see my earlier post on “style”) has been both diverting and/or annoying in that it has summoned through various metaphors and other acts and re-acts of speech the realms of magicians, logicians, mathematicians, musicians, skeptics, true believers, and various other reprobates both in and out of time.  Loops were and are being created by means of regressions, ellipses, digressions, repetitions, asides, self-referential mirroring, faceting, passaging and other conjurations which collectively form both the hat and the rabbit I am pulling out of it.  Reading, as you may now realize, is like all other effects of language, which has/have never been, nor could ever be, a straight line one-dimensional experience.  The style trowels the line outward to form a plane, and puffs it up to form a volume, and finally scatters time, thought, sound and image through a kaleidoscopic lens, which flashes with glints and hints of life in the fourth dimension.  Welcome, fellow aliens, you have now entered the world of poetry. Mr. Einstein meet Mr. Lorca.  E = MC2 meet — 

Pallid white theories

with blindfolded eyes

Would dance through the forest.


Sluggish like swans

& bitter like oleander.

From “Avenue,” by Federico Garcia Lorca

Selected Verse, edited by Christopher Mauer

OK.  Now you have seen the hat, so here’s the rabbit.  Western Culture spends tons of money and time on building super colliders and funding physicists, but the laws of the 4th dimension are already being applied by artists, poets, and mystics.  And remember, it was a “thought experiment” that enabled Einstein to discover the theory of relativity.  No one would ask a physicist to justify his work on the basis of its entertainment value.  Artists should not be confined to that criteria either in order to be supported by the culture at large.  They are chrononauts in the domain of the 4th dimension, and it is through their explorations that we are most apt to discover our next degree of freedom.  



Roy Dean Doughty is the author or A Monument of Wonders, a literary work combining poetry and fiction, which explores the marriage of language, consciousness and time.  As a daily practice conducted in conjunction with his Kryia meditation, he has also written a poem every day for more than twenty years.  He is the creator of The Ten Thousand Poem Project and the author of  Fourteen Poems, Yodo International Press, 1987, Clear Mo(u)rningand Spirit Chronologies. His work has been featured on “The Oneness Program” KEST Radio, San Francisco, VoiceAmerica Radio, Phoenix, Arizona, and Unity, FM radio.  He can also be read at, and

Look for Roy Doughty's powerful online course, "Creativity" starting October 4th — Offered through The TAO Metaversity.

Featured Images copyright Jeff Clay / Clayhaus Photography

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