THE THIRD CANON OF THOUGHT
A KEY TO THE ENIGMAS OF THE WORLD
Spatial understanding of time. Four-dimensional angles and curves in our life. Does motion exist in the world or not? Mechanical motion and 'life'. Biological phenomena as manifestations of motion proceeding in higher space. Evolution of space-sense. Growth of space-sense and diminution of time-sense. Translation of time-sense into space-sense. Handicaps presented by our concepts, our language. The need to find a method of expressing time-concepts spatially. Science on the fourth dimension. A four-dimensional body. Four-dimensional sphere.
On the basis of all the conclusions made, we must now try to determine how we may see the real four-dimensional world which is screened off from us bythe illusory three-dimensional world. There are two methods by which we may 'see' it: either by direct sensation, with the development of 'space-sense' and other higher faculties of which we shall speak later, or by a mental understanding arrived at by an elucidation of its possible properties by means of reasoning.
Earlier, by abstract reasoning, we came to the conclusion that the fourth dimension of space must lie in time, i.e. that time is the fourth dimension of space. Now we have found psychological proofs of this proposition. By comparing the perception of the world by different orders of living beings -a snail, a dog and a man - we have seen how different the properties of one and the same world are for them -precisely those properties which are expressed for us in the concepts of time and space. We have seen that they must sense time and space differently. That which is time for a lower being (a snail),becomes space for a being one degree higher (a dog); and the time of that being becomes space for a higher degree of being - a man.
This confirms the previously advanced supposition that our idea of time is essentially composite and actually contains two ideas -the idea of a certain space and the idea of movement in that space. Or, to be more exact -contact with a certain space, of which we are but dimly aware, provokes in us the sensation of movement in that space, and all taken together, i.e. the dim awareness of a certain space and the sensation of movement in that space, we call time.
This latter supports the thought that, instead of the idea of time havingarisen from the observation of motion existing in nature, the actual sensation of motion and the idea of motion have arisen from the 'time-sense' we possess, which is nothing but an imperfect space-sense, or the boundary-line, the limit of space-sense.
A snail feels the line as space, i.e. as something constant. It feels the rest of the world as time, i.e. as something ever-flowing. A horse feels the plane as space; it feels the rest of the world as time.
We feel the infinite sphere as space; the rest of the world -that which was yesterday and that which will be tomorrow -we feel as time.
In other words, every being feels as space all that is embraced by his space-sense; everything else is referred to time, i.e. everything imperfectly felt is referred to time. Or we can define it in this way: Every being feels as space that which, by means of his space-sense, he can represent to himself as being outside himself in forms; and he feels as time that which he is incapable of representing to himself in forms; i.e. he feels the latter as something everflowing, inconstant, so unstable that no forms can represent it.
SPACE-SENSE IS THE FACULTY OF REPRESENTATION IN FORMS.
The 'infinite sphere' in the guise of which we represent our world, is constantly and unceasingly changing; at every new moment it is no longer the same as it was the moment before. There goes on in it a continual shifting of pictures, images, relationships. It is for us like a cinema screen where projections of pictures follow one another in a fast-flowing stream.
But where are the pictures themselves? Where is the light that projects them on the screen? Where do the pictures come from and where do they go?
If the 'infinite sphere' is the cinema screen, then our consciousness is the light. Penetrating through our mental apparatus, i.e. through our store of impressions (the pictures), it projects on the screen their reflections which we call life.
But whence do the impressions reach us?
From the same screen.
In this lies the most incomprehensible aspect of life as we see it. We both create it and get everything from it.
Imagine a man in an ordinary cinema theatre. Let us suppose that he knows nothing about the workings of a cinema, is ignorant of the existence of a projector behind his back and of small transparent pictures on a moving strip. Let us imagine that he wishes to study the cinema and starts by studying what he sees on the screen - taking notes and photographs, observing the sequence of pictures, calculating, constructing hypotheses, and so on.
To what conclusions can he come?
Obviously to none at all until he turns his back on the screen and begins to study the causes of the appearance of pictures on the screen. The causes are in the projector (i.e. in consciousness) and in the moving strips of pictures (our menial apparatus). It is they that should be studied if one wishes to understand the 'cinema'.
Positivist philosophy studies nothing but the screen and the pictures projected on it. Consequently the question of where the pictures come from and where they go, and why they come and go instead of remaining eternally the same, remains a perpetual riddle for it.
But a cinema should be studied by beginning with the source of light, i.e. with consciousness; then one should pass on to the pictures on the moving strip, and only later should one study the projections.
We have established that an animal (a horse, a cat, a dog) must perceive threedimensional motionless angles and curves as movements, i.e. as time-phenomena.
The question arises: May not we also perceive as movements, i.e. as timephenomena, the four-dimensional angles and curves? We usually say that our sensations are moments of awareness of some changes taking place outside us, such as light, sound and so on - all 'vibrations of ether'. But what are these 'changes'? Maybe in reality there are no changes at all. Maybe what appears to us as movements, i.e. as changes, are in reality the motionless sides and angles of some kind of things existing outside us, things about which we know nothing.
Maybe our consciousness, incapable of grasping these 'things' by means of senseorgans, and representing them to itself in their entirety, as they are -and grasping only the separate moments of its contact with them, builds up the illusion of motion, imagining that something moves outside it, i.e. that it is the 'things' that move.
If this is so, then 'motion' may in reality be a 'derivative' and arise in our mind at its contact with the things which it cannot wholly grasp. Imagine ourselves approaching an unknown town which slowly grows up, i.e. that it did not exist before. Here a belfry appeared which was not there before; there a river vanished, which has been visible for a long time. . . . Our relationship to time is exactly the same; time gradually comes as though arising out of nothing, and disappears into nothing.
Each thing lies for us in time and only a section of the thing lies in space. Transferring our consciousness from the section of a thing to those parts of it which lie in time, we have the illusion of the motion of the thing itself.
We may put it like this: the sensation of motion is the consciousness of the transition from space to time, i.e. from a clear sense of space to an obscured one. And, on this basis, we can arrive at a real recognition of the fact that we perceive as sensations and project into the external world as phenomena the motionless angles and curves of the fourth dimension.
Is it necessary or possible to assume, on this basis, that no motion of any kind exists in the world, that the world is static and constant and that it appears to us to be moving and evolving simply because we look at it through the narrow slit of our senseperception?
We return once more to the question: What is the world and what is consciousness? But now the question of the relation of our consciousness to the world has begun to approach a clear formulation.
If the world is a Great Something, possessing self-consciousness, then we are the rays of this consciousness, conscious of ourselves but unconscious of the whole.
If there is no motion, if it is nothing but illusion, then we must seek further — for the source of this illusion.
Phenomena of life, biological phenomena, are very similar to a passage through our space of some four-dimensional circles of great complexity, each consisting of a mass of interwoven lines.
The life of a man or of another living being is like a complex circle. It always begins at one point (birth) and always ends at one point (death). We have every right to suppose that it is one and the same point. Circles may be large or small. But all of them begin and end in the same way - and they end at the point where they have begun, i.e. at the point of non-being from the physico-biological standpoint, or at the point of some different being from the psychological standpoint.
What is a biological phenomenon, the phenomenon of life? Our science has no answer to this question. It is an enigma. A living organism, a living cell, living protoplasm contains something un-definable, which distinguishes 'living matter' from dead matter. We know of this something only through its functions. Of these functions, the chief one lacking in a dead organism, a dead cell, dead matter is -capacity of reproduction.
A living organism multiplies endlessly, absorbing and subjugating dead matter. This capacity of continuing itself and subjugating dead matter with its mechanical laws is the inexplicable function of 'life', showing that life is not merely a complex of mechanical forces as positivist philosophy tries to assert.
This proposition -that life is not a complex of mechanical forces -is also confirmed by the incommensurability of the phenomena of mechanical motion with the phenomena of life. The phenomena of life cannot be expressed in formulae of mechanical energy, nor in heat calories or power units. And the phenomenon of life cannot be created by artificial physico-chemical means.
If we take each individual life as a four-dimensional circle, this will explain to us why each circle inevitably disappears from our space. This happens because a circle inevitably ends at the point where it had begun. And so the 'life' of an individual being, having begun at birth, must end at death, which is the return to the starting point. But during its passage through our space, the circle emits certain lines which, by connecting with others, produce new circles.
Of course, in reality all this happens quite differently; nothing is born and nothing dies; but this is how it appears to us, because we only see the sections of things. Actually, the circle of life is only a section of something, and this something undoubtedly exists before birth, i.e. before the appearance of the circle in our space, and continues to exist after death, i.e. after the disappearance of the circle from our field of vision.
For our observation, life phenomena are very similar to phenomena of motion, as they appear to a two-dimensional being; therefore they may be 'motion in the fourth dimension'.
We have seen that the two-dimensional being will regard as movements of bodies the three-dimensional properties of motionless solids; and as phenomena of life the actual movements of bodies proceeding in a higher space.
In other words, motion which remains motion in a higher space appears to a lower being as a phenomenon of life, and motion which disappears in higher space, becoming a property of a motionless body, appears to it as mechanical motion.
The incommensurability for us of phenomena of life and phenomena of 'motion' is exactly the same as the incommensurability for a two-dimensional being in his world of the two kinds of motion, of which only one is real and the other illusory.
Hinton speaks of this (The Fourth Dimension):
There is something in life not included in our conceptions of mechanical movement. Is this something a four-dimensional movement?
If we look at it from the broadest point of view, there is something striking in the fact that where life comes in there arises an entirely different set of phenomena to those of the inorganic world.*
Starting from this, it is possible to presume that those phenomena which we call phenomena of life are motion in higher space. Phenomena which we call mechanical motion are phenomena of life in a space lower than ours, whereas in a higher space they are simply properties of motionless bodies. This means that if we take three kinds of existence -two-dimensional, ours and a higher one, it will prove that the 'motion' observed by two-dimensional beings in two-dimensional space is for us the property of motionless bodies; 'life' which is observed in two-dimensional space, is motion as observed by us in our space. And further - movements in three-dimensional space, i.e. all our mechanical movements and manifestations of physical and chemical forces, such as light, sound, heat and so on, are only our sensations of some properties of four-dimensional bodies, unknowable for us; and our 'phenomena of life' are movements of bodies of a higher space which appear to us as birth, growth and life of living beings. If we presume a space not of four but of five dimensions, then in it 'phenomena of life' will probably prove to be properties of motionless bodies -species, varieties, families, peoples, tribes and so on, and possibly only 'thought phenomena' will appear as motion.
We know that phenomena of motion or manifestations of energy are connected with an expenditure of time. And we see that with a gradual transition from lower to higher space, movements disappear, becoming translated into properties of motionless bodies. This means that the expenditure of time disappears, the need for time disappears. The two-dimensional being needs time for the explanation of the simplest phenomena -an angle, an incline, a cavity. We no longer need time to explain such phenomena, but we need it to explain phenomena of motion and physical phenomena. In a still higher space our phenomena of motion and physical phenomena will probably be seen, without any time, as properties of motionless bodies, and biological phenomena -birth, growth, reproduction and death, will be regarded as phenomena of motion.
Thus we see how expansion of consciousness makes the idea of time recede.
* C. H. Hinton, The Fourth Dimension, London, 1912, reprinted Arno Press, New York, 1976, p. 77.
We see how entirely conditional it is.
We see that by time are designated the characteristics of a space higher than the given one, i.e. the characteristics of representations of a consciousness higher than the given one.
For a one-dimensional being all the characteristics of the two-dimensional; threedimensional, four-dimensional and still higher space lie in time -all this is time. For a two-dimensional being time includes characteristics of three-dimensional, fourdimensional and still higher space. For a man, i.e. a three-dimensional being, time includes characteristics of four-dimensional and higher space.
Thus, as consciousness and forms of perception rise and expand, the characteristics of space increase and those of time decrease.
In other words, the growth of space-sense proceeds at the expense of time-sense. Or it can be said that time-sense is an imperfect space-sense (i.e. faculty of imperfect representation) and that, as it becomes more perfect, it passes into space-sense, i.e. into the faculty of representing in forms.
If, on the basis of all the principles we have elucidated, we try to form an idea of the universe, however abstract, it will quite naturally be a universe totally different from the one we are accustomed to represent to ourselves. In the first place, it will not depend on time at all. Everything in it will exist always. It will be the universe of the ETERNAL NOW of Indian philosophy -a universe in which there will be no before and no after, but only the present, known or unknown.
Hinton feels that with the expansion of space-sense our view of the world should undergo a complete change, and he speaks of this in his book A New Era of Thought:
The conception which we shall form of the universe will undoubtedly be as different from our present one, as the Copernican view differs from the more pleasant view of a wide immovable earth beneath a vast vault. Indeed, any conception of our place in the universe will be more agreeable than the thought of being on a spinning ball, kicked into space without any means of communication with any other inhabitants of the universe.*
What then is the world of many dimensions, what are many-dimensional bodies, whose lines and sides are perceived by us as motion?
A very great power of imagination is needed to escape, even for a brief moment, from the limits of our representations and to see the world mentally in other categories.
* C. H. Hinton, A New Era of Thought, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1910, p. 66.
Let us imagine some object, say a book, outside time and space. What would the latter mean? If we take a book outside time and space, it would mean that all the books that have ever existed, are existing or will ever exist, exist together, i.e. occupy the same place and exist simultaneously, forming as it were one book, including in itself qualities, characteristics and attributes of all the books that are possible in the world. When we simply say a book, we mean something possessing the general characteristics of all books -it is a concept. But the book of which we are now speaking possesses not only the general, but also the individual characteristics of all individual books.
Let us take some other objects: a table, a house, a man. Let us imagine them outside time and space. We shall have objects possessing, each of them, such an infinitely great number of attributes and characteristics that the human mind would be utterly incapable of comprehending them. And if a man would wish to comprehend them with his mind, he would be forced to divide these objects in some way, to take them first in one sense, in one aspect, in one section of their being. What is 'man' outside time and space? It would be the whole of mankind, man as a 'species' -Homo sapiens, but at the same time possessing the characteristics, attributes and peculiarities of all individual men. It would be I, and you, and Julius Caesar, and the conspirators who murdered him, and the newsboy at the corner whom I pass every day -all the kings, all the slaves, all the saints, all the sinners - all taken together, fused into one indivisible being of man, similar to the great treewhich has bark, woody tissue and dead branches, green leaves, blossom and fruit. Can our mind understand and conceive such a being?
The idea of such a 'great being' inspired the artist or artists who created the
What then is motion? Why do we sense it if it does not exist?
Mabel Collins, a theosophical writer of the first period of modern theosophy speaks very beautifully about the latter in her poetical Story of the Year:
There is no permanence in earth life, and no real meaning, except in the contact of personalities, and in the effort of growth. What are called events and circumstances and are supposed to be the realities of life are merely conditions which produce these contacts and allow of this growth.*
* Mabel Collins, The Story of the Year, A Record of Feast and Ceremonies by the author of 'Light on the Path', London, 1895.
In these words there already sounds quite a new understanding of the real. And indeed the illusion of motion cannot arise out of nothing. When we travel in a railway carriage and trees rush past our window, outstripping one another, we know that this motion is only apparent, that the trees are motionless and the illusion of their motion is created by our own motion.
As in these particular cases, so also in general in relation to all motion in the material world, the basis of which, according to the 'positivists' is the motion of the minutest particles of matter. While recognizing this motion as illusory, we must ask whether the illusion of this motion is not created by some motion inside our consciousness.
It must be so.
And, having established this, we must try to determine which kind of motion goes on inside our consciousness, i.e. what is moving and in relation to what?
H. P. Blavatsky, in her first book Isis Unveiled touched upon the same question of the relation of life to time and to motion. She wrote:
As our planet revolves once every year around the sun and at the same time turns once in every twenty-four hours upon its own axis, thus traversing minor circles within a larger one, so is the work of the smaller cyclic periods accomplished and recommenced, within the Great Saros.
The revolution of the physical world, according to the ancient doctrine, is attended
by a like revolution in the world of intellect - the spiritual evolution of the world
proceeding in cycles, like the physical one.
Thus we see in history a regular alternation of ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from which it had before descended.
The division of the history of mankind into Golden, Silver, Copper and Iron Ages, is not a fiction. We see the same thing in the literature of peoples. An age of great inspiration and unconscious productiveness is invariably followed by an age of criticism and consciousness. The one affords material for the analyzing and critical intellect of the other.
Thus, all those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind, like Buddha-Siddartha, and Jesus, in the realm of spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napoleon the Great, in the realm of physical conquests, were but reflexed images of human types which had existed ten thousand years before, in the preceding decimillennium, reproduced by the mysterious powers controlling the destinies of our world. There is no prominent character in all the annals of sacred or profane history whose prototype we cannot find in the half-fictitious and half-real traditions of bygone religions and mythologies. As the star, glimmering at an immeasurable distance above our heads, in the boundless immensity of the sky, reflects itself in the smooth waters of a lake, so does the imagery of men of the antediluvian ages reflect itself in the periods we can embrace in an historical retrospect.
'As above, so it is below. That which has been, will return again. As in
heaven, so on earth.'*
Everything said about a new understanding of time relations is bound to be very obscure. This is so because our language is entirely unadapted to a spatial expression of time concepts. We have not got the necessary words for it, we lack the verbal forms. Strictly speaking, the expression of these relations, new for us, requires some quite new, different forms -not verbal. The expression of new time relations needs a language without verbs. Completely new parts of speech are needed, an infinite number of new words. Until then, in our human language, we can speak of 'time' only by hints. The true essence of it is inexpressible for us.
We must never forget this inexpressibility. This is the sign of truth, the sign of reality. That which can be expressed cannot be real.
All systems speaking about the relation of the human soul to time -all the ideas of LIFE AFTER DEATH, THEORIES OF REINCARNATION, OF THE TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS, all these are symbols, striving to transmit relations which cannot be expressed directly owing to the poverty and the weakness of our language. They should not be understood literally, just as one cannot understand literally artistic symbols and allegories. One should look for their hidden meaning, a meaning which cannot be expressed in words.
A literal understanding of these symbolic forms in certain trends of modern literature, and the fact that they are being associated with the ideas of 'evolution' and 'morality', taken in the most narrow dualistic sense, completely distorts their inner content and deprives them of all significance and value.*