by Swami Krishnananda
The learned are aware of the doctrine of the fourth dimension proclaimed by modern physics. But few would be aware that there can be a fourth dimension in the realm of psychology. The Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics even now rule the world of three dimensions. Man has a set way of thinking, according to which he seems to have discovered certain invariable facts, such as that 2 and 5 make 7, the three angles of a triangle make two right angles, bodies have mass and weight of a fixed nature, and there is the pull of gravitation which uniformly follows a law everywhere. We may call this an almost universal attitude of mind, with the system of three dimensions, by which we mean that we always think in terms of the length, breadth and height of things, and there is no conceivable object without these dimensions.
Now, this mode of thinking is not confined merely to the world of things. It also constitutes the framework of the system prevailing unhampered everywhere, in every field of human knowledge. It applies also to the realm of chemistry and biology, ethics, logic and metaphysics. The discoveries of the Theory of Relativity are said to have brought about a revolution in the world of mathematics and physics, whereby the systems of Euclid and of Newton have been substituted by a way of approach which it is difficult for the traditional mind of classical physics to accommodate. It becomes so difficult, because man’s usual standpoint of thinking is the same always, and everyone seems to be thinking in the same way. That there can be another way of thinking altogether different from how people everywhere think is regarded either as a wonder, or something unintelligible and suspicious. But today, somehow, a handful of the thinkers of the world seem to have stumbled upon a conviction that the world of visual perception is not as it appears to be, that the solidity of matter and the spatiality of temporal extension give way to a more significant continuum where space and time no more stand apart but become standpoints of an indivisible something, in which the mathematical and physical laws put on a new face altogether. We are told that parallel lines may meet under certain circumstances, the arithmetical totals of our conception may not hold good in subatomic realms, light rays do not always move in a straight line, the law of gravitation is not simply the attraction of one body by another, and the three angles of a triangle need not always amount to two right angles.
If these and such deeper truths are not to be, how can one appreciate certain similar facts and aspects of the thinking perspective as, for example, when the Bhagavadgita proclaims that resort to one thing brings everything (IX. 22), or that surrender to God destroys all sins (XVIII. 66)? We have never seen an acquisition of one thing bringing to one everything else also, and it is contrary to the laws that seem to be working in the world. We always see a Manifold effort being called for when a manifold result is expected. Nor is it possible to imagine that one can violate natural laws and go unscathed and scot-free. Every action produces a reaction due to the very structure of the cosmos. The balance of forces constituting all creation seems to be behind the operation of this law which sets up a counterpoise against every initiative. But we are also told that it is possible to break the bonds of karma, strange and mysterious though this may look. How could one be involved in something and yet be free from it at the same time? Our logic follows a stereotyped method, according to which some determined and expected result follows as a corollary from certain given premises. This has also reference to our belief that a particular cause should produce only a particular effect. But that this is an unfounded faith has been the opinion of certain modern thinkers like A. N. Whitehead, who hold that the doctrine of the ‘simple location’ of things and of the ‘bifurcation of cause and effect’ is a prejudice of the human mind, which does not conform to reality. Unless we keep ourselves open to the acceptance that deeper truths than our minds can think may exist, certain discoveries and observations in the field of physics, psychology and spiritual life cannot become intelligible.
The system of three dimensional thinking is at the bottom of all this complexity. We see a world outside our bodies; we see space, and know time;we observe something proceeding from something else in a cause-and-effect relationship. On the foundation of this rule is based also our arithmetic, geometry, and on this alone do many of our physical laws seem to hang. But can there be no other way of thinking than this commonplace method of the mind? Are we always bound to think in terms of spatial extension, to put it shortly? This is a moot question, which is rarely raised, and, when raised, cannot elicit a satisfactory answer. But a little patience and analysis of implications and possibilities will open up another avenue of perception and a new vista of unknown facts will be revealed before our eyes. There is such a thing as thinking without space and knowing without objects.
This revelation cannot become apparent without a certain amount of training along new lines of approach. The mind revolts against any possibility of a non-spatial or non-objective concept. And this is exactly the revolt against the non-Euclidean geometry, the discoveries of the Great Theory of Relativity and also against the weird ethics which the statesmanship of Sri Krishna seems to have followed in the war of the Mahabharata. This also is an explanation of one’s inability to understand how sins can be destroyed, the realisation of one thing can mean the realisation of everything, or, in the words of Christ, seeking the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness can add all things to oneself. But all this is as impregnable and impractical to the spatio-temporal logic and sociological ethics of the mind as the laws of Relativity or the mathematics of the world of electrons. We have here to give up the three-dimensional psychology and enter into its fourth dimension, if we are to come to any solution.