A Romance of Many Dimensions.
“The first objection is, that a Flatlander, seeing a Line, sees something that must be thick to the eye as well as long to the eye (otherwise it would not be visible, if it had not some thickness); and consequently he ought (it is argued) to acknowledge that his countrymen are not only long and broad, but also (though doubtless in a very slight degree) thick or high. His objection is plausible, and, to Spacelanders,
almost irresistible, so that, I confess, when I first heard it, I knew not what to reply. But my poor old friend’s answer appears to me completely to meet it.
“I admit,” said he – when I mentioned to him this objection – “I admit the truth of your critic’s facts but I
deny his conclusions. It is true that we have really in Flatland a Third unrecognized Dimension called
`height,’ just as it is also true that you have really in Spaceland a Fourth unrecognized Dimension, called
by no name at present, but which I will call `extra-height’. But we can no more take cognizance of our
`height’ then you can of your `extra-height’. Even I who have been in Spaceland, and have had the
privilege of understanding for twenty-four hours the meaning of `height’ even I cannot now comprehend it, nor realize it by the sense of sight or by any process of reason; I can but apprehend it by faith.
“The reason is obvious. Dimension implies direction, implies measurement, implies the more and the
less. Now, all our lines are equally and infinitesimally thick (or high, whichever you like); consequently,
there is nothing in them to lead our minds to the conception of that Dimension. No `delicate micrometer’
as has been suggested by one too hasty Spaceland critic would in the least avail us; for we should not
know what to measure, nor in what direction. When we see a Line, we see something that is long and
bright; brightness, as well as length, is necessary to the existence of a Line; if the brightness vanishes, the
Line is extinguished. Hence, all my Flatland friends – when I talk to them about the unrecognized
Dimension which is somehow visible in a Line – say, `Ah, you mean brightness’: and when I reply, `No, I
mean a real Dimension,’ they at once retort `Then measure it, or tell us in what direction it extends’; and
this silences me, for I can do neither.
Only yesterday, when the Chief Circle (in other words our High Priest) came to inspect the State Prison and paid me his seventh annual visit, and when for the seventhtime he put me the question, `Was I any better?’ I tried to prove to him that he was `high,’ as well as longand broad, although he did not know it. But what was his reply? `You say I am “high”; measure my”highness” and I will believe you.’ What could I do? How could I meet his challenge? I was crushed; and he left the room triumphant.
“Does this still seem strange to you? Then put yourself in a similar position. Suppose a person of the
Fourth Dimension, condescending to visit you, were to say, `Whenever you open your eyes, you see a
Plane (which is of Two Dimensions) and you infer a Solid (which is of Three); but in reality you also see
(though you do not recognize) a Fourth Dimension, which is not colour nor brightness nor anything of
the kind, but a true Dimension, although I cannot point out to you its direction, nor can you possibly
What would you say to such a visitor? Would not you have him locked up? Well, that is my
fate: and it is as natural for us Flatlanders to lock up a Square for preaching the Third Dimension, as it is
for you Spacelanders to lock up a Cube for preaching the Fourth. Alas, how strong a family likeness runs
through blind and persecuting humanity in all Dimensions! Points, Lines, Squares, Cubes, Extra- Cubes –
we are all liable to the same errors, all alike the Slaves of our respective Dimensional prejudices, as one
of your Spaceland poets has said : ‘One touch of Nature makes all worlds akin’.”
Cardboard cut outs.
Down to Zero.
The Universe’s First Second. It’s a paradox or something.
Cellular Memory and Back to the Garden.
Lost Gardens Of Heligan.
‘No Mud, No Lotus’. The Mud Maid.
In Nutfield today.
Let boys be boys.
Have a peace of my mind.
‘Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream.’
3 thoughts on “Flat Land”