On Seeing the Depth of the Cosmos With Your Own Three Eyes
In many ways, human psychological development can be thought of as a conquest of dimensionality. (Don’t get bogged down in a literal understanding here--this is a mental exercise to facilitate understanding.) For example, the psychotic mind inhabits a "zero dimension" of pure mathematical symmetry. It is a world of infinite meaninglessness, with no floor or center, just a roiling panorama of catastrophic, uncategorizable novelty. Symbols are equivalent to what they symbolize and the terror is endless, because there is nothing to contain it.
The autistic mind may be thought of as one-dimensional. It knows no depth, only points of sensory contact with objects that are known by their feel and texture--hard, soft, rough, smooth. For them, a communicative expression does not emerge from the human face. Rather, it is simply a bizarre collection of disconnected points--a nose here, an eye there, a curved mouth down there. The points are not synthesized into an internal representation of the emotional depth or interior of the other. The psychologist Frances Tustin wrote about how autistic defenses can operate in neurotic adults as well, for example, in certain repetitive rituals such as "rocking." These rituals help to contain an anxiously fragmented mind by focusing on some limited sensory perception. Without it, the mind might slip into the terrifying chaos of zero dimensions.
Once we reach two dimensions, we are in the realm of something more recognizably human. This was called by Melanie Klein the "paranoid schizoid position," and more people inhabit it than you might realize. It is the world of extreme, forced splitting into diametrically opposed emotional categories of good and bad. This type of two-dimensional thinking pervades the Islamic world.
For example, just yesterday there was a link on LGF to a transcript on Memri.org of a film seminar on Iranian TV by Professor Hasan Bolkhari, entitled "Tom and Jerry - A Jewish Conspiracy to Improve the Image of Mice, because Jews Were Termed 'Dirty Mice' in Europe." This man is a "professor," and yet, his mind clearly does not operate like yours or mine. Rather, it is simply a caricature of depth, when it is actually operating in the two-dimensional world of extreme splitting.
The professor soberly discourses on how "the Jewish Walt Disney Company gained international fame" with their Tom and Jerry cartoon (for the record, a Hanna Barbera creation). He goes on to suggest that the main motivation "for making this very appealing cartoon was to erase a certain derogatory term that was prevalent in Europe." That is, "If you study European history, you will see who was the main power to hoard money and wealth.... In most cases, it is the Jews. Perhaps that was one of the reasons which caused Hitler to begin the anti-Semitic trend... "
In his two dimensional mind, the Professor observes that "No ethnic group or people operates in such a clandestine manner as the Jews." In fact, "This ultimately led to Hitler's hatred and resentment." Therefore, in nazi Germany, "Jews were degraded and termed 'dirty mice'," so Tom and Jerry had to be made "in order to change the Europeans' perception of mice."
Obviously, this type of two-dimensional thinking is not confined to the Muslim world. In America we have many of our own two-dimensional professors, such as Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and Juan Cole. Their minds are like utterly predictable calculating machines. Whatever data you put into them, they spit out the same results: U.S. bad, everyone else good.
Only with the emergence of the transitional space proper are we dealing with the creative use of three-dimensional psychological space. This is the imaginal space that emerges between an infant and his or her loving caretakers. But this creative and dynamic space is often hijacked and reduced to two dimensions as a result of the malign imagination of internalized mind parasites.
The fourth dimension adds time to the mix. This is called the "depressive position," a term of art that does not imply clinical depression per se, but the capacity to form stable relationships that endure through time. One of the reasons it is “depressive” is that it involves transcending the omnipotent psychological defenses of the lower dimensions. For example, a borderline patient is not in the depressive position. Rather, when they become angry at a loved one, they instantly convert the loved one into the category of all bad. Not only are they bad now, but they have always been, and always will be, bad. In a very real sense, time and history have been destroyed. The feeling creates the reality.
Perhaps you have noticed when you shift from one dimension to another. For example, depression clearly involves a loss of dimensionality. One of its most striking characteristics is that the world seems to lose a vital dimension of depth. Suddenly it is flat, lifeless, and devoid of the meaning that can only be located and experienced in the higher dimensions. Moreover, many psychological defense mechanisms operate by plunging the individual into a lower dimension. I call these “dimensional defenses." For example, there might well be unpleasant meanings and psychological realities located in the fourth dimension--indeed, there usually are. One way to avoid them is to descend into a lower dimension where those meanings cannot be located or "entertained."
I didn't mean for this to be a discourse on psychological development. For one things, these are my own theories, and I doubt if many psychologists would subscribe to them. But any way you look at it, this is as far as conventional psychology can take you--into the four-dimensional space of the depressive position. It's what most people would call "reality."
But neither internal nor external reality are limited to four dimensions. This is pure projection, an artifact of our evolved nervous systems. For example, if you could ask a worm how many dimensions there are in the world, they would undoubtedly say two. Ask a bacterium, and they'd probably say one. Ask most humans, and you get four.
But in my opinion, one of the things that spiritual development involves first and foremost is the ongoing conquest of dimensionality---of higher dimensional space. One way to think about it is that the conquest of each dimension brings with it a new degree of freedom. Think about that insane Iranian professor. How free is he really? In reality, he's free to move in only two directions: Muslim good, Jew evil. Same with Noam Chomsky, at least insofar as his mind touches on politics. His mind is free in only two directions. Conclusions are preordained. He's on a railroad track.
Now several of my readers have pointed out a useful analogy for spiritual experience, one that I myself have used in the past. That is, they compare it to those "Magic Eye" pictures, which look like a bunch of random two-dimensional dots until you relax your gaze, and suddenly a three dimensional object emerges from the page, floating there in the space before you.
Yes. This is an excellent analogy. Genuine spiritual insight involves dwelling in what appear to be meaningless clues, out of which suddenly emerges spiritual "vision." It is there. You "see" it. But that doesn't mean others will see it as well. For example, when I read the Book of Genesis, spiritual insight after insight tumble forth from the pages. But a two-, three- or four-dimensional scientific or religious literalist will simply see something concrete: somebody dividing light and dark or water and land. Some people walking around in a garden. A tree you're not supposed to touch. Etc.
In the past, I have touched on the idea of spiritual experience taking place on the shoreline between the infinite and the finite, between time and eternity. Consider the fact that we have two biological eyes or ears that are set slightly apart. Because each of the two organs has a slightly different vertex, we are able to see and hear stereoscopically or stereophonically. If you have only one good ear, you can't experience stereo, only mono.
Now, suppose we have a "third eye" or a "third ear." What would reality look like from that perspective? As a matter of fact, it is our "third eye" that sees into eternity. If you want, you can even think of it as a right-brain phenomena. That is, the left brain experiences things in sequence, while the right brain experiences them "all at once."
There is a way of living in which these two modes--the lower and higher eyes--harmoniously coexist to facilitate the emergence of additional dimensions of depth--of not being shipwrecked on the rocks of time, or of being lost in eternity, but somehow experiencing time in eternity and eternity within time.
I tried my best to capture this in my book. That is, if our perception of spatial depth comes from our integration of different points of view, depth may be thought of as a function of the number of perspectives that are integrated in an experience or perception. In my book, I tried to integrate as many points of view as possible--scientific, cosmological, biological, psychological, developmental, neurological, philosophical, spiritual, religious, mystical, etc.
I am hardly the only person who has had the experience of the deep unity that subtends--or supertends--the surface multiplicity of the world. As a matter of fact, it's more common than you think. I'm just trying to develop a language to talk about it. Just as we have Euclidean geometry to describe external space, we need to invent a geometry of higher dimensional spiritual space. It's one of the things I'm working on. So if my ideas appear half baked, that’s why. In reality, they’re more like 30-40% baked at this point.