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Section 17. How the Sphere, having in vain tried words, resorted to deeds

Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926)

Section 17.  How the Sphere, having in vain tried words,

               resorted to deeds







It was in vain.  I brought my hardest right angle into violent

collision with the Stranger, pressing on him with a force sufficient

to have destroyed any ordinary Circle:  but I could feel him

slowly and unarrestably slipping from my contact; no edging to

the right nor to the left, but moving somehow out of the world,

and vanishing to nothing.  Soon there was a blank.  But still I heard

the Intruder's voice.



SPHERE.  Why will you refuse to listen to reason?

I had hoped to find in you -- as being a man of sense

and an accomplished mathematician -- a fit apostle for the Gospel

of the Three Dimensions, which I am allowed to preach once only

in a thousand years:  but now I know not how to convince you.

Stay, I have it.  Deeds, and not words, shall proclaim the truth.

Listen, my friend.



I have told you I can see from my position in Space the inside

of all things that you consider closed.  For example,

I see in yonder cupboard near which you are standing,

several of what you call boxes (but like everything else in Flatland,

they have no tops nor bottoms) full of money; I see also

two tablets of accounts.  I am about to descend into that cupboard

and to bring you one of those tablets.  I saw you lock the cupboard

half an hour ago, and I know you have the key in your possession.

But I descend from Space; the doors, you see, remain unmoved.

Now I am in the cupboard and am taking the tablet.  Now I have it.

Now I ascend with it.



I rushed to the closet and dashed the door open.  One of the tablets

was gone.  With a mocking laugh, the Stranger appeared

in the other corner of the room, and at the same time the tablet

appeared upon the floor.  I took it up.  There could be no doubt --

it was the missing tablet.



I groaned with horror, doubting whether I was not out of my senses;

but the Stranger continued:  "Surely you must now see

that my explanation, and no other, suits the phenomena.  What you call

Solid things are really superficial; what you call Space is really

nothing but a great Plane.  I am in Space, and look down upon

the insides of the things of which you only see the outsides.

You could leave this Plane yourself, if you could but summon up

the necessary volition.  A slight upward or downward motion

would enable you to see all that I can see.



"The higher I mount, and the further I go from your Plane,

the more I can see, though of course I see it on a smaller scale.

For example, I am ascending; now I can see your neighbour the Hexagon

and his family in their several apartments; now I see

the inside of the Theatre, ten doors off, from which the audience

is only just departing; and on the other side a Circle in his study,

sitting at his books.  Now I shall come back to you.

And, as a crowning proof, what do you say to my giving you a touch,

just the least touch, in your stomach?  It will not seriously

injure you, and the slight pain you may suffer cannot be compared with

the mental benefit you will receive."



Before I could utter a word of remonstrance, I felt a shooting pain

in my inside, and a demoniacal laugh seemed to issue from within me.

A moment afterwards the sharp agony had ceased, leaving nothing but

a dull ache behind, and the Stranger began to reappear, saying,

as he gradually increased in size, "There, I have not hurt you much,

have I?  If you are not convinced now, I don't know what will

convince you.  What say you?"



My resolution was taken.  It seemed intolerable that I should endure

existence subject to the arbitrary visitations of a Magician who could

thus play tricks with one's very stomach.  If only I could in any way

manage to pin him against the wall till help came!



Once more I dashed my hardest angle against him, at the same time

alarming the whole household by my cries for aid.  I believe,

at the moment of my onset, the Stranger had sunk below our Plane,

and really found difficulty in rising.  In any case

he remained motionless, while I, hearing, as I thought,

the sound of some help approaching, pressed against him

with redoubled vigour, and continued to shout for assistance.



A convulsive shudder ran through the Sphere.  "This must not be,"

I thought I heard him say:  "either he must listen to reason,

or I must have recourse to the last resource of civilization."

Then, addressing me in a louder tone, he hurriedly exclaimed,

"Listen:  no stranger must witness what you have witnessed.

Send your Wife back at once, before she enters the apartment.

The Gospel of Three Dimensions must not be thus frustrated.

Not thus must the fruits of one thousand years of waiting

be thrown away.  I hear her coming.  Back! back!  Away from me,

or you must go with me -- whither you know not -- into the Land

of Three Dimensions!"



"Fool!  Madman!  Irregular!" I exclaimed; "never will I release thee;

thou shalt pay the penalty of thine impostures."



"Ha!  Is it come to this?" thundered the Stranger:  "then meet

your fate:  out of your Plane you go.  Once, twice, thrice!

'Tis done!"

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This World Wide Web document is a personal research project motivated by the following claim: "Truth is the object of Knowledge of whatever kind; and when we inquire what is meant by Truth, I suppose it is right to answer that Truth means facts and their relations, which stand towards each other pretty much as subjects and predicates in logic. All that exists, as contemplated by the human mind, forms one large system or complex fact, and this of course resolves itself into an indefinite number of particular facts, which, as being portions of a whole, have countless relations of every kind, one towards another." (The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman, 1801-1890)


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