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Section 20. How the Sphere encouraged me in a Vision

Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926)

Section 20.  How the Sphere encouraged me in a Vision

Although I had less than a minute for reflection, I felt, by a kind

of instinct, that I must conceal my experiences from my Wife.

Not that I apprehended, at the moment, any danger from her

divulging my secret, but I knew that to any Woman in Flatland

the narrative of my adventures must needs be unintelligible.

So I endeavoured to reassure her by some story, invented for

the occasion, that I had accidentally fallen through

the trap-door of the cellar, and had there lain stunned.

The Southward attraction in our country is so slight

that even to a Woman my tale necessarily appeared extraordinary

and well-nigh incredible; but my Wife, whose good sense far exceeds

that of the average of her Sex, and who perceived that I was

unusually excited, did not argue with me on the subject,

but insisted that I was ill and required repose.  I was glad

of an excuse for retiring to my chamber to think quietly over

what had happened.  When I was at last by myself, a drowsy sensation

fell on me; but before my eyes closed I endeavoured to reproduce

the Third Dimension, and especially the process by which a Cube

is constructed through the motion of a Square.  It was not so clear

as I could have wished; but I remembered that it must be "Upward,

and yet not Northward", and I determined steadfastly to retain

these words as the clue which, if firmly grasped, could not fail

to guide me to the solution.  So mechanically repeating,

like a charm, the words, "Upward, yet not Northward",

I fell into a sound refreshing sleep.

During my slumber I had a dream.  I thought I was once more

by the side of the Sphere, whose lustrous hue betokened that he

had exchanged his wrath against me for perfect placability.  We were

moving together towards a bright but infinitesimally small Point,

to which my Master directed my attention.  As we approached,

methought there issued from it a slight humming noise as from one

of your Spaceland bluebottles, only less resonant by far,

so slight indeed that even in the perfect stillness of the Vacuum

through which we soared, the sound reached not our ears

till we checked our flight at a distance from it of something under

twenty human diagonals.

"Look yonder," said my Guide, "in Flatland thou hast lived;

of Lineland thou hast received a vision; thou hast soared with me

to the heights of Spaceland; now, in order to complete the range

of thy experience, I conduct thee downward to the lowest depth

of existence, even to the realm of Pointland, the Abyss of

No dimensions.

"Behold yon miserable creature.  That Point is a Being like ourselves,

but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf.  He is himself

his own World, his own Universe; of any other than himself he can form

no conception; he knows not Length, nor Breadth, nor Height,

for he has had no experience of them; he has no cognizance even

of the number Two; nor has he a thought of Plurality;

for he is himself his One and All, being really Nothing.

Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn this lesson,

that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant,

and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy.

Now listen."

He ceased; and there arose from the little buzzing creature a tiny,

low, monotonous, but distinct tinkling, as from one

of your Spaceland phonographs, from which I caught these words,

"Infinite beatitude of existence!  It is; and there is none else

beside It."

"What," said I, "does the puny creature mean by 'it'?"

"He means himself," said the Sphere:  "have you not noticed

before now, that babies and babyish people who cannot distinguish

themselves from the world, speak of themselves in the Third Person?

But hush!"

"It fills all Space," continued the little soliloquizing Creature,

"and what It fills, It is.  What It thinks, that It utters;

and what It utters, that It hears; and It itself is Thinker, Utterer,

Hearer, Thought, Word, Audition; it is the One, and yet

the All in All.  Ah, the happiness ah, the happiness of Being!"

"Can you not startle the little thing out of its complacency?" said I.

"Tell it what it really is, as you told me; reveal to it

the narrow limitations of Pointland, and lead it up to

something higher."  "That is no easy task," said my Master; "try you."

Hereon, raising my voice to the uttermost, I addressed the Point

as follows:

"Silence, silence, contemptible Creature.  You call yourself

the All in All, but you are the Nothing:  your so-called Universe

is a mere speck in a Line, and a Line is a mere shadow

as compared with --"  "Hush, hush, you have said enough,"

interrupted the Sphere, "now listen, and mark the effect

of your harangue on the King of Pointland."

The lustre of the Monarch, who beamed more brightly than ever upon

hearing my words, shewed clearly that he retained his complacency;

and I had hardly ceased when he took up his strain again.

"Ah, the joy, ah, the joy of Thought!  What can It not achieve

by thinking!  Its own Thought coming to Itself, suggestive of

Its disparagement, thereby to enhance Its happiness! Sweet rebellion

stirred up to result in triumph!  Ah, the divine creative power

of the All in One!  Ah, the joy, the joy of Being!"

"You see," said my Teacher, "how little your words have done.  So far

as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own --

for he cannot conceive of any other except himself --

and plumes himself upon the variety of 'Its Thought' as an instance

of creative Power.  Let us leave this God of Pointland to the ignorant

fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience:  nothing that you or I

can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction."

After this, as we floated gently back to Flatland, I could hear

the mild voice of my Companion pointing the moral of my vision,

and stimulating me to aspire, and to teach others to aspire.

He had been angered at first -- he confessed -- by my ambition to soar

to Dimensions above the Third; but, since then, he had received

fresh insight, and he was not too proud to acknowledge his error

to a Pupil.  Then he proceeded to initiate me into mysteries

yet higher than those I had witnessed, shewing me how

to construct Extra-Solids by the motion of Solids,

and Double Extra-Solids by the motion of Extra-Solids,

and all "strictly according to Analogy", all by methods so simple,

so easy, as to be patent even to the Female Sex.

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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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