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#60: Another Dimension

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue.

It’s not easy describing spiritual dimensions although many have tried. C.S. Lewis described the spiritual as being so much more solid than anything we experience now and how insubstantial our present reality is in comparison.1 Adrian Plass has talked about heaven having to be “at least as exciting and stimulating as scoring a century against Australia at Lords”.2 (The reference is to cricket.) I certainly have no truck with those who seem to think it only consists of the tedium of sitting on clouds playing a harp as its often depicted by cartoonists.3

Even as I was writing this, I stumbled across another article tackling the subject with images of “meadows of Elysium” in which the author’s dogs could bound or heaven as geometric circles inspired by Boticelli’s Divine Comedy.

One of my favourite, perhaps the most impressive description I’ve ever come across, is Tolkien’s Ainulindalė – the first few pages of The Silmarillion. It tells of Eru’s creation of Arda via heavenly music which the Ainur are invited to contribute to. The evocation of epic harmonies subsequently revealing the details of the physical world of Middle Earth which they’re creating is simply astonishing. (Lewis also used images of music when Aslan called Narnia into being.4). I regularly reread Ainulindalė and get swept up in the majesty of its otherworldliness.

More surprisingly, I recently came across a most unexpected passage that gave me a mind-blowing glimpse into another dimension. Cixin Liu, in Death’s End, the third of his Three Body Problem trilogy, has a stunning description of pockets of a higher dimension intruding into the ordinary realm of our three dimensions. Liu, avowedly atheist so a ‘spiritual realm’ wasn’t his intention, manages to convey a fourth dimension which allows you to see inside solid objects and in infinite detail, and from any direction.5 It’s not easy to visualize and of course the inevitable comparison of a flatlander trying to envision three-dimensional space comes into play.

Now if we can just imagine the same again but with time added as well, perhaps we’re getting nearer to some idea of what a future glorious spiritual existence could be like. It certainly seems to give the tiniest glimpse into just how God might be omniscient, omnipresent and perhaps even omnipotent.

And this moves us into Traveller refereeing as we get to view our own creations in detail, from any angle or vantage point and from any point in time in an ongoing chronology. Perhaps some of the draw of Traveller for me, certainly in refereeing, is this glimpse into the mind of God. Of course, we only have ultimate control over the details of our creations until players start getting involved. Granting them free will and not railroading them into what we think ought to happen perhaps gives another insight into spiritual dimensions in which we’re given the freedom to act – for good or for ill. These may only be glimpses, but they’re glimpses which leave me wanting more!