1 The Fourth Dimension



What do Buddhism and science have in common? They have different ideas about consciousness. Science believes that visible information about the everyday world passes via one’s optic nerve into the brain, which means it has to travel in coded form. When we see a ruler, for example, something in the form of a ruler does not pass along one’s optic nerve. This means that what the brain ‘sees’ are abstract interpretations of reality, called our five senses.

On the other hand, Buddhists believe that an image of a ruler does pass along one’s optic nerve. The atoms of a ruler consist of vibrating energy, some of which is transferred to waves of light, which enter our eyes. The brain does not create our five senses. They are energies received from different four-dimensional levels of the everyday world.

Mathematicians define three-dimensional space as an abstract visualisation, which only needs three numbers, called dimensions, to describe the sizes or locations of objects in the everyday world. For example, the size of a rectangular box is found by measuring its length, width, and height.

What does a fourth dimension reveal about a rectangular box? It reveals its substance. Without substance, a rectangular box is no more than its measurements, which we can experience as a diagram. But to experience a real box we have to ‘perceive’ its substance using one’s sense of touch. How do we combine these two perceptions, sight and touch? This cannot be achieved mathematically, but one’s brain has no problem whatsoever. It is called 'being conscious of the everyday world’.

Mathematics attempts to mimic the four-dimensional everyday world using only three dimensions. This is a ghostly world populated with abstract forces, electromagnetic fields, mass, dark matter etc., which have no substance and logically cannot exist. While this modus operandi may help to make the everyday world a more comfortable place in which to live, it cannot help us begin to understand its true nature. This may always remain a mystery. But we need to acknowledge, at least, the existence of this mystery.


Imagine sitting in the kitchen listening to the radio, having just returned from a trip halfway round the world. Your mobile phone rings and you answer it, but the voice you hear is in a language you do not understand. You must have picked this phone up by mistake along the way. A strange thought occurs to you; many phone messages taking place around the world are inside this kitchen. Then you hear the voice emanating from the radio and you think: 'Many radio and TV programs around the world are also inside this kitchen.' You look around you at the surfaces of the kitchen, every square centimetre of which radiates a different shade of colour in every three-dimensional direction. How come none of these colours interferes with any of the other colours? Why don’t any of these billions of waves (or particles behaving like waves, as scientists believe) – colours, phone and radio – distort one another? How are they all perfectly preserved? Even if you open the windows of the kitchen, the billions of air particles flowing through the room do not distort any of these waves.

Could it be that each size of wave or particle travels at a different energy level of a fourth dimension? Could it be that every object in the universe, including us, exists at many different energy levels, only a few of which we can see? Could it be that these energy levels cause all movements in the universe? More


The author, a Zen Buddhist, holds an engineering degree from Imperial College