On Dimensions

On Dimensions

I often hear people refer to subtler layers of existence as other “dimensions.” As a dimension is a direction in space, this is a poor term to use.

It also gets muddy really fast. For example, if we call the astral another dimension, we’re suggesting it’s a line, a kind of squashed Flatland, not an open space. We’d have to give it 2 more dimensions to match the physical. Same with all the other layers. And yet this implies they’re all separate spaces.

It can certainly seem like subtler levels are distinct spaces (lokas or worlds) at first. This is like being inside an office tower. As we notice other floors, we may think of them as distinct. But as we become aware of the tower as a whole, then we know other floors are just layers in one space.

However, even science has confused the map with the road. We developed the famous X-Y-Z axes to graph space in 3 dimensions. This makes some sense for a person walking along the ground. There’s up and down and forward and backward and side to side. 3D.

But what does this mean in outer space? What is up? It changes as you turn.

In Synergetics, Buckminster Fuller proposed using 4D space based on the tetrahedron rather than the 3D cube. He said this better mapped the flow of action and it eliminated the need for imaginary and irrational numbers. It would be interesting to know what he thought of current physics models using “folded” dimensions to explain the world. Perhaps physicists are being a little too material and not accounting for subtler levels.

In any case, keep in mind that dimensions are a way to model our experience. Infinite space doesn’t have an up. Understanding that dimension is just a direction in space, there are an infinite number of possible dimensions. Think of it more like in and out. There are also an infinite number of points to define as “in.” Here for you differs from here for me.

Equally, time is not a dimension. It’s an effect of the process of experience. This is why we experience time differently in different circumstances. (assuming you’re not identified with clock time)

There is great value in using models to get a sense of the world and our place in it. But be careful not to confuse the model with the reality.

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  1. Jerry Freeman



    5: a level of existence or consciousness
    “… a secular as well as spiritual dimension …”

    You are insisting that “dimension” can only mean something like what it means in mathematics or topology, but there are other dimensions of meaning that are well established and just as valid.

    “Dimension” is a perfectly good word to use in talking about spiritual development and subtle perception, of course with the caveat that ALL words are approximations and subject to misunderstanding.

    Rather than trying to tell people they shouldn’t use a word in a way that is already well established and widely accepted, I would suggest you would shed more light if you clarified how the word “dimension” may be misunderstood if the different possible meanings are confused.

    1. Hi Jerry

      Fair enough. I agree that the suggested meaning is well-established but I disagree it’s valid as it leads to really odd understandings. I’ve even seen physicists get messed up by this.

      But yes, you make a good point.

      1. Jerry Freeman

        Thanks, David.

        When I run into that problem with a word (and there are many like it in this regard), I don’t fight the current and try to talk people into using a different word. In my opinion, that’s a distraction.

        Instead, I try to explain which sense of the word I mean.

        You can use examples of common misunderstandings about a word as a way to point out something for people to understand. The fact that a word is sometimes misunderstood creates an opportunity to explain something in a deeper way.

        I use the word “dimension” a lot, and I will continue to do so. It’s a perfectly good word if you are willing to be clear that, like most words, there are different ways it can be used.

        (I’ll add, most of what you’re saying, I like and agree with wholeheartedly. But you opened by saying “dimension” is a bad word, and that became a distraction.)

        1. Yes, I think I picked up this bias from a professor. Buckminster Fuller was also big on exact meaning. If a word had multiple meanings he’d avoid it, sometimes making a new word up. That didn’t make his writing very accessible.

          So yes, if we want to communicate it’s good to start with common understanding.

          1. Jerry Freeman

            My background, insofar as verbal or written communications are concerned, is marketing. It’s well documented that it is easier to influence what a person thinks or does by speaking in terms of what they already believe or have an established habit of doing, than it is to get them to adopt a new belief or behavior. On that basis, if there is a word or explanation they are already in the habit of using, I don’t try to tell them to use a different word or explanation. I begin with what they are already saying or doing and then develop and refine the discussion from that starting point.

  2. Lori lothian

    Hi David. Love this post. I dreamed once that I do not move through time. But that time moves through me. That hints at the subjectivity of time and time as a sensory and perceptual artifact. Big hugs to you.

    1. Hi Lori
      There is also a similar effect with space – are we moving through space or is space moving through us? 🙂

      The film Arrival explores how language influences our perception of time. I’ve written previously on how it influences our sense of self. And I once did a documentary on how our metabolism influences our perception of time.

      I would not say time is subjective but our experience of it is. Time is an effect of the process of experience, of our perceptive of consciousness interacting with itself. That is then seen through the lens of this physiology, state of mind, and so forth.

      Big hugs!

  3. Jim

    Hi David, yes, calling them dimensions is confusing. It is all one space, though separated by frequencies, or layers as you mention, like a cross section of the ocean. First the sand, then the water and then the air. Similarly, the material existence, then astral, and then divine.

    However since the subtler worlds occupy the same space as the material, it is that each substance is fully seen in all three worlds – If we tune ourselves in like a radio, we can sense predominantly the divine world, or predominantly the astral world or predominantly the material world. We can also act specifically within each.

    It is all consciousness and once awareness is without shadows, we can act as practically in one world as the next, without confusion. Each is distinct with its own rules of time and space and action.

    Fun topic!

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