The way we interpret the world around us can be incredibly complex or simple, depending on how much time and effort we put into processing it. But regardless of how we perceive the world, it presents more nuance than we could possibly recognize at once. Ideologies, philosophies, and other intellectual schemata try to organize a vision of the world for us. They are, invariably, attempts by someone to tell us how we should think so that we may go about our lives without having to worry about decoding reality around us.
Ideologies and religions often give us uni-dimensional ways of looking at the world that exempt us from complicated calculations. Philosophies us with more extensive views, usually in two or three dimensions, reflecting the individuality of the person behind them. The more of the matter we take into our own hands, the further we get to acquiring a new kind of perspective.
This exercise should not be confused with that of going from an absolutist to a relativistic view, such as is usually found in discussions of morality. Such a discussion would be a specific case of two-dimensional thought. We are talking about something broader that concerns the classification of thought in general. To better understand this, we need to briefly discuss the several dimensions of thought.
Before starting, we need to acknowledge that no matter how many of these dimensions are accessed by the individual mind, higher dimensions always include lower ones. As we progress in opening our minds and deepening our understanding, we never stop operating in the lowest dimensions. That is because, in order to survive, we must retain the ability for the quick and non-negotiable reactions that are afforded by more primitive thought.
The most simple state accounts for only identity and non-identity. It is the single point that marks the boundary between what is and what is not, or what should be and what should not be. Here lie the most primitive black-and-white pairings, such as friend and foe, good and evil, like and dislike, mine and yours. Within this paradigm, there are no sides to consider. There is only one way, and everything else is regarded as baneful or worthless. Knowledge is here dependent entirely on knowledge of one thing, one side, itself.
The way to breach the limitations of this single dimension is to reach out to the other side with a desire to empathize. It is not enough to simply examine the other side with an antiseptic mindset. We must indeed imagine ourselves being, thinking, and doing as “the other” would. Knowledge now comes to be more acutely aware of the “other”, and conceptualizations peculiar to this single dimension depend on juxtaposition rather than just identity.
From this inner struggle arises a gradient between “here” and “there”. We are now inhabiting the first dimension of thought. Degrees are featured, but only two poles are admitted. Every single thing is forced unto a line that determines how far or close it lies to either one. Instead of considering whether someone is “good” or “evil”, we evaluate the degree to which they are one or the other.
The first dimension can be expanded by taking note of nuances in light of which one-dimensional classifications become problematic. This comes about by observing that depending on what characteristics are chosen, the same thing can occupy more than one place along the line of judgment. Placement must be subjective because the objective perspective would require us to force the issue and choose one single placement based on a specific selection of data as the only valid one.
Uni-dimensional thought, to which most religions are confined, tends to force the issue by attempting to assign a point system. This is usually a reductionist approach using quantification. The attempt fails because there is no clear way to quantify without making arbitrary selections that do not conform to the original idea of unequivocal knowledge.
This is also where the extremely subjective idea of “being deserving of something”, or “being worthy”, comes from. A man whose actions are sometimes “good” and sometimes “evil” is not easily judged —extremist judgments notwithstanding, as they operate from the most primitive state of mind. We may realize that worthiness is not an inherent characteristic of the real world.
The way of expanding into views in two dimensions lies in accepting that a conflict between thought and reality exists, and willingly choosing reality. Many people are perceived as deserving something they never get, or undeserving of what they have. The whole concept exists in the minds of those who wish to satisfy the requirements of one-dimensional thought.
With the mind’s expansion into two dimensions comes knowledge of things as taking part in the traits of more than one defining characteristic. In this dimension, polar opposites no longer have a place from a rationalistic perspective. We come to understand that a man can act genuinely in the name of God and do “evil”, that he can be both ungodly and “good”, as far as those highly contentious epithets still make relative sense. The two-dimensional view acknowledges that you can be two or more things at once. Essentially, it does away with the mutually exclusive.
The non-dualistic view of divinity of the ancient Greeks, specifically in their myth and cult of Dionysus, was that it was a terrifying and ecstatic “other” which one could worship and resemble by degrees and in a plethora of contrasting ways. The experience of which they speak transcends into the third dimension. The divine is neither this nor that, in each and every case. The third-dimensional view argues for greater complexity and resists attempts at classification.
An individual asked to explain who he is, if questioned long enough, will realize that he is not their job, their role in a family, nor their hobbies. Furthermore, the individual is different from everyone else. This is the dimension upon which differentiation is attained. Here, even the semblance of moral judgment becomes impossible as every action becomes sui generis within a larger, unique context. Reasons, conditions, psychologies, and the endless string of causality become entangled so that we, and our actions, are but uniquely placed spheres upon the impossible web of existence.
Lastly, and before our discussion becomes so abstract that it no longer holds practical purpose, the fourth dimension argues for fluidity. Everything is always changing. Nothing stays the same. Persons, events, objects, ideas —they all change irrevocably. What Jesus taught his disciples is not what they shared with others, nor what Paul instituted, and it is certainly not what Evangelical Christians tell themselves. Ideologies are only words written upon tablets that never transmit the same meaning twice. People are not static, they act similarly but never quite the same as before. Their biology shifts unbeknownst to themselves.
What remains of the past is your memory of it imprinted upon the web strands of your brain, and these are never static. Hence, what you know as the past is always changing. What you know as history is only a rough approximation and creative invention. What you think of as the future is an ever-shifting projection of wills and actions that do not exist elsewhere but in the realm of possibility. There is nothing to go back to, nothing to replicate or hold on to. There is only the flowing stream of what is happening now.
The present moment is the fire of creation itself passing before your very eyes. It is also an outpouring from within you. The totality of existence is impressed completely upon your senses all the time. All you have is the constant possibility to unfold yourself through your decisions in this very moment. From your starting position at the moment of birth, your unique travail through existence is ever-changing, undetermined yet constrained. This is the fourth dimension of thought.
Having come this far, some may feel overwhelmed while others may glimpse freedom in these spaces newly opened to them. If you can gather the courage to overcome the need for directives and laws given by others, you will realize that peace and excitement can be made to last forever. Peace in that you are not beholden to anyone’s judgment, that neither is anyone else beholden to yours and that no undue worry and tension need come from either. You come to accept what you are and focus entirely on the possibilities of becoming afforded by your unique conditions. In short, you have come to embrace your destiny.