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How I Came To Spaceland And What I Saw There

From: Flatland

An unspeakable horror seized me. There was a darkness; then a dizzy,
sickening sensation of sight that was not like seeing; I saw a Line
that was no Line; Space that was not Space: I was myself, and not
myself. When I could find voice, I shrieked loud in agony, "Either
this is madness or it is Hell." "It is neither," calmly replied the
voice of the Sphere, "it is Knowledge; it is Three Dimensions: open
your eye once again and try to look steadily."

I looked, and, behold, a new world! There stood before me, visibly
incorporate, all that I had before inferred, conjectured, dreamed, of
perfect Circular beauty. What seemed the centre of the Stranger's form
lay open to my view: yet I could see no heart, lungs, nor arteries,
only a beautiful harmonious Something--for which I had no words; but
you, my Readers in Spaceland, would call it the surface of the Sphere.

Prostrating myself mentally before my Guide, I cried, "How is it, O
divine ideal of consummate loveliness and wisdom that I see thy inside,
and yet cannot discern thy heart, thy lungs, thy arteries, thy liver?"
"What you think you see, you see not," he replied; "it is not giving to
you, nor to any other Being, to behold my internal parts. I am of a
different order of Beings from those in Flatland. Were I a Circle, you
could discern my intestines, but I am a Being, composed as I told you
before, of many Circles, the Many in the One, called in this country a
Sphere. And, just as the outside of a Cube is a Square, so the outside
of a Sphere represents the appearance of a Circle."

Bewildered though I was by my Teacher's enigmatic utterance, I no
longer chafed against it, but worshipped him in silent adoration. He
continued, with more mildness in his voice. "Distress not yourself if
you cannot at first understand the deeper mysteries of Spaceland. By
degrees they will dawn upon you. Let us begin by casting back a glance
at the region whence you came. Return with me a while to the plains of
Flatland and I will shew you that which you have often reasoned and
thought about, but never seen with the sense of sight--a visible
angle." "Impossible!" I cried; but, the Sphere leading the way, I
followed as if in a dream, till once more his voice arrested me: "Look
yonder, and behold your own Pentagonal house, and all its inmates."

I looked below, and saw with my physical eye all that domestic
individuality which I had hitherto merely inferred with the
understanding. And how poor and shadowy was the inferred conjecture in
comparison with the reality which I now behold! My four Sons calmly
asleep in the North-Western rooms, my two orphan Grandsons to the
South; the Servants, the Butler, my Daughter, all in their several
apartments. Only my affectionate Wife, alarmed by my continued
absence, had quitted her room and was roving up and down in the Hall,
anxiously awaiting my return. Also the Page, aroused by my cries, had
left his room, and under pretext of ascertaining whether I had fallen
somewhere in a faint, was prying into the cabinet in my study. All
this I could now SEE, not merely infer; and as we came nearer and
nearer, I could discern even the contents of my cabinet, and the two
chests of gold, and the tablets of which the Sphere had made mention.

Touched by my Wife's distress, I would have sprung downward to reassure
her, but I found myself incapable of motion. "Trouble not yourself
about your Wife," said my Guide: "she will not be long left in anxiety;
meantime, let us take a survey of Flatland."

Once more I felt myself rising through space. It was even as the
Sphere had said. The further we receded from the object we beheld, the
larger became the field of vision. My native city, with the interior
of every house and every creature therein, lay open to my view in
miniature. We mounted higher, and lo, the secrets of the earth, the
depths of the mines and inmost caverns of the hills, were bared before

Awestruck at the sight of the mysteries of the earth, thus unveiled
before my unworthy eye, I said to my Companion, "Behold, I am become as
a God. For the wise men in our country say that to see all things, or
as they express it, OMNIVIDENCE, is the attribute of God alone." There
was something of scorn in the voice of my Teacher as he made answer:
"it is so indeed? Then the very pick-pockets and cut-throats of my
country are to be worshipped by your wise men as being Gods: for there
is not one of them that does not see as much as you see now. But trust
me, your wise men are wrong."

I. Then is omnividence the attribute of others besides Gods?

Sphere. I do not know. But, if a pick-pocket or a cut-throat of our
country can see everything that is in your country, surely that is no
reason why the pick-pocket or cut-throat should be accepted by you as a
God. This omnividence, as you call it--it is not a common word in
Spaceland--does it make you more just, more merciful, less selfish,
more loving? Not in the least. Then how does it make you more divine?

I. "More merciful, more loving!" But these are the qualities of
women! And we know that a Circle is a higher Being than a Straight
Line, in so far as knowledge and wisdom are more to be esteemed than
mere affection.

Sphere. It is not for me to classify human faculties according to
merit. Yet many of the best and wisest in Spaceland think more of the
affections than of the understand, more of your despised Straight Lines
than of your belauded Circles. But enough of this. Look yonder. Do
you know that building?

I looked, and afar off I saw an immense Polygonal structure, in which I
recognized the General Assembly Hall of the States of Flatland,
surrounded by dense lines of Pentagonal buildings at right angles to
each other, which I knew to be streets; and I perceived that I was
approaching the great Metropolis.

"Here we descend," said my Guide. It was now morning, the first hour
of the first day of the two thousandth year of our era. Acting, as was
their wont, in strict accordance with precedent, the highest Circles of
the realm were meeting in solemn conclave, as they had met on the first
hour of the first day of the year 1000, and also on the first hour of
the first day of the year 0.

The minutes of the previous meetings were now read by one whom I at
once recognized as my brother, a perfectly Symmetrical Square, and the
Chief Clerk of the High Council. It was found recorded on each
occasion that: "Whereas the States had been troubled by divers
ill-intentioned persons pretending to have received revelations from
another World, and professing to produce demonstrations whereby they
had instigated to frenzy both themselves and others, it had been for
this cause unanimously resolved by the Grand Council that on the first
day of each millenary, special injunctions be sent to the Prefects in
the several districts of Flatland, to make strict search for such
misguided persons, and without formality of mathematical examination,
to destroy all such as were Isosceles of any degree, to scourge and
imprison any regular Triangle, to cause any Square or Pentagon to be
sent to the district Asylum, and to arrest any one of higher rank,
sending him straightway to the Capital to be examined and judged by the

"You hear your fate," said the Sphere to me, while the Council was
passing for the third time the formal resolution. "Death or
imprisonment awaits the Apostle of the Gospel of Three Dimensions."
"Not so," replied I, "the matter is now so clear to me, the nature of
real space so palpable, that methinks I could make a child understand
it. Permit me but to descend at this moment and enlighten them." "Not
yet," said my Guide, "the time will come for that. Meantime I must
perform my mission. Stay thou there in thy place." Saying these words,
he leaped with great dexterity into the sea (if I may so call it) of
Flatland, right in the midst of the ring of Counsellors. "I come,"
said he, "to proclaim that there is a land of Three Dimensions."

I could see many of the younger Counsellors start back in manifest
horror, as the Sphere's circular section widened before them. But on a
sign from the presiding Circle--who shewed not the slightest alarm or
surprise--six Isosceles of a low type from six different quarters
rushed upon the Sphere. "We have him," they cried; "No; yes; we have
him still! he's going! he's gone!"

"My Lords," said the President to the Junior Circles of the Council,
"there is not the slightest need for surprise; the secret archives, to
which I alone have access, tell me that a similar occurrence happened
on the last two millennial commencements. You will, of course, say
nothing of these trifles outside the Cabinet."

Raising his voice, he now summoned the guards. "Arrest the policemen;
gag them. You know your duty." After he had consigned to their fate
the wretched policemen--ill-fated and unwilling witnesses of a
State-secret which they were not to be permitted to reveal--he again
addressed the Counsellors. "My Lords, the business of the Council
being concluded, I have only to wish you a happy New Year." Before
departing, he expressed, at some length, to the Clerk, my excellent but
most unfortunate brother, his sincere regret that, in accordance with
precedent and for the sake of secrecy, he must condemn him to perpetual
imprisonment, but added his satisfaction that, unless some mention were
made by him of that day's incident, his life would be spared.

Next: How Though The Sphere Shewed Me Other Mysteries Of Spaceland I Still Desire More And What Came Of It

Previous: How The Sphere Having In Vain Tried Words Resorted To Deeds

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