In the modern world, we often tend to view the scientific and the spiritual as diametrically opposed adversaries; we see them as fundamentally irreconcilable ways of understanding the world, whose epistemologies are so divergent that they espouse radically diverse ways of perceiving reality. However, this a rather reductive approach to what is ultimately a complex and nuanced intellectual relationship. Indeed, throughout human history the technological and supernatural, the scientific and the spiritual have repeatedly interacted, informing each other’s respective discourses and reinventing themselves based on encounters with new ideas. In the nineteenth century, when a period of sustained and rapid scientific advancement transformed the human understanding of the universe, new discoveries about the invisible forces that shaped our lives – from the electromagnetic spectrum to soundwaves and the subatomic universe – encouraged many to believe that the invisible realm of the supernatural could be similarly understood through recourse to scientific principles and methodologies.
It is this intersection of the scientific and the supernatural that forms the basis of Christopher G. White
’s exciting new publication, Other Worlds: Spirituality and the Search for Invisible Dimensions
. Published in 2018 by Harvard University Press, Other Worlds
offers a unique insight into the relationship between religion and scientific thought at a time of rapid social, cultural and intellectual change. In the book, White focuses primarily on the imaginative power and pervasive influence of one key scientific concept: the possibly that the universe might hold within it unseen, higher dimensions. Over the course of his study, White analyses how a host of diverse individuals and groups – from scientists and mathematicians to writers, artists and even televangelists – have appropriated the notion of higher dimensions in order to explore, rationalise and explain supernatural phenomena. White maintains that rather than undermining religious beliefs, new scientific ideas, particularly those derived from physics, provided the faithful with a new framework for conceptualising the divine. Undertaking a comprehensive survey of various scientific, spiritual and literary discourses on higher dimensions, White moves from nineteenth-century treatises by Edwin Abbott and C. Howard Hinton to late twentieth-century science-fiction texts like A Wrinkle in Time
and The Twilight Zone
. In doing so, White shows how rather than opposing intellectual factions, science and spirituality have long been intertwined, with the scientific often providing individuals with new and engaging ways to imagine religious spaces and concepts.
Miranda Corcoran received her Ph.D. in 2016 from University College Cork, where she currently teaches American literature. Her research interests include Cold-War literature, genre fiction, literature and psychology, and popular culture. She has published articles on paranoia, literature, and Cold-War popular culture in
The Boolean, Americana, and
Transverse, and contributed a book chapter on transnational paranoia to the recently published book
Atlantic Crossings: Archaeology, Literature, and Spatial Culture. She blogs about literature and popular culture HERE and can also be found on Twitter.