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Dudley Wright and “The Fourth Dimension”

During the course of my investigation into Dudley Wright, I have managed to track down most of his books and articles. However, one book (or booklet) has proven elusive: The Fourth Dimension (published in 1906). This book is mentioned in passing in some of his later publications, and according to a biographical entry for Dudley Wright in The Masonic Secretaries’ Journal, this was his first ever published work. One can speculate that this study was an engagement with Charles Howard Hinton’s once influential book, also entitled The Fourth Dimension, which was published in 1904 and republished in 1906. Hinton was an English mathematician and author. Hinton’s book, which influenced or provoked a number of authors, discussed a fourth spatial dimension beyond conventional perception. As Margaret Wertheim observed in The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace (1999, p.193), Hinton was inspired by Plato’s allegory of “prisoners chained in a cave, doomed forever to see only the shadows of the ‘real’ world outside.” For Hinton, three-dimensional space was but a shadow of the “real world”. 

Charles Howard Hinton

Charles Howard Hinton

Hinton’s book sparked wide interest in theosophical and spiritualist circles at the time, and some people asserted that by mediating on Hinton’s four dimensional hyper-cubes or “Tesseracts,” it was possible to catch a glimpse of alternative planes of reality, to interact with ghosts, and to better understand spiritualist phenomena.


 Tesseracts from Charles Hinton’s The Fourth Dimension (1906)


A Three-Dimensional Projection of a Tesseract (by Jason Hise).

As it was his first publication, Dudley Wright’s The Fourth Dimension would probably reveal some important clues about how he began his religious journey. It is possible that Dudley Wright believed that Charles Hinton’s Tesseracts might enable him to catch a glimpse of “the other side,” possibly even to see the spirit of his recently deceased son. Whilst Wright wrote hundreds of articles on religion, he seldom invited his readers into his own personal life. However, in an article published in The Mystic on 5 February 1908, and reprinted in Light ten days later, Wright hinted at the nuclear episode in his life that started him on his passionate if not obsessional search for the “underlying truth” of all religious systems, which in Wright’s mind was closely connected to the “immortality” of the soul. According to the article, one day some ten years previously, whilst working in the British Museum, Wright had a vision of his infant son dying after being seized by convulsions. Alarmed, he rushed home, to discover that “everything had happened exactly as [he] had seen it miles distant.” According to Wright, he immediately set out to investigate “the ‘other side’ of life.” He found the visions of Clairvoyants about relatives “long since ‘passed over,’” and about childhood incidents long forgotten, to be reassuringly accurate. [See Dudley Wright, “How I came to Believe in Psychism,” The Mystic, 5 February 1908, p. 59; reprinted in “Jottings,” Light, 15 February 1908, p. 83]. For other references to resurrection, reincarnation, immortality of the soul, and the afterlife in his writings, see Dudley Wright, “Resurrection,” Bible Review, June 1910, pp. 479-483; Dudley Wright, Spiritualism in Relation to the Doctrine of Immortality, Manchester: The Two Worlds, 1910, pp. 1-14; Dudley Wright, “Can Reincarnation Be Demonstrated?,” Occult Review 12, no.4, October 1910, pp. 221-227]. 

Regrettably, it has so far proven impossible to track down a copy of Wright’s The Fourth Dimension.

* For a detailed examination of Dudley Wright, in which John Belton focused on the Masonic aspects of his life and career, whilst I concentrated on his non-Masonic theological discourse and his search for the “prisca theologia“, please see: Simon Mayers and John Belton, “The Life and Works of Dudley Wright,” Heredom 23, 2015. For a partial bibliography of Dudley Wright’s published and unpublished works, please see: Dudley Wright Bibliography

See also:

Dudley Wright I: A Brief Introduction

Dudley Wright II: Philo-Judaism and Anti-Judaism

Paper on the Catholic Guild of Israel at the BAJS Annual Conference (7-9 July 2013)

The British Association for Jewish Studies (BAJS) Annual Conference went ahead on 7-9 July 2013 at the University of Kent, Canterbury. The theme for the BAJS conference this year was ‘Memory, Identity, and Boundaries of Jewishness’. I presented a paper at the conference which examined constructions of Judaism and Jewish identity in the discourse of members of the Catholic Guild of Israel (1917-1943).

The Catholic Guild of Israel was founded in England in December 1917 by Father Bede Jarrett with the support of the Sisters of Sion and the Arch-Confraternity of Prayer for the Conversion of Israel. This initiative received the blessings of Benedict XV and subsequently Pius XI. Whereas the Sisters of Sion and the Arch-Confraternity were content to pray for the conversion of Israel, the new Guild took a much more proactive approach to converting Jews.

One aspect of the Guild’s mission was to improve the way that English Catholics perceived Jews. However, despite the Guild’s allegedly benign intentions, the senior members were not able to master their own prejudices. Their articles and lectures frequently contained antisemitic stereotypes of the greedy stock-market and usurious Jew, and the revolutionary Bolshevik Jew. Whilst it was sometimes acknowledged that Jews had been persecuted by Christians, this was countered by caricatures of “the Jewish Mentality” and the Talmud as violently anti-Christian. It was suggested that Christian violence towards Jews was not always unprovoked. The stereotype of the smart powerful Jew was also a reoccurring theme in Guild publications, but it was part of an ambivalent narrative. The president and the vice-president of the Guild both explained that “the Jews” could be an asset if their “zeal” and “flame” could be brought into the Church. They suggested that whilst “the Jew” was “a hard nut to crack,” their “kernel was sweet,” and that they contained a reservoir of intellect and energy, which though dangerous to Christian civilisation, could be put to good use if assimilated to the Church.

Significantly, similar stereotypes of “the Jew” can also be found in the discourses of Jewish converts within the Catholic Guild of Israel. Hugh Angress, a convert from Orthodox Judaism, repeated these stereotypes, and he argued in lectures and a booklet that Catholicism is fulfilled Judaism. The most prominent convert in the Guild was Hans Herzl, the son of Theodor Herzl. Hans Herzl converted to Catholicism and joined the Guild in 1924. Though he did not remain in the Church for long, he expressed ambivalence about Zionism during this time in the pages of the Catholic press.

Universe - National Home for the Jews, Hans Herzl, 1925-page-0Universe - Jews and Palestine, Hans Herzl, 1925-page-0

Hans Herzl discussing Zionism in The Universe (an English Catholic Newspaper), 20 March 1925.

My paper examined the images of ‘the Jew’ constructed by prominent members of the Guild, such as Father Bede Jarret (the head of the English Dominicans and the founder and president of the Guild), Father Arthur Day (an English Jesuit and vice-president of the Guild), Dudley Wright (an author and ex-Freemason), Hugh Angress (a Jewish convert) and Hans Herzl (a Jewish convert and son of Theodor Herzl).