Wiskundig bewijs voor wonderen: De literaire verwerking van ‘de vierde dimensie’ door Frederik van Eeden en Felix Ortt (1880-1940)

Leonieke Vermeer*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


    In the decades around 1900 the mathematical concept of four-dimensional space found its way into many different domains, including art, literature, philosophy and spiritualism. This article discusses the ways two Dutch writers, Frederik van Eeden and Felix Ortt, incorporated the fourth dimension in their work and thereby contributed to the various means by which this concept was disseminated and transformed, including the change from a spatial to a temporal conception of the fourth dimension. The fourth dimension was a typical amalgamation of knowledge in which science, popular science, myths, occultism, art and literature cannot be easily demarcated. Van Eeden and Ortt used the concept to underpin their utopian conviction that in the near future a new era with a better, spiritualized mankind was to come. For these writers, the fourth dimension was one of the scientific notions that showed that our material, three-dimensional world was too limited. This line of reasoning about the limitation of our senses and the existence of miracles was strongly linked to their engagement with spiritualism and parapsychology. Although these cultural phenomena became less influential in the second half of the 20th century, the attraction of the fourth dimension still continues in films, internet, apps and some branches of theoretical physics.
    Original languageDutch
    Title of host publicationNaar het onbekende
    Subtitle of host publicationPerspectieven op literatuur, cultuur en kennis
    EditorsAnne-Fleur van der Meer, Wouter Schrover, Nelleke Moser, Margreet Onrust
    Place of PublicationHilversum
    PublisherUitgeverij Verloren
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Print)9789087048198
    Publication statusPublished - 16-Dec-2019


    • fourth dimension
    • literature and science studies
    • history of mathematics
    • spiritualism

    Cite this