Chapter 6 – The Constructive Power of Imagination

Chapter VI
W. John Murray
Mental Medicine
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1923.

[128] In this chapter we shall deal with that which the popular mind regards as a sort of thinking in the clouds, or such a form of mental abstraction as indulges in the unprofitable practice of building “castles in the air.” Imagination has been confounded with fancy, even by those who ought to have known better. We speak of men of imagination as visionary, meaning by the word, impractical. We do not realize that where there is no vision (imagination) the people perish.

Imagination is the art and the science of visioning possibilities where, to the so-called practical mind, there are no possibilities. It is from visioning, or acts of imagination, that continents have been discovered, Niagaras [129] have been spanned, and the waters thereof gathered together to propel the wheels of industry, and to furnish light to numbers of cities and millions of people. Imagination sees without eyes, that which the so-called practical mind cannot see with eyes. It is the prophecy of that which has not yet come to pass, but which must come to pass if the tendency of an idea is to actualize itself.

Beethoven did not fancy his symphonies as some men fancy they would like to accomplish great and worthy things, but who never do. He imagined the beauty and harmony of a multitude of tones to produce certain musical effects, and formed these into such groups as would correspond with his mental pictures of color and emotion. It was thus that Beethoven’s symphonies became externalized in that form of beauty which millions have heard with delight, but which Beethoven himself never heard, unless it was with the inner ear.

Edison did not fancy that invisible electricity [130] could be made visible in terms of a light more luminous than any light which had appeared before, save the light of the sun. He imagined a medium through which this intangible, invisible light substance might be converted into that which humanity was demanding. Always humanity’s needs call forth their men of genius to supply them: that is, the Source has always in readiness a channel through which to express itself, and in this case Edison was the medium. This does not imply, necessarily, that God is a respecter of persons; it simply means that the Universal always responds most quickly to that individual who is nearest in consciousness, and that person is the one who has spent most time in contemplating the working of universal law, whether it be in mechanics or metaphysics.

To imagine, and not merely to fancy, the possibility of aerial navigation, or submarine travel, is to take such steps as are necessary to make the ideal real; and the airship or submarine is the subsequent appearance [131] but not the real thing. The submarine or the airship could be destroyed, but the real thing, which is the image in mind, or the pattern from which these things or appearances have taken their rise, will remain and still serve the purpose for reconstruction. Napoleon said, “Imagination rules the world.” His greatest victories were won as the result of his imagination. He saw just where to concentrate his strongest points of attack, and then gathered his forces together at that point. He also pictured or imagined just what his enemies would naturally be inclined to do, and, forewarned by imagination, he forestalled them.

Proud science does not realize under what great obligation it is to imagination. The astronomer imagines the existence of certain clusters of stars long before he constructs the instruments by means of which to observe or photograph them. An astronomer without imagination would be like an observatory without a telescope.

I think it is Fichte who says: “Imagination [132] is the formative power of the body.” If it is true that desire precedes function, and function precedes organization, then it is for us to understand that method of creation, or externalization, which is common to God and man alike. First thought, then the building of the organ of thought, or the brain; then the objective organization of that upon which thought centers itself. If man (the soul) is the image of God, an idea in the mind of God, may it not be that the body of man, with all its peculiarities of formation and malformation, as well as sensation, is the image or conception which man entertains of himself? If this is so, may it not be that imagination, or the image-making faculty, is back of all integration or disintegration, as the case may be? In other words, is Spencer right when he says:

“For of the soule the bodie forme doth take;
For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make”?

It is very important for us to know the great part that imagination plays in the [133] cause and cure of disease. An imaginary disease is not something that should justify us in being unsympathetic with the person suffering from it, as we are so often tempted to be; nor is it something at which materialistic physicians should scoff. To the sufferer, it is very real, and no amount of ridicule is going to heal it. Nothing but the substitution of a new image will suffice to eradicate from the chamber of imagery the mental picture or image of disease which the sufferer is superimposing upon his body. How to substitute an idea of health for a thought of disease, is the secret which a new and true psychology has come to teach. Of this we shall speak later; what we wish to do now is to emphasize the fact that imagination is that faculty of the mind which conceives an idea, and then leaves it to the will to execute; as when the architect conceives a plan and then leaves it to the draughtsman to outline and fill in, and the contractor to construct.

We learn in physical science that inertia is [134] a property, and a necessary condition of matter. This includes the body of man, as it includes the body of the world, or what we call physical nature. Matter is not self-acting, but is always acted upon, whether it be by what we call nature in the case of the material world of material phenomena, or in the case of thought upon the human body. What we call changes in the material world are such things as take place according to nature’s processes, and, in like manner, the changes which take place in the human body are effects which follow mental changes from the negative to the positive, or vice versa.

One day we shall learn that the same power which enables the potter to transform clay into vases, will enable us to transform, through imagination, sorrow into joy, weakness into strength, failure into success, fear into faith, and limitation into abundance.

Imagination is only a mode of thought, and its power is only an illustration of the power of Thought.

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Chapter 7

Mental Medicine
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