Imagination is one of those things that have been grossly misjudged throughout history and up to a certain point vilified through the growing cynicism of a modernised world. Society consensually projects the idea of imagination to childhood and it often equates it with immaturity or a lack of thinking seriously and rationally. Even artists and people with a creative flair in general have been directly or indirectly discredited at some point in their lives – either at school, at home or by their peers. It’s as if the liberal use of the imagination is silently shunned by society.
The Historical Demise of Imagination
The root of all this comes from a global culture in developed countries that has been increasingly leaning towards a patriarchal, logical and rational based society. In spiritual literature, creativity is seen to be more the domain of the feminine and in neuroscience, creative imagination is found to be more dominant in the right hemisphere of the brain. If you look at the history of the western world, one can see a crescendo, especially during the last 200 years, of a trend towards a ‘left-brain’ dominated society. In the early 20th century, Ideologies such as Fascism and the scientific movement known as ‘logical positivism’ come to mind. These are notorious examples of ‘chauvinistic’ or ‘left-brain’ ideologies.
Imagination Driving us into the Future
“What really made us leap forward as humans since we invented fire is our imagination”
What I find interesting when I look at the two sides of our brain – logical rationality vs creative imagination – from a historical perspective, is that the world has not progressed because of logic and rational thinking but despite of it. What really made us leap forward as humans since we invented fire is our imagination . I am not discrediting rational thought. Rationality was and is helpful to refine, make clearer and structure ideas and thoughts. It is also needed to keep imagination in balance because if imagination runs too wild and out of control it can also be destructive as much as a society completely devoid of it.
Even Science which is considered to belong solely to the domain of logical and analytical thinking has progressed forward because of human imagination. If you look at the greatest Scientific theories and discoveries, you will see that they were spurred by the use of the imagination and intuition. Rationality, logic and mathematics is later used to verify (or falsify), structure and define those conjectures and ideas. In short, imagination is what makes the world go round.
The Power of Imagining your World into Being
“I think of imagination as not just the power of summoning up images and fantasies in the mind, but rather the power to make something out of them…”
Going back to why imagination has been misjudged, I believe that it has been given the wrong attributes. For instance we think of imagination as being at odds with reality or as being completely illusory and hence has no place in everyday life. I think of imagination as not just the power of summoning up images and fantasies in the mind, but rather the power to make something out of them and hence has a practical dimension too.
Yes imagination can be just playful and fun with no consequence whatsoever other than putting up some fancy mental images together. Yet imagination can also be used to create your world into being. It can make you see things differently and beyond the limitations of what your ‘reality’ is feeding you. It can make you leap outside of the social matrix and look at a situation from different angles. It can invoke powerful visions that motivate you to move forward when you are stuck and debilitated from taking action.
Who Killed our Imagination?
No one knows if there was one culprit or assassin. The imagination has been a victim of our times. Some say that our loss of using our creative imagination, such as more ‘primitive’ cultures did was an unavoidable consequence due to the cyclic change of the ages and we are now heading back to an age where our creative and imaginative side will be embraced once again.
“our education system has a lot to do with the subversion of our creative sides”
On a more practical note, I believe like many that our education system has a lot to do with the subversion of our creative sides. We have built a schooling system that is geared up to encourage academic thinking but not how to think better in the first place, even less how to use our creative imagination in extraordinary ways.
What are we missing out On?
I think the most interesting discussion about imagination has to do with how it can be used and applied. From another point of view we can ask ourselves “what potential are we missing out on if we lose our imagination”?
There are various practical aspects to imagination apart from the most obvious such as in the Arts. Here are a few I would like to share:
Inspiring Positive Change:
When you are stuck or debilitated into taking action, it is because you cannot see past your current situation. Your perception and perspective is limited. Imagination can make you leap beyond that limitation by ‘seeing’ things in an alternative possibility. You can envision an alternate reality with an alternate you and the more vivid this imagination is, the more it can stir up a strong attraction towards that imagined reality. In short imagination is what will inspire us to change. Nobody ever got inspired to change by seeing things as they appear and without using the power of imagination.
Creating Your Destiny:
Following the point above, by envisioning your possible future you are creating a template for action. First and foremost imagination creates the energy and the excitement to create something new and secondly it offers a blueprint to follow that goal. Imagination is extremely powerful for creating your own destiny because without it we would be stuck into the same patterns of behaviour. Imagination fuels the will to create, to change and to go for it.
Any creative thinker will tell you that imagination is the most important element in problem solving. Once again it compliments logical and analytical thinking beautifully, but it is many times more important to imagine outcomes and alternative possibilities when problem solving rather than deducting it logically.
Healing your Wounds:
Imagination was central to the ancient healing arts. Visualisation, which of course involves the use of the imagination, is a very important tool in conditioning the subconscious mind to change emotional imprints and even bodily manifestations. This is because the different levels of our being – the mental, emotional, physical, energetic and spiritual – are all interconnected. Imagination is one of the keys to hack through any of these levels.
Of course whenever you create a goal in your mind and then bring it to life through the use of your imagination it gives you a motivational boost. This is not the same thing as day dreaming (although yes it is also part of the imagination) but rather projecting yourself in the future through the conscious use of the imagination. Whenever we imagine or visualise something, the mind acts upon it as if it were a real input from the external environment. It doesn’t make the distinction. Hence, when the imagination it applied in the right way, it creates a positive emotional response in the form of motivation.
Embracing a Fuller You:
Imagination is part of our being. It is not something extra that we can use once in a while. It is an integral part of us and the more we deny it, the more we are reinforcing our own fragmentation. It has to be accepted and embraced. The more we do embrace it and apply it, the more we are giving space to ourselves to grow and mature as complete, well rounded individuals.