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Category Archives: On Imagination

The great archetypal activities of human society are all permeated with play from the start. Take language, for instance that first and supreme instrument which man shapes in order to communicate, to teach, to command. Language allows him to distinguish, to establish, to state things; in short, to name them and by naming them to raise them into the domain of the spirit.
In the making of speech and language the spirit is continually “sparking” between matter and mind, as it were, playing with this wondrous nominative faculty. Behind every abstract expression there lie the boldest of metaphors, and every metaphor is a play upon words. Thus in giving expression to life man creates a second, poetic world alongside the world of nature.

Or take myth. This, too, is a transformation or an “imagination” of the outer world, only here the process is more elaborate and ornate than is the case with individual words. In myth, primitive man seeks to account for the world of phenomena by grounding it in the Divine. In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing on the border-line between jest and earnest. Or finally, let us take ritual. Primitive society performs its sacred rites, its sacrifices, consecrations and mysteries, all of which serve to guarantee the well-being of the world, in a spirit of pure play truly understood.
Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin : law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primaeval soil of play.

– Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens, man-the-player, p. 4-5)


76. (THEORY OF EDUCATION). Faith—absolute acceptance of an activity
awakening principle (object), is to be expected from the child (subject).

PHILOSOPHY. The beginning of the ego is merely ideal.—If it had to begin, then it
had to begin in this manner. The beginning is already a later concept. The beginning
originates later than the ego, thus the ego cannot have begun. Consequently,
we see that here we are in the realm of art—yet this artificial supposition is the foundation
of a genuine science that always arises from an artificial fact. The ego should
be constructed. The philosopher prepares, creates artificial elements, and thus tackles
the construction in this fashion. This is not the natural history of the ego—the ego
is not a natural product—it is not Nature—not a historical being—but rather something
artistic—it is art—a work of art. The natural history of man is the other half. The
theory of the ego and of human history—or Nature and art, will become united in a
higher science—(the theory of moral development)—and be reciprocally perfected. / Through
morality, Nature and art will become mutually armed into infinity./

– Novalis

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

–  Einstein

Whoever has traced the history of an individual science finds a clue in its development for understanding the most ancient and common processes of all “knowledge and cognition.” There as here it is the rash hypotheses, the fictions, the good dumb will to “believe,” the lack of mistrust and patience that are developed first; our senses learn only late, and never learn entirely, to be subtle, faithful, and cautious organs of cognition. Our eye finds it more comfortable to respond to a given stimulus by reproducing once more an image that it has produced many times before, instead of registering what is different and new in the impression. The latter would require more strength, more “morality.” Hearing something new is embarrassing and difficult for the ear; foreign music we do not hear well. When we hear another language we try involuntarily to form the sounds we hear into words that sound more familiar and more like home to us: thus the German, for example, transformed arcubalista, when he heard that, into Armbrust. What is new finds our senses, too, hostile and reluctant; and even in the “simplest” processes of sensation the affects dominate, such as fear, love, hatred, including the passive affects of laziness.

Just as little as a reader today reads all of the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page–rather he picks about five words at random out of twenty and “guesses” at the meaning that probably belongs to these five words–just as little do we see a tree exactly and completely with reference to the leaves, twigs, color, and form; it is so very much easier for us simply to improvise some approximation of a tree. Even in the midst of the strangest experiences we still do the same: we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced not to contemplate some event as its “inventors.” All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are —accustomed to lying. Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than one knows.

In an animated conversation I often see the face of the person with whom I am talking so clearly and so subtly determined in accordance with the thought he expresses, or that I believe has been produced in him, that this degree of clarity far surpasses my powers of vision: so the subtle shades of the play of the muscles and the expression of the eyes must have been made up by me. Probably the person made an altogether different face, or none at all.

-Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil: Natural History of Morals sec.192)

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.


For if mans mind is really his imagination. If everything from mans mind is a product of his imagination then everything is imaginary and nothing is real.

However, it must be conceded that mans imagination is real. That the imaginings of his mind are apart of what is real and therefore we must conclude that there are degrees of apparentness between what is real and what is imaginary.

This then could be why within our education system, and systems in general, you have to conform to the institutions standards of writing. That because of the power of our imagination we can too easily fly off and away from reality. Especially if we are in the heat of the moment and the emotions that spill forth manipulate our imagination and therefore our understanding of the present situation and we become unable to see what needs to be seen.

I will also say that mans mind needs to be able to fly and in certain areas leave behind such rules and limitations, but isn’t that what art is for… or poetry?

If the academia could or would, understanding mans mind, give its students and disciples its reasons then in turn perhaps more students wouldn’t feel the rigidity of the system and they would understand how hard it is to make sure that their thoughts are actually dealing with reality. And that narrowing themselves to the institutions standards actually helps to make it easier to grip a piece of reality through a specific field or particular subject.

We must also acknowledge that to objectify our object we have to subject ourselves to a methodology. And that this is a most necessary limiting of our imagination in order to be increasingly precise. In other words we subject ourselves to the narrowness of a method so as to objectify our object more precisely.

There are also, however, experiences within man that can not be narrowed or stored rigidly within a system and to express them even remotely we have to become as imaginative as possible. Therefore music, art and religion come into play and allow for the expression and even the acknowledgment that the experiences are real even if words fail to express them or science and math fail to understand them.

And this is where we have to take on a better dichotomy or polarity. Which is Music and Math instead of the real and the apparent or the real and imaginary. For music allows for the heart, change, the inexpressible in words and therefore the unknown, where as math allows for the mind, the unchangeable and also for the expression of the known within language. And what is more spectacular about them is that they can be combined or left alone… they can war with or love each other.

Here then is the reason I used the word ‘polarity’ instead of ‘duality’:

“But never forget what I have told you so often: our mission is to recognize contraries for what they are: first of all as contraries, but then as opposite poles of a unity.”    – Hermann Hesse
(The Glass Bead Game)

But isn’t man, at least, the co-creator of these institutions, systems, methods and languages? And in being so does he not in some sense transcend these? And in transcending them can he not choose to deny or obey? So then wouldn’t the truly conscious man having understood the reasons for these systems and methods decided it is better not to seek change merely for the sake of change, but instead seek change because it is right and necessary? And then in his seeking seek to give adequate reasons for the necessary changes instead of uncompromisingly demanding change without even explaining himself? But that doesn’t mean that I am willing to give into a system that I can not believe in. A system that I feel no longer produces the type of human beings we want and need. An institution is nothing without the people within it and both the teacher and student need to change. There are obviously exceptions and those teachers and pupils I am in awe of, for they have stood up against degeneration even if unknowingly. But the point is that, in this case, the exception needs to become the rule.