The first definition of imagination is the most useful: an act or process of forming a conscious idea or mental image of something never before wholly perceived in reality by the imaginer; or the ability or gift of forming such conscious ideas or mental images for the purposes of artistic or intellectual creation.
Mr. W. adds that it is "freer of derogatory connotations" than similar words such as fantasy, and also more "comprehensive," going as it does to "the power of creating." In contrast, fantasy "suggests the power of unrestrained, often extravagant or delusive, fancy." Thus it is not so much a power as a weakness.
In my view, "creation from nothing" is something of a pleonasm, since creation -- if it is truly creative -- is always from nothing, even if it is just a little bit of nothing.
You might say that the more creative the person, the greater the nothing. Thus, when we say of God that he creates ex nihilo, it is a matter of degree, not kind. Nor do I think for one moment that this detracts from the divine majesty of the Big Nothing, since everything ultimately arises from this ancient groundmother.
Speaking of whom, imagination is "the power to conceive." You parents out there will relate, because I couldn't possibly have conceived or imagined my son. An individual person never existed before and will never exist again.
The imagination is the fertile ground (or womb) into which religious imagery falls and takes root. If it fails to do so, either there is something deficient in the imagery or in your imagination. But I'd check the latter first.
As we have said before, only because of God is anything and everything intelligible; but only because of God is nothing totally intelligible, except to the creative intelligence of God. Follow anything back up or down (it doesn't matter which) to its end, and you reach the threshold of nothing. Thus man understands, but he can never understand even the simplest thing completely. Everything is inexhaustibly intelligible because it partakes of the Divine Nothing.
Imagination goes not only to things nonexistent or never seen, but to "things perfected or idealized"; and if the things do exist and are seen, there is still "the genuine artist's gift of perceiving more deeply or essentially and creating the interestingly and the significantly new and vital."
Thus, imagination isn't only central to creation but to the magic of renewal; it is why we do not die of boredom, or why some people aren't compelled to become political activists, conceptual artists, or community organizers.
It is also bound up with childhood, or rooted in a quintessentially childlike mode of cognition. The entry has a passage from H.G. Wells, who observed that "all youth lives much in reverie; thereby the stronger minds anticipate and rehearse themselves for life in a thousand imaginations."
There is another useful crack by F.A. Pottle, that imagination "gets at relationships that are true at the deepest level of experience," and one by Roy Pascal that it is "a means of deepest insight and sympathy." It allows us to grasp "a deeper, more organic reality" (G.D. Brown).
Yes, yes, and yes: imagination gets at deep experiential truth, which is experienced in the body as in-sight and sym-pathy. Insights are sights inseen, while sympathy is feeling infelt. Each relies upon a kind of intersubjective resonance from person to person; it is what allows you to think what I'm thinking and for me to feel what that patient or baby o' mine is feeling. And both operate vertically and horizontally (or horizontally because vertically), or with God and man.
The adjectival form, imaginative, means "created, inspired, guided, or drawn from the imagination and not from known facts or sources." And an Imaginator is A Person Who Creates.
Well, I hope that wasn't too beastly pedantic. But I wouldn't have gone on anon if I hadn't found it helpful; or, I would have stopped if it had ceased being provocative and informative. For what immediately occurs to me -- and I imagine you as well -- is that God must be imagined as Imaginator in Chief.
Over the centuries, God has acquired a lot of useless and misleading baggage. All of this baggage, of course, comes from man. It originates in fantasy, or fancy, or thought, or feelings, and is then projected onto God, who may or may not comport with the mental product. Some of it sticks while some of it falls away, but it seems that even the best of it may be contaminated with a bit too much from the human side.
This, I imagine, is part of what God has in mind with the Incarnation: no, no, no, you've got it all wrong again. Here, let me come down and show how it's done. Thus, Jesus is God's imaginative icon of man and man's imaginative icon of God, so we may meet in the middle.
The next elder I would like to consult is Don Colacho, whose pithy aphorisms are the quintessence of imaginative resonance (≈). Here, this one goes to the antiseptic and soul-killing ideals of secular fundamentalism: "When things appear to us to be just what they seem, they soon seem to be even less." And "History exceeds what merely happened." How much more does it exceed what liberals think happened!
"The devil comprehends everything, but is not able to create anything." With which you could have a Butterfield day with the following headline: Smartest President Ever Hasn't Created a Damn Thing.
"Genuine atheism is to the reason of man what the ten-thousand-sided polygon is to his imagination." For as we have said before, it is impossible to imagine atheism (it is more a passive fantasy); and with a fully functioning imagination one is unlikely to be an atheist.
"Creation is the nexus between eternity and history." Oh My Yes. Or between vertical and horizontal. It is irreducible to anything else, for it is where the cosmic arteries of nothing and everything converge in the heart of the imagination.
That's about it for today. I got nothing.