Universal Brotherhood Path – March 1901


The supreme importance of an active and well-ordered imagination is not sufficiently recognized now-a-days as the factor in mental life upon which all intellectual faculties depend for color and beauty. The modern man, in a large degree, is contented if his mental machinery is capable of carrying out a logical sequence along formal and conventional lines. He does not dream, while life to him is tolerable, that these lines are merely laid upon the surface of a vast unexplored ocean, into whose depths only those of strong imagination may penetrate. At times in the history of the world mighty storms have risen from the deeps, sweeping away all shadow institutions, throwing organized society into chaos. The multitude which thought it had been standing upon a rock, but finding it mere tissue paper easily scattered into nothingness when nature's inner breath was outpoured, has at such times instantly turned to and gravitated around those men who by deep exploration had penetrated into the depths of life and grounded their feet upon an unseen rock which no storm could move or disturb. Such souls are those who have made history.

All men possess intellectual faculty, just as they possess hands and feet. But as the organs of bodily action are exercised and trained upon some plan and for executing some purpose, so must the intellectual faculties be directed and trained along lines laid down by imagination and energised by purpose or motive. When the power of imagination is lightly exercised (in which the faculties of the subordinate mind do not receive the restraining influence necessary for their correct application) the lower intellectualism reigns supreme, the powers of mind being split up into separate camps, the soul finding no centralized unity upon which to shine.

The small value placed upon the imagination by most people is no doubt the outcome of wrong application. Its true function, to create mental form for the fire of determined purpose to realize itself through, has been and is being perverted by a pernicious tendency to create fanciful forms in the mind around the fire of animal desire — the antithesis to the fire of an unselfish purpose. Like the Will, the imagination may be stimulated to action by many varying degrees of desire — but the resultant mind structure must be relative, as regards strength and quality, to the desire which prompts its creation. Hence a selfish and narrow mind carries a tendency to create selfish and narrow imaginative forms. For this reason, imagination has become of little value in modern estimation because of application as mere personal fancy. If a broad view be taken of the world of mind, a striking fact presents itself. It is this: — Every discovery in science, every invention from the steam engine to the cotton loom, every line of music, poetry or scripture, was, at birth, an imaginative thought in the mind of one man. Look how such apparently small creative acts of mind have spread with power into every fibre of civilized life. The very things we refer to as solid and matter of fact could not have come into use if imagination had not grasped the impossible and dragged it down into form and manifestation.

All that is true in modern life and modern institutions is the movement of streams that have originated from great masterful souls and flowed down to us through the ages, within the forms which were originally moulded by the imagination. Without these forms they could not have continued in the consciousness of the race.

Our usefulness as workers for others depends upon the mental condition we choose to maintain within ourselves. It is not a question of "thoughts," but the inner atmosphere in which thoughts move. We do not take kindly to great thoughts repeated by a talking machine. Everyone, when the eyes are open, must see objects, but we have the power to choose what is seen and of directing the sight. In like manner, everyone must have thoughts of some kind, but the attention (the mental eye) can choose its thoughts of whatever degree. In such act of choosing, the imagination is made active, and provides form around which the thoughts chosen are built, thereby erecting a mental structure which grows according to the labour bestowed upon it — not one brick more or less.

If the mind strongly imagines what it is to be contented, consecrated, loving, etc., and maintains all or any of these sufficiently long, the mind must actually realize in fact the condition fixed upon in imagination. When gazing upon a picture all its beauties gradually reveal themselves as we continue to look, and of course, relative to the strength of the attention. Similarity, an act of the imagination gains strength and substance (as the condition thought of is sustained) relative to the intensity of attention.

Comrades, we know this to be true: — that if every member was this minute to strongly and vividly imagine himself or herself as being a strong, unselfish and noble soul, minus floating thought straws, and rigidly maintain such condition for a week, more energy would thereby be brought down into life than by "moving round a circle" for a year. Imagination has embodied world-moving forces in the past, it can do so again, if we choose. It is merely a question of choice, the ability is already present.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition