Thought-Culture or Practical Mental Training

Upon the importance of a scientific use of the Imagination in every-day life, the best authorities agree. Maudsley says: “We cannot do an act voluntarily unless we know what we are going to do, and we cannot know exactly what we are going to do until we have taught ourselves to do it.” Bain says: “By aiming at a new construction, we must clearly conceive what is aimed at. Where we have a very distinct and intelligible model before us, we are in a fair way to succeed; in proportion as the ideal is dim and wavering we stagger and miscarry.” Kay says: “A clear and accurate idea of what we wish to do, and how it is to be effected, is of the utmost value and importance in all the affairs of life. A man’s conduct naturally shapes itself according to the ideas in his mind, and nothing contributes more to his success in life than having a high ideal and keeping it constantly in view. Where such is the case one can hardly fail in attaining it. Numerous unexpected circumstances will be found to conspire to bring it about, and even what seemed at first hostile may be converted into means for its furtherance; while by having it constantly before the mind he will be ever ready to take advantage of any favoring circumstances that may present themselves.”

Simpson says: “A passionate desire and an unwearied will can perform impossibilities, or what seem to be such, to the cold and feeble.” Lytton says: “Dream, O youth, dream manfully and nobly, and thy dreams shall be prophets.” Foster says: “It is wonderful how even the casualities of life seem to bow to a spirit that will not bow to them, and yield to subserve a design which they may, in their first apparent tendency, threaten to frustrate. When a firm decisive spirit is recognized it is curious to see how space clears around a man and leaves him room and freedom.” Tanner says: “To believe firmly is almost tantamount in the end to accomplishment.” Maudsley says: “Aspirations are often prophecies, the harbingers of what a man shall be in a condition to perform.” Macaulay says: “It is related of Warren Hastings that when only seven years old there arose in his mind a scheme which through all the turns of his eventful life was never abandoned.” Kay says: “When one is engaged in seeking for a thing, if he keep the image of it clearly before the mind, he will be very likely to find it, and that too, probably, where it would otherwise have escaped his notice.” Burroughs says: “No one ever found the walking fern who did not have the walking fern in his mind. A person whose eye is full of Indian relics picks them up in every field he walks through. They are quickly recognized because the eye has been commissioned to find them.”

Constructive Imagination differs from the phases of the faculty of Imagination which are akin to “Fancy,” in a number of ways, the chief points of difference being as follows:

The Constructive Imagination is always exercised in the pursuance of _a definite intent and purpose_. The person so using the faculty starts out with the idea of accomplishing certain purposes, and with the direct intent of thinking and planning in that particular direction. The fanciful phase of the Imagination, on the contrary, starts with no definite intent or purpose, but proceeds along the line of mere idle phantasy or day-dreaming.

The Constructive Imagination _selects its material_. The person using the faculty in this manner abstracts from his general stock of mental images and impressions those particular materials which fit in with his general intent and purpose. Instead of allowing his imagination to wander around the entire field of memory, or representation, he deliberately and voluntarily selects and sets apart only such objects as seem to be conducive to his general design or plan, and which are logically associated with the same.

The Constructive Imagination operates upon the lines of _logical thought_. One so using the faculty subjects his mental images, or ideas, to his _thinking faculties_, and proceeds with his imaginative constructive work along the lines of Logical Thought. He goes through the processes of Abstraction, Generalization or Conception, Judgment and the higher phases of Reasoning, in connection with his general work of Constructive Imagination. Instead of having the objects of thought before him in material form, he has them represented to his mind _in ideal form_, and he works upon his material in that shape.

The Constructive Imagination is _voluntary_–under the control and direction of the will. Instead of being in the nature of a dream depending not upon the will or reason, it is directly controlled not only by reason but also by the will.

The Constructive Imagination, like every other faculty of the mind, may be developed and cultivated by Use and Nourishment. It must be exercised in order to develop its mental muscle; and it must be supplied with nourishment upon which it may grow. Drawing, Composing, Designing and Planning along any line is calculated to give to this faculty the exercise that it requires. The reading of the right kind of literature is also likely to lead the faculty into activity by inspiring it with ideals and inciting it by example.