Category Archives: imagination

Czeslaw Milosz on Imagination, with reference to Blake, Dante, and Swedenborg

Through Imagination, spiritual truths are transformed into visible forms. Although he took issue with Swedenborg on certain matters, Blake felt much closer to his system than to that of Dante, whom he accused of atheism. Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell is modeled on Swedenborg, and he would have been amused by an inquiry into whether he had ‘really’ seen the devils and angels he describes. The crux of the problem—and a serious challenge to the mind—is Blake’s respect for both the imagination of Dante, who was a poet, and the imagination of Swedenborg, whose works are written in quite pedestrian Latin prose…. Neither Swedenborg nor Blake was an aesthetician, and they did not enclose the spiritual within the domain of art and poetry and oppose it to the material. At the risk of simplifying the issue by using a definition, let us say rather that they both were primarily concerned with the energy which reveals itself in a constant interaction of Imagination with the things perceived by our five senses.” — Czeslaw Milosz, from his essay “Dostoevsky and Swedenborg,” in Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision (boldface added)

Note: In my paperback copy of Emperor of the Earth, the word “Imagination” appears with a capitalized “I,” but in online sources I found, including the one linked above, it is not always capitalized. For Milosz’s purposes, I think it’s fitting to capitalize the first letter of Imagination as a way to designate it as something larger than what Coleridge would call, in contrast to Imagination, mere “fancy.”

Goethe and Coleridge on Imagination

“What Goethe meant by this ‘inner necessity and truth’ is what his younger contemporary, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, spoke of as ‘facts of mind.’ For both Goethe and Coleridge, the imagination was not merely a loosening of reason and a setting free of uncontrolled fantasy—as the Enlightenment regarded it—but a cognitive power that obeyed its own rules and disciplines.” — Gary Lachman, in Lost Knowledge of the Imagination

RE: Worldbuilding – can sci-fi help build a better world? | Liturgical Credo

Sharp insights into “worldbuilding” (or what J.R.R. Tolkien called “subcreation”) with special reference to imagination and creativity, as well as the works of Tolkien, George Orwell, Ursula Le Guin, Issac Asimov, and others, originally from Damien G. Walter’s blog:

RE: Worldbuilding – can sci-fi help build a better world? | Liturgical Credo.

Imagination As Love

Read this outstanding reflection on imagination and image-creating, with special reference to the stories of Anton Chekhov: Imagination As Love.

Movies as insight into mass fears and desires

“[Gene] Siskel described his job as ‘covering the national dream beat,’ because if you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear. Movies are hardly ever about what they seem to be about. Look at a movie that a lot of people love, and you will find something profound, no matter how silly the film may be.” – Roger Ebert, from an enriching gallery on the Atlantic’s site

Engaging the content of their imaginations

If you can exercise authority over people by engaging the content of their imaginations, you will never have to make a rational argument.

(Imagination here means the images, emotions, and imaginative appropriations of beliefs. Not daydreams or fantasies, but the inner moral and spiritual imagination.)


Ancient imagination: a fierce terracotta beast

Terracotta animal in Mesopotamian/Babylonian collection at the British Museum, Dec. 30, 2009

One of my favorite photos from my visits to the British Museum: A terracotta animal in Mesopotamian/Babylonian collection at the British Museum; photo taken on Dec. 30, 2009.