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Cosmic And Human Imagination

For Froschammer, Fancy is the original principle of things. In his
philosophical theory it plays the same part as Hegel's Idea,
Schopenhauer's Will, Hartmann's Unconscious, etc. It is, at first,
objective--in the beginning the universal creative power is immanent in
things, just as there is contained in the kernel the principle that
shall give the plant its form and construct its organism; it spreads out
into the myriads of vegetable and animal existences that have been
succeeded or that still live on the surface of the Cosmos. The first
organized beings must have been very simple; but little by little the
objective imagination increases its energy by exercising it; it invents
and realizes increasingly more complex images that attest the progress
of its artistic genius. So Darwin was right in asserting that a slow
evolution raises up organized beings towards fulness of life and beauty
of form.

Step by step, it succeeds in becoming conscious of itself in the mind of
man--it becomes subjective. Generative power, at first diffused
throughout the organism, becomes localized in the generative organs, and
becomes established in sex. "The brain, in living beings, may form a
pole opposed to the reproductive organs, especially when these beings
are very high in the organic scale." Thus changed, the generative power
has become capable of perceiving new relations, of bringing forth
internal worlds. In nature and in man it is the same principle that
causes living forms to appear--objective images in a way, and subjective
images, a kind of living forms that arise and die in the mind.

This metaphysical theory, one of the many varieties of mens agitat
molem, being, like every other, a personal conception, it is
superfluous to discuss or criticise its evident anthropomorphism. But,
since we are dealing with hypotheses, I venture to risk a comparison
between embryological development in physiology, instinct in
psychophysiology, and the creative imagination in psychology. These
three phenomena are creations, i.e., a disposition of certain materials
following a determinate type.

In the first case, the ovum after fertilization is subject to a
rigorously determined evolution whence arises such and such an
individual with its specific and personal characters, its hereditary
influences, etc. Every disturbing factor in this evolution produces
deviations, monstrosities, and the creation does not attain the normal.
Embryology can follow these changes step by step. There remains one
obscure point in any event, and that is, the nature of what the ancients
called the nisus formativus.

In the case of instinct, the initial moment is an external or internal
sensation, or rather, a representation--the image of a nest to be built,
in the case of the bird; of a tunnel to be dug, for the ant; of a comb
to be made, for the bee and the wasp; of a web to be spun, for the
spider, etc. This initial state puts into action a mechanism determined
by the nature of each species, and ends in creations of special kinds.
However, variations of instinct, its adaptation to various conditions,
show that the conditions of the determinism are less simple, that the
creative activity is endowed with a certain plasticity.

In the third case, creative imagination, the ideal, a sketched
construction, is the equivalent of the ovum; but it is evident that the
plasticity of the creative imagination is much greater than that of
instinct. The imagination may radiate in several very different ways,
and the plan of the invention, as we have seen, may arise as a
whole and develop regularly in an embryological manner, or else present
itself in a fragmentary, partial form that becomes complete after a
series of attractions.

Perhaps an identical process, forming three stages--a lower, middle,
and higher--is at the root of all three cases. But this is only a
speculative hypothesis, foreign to psychology proper.

Next: Evidence In Regard To Musical Imagination

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