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 myria
s 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.