Today, we largely ignore imagination as a valid source of knowledge. Imaginative has come to mean fictitious. But imagination is simply the mental process of forming concepts and images about things that may or may not be real.
Our insights and intuitions are not formed or strictly managed by reason; so, imagination remains open to possibilities. Poets, writers and other artists treasure the power of imagination. They don’t start with logic or reason to create a work of art; they start with their imagination, driven by an urge to create.
Carol Joyce Yates, the American writer expressed the experience of artistic imagination like this. “One of the motives for creating art is a feeling of homesickness, that you’ve lost something. That’s powerful and haunting and you can’t quite get to it in your conscious life. Through your imagination you’re inhabiting this invisible and palpable place.” (1) Regardless of how they might express their own experience, every artist would recognise the authenticity of Ms Yates statement about the power of imagination.
Imagination raises possibilities and questions about what is truly real, and suggests that reality is a subject that demands our deeper reflection. Are our everyday experiences any more “real” than those which fiction imagines? Many people would say, and believe absolutely, that the only “reality” is here and now, in things they can see, touch, taste, and feel.
Yet, at the same time, many of these same people respond with questions or joy or amusement or awe when their imaginations are stimulated by the possibilities presented by fiction. I believe that these instinctive human responses hint to us about the hidden mysteries of reality.
(1) Carol Joyce Oates at World Science Festival 2012, quoted on Readers Almanac, the official blog of The Library of America, http://blog.loa.org/2012/06/joyce-carol-oates-and-jeffrey-eugenides.html