Imagination as Power of Mind

December 30, 2023

Sometime recently, there was an advertisement on the TV screen which attracted more viewers because of its exceptional design. Here is this doctor who seems yet to wake up from bed for the operation and the patient can be seen lying on the operation table and wishing the doctor. The doctor looks at the x-ray film and recognises the sickness for which he has to do the operation. However, as he tries to take a bottle of saline that is to be connected to the trip, the doctor turns with the cot attached at his back conveying that he is not yet out of his sleep and tries to drink from the bottle when the nurse stops him. He turns, there is immediate disaster with everything breaking down including a stand of various minor instruments. The next shot shows the nurse holding a steel tray with a tube of tooth paste and brush and she requests the doctor to brush with the paste so that he would be very fresh to perform the operation. Thereafter, it is only a jubilation of the doctor and a whole lot of red strips moving all over the screen that can be seen. There is a shot of a cot being pushed out through a door, presumably the back door of the theatre, and it becomes more realistic when one sees a man sitting in the corridor, getting up and running away after seeing the cot darting off. The next shot shows the agile doctor and a smiling patient and an equally vibrant nurse getting ready for the operation. The message for the use of paste is splendidly conveyed.





Ravi Varma

Veiled Rebecca

Deedarganj Yaashi




One wonders how the conjuring up of the design of the advertisement happened. Of course, the scene is natural but it is made highly unnatural for the viewer to understand the comic situation and through it the direction of the advertisement.

Sophocles and Homer in Greece, Vergil in Rome, Vyasa and Valmiki in India, before the Common Era, brought to their future generations thousands of scenes of word pictures that they created. William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe or Ben Johnson fascinated hundreds of thousands of people during the last four centuries after they wrote poetic drama during the Elizabethan age at the end of sixteenth and beginning of seventeenth centuries. Indeed, Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats and Coleridge infatuated not only the people of the contemporary Victorian nations of their nineteenth century but also the world thereafter. Going through their lines allow the fancy of human mind to sour high to see unusual spectacles, not only of the creation of the poets but also those of the readers. When Robert Frost, the twentieth century American poet, wrote simple lines on Stopping by  Woods on a Snowy Evening and promised that he had to travel miles before he would sleep, he took the readers to a totally different philosophy and it is still seen differently by the modern world.

One wonders how poets could create scenic situations of uncommon nature while they put them down in symmetric lines to influence any reader.

Pablo Picasso, the twentieth century revolutionary painter who brought in Cubism into the world of paintings, was far different from Rembrandt, the Dutch or Velazquez, the Spanish, the great painters of seventeenth century. All these played magic with colours and created immensely fascinating pictures on canvas and in the minds of viewers. Our own Raja Ravi Varma created something spectacular and unbelievably realistic when he etched the Lady With the Lamp.

One wonders how the painters thought about and expressed great ideas through colours, shapes and their combinations and how their products charmed even very ordinary people without much of specific appreciation based on theories of art.

If ever one visits Salar Jung Museum at Hyderabad, one cannot move away from the statue of Veiled Rebecca by Giovanni Maria Benzoni, as one wonders how the sculptor was able to carve from marble the veil on the face of the lady which prompts any viewer to believe that the veil is liftable even though it is etched in hard white rock. More than a hundred years ago, Edvard Eriksen created the little mermaid at Copenhagen as she sits on a stone and keeps attracting people even today. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Auguste Rodin, the French, who is known for conveying intense human emotions through sculptures like the Thinker, his masterpiece, communicated to the world through unusual products of art. The magnificent Didarganj Yaashi, the sculpture of the Maurya period, placed in the Patna Museum in Bihar, carved on a single Chunar sandstone with incredible mirror like polish, discovered on the banks of river Ganges in the early part of the twentieth century, is considered the epitome of charm and beauty, and even voluptuousness. Kanayi Kunhiraman, the modern sculptor of Kerala, designed the mermaid in a park on the Sankhamugham seashore at Trivandrum and is considered the longest and the tallest mermaid in the world attracting lakhs of people to the park to visit the Jalakanyaka.

One wonders how these sculptors e nigmatically created those figures of humans, and both animal and human together to mesmerise every spectator.

Beethoven, the eighteenth century German composer and pianist, brought up exceptional music and there wasn’t anybody else who could equal him for a long period to come. His ninth symphony reverberates in several musical halls all over Europe even today. So did Mozart, the Austrian composer too. The Beatles captivated the youth of the world much more than what other musi cians could ever do in the second half of twentieth century. Similarly, it is such ngenuity that is seen in the music writing of Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, named the Queen of Latin Music, who sang the song ‘Waka Waka This Time for Africa’ during 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The singing of all these, they say, can take people on the wings of ecstasy to different worlds of echoes of musical notes that soothen even the most discomforted mind.

One wonders how and what helped the singers design the musical notes which were very different from the notes of music that are available in genuine nature around.

If one wonders about the artistic products of poets, painters, sculptors and singers, that too several times, the wonder should have an answer, both rationally and logically, to the satisfaction of the human mind. The issue is about the human mind, inextricably original and fundamentally challenging one’s own and a Virtual Presence in the brain, that can neither be touched, nor be physically discovered, and more importantly, always available with each human at times of need. The landscape of the brain becomes all powerful because of this virtual presence of the mind. Ray Kurzweil in his book ‘How To Create A Mind’ quotes what James Watson, the American molecular biologist and geneticist, wrote in 1992, that the brain is the last and grandest biological frontier, the most complex thing humans have yet discovered in the universe. One has to quickly add what Howard Gardner referred to in his book ‘Five Minds for the Future’ that the mind is an ensemble and is developable. Marvin Minsky in his famous book ‘The Society of Mind’ also says the same.

John Searle in his book ‘Intentionality – An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind’ refers to the making of different mental states. He adds that consequential events that direct the states of mind to the affairs of the world are available to any human. So, ultimately, it is the nature of the intentional states of mind that make the products of the mind whether it is those of poets, painters, sculptors or singers. The mental states are responsible for mentalising, a series of processes that go on to promote the creativity of each individual towards making a sort of consciousness that results in productivity of all artists of any order, thus all are artists too. The building of the states of mind, mentalising processes, the resulting creativity and the consciousness of the human makes imagination fervent and extremely productive, resulting in unexpected artistic creations. Of course, one cannot overlook similar productions in the scientific or social fields too.

What matters for the poet, the painter, the sculptor or the singer is such a person’s imagination and the truth remains that every human partakes in the natural ability of imagination with them either together or at least for short periods of time. The products thereon may not be converted into realities that are discernable for other humans, especially those who are protectors or superiors or critics or evaluators. Human imagination can or may soar high at any given moment of time of everyone’s life, however small its results be, and sometimes these can make the life of even an ordinary person supremely resourceful.

People’s capacity to fantasise, or even fancy, is a common way of imagination. There is no guarantee that a fantasy has any realistic connections. All the same, it is a stage of make-belief that a person creates and there may not be any support of the senses or the messages from the senses for such fancies. A fantasy has a chance to become a reality. Dreaming about possibilities and living for short intervals in that possibility are what children do. It allows them to grow up with it and discard what may not be achievable, a reality testing that they will learn as they progress with such processes. Fantasy or fancy can or may result in realistic products.

Human imagination is an enormous amount of resourcefulness in every individual. Another aspect of imagination is one’s ability to perceive. This is much beyond fancy and fantasy. Perceptions can be with a base and, many times, as a projection from what one knows already. The type of experiencing or thinking that had happened in the past may govern perceptions. The other is free perception which is not connected to any experience or thinking. It happens, at given moments of time, as if one certainly chanced upon a particular picture in the mind, on people, place, time or things associated with any one of these or some of these together. Perception can also change depending on the availability of other perceptions including those which may be shared by other people.

The greatest effect of imagination on humans is the third factor beyond fantasy and perception. This is visualisation. To visualise existing knowledge, quite often, becomes a stepping stone. A real vision is beyond existing knowledge and also it may demand value support. This is more so when it is connected to living beings. Such visions may require even giving up existing knowledge to project a new vision. Sometimes, outworn knowledge has to be forsaken to get new cherished ideas through one’s imagination. A clear vision of or on anything may be subject to superstition, bias, prejudice and a tendency to see what one wants to see rather than what is really seen. A concrete vision needs to be based on the impressions of past experience or even power of knowledge and their possible projections into the future and measured by existing realities. Events, episodes, exercises or actions are most often possible only when a person has a vision about them. A more successful vision becomes effective only because they have had a predecessor as its vision. Therefore, three aspects of imagination; fantasy or fancy, perception and vision make every human effective and successful.





By Prof Sunney Tharappan
Prof Sunney Tharappan, is director of College for Leadership and HRD, Mangaluru. He trains and writes and lives in Mangaluru.
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