Hope and Imagination

9/16/13, by Clement Pulaski

Imagination is one of the most important faculties of the mind. By imagination I do not mean merely the ability to create fanciful stories or other artistic images, but the ability to picture in the mind future events and alternate circumstances. When deliberating over a choice, even a simple one like which pair of shoes to buy, the mind creates images of future possibilities that could come about as a result of our decision. Imagination is at work when we organize our daily activities, as we picture the pleasures or pains that will follow from our actions. Without the faculty of imagination, intelligent deliberation of choices would be impossible. Thus it is plain that imagination is a key component of the rational life that distinguishes mankind from the animals: having imagination is part of what it means to be made in the image of God.

However, like all other faculties with which God has endowed man, imagination is exploited and misused by the Devil, and in fact corrupting the imagination is one of the tempter's most powerful tactics. For example, a man is at his place of employment and is thinking about his plans for the evening. This type of forethought is necessary, but while thinking about his future relaxation and entertainment he develops a sensuous attachment to them, gaining a kind of pleasure from the mental images that he looks upon. This goes on throughout the day, and the man leaves work full of desire for the future that he has built up in his imagination. On the way home his car breaks down, and instead of spending the evening with his expected pleasures he is stuck dealing with the inconvenient situation at hand. He is full of anger and curses Providence, feeling wounded not only because he is deprived of certain pleasures but because for hours his soul focused on and hoped for these pleasures. The man needed only a few minutes to plan for his future activities, but the activities occupied his mind for many hours, not out of need, but out of desire.

As Christians, we hold that Hope is one of the great spiritual gifts that we receive, Hope in the future, in the Kingdom of God. When not engaged in necessary earthly cares, our mind should be focused on this Hope; when our mind is instead focused on hoping for imagined earthly pleasures, the mind becomes weak and easily disturbed, because that for which it hopes can be taken away so easily by external forces. Unlike hope in earthly things, Hope in the Kingdom is not disrupted by misfortune, but only by our own faithlessness and weakness. We should strive to be able to say,

we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal
-2 Corinthians 4:18

It is in large part because our imaginative faculty is directed at earthly things that we fall into anger, despair, and hatred. Carnal pleasures can distract the mind from God during the short time when the pleasures are being experienced, but through the misuse of the imagination our focus on these pleasures is extended and amplified to the point that it comes to completely dominate our mental life.

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