What is imagination?

   Imagination is a change in consciousness due to attending to experiences not present to the senses, but which have been present at some previous time. Imagination and remembering are alike in that both process-es depend upon revival of past experiences, but in remembering there is present a more or less definite recognition of the experience as something which has been present in consciousness before. The simplest type of imagination reproduces past experiences without much rearrangement or change of details. The train of images passes through the mind, each one serving as a suggestion to call up the one that follows; all are commonplace and differ from the original experience only in being less accurate and less vivid. All normal human minds are capable of this kind of imagining.

   But if imagination stopped here, human society would make little change. Art, invention, discovery, progress depend upon constructive imagination. The mind which imagines constructively is limited by past experience only as to the elements used. No one can imagine a totally new color, a sound different from anything ever heard, or an odor not at all like any ever smelled before, but almost every one can recombine elements of past experiences in such manner as to produce results which seem quite new. To possess great facility in constructive imagining one must have, therefore, varied and rich experiences from which to draw the elements needed. Children who live in city slums can have but little construc­tive power. The variety which comes from a good country environment has long been recognized as conducive to this kind of im­agining.
Power to imagine constructively is one of the most important qualifications for leadership. The true leader must be able to free himself from limitations of space and time. The future he pictures must be unlike the past he has experienced. To in­duce all persons to use elements of old ex­periences in new ways is one of the great problems of education. Practically everything of value that the race has accomplished has existed first in the mind of those who could imagine constructively.