This is a word which means something or nothing. The way it is used makes it everything or nothing, but if it is applied to the power of invention or imitation, it can be understood. It is wrong, however, to apply it to deception, for a person must first be acted upon before his imagination can produce a phenomenon; otherwise it would apply equally to all operators. But to apply it to one phenomenon and not to another of the same kind is not right.
I tell you a lie and you believe it, immediately your inventive power or imagination commences to create that which I have explained. I explain the operation of a machine to you and your inventive power immediately creates it according as you understand it. This is the power of imagination. In the first instance the world says your imagination has deceived you and there is nothing in it, but in the latter case you are right. This is a misuse of the word and you suffer from it. The power of forming ideas called imagination is one of the highest elements in the human intellect and it is the foundation of all true discovery, yet like all scientific facts it is abused and misrepresented.
To give you a clearer idea of the misuse of this word, I will illustrate it by a religious belief. Church members never use the word imagination in speaking of their belief and their religion. Do they mean to say that they believe without this power of creating the image of their belief? If so, then the power that understands is the power of imagination. The fact is that their religious beliefs are founded in deception and they deceive the people into them. At the same time outsiders are skeptical upon these beliefs and apply the words “imagination” and “superstition” in derision. In this way every person wishing to deceive the masses calls everything imagination that does not coincide with his belief. The medical faculty have assumed to themselves the whole power of creating by imagination every idea based on wisdom and all ideas opposed to them are false. In such ideas they say that the imagination that creates them is a disgrace and belongs to ignorance and superstition.
A physician, for instance, may tell you the most absurd falsehood that his imagination can invent, but it is “true” because it has the sanction of the faculty. If you believe him, you use the power which if rightly applied is one of the best of faculties for the purpose of creating a disease after his description which you have taken for a truth. There is no dispute or controversy about that. But if some outsider should deceive you half as much and you should create an idea, admitted by the faculty, then you are accused of being superstitious and believing everything and imagining all sorts of humbugs.
The word imagination is so misapplied that it has lost all the goodness it ever had, and like religion it has only a name without a meaning covering numerous deceptions applied to weak-minded people. I never use the word as others do. When people think they have a disease which I know they have not, I do not ascribe it to their imagination but to the fact that they have been deceived. A physician tells you what is not true about yourself. If you believe it and he deceives you, that is no disgrace to you, for it shows an honest heart and confidence in the physician. Then follows the creation and appearance of the thing he has told you. As far as you are concerned you are blameless, but the physician is a liar and hypocrite and has used your creative powers to deceive you for his own selfish ends. Now when their hypocrisy and deceit are exposed they cry out, “Humbug, our craft is in danger. This quack works upon the imagination of the sick and makes them believe the medical faculty are not honest.”
Let me call your attention to one fact: the word imagination never applies as the first cause. There is a superior power, conception, that originates, and imagination does the work and produces the thing. Error deceives the senses and misdirects imagination. Science detects the direction that is given to imagination and corrects it, if false. All men have gone out of the way, and no one reasons from science. So wisdom classes them all in the dark that it may save the whole by introducing the light of a new mode of reasoning that will separate error from truth. This refers to the subject of health and happiness and not the arts and sciences. The evils that affect the body and mind are included.