Imagination is the Mother of Knowledge


It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. Every invention also leads to creation of a new knowledge. Thus knowledge is created to fulfill the necessity of the human beings. How the necessity or the desire of man does get converted to knowledge?

The answer lies in the ability of human beings to imagine what is beyond the sensual perception

It is through the human imagination that all knowledge has been created. Knowledge can be represented in any form like words, pictures, diagram or audio-visual medium. The knowing of knowledge again triggers imagination as the needs keeps on evolving which again produces fresh knowledge.

What is Knowledge without Imagination?

Knowledge is meaningless without imagination. Imagine reading scripture before a dog. It can have surely no effect on the dog. Imagine giving a book written in English to a person who does not know English. It is useless to him as he can not understand anything from it. Even pictures which are free from the barrier of language have the effect only if they can trigger an imagination in the person. There would be no effect of the picture of the most beautiful women of the world on an animal in the same way the most important diagrams of physics are useless for a man of art.

How are we so sure in answering the above asked questions even without actually reading the scripture before a dog and measuring his reaction?

The answer is again “imagination”.

We seem to know the answers of the most of questions not by reading from any books or by experience but purely by imagination.

What we consider knowledge is nothing but imagination that is triggered in the mind of the knower of the knowledge. The knowledge that does not trigger imagination has no meaning. Even the words like love, God, intelligence are nothing but knowledge that triggers imagination of something in us. These imaginations may be different in each person yet they all have some common traits of imagination.

Every piece of knowledge is nothing but a word which carries a lot of imagination. For example, when we say “The Theory of Relativity”, it does triggers in us the entire theory of relativity (if we have been understood it) which can be explained in many pages. If someone does know the theory of relativity, these words carry no imagination and no significance. If you say the word, like Bill Clinton” it means a person with so many attributes. You can spend your entire life explaining what it means to be God, Love or Bill Clinton, including such aspects that you create from your own imagination which are still unknown to the world.

Thus imagination is the source of all knowledge as Einstein has said,

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”

Scientific Knowledge and Imagination

Often scientific knowledge is considered to be factual and free from imagination. Yet it does not seem to be true. Consider the theory of atom. The Bohr’s model of atom states that each atom consists of a positively charged nucleus having protons and neutrons which are encircled by negatively charged electrons. So when we think about atom, the image of atom is imagined by our mind like all the planets revolving around sun. Yet there are certain information about atom which are not yet known. For example, how the positive proton does came together to form nucleus overcoming the force of repulsion faced by same charges. From where the neutron came into existence and got embedded to the nucleus. From where the electrons came and started revolving around nucleus. These are unexplainable facts of the atomic theory as it is beyond human perception for the time being.

Let us consider one of the first theories of physics viz. Gravity discovered by Newton. We know that all material bodies experience a force of attraction towards each other. We have accurately measured the quantum of this force and its relationship with the mass and distance. Yet we do not know how this force works? Scientists earlier believed that there something called gravitational wave which is present between masses though no such wave was ever found. Einstein using his General theory of relativity explained that the result of acceleration of mass is same as the gravitational force. It means that if you are sitting in a closed space like lift, it is impossible for you to state whether the force experienced by you is due to the gravitational pull of a mass or due to acceleration of the lift. When Einstein gave this theory of space-time continuum, it was not accepted easily as other people could not imagine what Einstein imagined in making the theory of relativity. Hence his theory went unnoticed for more than 15 years. Many such theories die their natural death as people fail to imagine the contents of these theories.

Similar is the case of other commonly observed forces that exist between electric charges and magnetic substances. All the waves of electrical and magnetic charges are imaginary but useful to understand the effect of charge or magnetism.

On further imagination, you can easily conclude that even if it is presumed that the waves of gravity, electric charges and magnetism exist, it still can not explain how waves casue attraction or repulsion. This aspect is still beyond the imagination of human being, hence left beyond the purview of scientific knowledge.

Now consider Big Bang theory. It does explain many things that are known about the universe except that it is impossible to know what existed before Big Bang. There must be some thing existed before Big Bang, yet no theory is created because it is beyond the imagination of human mind.

John Dewey summarized the role of imagination in the scientific inventions in the book, “The Quest for Certainty” in following words.

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.

Thus knowledge stops where the human imagination stops. Yet in every era, people are born who dare to think beyond the obvious and discover new knowledge from the treasure of Nature and God.

Imagination Pervades Humanity

Imagination is the ability of man to form mental images, or the ability to spontaneously generate images within one’s own mind. Yet imagination is not voluntary as it happens automatically if one desires for it. Further, imagination is not individualistic but consists of many common features. There seems to be a common thread of imagination that is present in all human beings since his birth. The inborn imagination does not seem to have changed much over thousands of years.

An artist knows the truth of this all pervasive imagination that forms core of human personality. Therefore, when he makes an art using his imagination, he really captures the imagination of all humanity in it. A good poet or writer writes a poem or fiction using his imagination yet his creation triggers the same types of imagination in vast number of people. Thus people understand the knowledge and emotion of the author through the words of the literature or the picture of the arts.

Imagination is also in the core of the ability of the man to become a leader. A leader through his imagination captures the imagination of the masses and transfers his imagination in their mind. Thus a good leader is one who makes his imagination as the imagination of the people. The success stories of the leaders create knowledge of management and polity. Knowledge is merely the visible tool that is used by the imaginative people to transfer their understanding to the other people.

No human relationship is possible without imagination. We all seem to know the thoughts of the other people from our imagination. The difference between a successful and a failed relationship is the capability of the partners to have the accurate knowledge of the mind of the other person from his or her imagination. A man without right imagination is doomed to fail in both his personal and professional life even if he knows all the theories of the world because even the application of theories needs imagination.

Imagination seems to have many layers. The core of imagination seems to be eternal like the soul of the person while the surface of the imagination may alter with time and place. It is for his reason that the knowledge contained in the scriptures and classics still fills the imagination of the people and continue to be a useful knowledge for people.

Imagination: The Means and End of Knowledge

Imagination is behind all the creations of the world. Blaise Pascal has wisely said, “Imagination disposes of everything; it creates beauty, justice, and happiness, which are everything in this world.”

Knowledge which is the ability of the person to know a thing springs from the imagination of the person. Therefore, it is right to say that imagination is the mother of knowledge. Imagination is like God that is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and source of everything that we can ever realize. Imagination, is thus the manifestation of God in human brain as a famous poet Emily Dickinson said in his poem

The Brain is wider than the Sky
For put them side by side,
The one the other will contain
With ease and You beside.The Brain is deeper than the sea
For hold them Blue to Blue,
The one the other will absorb
As Sponges Buckets do.

The Brain is just the weight of God
For Heft them Pound for Pound,
And they will differ if they do
As Syllable from Sound.