THE story of big business is the story of imagination. Every factory sings the saga of a dream; every whirling wheel of the Transcontinental beats it out measure by measure. You can hear it in the staccato of the riveting hammer; your own motor hums it; and far above your head it is intoned in the swift processional of the winged plane. The great romances of America will be written around the adventures of industry. Harriman dreamed a railroad across the continent, holding pencil and paper in hand and tracing imaginary lines.
Langley watching the flight of the birds caught the ghostly outlines of the heavier-than-air machine that was later to sweep the sky. Carnegie and Gary, each in his way, spun the steel fabric that dramatizes American progress. The rise and fall of markets, the inflow and outflow of merchandise, the flame of passion that lights a nation to arms and the flicker as it dies in the cold morning of victory—these, too, were once “only a thought.” All progress, all invention, all machinery, all organization, are the crystallization of dreams.
Let men talk, if they will, about “the hard-headed business man.” But he is neither wood nor ivory, and, contrary to popular opinion, he does not have glass eyes. Over the hot metal of his mind there hovers the
blue light of creative thought. He is a leader, a master, a power, because he had the imagination to assemble all the intricate parts of the great machine of industry. He had to formulate the plan that causes a thousand unrelated pieces, forces, mechanics, laborers, artisans, architects, to become as one, to act and react harmoniously each on the other to some great end.
Practical, dynamic, ruthless, it may be, but not unimaginative. The bridge that spans the torrent, the tunnel that pierces the vitals of the earth, the structure that outvies the Tower of Babel, are human dreams come true.
It was reported in the press that Edison on his seventy- first birthday declared that one of the qualities of success which is vital to the young men of today is imagination. It must be cultivated. Arthur E. Stilwell, who built more miles of railroad than any man living today, told me that all he ever did was the outcome of a mental picture which was presented to him so clearly as to have all the apparent reality of having been created and sketched by another mind. His imagination was like a die stamping its imprint upon the responsive surface of his practical mind. It was like the intelligence department of an army, for it ran ahead of the rails and spotted out difficulties to be avoided and advantages to be won.
The unimaginative mind cannot hope to see the good which lies ahead to encourage him nor the bad to be avoided. When the day of disaster is upon him, he wonders at his “hard luck” or blames an “Inscrutable Providence,” not knowing that his own lack of imagination is scrutable improvidence.
The first quality of creation in any line is imagination. Imagination is the model, the plan, the sketch, the aim, the goal, the dramatized idea, the concept without which the form itself can never appear. The image is necessary to the actual. God himself cannot be conceived as having created without first having a mental picture of the thing to be created. There are no “things” from which the Originating Mind can pattern. The idea must exist first. The thought becomes the thing, but it must first be thought. For every phenomenon there must be a noumenon. The germ in the seed, the life-principle in the egg, the soul in the body, determines the form into which it will develop. What you will have will be determined by what you will to have. Imagination is not will but it is the sine qua non, of will. You cannot will unless you have something about which to will.
Imagination is a time-saver, a labor-saver, a trouble- saver. It prevents wasted effort, it hews to a line, and it marches to a goal. It has a way of getting things done which astonishes us. We had thought the thing
insurmountable until some master came along and inspired the worker with his dream. Suddenly the end appeared like magic.
Imagination has a way of working out its own problems. We can better understand this if we will recall what we said in an earlier chapter about the subconscious mind. We there found that the subconscious is creative, tending to work out the details of all plans submitted to it; creating a diseased form for those who hold a diseased thought; bringing health to those who impress the idea of health upon it. The body is subject to habit. Repeated action and thought create definite reflexes. What you believe, you begin to do; what you continue to do, you eventually find yourself doing automatically. This is why we are told in the Scripture to “guard our thoughts.” And again, “Keep thy heart (thoughts and emotions) with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
One of the most interesting experiments of which I have known was one performed by the well-known practical psychologist, Dr. William F. Kelley. He one day determined to impress his subconscious forces with the idea of the automatic movement of some part of his body to show that one direct impression planted at the psychological moment will produce permanent results. He accordingly placed himself in a self-induced subconscious state and affirmed that his thumb would
automatically swing from the joint and go on “waggling” in this way indefinitely and without his conscious control. After “planting the suggestion,” he brought himself back to normal consciousness, and began observation of the thumb. He found that the action was autonomic and the reflex as definite as though acquired by long practice. No amount of conscious effort or command was sufficient to control the movement. The subconscious mind had accepted the idea and continued to carry it out. He tells very amusingly of the unexpected call of a friend at this moment and how “for two hours I held my waggling thumb behind my back in the greatest state of uneasiness as I was not prepared to pronounce my experiment a success until I was sure I could safely conclude it by stopping the wiggly thing!”
Having later on secured the time necessary for specific concentration, he became sufficiently subjective to reimpress the subconscious with the desired mental image, upon which the movement ceased.
“This is a graphic illustration of the creative power of imagination. It shows why a belief begets the thing believed; why disease is, as Mrs. Eddy says, “An image of thought held in the mind until it appears on the body.” Failure is a mental image crystallized into form.
There are those who are always declaring that they expect to fail; that they never have any luck; that the other fellow always gets ahead. And they reap as they sow.
On the other hand, we see men and women excelling in every walk of life because they excel in the powers of imagination. Hear what Nurmi, the great mercurial marvel, claims is the secret of his success: “Muscles—a piece of rubber!” he cries scornfully.
“Muscles are nothing. Mind is everything. An athlete is the product of the crystallization of his mind and his muscle is the visualized form of his will-power and intelligence.
“All I have achieved is due to my spiritual, not physical faculties. Body is merely the instrument on which the mind plays,”
The great runner insists that many of his rivals have had better muscles than he. “But there was a spiritual spark,” he adds, “that gave me superiority. A great pianist’s magic does not lie in the muscularity of his fingers, or in practice, or even in his technical knowledge, but in a spiritual something which no one can account for. I consider everything that I have achieved due to my mental faculties.”
Diet, he maintains, is only of secondary importance in a runner’s success. “As a rule,” he says, “a milk and vegetable diet and a generally healthy way of living are essentials. But there are no material secrets which make one man superior to another.” I say that no man ever dreamed too high and lofty a dream.
I say that no man ever soared the heavens who feared to leave the ground. Let your mind run before you to plan great things. In the words of Angela Morgan:
“I will hew great windows for my soul, Channels of splendor, portal of release;
Out of earth’s prison walls will I hew them, Through stratus of human strife and passion, I will tunnel a way, I will carve and fashion, With the might of my soul’s intensity, Towering out of Time.
I will breathe the air of another clime, That my spirit’s pain may cease.
That the being of me have room to grow, That my eyes may meet God’s eyes and know, I will hew great windows, wonderful windows,
Measureless window, for my soul.13
13 “Room,” from “The Hour Has Struck,” by Angela Morgan. Dodd, Mead and Company.
Let others warn you of impracticality. Let others tell you “to be sensible and not to expect too much.” Let them advise you of the necessity of keeping well within the bounds of reasonable expectancy. Let them prate of dreams unfulfilled and hopes deferred; let them return to their wonted toil, but I shall tell you only to believe. Believe in yourself, believe in your dream, believe in the power within and around you that takes your thought into the inner recesses of its own being, and in the secret chambers of creation weaves and chisels, molds and makes, or “grows ye know not how,” that which your soul demands.
This treatment should be begun with the assurance to yourself that you are aware that there is within you a virgin power capable of becoming anything you may desire. All new ideas must start somewhere. The possibility of the rise of a new idea is just as great in you as in anyone else. These ideas will rise when an outlet has been provided. This outlet is the mental attitude of expectancy along the given line, whether it be new plots for stories, new concepts for art, new motives for music, new inventions, new ways in business. Give the mind free play for imagination.
Assert that new ideas are coming to you, and that they are coming of their own accord without strain of any kind. Assert that your imagination is all-creative, that
you are open and receptive to all constructive impressions, and that you will receive them. Learn to look for these impressions and to be quick to seize upon the ideas that rise in consciousness. A very little thread will lead to a very great discovery. “I am receptive to the slightest impulse of Creative Spirit.
New ideas swarm to the windows of my mind begging for admission. I believe in my own ideas and will hold to those which impress me as worthwhile in spite of any objections. I will work to their acceptance and they will be accepted.”