Orginative Operations Of The Mind
( Originally Published 1869 )
The originative efforts of the mind, whether of imagination or invention, are effected in a twofold manner. 1. By means of operations which are performed through certain of the intellectual faculties. 2. By means of certain elements which are availed of as the materials for this purpose. The nature and mode of dealing with these elements will be inquired into in a subsequent section.
(1.) As regards the operations of the mind which are employed in the process of imagination, and of invention also, these are of a twofold nature, the first of them consisting in the combination of ideas one with another. Through the instrumentality of this combination, ideas of different kinds are joined together and blended into one, forming by this means an original compound idea or object wholly different from either of those out of which it was constituted, and appearing to the mind as though an entirely and absolutely new creation had been effected, in its nature and properties in all respects varying from any of those which separately contribute to its constitution. Thus, in an analogous manner, in chemical science, water is compounded of certain gases or elements, each of which in its separate state has no apparent affinity or resemblance to the production which their union together serves to originate.
It is obviously of the very highest importance that the combinations which the mind makes for this purpose, and by which, as I observed in a preceding chapter,- all imaginative ideas are generated, should be carried out in a manner suitable to this and, and should, as far as requisite, be regulated by the principles laid down with respect to artistical design and composition in general. Thus, the ideas which are so combined should be those only which would be naturally brought together and united in one object, and not such as we should never see in nature so conjoined. These ideas should also be such as will not only blend together, but such as will, as it were, melt down and amalgamate into one entire and single whole. Moreover, although the combinations which the imagination effects are all the result of art, yet nature should never be lost sight of in the mode of making them; and from her alone should all the materials for combination be drawn, which should, although combined, still appear as in their original state. The combinations should also be as natural as regards the mode of effecting this operation, as are the elements of combination themselves. Indeed, as already observed, all imaginative and inventive efforts in order to be sterling and durable, must be founded in nature. This is the only metal which will pass cur-rent in all ages and in all climes ; and in the highest flights of the imagination, nature should be regarded as the ground on which we must eventually alight. This rule, moreover, holds good in invention as well as in imagination.
In framing a new object or idea by combinations of this kind, it should therefore be particularly borne in mind that the ideas selected for this purpose be such as are fitted to meet together, and to be united in one composition ; that they be such as when so combined form a complete, and but one complete whole; and that by such combination be created an object or idea entirely new and original, instead of a mere modification or change of some of the former qualities of an object being effected, while such object remains essentially, and in all its most prominent and important characteristics the same as be-fore. And the combinations thus made should be such as are possible, probable, and also natural. To the strict observance of this rule, it will be seen, when I come to illustrate the operation of imagination by appeal to efforts of this class whose power and whose daring have astonished the world, that the wondrous performances of Michael Angelo and Homer, and Dante and Milton, are mainly indebted for the success which they have achieved.