Imagination is the painter and the artist, the interior decorator, of homes. The fancies of the mind are the pictures on the walls. "The soul," said Marcus Aurelius, "is dyed the color of its thought." What about the color of your thought?
In the excavated houses of Pompeii, buried centuries ago beneath the lava, there are rooms which have most beautiful decorations. The color and form are there just as they were when first painted by the decorators. But there are other chambers where people are not permitted to go, where the decorations are not fit to behold. The chambers of imagination are not unlike those houses of Pompeii.
In an old Grecian myth, Gyges had a ring which enabled the possessor of it to be invisible to all. Many would wear the ring of Gyges if they could; and if they did, their lives would be quite different from what the world sees. In the subterranean chamber of imagination, what do you worship? Before what pictures do you bow? Do you do in the mind and imagination what you fear to do in the flesh? Are words spoken there which you dare not speak with the lips? There do you scorn and ridicule one whom you publicly praise or flatter? In this realm do you ever wish another out of your way? What are the pictures on the walls of imagination?
The earth began to take form when the Spirit brooded upon the deep. So it is with the chaos of thought. Imagination broods upon thought and the world of thought takes form—its light and darkness, its day and night, its dry land and seas. The glory of imagination is when thought takes a pure and noble form—holy aspirations, generous purposes, courageous resolves, pure desires. The shame of the imagination is when thought takes ignoble form—impure pleasures, hateful and vindictive purposes, contemptible desires.
A celebrated Italian scholar spent his days and nights in his library among his precious volumes. One morning he was found dead in his chair. The light still burned in his student's lamp. There was no wound or mark of violence, no sign of struggle. The cause of the scholar's death remained a mystery until, upon drawing back the sleeve of his robe, his friends saw on his wrist a tiny spot of red. Then they understood the cause of his death. The red mark told of the bite of an asp. The scholar had opened an old volume in which the small but venomous creature made its home, and it had stung him to death. What happened to that scholar in actual life often happens, figuratively, to those who defile the imagination with an evil book.
Through unrestrained indulgence of thought and desire men are led into wickedness and sin. Before an evil thing is done in the visible world, it is always done first in the realm of the heart. The world sees the outer fall, but not the inner fall, which long antedates the outer. Evil thoughts and imaginations, secretly indulged in, work silently, like minersi sapping a wall, and give no intimation of their approach to the fortress of the soul. When men are overthrown by a given temptation, it is not so much this particular temptation that has overwhelmed them, as the things which led up to and prepared the way for that temptation.
What a strange mystery is the mind of man! It has upper stories of the Hall of Fantasy, where we hold converse with the celestial regions, and gloomy subterranean chambers where we communicate with the regions infernal. If it is thought injurious to one's soul to visit certain places, and go with certain people, then how can it be thought harmless to visit those places in imagination and feast the eye of the soul on those scenes? The best part of you, the immortal part, the heavenly part—your mind, your soul—has gone and has looked, and has been tainted thereby.
Fancy plays like a squirrel in its circular prison, and is happy. Imagination is a pilgrim on the earth, and her home is in Heaven. Shut her from the fields of the celestial mountains, bar her from breathing their lofty, sun-warmed air; and we may as well turn upon her the last bolt of the tower of famine, and give the keys to the keeping of the wildest surge that washes Capraja and Gorgona.—John Ruskin
(1 Chron. 29. 18)
One day a mother overheard her daughter arguing with a little boy about their respective ages.
"I am older than you," he said, "'cause my birthday comes first, in May, and your's don't come till September."
"Of course your birthday comes first," she sneeringly retorted, "but that is 'cause you came down first. I remember looking at the angels when they were making you."
The mother instantly summoned her daughter. "It's breaking mother's heart to hear you tell such awful stories," she said. "Don't you remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira?"
"Oh, yes, mamma, I know; they were struck dead for lying. I saw them carried into the corner drug store!"