Modern Creativity Comes From the Imagination of Ancients

Whenever we humans create something worthwhile, we can attribute this to the imagination of ancients. As mankind has progressed throughout the ages, our sense of imagination has become a part of our makeup. In fact, we often create an entire world within our minds. This is where we invent new technologies and create new lifeforms and so forth. It is here that we relive events in our lives and imagine different outcomes and lament about what could have been.

Many of these creations have been captured in books and on the big screens. And for a lucky few of us, there have been fortunes made from our imaginations. Many experts in the know claim that if we could see inside the mind of an average 5-year-old, then we would be more entertained than a new Star Wars movie and Harry Potter book rolled into one. In spite of this, there is actually very little documented analysis of imagination by philosophers, scientists, and even psychologists.

Making Sense of Human Imagination

Amazingly, the study of philosophy has said very little about imagination and creativity. Aristotle did once refer to the imagination as a function in people and animals that creates, collects, and recalls visual mental imagery that we use in mind activities. He stated that even when we sleep, there was an involuntary imagination that energized the dreams we have.

Immanuel Kant considered that our imagination acted as a synthesizer of our senses that helped us understand the world around us. Even though the philosophies of Aristotle and Kant differ quite a bit, both seem to pretty much agree that human imagination was merely a subconscious function that pulled in perceptions and bound them into collective representations. Thus, they saw imagination as a type of cognition that operated on a subconscious level. And that this creative function did lay the groundwork for knowledge, but was not actual knowledge itself. 

Understanding the Imagination of Ancients

Even as we look back to the earliest stage of mankind’s evolutionary (or creation) process, there existed a sort of involuntary imagination. This is the time when real life could have been more like the world we experience in dreams that we have. While our ancestors might see a lion in the plains, their memory image of that lion may also pop up randomly while they were engaged in their daily task of hunting and gathering. As our ancestors progressed, this involuntary image perhaps evolved into semi-voluntary imagination, much like we experience today through improvisational creativity.

And then finally, our ancestors come to the full experience of voluntary imagination, which brings together the associations from those first two phases. This is where imagination is finally controlled through a logical deliberation. Examples of this could be seen in cave paintings where there was the voluntary pairing of human and animal images. We have even seen hybrids of animals and various creatives on these cave paintings – demonstrating the earliest forms of ancient imaginations and creativity. It is certainly not a stretch to assume that human creativity evolved from this point.

Ancient creativity can also be observed in the ways that our ancestors solved common problems of their day. For instance, they designed tools when they needed to build. They design bowls, plates, and utensils to expedite eating their foods. Just like in the modern world, every creation started first within someone’s imagination. The imagination of the ancients is what led to the world we live in today.