Author: Los (---.drenik.net)
Date: 08-14-05 05:13
Coleridge coined the word “esemplastic” and used it to mean “moulding into unity”.
In the Biographia Literaria, Col made a significant diference between imagination and fancy.
Within the category of imagination he distinguished between the primary and secondary imagination. He said that the primary imagination was “the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM.” It actually represents merely our power of receiving impressions of the external world through the senses. It is an involuntary act of mind. The human mind receives the impressions and sensations from the outside world, unconsciously and involuntarily. It imposes some sort of order on those impressions, gives them shape, so that the mind is able to form a clear image of the outside world. It is in this way that clear and coherent perception becomes possible. The primary imagination is universal and is possessed by all. “Every human being is, so far as he perceives anything at all, a creator and an idealizing agent.” (Wimsatt and Brooks)
The secondary imagination is “an echo of the former”. It is more active and conscious in its working. It requires an effort of the will, and conscious effort. The secondary imagination works upon what is perceived by the primary imagination. “It dissolves, diffusses, dissipates in order to re-create or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still, at all events, it struggles to idealize and unify." It is a creative process characteristic of artists.
“The origin of the opposition between the primary and secondary imagination is vaguely Kantian. Primary i. can be related to Kant’s Understanding, while Secondary or Poetic Imagination is nearer to Kant’s Reason. …… Coleridge establishes an analogy between the imaginative capability of the poet and the creativity of the “infinite I Am”. The parallel between the creativity of the poet and that of the cosmos makes us think of Schelling, but in Coleridge’s account there is an emphasis on the consciousness and deliberation of of the cosmic creativity, so that the word “God” is perhaps more appropriate here. ….Schelling and Plato are reconciled in Col’s dictum that whatever new things we discover are already known truths which had been forgotten.” (unknown author)
“FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with but fixities and definites.”
Fancy is the lowest in rank. It merely combines. All people possess this faculty. It represents a play with mental images, finding new connections between them, bringing them together but so that they retain their individual properties. It is not creative, but “a mode of memory”. “It is the drapery of poetic genius, but Imagination is its very soul, which forms all into one whole.” (author unknown)
The difference could be compared to that between a mixture and a compound. Whereas in a mixture the ingredients do not lose their individual properties, in a compound they combine to form sth new, the opposites integrate, finding a balance or contraries. They amalgamate into a new entity, mould into unity.