Imagination is another power of the human intelligence. Its importance lies in the ability to move the mind beyond the fixed and rigid framework of the impressions of the senses and the operation of memory. Through imagination, new ways of seeing and thinking can be developed, and as a result, progress can be made in terms of evolving the overall level of knowledge. For example, the senses tell us that the sun moves around the earth, and the operation of memory of an innumerable number of passing days and nights reminds us of this “fact”. Yet the operation of imagination of a different ordering of the action of the celestial bodies raised the possibility of a rotating earth which simultaneously revolved around the sun.
There is of course the danger that left unchecked, imagination will jump to conclusions that are in fact unwarranted and misleading. It is thus important for the logical intelligence to subject the promptings of imagination to a process whereby they are systematically vetted and subjected to scrutiny in a very detailed manner. Thus arose the “scientific method” which raised a hypothesis and then set about to establish a series of experiments or tests and then subjected all the information thus garnered to a logical process that was consistent, reviewed by a body of peers and able to be repeated by others.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The developed logical intelligence uses the imagination for suggesting new discovery and hypothesis, but is careful to test its suggestions fully by observation and a sceptical or scrupulous judgment. It insists too on testing, as far as may be, all the action of the judgment itself, rejects hasty inference in favour of an ordered system of deduction and induction and makes sure of all its steps and of the justice, continuity, compatibility, cohesion of its conclusions. A too formalised logical mind discourages, but a free use of the whole action of the logical intelligence may rather heighten a certain action of immediate insight, the mind’s nearest approach to the higher intuition, but it does not place on it an unqualified reliance. The endeavour of the logical reason is always by a detached, disinterested and carefully founded method to get rid of error, of prejudgment, of the mind’s false confidence and arrive at reliable certitudes.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pg. 823