pseudologia fantastica

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pseudologia fantastica

daya dissanayake

Dr. Michael Glock uses the term 'Pseudologia fantastica' to mean 'Truer illusions, where stories are invented and tall tales are told. Such fictional narratives are also called 'Munchausen syndrome', after the fictional Baron and his stories.

Gilbert K. Chesterton, in his essay 'The Maniac' (Orthodoxy, 1908) said, "The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world." He continues, "Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets. ...Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. ...The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits".

Some would consider Chesterton to have been mad. Several other writers and artists were considered to have been mad or somewhat insane, not only in the West, but even in the East, and even in our own country. Yet Creativity always needs a fertile imagination and it is always difficult to draw the line between sanity and creativity.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, conducted two experiments to compare the creative thinking process of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control subjects. Schizotypes do not suffer many of the symptoms affecting schizophrenics, but exhibit their own eccentricities. Bradley Folley, lead author of the study says, Schizotypes "live normal lives but they often have idiosyncratic ways of thinking". Folley speculates the schizotypes may either have more access to the right hemisphere of the brain, or there may be more efficient communication between the two hemispheres.

Michael Roberts, health reporter on BBC said on 29th May, 2010, "Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia"

Psychologist Dary Fitzgibbon says that those who have the ability to 'suspend disbelief' are prepared to believe anything. Mark Millard says "Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most".

Sigmund Freud had considered daydreaming infantile and neurotic. Those who daydream are subject to fantasy-proneness.

Doctors and scientists have always tried to explain the unexplainable and in doing so, often displayed their own fertile imagination and creativity. It has been attempted by writers too. But if not for daydreamers, not only artistic creativity, but even scientific and technical progress would not have happened.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in 'The Psychology of the Imagination', that "Imagination is the ability to think of what is not". Ediriwira Sarachchandra published "Kalpana Lokaya" (1958), which he called "The World of the Imagination".

"It is only in his work that an artist can find reality and satisfaction, for the actual world is less intense than the world of his invention and consequently his life, without resort to violent disorder, does not seem very substantial.", wrote Tennessee Williams in his introduction to The Glass Menagerie.

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on Imagination, there is a reference from Kendall Walton "what is fictional is what is "to be imagined" given the conventions governing the game of make-believe or the world of the story". But should there be conventions governing make-believe? Probably conventions are needed to avoid 'Imaginative resistance', "when a subject finds it difficult or problematic to engage in some sort of promoted imaginative activity", like when watching a play or reading a novel.

Thanissaro Bhikkho, has written, "All phenomena, the Buddha once said, are rooted in desire. Everything we think, say, or do - every experience - comes from desire. ...Desire is how we take our place in the causal matrix of space and time".

Desire is what ensures the continuity of the human race and 'development', and desire is what feeds our imagination and what makes us produce creative works of arts and literature. It is man's imagination which inspired him to paint the walls of his cave. It is imagination which made him sing his first song. It is imagination of the Sumerians that made them see a goddess in the moon, and it is Enheduanna's imagination which helped her write the first poems.

Closer home, it is Valmiki's imagination which helped him create the Ramayana, on seeing a hunter kill a 'koruncha' (dove) who was with its partner. It is also the imagination of Ravana, or Dathusena or Kassapa, who could create the wonder of Sihigiri, and the ancient poets who could use their own imagination to see into the hearts and minds of the lovely maidens on the rock wall.

The Jataka tales of Sinhabahu and Maname had been with us for over 2500 years, but it was Sarachchandra's imagination that enabled him to produce the greatest Sinhala plays of the 20th century.

David Keef, or 'Manuswara', as he calls himself, in his book 'Writing Your Way', says that writing might be much more than the production of a competent, publishable poem, story, play, or novel. He believes that human imagination contains a kind of wisdom, a vision of wholeness, which we ignore at our peril.

Peter Turchi, in 'Maps of the Imagination', compares the way a writer leads a reader through the imaginary world of a story, novel, or poem to the way a mapmaker charts the physical world.

Even if creativity is driven by imagination and imagination is driven by desire, we can still try to use our creativity to make this world more peaceful, by making ourselves more useful. Just because we have very vivid, unlimited powers of imagination, unless we are really mentally sick, whatever we create using that imagination should be with good intentions.

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