Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mastering the imagination and not the reason

The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone; especially to a wood-cut or a lithographic stone.

Modern people put their trust in pictures, especially scientific pictures, as much as the most superstitious ever put it in religious pictures.

They publish a portrait of the Missing Link as if he were the Missing Man, for whom the police are always advertising; for all the world as if the anthropoid had been photographed before he absconded.

The scientific diagram may be a hypothesis; it may be a fancy; it may be a forgery. But it is always an idol in the true sense of an image; and an image in the true sense of a thing mastering the imagination and not the reason.

The power of these talismanic pictures is almost hypnotic to modern humanity. We can never forget that we have seen a portrait of the Missing Link; though we should instantly detect the lapse of logic into superstition, if we were told that the old Greek agnostics had made a statue of the Unknown God.
Source: What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton

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