INVENTING THE FUTURE: ADVANCES IN IMAGERY THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Marilee Zdenek (McGraw-Hill: $16.95; 196 pp.). Told to imagine a pot, what do you imagine? The Grecian urn on which John Keats wrote his ode? A humble flower pot? A gigantic storage pot? A chamber pot? Potsherds? The burial urn of a deceased friend? A test tube?
Given such a general instruction, each of us will, inevitably, make it particular in our own way. And in the particulars, we will give ourselves a clue to who we are--our habitual attitudes, our unconscious assumptions, our makeup.
Conversely, if we force ourselves to begin thinking about some chosen particular, there will be--just as inevitably--some reverberation, however small, of this particular in the imaginative general. Tell me what you imagine, and I will tell you who you are. Let me tell you what to imagine, and I will tell you what, gradually, you will become.
This, roughly, is the epistemological truth that underlies all mind-over-matter popular psychology as well as all indoctrination. Sophisticates may laugh, but in a way, the laugh is on them, for sophisticated minds predictably foil even the most necessary and salutary attempts at self-understanding when those attempts depend on analysis.