...The imagination is a phenomenally powerful faculty of the interior life of human beings. How it functions, and how it assimilates and recreates images and concepts into new forms, remains to some degree a mystery. It is like an empty stage, and whatever comes to habitually take place on that stage depends largely on what we choose through the will and the intellect to put there—or to allow to remain there. The imagination’s dramas can be generated by the literal events in the environment around us, by powerful emotional and sensory stimuli, and by painful and joyful experiences. It is also the arena where the subconscious mind dramatizes desires and conflicts (either in dreams or waking fantasies), where the lower appetites throw up images, sometimes exalted, sometimes sinful, sometimes a mixture of these. The imagination also tends to reflect the preoccupations and the spiritual condition of the society around us.
In addition, the imagination is a screen onto which the evil spirits can “project” images, temptations presented as stimulating entertainments, offering us pleasurable rewards if we give in to the temptation. The more we give in, the more this dimension of the imagination grows, the more it becomes a vehicle of enchantment of the will, then obsession, and if not wholly repented of, ending in some degree of bondage to evil. If we want to become whole and healthy, the imagination must be trained, just as the body, the rational intellect, and the will must be trained. Any one of these aspects of our personhood, if not brought under discipline and self-mastery with the help of grace, can lead to the domination of the part over the whole. The development of a moral imagination, therefore, demands as much self-restraint and proper direction as an athlete exercises over his body.
St. Jerome, pray for us!