Imagination Part Three: Roadmap to Phantasia

By Sam Zanger, Based On the Works of Frank Beddor & Lewis Carroll

In my previous entry into this series on the power of Imagination I remarked on the way this inspirational energy flows from Wonderland to other realms – including Earth. By virtue of this connection the land Through the Looking Glass can view us quite clearly in relation to Imagination. However, the same cannot be said from our own viewpoint.

Long have our best minds sought to understand “what is Imagination” – and I think this essay by Sam Zanger provides a remarkable exploration of this quest for understanding. Without further ado, please enjoy his good work.


"The sense of wonder is the mark of a philosopher.  Philosophy indeed has no other origin."

-- Plato

What is Imagination?

Dubbed phantasia by Plato: the process by which sensation presented itself to the intellect.  He considered it a relative of deceit.  Aristotle considered it one of the senses, akin to sight and touch, but a faculty for sensing what was absent.  To Thomas Aquinas, it was the channel by which angels reached humanity, the visio imaginaria.  Descartes saw Imagination as the space between body and mind, the sensus communis later adapted by Carl Jung into “collective unconscious.”  

“Nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible,” Hume said.  He called it “the illusion of immanence,” a sentiment later echoed by Sartre, who called it “the consciousness of negation.”  Kant called it “the hidden art in the depth of the soul.”  Kierkegaard called it “the medium of infinity.” 

Coleridge: “Memory emancipated from the order of time and space.  Husserl, in the model of the German character that brought us World War One, called it “the neutrality modification of the positing of presentification.”  Hegel called it aufheben, which is completely untranslatable. 

"The sense of wonder is the prerogative of childhood...

It is an essential instrument in creative thinking."

-- Edith Cobb

It’s where we spend most of our lives, yet no one is sure what it is or how we get there.  Our documentary attempts to chart a roadmap.

Ideally, it would run as follows:

What is Imagination?  For most of history, Imagination has been recognized by its agents, the innovators, trailblazers, and madmen, from Copernicus to Shakespeare to Lewis Carroll to Henry Ford to Hitler to Walt Disney who take an idea -- for better or worse -- and use it to change the world.  Daniel Boorstin, author of “The Creators,” talks about the traits they had in common, how their imaginations manifested, and how they left the world a different place.

Knowing that Hamlet was inspired by the death of Shakespeare’s son, or that Bell invented the telephone to help his wife, who had lost her hearing, tells us about context.  It tells us what psychology may have been in the background as the Imagination worked.  But what is Imagination?

In no expression is Imagination more vivid than in the literature of fantasy.  Though the repercussions of fantastic literature don’t match those of, say, inventing a way to manufacture the automobile, still, in no other vein is the ore of Imagination as rich, so it is in that vein we commence our inquiry.  Alberto Manguel, co-author of “The Dictionary of Imaginary Places,” takes us on a tour of Phantasia, encompassing Wonderland, Narnia, Oz, Middle Earth, and so on.  Additional comments, perhaps, from John Clute, editor of “The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.”

Inventing Wonderland” author Jackie Wullschlager gives the anthropology of Phantasia.  Sheherazade, Milton, Blake, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, Jim Henson: masters of a kind of mental chess whose pieces breathed in our minds. 

One of them can stand for all: Lewis Carroll, the imaginative benchmark, the master gamesman.  Morton Cohen, author of “Lewis Carroll: A Biography” and editor of “Lewis Carroll: Interviews and Reflections,” gives an intimate view of the Reverend Charles L. Dodgson.  “He was the shyest man I ever met,” said Mark Twain.  Dodgson seemed to exist only as the vessel of his inner doppelganger, Lewis Carroll. 

Martin Gardner, editor of “The Annotated Alice,” and Carolyn Sigler, editor of “Alternative Alices,” go into how Alice has transmogrified into an archetype— as Princess Alyss Heart so wholly exemplifies— symbolic of imagination (“the princess of imagination,” she might say).

Eva T.H. Brann, author of “Imagination: Sum and Substance,” discusses how Imagination has been assayed in the past, from Plato to Piaget.  She gives a historical overview, bringing home the fact that, for most of history, the Imagination was examined by focusing on what it does; like describing a baby as “A thing that cries, eats, excretes, and sleeps.”  We want to know what Imagination is specifically.  Up until recently, no one had a credible answer.  The technology to provide empirical evidence had not arrived.  Our roadmap was hypothetical since most of its terrain was unexplored. 

Then, seemingly all at once, the frontier opened.

The enigmatic human mind

Michael I. Posner, Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, has the neurological facts (as they presently stand; it could all change tomorrow).  He tells us what’s actually going on in our bodies when we’re pausing to think.  Welcome to the secret world of ‘uhh...’.

Having laid out the machine, we go into what specifically it is doing.  The Cognitive Process, the science of how we reason, is explained by Howard Gardner, professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard.  Gardner, author of 18 books and hundreds of articles, tells how the imagination activates childhood development -- with demonstrations from Project Zero, his lab at Harvard -- and goes into the social necessity of Imagination. 

What is the medium of imagination?  If a picture has canvas or paper, what does a mental image have?  Roger Shepard, Stanford University professor of Psychology and recipient of the National Medal of Science, talks about the mind’s eye (and ear, etc.).  He gives us the following exercise:

“Imagine an elephant and a chicken in correct proportion to each other.  Describe the elephant.  Now describe the chicken.” [Reaction time for the chicken is usually much longer than it is for the elephant, suggesting that imagination, like photo film, has “grain.”]"

He shows us how we’re not the only species to exhibit Imagination.  Many mammals “play pretend” (lion cubs, for example, play-fighting).  Pigeons (among others) demonstrate the ability to “see” things that aren’t really there; recognizing, for instance, that Ә and e are the same thing.

A Lion parents his Cub, encouraging sneak attacks and stalking

Can the process be replicated by a machine?  Stephen Kosslyn, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, is a pioneering researcher on how the brain uses visual imagery, and author of “Wet Mind,” on the design of computers to perform visual perception and reasoning tasks.  He talks about “imagination imaging” and goes into AI.

To go further into AI and the future of Imagination: Douglas Hofstadter, professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at the University of Indiana, whose Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,” is required reading in the field of artificial intelligence.  He’ll introduce us to MINSTREL, the computer that writes fantasy stories.

Creative computers are at the next off-ramp, but where does the road lead after that?  Will we one day reach the end of Phantasia?  Will we learn to expand it, becoming like the Wonderlander characters in “The Looking Glass Wars” with psychokinetic abilities? 

For now, we can only imagine.

Imagination Part Two: Wonderland Beginnings

Imagine a world of blind people.  They can feel warmth, but not see light.  Days and nights would just be warm times and cool times.  As science on this world advanced, there would be a realization that warmth has a source, the sun, which rises and sets.  A mysterious, invisible disk whose motions control warm times and cool times.

The Earth’s sun provides our world with energy, fueling change and life, but what if Earth has a second, hidden star?  A star whose changes are not effected in space and time, but in higher dimensions?  A star whose radiance, whose glow does not create changes in matter and motion, but changes in consciousness. A physical generator of ideas, a fountainhead of imagination.  An invisible wonderland whose warmth can be felt the most open and gifted, but remains unknown and beyond the understanding of people who are blind to the glow.

Many planets orbit the Sun, and there are many planets bathed in the glow of Wonderland.  What would we do if one planet tried to take the sun’s light and heat for itself?  What if Martians revealed themselves and tried to drain all the sun’s energy leaving the earth cold and dead?  There would be one choice: war.  And this is what happened in Wonderland.

The House of Hearts is the royal family of Wonderland (Queen Theodora, King Tyman, Princesses Rose and Genevieve)

The Hearts were the first to reach Wonderland, and discovered a particular crystal, now known as the Heart Crystal, could be used to channel and control the glow of Wonderland.  The disruption and eventual cessation of the Glowflow led scientists and artists on three other worlds to discover and invade Wonderland.  The Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades struggles for years in a fantastic war of imagination, conjuring creatures out of dream and nightmare.

Eventually, saner heads then the discoverers prevailed and established peace between the creative leaders of the 4 worlds.  A city was established around the Heart Crystal and a keeper of the crystal was selected.  The crystals energy most easily communicated with women, so women were selected as the crystal keepers.  They also functioned as leaders of those who has taken up residence in Wonderland, and eventually became known as Queens of Wonderland. 

Those who wanted to darken the outer worlds and hold all the creative power for themselves in Wonderland continued to plot and scheme and became known as the followers of Dark Imagination.  Those who wanted to protect the Glowflow to the outer worlds became known as the followers of White Imagination.  The 4 Houses, descendants of the most gifted leaders of the 4 Worlds continue to rule Wonderland selecting a queen from amongst themselves. 

Followers of White Imagination believe that ideas are discovered, not invented.  As a result the followers of White Imagination are more passive, and value preservation, compassion, and generosity.  They trust the patterns have a purpose, a good purpose, and prefer to let things work themselves out rather than intervene.  –

They are individualists, but still place great value on tradition as something to be learned from, not imitated.  Communication and society are ways to share pieces of the pattern and anyone can contribute something to deepening and strengthening both understanding and creativity.  You never know where the next good idea will be found.

Dark Imagination derives from the belief that ideas are invented, not discovered.  The followers of Dark Imagination value the power to transform and control, and are aggressive and destructive.  If the universe is just random rearrangements without any special meaning or purpose, then the only meaning or purpose in life is to extend and project your ideas as far and as long as possible.  Conflict, violence, and destruction are valuable tools for identifying the best and most powerful ideas.

Dark Watcher Queens Maelstra and Torvashi spy on Hatter Madigan during his search for Alyss

The Heart Crystal projects the ideas of Wonderlands.  This means the personality and values of the ruling queen are cast into the hearts and minds of the people on the outer worlds.

A queen’s personality can even survive the death of the queen herself.  In between the worlds, somewhere in the Glowflow, ghostly remnants of the queens continue to survive and remember and inspire, reflecting and refracting the glow of crystal into the particular on whose edge they dwell.

These ghostly queens are known as Watchers.  The Watchers of Earth reside in two bubbles in the Glowflow.

The White Imagination Watchers have created what appears to be a castle on a forested mountain, with waterfalls and streams flowing out of the peak.  The sky is filled with astronomical images that put the Hubble to shame, nebulas and galaxies, and the worlds with 3 rings all large enough to see.  These radiant objects are the manifestations of the glow from the Heart Crystal.  In the center of the tower, growing out of a pool is a tree of gold and silver whose leaves gather and collect the glow of the Heart Crystal.

When the leaves fall and drift down to mountain, wildflowers spring up where they land.  The tree bears fruit rich with pure imagination, which sustains the queens in their afterlife.  It can also grow weapons and told which the queens can provide to champions, called Walkers who act as their agents on Earth, promoting their values and inventions.  Occasionally, earthlings lost in forests or diving from waterfalls find their way to the mountain. 

The Surveillance of Hatter Madigan by Maelstra and Torvashi knows no end-- even during battle

The Dark Watchers dwell in Splinterscape, an island in an underground cavern filled with broken glass.  In the center of the island is a tower of thorns standing above a fiery pit.  The pit draws in pieces of the sea of shards and reforges them into long ribbons of glass that harden and rise and branch out over the island. 

Eventually, their weight becomes too much and the ends break off and return to the sea of shards.  The roof of the cavern is like a geode which thick long colored crystals, glowing with the radiance of the Heart Crystal.  This creative light feeds the tree which bears fruit of pure dark imagination.  The Dark Queens also bestow gifts to their Walkers, although their boons often consume and destroy the recipient.  People in caves, sewers, and tombs sometimes stumble into Splinterscape.

Some White Watchers…

Rory – Short for Aurora, Rory is animated and radiant.  A lover of light, she invented machines to travel to the stars.  Talkative, beautiful, and alert she is a natural leader.

Zephris –  is a collector.  She built a huge library containing an enormous encyclopedia with a list of every invention, discovery, and idea ever conceived.  She also worked to improve education and communication so everyone would be able to access this knowledge.

Neiria – loves to shapeshift and tried to be as many different people as she could.  She inspires people to change their lives into something new and different.

Borea –  was a lover of peace and a queen during a peaceful period in Wonderland’s history.  She created a strong army, a great wall, and many embassies to sustain this peace.  She invented new forms of martial arts which combine meditation to prevent anger and rash decisions with combat skills to ward off and subdue aggressors. 

Siki - A great traditionalist Siki supported bringing back old styles and ways of doing things.  Although new construction suffered some under her rule, many older places were restored and improved. Siki prefers trusting things to work out on their own and waiting to acting.

Genevieve – Murdered by her sister, Genevieve is a careful and thoughtful queen.  A quiet planner and a clear thinker she was able to protect her daughter on Earth from her sister’s murderous rage.

The Conflict between Dark and Light wages on

Some Dark Watchers…

Maelstra – Although she was one of Wonderland’s most beautiful and powerful queens, Maelstra was never satisfied.  Only able to see flaws, she tore down and rebuilt the palace constantly, and destroyed most of her creations in her efforts to improve them.   Although initially a follower of White Imagination, her constant destruction in the pursuit of perfection led her to deeper and deeper Black Imagination.  Eventually, her imagination consumed her own body leaving her a constant flux of incomplete forms and shapes.  Inspiration reflected off Maelstra led to the Kracken in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  A huge writhing consuming hunger is Jules Verne’s impression of Maelstra.

Torvashi – Among the greatest Warrior Queens, Torvashi led Wonderland into a long series of never-ending wars.  Violent, angry, and competent, she prefers action to thought.  Torvashi invented a new way of processing crystal into a physical enhancement steroid and combined it with genetic engineering to create a perfect warrior race. 

Nadine – Obsessed with ownership, Nadine suffers from never-ending paranoia that someone somewhere was stealing her ideas.  She created a patent police to seek and destroy any creations too similar to her own.  In the end, all she created were ways to prevent and destroy the creations of others.

Dorma – Abandoned by her Prince, Dorma was consumed with grief.  Retreating into sorrow, she created statues, poems, and songs, about her lost love, while her queendom fell into decay.

Gloavine – A queen of exceedingly little imagination, Gloavine was consumed with envy.  She created lengthy and elaborate approval procedures for new inventions and under her rule, Wonderland ground to a halt.

Ferrara – Crafty and manipulative, Ferrara uses her brilliant psychological insight to manipulate and control. Always playing mind games, it is impossible to figure out exactly what she wants, or predict what she will do next.

Crumpet – The queen who ate Wonderland.  Crumpet was a brilliant chef, but she preferred eating to cooking, growing in size until she devoured most of the city.  She is the inspiration for Zombie horror films and the associated late night pizza eating.

Walkers are humans the Watchers use to increase the influence of their shade of imagination on Earth.  Walkers are people of unusual creativity and skill who listen to and obey the voices of the Watchers in exchange for information, inspiration, and items made from the imagination of Wonderland.  Some agents know a great deal about the Watchers of Wonderland, while others know nothing.  Walkers can be used for many purposes, such as eliminating other Watchers, preserving of protecting an idea or art work, inventing something, or communicating a message.

(Based on the works of Lewis Carroll & Frank Beddor)

(Part One)

Part One: Wonderland's Imagination Empowers

“Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.”

-       Albert Einstein

Imagination is the lifeblood of existence. Here in our happy little home realm of Earth we are not only dependent on our Imaginations for liberation from the mundane, but also for all innovative progress. A great creative mind can be the difference between total disaster or awesome advancement.

But… Where does Imagination come from? And how does it actually work?

I followed the threads, and I am here to tell you: It all leads back to Wonderland.

All Imagination flows from Wonderland – it may help to think of it as a source and a center of Imagination, the same as the Sun would be for solar power. 

Spreading through the various elements of our world and opening infinite ‘timelines’ for when influences arrive the creative energy escapes Wonderland in mysterious ways. Particularly imaginative people (the Lewis Carrolls, Da Vincis and Jules Vernes among us) are best at utilizing the wonder— but all of us are touched by the gift even if we do not recognize it.

The very best and most vital ideas are incepted little by little from the original imaginative power emanating from beyond the Looking Glass. It may take generations for the inspiration to fully arrive and be realized (such as the idea of flight or space travel—it all began when our ancestors who had no hope of touching the stars dared to dream of doing so, likely with a little unknown help from Wonderland).

We are always receiving small influences from action-packed Wonderland.  Whether it comes to us in dreams, fleeting inspiration, great works of art, or the chatter of children playing – we share an invisible connection with the source of this creative energy.  Wonderland interfaces with our world like imaginative telepathy, a whispering voice in the background of functional chaos.

Wonderland Visits Us Through All Things (Credit: Adobe Stock)

I entreat you to step back when contemplating Imagination. When you allow your mind to have access to more realms than the ‘official story’, history stops being linear and becomes a psychedelic collage.

Imagination is a neutral energy that is shaped by those channeling or using it.  As the Imagination is articulated it can become something of great beauty or terror, it can act as a builder or a destroyer.

On Earth we are very familiar with this element of creativity and imagination – neither is simply good or bad – but both, everything and more. What determines the outcome depends on how it is being expressed. The same is true of Imagination in Wonderland, only more so!

Since Wonderland is the source of all imagination it is truly awesome (in the most specific meaning of the word) just how powerful both Imaginatively creating and destroying become in this realm. Imagination is the essence, the very IT of everything.

While Wonderland Queens (the Red Queen and White Queen) like Redd and Genevieve possess an extraordinary level of Imagination, it is not theirs alone. Everyone in Wonderland is encouraged to value, enrich, and embrace their imaginations. It is a cultural imperative and honor among Wonderlanders.

This may very well be the precarious tipping point upon which our world now lingers. Will we continue to embrace the gift of our Imaginations, or will we turn away? It is my fondest wish that our realm strives to be a little more like Wonderland.

Here on earth, if you are imagining your own world, why not go for it? Why imagine anything less than magnificence? Why censor yourself? I would hope everyone realizes that they possess the power to imagine the wonders of the universe.

Artists and writers know this from literally working with their imaginations daily to 'manifest' reality for others to share— paintings, books, films, drawings…it all starts with the imagination. But this is true for everyone. 

A person of no great creative ambition still will imagine a cake and what it will taste like— first.  Then they will bake it. Or on the flip side— one might hear about the flu and the symptoms. They may imagine how terrible it must feel— and then they have it.  Or they imagine feeling better— and start to feel improved.  Imagination is so much more powerful than people acknowledge— a folly that is never the case in Wonderland.

Alyss Heart on Earth, Her Imagination Always Shined Bright (Art by Catia Chien)

Princess Alyss Heart (or Alice as you may know her) had such a powerful imagination she could manifest 3D objects— that's powerful!  But so can you.  You need a few more steps to get there and cannot do it by virtue of your genetic traits as a Queen of Light Imagination might— but you can "imagine your life— and then it happens" to quote one of the Witches of Eastwick in John Updike's novel.

Equal parts trust and self-assuredness are required for great creativity. To utilize your Imagination here on earth you have to open up your mind – you do not want to copy or be influenced by what has come before – you cannot be controlling of it – you must trust it and let it lead you. The same is true in Wonderland, a Queen utilizing Imagination will be able to channel more power from deep within by fully trusting it and herself.

Queen Redd is limited by selfishness and ego. Princess Alyss on the other hand, joins with the people (as a collaboration) and can overcome the Queen— in fact, it’s like getting hit by a train. Redd cannot believe the power coming at her when Princess Alyss summons the people to link their Imagination power with hers. And so, as Queen Redd nears defeat at the end of The Looking Glass Wars, she quits the fight and dives through the Heart Crystal to escape.

This clash of royal power epitomizes the way in which we must condition ourselves to use Imagination here on earth. We must not waste the creative energy on small, minded gains for only ourselves. No… it is vital that we look to Wonderland’s example.

Imagination is a vast topic, on which I could endlessly expound the intricacies and virtues. For today I will conclude my explanation of our connection to Wonderland via the gift of Imagination—and I shall call it “Part One” of this series on the amazing wonders of Imagination.

Perhaps the next time I will revisit the matter with an eye toward a more detailed explanation of the practical Art of Imagination.