From John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, madness has been viewed as a faulty mix of ideas by a deranged and violent imagination. This book shows that the relation of the imagination to pathological phenomena is as diverse and complex as the human condition itself. The imagination has the power not only to react to the world but to recreate it. And that power is double-edged: it is as destructive as it is creative.
Recent advances in genetics and neuroscience have reinforced the empiricist approach in psychiatry, to the neglect of subjective aspects of the pathological experience. This book argues that the study of the imagination and pathology is long overdue, and that such an integration will be both theoretically and clinically fruitful. Because imagination can be creatively integrative as well as pathological, the book emphasizes the holistic, therapeutic dimension of imagination as well as its destructive effects. The areas discussed include philosophical perspectives on pathological imagination; pathological imagination and the psychodynamic tradition; and specific cases of pathological imagination in schizophrenia, juvenile pathology, artistic creativity (Vaslav Nijinsky), and religious expression (St. Anthony).