One of the reasons why Chesterton is such an encouragement to us is that he understands the role of imagination. This is not the same thing as understanding imagination itself — for no man understands that — but Chesterton does understand the important role that imagination must play. He understands it, and he practices what he understands.
So when Napoleon said that imagination rules the world — a great aphorism if ever there was one — he was simply giving us some material to work with. In what senses might this be true? In what senses might we get all tangled up in what we falsely think of as imagination?
There is a distinction between the throne of imagination—the human heart and mind—and the realm of imagination—everything else. One of the central reasons we are languishing in our public life is that we have allowed a divorce between the throne and the realm. Artists are assumed to be the custodians of the imagination, but because of their insistence upon autonomy, they have become like a mad king who has the run of the throne room, and nothing else. And out in the mundane realm of hohummery, imagination is assumed to be irrelevant.
What this means — when Christians finally wake up to the real state of affairs — is that we are beseiging a city with no walls and no defenses. If imagination rules the world, perhaps we should focus on getting some.