Ideas vs. thoughts

Christian Science Practitioner

It’s tempting sometimes when we are studying something we are familiar with to get into an “I know that”, “ I’ve read that before” or “yeah, yeah”  mode of thinking, but I’ve found that the blessings that come from stopping myself from falling into that trap and digging deeply into the concepts that are being presented are huge!  This is especially true if the concepts being studied are deeply metaphysical spiritual ideas.   Mary Baker Eddy reminded us of this when she wrote “The time for thinkers has come” on the first page of the Preface of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

When I was studying recently I ran across the sentence on in Science and Health on 463:6, “To attend properly the birth of the new child, or divine idea, you should so detach mortal thought from its material conceptions, that the birth will be natural and safe.”  At first I was tempted to skim over it, thinking “I know that.” but I stopped myself and considered it a bit more.

As I was thinking about the sentence I had just read and was digging further into Eddy’s writings so as to better understand this concept, I realized that in all of Eddy’s works she never ever uses the word “idea” with a bodily connotation; she never uses the phrases “mortal idea” or “material idea” for example.  But “mortal thought” or “material thought” are often referenced.  I noted that the word “idea” is always used in relation to God, Spirit, in ways such as “divine idea”, “idea of Spirit”,  “spiritual idea”, “idea of God”, “idea of divine Love” and so on – or, as it is presented in the sentence that I read above, as “divine idea”.  This got me wondering, “What is the difference between a thought and an idea?

I looked up two the words in several dictionaries and found that an “idea” is objective. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary from 1828 says it literally means “that which is seen”.  An “idea” represents understanding (such as “I get the idea.”) and has within it a purpose and a plan.  Ideas are rational, say several dictionaries. They have substance and represent a complete concept.   One dictionary (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary from 1913) indicates that ideas are “a pattern to be copied, or a standard to be reached”.  The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, 10th edition, says an idea is “a transcendent entity”; “a real pattern of which existing things are an imperfect representation.”  That dictionary also defines “transcendent” as exceeding usual limits.

On the other hand my research uncovered that a “thought” is subjective.  Thought is an exercise.  Thought is reflection, meditation, consideration, contemplation.  It is inward reasoning. It is retrospection and introspection. It has no outward substance unless it produces an idea.   Sometimes “thought” indicates concern or anxious care.  Often it reveals human opinion or judgment, which can be right or wrong depending on the quality of the thought.

This deeper understanding of the words “idea” and “thought” has helped me to really value the concept of man as an idea of God or “divine idea”.  I realized each of us, each idea of God, is complete, full of purpose, well supplied, and operates under God’s divine plan.

So what does this mean for us here in the human condition where we “reflect but faintly the substance [idea] of Life or Mind”? (S&H 91:17)

Eddy speaks of Christ as “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness.” (S&H 332:9).  The eternal Christ that is with us now and always is telling us moment by moment how to demonstrate the blessings of being God’s idea.  Through spiritual sense we can hear this divine message and gain confidence, peace, health, and harmony from following its leading.

We also have the example Christ Jesus gave us of how to most clearly represent God’s idea, man – which includes woman too, right here in the human condition.  By being compassionate, healing, and comforting we follow Jesus, the Way-shower, as exemplary ideas of God.

And we have God’s angels!  Eddy defines angels as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality.” (S&H 581:4)  These angels are a result of God’s deep Self-awareness, reflection, introspection, and contemplation of His precious creation.  We are never outside of the scope of this divine thought and awareness.

So, when we feel lost in mortal thought, planning, confusion, doubt and such, we can remember that we always have God, the Mind that creates all ideas, the Christ, the “true idea” speaking to us, and, as Revelation 5:11 puts it, “many angels … ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” that protect us, nurture us, and show us the way to see God and His goodness most clearly here and now.

Recently, I was able to apply this new understanding.   I was travelling alone by car on a very long trip. Several problems with the car came up during the trip, such as the low oil light coming on while I was on the highway hours from home, sliding off a small remote mountain road that had an icy patch during a snowfall, and finding my battery totally dead for no apparent reason when I was ready to begin my journey back home at night about a week later at the end of my trip.

As I prayed about each of these issues when they arose, I was able to understandingly affirm that I was God’s idea, complete and protected.  I had within thought everything that I need to be safe and to make progress.  I knew that because I’m Mind’s idea that my purpose in travelling was defined by divine Mind and I was simply expressing Mind’s plan for me.   At each step I felt comfortable that continuing this trip despite weather and car problems was rational because it was directed by Love and was ordered by Principle.

I knew that all the substance I needed was within the reach of Mind and Mind’s idea, me, and that there was no substance which could hinder God’s plan for me, His perfect idea.

The result of these prayers was that when my car’s oil light came on I was right by an exit off the highway during business hours and was easily able to find an auto parts store where I purchased exactly the oil that I needed.  When I slid off the icy road in the snow, I discovered that within 30 feet of me was a friend in a heavy pickup truck with a chain who was willing and able to pull my car out of the ditch it had slid into, and when I needed a jump for my battery my brother had jumper cables and was available right at the necessary time to give my car a jump start. Then I was able to drive for 10 hours home during the night without any further problems and in fact, have not had any further problems with my car in the ensuing weeks since that time.

As we move through life, we have daily opportunities to “attend properly” our own new birth as ideas of the Divine.  Removing mortal thoughts such as fear, doubt, confusion, and worry from human thought makes way in consciousness for the divine idea to flourish.  Naturally, this keeps us safe!