What is meant by “Ideas leave not their source”?

Q #610: Please explain “Ideas leave not their source.” I’m having a hard time understanding it.

A: A Course in Miracles twice refers to this principle as one of the basic or central thoughts in its teachings (W.pI.156.1:3; W.pI.167.3:6,7), so it’s good to understand it. It’s a foundational thought in understanding both the Atonement principle and the process of forgiveness.

In the Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles, Kenneth Wapnick restates this principle as “an idea cannot leave the mind that thought it.” So at the level of Heaven, this means that we, as Ideas or Thoughts created, or thought, in God’s Mind (T.6.II.8:1,2), cannot separate from Him — the separation cannot happen. We must remain as Ideas in the Mind that thought us — we cannot leave our Source. Another way of thinking about this is that if God is All That Is and there can be nothing outside Him, then we can not be anywhere except where He has placed us, within His Mind. This is the basis for the Atonement principle, which asserts that the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:5,6,7,8; M.2:2).

Now the ego, which is the illusory thought of separation, would like us to think differently, and the body and the world are what it offers as proof that we are indeed separate from our Source. And certainly our experience is that there is a world external to us that operates on each of our separate bodies, independent of our own thoughts. But the Course, drawing again on this principle and applying it to the Son’s seemingly split mind, asserts otherwise. The thought of separation, and the guilt that the ego tells us must accompany it, cannot leave the ego mind that thought them. The ego’s plan to escape guilt by projecting it outside the split mind is a doomed venture, for our desire to see guilt outside of ourselves constitutes an attack, both on ourselves and on what or whom we want to see as outside ourselves, which only serves to reinforce and maintain the guilt in our own mind, and not escape from it.

To help us understand how something which seems so very real and separate from us can still be within our mind, Jesus uses the metaphor of the dream to describe our experience in the world (T.10.I.2,3; T.18.II). Certainly, when we are asleep at night, dreaming, we seem to be a body, and a world seems to exist separate from the self in the dream we think we are. But that is only because our mind has mistakenly identified ourselves with one specific figure in the dream, to which the rest of the dream world seems external. And yet, upon awakening, we recognize that the self we thought we were and the world in which that self moved and all the other figures in the dream were all contained within our dreaming mind — the ideas of which we were dreaming never left their source in our mind. There was nothing outside our mind, external to us, despite what our experience while we slept and dreamed seemed to be. Our waking world, Jesus tells us, is no different (T.10.I.2). Although it appears to be outside, it has never left its source — the guilt over separation within our split mind. And this is the basis for the Course’s process of forgiveness.

For if all the other figures in my life who seem to attack me in various ways and cause me pain are really nothing but projections of the guilt that has never left my own mind, then I am not really needing to forgive anyone but myself. And my brothers, who only seem to be outside of me, are simply giving me the opportunity to get back in touch with that buried guilt in my mind, which I have made them symbols of.

Now, even with an intellectual understanding of what the Course means and how this process works, our resistance to putting it into practice is going to be tremendous. That resistance, for example, would explain why you would have found yourself having such difficulty understanding what the phrase itself, “Ideas leave not their source,” means. For it turns our whole world upside down and inside out, or perhaps more accurately, outside in!

The gentle steps that Jesus is leading us along do not require that we accept totally what he is teaching us here, but only that we have the humility to acknowledge that perhaps our interpretations of what seems to be happening to us are mistaken, and perhaps we will be happier acting from a recognition of shared interests with all our brothers, rather than from separate, competing interests. For, in the end, we will each come to realize that not only are we and our brothers the same, but we are one. And so, to quote another Course principle that depends on this one as well, “All that I give is given to myself” (W.pI.126).


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