This was a favorite phrase in one of the earliest ACIM study groups I ever attended. The “leader” – a gentle man who sort of guided the gathering and who introduced me to Tara Singh – was always saying it. Whenever he and I talked outside the group about how some challenge or issue in life related to the Course, he always ended by reminding me that “this need not be.”
Indeed, it is a helpful way to anchor oneself in the Course, a nifty phrase that neatly skewers the ego and turns our minds back in the direction of God. It does this because all in just a handful of words it encapsulates several key ideas that make up the belief system of A Course in Miracles.
First, it is a reminder that our present circumstances reflect a decision that we have made. The ego’s M.O. is to make sure that our lives reflect some degree of Hell – maybe our job sucks, maybe our relationships are off, maybe we have to eat chicken instead of steak. Maybe somebody we love died today. It might be cancer or a headache. It might be a bill that we don’t know how we’re going to pay. Whatever it is, it’s goal is to ensure that we experience – and perpetuate – our seeming separation from God.
All of this is a decison that we make – a decision to believe in separation, to indulge that part of our mind allied to separation. It’s easy to think that we’re pawns in the ego’s game, but it’s not true. The ego can be thought of as little more than a decision (or choice) to ignore the voice of Spirit.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
The second thing this section – and its lovely title – can do is remind us that everything we experience, be it a feeling like sadness or an apparent fact like cancer, is changeable. That’s the dominant characteristic of this world (and body) – they are like separation radios, designed only to perceive (not to know). We can change the channel from the ego to Jesus any time we want to. And when we do, things are going to change. Nothing but the One-mindedness to which we aspire – and which is outside the realm of what the Course teaches – should be considered “etched” in stone.
Our feelings are good evidence for how we’re doing in this regard – a fact tactily acknowleged by this section as it reminds that whatever leaves us feeling anything other than joyous is negotiable. Check your emotions. When they are out of sync with joy, it’s testimony that our minds are not aligned with God. We are supposed to be happy – no, we are supposed to be joyous! When we’re not, we’re not listening to Jesus. We’ve fallen away from God’s will. We’re not using our minds to their natural and highest use.
And it doesn’t need to be that way.
Finally – as both the previous thoughts suggest – this phrase is very much a restatement of the Course’s important approach to cause and effect.
The world suggests that we are passive or even victims. Our emotional condition is a response to circumstances which are outside of us and beyond our control. The Course asks us to revise that: we look inside, choose the feeling (or world) that we want and then project it outwards. The feeling precedes the external manifestation, if you will.
Thus, we are in control. We are responsible. This is a big charge, one that can be awfully difficult to accept. It is easier to be passive – to project everything onto an indifferent God, or an all-powerful suffering Jesus, or some nebulous new age cosmic energy. I’m not knocking those things as symbols – but in the end, we are left without our minds and their great creative power. This is what the Course aims to teach us: mind is everything. Mind is the whole game.
Carry it with you: This need not be. It can remind you of all the power you have – which boils down to the power to listen to Jesus instead of the ego, to have your mind prepared for the creative grace of God. It will happen as soon as you are ready to say yes. To anything else . . . it need not be.