Perhaps the first thing that stands out about this lesson is the repeated emphasis on only being able to reach the goal of God (the focus of yesterday's lesson) if we bring our brother with us. Look at all the ways this is said:
- Forgetting my brother's past "is the thought that leads the way to You, and brings me to my goal [of God]" (1:1).
- I cannot reach God "without my brother" (1:2).
- To know my Creator, "I first must recognize" (1:3) the brother that God created one with me.
- "My brother's is the hand that leads me on the way to You" (1:4).
- "My brother is my savior" (1:7).
- Only if I honor my brother, who bears God's Name, will I remember that that Name "is my own" (1:9).
These are very extreme statements. I not only need to honor my brother and recognize him as an extension of God, I must also bring him with me to God, and even more, let him lead me there as my savior!
I've got a better idea. I think we should use the spiritual path as a way to escape from our irritating and impossible brothers, so that we can slip off into cool Nirvana and leave them all behind, and by doing so, demonstrate how far above them we are—the final proof of how wrong they were about us. Enlightenment as our final act of revenge! I like it.
I'm kidding, of course, but if we are honest with ourselves, we will probably be able to find that impulse within us. And it's understandable. The fact is that the peace of God will never give us the kind of trouble that other people dish out on a daily basis. Why wouldn't we want to get away from them by doing a swan dive into the deep end of that peace?
We can see the first paragraph, then, as a correction for this widespread and understandable impulse to use the spiritual quest to escape from others, leaving them unforgiven while leaving them in the dust. Instead, we honor them as bearers of God's Own Name. We recognize them as the masterpiece of our Creator. Rather than leaving them behind, we tell them, "I cannot go without you, for you are a part of me" (S-1.V.3:9). And we even let them show us the way, by allowing their love and gratitude to reveal the divinity in us that we cannot yet see. As Edgar Cayce said, "You'll not be in heaven if you're not leaning on the arm of someone you have helped."
But what does all this have to do with forgetting our brother's past today? The answer, I expect, is obvious. His past-particularly, his past sins—is precisely what blocks all of this from happening. When we see him in light of all the unkind, inconsiderate, self-serving, and downright rude things he has done to us, we certainly cannot see him as God's masterpiece who bears God's Name. And rather than taking him with us all the way to God, we'd prefer to throw him over "a nameless precipice" (T-24.V.4:2).
If we are to get to God, we therefore have to forget our brother's past. Is this just denial? Are we just supposed to look the other way in order to be good and keep the peace? Sentences 5 and 6 give us the answer. We forget the past precisely because "the past is gone" (1:5). Why spend our time dwelling on what does not exist? We see those who live in the past, and act like it's present, as senile, as not having all of their marbles. Do we want to see ourselves that way?
The next sentence takes this even further. How does the past still seem present to me? I "cherish it within my heart" (1:6). It is this act of cherishing what no longer exists, hugging it tight, loving it despite its lack of substance, that keeps me convinced that my past sins are real, and therefore that I do not belong with a holy God. So we aren't talking about denying what is real; we are talking about ceasing to cherish what isn't real, ceasing to breathe life into what is dead and gone. We have been willfully swimming against the tide. All we are talking about now is relaxing.
The prayer for this lesson is quite interesting. Do you see the logic in it? Your brother cannot be any less holy than Jesus (for God creates all the same). So if you see your brother as sinful, you will also see Jesus as sinful. This is why Jesus can seem so threatening—our dark perception of our brother washes over and darkens our perception of Jesus. Therefore, to truly forgive Jesus, we have to forgive our brother. And that new bright perception of both will then wash over and brighten our perception of ourselves.
One last thing: To get the most out of today's lesson, it is crucial to make it specific. It will not do very much good to make it a generic "brother," so that by saying, "Let me forget my brother's past today," you are forgiving an abstract brother who stands for everyone and no one. Instead, I suggest that each time you repeat the lesson, make the brother specific: "Let me forget my brother Jim's past today." This specificity will make all the difference.
As a response to temptation, try thinking of a particular person you are carrying a grievance toward, and then repeat the following:
Let me forget my brother [name's] past today.
Because if I see that his sins are in the past, I will see that mine are, too.
Because if I believe that he bears God's Name, I will believe that I do, too.
Because if I see that he is God's masterpiece, I will see that I am, too.