Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bernadette Roberts - The Experience of No-Self


This work on nondual realization is a detailed report on growth beyond
what may be called the final duality, or what Roberts calls the first of
two distinct and separate movements in Christian contemplative

The first contemplative movement is described as union of the self with
God, where God is the "still-point and axis" of being. In the first
movement, self is not yet lost, but functions as a higher self in its
union with God. The sense of personal selfhood remains. Abiding in God
remains. Being centered in God remains. The divine life remains. God and
self remain.

But in the second contemplative movement, self and God fall away, and
"that" remains. Union with God gives way to God beyond union. The mind
becomes fixed in the permanent now. The self's union with God transcends

"Here now," Roberts says, "begins the journey beyond union, beyond self
and God, a journey into the silent an still regions of the unknown."

So begins the outline of a detailed and revealing journey whose insights
are fresh and capable of nudging a person toward a further
understanding. It is also without reference to Eastern traditions and
vocabulary, which makes it interesting and different.


Roberts describes a quality of silence she had known on occasions, which
was so total as to evoke fear, annihilation, point of no return. Always
she would return to her usual self, warding off the fear through willful
thoughts of God, thus breaking the silence.

One day, however, that silence could not be broken, for the fear did not
come. And so there was no reason to return to the relationship between
self and God.

Roberts simply remained in that great silence.

For 8 days the silence rendered her almost unable to function. There
were moments of exhaustion and near black-out. Every chore had to be
done with great attention to every detail.

By the 9th day, Boberts was able to function as usual, but she noticed a
part of her mind had closed down. She had become emptied of the past and
come to live in the present moment.

Trying to understand that silence, Roberts first perceived it to be a
kind of absorption into God. Then, after a month, she revised her
peception to be one of "seeing", a kind of opening-up, not a closing

She soon discarded that perception and decided to research the works of
John of the Cross. There she found nothing describing her experience.

Coming home that day from the library, Roberts turned her gaze inward
and saw there was no longer a center, no longer a self. There was
emptiness. She felt great joy and lightness with this knowledge. She
decided that this emptiness and joy was Christ. She could live forever
with that. However, further annihilation was in the cards.

read more HERE

Also an interview with the author:
Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhaia, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambhala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the “unitive state,” the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experiences of others. 

a research paper
by Bernadette Roberts


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