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This is a review of a two-DVD set I ordered from Bernadette Roberts’ website. The DVDs are a recording of a three-hour talk based on “the circles course” that Bernadette gave annually for some thirty years. The course is nicknamed “the circles course” because BR illustrated her points with a set of paper circles with their centers punched out to various extents. This series of circles, with their increasingly large centers, represent the spiritual journey.

The DVDs are quite expensive if you have them shipped to Canada and have to pay Canadian shipping, import taxes, and customs fees. They are much more affordable if you live in the U.S., where the price includes shipping.

The videos were originally recorded back in 1994 on VCR tape. Unfortunately there is a lot of hiss on the audio.

The main subject of the talk is the mystical journey. BR says that her description is wholly based on her own experience and not on anyone’s theory. At the same time, she asserts that the stages as she presents them are universal. The main stages to be discussed on the DVDs are the falling away of the ego, the dark night of the spirit, the unitive state, the marketplace stage, and the final falling away of self.

Before discussing these states and stages, BR defines what she means by consciousness. This is important because, for BR, “self” and “consciousness” are synonyms. By “consciousness” she means those parts of the psyche that humans possess but animals do not. She equates this with anything other than the senses. Now, my experience is that pet dogs and other animals do in fact have a rudimentary sense of self. But we will let that point go, since it’s not really critical to her description of the journey.

The key characteristic of consciousness, says BR, is that it “bends” in on itself. Consciousness is aware of consciousness. This reflexive mechanism (“reflexive” being another of her terms for the bending) is why she equates “consciousness” with “self.” Consciousness being aware of consciousness is precisely what constitutes self.

Self happens primarily at what BR calls the “knowing” level. But there is also a “feeling” level of consciousness. It is at this level that the reflexive mechanism actually operates, giving rise to the sense of self at the knowing level. However, it is not possible to verify this for yourself while consciousness is still happening. This is because it is only when the reflexive mechanism comes to an end that it can be full recognized, when you become aware of the absence of its previously familiar action.

At the very beginning of the journey, the self (or the circle of paper that represents it) has a tiny dot in the middle. The is the very center of consciousness, which she thinks might be akin to the Japanese notion of hara, as documented by Karlfried Graf Dürckheim.

On closer inspection, the tiny dot is seen to be actually a small pinprick. Consciousness has an opening in it.

The area of the self (or paper circle) immediately surrounding the central pinhole is the ego. Our consciousness at the initial stage is thus, literally, self-centered.

The journey begins when God touches us, perhaps through some crisis or other revelation. This provokes the active night of the senses as we seek to reform our lives, removing all sensory distractions to the pursuit of God. This is not such a bad night, though, as God may at this time reward us with what BR calls spiritual “sugar cubes.”

The passive night of the senses happens when God withdraws the “sugar cubes” and we reach periods of increasing dryness. God is now in charge of the process, and not ourselves. Thus begins the diminishment of the ego.

At a certain point, the entire ego drops out of the middle of the paper circle (i.e. out of the self). For BR, this happened at the age of 17 when she was reading a book in the monastery garden.

The initial gap left by the falling away of the ego is not smooth, but has jagged edges. This represents the painful period of adjusting to no-ego. This period is the dark night of the spirit, and for BR it lasted two difficult years. God seems to have disappeared because prior to this point, all experiences of God were actually egoic experiences. Without an ego, they cannot possibly continue.

The correct course of action, as BR discovered, is actually to look into this darkness. As she says of the dark night of the spirit in What Is Self?:

“I did not collapse, but was determined to hold still and not flinch come hell or high water. The task is to get to the bottom of this dark hole, to see it is God and to surrender our whole being to It.”

Quite apart from the disappearance of what we previously thought was God, we must also grow accustomed to a new way of life. In the egoless state, we have no will. We feel helpless. The only thing we can possibly do is let go of any remaining opposition to the will of God, which must now be our will.

It is no longer possible to go back to the old way of experiencing God. We must experience God in a new and more profound way.

It make take several years to get acclimatized to this egoless state. (BR emphasizes a couple of times that this is the no-ego stage and not the no-self stage, which happens much further along.)

The dark night of the spirit forms the passageway between the initial falling away of the ego and the final and permanent establishment of the unitive state.

At the end of the dark night of the spirit comes the unitive revelation. Here we see properly what the unitive state is really all about. All our wrong ideas about this state have now fallen away. Where once we thought that our mundane self might be transformed into something very holy, we now realize that what it is really all about is discovering God to be our deepest center. Trying to reform or change the self turns out to have been irrelevant.

We also discover, unexpectedly, that the inward movement of the journey is now over. Once you've arrived at the deepest center, there is nowhere else to go. The journey turns around and goes outward. This is what BR calls the “marketplace” stage of the journey.

We discover that we can now be fully human. We know that nothing can affect what we really are, and therefore we live fearlessly. In the egoic state, emotional provocation would go round and round inside us. We were stuck without a way out of it. In the unitive state, while there is still a larger self that is hurt and doesn’t like it, there is no ego for hurt to cling to. It disappears into the hole where once there was an ego. God, to which this deepest center is our gateway, changes the hurt into peace, joy, and compassion. In fact, she says, some saints go out and deliberately seek suffering at this stage, in order to let God heal the pain of the world.

Life in the marketplace erodes the remaining self from within. In terms of the paper circles, the hole in the center is now getting broader and broader in diameter. As we diminish, Christ increases. Essentially, God is consuming the self.

Although we are living for God and for others in this marketplace stage, this is not motivated by altruism. The whole point is to get to the stage where the entire self disappears for good.

This is presaged by moments when the mind stops. BR uses the word “ecstasy” for these moments, though I do not think she necessarily means they are blissful. Ecstasy just means being without self.

Finally, the reflexive mechanism that creates the self runs out of fuel. The center is gone. There is no more within-ness and without-ness. All that remains is Christ.

Unless you’re familiar with the BR books, I think you’ll need to view this three-hour set of DVDs multiple times to get the most out of them. They are very rich with ideas. And if you have already read the books, then they make a useful supplement. Watching and listening to Bernadette Roberts present her material brings the books to life.
 
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Thanks for the review, Derek. It sounds like you're pretty excited about these DVD's, Derek. I agree that she's an interesting and lively writer who seems to have undergone a deep and powerful transformative process, that's for sure. But I've had some reservations about her accounting of the spiritual journey, which I will summarize below.

I'm very familiar with her work, as you know, having read her early books (not interested in the recent ones) and attended a week-long workshop by her years ago, in which she taught and illustrated the teaching you've described. We also corresponded for several years. Hers is an idiosyncratic model, but it does make sense and I think we can make some connections:

Center of consciousness = Apex of the soul, Ground of being, Esse, as described by others. I have a few sections on this in my new book on kundalini.

The rest of what she describes seems to be an interesting way of talking about theosis, or deification, only, BR does not use the language of transformation. It's not so much that a human increasingly participates in divinity, as Christianity teaches, but that Christ takes over one's humanity. Her anthropology (if one may call it that) posits no soul that is being transformed, but uses the language of consciousness, which is experiential language. Even there, it is obvious that something of consciousness remains as a background, non-reflecting awareness that is observing and experiencing the journey and which permeates and engages our human faculties of reason, will and memory so that one can describe and write books about the journey (including hers). Some dare call this awareness "self," but, as you note, she insists that such term be used only with respect to reflexive awareness. There's also a problem, imo, with how she speaks of Christ: she does not mean "Jesus" when she does so, as she doesn't really believe there's a human Jesus around anywhere in any dimension: he's been taken up into God's "I Am" and is no more. I suppose that for her Christ = Logos, but it's difficult to know why she would exclude the risen Jesus that Christianity proclaims from "Christ" except that she believes he lost his self, too, with the crucifixion, and so without a self, there's nothing left of Jesus (except, of course, his human soul and its intellect, will, memory, etc. and, in his case, his body as well). On this point, she is at odds with the core affirmation of Christianity about Jesus, and so I don't know where that leaves her writings.

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Yes, I find that in terms of anthropology (or, as I call it, the "architecture" of a human being), ordinary developmental psychology makes more sense to me. And as for Christology, her separation of Jesus and the Christ makes nonsense of Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16.

Still, I give credit to BR, as I have found her books and now these videos to be personally helpful. She says at the beginning of the first book, "I have written these pages trusting that they may be of use to those who share the destiny of making this journey beyond the self." For me she has certainly accomplished that objective, even though what happened to me in 2011 was the "no-ego" event rather than the "no-self" event in her terms.
 
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What do you make of this saying she states again and again in her writings (and did so in the workshop I attended): "God is everything that exists, except the self"?

I pressed her on it, noting that this sounded pantheistic. She denied being a pantheist, but would not qualify her statement. There are also many other statements in her books that I flagged as needing more qualification. E.g.

"You cannot look at what Is, for it cannot become an object to the mind, nor, for that matter, can it be a subject. . . The relative mind cannot comprehend this reality; only a non-relative mind sees because what Is equally non-reflective or non-self-conscious. . . "
(The Experience of No-Self, 1982 ed.)

First, one can indeed relate to "what Is" without turning it into an object in the mind or presuming to realize it subjectively. Relating is more from the will than the mind, and we do so with people and creation who are also "other" and "mystery" to some degree. BR almost never speaks of spirituality in terms of relationship; hers is a concentrative, realizational pathway. And so, second, if you approach the Mystery of Existence non-reflectively instead of relationally, you will not discover it relating back, but, instead, It will seem impersonal -- "That" rather than Who.

I don't know why God as "that" is considered a "higher" experience than God as "who" or "relational partner," but that is her presumption, and it's the same one that Wilber and Easterners hold. As Jim Arraj noted in his critique of her Experience book,
- "she sees a possible progress of spiritual development starting "with the Christian experience of self's union with God... But when the self disappears forever into this Great Silence, we come upon the Buddhist discovery of no-self..." (p. 109) "Then finally, we come upon the peak of Hindu discovery, namely: "that" which remains when there is no self is identical with "that" which Is, the one Existent that is all that Is." (p. 109)

She very clearly places the Advaitan experience above Christian mysticism, here, and that is bothersome.

To my thinking (which is also informed by experience), much of what BR describes is how reality and mysticism are experienced when one's non-reflecting consciousness predominates. Once one sees how this works, one realizes that this consciousness is always there and even permeates reflective states, and that one can learn to tune in to it and deepen it through certain practices. But notice that she is also still thinking, choosing, remembering, etc. She might not call it a self, but if we don't ascribe these activities to her human consciousness, then "who" is doing them?

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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
What do you make of this saying she states again and again in her writings (and did so in the workshop I attended): "God is everything that exists, except the self"?


I can certainly visualize what she means, now that I have "the circles course" fresh in my mind. She is talking about the stage where all that remains of the circle is just its rim, and all the rest is the empty center, which represents God.

A paper titled "Nonduality as a Definition of Christ," which she presented at the SAND Conference on October 22, 2015, alludes to this state of affairs:

"While God is man's true center of being (center of all being in fact), man is not God's being! In truth, man's Divine Center is empty of all self; God is literally no-self."

So self is the rim of the circle, and God is the empty center. Hence the statement that "God is literally no-self."

quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
BR almost never speaks of spirituality in terms of relationship


Certainly, almost all Christian prayer, even advanced contemplative prayer, is relational. St. Teresa of Avila, for example, wrote that "mental prayer is nothing else, in my opinion, but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him Who, we know, loves us" (Life, VIII.7). That's definitely an I-Thou relationship.

I think BR's descriptions of prayer are based entirely on her experience, though, and not on a value judgment that her form of prayer is "higher."

Her prayer life seems to have involved rapidly coming to the prayer of quiet/prayer of silence:

"If there was any path on which I could chart my contemplative experiences, it would be this ever-expanding and deepening path of silence" (Experience of No-Self).

Moreover, from the age of 19 (I think?) she lived in the unitive state:

"Once we come to the unitive state, it is possible to come upon a state in which there is no phenomenal self at all. The ability to sink into this state whenever we are not busy with the world (and sometimes even when we are) seems to be an inherent potential at this stage of the journey" (What Is Self).

So the temporary nature of the "phenomenal self" (i.e., the person) had been her ordinary experience for her entire adult life. FWIW, that is my ordinary experience, too, since 2011. In this state, relational prayer seems somewhat artificial, even phony.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
To my thinking (which is also informed by experience), much of what BR describes is how reality and mysticism are experienced when one's non-reflecting consciousness predominates.


That would certainly apply to her prayer life. However, non-reflecting consciousness, in BR's terms, would still be consciousness. The characteristics of the paper circle might have changed, but the paper circle remains intact.

What she is talking about, though, is the sudden and unexpected disappearance of the central portion of the circle.
 
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Ah, I see you just posted, Derek, and I do understand the point about God being our true center, and the center of all that exists. That's basic Christian teaching, and it logically follows that God is not a self as we are. What gets lost, however, is the reality of creation itself; it is real being, albeit contingent.

I see you are now using the term "person" as a synonym for "phenomenal self." I think this is problematic, as it seems to be a denial of individuality. No matter what BR's experience, it's obvious that she continues to think, reason, remember, relate and exists in an individual body. She is not God, and it would be a mistake to think that it is God who is expressing through her human faculties.

I do not like the imagery of expanding circle of nothingness as an analogy for theosis, as it suggests that increasing participation in God's life entails a loss of personhood and individuality. Christ's resurrection and the teaching on the Communion of Saints belies such affirmation. When we say, "I live, not-I, but Christ," we are speaking of the type of life (Zoe) that animates the human soul. The human "I" as subjective presence is not lost on the journey, though its experience of itself will change. There is always a background witness, or subject-of-attention, the "I" as human spirit. BR clearly has such an "I." She doesn't want to call this a self, but she clearly has this capacity to notice and evaluate what's happening to her and to describe it.

Divine revelation shows that Jesus is still "there," his personal human memory intact, after the resurrection. BR denies this (did so most explicitly in the workshop I attended). I think she does, in fact, consider her experience to be revelatory and paradigmatic, enabling her to evaluate even the consciousness of Jesus and the degree of progress made by all other Christian mystics in our history. She is quite clear in asserting that SJOC and others only reached a halfway point, beyond which she has grown, and to which she now gives witness.

I am not meaning to negate what you are enthusiastic about, Derek, only to share some misgivings I've had about BR's writings.
 
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I think that this is precisely her point -- that the journey toward God is essentially the journey away from individuality. Of course, whether or not you agree with her is a different matter.

Toward the end of the second DVD, she does equate consciousness (or self, in her terms, i.e. the solid outer portion of the circle) with "the faculties of the soul," by which she means will, memory, and intellect. So by consciousness she does NOT mean the soul itself, and so the falling away of consciousness does NOT mean the disappearance of the soul.

Even further toward the end of DVD #2, she mentions that people often challenge her by asking, "So who is talking about all this?" Her reply is, "There is no who." But, she says, people refuse to hear this, and they just come back at her by asking the same question from a different angle.
 
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No "who?" They should ask her "what," then? "What" is noting the changes happening to her, writing about it, etc. "What" does one call that awareness?

As I've noted before, hers is a very idiosyncratic system, including her understandings of self, ego and consciousness.

Thanks for the exchange. Smiler
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
When we say, "I live, not-I, but Christ," we are speaking of the type of life (Zoe) that animates the human soul.


BR's application of Galatians 2:20 seems to be the key to understanding her thought:

"Later I thought of St. Paul's experience, 'Now, not I, but Christ lives in me,' and realized that despite my emptiness no one else had moved in to take my place. So I decided that Christ WAS the joy, the emptiness itself; He was all that was left of this human experience."

-- The Experience of No-Self

BR's decision (my emphasis) that day seems to have shaped her entire subsequent anthropology and Christology.
 
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Yes, well . . . I was going to say, "what anthropology?" But never mind! Wink

I think that even with the Pauline statement, the Church has never posited that the individual human is somehow displaced by God and lives no more. The quality of life or energy within changes, but the individual human person is still "there" as the blessed recipient of this grace. There is an "in me" in the statement, and with BR, there is very much "someone" who is the recipient of her experience and the teller of the tale. In my book, God and I, I provide an anthropology to account for this persistence of subjectivity through all of life's changes -- the spiritual "I." I call that Self; she uses the term differently, but she never accounts for this "I," and there's no reason to conclude that she has lost even this.

What kind of a God would create us only to annihilate us? That's not what the resurrection of Jesus reveals. Rather, it is God's delight that we become what God has created us to be -- a fully alive individual who is uniquely gifted to serve and to radiate the divine life. I miss the affirmation of all this in BR. Something seems missing.

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Originally posted by Phil:
it is God's delight that we become what God has created us to be -- a fully alive individual who is uniquely gifted to serve and to radiate the divine life.


That certainly fits with her description of the unitive life, which she lived from maybe her twenties into her forties (not sure of the dates).

quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
I miss the affirmation of all this in BR. Something seems missing.


I wonder about that, too.

She freely admits that she finds no prior examples of the falling away of self in the Christian mystical tradition (and this lacuna provided her initial motivation for writing). She also finds little in the way of real equivalents in her admittedly cursory study of Eastern religions.

So has she really reached a hitherto unsuspected part of the Christian path? Or is she an aberration, as Suzanne Segal and Gopi Krishna appear to be aberrations?

I don't think there's any way to resolve this question, certainly not from the present state of my knowledge.
 
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Are you familiar with Jim Arraj's reflection on her work?

See http://www.innerexplorations.com/ewtext/br.htm

Technically (to my understanding), there's really no moving beyond the unitive stage, as the traditional teaching about this is not framed in terms of self and consciousness, as BR expresses it, but about a union at the level of the will, a faculty of the spiritual soul. The unitive state implies a will that is no longer in rebellion against God but is perfectly conformed to His will. This doesn't mean that the person's actions are performed by God so much as that they are performed in union with God. This can include a wide range of ordinary things, play, fun, etc. -- so long as one is not sinning (which even the greatest Saints admit to doing from time to time).

In BR's schema, an unanswered question is "who acts?" if there is no self, person, individual, etc. Are we to believe that everything she writes or teaches is being expressed by God -- that she is "possessed" by God? That's a logical conclusion flowing from her teaching, is it not? My sense is that is precisely what she thinks is going on, but I don't buy it.
 
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Re-reading The Experience of No-Self, I am struck by how extraordinarily good it is, a very rich account of one woman's journey. I think I'll leave it at that, since any further comment would largely be speculation on my part.
 
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I enjoyed her descriptions of her journey as well, with the provisos noted above. I also enjoyed her books on The Path to No-Self and What is Self?. She's a lot of fun to read, and there's no doubting the authenticity of the experiences she describes, nor the degree of confidence and conviction she has about their meaning.

------

I will say that after being immersed in BR world for a few weeks many years ago, I noted that it all had a profound effect on me -- a kind of sadness, even depression. I was in the thick of kundalini activation and found myself trying to make sense of what was going on with me using her journey as a guide (she does demonstrate k activity, though she will not acknowledge such). Was this where I was going, too? It seemed such an empty place. Somehow I'd gotten drawn in to BR-world, and a consequence was that my mind was unable to critique what she was saying as I'm usually able to do. In time, and as a consequence of dialoguing with Jim Arraj, I was able to articulate my questions about her writings and to pursue answers -- first with her, then when that went nowhere, through my own deeper study and reflection. So she was helpful to me as an example of courageous surrender to the divine, then as something of a koan to help me clarify my own thinking about human nature and theosis.
 
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Having read through the thread, while much of it resonates, some does not, based on my own enlightenment experience.

When I merged with God, awareness remained. It was non-reflective (I like that term, Phil), but it was still pure awareness.

When I 'thought', reflectiveness returned. Perhaps the most profound aspect of the experience was that I _knew_ that the 'I' is eternal. It is 'of God', and like God, it is absolute. While I understand her analogy about the hole and the rim, difficult as all such analogies are, it seems to fall short... in as much as that while God is in us, we are also in God. It was another of the profound realizations from the experience.


quote:
So has she really reached a hitherto unsuspected part of the Christian path? Or is she an aberration, as Suzanne Segal and Gopi Krishna appear to be aberrations?


While I'm not that familiar with Suzanne's work, I have read much of Gopi's work. This is a tough one for some, but once immersed in the enlightenment experience itself, religion didn't even cross my thought or awareness. It was only afterward when I'd returned to this dimension did I struggle with reconciling belief paths with the experience. In addition to growing up deeply immersed in Christianity (albeit of the 'fundamental' sort), I also studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and explored other various paths. Long story short, in the end, the only one that resonates with my experience and what I was impressed with by that experience, is the pre-reformed St. Thomas variety, which leans on various aspects of other paths as well. To suggest or assume that only the Christian path leads to enlightenment, or 'at oneness with God' and 'realization of the God-Self' would be in contrast to the same/similar experiences that others on those paths have shared. For me, it took some time to reconcile that realization from the experience with what I'd been lead to believe.

FWIW...

Peace
 
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Les, I'm wondering why you say the "I" is eternal? That's an attribute reserved for God. We can certainly speak of participating in God's life, but I don't know that we can say that our "I" is eternal. It's "spiritual," which means it transcends all phenomenal experiences, but it is also immanent in those experiences, even during times of reflectivity.

I agree that it is "of God, and like God" in its spiritual nature, but (at least in my experience) there's nothing about it that qualifies as eternal. I know nothing of my "I" prior to my birth. Traditional Christian teaching holds that the soul is immortal, but not eternal; it has a beginning in its union with the body in space and time, and will live forever. Eternal things have no beginning and no end.

I've mentioned the "I" in the context of BR's teaching as it certainly seems that she never loses this spiritual subjectivity. In my book, God and I, this is what I called the Self, as it is the root of our human subjectivity and an attribute of the spiritual soul. This "I" as observer or witness of our lives is present through all manner of phenomenal experiences, including that of reflective consciousness, Ego, depressions, etc. BR conflates presence to oneself with presence to experience, and they are not the same. If one is not present to one's experience, then one cannot remember or describe it, and she obviously does that. I believe this "I" goes into the afterlife as well, along with our other spiritual "equipment," including the memory. That all certainly seems to be intact in the risen Jesus.
 
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Hi Phil,

I hadn't made that distinction but in reflection, it fits. When I was first thrust into God, my first awareness was the brilliance and pervasiveness of 'white light'... my second was the experience of being God... and that sense was eternal. I then had a 'thought', and for lack of a more complete term, was 'born again' out of God, and realized 'God-Self'. It was then that I was elated to realize that the 'I' or 'Self' remains... and as you put it is 'immortal'.

FWIW, I no longer try to frame the experience in any belief system. Rather, the experience dictates the truth. Unfortunately, not all of the enlightenment experience fits within canonized Christianity by itself, nor any other I've studied. What does fit seem to be a cross-section which includes aspects of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Tao concepts. From all I've read, up until the reformation of St. Thomas Christianity, that cross-section was well represented... and ironically, seems to have been reflective of the time Jesus walked the earth. I know many scholars disagree, but it's what the revelation of my own enlightenment experience dictates. Still, much of your perspective also resonates, and I appreciate the distinction even when we may not agree. It forces me to contemplate those aspects.

Always...

Les
 
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Les, you've mentioned "St. Thomas Christianity" several times, and I'm not sure what you mean by this. Thomas Aquinas? That's 13th C., and isn't really a radical departure from how St. Augustine had articulated Christian beliefs using Philo.

In a way, your approach regarding experience and truth is much like many people these days, including BR, to some degree. It's obvious that your mystical experience has been deeply transformative and meaningful in your life, but I don't understand how/why it provides a basis for evaluating the truth claims in Christianity and other religions. For one thing, Christian mystics have reported on such a wide variety of experiences that what you describes is surely within the range of possibilities. Acts 9, for example, speaks of St. Paul's conversion coming in the form of a light from heaven; 1 Tim. 6:16 speaks of God dwelling in inapproachable light; Rev. 21:23 describes heaven as a city that "does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives light;" 1 Jn. 1:5 states that "God is light." https://www.biblestudytools.co...-verses-about-light/ lists 25 bible verses where God is described as light. In his classical work, The Varieties of Religious Experiences, William James describes the experiences of many people who experienced God as light, white light, invisible light, etc. And so forth. So your experience is not off the map of Christian mystical life, and, at any rate, seems to have been more a gift to you for your own transformation than a tool for evaluating other religions.

I've often been asked through the years how I can remain Christian since I've experienced kundalini and the variety of mystical experiences described in my first book on the topic (and I've had many that I've never discussed publicly). At first, I thought this was an odd question, as there's nothing in my experience that sheds light on Christian belief. I've no reason to doubt the core Christian mysteries proclaimed by the Church since the first generation of Christian history. Truth is truth regardless of my experience. It would seemingly be the height of pride and arrogance if I were to say that I know Christianity is flawed because I've had mystical experiences that do not resonate with Church teaching. A far more humble approach would be for me to inquire more deeply of the experience and its meaning, which is a process that can take years to clarify, at times. Indeed, some experiences that seem to be of God initially might turn out to have been caused by other factors, even completely natural ones, like kundalini influence in the brain. Those are some of the considerations that my own spiritual director introduced early on, and which I use in working with others as well.

There are implications, here, for BR's writings and how she grapples with her experience in the light of Catholic teaching, but maybe we can save that for another time. Wink
 
Posts: 3542 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Phil:
There are implications, here, for BR's writings and how she grapples with her experience in the light of Catholic teaching, but maybe we can save that for another time. Wink


Not so fast ... Big Grin

I'll just mention that, when BR was invited to speak at the Science and Non-Duality conference, there were some quite hostile remarks left on the SAND website. People thought that such an evolved group of people had no business inviting a speaker who was so blatantly Catholic.
 
Posts: 921 | Location: Canada | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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LOL! Only a Wilberite would suffice, I guess.

It seems BR might have gone "off the rails" a bit with her book, The Real Christ, which we discussed on another topic. I've not read it and probably won't, so if you do, Derek, let us know your thoughts, please.

In the meantime, there are these links which shed some light on the topic. I think she conflates the terms Logos and Christ, the latter usually being a Greek version of Messiah in the New Testament and applied specifically to Jesus. But even so, she does have some rather odd ideas about the incarnation, beginning with What is Self? and apparently continuing.

See her "warning" on http://bernadetteroberts.blogs...smanuscripts_22.html A snippet:
quote:

Those who believe the man Jesus who walked this earth 2000 years ago was God, should read no further. Since I hold no human being is God, those who disagree will only find this book upsetting and disagreeable. This writing is not for those convinced they have the last word on Christ, but those searching for the real Christ. While I believe all Christians have the right Faith, I do not think all Christians have the right beliefs, right understanding or right view of Christ. Given all the Jesus-talk these days, Christianity comes across as a personality cult, the worship of a human being, which has nothing to do with Christ, it even turns people away. The reason for this writing is my perception that the real Christ has been all but lost to Christianity.


Her further explanation does not clarify. I've replied to some of this on another thread, especially the erroneous notion of some universal human nature existing apart from a human. So, basically, the whole Tradition has gotten it wrong: nothing special about Jesus!

And just in case you think she's interested in discussing this:
quote:
. . .Also, it would be useless to argue any of this since I’ve done my homework, am aware of all opposing views, and regard them as misconceived or wrong. Given the same Christian background and history as those who object, I already know where they are coming from, it is they, however, who do not know where I am coming from, and therein lies the difference.


Sounds like the BR I once tried to dialogue with.
 
Posts: 3542 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Phil:
I've not read it and probably won't, so if you do, Derek, let us know your thoughts, please.


Okay, your post prompts me to order it. It used to be available only from her website, but now there's a printed version you can get from Amazon. It's very expensive, but I suspect its 500+ pages will last me for a while.
 
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Fair enough.

Here, Derek, is another quote from her "Warning" statement re. The Real Christ.

quote:
Reference to the man Jesus is always to a particular human being and never to God. “Jesus” is the particular man of the Gospels, the historical person no longer with us. With his resurrection and ascension his human nature was totally changed, transfigured and glorified, thus he no longer is the historical figure of the past, but remains the example or icon of everyman’s journey and eternal oneness with God.


The whole point of the resurrection narratives in the Gospels is to establish the risen one as Jesus. It is because her anthropology is so faulty that she is incapable of anchoring individuality in the immortal human soul, which Jesus possessed like the rest of us, and which was completely deified while remaining human and individual.

I confronted BR about this curing her workshop in Wichita years ago, noting that even after the ascension, Jesus is still "around." On the road to Damascus, Saul is knocked to the ground and hears a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. (Acts 9:4-5).

BR immediately dismissed this, saying that the "Jesus" part of the statement was irrelevant: what mattered was the "I am," which is a reference to God. Then she was off to the races with "I am." I felt no need to rebut.

BR is in serious error on this point, and I notice that where she ends up with is this "oneness" stuff that seems all the rage these days. For Christians, Jesus is much more than "example or icon of everyman’s journey and eternal oneness with God." He is God-become-man, the New Adam, and the Agent of God's merciful intervention in sinful human history.

Now why would she say anything like this unless she were using her experience as revelatory, placing her understanding above the core dogmas of the Church?
 
Posts: 3542 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Now why would she say anything like this unless she were using her experience as revelatory, placing her understanding above the core dogmas of the Church?


My view at this point is that she is indeed using her experience as the basis for her ideas.

As I quoted earlier in this thread, she found only emptiness where the personal self used to be, and one day c. 1980 she just "decided that Christ WAS the joy, the emptiness itself."

Labeling that emptiness as "Christ" is, I think, the basis on which she then constructed her entire Christology.

Also, she talks in The Experience of No-Self about how, in her no-self state, her words just come out without any thinking process behind them. They just happen:

"The knack of talking off the top of the head became a permanent function. Later I called it my 'non-reflective mind' and gradually recognized it as far superior to the ordinary thinking mind because it allows a great clarity, which I shall try to describe further on."

Also, I've just come to a bit where she says, "the state of no-self is the breaking up of a self-conscious system whereafter the mind can no longer see itself as object to itself."

So she can no longer be self-aware in the way that ordinary people can. That would seem to preclude any possibility of change. There's nothing inside her that could become aware of her own thought processes, let alone desire to change them.

But she's an enjoyable writer, and I look forward to receiving her 522-pager from Amazon.
 
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"The knack of talking off the top of the head became a permanent function. Later I called it my 'non-reflective mind' and gradually recognized it as far superior to the ordinary thinking mind because it allows a great clarity, which I shall try to describe further on."


So, she'll clarify later by saying what comes off the top of her head at that time? What? Did she remember later that she was supposed to do that?

That "clarity" she mentions is a consequence of her own lack of reflectivity and self-critique. Fwiw, I find clarity and congruity to be lacking in how she reasons.

quote:
So she can no longer be self-aware in the way that ordinary people can. That would seem to preclude any possibility of change. There's nothing inside her that could become aware of her own thought processes, let alone desire to change them.


So there's no one at home, then? This is not a healthy situation, imo.

Derek, do you see the theological problems I've point out in posts above, just based on her "Warning"?

Can you keep your own "critical thinking cap" on when reading her? As I mentioned above, something strange happened to my mind when I was immersed in her works -- almost as though my own critical thinking skills were somehow strangely disempowered. I think it's because I was accepting her as some ultra-enlightened being, which might well be the case, but I know now that even such people can be in err.
 
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