Mt., she would say that, in a real sense, anything we call our "personal self," including the responsiveness of the emotions, is no more. Life goes on in a body, but not "personal life," which is "self."
Of course, my primary inquiry has always been "what" is it that recognizes that "self" in the sense she means it is no more? What is it that observes these changes? She considers self to be "reflexive consciousness," and so if that's blown out or silenced, then that would still leave one's own non-reflective consciousness, which, to my understanding, is always "there." I'm even OK with affirming that this "I" or pure subjectivity knows itself in as one with Christ. I'm not OK with saying there is no "I".
I'm curious if in your personal experience all emotional responsiveness also disappeared. Or is it "bodily" responsiveness instead of "self responsiveness", and what's the difference between those.
She describes a situation in which she was sure she's gonna die (there was no physical danger, however), but "there was no movement inside, no fear". Lack of any fear in face of a threat of annihilation seems to be something hardly desirable.
James Arraj writes that the loss of affective ego makes you not react emotionally to external stimuli but able to feel emotions as if caused by will from within. Am I getting it wrong?
STA says in the end of her "Life" that she lives as if in a dream, that things can disturb her in her "outer self", but she forgets it immediately, as if something that happened in a dream. I think this would be better than "no movement inside" at all.
A quote from your description of the state in "Critical Questions":
"So we're not saying that people who experience this situation display no affectivity: they do, during the situation they're living in the present... the whole range of feeling. But once the experience it's over, it's over... affectively that is... like it never even happened..."
That's - I believe - is something different than I find in "The Experience of No-self". More human and sound. Not that we can manipulate this process and "avoid" some aspects of it. But I wonder if BR is not overemphasizing something. You said that you think her experience differs from yours - she feels no "I" as a subject, you do. Anyway, she has no philosophical mind, so her use of terms and categories can be misleading at times.
Right, that last observation is part of the problem in all of this, as there's no metaphysical or philosophical accounting for what has happened.
Mt., since you're reading her again, notice how many times she alludes to zen or contact with zen folk. Seems it was quite a lot.
Re. affectivity . . . I think we can take Jesus as the ultimate example of what a fully divinized human being is like, and he surely seems to have had present-moment situational affectivity. Of course, BR would say that was how things were when he still had a "personal self" but that all got blown out with the crucifixion, then resurrection and ascension, stages that she herself has already experienced. That's how she makes sense of her experience. But I don't know: we haven't really died if we're still alive in the body, have we? There can be drastic transformations of consciousness, for sure, but not real death.
Yes, I agree that it would be weird if any spiritual transformation made us insensitive and unable to react. I'm always moved by Jesus when he cried after Lazarus had died. Even though he knew he would rise him from the dead, he still reacted as any human being to a close friend's death. If BR indeed doesn't experience emotional reactions anymore, then something is deeply wrong. But I don't think it's the case. It's rather a matter of style in which she thinks and describes her experience.
In fact, there's a passage in Meister Eckhart, saying that if the Word is truly born in the soul of a man, then his heart wouldn't move, even if he'd learnt that his whole family died. It's very similar to BR's expression. But I'm sure that Eckhart by heart means the deeper faculties of the soul, not the body. It's obvious that the depth of the sould doesn't move, but the body is a different matter. Moreover, Eckhart alluded to ancient philospohy and the notion of apatheia in this passage.
I've read a bit about the experiences of Suzanne Segal and John Wren-Lewis. Looking at those with a different eye now, I can see a lot of differences in their accounts.
For example, the state of no-self didn't make Segal "unmoved" inside, like BR claims to be, but didn't change anything in her consciousness, apart from the fact that thoughts, emotions and desires weren't connected to the self, as she put it. I haven't read the book (is it worth it, I mean, "Collisions with the Infinite"?), so I don't understand what she meant by that. It seems, however, that she experienced a lot of emotions, constant fear for ten years, which BR denies strongly in her description. After ten years Segal finally came to see, while driving a car, that "I'm driving through myself and going where I already am, because I'm everywhere". BR never said that she had such a realization. She emphazises that any sense of "I", however vast it might be, disappeared, so she writes "It is everywhere everything", not "I am everywhere everything".
The end of Segal's story saddens me a bit, her brain tumor and early death, I mean. Somehow the story seems sad, I don't know why. But philosophically I can't help to notice, that she experienced mostly freedom by seeing that things are what they are and nothing more. She even says that she didn't see that things are good or bad, right or wrong anymore, just what they are. Philosophically and theologically it sounds very, very not good. I don't know the book - so correct me if you do - but she doesn't seem to experience love or compassion towards other people, just freedom which or most of her life caused her terror of dissolution (maybe some psychotic-type response of the brain to the experience???).
John Wren-Lewis, on the other hand, writes that he saw that everything was good and holy. Since he was anti-religious and anti-spiritual, I think he is honest about this experience. The holiness of existence is absent from BR and SSeg experiences. JW-L, however, claims that he doesn't fear death anymore.He doesn't concentrate on the loss of self, but in his case the transformation wasn't a process, but one-time event. He also doesn't say that he doesn't experience emotions or anything like that. His realization causes him to investigate similar spiritual experiences which he thinks are essential to humanness, but he doesn't say anything about a change in his attitude towards others or anything like that.
And now let's imagine an experience of this kind happening in a devoted Christian who decided that his life will be the pursuit for Truth and Love. He struggles with his limitations, his neurosis, his attachments, because he perceives them as being obstacles to seeing the truth and loving others, himself and God in all this. Suddenly, in the process of his Christian life, he experiences a loss of affective ego. He feels he disappeared, but he knows that he's still an individual person, because he has a body, a mind, will and intellect. He may feel that he's everywhere everything, but he knows that there's God above him and in him, even though he doesn't feel that way, and that other people are persons too, with will and intellect of their own. If he has philosophical inclinations, he can understand his state as the unity of existence in his spirit, which reveals something of God, but doesn't make him "one with God".
But this whole experience is valueable to him only as far as he can see that he is more loving, more humble, more free to serve others. He judges this solely on the basis of the fruits of the Spirit, and he can see that because he's more free, he can love more deeply. The loss of self is in the context of will-to-God, so serves a purpose.
My point is that the experience of the loss of affective ego and enlightenment (which is more than that) is what it is. It is good in itself, but as any other thing created, can be used for good or for bad. If someone's life was oriented towards love and service, this experience gives more energy and freedom to do it. If someone's life isn't, the experience probably will diminish the selfish activity, but might be selfish on another level, Self-ish, capital letter. Freedom is like a space that can be filled with anything. Perhaps we can see enlightenment, morally, as such a space - good in itself, but open to anything the person chooses. But that also means that Christian enlightenment would be an important phenomenon, because the more a Christian is free, the more he loves.
Mt., I read "Collision with the Infinite" by Suzanne Segal years ago during a week-long visit with Jim Arraj. We talked about it at length and compared it with what BR described and what I was experiencing as well. I could identify somewhat with her experience, though not with many aspects of it. My question again, however, was just what was it that enabled Suzanne to recognize that a shift had happened and there was no longer what she called a self. Memory? Our thinking was that she'd not only lost her affective memory but all Egoic intentionality as well, leaving only the consciousness of the soul/Self and its cosmic (rather than personal) orientation. My friend Johnboy would call this an "inter-objective" mysticism: the Self-as-object in relation to creation-as-object. Kind of hard to get a sense of as we usually think of Self as inherently subjective . . . but that's because Self usually generates an Egoic center from which to actualize its potentialities.
There is a sense that even without an Ego, deeply ingrained habits of thinking and choosing can still go on -- habits of mind and will, I guess we'd say. So mind and will can go on without an Ego, though I do not think this is a good thing at all. Far better for the Ego to be the agent of deification and to be itself deified. I think your last paragraph addresses some of what I'm getting at, here.
And what do you think about her experience of the "terror"? She seemingly was feeling strong fear of annihilation for ten years, before she realized that "she is That", to use advaitic expression. Since she was diagnosed later with a brain tumor, I supposed it might be some kind of organic psychotic anxiety, but, on the other hand, it didn't deepen, but finally disappeared, and the tumor disconnected her from enlightenment few years after she finally arrived at peace. I don't think her experience was psychotic, at all, just this fear, which seems to be somehow psychological. BR also faced strong terror, as she reports, but only for few months, not years. Segal didn't discover the source and nature of this terror, she just wrote "the presence of fear means only that the fear is present".
Has James Arraj experienced the loss of affective ego as well?
Jim died in the summer of 09, but, yes, he had also experienced the loss of the affective ego. He would jokingly complain that it was a "disease" that he had "caught" from me, and wondered what use it was. Of course, it's very good that the past does not disturb us, but also quite note to be able to consult pleasant memories, from time to time. That was to be no more; the memories were there, but without any particular feelings.
I don't know what to think about Suzanne's fear. It may be that the fear she describes is one of the consequences of Original Sin and the depth of our wounding and separation from God. Without being joined to Christ through faith, I think it would be very difficult to experience our radical brokenness. Perhaps that's what happened to her. Hard to say.
Yes, I know JA died, but I didn't know about his experience, even though I suspected his writings about affective ego were stemming from his personal life.
He proposed to see the JOC's night of sense in terms of the LOAE (the abbreviation looks terrible, but I'll use it anyway ). I became to wonder if we can see periods of deep aridity in some contemplative's lives as some sort of this phenomenon. I'm puzzled by Mother Teresa's long dark night which apparently didn't leave her in this life (of course, we don't know it until the very end). She saw it as her destiny and accepted it, but complained about it in her letters. However, it's puzzling for me that she didn't seem depressed to the people around her, no-one noticed anything, so it couldn't have been clinical condition. She seemed happy and her eyes were shining in her pictures and footages. Maybe it was the LOAE, and she had difficulty in adjusting to it, in comparison to her earlier period of visions, locutions and powerful experiences of love infusion?
The same problem I have with an anonymous Belgian mystic from Henri Caffarel book (I suppose you don't know it in America). This woman, Camille, experienced a 20 years of dark night during which she felt abandoned by God, she felt no love for God and from God, and many confusions in her intellect - inability to reason about God etc. But 6 years before her death, she experienced a "come-back" of love, but she experienced it differently - she wrote that she didn't feel that she loves God herself, but that God in her loves God through her. And she was abiding in a state of permanent love-union, apparently until her death in late 60ties. When I was rereading her letters to Henri Caffarel, I didn't notice any mention of a change in her self-sense, which makes me suspect it might not be the LOAE, but just purifying aridity. But, on the other hand, it lasted so long for her... Her memory was also disaffected, she had only "spiritual memory", which could be also a sing of the LOAE. But she shouldn't report some kind of transformation in the experience of the self, and she didn't. But it could be just another "type" of the LOAE, which varies from person to person. Camille described her darkness as an abyss of nothingness she encountered when she was trying to pray, and that it was very hard to bear, so she practically switched completely to oral and liturgical prayer.
I'm not trying here to suggest that the LOAE should feel the same and be the same for all people - I just share my thoughts about the ways we can use this concept to reflect on Christian spiritual journey. God is a big fan of variety, after all...
Mt., I would imagine that most mystics and contemplatives experienced some kind of loss of affective memory, or maybe even the loss of affectivity altogether (I'm thinking that's what you mean by LOAE, with E referring to Ego). I wouldn't say that Jim or myself have lost AE, only AM. But I can see where all these aridities, apathaias and what-not in the literature could be referring to the loss of affectivity altogether. I've had those times, but things generally improve if I take some time off for recreation, fun, play, etc., and take a break from intellectual activity and "ministry". After a couple of days, I start feeling much more energy inside, including affectivity. This has had me wondering just how much those prolonged periods of interior dryness described by the mystics are related to imbalances in lifestyle, especially diet, exercise and recreation. How much play, for example, was in Mother Teresa's life? Or BR, for that matter.
A link that seemed to respond to the joy of the faith and the grace of love, whether in delight of beauty or in suffering or in peace....for me our joy is the Creator and God that companions us through it all with the healing love that comes through our surrendering to God's intention and will for the unfolding moments of our lives....through the breath of Christ....through the Holy Spirit.....through the eternal spring that comes in our hearts...rising and falling like the waves of the ocean. The imaginal realm helps us reach and long for this Presence, but for me....it is our Beloved God who answers Love with Love no matter what the outer situation may be.
May we continue to witness to the Presence that gives us Life.
That's interesting, Phil. The Church hasn't given much appreciation and attention to play and recreation. Spiritual journey was presented as a sort of "buzzkill". Only recently the Church has seen the value of play and recreation, I think. A new spirituality?
The other thing is that in "The Critical Questions" there isn't any distinction between the loss of affective ego and affective memory. Do you think it's an important difference? How would you describe it?
I suppose there are degrees of this process, we could generally call it apatheia, I suppose.
Thanks for the link reference, Naomi, and for your delightful meditative reflection. Yes we do need to remember that the journey is supposed to be about deepening love. All these different kinds of states of consciousness are worthless if they don't lead to an increased capacity for loving.
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Mt., I see that we used affective ego in the book; I'd forgotten that. Well, just so we know what that means. It doesn't mean that the Ego has become incapable of affective experience. More precisely, it is the absence of affectivity in the memory that characterizes the situation we're describing there, and I think that's fairly well qualified in the chapter.
The issue of play, fun, recreation, etc. is very important in the spiritual life, I believe. Jesus said that we needed to become as little children to enter the reign of God, and what characterizes children better than play. In recent decades, there has been great emphasis on "healing the inner child," and that's a great contribution from the addiction/recovery movement. The inner child is that early, primarily affective consciousness that is easily attuned to the wonder and the present moment. When damaged through abuse or neglect in our early years, we lose the capacity for imagination, creativity and affective experiences in the present moment. It's difficult to say how much this kind of wounding has contributed to various mystics' accounts of aridities, but I'm increasingly thinking that this might help explain, in part, those that go on for years and years.
I was referring to this sentence from "Critical Questions":
"In this new state the ego is set in motion, not by its old affective desires, but by the situation it finds itself in, and by the will."
As we said earlier, the loss of all affectivity would be unhuman (if it were really possible), but here we discuss the loss of affectivity with regard to memory and imagination. So a person in such a state would react to the present moment with appropriate emotions (perhaps, in time, when the person is more free from the unconscious patterns, those emotions are much more adequate than before), but wouldn't sustain those emotions, "add the oil to the fire", so to speak, so the person easily comes back to tranquility.
Arraj writes that the desire leave place to the will. By "desire" - as I understand it - he means not every desire, because they come from the body, the unconscious etc., but just the self-perpetuating desires which make us constantly occupied with the future, when we try to repeat past pleasures or avoid past pains.
But the feeling in this state is that the will isn't "pulled" by affectivity as strongly as before. On the other hand, there is a spontaneous reaction to the present situation according to the Law (hopefully, if one is Christian or in a state of grace). For example, I see dirty dishes and I put them into dishwasher, moved by spontaneous will to help my wife ( ), without feeling "desire" to do it, or hesitation, or inner conflict whether to do this, or to watch TV instead. Maybe a silly example, but that's how it goes most of the time. Of course, I wouldn't say - like BR - that the will is gone, philosophically that's nonsense. It's just that the will operates differently, in fact, generally, more freely.
The thing that I'm not familiar with is a sense of "inner desert" that you, Phil describe, in "Critical Questions", meaning that there's a sense that "my life is gone". But, probably, as JA suggested, it's a matter of adjustment to that state, and, as you say in your previous post, it's also a matter of hygienic and balanced life-style.
Yesterday, I casted an eye on Teresa's seventh mansion's description. There she says that she experienced sometimes a great turmoil in the lower part of the soul, which testifies to a great deal of affective responses to reality (also her temperament or personality could contribute to that), but she also emphasizes that in the transforming union the soul doesn't know itself anymore, rarely thinks about itself and forgets about itself to a such degree that it feels like the soul doesn't even exist. I suppose it's a kind of "loss of ego" that might cause people like BR to say that "there is no self any more". STA is much more reasonable, even though her mind is not philosophical, saying that it seems or feels like there no soul in the state of self-forgetfulness.
And, Phil, I agree with my all heart with your saying that all those transformations of spirit, psyche and body mean nothing in themselves without the virtue of "caritas", as clearly St. Paul points out in 1Cor 13.
Mt., I think you have a deep understanding of what is meant by the loss of affective memory. It really is mostly a positive development. And when I wrote things like "my life is gone" that would be in comparison to the sense of life that emerges from the affective memory and its influence on the will. There is, in most people, a very definite sense of coming out of a past and moving into a future -- almost like riding a wave of some kind, the wave being affective energy. With the loss of affective memory, however, this sense of inner energy and the intentionality it generates is lost, and it can happen very quickly. Thereafter, one can feel like one is "just-here," kind of stuck in the present moment, with life an endless stream of present-moments coming out of nowhere and going who knows where. The mind and memory strain to get a sense of life moving from past to future, but to no avail. The memories are there, of course, but there's no energy in them. The past is dead.
Now I know the mystics talk about this like it's something wonderful, but there's a real loss involved: namely, the sense of one's personal life. The mind can still affirm that there is an individual person here, making choices and so forth, so we're not talking about the loss of personal life in a philosophical sense. That would be nonsense; there's always an individual agent of intelligence and choice at work in a human being.
Now this is all the ideal set-up for some kind of mystical union, as the will is in such a state that it can be easily moved by the Spirit, should it be so disposed. This disposition of the will is still very much in the arena of faith, however, and so it's possible that one could arrive in this state and not be willing to be moved by the Spirit. After all, it is not present-moment awareness that saves, but union with God, and the former doesn't equivocate to the latter. So Jim's constant questioning was what could be the purpose of the loss of affective memory if one was not a mystic or contemplative? His response was that it could also open one to enlightenment experiences, which do not depend on supernatural grace so much as radically entrusting oneself to a deep surrender into the present moment. That all still makes sense to me.
I will say that, during the past couple of years, my memory has become more alive, though not as before. In the past, it seemed that memory was mostly from the perspective of some level of false-self-contaminated Ego, or Mental Ego (a la self-concept), and memory served to reinforce those kinds of Ego states. That wasn't the only perspective of memory, of course; sometimes we are graced to see our past moreso from God's perspective, which can be a very sobering experience. But it may well be that the purification of memory entails its complete dessication for awhile, whereafter one's past becomes more vitally accessible, though from a different vantage point than before -- from the divine perspective, perhaps, or from a more spiritual level of Ego.
On that kundalini video I watched recently, a woman described a near-death-experience she'd had where she encountered her grandmother as a distinctly felt presence. She saw her past from the perspective of her grandmother, who had loved her deeply, and that was very freeing and healing to her as she'd had a horrible childhood. It got me to wondering if that's how the judgement will work: that our own memory will become informed by how God and others have experienced us. Talk about opening that "Blind Spot" quadrant on Johari Window! What would that be like?
Mt., we have another thread going on this forum on loss of affective memory, and I'd like to move our last few exchanges over to that one. I'll wait until you acknowledge seeing this post before doing so, however. You can still post comments about it if you'd like.
I've only noticed your post today. Of course, move away
Hi. This is my first post on this forum, and I was drawn to it because I read Bernadette Roberts' books -the first two shortly after they were published decades ago, her third one later- and am now reading her unpublished writing called "Forcing the Fit."
The devil may suggest that her "No-Self" should have called it "Throwing a Fit", but not heeding his malicious whisperings, in fairness I see it as God in His humanity getting a bit angry... as the following example confirms that this does happen on occasions, until He remembers in His human appearance Who He really is, and even repenting, tells Himself:
"My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, -- the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not come in anger."
"Ephraim" means "doubly fruitful": God now also beginning to enjoy His godliness as a human -all and only to the benefit of that human- in His very center or midst, the Holy One.
Above I saw Suzanne Segal mentioned, and I would like to quote what her friend and colleague psychiatrist Stephan Bodian wrote in the Afterword in her book Collision with the Infinite:
"At one point she excitedly called me to describe her recent discovery that she did in fact exist--and insisted that all the spiritual teachers who taught the non-existence of an abiding self were mistaken."
"During this period Suzanne seemed to drift in and out of experiencing herself as the vastness. At times she talked about God, and once, during a walk on the beach, she described seeing angels. At a certain point she acknowledged that she had used the vastness as a defense to protect her from her feelings and from the painful process of coming to terms with her childhood."
"Suzanne's example speaks to us of the importance of integration--of the personal and the transpersonal, the psychological and the spiritual--and raises questions about the relationship between dissociation--in which parts of the psyche split off from one another--and genuine abiding awakening. By dying before this integration had occurred, Suzanne left each of us with with the koan to discover it for ourselves."
This brings me back to what Bernadette Roberts describes in her first book -The Path to No-Self. In it she said that during a later phase of her journey a great internal flame arose, which wanted to externalize itself. Yet the manifestation of this burning flame expressed itself as certain supernatural powers: she knew things about other people, she could heal them, and a voice sometimes spoke through her. But she wrote that because it did not fit with her person, she did everything she could think of the get rid of them, and after some weeks she was successful. Those powers had been "sniffed out" as she expressed it.
It seems as with that event her experience of the State of Union with God also ended. To illustrate that I quote from Forcing the Fit, in examples she gives of the State of Union with God, and what she calls the No-Self condition:
"What No-Self discovers, however, is that God-in-Himself is beyond "Being", thus there is no longer any experience of Being at all -God or self's- nor any experience of Ground or Source."
"With No-Self, however, there is no vessel, container, or self to BE either empty or full."
"And if only self dissolved, who would be left to know he was God? No one! (Even God doesn't know He is God) Just so, in the No-Self condition there is no one, no self left To Be God - there is nothing nondual about it. Because they were united and one, God and self can only fall away together. Neither one is left standing alone."
"Nobody can imagine life in this world beyond the Unitive State, and so too, no one can imagine the death of the "Christ Self" which is, however, the true No-Self event."
"John of the Cross even holds that the soul's will is now solely God's own will. Thus the duality of God's becoming the soul's own faculty of "will" - God and the soul. With the No-Self event, however, there is no experience left that could be called a "will", either God's or the soul's."
"This unity and wholeness is well known in the Unitive State. In the No-Self condition, however, there is no experience of any energy or power - nor its opposite, no energy or no power. It experiences nothing at all."
"Indeed, there is growth and change in the Unitive State; this is because the journey moves on to yet a further end -- the No-Self event, that is."
"Nothing so typifies the Christian Unitive State as the abiding consciousness of God. In fact this is what the Unitive State is all about. Without effort or practice God is more than just a presence, God is now our "other-halve." In this State we could be no more aware of God than we are aware of ourselves, the two are given in the same reflexive consciousness. But there is nothing nondual about this. No-Self, however, with no consciousness of the self left, has neither awareness of God or self."
I wonder if that great burning flame was actually the Holy Spirit... she did write that there was nothing malicious about the supernatural powers that manifested through her until she "sniffed" them out, but that if God wanted to have her accept those powers, He should have given her a different personality.
She also mentioned that St. John of the Cross would have us throw them out "of course."
The Saint does write though:
"1. THE third kind of interior words, we said, is called substantial. These substantial words, although they are likewise formal, since they are impressed upon the soul in a definitely formal way, differ, nevertheless, in that substantial words produce vivid and substantial effects upon the soul, whereas words which are merely formal do not. So that, although it is true that every substantial word is formal, every formal word is not therefore substantial, but only, as we said above, such a word as impresses substantially on the soul that which it signifies. It is as if Our Lord were to say formally to the soul: 'Be thou good'; it would then be substantially good. Or as if He were to say to it: 'Love thou Me'; it would then have and feel within itself the substance of love for God. Or as if it feared greatly and He said to it: 'Fear thou not'; it would at once feel within itself great fortitude and tranquility. For the saying of God, and His word, as the Wise Man says, is full of power; and thus that which He says to the soul He produces substantially within it. For it is this that David meant when he said: 'See, He will give to His voice a voice of virtue.' And even so with Abraham, when He said to him: 'Walk in My presence and be perfect': he was then perfect and walked ever in the fear of God. And this is the power of His word in the Gospel, wherewith He healed the sick, raised the dead, etc., by no more than a word. And after this manner He gives certain souls locutions which are substantial; and they are of such moment and price that they are life and virtue and incomparable good to the soul; for one of these words works greater good within the soul than all that the soul itself has done throughout its life.
2. With respect to these words, the soul should do nothing. It should neither desire them nor refrain from desiring them; it should neither reject them nor fear them. It should do nothing in the way of executing what these words express, for these substantial words are never pronounced by God in order that the soul may translate them into action, but that He may so translate them within the soul; herein they differ from formal and successive words. And I say that the soul must neither desire nor refrain from desiring, since its desire is not necessary for God to translate these words into effect, nor is it sufficient for the soul to refrain from desiring in order for the said effect not to be produced. Let the soul rather be resigned and humble with respect to them. It must not reject them, since the effect of these words remains substantially within it and is full of the good which comes from God. As the soul receives this good passively, its action is at no time of any importance. Nor should it fear any deception; for neither the understanding nor the devil can intervene herein, nor can they succeed in passively producing this substantial effect in the soul, in such a way that the effect and habit of the locution may be impressed upon it, unless the soul should have given itself to the devil by a voluntary compact, and he should have dwelt in it as its master, and impressed upon it these effects, not of good, but of evil. Inasmuch as that soul would be already voluntarily united to him in perversity, the devil might easily impress upon it the effects of his sayings and words with evil intent. For we see by experience that in many things and even upon good souls he works great violence, by means of suggestion, making his suggestions very efficacious; and if they were evil he might work in them the consummation of these suggestions. But he cannot leave upon a soul effects similar to those of locutions which are good; for there is no comparison between the locutions of the devil and those of God. The former are all as though they were not, in comparison with the latter, neither do they produce any effect at all compared with the effect of these. For this cause God says through Jeremias: 'What has the chaff to do with the wheat? Are not My words perchance as fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?' And thus these substantial words are greatly conducive to the union of the soul with God; and the more interior they are, the more substantial are they, and the greater is the profit that they bring. Happy is the soul to whom God addresses these words. Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
(Ascent of Mount Carmel,CHAPTER XXXI)
I admit that if I had been in Bernadette's situation, with her upbringing and born with her character, I would have reacted exactly as she did. And I assume that would have been the best, and according to God's will. I believe even that it was God Who made that decision as she.
But I also admit that I would not mind at all hearing that divine Voice St. John of the Cross so highly praises and recommends...This message has been edited. Last edited by: Lode,
Hi Lode, and welcome to the forum.
It seems you've been puzzling over some of what BR has written and how to make sense of it. I don't know how much of this discussion you've read, but you'll find others who feel much the same.
You quoted BR as follows:
Etc. . . . Do you see how she uses words in a confusing manner? Here, Being (capitalized) refers to something one can experience and be fell or empty of, while in philosophy it indicates something that exists. So on the one hand one might be willing to grant her point that the experience of God and even self (as she defines it -- reflexive consciousness) can disappear, it doesn't follow that Being in a philosophical sense disappears. After all, some being (in a philosophical sense) wrote all those books she wrote, and there is even some continuity of memory and presence that can evaluate what has changed and then go on to describe it. How does she account for that? Well, she doesn't, at least not philosophically.
Interesting comments you posted about Suzanne Segal; it's been so long since I read her book and I no longer have a copy, so had forgotten all that about her coming back to a sense of self and seeing how she had connected her experiences of vastness with escape from childhood memories. It's long been known that dissociation is a common defense mechanism against painful experience, and I've thought that her experience could well have been some kind of dissociation.
Hi Lode, Welcome to Shalom Place. So glad you decided to take the plunge and share so generously of some of your reflections.
With the above info on BR, it strikes me as strange that somebody so surrendered to God would work hard to sniff out/snuff out something which didn't fit her personality. Who give us and defines our personality?
I've not read her works directly, but with what I've read of her here and there. I admit a repulsion against what feels to me like something went wrong with her psycho-spiritual development. Maybe you're on to something in suggesting dissociation as it appeared to be the case with S. Segal.
Thank you both for your kind replies.
It is "snuffed out" of course, thank you for reminding me. Although Bernadette certainly "sniffed out" first and later "sniffed in" a lot of God's Spirit.
I found it ironic that just when that flame was so great that her human self-awareness was at the brink of being completely "snuffed" out -to be replaced by the power and voice that was speaking through her... well, I better let her say it, as her account is fascinating, and shines much light on why things went the way they did for her.
She seemed to have believed that God would force something on us even against our will, not granting us the free will to accept or reject Him and the manifestations of His power. As the above cited words of St. John of the Cross make clear, one's free will is still left intact by God even in these cases, reason the Saint advices to allow God's Voice and Touch to come through. Although I don't know if what wanted to speak through Bernadette was that divine Voice the Saint praises. In the chapters before the one I quoted from, the Saint describes voices one better not heeds, explaining that even if from God, one's soul will benefit from them anyway without heeding them, and that by not heeding them one avoids misinterpreting them, and also that not heeding them is the best thing to do because the voices may be from the devil. But that if the Voice brings Its own virtue with it -love, secession of fear, making one virtuous- then one better heeds it, meaning doing what it says.
In Bernadette's case, it certainly seemed that the power wanted to be helpful to others. But it might have been a deceit. Or it might not have been. Only God knows.
There is a sentence in Bernadette's account that reminds me of "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it." (Mark 8:35)
I don't know if Bernadette really has lost her personal life -the human self-awareness- and has the life of Christ, nor if she is spreading the Good News.
Anyway, this is what Bernadette Roberts wrote in The Path To No-Self about this power:
"Apart from increasing experiences of loss-of-self there was another factor that marked this stage. The steady, interior flame suddenly flared up to become a burning torch, burning at great intensity. I referred to this as the "thermostat," and sometimes prayed to have it turned down, then up--there were many regulatory complaints, yet none of it was under my control. But for all the wonderful heat generated by this thermostat, it had unusual repercussions, because this is where I came upon certain extraordinary problems.
Prior to this time, the interior power or energy at the center had remained stable; it was the indistinguishable aspect of self and God. Though often under stress from outside forces, this center never moved, the flame never wavered; it was a bulwark of steel and a powerhouse unto itself. Because I had no power to express this flame to the outside, because I could not use it or tap into it, I came to think of it as belonging to God alone. In turn, however, I could not distinguish my own deepest energy from God's energy, and therefore could not distinguish the true self from God. Nevertheless, I was continually trying to figure out where "I" left off and God began, or what exactly was His and what exactly was mine.
Matters stood this way for twenty years, when suddenly, in this phase, there was a movement in the center, deep inexplicable rumblings which gave me the idea of an impending explosion. When the thermostat was turned up, there came with it an energy never encountered before, a problematic energy in that it gave rise to a rash of extraordinary experiences, such as mind over matter, levitation, out-of-the-body experiences, foreknowledge, knowledge of others, and even the possibility of healing. Whatever the true nature of these energies, it was obvious they wanted to reach to the outside and find expression. I felt about to be used as a medium for these powers, and what this meant, I had no idea.
From earliest years I had no attraction for the extraordinary and placed no value on these things; in fact, when still young I referred to visions and voices as "cheap spirituality," because it relied on appearances and was without depth. It had nothing to do with God, not, at least, as I knew Him. Although the present experiences did not include visions and voices, they may have touched on everything else, and where very disturbing; disturbing not because I placed no value on them--I could always change my mind in this matter--but because they where so foreign as to be impossible to incorporate into the self I knew. To superimpose the extraordinary on the life of a most ordinary individual is a mistake; it does not fit. I did not know how to behave or what to think. If, from the beginning, I had been led by an extraordinary path, I would have taken this in stride, but as it stood, these experiences where disturbing, and totally unnatural. I wanted to be rid of them, rid of the energies that gave rise to all these phenomena.
For several months I observed and studied these mysterious energies and powers, trying to understand their purpose and find the true source. Because they arose from the center, I knew the either belonged to God or to myself--there was no one else around, nothing inside but the two of us; thus the source had to be one or the other. If from God, I felt it should be acceptable to me, fit like a glove, be natural. On the other hand, even if from God, its passage through the self to the outside was enough to taint its purity, and thus it was the self that was unacceptable, either way I looked at it. It seemed to me that a true medium should be selfless so that God's grace could flow through, pure and unfiltered. But if the self steps aside, then where is the medium? In such a case God would have no medium but the empty form; I could not see how this could work.
The only thing I knew for certain was that these energies where admixed with some unknown aspect of self, and their disturbing feature was their sudden, unexpected, spontaneous uprising--their unpredictableness. To have this type of interior power over which you have no control is frightening, for even if harmless and benign in its movements, there was always the possibility that things could get out of hand, become outlandish and ridiculous--which they did. There was the fear of eventually becoming a puppet to those powers, and if this happened, I would lose myself.
Now it is one thing to lose yourself in the great silence, or the suspension of the faculties, but quite another to be squeezed out and overrun by some unknown power. I felt this latter form of loss-of-self carried with it the possibility of insanity, and nobody wants to go that way. As it stood, I never knew what would happen next, and when you do not know, you learn not to trust yourself, and when you cannot trust yourself, the situation becomes unbearable. What is more, I could find nothing spiritual about these phenomena; though I learned a few things--which I shall recount later--there was no increase in depth or enlightenment, love or virtue; I felt it taught me nothing about God, and had much to do with externals, other people, and the superficial.
My conclusion was that if, after all these years, God wanted to make me into a medium or give me some mission, He would first have to make it acceptable--make it fit in with my life and personality and, above all, give me the certitude that this was His doing. I figured that, if truly from God, I would never be able to get rid of these powers, but if from some distinguished aspect of the self, then nothing would be lost in getting rid of them. Thus the test was whether I could get rid of them or not. I might add that this was a very old test I had discovered early in life--namely, the conviction that it was possible to be rid of everything but the truth. We could be rid of thoughts and experiences, rid of every space we were caught up in, and yet the truth would move with us; whatever could be left behind, then, was not the truth. I will not go into how I discovered this acid test for truth, or how it proved itself again and again; I will only say it was a way of discerning what was from God and what was from the self. Because it never failed in the past, I was sure it would not fail me now.
But how to get rid of something not under our control seems an impossible task. Ignoring and giving these powers no value is not sufficient strategy to be rid of them, since they come and go as they please anyway. I began to observe, to watch and see if I could get their time of day or circumstance, find some clue to their occurrences. I noticed how energy was generated during hours of interior silence--prayer, Mass, alone in nature--how it had a tendency to spring alive when other people were around, which was always disastrous. Although not sure of the exact nature of these energies, I could not wait till all the answers were in; by that time it might be too late. Thus I devised a plan for their extinction, which, in a nutshell, was to starve them, give them no inlet or outlet--snuff them out like a flame without oxygen.
This meant giving up prayer, giving up the ability to sink into the center, giving up my whole spiritual life, in fact. It meant giving up writing in my journal, because this was an outlet; giving up talking to others, because I never knew what I might say; giving up walks, because in the beauty of nature I might get carried away. In a word, this was the regime of an extreme recluse. I had no idea how long it would take, but was convinced that sooner or later, without an outlet, these energies would have to give up--die out.
From the start, I can compare this difficult regime to sitting on a volcano or riding a bronco. When you put a lid on boiling water the pressure builds the more; the lid suppresses nothing. But the great mystery was the determined resolution to do this; where did it come from? If this was my own energy, then what energy was putting down another energy? Actually there was no other energy, there was only conscious determination.
The first week was unforgettably terrible; the interior energies were practically coming out of my ears. But almost from the beginning I thought I noticed a slight waning, a subtle diminishing of power, and with this I took hope. After the first week, I knew I was on the right path, because the decline was steady and surprisingly rapid. In less than two weeks I could resume a more sociable life-style and go back to prayer. Then, just as suddenly as they had disappeared, these energies disappeared, and in their wake was a peace and silence greater than anything encountered before. It was then that I saw the irony of the situation. It struck me forcibly. I had undertaken this battle in the effort to preserve my self, to keep these energies from running over me and getting out of hand, but in putting them down I had unwittingly put down the self. Thus, in trying to preserve the self I lost the self. This was an amazing discovery. How clever and ingenious the ways of God!
Later I saw how this works. I saw the self as a dual set-up; one self, but two aspects. The interior self is a powerhouse of energy and movement, and can be object to the mind, but the conscious self has no such power of movement, yet it is privy to a knowledge higher than anything that can be experienced by the interior self. Thus it was the conscious self and its knowledge, its intuition, that put an end to the energy self, which illustrates how knowledge is more powerful than power itself.
Ordinarily the division between self as an interior energy and self as a self-conscious mechanism, or type of consciousness, is not noticeable; it does not arise in the unified state because the sense of wholeness is such that consciousness and the energy center are in complete agreement, working as an undivided unit. But with the uprising at the center, this division becomes apparent--and disturbing.
As long as we are able to integrate or incorporate the extraordinary, we would not be aware that this division in the self exists. This would be the case of saints and mystics who were led this particular way from the beginning, and took the extraordinary in stride as nothing unusual or divisive. For myself, of course, this was not the case. Yet for me it proved to be an important disturbance, because in putting down this interior energy, I was unknowingly getting ready to live without any interior energy; for in the state of no-self there is nothing left that could be called interior energy. This does not mean that all interior energy is from the self. Once the self is put down, the burning flame remains, but is is an energy we cannot claim as our own, thus only God can put out this flame. And He does.
I think of this flame as that which never exceeds the mean--never gets out of hand or causes any disturbance. Yet when this divine thermostat is turned up, some unknown energies of the self come with it, indicating that, all this time, God has been keeping these energies in line, keeping them from exceeding the mean. But now He is releasing them in order to throw them out, get rid of them entirely, so His plan can go forward. To come upon no-self, there must be none of these energies left.
It should be remembered that by putting down the energies of self, we are not putting down something evil, bad, selfish, and all the rest; this is not the impassioned, self-centered ego. These energies a harmless and benign, yet they waylay and deceive us; they are an impasse in that they cannot be pure mediums to God. In fact, I am not sure the self can be a medium at all. Putting away these energies is nothing more than an unmasking of the self.
Too often we think extraordinary phenomena are a gift from God when, more often, it is only the self masking as God, the self ensuring its survival under a divine guise. Coming to this final phase of the unitive life, the uprising of the self is like Custard's last stand--just one more battle before the final defeat, one last effort to gain control. Unconsciously the self knows it is about to be snuffed out, and this is the final play for divinity. In putting down these energies, we unknowingly deal a death-blow to the self, and thereby open the door to complete loss-of-self. Evidently, dealing with these energies is a major and final hurdle to overcome before no-self can become a reality.
After twenty years of not being able to distinguish in the deep energy center what was mine from what was His, when the thermostat was turned up, this discernment could now be made. Although God is the ultimate source of all energy, the self has a tendency to misuse it for its own ignorant purposes. In the unitive state, I believe God keeps these energies in hand; we do not even know we have them. But in the preparation of going beyond the self, these must be released so we can deal with them, see through them, and have no doubts about it.
About this unmasking, what is worth noting is the method of discernment. The energies were deemed inappropriate for the simple and obvious reason that they did not fit naturally, they were incongruous with the personality because they could not be incorporated into the known self."
(Bernadette Roberts, Path To No-self, Phase VI, §'s 9-28.)
Bernadette and I exchanged a few letters over the past decades. In one of them she replied that it certainly had not been God as her Self who had made that decision, as God did not have a Self. And that He had not created her Self as an Extension -the Son- of Himself, because God was not a Creator...
I admit that I felt upset that God could be in such a -seeming to me- painful case of Self-denial.
But I also recognize that God was willing to appear in this world as Bernadette Roberts, to teach us what might be convenient to us, and what might not be. Even though as she He had to give up what would have given Him the greatest joy possible on earth: healing His human neighbors, and saying the words that would bring them to Himself, that also they might know Who their true Identity is beyond His human appearances.
Yet as Bernadette He chose to leave that joyful honor to others, and become a sign standing next to an abyss, warning of danger, all and only to the benefit of others.
God will be helpful in making others happy, regardless of whether it will make Himself happy or not.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Lode,
I value BR's sharing of her experiences much more than her interpretations of them, which are enormously problemmatic.
I, too, recall exchanging letters with her about the interior energy, powers, etc., and I told her it sounded like kundalini awakening, which I, too, was experiencing at the time. She told me that it wasn't any such thing and so that was the end of it, although I did try a couple more times to discuss that possibility with her. Nada.
It looks like God is telling us through her:
"Warning: The Owner of this body and awareness looking like B.R. as whom I appear in this world might not agree with with the interpretation that My message undergoes passing through them."
He does agree with the following message to Himself though, to remind Himself Who's body and spirit it is that reads these words of His now, and that taking on this body and spirit (consciousness) cost Him His Life, meaning His Heavenly Self-awareness, only to have It back and enjoy Himself again when He would also do so as the one reading this:
"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you and which ye have from God, and that ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
In these statements I don't see mention of surrendering the situation,the powers
the energies, ect. over to the care of God.
What I hear B. saying is that through personal
effort she managed to somehow stop these supernatural powers because
it didn't fit with her personality & she wasn't sure of the source. But I didn't here where she ever placed her concerns over what was happening to her into God's hands.
And by using her "self efforts" she fell
out of a State of Union with God.
I personally have never found that God only gave me experiences, or life issues, ect. that only felt agreeable to my personality. Surrendering to God in all ways is not a easy thing, at least to me it isn't
BR""Although not sure of the exact nature of these energies, I could not wait till all the answers were in; by that time it might be too late.Thus I devised a plan for their extinction, which, in a nutshell, was to starve them, give them no inlet or outlet--snuff them out like a flame without oxygen.
Yet the manifestation of this burning flame expressed itself as certain supernatural powers: she knew things about other people, she could heal them, and a voice sometimes spoke through her. But she wrote that because it did not fit with her person, she did everything she could think of the get rid of them, and after some weeks she was successful. Those powers had been "sniffed out" as she expressed it.
It seems as with that event her experience of the State of Union with God also ended. To illustrate that I quote from Forcing the Fit, in examples she gives of the State of Union with God, and what she calls the No-Self condition:
My conclusion was that if, after all these years, God wanted to make me into a medium or give me some mission, He would first have to make it acceptable--make it fit in with my life and personality and, above all, give me the certitude that this was His doing. I figured that, if truly from God, I would never be able to get rid of these powers, but if from some distinguished aspect of the self, then nothing would be lost in getting rid of them. Thus the test was whether I could get rid of them or not.
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