Bernadette Roberts

Since the moment of self-consciousness comes to a permanent end – and a new journey begins- is such a decisive stroke or milestone in the contemplative life, I can only speculate why so little has been said of this breakthrough; in fact , I may never get over the silence on the part of writers who say nothing about this second movement.

The assumption that the egoless condition, or union of self and God, is man’s final goal and ultimate destiny is a great mistake. My purpose here is to affirm that the unitive state is a hidden path in itself, a movement in its own right that ultimately leads to no-self (no true-self and no-union). In short, the unitive state is the hidden path to no-self.

It is one step, and a giant one, to see clearly and participate in the love that flows between the persons of the Trinity, but even here, God is seen as the object of his own love. It is yet another step to realize that God is beyond all subject and object and is Himself love without subject or object. This is the step beyond our highest experiences of love and union, a step in which self is not around to divide, separate, objectify or claim anything for itself. Self does not know God; it cannot love him, and from the beginning has never done so.

The onset of this second movement is characterized by the falling away of self and coming upon “that” which remains when it is gone. But this going-out is an upheaval, a complete turnabout of such proportions it cannot possibly be missed, under-emphasized, or sufficiently stressed as a major landmark in the contemplative life.

……at this point the self has obviously outworn its function; it is no longer needed or useful, and life can go on without it. we are ready to move on, to go beyond the self, beyond even its most intimate union with God, and this is where we enter yet another new life- a life best categorized, perhaps, as a life without a self.

It is far more than the discovery of life without a self. The immediate, inevitable result is an emergence into a new dimension of knowing and being that entails a difficult and prolonged readjustment. the reflexive mechanism of the mind -or whatever it is that allows us to be self-conscious – is cut off or permanently suspended so the mind is ever after held in a fixed now moment out of which it cannot move in its uninterrupted gaze upon the Unknown

But coming home that day, walking downhill with a panorama of valley and hills before me, I turned my gaze inward, and what I saw, stopped me in my tracks. Instead of the usual unlocalized centre of myself, there was nothing there, it was empty, and at the moment of seeing this there was a flood of quiet joy and I knew, finally I knew what was missing-it was my “self”.

…a point is reached where the self is so completely aligned with the still-point that it can no longer be moved, even in its first movements, from this center. It can no longer be tested by any force or trial, nor moved by the winds of change, and at this point the self has obviously outworn its function; it is no longer needed or useful, and life can go on without it.

This journey then, is nothing more, yet nothing less than a period of acclimating to a new way of seeing, a time of transition and revelation as it gradually comes upon “that” which remains when there is no self. this is not a journey for those who expect love and bliss, rather, it is for the hardy who have been tried by fire and have come to rest in a tough, immovable trust in “that” which lies beyond the known, beyond the self, beyond union and even beyond love and trust itself