Only God is love, and for this love to be fully realized self must step aside. And not only do we not need a self to love God, but for the same reason we do not need a mind to know him, for that in us which knows God, is God.

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.

Whoever was responsible for the idea of dividing self into lower and higher parts committed a serious crime against humanity. This division has given rise to the notion that the lower (ego and immature) self must be overcome while the higher (unitive and whole) self must be sought as the goal of human realization. Out of ignorance, I too clung to this notion because I believed it was this higher self that would be united with God for all eternity. It took a long time before my experiences led me to doubt this conviction and, at the same time, let in the possibility that this was not the whole truth and that there was still further to go.

I went on to discover that in its deepest sense, the will is not primarily the faculty of desire for anything known, but rather, the desire for something unknown, animate desire for something that lies beyond ourselves, a longing for something we know is missing in us.


Birth: Bernadette Roberts was born in the USA, Los Angeles in 1931 to a Catholic family.

Realization: Since early childhood Bernadette Roberts had a number of mystical or contemplative revelations of God — as present in nature, as within her, and as entirely transcendent. Roberts entered the Carmelita order in her early teens. Some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls “the experience of no-self” – an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts.

Death: Alive.

Teaching Style: In order to share what she had learned she taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.

Fame: Bernadette Roberts is a former Carmelita nun and a contemplative in the Catholic tradition. She distinguishes between a mysticism based on visions, ecstasies, and other fascinating and paranormal experiences, and the contemplative journey, in which transformation comes about through the silent and non-experiential working of God’s grace in the soul. Her book The Experience of No-Self describes the journey through the passage in an experiential and autobiographical way, while the following two books The Path to No-Self and What is Self?, are attempts to describe and unpack the experience of no-self for the reader.

Legacy: Her understanding of the spiritual path can been seen as the relationship between self and God, but it is the unveiling of the truth of this relationship where the profundity lies. For the Western tradition in general, Roberts is quite radical: unlike Eastern traditions, there was no human Master or Teacher to introduce her to this state although she considers St. John of the Cross a particularly useful guide. There are many people who have been helped by the work of Bernadette Roberts, including any number of Forum members.


According to her “The first responsibility is to do all we can to reform our lives and pursue God with single-minded focus. When we have done all we can, God steps in, and the breakthrough of the “dark nights” begins.” She told that the first of these, the “unitive” state, is the breakthrough of God at the center, followed by a permanent and abiding union in which God becomes the “other half” that completes a person as a human being.

Roberts is very careful to note that the self that is eroded away beyond union is not the fragile, egotistical self that was the center of existence before union. Rather the self that slowly vanishes is a self-centered in God: beautiful, holy, and strong.

She describes the experiences as the process of human maturation but a maturity that is only possible through God’s grace. The ego and self are both self-reflexive and dualistic modes of psychological functioning based on the subtle process of mental discriminating judgment, a process that is inherently built into the structure of the psyche.

She calls neither the ego-based sense nor the spiritualized self is “God”. Instead, God is Reality itself, of which the human person is a single cell.

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