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Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)

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Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
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11/28/17 5:47 PM
Bernadette Roberts passed away on November 27, 2017, at her home in Southern California, in her sleep. She had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a year ago, which eventually led to her death.

Her principal works were:

The Experience of No-Self. 1983. Revised edition, SUNY Press, 1993.

The Path to No-Self. 1985. Revised edition, SUNY Press, 1991.

What is Self? A Study of the Spiritual Journey in Terms of Consciousness. Sentient Publications, 2005.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
11/28/17 6:52 PM as a reply to Derek2.
Thanks. I've been wanting to do a book review series on Christian contemplation at some point.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
11/29/17 6:34 AM as a reply to Derek2.
didn´t know she passed.

heard/read some interviews and vids.

liked her.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
11/29/17 8:35 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Learned about her recently following up on Jeff Martin's mentions. I wanted to know if she really held on to christian dogma while going way beyond the usual christian experience of life. I got the definite impression reading her stuff that she was super empty and deep, but I tried reading a paper she wrote for a science and nonduality conference and it was bogglingly convoluted theology.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
10/5/18 1:43 PM as a reply to Derek2.
It sometimes seems that someone writes or maybe says? things just for one person, even if they don't ever phsycially meet outside of the internet (or they may not meet on the internet, eh). This is sort of a conundrum. If you believe in reincarnation, this is problem solved, but outside of that experience it can be troubling when someone says blank about following blank and it doesn't make sense to the eyes or ears in their respective positions of credibility. Someone will come knocking on your door, or call you about a loan, and such things get swept under the rug, but really?

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 11:05 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Derek2:
Bernadette Roberts passed away on November 27, 2017, at her home in Southern California, in her sleep. She had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a year ago, which eventually led to her death.

Her principal works were:

The Experience of No-Self. 1983. Revised edition, SUNY Press, 1993.

The Path to No-Self. 1985. Revised edition, SUNY Press, 1991.

What is Self? A Study of the Spiritual Journey in Terms of Consciousness. Sentient Publications, 2005.

Along with John of the Cross, she was my closest thing to scripture for many many years as a dark night yogi. She always insisted on her orthodoxy as a Catholic, and that's her story and she stuck with it to the end, but in most other eras of the Church, she would have been dead or in a dungeon. She is the only Christian contemplative writer i know who had the balls to say, "John of the Cross got this far, but he never said a word about this whole other thing, the experience of no-self., and i sort of wonder why not."

She was cranky as shit. I corresponded with her a little in the early 2000s, and she basically told me that the dark night, union with God, and beyond, were for thoroughbred race horses, and that God was too merciful to ever call someone with my damaged work-horse self to those heights. I loved her, she was tough and true all the way. She was wrong about me, but only because she knew what it took to get where she had gotten. And indeed, i still have no idea about this no-self stuff, i only know that everything she ever said about the path of John the Cross is true as fuck.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 12:45 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
She is a fascinating figure I'd love to know more about. I'd love to hear more of your anecdotes about her Tim. It is interesting that she worked so hard to try to fit her insight into such a fixed worldview.

Tim Farrington:

She always insisted on her orthodoxy as a Catholic, and that's her story and she stuck with it to the end, but in most other eras of the Church, she would have been dead or in a dungeon.

“The awakened mind is turned upside down and does not accord even with the Buddha-wisdom.” - Hui Hai

In a way it is surprising that she was able to have such an insight at all. Having fixed ideas about what it is you are aiming for can be greatly limiting and turns out to be obviously and hilariously wrong and flawed in the most spectacular ways when seen for what it really is.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 1:00 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
She is a fascinating figure I'd love to know more about. I'd love to hear more of your anecdotes about her Tim. It is interesting that she worked so hard to try to fit her insight into such a fixed worldview.

Tim Farrington:

She always insisted on her orthodoxy as a Catholic, and that's her story and she stuck with it to the end, but in most other eras of the Church, she would have been dead or in a dungeon.


I am trying to dig up the 5-page letter in which she tore me a new spiritual asshole from heel to cap. It is a brilliant summary of the basic John of the Cross teachings on the dark night, as well. But Jesus, that woman packed a punch. Gotta love that.

“The awakened mind is turned upside down and does not accord even with the Buddha-wisdom.”

- Hui Hai

brilliant, yes, exactly. What she found wasn't supposed to be there.

In a way it is surprising that she was able to have such an insight at all. Having fixed ideas about what it is you are aiming for can be greatly limiting and turns out to be obviously and hilariously wrong and flawed in the most spectacular ways when seen for what it really is.

That's why she was my rock for 30 years, with John X himself: she knew her shit, inside and out, and she was honest to the point of unbearability. Sort of like, uh, certain people around here, maybe, if certain people had attained enlightenment--- yeah, yeah, "union with God," fucking nit-pickers--- by age 18 or so as a nun in spite of the best efforts of her spiritual director to tell her that what she was doing in her prayer was actually the heresy of Quietism. BR's characteristic capacity to ignore the old bag is utterly typical of her; she was always able to dismiss anyone who obviously didn't have a clue, which of course, as we all know, even the clueless among us, is pretty much everyone.

The other thing is it totally fucking surprised her. She thought union was it, left the convent, got an education and got married and raised four kids, and lived her life "giving love," per God's will, basically. Her thoughts on Christ are fascinating, and could get her killed even today in certain areas of the American South. And then that no-self shit--- told in exquisite phenomenological detail in The Experience of No-Self. She got blown out on a hillside by some monastery in Big Sur or someplace, gate, gate, gate, gone baby gone. And, being BR, she basically said, well, i guess John of the Coss just wasn't as good at this stuff as I am. I think he was, and just kept his mouth shut, prudently. But she is definitely the one with the cajones to say to the world that John of the Cross stopped short.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 1:11 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:
She is the only Christian contemplative writer i know who had the balls to say, "John of the Cross got this far, but he never said a word about this whole other thing, the experience of no-self., and i sort of wonder why not."

She was cranky as shit. I corresponded with her a little in the early 2000s, and she basically told me that the dark night, union with God, and beyond, were for thoroughbred race horses, and that God was too merciful to ever call someone with my damaged work-horse self to those heights. I loved her, she was tough and true all the way. She was wrong about me, but only because she knew what it took to get where she had gotten. And indeed, i still have no idea about this no-self stuff, i only know that everything she ever said about the path of John the Cross is true as fuck.


I haven’t read anything from her and I basically don’t know anything about the path of John the Cross, so this could be total bullshit, but to me that sounds like she wasn't referring to the dukkha nanas in the regular cycling, nor to a deeper and more depressive version of it, for that matter, but to the great abyss of depersonalization that can happen when advanced insights are not fully integrated. I don't think that has anything to do with breeding or refinement, and I don't think that damage prevents it (obviously this is just my view and it can change any time), but I do think it can make sense to use the term more specifically for... well, you know, the robotical stuff combined with severe agony... and that is most likely reserved for a small minority. I have a hard time imagining you depersonalized, Tim. But there are undoubtedly other kinds of abysses that converge with insights. Which kind of abyss John the Cross was talking about, I have no idea. If he truly did not talk about the experience of no-self, as she said, then maybe her definition is narrower than his. 

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 2:57 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:

I am trying to dig up the 5-page letter in which she tore me a new spiritual asshole from heel to cap. It is a brilliant summary of the basic John of the Cross teachings on the dark night, as well. But Jesus, that woman packed a punch. Gotta love that.

I'd love to read that if you are happy to share it.

What she found wasn't supposed to be there.

Right! This is always the case. Even in a greatly simplified example we might imagine there is the idea that "enlightenment" will happen to US... that we will become an "enlightened person", and it's not what happens at all.

The other thing is it totally fucking surprised her. She thought union was it, left the convent, got an education and got married and raised four kids, and lived her life "giving love," per God's will, basically. Her thoughts on Christ are fascinating, and could get her killed even today in certain areas of the American South. And then that no-self shit--- told in exquisite phenomenological detail in The Experience of No-Self. She got blown out on a hillside by some monastery in Big Sur or someplace, gate, gate, gate, gone baby gone.

So... she had a first experience of union, then no-self. Something like the 4 Stages. Those 2 middle stages seem a lot more hard to nail down than the 1st and 4th. I wonder what she would have made of the 10 Fetters?

And, being BR, she basically said, well, i guess John of the Coss just wasn't as good at this stuff as I am. I think he was, and just kept his mouth shut, prudently. But she is definitely the one with the cajones to say to the world that John of the Cross stopped short.

Who knows... maybe she was right? I'm sure she didn't see any danger in saying it as she saw it. Interesting stuff.

RE: Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017)
Answer
4/22/20 5:20 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
Tim Farrington:

I am trying to dig up the 5-page letter in which she tore me a new spiritual asshole from heel to cap. It is a brilliant summary of the basic John of the Cross teachings on the dark night, as well. But Jesus, that woman packed a punch. Gotta love that.

I'd love to read that if you are happy to share it.








Yeah, so would i. I have been digging through various piles of folders and boxes crammed with folders, here, and, like the apophatic God per se, I can only say where the letter is not, at this point. But I hold out hope, because i haven't yet come across the folder with the notes for Hell of Mercy, where i suspect i stashed it while writing that one. That folder itself may no longer exist, but we all need hope. That is my quest, SC! I am . . . a seeker.