Bernadette Roberts entered the Carmelite order in her early teens. Soon afterwards, she experienced the spiritual deepening of the "dark nights" described by Saint John of the Cross. After spending 10 years as a cloistered nun, Roberts left the Carmelite order. She distinguishes between two major milestones in the spiritual journey.
The first is when the ego, matured through life experience and spiritual practice, falls away to reveal the unitive state, the oneness or wholeness of the self in unity with God. This milestone is well known in the Catholic contemplative literature, as well as in other religious traditions, and marks the beginning of a person's mature life as a human being. According to Roberts, this first milestone is often mistaken for the end of the spiritual journey The most important element of Roberts' discovery is that there is a further stage in the contemplative journey beyond that of the unitive state. Roberts describes this passage as heading into the complete unknown, the falling away of the self.
According to Roberts, 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. Fundamentally the unitive state is still a form of dualism — self and God. Beyond the unitive state, Roberts experiences the falling away of the idea of God simultaneously with the experience of the falling away of self — when there is no self, there is no God. The experience is of a raw, pure and unadulterated reality without the imposition of concepts and ideas. Gradually this state, this initial loss, cleared to become a profound understanding of reality itself. In place of "unity" with God comes identity with God — a state she calls seeing with God's own eyes. But 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. Roberts believe that other contemplatives also walked the path of the dissolution of self, notably Meister Eckhart, and perhaps John of the Cross himself, who may have been unable to speak of it. Her book The Experience of No-Self describes the journey through this passage in an experiential and autobiographical way.
For more biographical information, please go to www.spiritualteachers.org/bernadette_roberts.htm