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What Is Self?: A Study of the Spiritual Journey in Terms of Consciousness Paperback – January 15, 2005


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What Is Self?: A Study of the Spiritual Journey in Terms of Consciousness + The Experience of No-Self: A Contemplative Journey, Revised Edition + The Path to No-Self: Life at the Center
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications (January 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591810264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591810261
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bernadette Roberts is one of the most extraordinary contemplatives of our time. The child of a devout Catholic family, Bernadette Roberts’ contemplative experiences began at an early age. At fifteen, they began to fit into a frame of reference within her Christian tradition. Ten years of seclusion in a monastery followed, during which Bernadette realized an abiding state of oneness with God. According to the Christian mystical tradition, this egoless, unitive state is as far as one can progress in this life.

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Customer Reviews

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This is a very important point, that Bernadette makes many times in different ways in this book.
Michael J. Cunningham
And... as frightening as death of self identity may be - it is natural and necessary that we take this final step, as she assures - all, someday will.
Thomas Carroll
Without a doubt, Bernadette Roberts is the clearest, most incisive writer in our time on the mystical splendor of Christianity.
Joseph Conti

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Carroll on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So pleased to have connected with this very unusual offering. Roberts spends the first half of the book explaining in great detail - sometimes tediously, but in the end thoroughly and with stunning insight - the nature of all self identity - Small Self, Big Self, or as some refer to it, True Self and consciousness. Her conclusion is that they are all temporary, mutually supporting constructs that fall away as one matures along the human journey. Her description of the "no self" condition - her ability to describe "no self" to readers who assume their identity as being the one absolutely, irreducible, "personal" accessory is an amazing accomplishment. Beyond unitive consciousness, Roberts describes conditions of pure knowing without a knower. And not as some have led us to believe - not God realized, omniscient knowing. Instead a knowing that includes the sober realization that all that has been previously "known" was really and unavoidably, mere self reflection. Roberts, now in her seventies is described by those who know her as, "A Force Of Nature." Having spent her early years in a convent treading a path parallel to St.'s. Teresa and John of the Cross, Mrs. Roberts is now devoted to her family - having long ago left cloistered life to marry and raise her children. Present day philosopher, Ken Wilber predicts that our human developmental/spiritual ceiling will continue to rise - just as we see looking back to the 16th century when Christian mystics assumed that the highest level of development was an ecstatic, I/Thou, union with God. Bernadette Roberts takes the reader with her beyond this previously supposed end game - charting new waters, higher ground and finally leaving us to understand that beyond self there remains "knowing without a knower" with still more to come. And...Read more ›
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Conti on November 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Without a doubt, Bernadette Roberts is the clearest, most incisive writer in our time on the mystical splendor of Christianity. Stunning is the range and depth of Robert's presentation of the essential Christian Mysteries in "What is Self?" Her presentation of Christ is without peer.

Please note that "What Is Self?" (and her other books) are very often misrepresented as elaborating a "nondualist" perspective. Having attended many retreats given by Bernadette Roberts over a period of nearly twenty-five years, I know for certain that her paradigm is completely different from "nondualism"-- advaitic, Buddhist, or otherwise.

Indeed, she calls the nondualist misconception of her paradigm "forcing the fit," which she defines in a recent book as "redefining, clipping, pasting, twisting-- to make the original fit a dissonant paradigm" (Roberts, "Forcing-the-Fit" self-published, Foreword, 2008).

In her essay, "Nondualism," she writes: "It is unfortunate that those who aspire to a nondual state will never reach it-- because it doesn't exist. In truth it is just another illusion to be dispelled. With or without self, there is no state in the journey truly 'nondual,' neither in our earthly journey nor in heaven" (Roberts, "Essays on the Christian Contemplative Journey," self-published, 2007, p. 71.)

"What is Self" --with the above works-- clearly distinguishes her paradigm from that of nondualism. Those seeking further clarification of her view this matter will find it on the site, 'Bernadette's Friends."

Joseph Conti, Ph.D.
Dept. of Comparative Religion
California State University at Fullerton
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Olaf van Kooten on December 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
This experiential description from a christian perspective has left me awe-struck. I went on the path of eastern religions after discovering the access to truth our medieaval mystics e.g Hadewich, Ruusbroeck, Eckehart and Thomas a Kempis had achieved around the 13th century AD. However they did not show me the way to this truth and Christianity as it was explained to me was totally devoid of it. After 35 years of zen buddhist practice I touch on this book and I am dumbfounded by the deep similarities AND the differences between Christianity and Buddhism as direct experiential religions. It has allowed me to resonate deeply with these aspects of reality as are labeled Trinity and Resurrection.
It is clear that the difference in our society is not going to be made by Eastern traditions. It must come from our own tradition. But then this tradition has to stop clinging to a dead mythic past and become alive to the here and now. I want to thank Bernadette deeply for this courageous deed of going down her path unerring and making it available to us all by writing it down so lucidly.
Thank you Bernadette.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Marylou Toffier on February 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
The following does not begin to do justice to Ms. Roberts' excellant writing on her path to spiritual enlightenment. Her book left me with the impression and conviction she is an extraordinarilly evolved spiritual being. In my opinion "What is Self?" illustrates that the author "has gone where no one has gone before"! ... she has traveled a path few indeed have tread. The book was so inspiring I did not want the book to end and I didn't want to put it down.
The author articulates a subject that is ellusive and nearly ungraspable, but she does so magnificently, and I was actually able to understand the subject of enlightenment as I never have before. I have not yet read such a comprehensive treatment on consciousness. She does a splendid work on describing the difference between the two states of transcendent and immanent, which I believe makes her presentation of evolving consciousness more exhaustive and remarkable than any literature I have previously encountered. Admittedly, what she says and how she approaches her subject is compatible with my own perceptions, even though her experiences and mine are far removed. I felt so elated and fulfilled after devouring all three of her books, but paradoxically, I couldn't get enough -- I wanted more!! But that's all she wrote.
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