The Continuing Struggle


Currently, I’m re-reading Bernadette Roberts’s book, What is Self?

One criticism I have of her writings is essentially that, while she goes on at length to explain what exactly Christ and God are, and moreover, what exactly “self” means according to her terminology, the book doesn’t exactly explain what one is supposed to do.

Other readers and some who have attended her retreats have mentioned on websites that they can summarize what they think she’d recommend doing, such as continuing to participate in the Holy Eucharist. With no doubt, the reception of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and its importance to my approach to Christianity was highly influenced by her. This is where the core energy of Christianity is, where it lays, where it’s always been: in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Sufism, too, has been, in part, a let down for me, but the difference is that Sufism doesn’t distract me in the intellectual way that Christianity does. Instead, I’m capable of simply living out the Longing and Love for God, but the problem comes in being able to access that sense of Longing and Love; the lower chakras take up a huge amount of my own personal energy with their damage and traumas and darkness, so for energy to even make it to my heart chakra to create love is amazing.

Love is not limited to one chakra, though; neither are many emotions. This is something that I’ve rarely seen mentioned; one can feel longing in an intellectual sense, in the higher chakras, though this seems counterintuitive to what we would image, and love can also be experienced in the solar plexus chakra. There’s no end to the amazing things one discovers.

But to the point, Sufism, as I have known it, as de-emphasized the lower chakras in favor of the heart chakra. Michael and Kelly made a similar criticize of how modern systems talk about focusing on just the third eye chakra, which one cannot access without going through the lower chakras, and I would daresay this is my own experience, though others may experience things differently.

My first thought about the reason for focusing on the heart chakra and on the third eye chakra is that they’re likely purer than the lower chakras; to awaken the third eye chakra allows a kind of clarity of what the reality in the lower chakras is. Summarily, the lower chakras store old emotional imprints, largely dealing with childhood trauma that became our “template” for interacting with other people, and thus when we encounter those emotions and feelings, we can misinterpret them, or they can be stored in such a way that it affects our bodies negatively.

Going back just a little, Bernadette might well simply point us to the contemplative tradition and to the Holy Eucharist- in fact, I would largely say that these are the two essentials of her take on Christianity. In layman’s terms, we have to meditate and go receive the Holy Eucharist faithfully.

The reality is that if the Roman Catholic Church knew what she was saying, she would likely be excommunicated, plain and simple- especially if her works were to gain any kind of major influence in the Church. She says highly heretical things, many times sounding more Gnostic than Catholic, and she interprets Christian teachings in a radical sort of way while throwing out a lot of the garbage in Christianity. What I mean to express here is that Bernadette doesn’t seem to think Christian teachings are perfect and pure just the way they are, even going so far as to state the Creed is worded incorrectly.

For a clarification of Christianity, for its redemption from what most of the religionists use it as these days, What is Self? is more than adequate, but it doesn’t tell us what to do.

In the same way, Sufism doesn’t explain what to do with the Shadow. I hear a great deal of discussion about the Shadow, about integrating psychology from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. What I’ve failed to hear is how to actually do this.

Llewellyn does give a great hint of sorts: the same consciousness that created a problem cannot solve that problem. Thus, the entity and person who created a psycho-spiritual block in our chakras cannot solve it; that is, my best guess is that the level of the mind on which the blockage was created cannot cleanse it. Instead, one must go deeper.

But how do you get a psychological block in one’s chakras to give up its meaning, to explain to you what the actual block is? Maybe it manifests as an eating disorder, as sexual dysfunction, as tiredness, as being prone to illness; how do you get it to tell you exactly what it is and then change how you feel?

That, I think, is the basic and intense psychological work that must be done before we ever get around to the nitty-gritty of discussing things such as the afterlife or the soul, much less self-development and so on.

Bernadette makes a good point: we must not simply try to avoid sinning, we must rid ourselves of any capacity to sin whatsoever, and that’s where Christianity fails as a system. We are told that God will forgive us, over and over again, and that we must try not to sin, but the whole point is that the capacity to sin still exists, and our animal instincts will compel us to do things that we would rather not do at times.

She points out the fact that the Hindu systems seem to suggest the problem is intellectual: if we only saw that the ego is not real and what it is doing to make us unhappy, we would lose it. She criticizes this point a length, yet here I will point out that Vineeto at the Actual Freedom Trust actually said something similar to this. Of course, that would be depicting the AF system poorly and in an oversimplified manner, and for all its flaws and so on, I don’t mean to misrepresent it.

Had I not read something by Osho that said the exact thing that Bernadette did, I would have thought her point grossly oversimplified, but she does explain things in great detail.

I think the issue is this: feelings are the real problem. Our emotional system is vastly more powerful than our intellect, and therefore, thinking something over and over again will not necessarily change damage done at an early age. To exemplify, chanting an affirmation again and again at age 45 will not heal damage done at age 5 unless the affirmation actually changes one’s emotions.

The issue is not just thought restructuring: the issue is emotional restructuring, and for what it’s worth, our modern psychotherapy is absolutely atrocious at this. This explains why my being in therapy for two years did almost zilch to help my social anxiety and that the anxiety that decreased almost always seemed to happen on its own and not because of anything the therapist said or did.

Some people were under the impression that I did better when I was in therapy; I disagree with them. Ultimately what I gather is that people believe that therapy really works well and that my being in therapy was really helping me along. This is not to say that the therapy was completely worthless, but it did show me the limitations of therapy as a whole, and I think the issues I have must be dealt with by someone who actually knows how to heal emotions and not with someone who thinks thinking is where it’s at.

Arguably this happens in mysticism as a whole anyway, but the problem is that it’s cumbersome. Incredibly cumbersome. There don’t seem to be any specific milestones that each person passes through, which is to say that “stage theories” are useless. Sure, we can create a general map, but that map can manifest in wide and varied experiences for each person, so that doesn’t help at all.

I can tell you very well that my main problem is fear, fear of judgment from others, fear of public humiliation. Fear, period. Were I not afraid and not afraid at all, I would have accomplished more in this world than any other person I know. But the fear has held me back, and there’s not necessarily a way to simply stop being afraid. The mind is quite talented at fooling us into thinking that we no longer have fear or doubts or whatever until we are faced with the situation, and then boom, reality sets in.

Dustin, who may as well be dead to me, would respond, “We can’t survive on this level without fear.” FUCK THAT. I would rather die unafraid than to live my life in fear, and on top of that, I think it’s a stupid sentiment to say that we would simply die if we never felt fear. I’m not a blithering idiot. There is a distinction between, say, the torment and suffering caused by the emotion of fear and the body’s instinctual pull away from a hot flame, and he failed to make such a distinction.

This blog has been awfully long, almost equivalent to the length of a chapter in one of my books. That’s because I’ve been working on it for over two hours, off and on, stopping to cook and chat in the middle of it and entirely forgetting about it at other points.

The ultimate point is that I’ve stumbled, in one way or another, on to my own kundalini in a more controlled way than before. Though my second chakra still needs to be “cleaned’ and the blocks released, I’ve found ways to channeling the power through the rest of my body. Maybe all the mystical practices I’ve done before has lead up to this, I’m not sure.

I am aware that at the time I stopped saying the dhikr, an entire crisis erupted in my life, the remains of which I’m still feeling. So the truth is that I learned in the past half year or so that even if one doesn’t immediately see the results and benefits of a practice, they certainly exist. This has been mentioned here before, I’m sure, but I thought I would repeat myself as it fit contextually.

If I had a bit more certainty, if I was even released from anxiety, I think I would have less of an issue at this point. Even the erasure of anxiety without the erasure of the entire “self” would be enough for my own happiness, I think.

God…or Whatever…help.


A New Mission

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Having finally completed Bernadette Roberts’s book What is Self? I can now give a greater and fuller commentary on it than before.

Again, I want to point to her unique perspectives on things, and by reading about her journey, I now understand Christianity in a much different light, and it’s only a solidification of the mystical aspects of it.

In mainstream Christianity, there are plenty of errors, which typically begin with a bad approach and eventually devolve into some kind of legalism that requires one to find Bible verses to back up reality. That is not the focus of this entry, however. I can still spew out my spite for the Bibliolatry that so many Christians fall into, but that’s not going to get us anywhere here.

Bernadette is critical of some others who speak about Christian mysticism, notably Evelyn Underhill. Since I have Underhill’s book on Christian mysticism, I’m going to read it and see where she falls in regards to Bernadette.

I do find it strange that Bernadette proposes that we continue even upon the death of the body as we know it- in the sense that there is some aspect of the body that exists that we cannot readily perceive with our senses. As I pointed out before, this seemed to be a lot like the idea of the soul or spirit, only spun differently.

I’ll know when I get there, I suppose.

So my new mission is to go through more of the Christian mystical literature and see what I can find that relates to Bernadette’s experience and potentially to my own experience.

Some would say that I shouldn’t “follow” anyone as a particular teacher, but then, that never worked. I understand that we can’t expect one human to give us everything that we need, and yet maybe that person can take us far enough along the path that we can stand on our own.

I wouldn’t say that I’m following Bernadette Roberts so much as I would say that I’m going to practice Christianity and see if it really does result in what she says it does.

Of course, I should also make the point that she mentions how we can absorb the BEST of all other paths without necessarily leaving our own. And I’m okay with that. I’ve definitely absorbed a bulk of Sufism- but to call myself Gnostic and Sufi is kind of a redundant.

Christianity, even with all the numerous errors that it has produced over the years, is still the basic framework with which we can go in the American culture. Some might object to the Catholic sense of it and go one further to say that American Christianity has largely been puritanical and Protestant in nature, but the Catholic mystery still holds, and I’m all for that.


More on Bernadette Roberts


To anyone who is into mysticism and more specifically Christian mysticism (which is largely oriented towards the great Catholic and Gnostic traditions), I highly suggest picking up a copy of Bernadette Roberts’s book What is Self?

Her perspectives end out upside the doctrinal boundaries of mainstream Christianity for the most part and challenge positions posited by Carl Jung and various mystical systems in the world, which may seem somewhat threatening on the one hand, but she does so in concluding that humanity is ultimately diverse, and she also takes care to spell out the differences in the use of terminology.

However, her own philosophy that is offered is extremely novel and refreshing, and I think that much makes it worth the read.

Her ultimate conclusions are something I encountered in Actual Freedom and from U.G. Krishnamurti, and it’s no wonder that she’s specifically “dealt with” on the Actual Freedom website- her perspectives are so incredibly analogous to what they say that she naturally challenges their dogma, and as Richard and his ilk are not the sort of people who enjoy being challenged (or rather, ridicule anyone who argues with them).

But the real thing that sets them apart is that Bernadette comes from a Christian perspective in which the individual soul is not God. Richard in the Actual Freedom Trust comes from the Eastern perspective that ultimately, the soul is God and God is the soul, and thus if one eliminates or goes beyond the Higher Self, one necessarily goes beyond God.

Bernadette simply says that the experience of God ceases- that ultimately, the experience was all of the Self and not of God. You can see how this can be problematic for the Eastern systems.

But she also goes on to say something that U.G. says- the body is eternal. There is an eternal body, in other words- an aspect of the body that we don’t readily apprehend through our senses and so on, and so that only death that ever occurs is the “death of the Higher Self.”

It’s all very confusing, and I wonder sometimes if I go through the whole journey, what will happen, what I will encounter, what I will report back to everyone else.

Certainly, I plan to not be dogmatic or run around with a superiority complex over it- as this seems to be problematic with some of the people who actually make the journey. I’ve yet to understand how people who claim to have no ego and no self can be so absolutely arrogant in the way that they are.

For the Gnostic, the concept that the body and not the soul is eternal is somewhat problematic because of the idea that spirit is superior to matter. However, perhaps it can be said that it is not matter that is the problem, but the systems and limitations imposed on matter. Bernadette seems to find the reconciliation in saying that the Higher Self is actually the “veil” that separates us from absolute reality and the knowledge of Christ and matter and so on.

She also deals with the idea of “Christ is matter,” which she said is an error, but that it’s at least a closer approximation than a lot of ideas that go around.

I’ll continue reading and continuing searching, and I’ll go receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist as often as possible.