When the sense of self slowly wanes and eventually dissipates, only the emptiness is left which gives rise to the realization, When there is no personal self, there is also no personal God. Yet for Bernadette this was not a bitter pill to swallow but just a quiescent sense of acceptance for whatever would follow:
For a while I sat there mentally and emotionally stunned. I couldn’t think about what had happened, nor was there any response in me at all. Around me there was only stillness, and in this complete stillness I waited and waited for some kind of reaction to set in, or something to happen next, but nothing ever did. In me there was no sense of life, no movement and no feeling; finally I realized I no longer had a “within” at all.
Most spiritual sojourners are unprepared for such a recognition, what is left is only a dark feeling of apprehension; but for the spiritually well-equipped with the sharp penetration of an eye of an eagle in flight, who are well-endowed with the competence for Infused Contemplation, this is just an expected and ordinary stage in the journey and nothing to be inordinately concerned about. But yet something new had occurred, for Bernadette her former interior or spiritual life was finished. Most who are purportedly in the know would just respond that this was a form of Dark Night episode. However Bernadette, who had once lived the life of the Strict Observance of the Carmelites emphatically states that this was not the case:
My first thought was: oh, no, not another Dark Night! I was accustomed to those experiential disappearances of God and was rather disappointed to think there were any of them left. But when none of the usual reactions set in (anything from anxiety to agony — you name it), I felt this experience fell outside anything John of the Cross had described, and put the notion out of my mind. Besides, it didn’t make any difference; I simply had to cope with the reality of the here and now, a reality in which there was no sense of life in me.
Yet apparently at this junction something had to fill the void and for Bernadette her refuge was in nature:
Later that evening before the sun went down, I took myself to a place I always went in time of crisis — the local bird refuge. It was only a few blocks from home, and the route offered beautiful vistas of the sea with its miles of shoreline and hills that rose up behind the refuge. Usually I only climbed in a little way. Beyond the stump where I would sit was a marsh that grew deeper with mud and water as it approached one of the ponds formed by the river which emptied into the sea. But this day, I took off my shoes and socks and climbed into the middle of the refuge until I found a small rock barely visible above the mud. Here, among the tall reeds and wild grasses I sat down and disappeared — literally sank into the life that was around me, and soon, on me as well.
It was within nature that the secret was revealed to her:
It was here that nature finally yielded its secret to me in a simple, still moment in which I saw how it all worked. God or life was not in anything. It was just the reverse; everything was in God. (emphasis mine) And we were not in God like drops of water that could be separated from the sea, but more like…Well, the only thing I could think of was the notion of trying to pinch out a spot on an inflated balloon; if you pinch out a spot and try to cut it off, the whole thing will pop because it can’t be done. You can’t separate anything from God, for as soon as you let go of the notion of separateness, everything falls back into the wholeness of God and life. [A similar realization occurs in the Dharmakaya Sutra: 3.9 “This body consciousness IS IN my spirit; my spirit IS NOT IN this body consciousness.”]
Her refuge-state was short lived, as within a favorite nature setting one day…
Since there was nothing unusual going on at the stream, I stood looking out over the valley, gazing at nothing in particular, when I noticed a peculiar gathering of intensity in the air somewhere over the valley. Whatever it was, it was gathering itself together from all parts and in doing so, was expanding outwards, obliterating everything in its path. At the same time, it grew to such a pitch of vibratory, almost electrical, intensity that it exerted a magnetic pull on my body.
At first glimpse, it appeared to be the familiar Oneness, but as it grew in intensity I realized it was something else, something I did not recognize at all. The Oneness had always revealed itself through a medium, but if this was the Oneness, it now had no medium and was magnified a thousand times over, a magnification that could not be endured. But whatever its reality, I knew that to be caught in the path of its expansion was to be drawn into it like a speck of dust. I thought my time had come, and that despite the mystery of what remained, it would remain no longer. Another second and the light would go out forever — the light of the eye that beheld this wonder. Somehow I knew this should not be so, yet there was nothing that could be done. I could not look away for there was nowhere else to look; there was no energy to move; and within, all was still and motionless: no response, no thoughts, and no feelings. What would be, would be.
This is why, when there is no self, there also seem to be no experiences — no movement, feelings, excitement, or the thousand responses of which the self is capable. From here on all experiences are of a non-relative character, meaning the experience is it, it is there, and there is nothing outside itself. (emphasis mine)
Bernadette’s description of the peculiar gathering of intensity in the air is eerily reminiscent of the 1984 children’s film, The Never-Ending Story. The basic plot of the movie revolves around an ever-increasing menace called The Nothing which is slowly encroaching upon a world called Fantasia. The whole of Fantasia eventually dissolves (save for one small kingdom which soon also disbands) as this nothingness relentlessly gobbles it up sparing none in its path…
Some dialog from the film involving one of the protagonists and his nemesis further intensifies the action:
The last lines here bear an uncanny resemblance to our own present situation, if you catch my drift.
But the main import of Bernadette’s last lines above reveal a close union with Unborn Mind teachings: It is there, and there is nothing outside Itself. This encapsulates the whole of her message that there is no-thing outside the Absolute—IT encompasses all and all is in IT. All of her life experiences become absorbed in IT and IT alone stands dominant amidst the phenomenal outflows. But the newness here of the meaning illustrates the other-side of the Absolute coming to meet us as IT dissolves IT’s own functional apparatus, i.e., any trace of the phenomenal discharges. No-medium is left. The writer actually becomes a witness of this whilst simultaneously experiencing IT’s thereness and then IT’s no-thingness absorbing all dharmatas back to their original formless Un-structure. This is where experience itself is left by the wayside, for IT does not experience or know anything in Its prior stateless state. This also entails No-Consciousness—that numbness factor which is left feeling nothing conceivable nor perceivable. No-thing is left in ITS wake. It’s all about being Prior to Consciousness and all its trappings: Parabraham.