Chapter 39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
"Return to india. I have waited for you patiently for fifteen years. Soon I shall swim out of the body and
on to the Shining Abode. Yogananda, come!"
Sri Yukteswar's voice sounded startlingly in my inner ear as I sat in meditation at my Mt. Washington
headquarters. Traversing ten thousand miles in the twinkling of an eye, his message penetrated my being like
a flash of lightning.
Fifteen years! Yes, I realized, now it is 1935; I have spent fifteen years in spreading my guru's
teachings in America. Now he recalls me.
That afternoon I recounted my experience to a visiting disciple. His spiritual development under Kriya
Yoga was so remarkable that I often called him "saint," remembering Babaji's prophecy that America too
would produce men and women of divine realization through the ancient yogic path.
This disciple and a number of others generously insisted on making a donation for my travels. The
financial problem thus solved, I made arrangements to sail, via Europe, for India. Busy weeks of preparations
at Mount Washington! In March, 1935 I had the Self-Realization Fellowship chartered under the laws of the
State of California as a non-profit corporation. To this educational institution go all public donations as
well as the revenue from the sale of my books, magazine, written courses, class tuition, and every other
source of income.
"I shall be back," I told my students. "Never shall I forget America."
At a farewell banquet given to me in Los Angeles by loving friends, I looked long at their
faces and thought gratefully, "Lord, he who remembers Thee as the Sole Giver will never lack the sweetness of
friendship among mortals."
I sailed from New York on June 9, 19351 in the Europa. Two students accompanied
me: my secretary, Mr. C. Richard Wright, and an elderly lady from Cincinnati, Miss Ettie Bletch. We enjoyed
the days of ocean peace, a welcome contrast to the past hurried weeks. Our period of leisure was short-lived;
the speed of modern boats has some regrettable features!
Like any other group of inquisitive tourists, we walked around the huge and ancient city of London. The
following day I was invited to address a large meeting in Caxton Hall, at which I was introduced to the
London audience by Sir Francis Younghusband. Our party spent a pleasant day as guests of Sir Harry Lauder at
his estate in Scotland. We soon crossed the English Channel to the continent, for I wanted to make a special
pilgrimage to Bavaria. This would be my only chance, I felt, to visit the great Catholic mystic, Therese
Neumann of Konnersreuth.
Years earlier I had read an amazing account of Therese. Information given in the article was as
(1) Therese, born in 1898, had been injured in an accident at the age of twenty; she became blind and
(2) She miraculously regained her sight in 1923 through prayers to St. Teresa, "The Little Flower." Later
Therese Neumann's limbs were instantaneously healed.
(3) From 1923 onward, Therese has abstained completely from food and drink, except for the daily
swallowing of one small consecrated wafer.
(4) The stigmata, or sacred wounds of Christ, appeared in 1926 on Therese's head, breast, hands, and feet.
On Friday of every week thereafter, she has passed through the Passion of Christ, suffering in her own body
all his historic agonies.
(5) Knowing ordinarily only the simple German of her village, during her Friday trances Therese utters
phrases which scholars have identified as ancient Aramaic. At appropriate times in her vision, she speaks
Hebrew or Greek.
(6) By ecclesiastical permission, Therese has several times been under close scientific
observation. Dr. Fritz Gerlick, editor of a Protestant German newspaper, went to Konnersreuth to "expose the
Catholic fraud," but ended up by reverently writing her biography.2
As always, whether in East or West, I was eager to meet a saint. I rejoiced as our little party entered,
on July 16th, the quaint village of Konnersreuth. The Bavarian peasants exhibited lively interest in our Ford
automobile (brought with us from America) and its assorted groupan American young man, an elderly lady, and
an olive-hued Oriental with long hair tucked under his coat collar.
Therese's little cottage, clean and neat, with geraniums blooming by a primitive well, was alas! silently
closed. The neighbors, and even the village postman who passed by, could give us no information. Rain began
to fall; my companions suggested that we leave.
"No," I said stubbornly, "I will stay here until I find some clue leading to Therese."
Two hours later we were still sitting in our car amidst the dismal rain. "Lord," I sighed complainingly,
"why didst Thou lead me here if she has disappeared?"
An English-speaking man halted beside us, politely offering his aid.
"I don't know for certain where Therese is," he said, "but she often visits at the home of Professor Wurz,
a seminary master of Eichstatt, eighty miles from here."
The following morning our party motored to the quiet village of Eichstatt, narrowly lined with
cobblestoned streets. Dr. Wurz greeted us cordially at his home; "Yes, Therese is here." He sent her word of
the visitors. A messenger soon appeared with her reply.
"Though the bishop has asked me to see no one without his permission, I will receive the man of God from
Deeply touched at these words, I followed Dr. Wurz upstairs to the sitting room. Therese entered
immediately, radiating an aura of peace and joy. She wore a black gown and spotless white head dress.
Although her age was thirty-seven at this time, she seemed much younger, possessing indeed a childlike
freshness and charm. Healthy, well-formed, rosy-cheeked, and cheerful, this is the saint that does not
Therese greeted me with a very gentle handshaking. We both beamed in silent communion, each knowing the
other to be a lover of God.
Dr. Wurz kindly offered to serve as interpreter. As we seated ourselves, I noticed that Therese was
glancing at me with naive curiosity; evidently Hindus had been rare in Bavaria.
"Don't you eat anything?" I wanted to hear the answer from her own lips.
"No, except a consecrated rice-flour wafer, once every morning at six o'clock."
"How large is the wafer?"
"It is paper-thin, the size of a small coin." She added, "I take it for sacramental reasons; if it is
unconsecrated, I am unable to swallow it."
"Certainly you could not have lived on that, for twelve whole years?"
"I live by God's light." How simple her reply, how Einsteinian!
"I see you realize that energy flows to your body from the ether, sun, and air."
A swift smile broke over her face. "I am so happy to know you understand how I live."
"Your sacred life is a daily demonstration of the truth uttered by Christ: 'Man shall not
live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'"3
Again she showed joy at my explanation. "It is indeed so. One of the reasons I am here on earth today is
to prove that man can live by God's invisible light, and not by food only."
"Can you teach others how to live without food?"
She appeared a trifle shocked. "I cannot do that; God does not wish it."
As my gaze fell on her strong, graceful hands, Therese showed me a little, square, freshly healed wound on
each of her palms. On the back of each hand, she pointed out a smaller, crescent-shaped wound, freshly
healed. Each wound went straight through the hand. The sight brought to my mind distinct recollection of the
large square iron nails with crescent-tipped ends, still used in the Orient, but which I do not recall having
seen in the West.
The saint told me something of her weekly trances. "As a helpless onlooker, I observe the whole Passion of
Christ." Each week, from Thursday midnight until Friday afternoon at one o'clock, her wounds open and bleed;
she loses ten pounds of her ordinary 121-pound weight. Suffering intensely in her sympathetic love, Therese
yet looks forward joyously to these weekly visions of her Lord.
I realized at once that her strange life is intended by God to reassure all Christians of the historical
authenticity of Jesus' life and crucifixion as recorded in the New Testament, and to dramatically display the
ever-living bond between the Galilean Master and his devotees.
Professor Wurz related some of his experiences with the saint.
"Several of us, including Therese, often travel for days on sight-seeing trips throughout Germany," he
told me. "It is a striking contrastwhile we have three meals a day, Therese eats nothing. She remains as
fresh as a rose, untouched by the fatigue which the trips cause us. As we grow hungry and hunt for wayside
inns, she laughs merrily."
The professor added some interesting physiological details: "Because Therese takes no food, her stomach
has shrunk. She has no excretions, but her perspiration glands function; her skin is always soft and
At the time of parting, I expressed to Therese my desire to be present at her trance.
"Yes, please come to Konnersreuth next Friday," she said graciously. "The bishop will give you a permit. I
am very happy you sought me out in Eichstatt."
Therese shook hands gently, many times, and walked with our party to the gate. Mr. Wright turned on the
automobile radio; the saint examined it with little enthusiastic chuckles. Such a large crowd of youngsters
gathered that Therese retreated into the house. We saw her at a window, where she peered at us, childlike,
waving her hand.
From a conversation the next day with two of Therese's brothers, very kind and amiable, we learned that
the saint sleeps only one or two hours at night. In spite of the many wounds in her body, she is active and
full of energy. She loves birds, looks after an aquarium of fish, and works often in her garden. Her
correspondence is large; Catholic devotees write her for prayers and healing blessings. Many seekers have
been cured through her of serious diseases.
Her brother Ferdinand, about twenty-three, explained that Therese has the power, through prayer, of
working out on her own body the ailments of others. The saint's abstinence from food dates from a time when
she prayed that the throat disease of a young man of her parish, then preparing to enter holy orders, be
transferred to her own throat.
On Thursday afternoon our party drove to the home of the bishop, who looked at my flowing locks with some
surprise. He readily wrote out the necessary permit. There was no fee; the rule made by the Church is simply
to protect Therese from the onrush of casual tourists, who in previous years had flocked on Fridays by the
We arrived Friday morning about nine-thirty in Konnersreuth. I noticed that Therese's little cottage
possesses a special glass-roofed section to afford her plenty of light. We were glad to see the doors no
longer closed, but wide-open in hospitable cheer. There was a line of about twenty visitors, armed with their
permits. Many had come from great distances to view the mystic trance.
Therese had passed my first test at the professor's house by her intuitive knowledge that I wanted to see
her for spiritual reasons, and not just to satisfy a passing curiosity.
My second test was connected with the fact that, just before I went upstairs to her room, I put myself
into a yogic trance state in order to be one with her in telepathic and televisic rapport. I entered her
chamber, filled with visitors; she was lying in a white robe on the bed. With Mr. Wright following closely
behind me, I halted just inside the threshold, awestruck at a strange and most frightful spectacle.
Blood flowed thinly and continuously in an inch-wide stream from Therese's lower eyelids. Her gaze was
focused upward on the spiritual eye within the central forehead. The cloth wrapped around her head was
drenched in blood from the stigmata wounds of the crown of thorns. The white garment was redly splotched over
her heart from the wound in her side at the spot where Christ's body, long ages ago, had suffered the final
indignity of the soldier's spear-thrust.
Therese's hands were extended in a gesture maternal, pleading; her face wore an expression both tortured
and divine. She appeared thinner, changed in many subtle as well as outward ways. Murmuring words in a
foreign tongue, she spoke with slightly quivering lips to persons visible before her inner sight.
As I was in attunement with her, I began to see the scenes of her vision. She was watching
Jesus as he carried the cross amidst the jeering multitude. 4 Suddenly she lifted her head in consternation:
the Lord had fallen under the cruel weight. The vision disappeared. In the exhaustion of fervid pity, Therese
sank heavily against her pillow.
At this moment I heard a loud thud behind me. Turning my head for a second, I saw two men carrying out a
prostrate body. But because I was coming out of the deep superconscious state, I did not immediately
recognize the fallen person. Again I fixed my eyes on Therese's face, deathly pale under the rivulets of
blood, but now calm, radiating purity and holiness. I glanced behind me later and saw Mr. Wright standing
with his hand against his cheek, from which blood was trickling.
"Dick," I inquired anxiously, "were you the one who fell?"
"Yes, I fainted at the terrifying spectacle."
"Well," I said consolingly, "you are brave to return and look upon the sight again."
Remembering the patiently waiting line of pilgrims, Mr. Wright and I silently bade farewell to Therese and
left her sacred presence.5
The following day our little group motored south, thankful that we were not dependent on trains, but could
stop the Ford wherever we chose throughout the countryside. We enjoyed every minute of a tour
through Germany, Holland, France, and the Swiss Alps. In Italy we made a special trip to Assisi to honor the
apostle of humility, St. Francis. The European tour ended in Greece, where we viewed the Athenian temples,
and saw the prison in which the gentle Socrates6 had drunk his death potion. One is filled with
admiration for the artistry with which the Greeks have everywhere wrought their very fancies in
We took ship over the sunny Mediterranean, disembarking at Palestine. Wandering day after day over the
Holy Land, I was more than ever convinced of the value of pilgrimage. The spirit of Christ is all-pervasive
in Palestine; I walked reverently by his side at Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary, the holy Mount of Olives,
and by the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.
Our little party visited the Birth Manger, Joseph's carpenter shop, the tomb of Lazarus, the house of
Martha and Mary, the hall of the Last Supper. Antiquity unfolded; scene by scene, I saw the divine drama that
Christ once played for the ages.
On to Egypt, with its modern Cairo and ancient pyramids. Then a boat down the narrow Red Sea, over the
vasty Arabian Sea; lo, India!
Chapter1 - My Parents and Early Life
Chapter2 - My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
Chapter3 - The Saint With Two Bodies
Chapter4 - My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
Chapter5 - A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
Chapter6 - The Tiger Swami
Chapter7 - The Levitating Saint
Chapter8 - India's Great Scientist, J.C. Bose
Chapter9 - The Blissful Devotee and His Cosmic Romance
Chapter10 - I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
Chapter11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
Chapter12 - Years in My Master's Hermitage
Chapter13 - The Sleepless Saint
Chapter14 - An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter15 - The Cauliflower Robbery
Chapter16 - Outwitting the Stars
Chapter17 - Sasi and the Three Sapphires
Chapter18 - A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
Chapter19 - My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
Chapter20 - We Do Not Visit Kashmir
Chapter21 - We Visit Kashmir
Chapter22 - The Heart of a Stone Image
Chapter23 - I Receive My University Degree
Chapter24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Chapter25 - Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
Chapter26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga
Chapter27 - Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
Chapter28 - Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
Chapter29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
Chapter30 - The Law of Miracles
Chapter31 - An Interview with the Sacred Mother
Chapter32 - Rama is Raised From the Dead
Chapter33 - Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
Chapter34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalaya
Chapter35 - The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
Chapter36 - Babaji's Interest in the West
Chapter37 - I Go to America
Chapter38 - Luther Burbank -- A Saint Amidst the Roses
Chapter39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
Chapter40 - I Return to India
Chapter41 - An Idyll in South India
Chapter42 - Last Days With My Guru
Chapter43 - The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
Chapter44 - With Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha
Chapter45 - The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
Chapter46 - The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats
Chapter47 - I Return to the West
Chapter48 - At Encinitas in California
Chapter49 - The Years - 1940 - 1951