Adventure of Faith
By Shraddha Liertz
Publisher: New Delhi: Science of the Soul Research Centre
In the spring of 1937, at age 13, coming home on the train from school, Shraddha Liertz suddenly
felt as if an invisible light, coming from above, was flowing over her. She was spellbound, completely overwhelmed by what was happening. At the same time she “heard” a clear and distinct voice inside, saying, “Preserve your heart’s capacity to love, for you know not whether God will one day ask you for your undivided heart.”
And so begins the extraordinary account of Liertz’s spiritual quest. She writes, “With the twofold experience of light and voice, God had entered into my life in his own inscrutable manner.”
Brought up in a devoted German Catholic family, Liertz sought inspiration reading books of the Christian saints, but soon realized that her soul’s real guide was inside herself. After living through the horrors of World War II in Munich and losing her father, her only desire was to dedicate herself to a life of prayer and contemplation. She searched for several years before she found the Benedictine abbey where, after five years of preparation, she took final vows as a nun.
Life at the abbey revolved around chanting, recitation of the liturgy, and communal prayers. But Liertz became restless, driven by an urge to live a more intense religious life. She longed for more intimate contact with God in her personal prayer. She prayed earnestly and, in her words, God’s response
fell upon me like fire, in just the same way that it had in my youth. Again it lasted only for a fraction of a second – like a flash of lightning – and God had taken possession of me. At least I was convinced that it was he who had attracted the eyes of my soul to him by this experience. It was no longer me longing to belong to him; now it was he who wanted to “possess my undivided ear,” as he had intimated all those years ago.
This experience put an end to her practice of meditating on Christ’s picture. “Not only had it become superfluous, but it even, paradoxically, covered up the face of God.” Liertz’s only choice now seemed to be unconditional submission. “I found that it was impossible to divert my inner gaze from God. I was quite unable to turn away from the inner light that radiated imperceptibly from his hidden face. All I wanted was to respond to his gaze, without words or thoughts.”
Yet she was torn between her duty of monastic obedience and her irresistible urge to remain in silence before God. This conflict crushed her. Her heart froze “until in the end it felt dead.” God now seemed to her very far away. She fell into a state of deadly emptiness, an immense mournful loneliness. In this desolate condition, the words “All is nothing – God alone suffices” came into her heart. From that point on, in spite of the monastic schedule, she was determined to use every minute for silent prayer. With renewed energy, she renounced all the “trivialities” and rededicated her life to God unconditionally. “I wanted to shun neglect, infidelity, forgetfulness and everything that might displease God, while openly confessing all my faults.” She refers to this milestone as her second conversion.
As in the title of the book, Liertz portrays her life of searching as an adventure. One period, she says, was like walking along a narrow, steep ridge with abysses on both sides. In spite of the sense of danger, Liertz recalls the walk as glorious, for it made her experience God’s invisible presence, his gaze obliging her to look to him ceaselessly. Another period she describes as “the call into the desert,” where the soul is called to face God, to realize that “all is nothing – only God exists,” and to make a “total surrender of my entire being, of my whole existence, to him.”
Driven by her spiritual search, Liertz requested and eventually obtained permission from the Church to leave the abbey. Her quest then took her through many twists and turns. She resolved to travel to India, to look for a contemplative community to make her spiritual home. She went through periods where all doors seemed closed to her. Yet she always felt guided by the divine will of which she writes: “In the course of the years to come, experience showed me more than once that one cannot intervene in the realization of the divine will, either in one’s own life or in the lives of others.”
After arriving in India and some months of uncertainty, Liertz heard of a Hindu ashram seeking a visiting nun. Accepted to join the ashram, she immersed herself in its routine, which included the daily study of Indian philosophy and religions. These writings, superficially so foreign to the Christian texts she knew, revealed to her “the universality of the spiritual, mystical experiences of humanity,” and that the experience of God is the same for all, no matter the religion. She became convinced “that the ‘universal Christ’ is present in all the religions of the world in a concealed form, and the divine Word or Logos is also manifest in the holy scriptures of these religions.”
Her course of study included the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and philosophical works of Advaita Vedanta. In the Ishavasya Upanishad she read “The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden disc; Do thou remove it, O Sustainer, so that I, the seeker of Truth, may behold it.” From this she understood that it is not just the material world that comes between us and God, but also our mental pictures. The intellect and the experiences of the senses veil the eternal truth that can only be experienced with closed eyes and a mind made completely motionless. Her study of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta reinforced her intuitive understanding that God can only be experienced. As Shankaracharya writes, commenting on the Brahma Sutra, “Brahman cannot be known by the perception of the senses, because he should not be considered an object amongst other objects. Nor can he be known by logical reasoning, because no logical reasoning leads to him. Brahman can only be known through anubhava (experience).”
As she studied, she became obsessed with the question “Who is God?” Eventually, unable to overcome inner blocks, she became convinced that she needed a spiritual guide. This led her to Maharaj Charan Singh, the living Master at Dera Baba Jaimal Singh in the Punjab. After spending some weeks at the Dera she faced an agonizing dilemma: if she accepted a living Master as guide in her inner life and meditation, would she not have to abandon the inner guide who had brought her so far? Then, by a sudden spiritual experience, she realized that her two guides were one: the eyes she had perceived as those of Jesus Christ, peering through the veil inside her, were and had always been the Master’s. From this point on, meditation and her relationship with the living saint became the core of her spiritual life.
This book gives deep insight into the spiritual quest of a seeker after truth. While focused on the personal story of Liertz, the book offers a wealth of information about Christianity and Hinduism. In her search, Liertz went through periods of conflict, both inside and outside. Moments of despair, when she felt completely out of touch with God, were followed by moments of bliss and realization. Along the way, she made a deep study of mystical writings from a wide array of sources. Readers of Adventure of Faith will find inspiration in her description of a quest that was not easy but that led to a complete transformation of the individual.
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