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Inter-Religious Contexts and Comparative Theology in the Thought of Evelyn Underhill: Symbolic Narratives of Mysticism and the Songs of Kabīr

by Michael Stoeber
Regis College/University of Toronto

This article first appeared in the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Vol. 26 (2013) pp. 91-106. The paper is reprinted by permission of Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies and Digital Commons @ Butler University © 2014.

Introductory Reflections

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) regards mysticism as the core of religion. All religions include various dimensions: scripture/ mythology, doctrine/ philosophy, ethics/ law, social/ institutional features, ritual, material aspects, and personal and communal experience2. For Underhill, personal religious experience inspires and influences the development of these other aspects of religion—the heart of which is mysticism. Underhill asserts: “The mystics are the pioneers of the spiritual world3” (4); “Mysticism is the art of union with Reality.4

In defining mystics and mysticism generally in this way, Underhill suggests a number of interesting things that pertain … Read more

Adhering to God: The Message of Evelyn Underhill for our Times

by Dana Greene

This article first appeared in SPIRITUALITY TODAY Spring 1987, Vol. 39, pp. 22-38. Used with permission.

BIOGRAPHY has power to move, inspire, and provoke. It provides a model of personal integration, and in times like our own when the sense of the world’s complexity and the loss of shared meaning cripple us, the individual attempt to make sense of life has great appeal.

The life of Evelyn Underhill1 the twentieth century British religious writer, offers us not only inspiration, but an example of a modern woman, who was not broken by confrontation with complexity and the disintegration of meaning, but in fact worked to heal that confusion and brokenness. She has particular appeal for us because she is a modern woman. I mean by that not only that she lived in our century, but that she … Read more

2014 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

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Annual Day of Quiet Reflection

Saturday, June 13, 2015 9:30am – 3:30pm

Sayre House
The Washington National Cathedral

“The Mastery of Time”
Directed by Donna Osthaus

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“He that believeth shall not make haste.” Isaiah 28:16

A lately discovered article by Evelyn Underhill from a time near the end of her life (and the beginning of World War II) will bring us to contemplate this very contemporary issue of our time. We will explore the subject through Underhill’s essay, through a scriptural reference to Jesus’s attitude toward his use of time (Matthew 15:21-28), and briefly through the references to the subject of time in the contemporary poetry of her colleague and friend, T. S. Eliot.

The Quiet Day will be directed by Donna Osthaus, formerly Director of Program at the College … Read more

Evelyn Underhill’s Theophanies: A Book of Verse

by Nadia Delicata

The following was delivered at the 2013 Evelyn Underhill Day by Merrill Ware Carrington.

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), a pioneer of the scientific study of mysticism and a spiritual master, tirelessly grappled throughout her life to express clearly and creatively the dynamic vitality of her own flourishing spirituality1. Her earliest attempts are revealed in fictional writings composed in her youth, just as the journal written in her later years is a soul-bearing tribute to her quest for spiritual authenticity.

In this paper, I will attempt to study glimpses of Underhill’s spiritual transformation through her little known, but, as I will argue, powerfully revealing, collection of poems, titled Theophanies3. Published after Underhill had established a strong reputation as a scholar of mysticism, the poetry contains snapshots of those interim years of personal spiritual metamorphosis from … Read more

A Final Test of Holiness

by Merrill Ware Carrington

Over the years, the annual Days of Quiet honoring Evelyn Underhill have offered the opportunity to explore many facets of her identity — her work as a philosopher and biographer, novelist and poet, essayist and book critic. We have explored the evolution of her calling as a conductor of retreats and teacher of prayer. We have looked at her interfaith conversations and her courageous stand as a pacifist during the Second World War. We have learned about her marriage, her rather arid-seeming relationships with her parents, her travels, her sailing trips, her bookbinding, her gardening, her cats!

But the dimension of Underhill’s life and work about which I’ve felt a particular ongoing curiosity is her role as what we would today describe as a spiritual director. (She was herself more inclined to speak of her “cases” … Read more

2013 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

Download the PDF version of this newsletter.

Annual Day of Quiet Reflection

Saturday, June 21, 2014 9:30am – 3:30pm
Sayre House
The Washington National Cathedral

“The Poet as Mystic; the Mystic as Poet”

Directed by Kathleen Staudt
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In Essentials of Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill writes that “Poetry ever goes like the royal banners before ascending life; therefore man may safely follow its leadership in his prayer.” Underhill was always reserved about reporting the details of her own spiritual experience, but her poetry, published early in her career, gives us glimpses into the intensity of the life of prayer and the ardor of her early quest for God. In this day of quiet reflection, we will let the langue of Underhill’s poetic writing invite us to a deepening of our own life of prayer, as we listen for … Read more

Evelyn Underhill’s Developing Spiritual Theology: A Discovery of Authentic Spiritual Life and the Place of Contemplation

by John R. Francis

What is authentic spirituality and what is the role of contemplation in the spiritual life? Throughout her life, Evelyn Underhill journeyed on a process of discovering the answers to these questions. The life of the Christian involves ongoing conversion, and Underhill’s was no exception. Her works reveal Underhill’s developing thought on the goal and nature of the spiritual life, self-surrender, and contemplation. In Underhill’s life and work the integration of spirituality and theology can be seen, in that her discovery of truth coincides with her deepening conversion and vice versa. Beginning in 1907, Underhill’s Christian life began to move away from neoplatonic spirituality and thought toward Christocentric contemplative action. To facilitate a demonstration of this process, in this essay a selection of Underhill’s works are divided into three periods, beginning with and her thought is examined Read more

My Journey with Evelyn Underhill

by Kathy Staudt

For many years now the annual day of Quiet Reflection in honor of Evelyn Underhill has been an important spiritual resting-point in my life. It is always held in June, near Evelyn’s June 15 feast day. At that time of year the cathedral close is beautiful, the roses blooming in the Bishop’s garden, with quiet green places to walk and pray, and a lovely sense of “home” in the living room of Sayre House, where we meet. Even though I usually have leadership responsibilities, that June quiet day has become for me an annual time of rerooting, reconnecting to my own deepening experience of God’s presence in my life. It is a time to rest in what Evelyn Underhill somewhere calls “that deep place where the soul is at home with God.”

I first heard of Evelyn … Read more

2012 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

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Part 1 – Roundup of 100th Anniversary of Mysticism – Noteworthy News – “My Journey with Evelyn Underhill” by Kathy Staudt

Part 2 – “Evelyn Underhill’s Developing Spiritual Theology: A Discovery of Authentic Spiritual Life and the Place of Contemplation” by John R. Francis

Part 3 – Dana Greene Research Collection on Evelyn Underhill

Part 4 – “Reflections on the Inter-Faith Conversations of Evelyn Underhill: Symbolic Narratives of Mysticism” by Michael Stoeber

Annual Day of Quiet Reflection

Saturday June 15, 2013
“Becoming the Parent of New Life”

Sayre House
The Washington National Cathedral

Directed by Merrill Ware Carrington

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During her lifetime, Evelyn Underhill was admired and appreciated for her personality as well as for her ideas – for her groundedness and integrity, for her humor, for her transparency as a … Read more

Underhill’s Mysticism: A Centenary Review

by Joy Milos

At the time of her death, The Times of London acclaimed Evenly Underhill as a writer with “an insight into the meaning both of the culture and of the individual groupings of the soul that was unmatched by any of the professional teachers of her day.”1 This spiritual guide to her generation, one of the most widely read spiritual writers of the Anglican tradition during the twentieth century, first emerged as a major figure with the 1911 publication of her classic work, Mysticism. At the centennial of its publication, Underhill‘s magnum opus on the topic merits a reexamination since it is still used in most courses that explore the experience of God called mysticism and still attracts contemporary spiritual seekers. In this article I will examine three aspects of the book: first of all, the … Read more