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The Mastery of Time

by Evelyn Underhill

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

“He that believeth shall not make haste.” That is to say, he won’t get rattled or hustled; he won’t let time get on top of him or dictate to him. Doesn’t that speak to all of us of something which deep down we wish were true of ourselves? Time, the enemy. . . How often do you hear people saying, — how often do you hear yourself saying, “Oh, I haven’t got time!” I haven’t got time. . . No, we haven’t, for time has got us, or most of us.

In this western world we have planned to master time. We think we have got it where we want it — around our wrists or on the wall, there at our disposal by turning a radio knob … Read more

Becoming What We Behold

by Chris Glaser

Daily we behold terrible and diminishing things, not just in the newspaper and on the news, but in films, television programs, books, plays, even music. Daily we also behold our “golden calves” of consumer products in ads, commercials, and our neighbor’s latest acquisition. Daily we are bombarded and distracted by e-mails, text messages, and the multiple layers of the internet. If, as in Evelyn Underhill’s estimation, we become what we behold, we are becoming a mess of noise, violence, and greed with little room for the divine, the holy, and God.

Saints are to be found in “the mess,” as Underhill suggests, but not overwhelmed by it. The reason? Saints, mystics, and everyday fellow travelers take time to be present and available to the eternal, to the inbreaking commonwealth of God, to God. Not for self-improvement, but … Read more

Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

by Father Richard Rohr

Sunday, August 9, 2015

This week we continue exploring the modern mystics who have had the greatest impact on my own theology and practice. Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was a prolific British writer who is best known for her book Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness. Through her study of the mystics and even more through her lived experiences, Underhill emphasized that the mystical state of union with God produces creative action in the world.

As she puts it, “For [mystics,] contemplation and action are not opposites, but two interdependent forms of a life that is one—a life that rushes out to a passionate communion with the true and beautiful, only that it may draw from this direct experience of Reality a new intensity wherewith to handle the world of … Read more

2015 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

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Saturday, June 18, 2016 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sayre House, Washington National Cathedral

“The Spirituality of Risk”
Directed by Donyelle McCray
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“Real prayer begins with the plunge into the water.” Evelyn Underhill makes this observation in a 1928 retreat and repeatedly affirms that risk is an essential component of healthy spirituality. She attributes much of the beauty of Christian life to the interplay of risk and trust and warns against an insistence on constant comfort. During our time together we will explore the role of risk in Evelyn Underhill’s life: What were the great risks in her life story? Why did she see risk as so pivotal in the lives of the saints? How does risk-taking anchor our spiritual thriving today?

Donyelle McCray is Assistant … Read more

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

Download the PDF version of this newsletter.

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

Download Registration Form

“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