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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

2011 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

Download the PDF version of this newsletter.

The Annual Day of Quiet Reflection

“Reflections on the Inter-faith Conversations of Evelyn Underhill”

directed by Michael Stoeber

June 15-16, 2012
The Washington National Cathedral


In her writings, Evelyn Underhill includes some reference to non-Christian religions, especially to themes in Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic mysticism. She draws these mystics generally into positive relationship with their Christian cousins, by postulating a common ground to all authentic mystical experience. On this Day of Quiet Reflection, we will explore various aspects of Underhill’s inter-faith conversations, paying special attention to her reflections on the poetry of the great Sufi mystic Kabir and on the life of the co-founder of the Hindu Brahmo Samaj, Devandranath Tagore. Our contemplative reflections will include also reference to Underhill’s own experiences and poetry related to this inter-faith dialogue. 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 … Read more

Life as Prayer: The Development of Evelyn Underhill’s Spirituality

by Todd E. Johnson


William K. and Delores S. Brehm Associate Professor of Worship, Theology and the Arts School of Theology

Although Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England, the Underhill family could be considered Christians in only the most social of terms. Underhill had little formal religious education and no theological training.a

In fact, Underhill’s first commitment to any sort of religious group was a hermetic sect known as the “Golden Dawn,” a most inauspicious beginning for one who would later be called “the spiritual director for her generation.”b

Underhill’s spiritual journey is a fascinating one, and one which has been well chronicled.c Underhill’s career began with her classic work Mysticism (1911)d and can be said to have concluded with her other classic Worship (1936).e These studies are similar … Read more

2010 The Evelyn Underhill Association Newsletter

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‘Mysticism’: The Centennial Year 1911-2011

Evelyn Underhill by Suzanne Schleck

Evelyn Underhill by Suzanne Schleck

In 1911 an unknown author published a 500 page book on the little known topic of mysticism. Accessible in its writing, it was nonetheless a work of scholarship, based as it was on some one thousand sources. The book was a huge success, and twelve editions appeared. Because its erudition, the suspicion was that the author, one Evelyn Underhill, must have been a male. Who else would have the academic training or ecclesiastical knowledge to produce such a work? In fact the author was a self-trained writer, wife of a London barrister, one who would go on to write or edit a total of thirty-nine books and some 350 articles and reviews. Underhill was poet, novelist, biographer and religious writer. Her single most … Read more

The Making of a Mystic

Ed. Carol Poston

University of Illinois Press 378 pages $75

Substantial correspondence from an exceptional writer, poet, pacifist, and mystic.

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) achieved international fame with the publication of her book Mysticism in 1911. Continuously in print since its original publication, Mysticism remains Underhill’s most famous work, but in the course of her long career she published nearly forty books, including three novels and three volumes of poetry, as well as numerous poems in periodicals. She was the religion editor for Spectator, a friend of T. S. Eliot (her influence is visible in his last masterpiece, Four Quartets), and the first woman invited to lecture on theology at Oxford University. Her interest in religion extended beyond her Anglican upbringing to embrace the world’s religions and their common spirituality.

In time for the centennial celebration of her classic … Read more

The Call of God

by Kathy Staudt

(Quiet Day 2009)

In her introduction to “The Call of God” (also used as introduction to an earlier retreat on “Inward Grace and Outward Sign,”) Evelyn suggests how questions about vocation emerge naturally as soon as we do the sort of thing we’re doing today – as we make space and time to turn our hearts wholly to God, moving out of ourselves and resting in that loving presence, in a spirit of adoration. She is speaking to people who have gathered in a beautiful place – the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral — to place themselves, as we are doing, in the presence of the beauty and holiness and insistent love of God The result of taking this kind of time for retreat, she writes, “will be a new and more vivid sense of His reality and … Read more

Interview with Dr. Carol Poston

In January 2010 a new edition of the letters of Evelyn Underhill will be published by the University of Illinois Press. The Making of a Mystic is edited and with an introduction by Dr. Carol Poston, professor emerita of St. Xavier University, a scholar of English literature and author of Reclaiming Our Lives and editor of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The Evelyn Underhill Association (EUA) is grateful to Dr. Poston for her willingness to be interviewed for its newsletter.

EUA: Dr. Poston, you spent ten years completing this volume. Why did you undertake this work?

Carol Poston: I was reading one of the excerpted Underhill books for my own Lenten discipline, and I found myself asking where this wonderful and wise woman came from, being interested always in how women manage to educate … Read more