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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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