Tag: Deborah Smith Douglas

Evelyn Underhill: The Hidden Life

Deborah Smith Douglas

Have you ever had the opportunity, maybe at a wedding or a folk-art festival, to observe or take part in a traditional circle dance?

From outside the circle, the dancers appear to be moving in opposite directions: those in the foreground moving to the right, those on the far side moving to the left.

Only by being part of the circle can one see and experience the unity and shared direction beneath the external appearance of opposition and contradiction.

So it is with the life of Evelyn Underhill.

Viewed from the outside, Underhill’s life can be seen as having two different patterns and trajectories, both of them partial, superficial, and misleading.

One of these errant perspectives on her life suggests that it was one of smooth unruffled professional and public success amid privileged circumstances. That view goes … Read more

Evelyn Underhill and the “Rattle of Teacups”

by Deborah Smith Douglas

The man was a high-ranking cleric in the Episcopal Church; he had just led a day of reflection for the parish where I worship. I thanked him for his presentation and, referring to something he had said about the spiritual life, asked him if he were familiar with the works of Evelyn Underhill. He laughed briefly, waved a well-manicured hand dismissively, and said that he had tried to read her, but “couldn’t get beyond the rattle of teacups in the background.” Since the reverend father was drinking a rather good sherry at the time, it might have behooved him not to mock the cliches of genteel Anglicanism, but this irony (which would have delighted Barbara Pym) did not occur to me at the time: I was too astounded by the depth of ignorance and prejudice revealed … Read more