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And future deeds crowded round us As the countless stars in the night.

Friday
Jul 23, 2021

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About Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill (December 6, 1875 - June 15, 1941) was an English author, an Anglo-Catholic, well known for her numerous writings on Christian mysticism and religious practice.

Underhill was born in Wolverhampton, England and was a controversial writer on mysticism, novelist, pacifist and metaphysical poet. She was formally educated at King's College, where she was later elected as a Fellow. Underhill was one of the most widely read writers on the spiritual life in the first fifty years of the twentieth century, and with her book Mysticism, published in 1911, no other book of its type met with such success until Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy of 1946. An only child, her early mystical insights were described by her as "abrupt experiences of the peaceful, undifferentiated plane of reality—like the "still desert" of the mystic—in which there was no multiplicity nor need of explanation." The meaning of these experiences became a lifelong quest and source of private angst, leading to her research and writing on the subject of mysticism. Both her father and her husband were writers (on the law), London barristers and yachtsmen. She and her husband, Hubert Stuart Moore, grew up together and were married on July 3, 1907. The couple had no children. She traveled regularly to the continent, primarily Switzerland, France and Italy where she pursued her interests in art and Catholicism, visiting numerous churches and monasteries. Neither her husband (a Protestant) nor her parents shared her interest in spiritual matters.

Underhill was called simply "Mrs. Moore" by many of her friends, but was not without her detractors. She was a prolific author and published over thirty books either under her maiden name Underhill or under the pseudonym John Cordelier, as was the case for the 1912 book The Spiral Way. Initially an agnostic, she gradually began to acquire an interest in Neoplatonism and from there became increasingly drawn to Catholicism against the objections of her husband, becoming eventually a prominent Anglo-Catholic. Her spiritual mentor from 1921 - 24 was Baron Friedrich von Hügel, who was appreciative of her writing, yet concerned with her focus on mysticism and encouraged her to adopt a much more Christocentric view as opposed to the theistic/intellectual one she had previously held. She described him as "the most wonderful personality. ..so saintly, truthful, sane and tolerant," (Cropper, p. 44) and she was influenced toward more charitable, down to earth activities. After his death in 1925, her writings became more focused on the Holy Spirit and she became prominent in the Anglican Church as a lay leader of spiritual retreats, a spiritual director for hundreds of individuals, guest speaker, and radio lecturer/proponent of the power of contemplative prayer.

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