Last modified on 25 January 2013, at 12:42

Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill
The visionary is a mystic when his vision mediates to him an actuality beyond the reach of the senses. The philosopher is a mystic when he passes beyond thought to the pure apprehension of truth. The active man is a mystic when he knows his actions to be part of a greater activity.

Evelyn Underhill (6 December 187515 June 1941) was an English Anglo-Catholic writer and pacifist known for her numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism. She was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Aberdeen University and made a fellow of King's College. She was the first woman to lecture to the clergy in the Church of England as well as the first woman to officially conduct spiritual retreats for the Church.

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Practical Mysticism (1914)Edit

  • No nation is truly defeated which retains its spiritual self-possession. No nation is truly victorious which does not emerge soul unstained.
    • Preface, p. 14
  • The spiritual life is not a special career, involving abstraction from the world of things. It is a part of every man's life; and until he has realised it he is not a complete human being, he has not entered into possession of all his powers.
    • Preface, p. 14-15
  • I have merely attempted to put the view of the universe and man's place in it which is common to all mystics in plain and untechnical language: and to suggest the practical conditions under which ordinary persons may participate in their experience.
    • Preface, p. 16
  • Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.
    • Chapter I, What Is Mysticism?, p. 23
  • Wisdom is the fruit of communion; ignorance the inevitable portion of those who "keep themselves to themselves," and stand apart, judging, analysing the things which they have truly never known.
    • Chapter I, What Is Mysticism?, p. 24
  • Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most part to live in a world of labels; to make of them the current coin of experience, and ignore their merely symbolic character, the infinite gradation of values which they represent.
    • Chapter I, What Is Mysticism?, p. 26-27
  • Even the power which lurks in every coal scuttle, shines in the electric lamp, pants in the motor-omnibus, declares itself in the ineffable wonders of reproduction and growth, is supersensual.
    • Chapter I, What Is Mysticism?, p. 27
  • The visionary is a mystic when his vision mediates to him an actuality beyond the reach of the senses. The philosopher is a mystic when he passes beyond thought to the pure apprehension of truth. The active man is a mystic when he knows his actions to be part of a greater activity.
    • Chapter I, What Is Mysticism?, p. 28
  • As to the most prudent logicians might venture to deduce from a skein of wool the probable existence of a sheep; so you, from the raw stuff of perception, may venture to deduce a universe which transcends the reproductive powers of your loom.
    • Chapter II, The World Of Reality, p. 38
Recollection, the art which the practical man is now invited to learn, is in essence no more and no less than the subjection of the attention to the control of the will.
  • It is reasonable, even reassuring, that hard work and discipline should be needed for this: that it should demand of you, if not the renunciation of the cloister, at least the virtues of the golf course.
    • Chapter III, The Preparation Of The Mystic, p. 52
  • Recollection, the art which the practical man is now invited to learn, is in essence no more and no less than the subjection of the attention to the control of the will.
    • Chapter IV, Meditation And Recollection, p. 69
  • It is a lonely and arduous excursion, a sufficient test of courage and sincerity: for most men prefer to dwell in comfortable ignorance upon the lower slopes, and there to make of their obvious characteristics a drapery which shall veil the naked truth.
    • Chapter V, Self Adjustment, p. 82
  • For years your treasure has been in the Stock Exchange, or the House of Commons, or the Salon, or the reviews that "really count" (if they still exist), or the drawing-rooms of Mayfair; and thither your heart perpetually tends to stray. Habit has you in its chains. You are not free.
    • Chapter V, Self Adjustment, p. 84
  • Contemplation does not mean abject surrender to every "mystical" impression that comes in. It is no sentimental aestheticism or emotional piety to which you are being invited: nor shall the transcending of reason ever be achieved by way of spiritual silliness.
    • Chapter VI, Love And Will, p. 105
  • True contemplation can only thrive when defended from two opposite exaggerations : quietism on the one hand, and spiritual fuss upon the other.
    • Chapter VII, The First Form Of Contemplation, p. 127
  • The deeper your realisation of the plant in its wonder, the more perfect your union with the world of growth and change, the quicker, the more subtle your response to its countless sugestions; so much more acute will become your craving for Something More.
    • Chapter VIII, The Second Form Of Contemplation, p. 133
Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.
  • As it is not by the methods of the laboratory that we learn to know life, so it is not by the methods of the intellect that we learn to know God.
    • Chapter VIII, The Second Form Of Contemplation, p. 140
  • Going forth into the bareness and darkness of this unwalled world of high contemplation, you will find stored for you, and at last made real, all the highest values, all the dearest and noblest experiences of the world of growth and change.
    • Chapter IX, The Third Form Of Contemplation, p. 166
  • Because of that corporate life, transfusing you, giving to you and taking from you - conditioning you as it does in countless oblique and unapparent ways - you are still compelled to react in to many suggestions which you are no longer able to respect: controlled, to the last moment of your bodily existence and perhaps afterwords, by habit, custom, the good old average way of misunderstanding the world.
    • Chapter X, The Mystical Life, p. 175-176

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