On this day: Evelyn Underhill

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day, seventy years ago, Evelyn Underhill died.

Evelyn Underhill was born in Wolverhampton in 1875 and died in London in 1941. She was an Anglican mystic, a theologian -- the first woman invited to lecture on theology at Oxford University, the author of numerous books, and a retreat director -- the first woman to conduct a retreat in Canterbury Cathedral.

A good way to become acquainted with Evelyn Underhill, is to read the description she wrote of herself on Dec. 5, 1892, the day before her seventeenth birthday. The piece is included in Life of Evelyn Underhill, by Margaret Cropper, Harper & Brothers, 1958, pages 4-6.

"Her incipient interest in Roman Catholicism was to be stalled in 1907 by her marriage (for Hubert, like many Victorians, felt that the confessional would be a threat to their intimacy) and by the papal encyclical condemning Modernism, a proscription unacceptable to Underhill who practiced the very scientific and historical exploration condemned by the encyclical."

--The Making of a Mystic: New and Selected Letters of Evelyn Underhill, edited by Carol Poston, University of Illinois Press, 2010, page 3.

This year is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Evelyn Underhill's seminal work, Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness.

For more books by and about Evelyn Underhill, click here.

Click here for the Wikipedia article about her.

In the Anglican Communion, Evelyn Underhill is commemorated liurgically on this day:

O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all creatures: Grant that thy Church, taught by thy servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by thy power, and guided by thy Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to thee all glory and thanksgiving, and attain with thy saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast promised us by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

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