RADIANCE: A Spiritual Memoir of Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill, Author, Bernard Bangley, Editor . Paraclete $16.95 (236p) ISBN 978-1-55725-355-2

Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941) is perhaps best known for her 1911 classic, Mysticism , continuously in print to the present day. An English laywoman with no theological education, she wrote more than 30 spirituality books, lectured to Oxford scholars and Church of England clergy, led spiritual retreats and encouraged ecumenism decades before women began to assume religious leadership. Bangley has selected excerpts from her published writings, journals, letters and speeches to show Underhill's personal spiritual development as she moved from cool academic reflection through struggle and doubt to settled trust: "I do feel that trusting God must mean trusting Him through thick and thin." One reason for Underhill's popularity may have been her view that mysticism was for everybody, in all circumstances: "The true mystic quest may as well be fulfilled in the market as in the cloister, by Joan of Arc on the battlefield as by Simeon Stylites on his pillar." Hers was no self-absorbed, feel-good spirituality, however: "Any spiritual view which focuses attention on ourselves, and puts the human creature with its small ideas and adventures in the center foreground, is dangerous till we recognize its absurdity." Her God was transcendent: "a Reality independent of the worshipper, which is always more or less deeply colored by mystery, and which is there first." Despite its subtitle, this book is not really a memoir; Underhill wrote in the first person only in her journals and, in any case, distrusted subjective experience. It is nevertheless a captivating introduction to one of the 20th century's most appealing spiritual writers. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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