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Record Type: Review   ID: 481

Evelyn Underhill: Modern Guide to the Ancient Quest for the Holy

Greene, Dana (Ed.)

 In the Introduction, Greene writes of the 20th century: "Without a spiritual center, it is an age unparalleled in its aimlessness and its potentiality for new insights into what it means to be human" (p. 1). This condition prompted Greene to search for persons who could serve as guides through this transitional period, and she chose Underhill because "few . . . have dealt more directly with questions of human potentiality and the meaning of life than" (p. 1) she. Greene has brought together this collection of 15 of Underhill's articles in the hope that it would "contribute to a fuller understanding of her significance for our time" (p. 3). It contains some of her best pieces and some of her least accessible ones. In the Introduction Greene presents a biography of Underhill, placing it within her times, and outlining the chronological development of her thought in each selection, beginning with "Defense of Magic" (1907) and ending with "The Church and War" (1941). Greene observes that whereas Underhill's early writings dwelt on the stages and manifestations of mystical consciousness, her later work focused on the spiritual life as lived in the world. Greene is of the opinion that Underhill's central insight was "that mysticism is an experience of the interconnectedness and relationality of all of reality. By describing and analyzing that experience, she established the fact of mysticism and offered her beleaguered contemporaries a fresh approach to religion itself . . . . she claimed a potentiality for each person to participate in the mystic adventure. But the claim of her later writing was even more far-reaching; each person is called to participate in the spiritual life, to be filled-up with the object of love itself, God" (p. 25). Noteworthy selections are "Sources of Power in Human Life," "Suggestion and Religious Experience," "The Authority of Personal Experience," and "Possibilities of Prayer." A comprehensive 433-item chronological "Bibliography of Works By and About Evelyn Underhill" is included.
Publisher Information:Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988. 260p. Bibl: 219-256; Ind: 257-260
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