Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.97 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Practical Mysticism Paperback – October, 1988
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Evelyn Underhill was the 20th century's most authoritative voice on mysticism. Poet, author, and lecturer, she played an instrumental role in defining the western spiritual path.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Her 1915 book, Practical Mysticism, is a case in point. Geared toward a general audience, Underhill set about to show that mystical contemplation is an active pursuit, not a monastic calling which takes men and women out of society.
Yet Underhill performs some very standard mystic moves. She sets forth a program of contemplation to enable a person to move beyond their ego, their common perceptions of reality, and toward a wider, grander vision.
She does not view the goal of mysticism as the merger of the person with God, but with something she calls Reality. It is the goal of both dropping the individual ego and its concerns, cleansing the perceptions of the human mind, and enabling a person to have a clearer, wider vision of the nature of the universe.
In this sense, she is very much a precursor to more New Age versions of mysticism. She combines Christian ideas of mystical thinking (especially the medieval The Cloud of Unknowing) with post-Kantian philosophy. This is far less dry than it sounds. Underhill provides a very compelling, rich and loving account of the mystical pursuit.
Arguing that mysticism is the most practical of approaches to life, she proceeds from this definition to explaining how those not having at least a partial view or life akin to artists or poets often miss much of reality, caught up as they are in a limited often unreflective interpretation of experience. Thus the real "facts" of their experience are continually constrained because they rarely immerse themselves enough in everyday experience to notice much of what's going on around them or inside themselves.
Far from being an escape from the dreadful times during which she wrote this study, when Britain was entering World War I, Underhill sees true mysticism as necessary for right thinking and right acting, especially in such times. In a way she anticipates by half a century a thesis of Roman Catholic theologian and Jesuit priest Karl Rahner, who held that with the disintegration of much of Christian culture in the West after the two Great Wars, only by being mystics could Christians really sustain Christianity.
From this premise Underhill proceeds to detail the process necessary for the ordinary person to attain this union on a regular basis. First she tries to convince those not particularly interested in doing so by a number of arguments and illustrations, many of details certainly drawn from her pre-World War I British culture, but which remain familiar enough in substance to apply even today. She explains the stages involved in this ever increasing ability of the ordinary person to become a `mystic,' progressing from meditation and recollection through self-knowledge, weaning the self away from attachments both material and spiritual and increasing receptive to transcending the self and accepting the union of the self with the Absolute, however one imagines or names this union.
In the process of Underhill's guided instruction (and she intends this to be a practical guide for someone actually trying what she describes) she translates many of the classic terms of spiritual writings on the subject into more common parlance, or picks out quotes that clearly do this. She for example quotes St. Teresa of Avila's directions for beginners in such a process of beginning prayer, namely that the process is gradual and that it is sufficient to "just look" at reality. Finally Underhill describes the condition of one who is thus continually engaged in this process of contemplation as one not isolated or freed from cares or sufferings or troubles, but freed to exercise 'creative responsibility' in the practical world.
I recommend this book for anyone seeking to honestly look at what is truly real in this world.
Ms. Underhill's book is saturated with an experiential understanding of the great mystics which are referenced and quoted throughout. Names such as Plotinus, St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, Kabir, Bonaventura, Ruysbroeck (her favorite mystic), Richard of St. Victor, Julian of Norwich, (Pseudo-)Dionysius, Thomas a Kempis, and anonymous works such as The Cloud of Unknowing and The Theologia Germanica all find their place alongside poets such as Keats, Whitman, and Blake. Before tackling Ms. Underhill's much thicker masterpiece "Mysticism", this slender volume is a fine place to start. It was a memorable reading experience and will always be readily available for reference.