The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 6, 2016

December 6, 1875

An article on Evelyn Underhill (December 6, 1875 to June 15, 1941) is included on an Anglican website:

Evelyn Underhill .... grew up in London. Her friends included Laurence Housman (poet and brother of the poet A E Housman) and Sarah Bernhardt (actress), and Baron Friedrich von Huegel, a writer on theology and mysticism. Largely under his guidance, she embarked on a life of reading, writing, meditation, and prayer. From her studies and experience she produced a series of books on contemplative prayer. 

Miss Underhill (Mrs. Hubert Stuart Moore) taught that the life of contemplative prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but can be the life of any Christian who is willing to undertake it. She also taught that modern psychological theory, far from being a threat to contemplation, can fruitfully be used to enhance it. In her later years, she spent a great deal of time as a lecturer and retreat director. ...

Evelyn Underhill was fond of cats and included them in her arguments as a rhetorical device. Here are a couple of examples:

In Practical Mysticism, A little book for normal people (1914) she writes

Even those objects which minister to our sense-life may well be used to nourish our spirits too. Who has not watched the intent meditations of a comfortable cat brooding upon the Absolute Mouse ...You, if you have a philosophic twist, may transcend such relative views of Reality, and try to meditate on Time, Succession, even Being itself: or again on human intercourse, birth, growth, and death, on a flower, a river, the various tapestries of the sky. Even your own emotional life will provide you with the ideas of love, joy, peace, mercy, conflict, desire. You may range, with Kant, from the stars to the moral law. If your turn be to religion, the richest and most evocative of fields is open to your choice : from the plaster image to the mysteries of Faith.

And here is an excerpt from her book Prayer, (1926):

By regular persevering private prayer we keep as it were spiritually fit. Regular corporate prayer too has much to do with a healthy inner life; and those who fancy that there is something unspiritual and unreal in outward forms and ceremonies are making a great mistake. We know how much we gain by working and playing together, and that there is always something unsatisfactory about the "cat that walks by herself." So too joining with others in public worship develops the social side of our relation to god, and helps us to forget ourselves.

Here is a sample of her titles:

1902 The Bar-lamb's Ballad (poetry)
1911  Mysticism
1912 (edited) The cloud of unknowing
1913  The Mystic Way: A Psychological Study in Christian Origins
1915  Mysticism and war 
1915  Practical mysticism; a little book for normal people,1916  Theophanies. 
1927  Man and the Supernatural
1936  Worship
1938  The Mystery of Sacrifice

Evelyn Underhill is a major 20th century voice on  spirituality.

No comments: