About the Evelyn Underhill course
Modern Mystics on Mondays Series
We often think that mysticism is a thing of the past, that the great mystics like Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich or Teresa of Avila are resigned to times long gone, and that mysticism died in the Reformations, the Enlightenment, or the Quietist Controversy. However, there are important mystical elements of all major world religions today including Christianity, and many 20th- and 21st-century figures exemplify mysticism.
This series looks at three prominent figures who have been described as modern or postmodern mystics: Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill and Simone Weil.
Each session is led by an expert on the figure discussed and will comprise of a 55-minute lecture, a 25-minute discussion of a set text (sent out two weeks prior to the session), and a 25-minute question and answer session.
This second session is on Evelyn Underhill who had a significant role in repopularising mysticism today, both in academia and in spiritual and devotional circles. She also was a popular retreat leader and spiritual advisor and balanced her spiritual and domestic lives.
Evelyn Underhill (1875 – 1941), author of the influential book Mysticism (published in 1911, and never out of print since), numerous shorter books and accessible editions of the medieval mystics’ texts, was a key figure in the revival of mysticism in the early twentieth century.
Through her work as a compassionate spiritual director and retreat leader – the most well-known retreat leader of her day, which was radical as she was a laywoman – she introduced numerous people to the practice of prayer, and demonstrated her belief that anyone could be a mystic.
Having been on the margins of the church for many years, until she definitively became an Anglican in 1921, she understood the needs and spiritual thirst of the seeker, for she had been one herself, and her ministry to seekers, as well as those well inside the churches, was significant.
This online seminar will explore Underhill’s ideas, practice of prayer and influence on all those around her in her lifetime, as well as successive generations of readers of her work, and will explore what Underhill has to offer us today.
About the Tutor
Jane Shaw is Principal of Harris Manchester College, Professor of the History of Religion & a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford. She formerly taught at Stanford University and was Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Her most recent books include Pioneers of Modern Spirituality (2018) based on her 2017 Sarum Lectures, and the co-authored Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age (2021). She is currently writing a book about mysticism in the twentieth century.