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Evelyn Underhill: Anglican Mystic
Author: Michael Ramsey
Author: A. M. Allchin
Author: Evelyn Underhill
Michael Ramsey (1904-88) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961-1974. An outstanding teacher and prolific writer, his books include such classic works as ‘The Gospel and the Catholic Church’, ‘The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ’ and ‘The Christian Priest Today’.
Arthur MacDonald Allchin (1930-2010), best known as Donald Allchin, was ordained priest in 1957 and later became a Canon of Canterbury Cathedral. He first gained recognition as a writer with ‘The Silent Rebellion’, a study of the nineteenth-century recovery of the monastic life in the Anglican Church. He was Warden for many years of the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God and the Society of the Sacred Cross at Tymawr. His interests in ecumenism and in the language, religion and culture of Wales were reflected in his becoming Director of the St Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality in Oxford 1987-94 and subsequently an honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Wales in Bangor.
Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was born in Wolverhampton. A poet, novelist and author of numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, she is best known for her book on ‘Mysticism’ published in 1911. Because of her husband’s opposition to her wish to join the Roman Catholic Church, she remained within the Church of England, where she became a prominent Anglo-Catholic, proponent of contemplative prayer and member of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship. Exceptionally, for a woman of her time, she gave lectures for the clergy, conducted retreats and established ecumenical links. She became an honorary Doctor of Divinity (University of Aberdeen) and a Fellow of King’s College for Women, London.
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The publication of ‘Mysticism’ in 1911 established Evelyn Underhill’s reputation as a significant writer on a subject previously somewhat neglected within the Church of England. Her writings, emanating from a life of profound prayer, have become classics for those seeking to deepen their prayer lives. They combine learning, authority and readability and are written in an ecumenical spirit of striking breadth and generosity. These two essays, together with a series of letters she wrote to a novice testing her vocation to the religious life, demonstrate her gifts as writer, theologian and spiritual director.
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