Art As Conversation · Creativity of Language

Evelyn Underhill and the Language of the Mystics

We don’t use the word “mystic” much in contemporary Christianity.  I think a major reason is that “mystical” brings to mind long flights of emotion, even ecstasy, or getting lost in a spiritual moment, kind of like my experience when the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl a few years ago, all except for the spiritual aspect.   Steelerslogo

OK, back to real mysticism. (You mean football isn’t a religion?) How about trying the Lora Zill definition:  getting lost in the presence of God.   How do you describe that experience to others, or better yet, to yourself?  What kind of words do you use?

Sometimes we have an almost mystical experience when we encounter nature, such as when we see a multicolored sunset or a double rainbow, perhaps, and try to capture and describe our feelings by using the words “awesome,” “cool,” or “beautiful.”

EvelynUnderhill
Evelyn Underhill

But somehow those words seem totally inadequate when describing an encounter with God.  I don’t know that I have an answer, really, because I, too, grasp at straws sometimes even while writing this blog.  And I’m not trying to describe a mystical experience, just my own walking on this earth, with some “God” thrown in.

Speaking of mystical and mystics, you’re probably wondering about Evelyn Underhill since I led off with her name. She was a 20th century mystic that I have just recently come to know through her book, The Spiritual Life.  A friend “just thought” I would like her.  If you call stopping my reading every few pages so I wipe tears from my eyes “liking her”, I guess I did.

So, let this blog serve as a brief introduction to Evelyn Underhill and mystical language. I’ll be sharing more in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.  Looks like the 2013-14 football season won’t lead to mystical experiences for Steeler fans, alas, so I’ll have to “settle” for mystical encounters with God.

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7 thoughts on “Evelyn Underhill and the Language of the Mystics

  1. Lora, thanks for telling us about Evelyn Underhill. I look forward to hearing more from you about mysticism. One of my co-workers had a small ceramic plaque on her desk that said “Only those who see the invisible can accomplish the impossible.” I don’t know who said that, but I always wanted to be one of those people who can see the invisible.

  2. Lora, thanks for telling us about Evelyn Underhill. I look forward to hearing more from you about mysticism. One of my co-workers had a small ceramic plaque on her desk that said “Only those who see the invisible can accomplish the impossible.” I don’t know who said that, but I always wanted to be one of those people who can see the invisible. Nancy Gustafson

  3. You have a way of embracing the mystical while keeping your feet on the ground. I will
    read more about Evelyn Underhill. I’ve heard of her and probably read quotes–but want to
    know more. Betty Spence

  4. I agree. I just don’t think we (speaking as a Protestant) are comfortable with mystery. I’m trying to change that in my little corner of the world.

  5. i think it’s sad that modern christianity has lost touch with mysticism, and even in some cases scorns it . . . isn’t it all about the mysteries of faith? we want cut and dried, smoking guns, and it’s not what faith is about.

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