Read Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill Online


Practical Mysticism is a work by one of the foremost 20th century Christian mystics, Evelyn Underhill. Her book, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, is the authoritative text of modern mysticism. This shorter work, Practical Mysticism, is an abridged version of Underhill's theology, and a perfect starting point for immersion into thPractical Mysticism is a work by one of the foremost 20th century Christian mystics, Evelyn Underhill. Her book, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, is the authoritative text of modern mysticism. This shorter work, Practical Mysticism, is an abridged version of Underhill's theology, and a perfect starting point for immersion into the subject.Underhill is at her simplest here, yet her language is still poetic and enjoyable to read. She invites the reader to become involved in mysticism ("the art of union with reality"), giving simple examples of how it is relevant to everyday people. Underhill was greatly influenced by mystics such as St. Teresa, Ruysbroeck, St. Augustine, and Thomas a Kempis, and examples from these writers, as well as poets like Keats and Whitman, are sprinkled throughout the book. A fine place to start before diving into her more intense works, Practical Mysticism has captivated generations of readers, and is still the premier text for the introductory study of mysticism.(Copied from CCEL, which also hosts the downloadable ebook)....

Title : Practical Mysticism
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ISBN : 9781463705060
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 76 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Practical Mysticism Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2019-06-06 17:25

    When you choose to read a book on an esoteric topic—particularly a topic many find abstruse—you should choose a book written by someone who knows her subject and writes in simple, elegant prose. For example, if you wish to learn a little something about mysticism, you could do no better than read Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill.Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)—novelist and mystic, poet and pacifist—was born in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Like many who grew up in the Edwardian era, she had a romantic’s interest in the psychic, the mystic, the medieval and the occult. (She was a friend of Arthur Machen, and acquainted with the Order of the Golden Dawn). However, as she became more serious about her spiritual studies, she abandoned her agnosticism for Neoplatonism, and eventually abandoned Neoplatonism for a very Catholic Anglo-Catholicism (if her husband had not strongly disapproved, she might have officially joined the Roman church.) A person of disciplined habits and mind, she managed to pursue her religious studies, writing, and meditations without neglecting the social and charitable duties of a barrister’s wife. (She believed spirituality should transform everyday life, not replace it). Her classic work Mysticism (1911) was extremely popular and influential, and not only was she was one of the first women to lecture on spirituality at English universities, but she was also the first woman permitted to conduct retreats for the Anglican church.Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People (1914) distills the essence of Underhill’s spiritual discoveries and presents them to the everyday reader in a clear and beautiful style.I will end with a representative sample of that style. Here she uses the image of a tapestry to challenge the notions of “reality” and “fact” in our view of everyday life: impulse:As a tapestry picture, however various and full of meaning, is ultimately reducible to little squares; so the world of common sense is ultimately reducible to a series of static elements conditioned by the machinery of the brain. Subtle curves, swift movement, delicate gradation, that machinery cannot represent. It leaves them out. From the countless suggestions, the tangle of many-coloured wools which the real world presents to you, you snatch one here and there. Of these you weave together those which are the most useful, the most obvious, the most often repeated: which make a tidy and coherent pattern when seen on the right side. Shut up with this symbolic picture, you soon drop into the habit of behaving to it as though it were not a representation but a thing. On it you fix your attention; with it you "unite." Yet, did you look at the wrong side, at the many short ends, the clumsy joins and patches, this simple philosophy might be disturbed. You would be forced to acknowledge the conventional character of the picture you have made so cleverly, the wholesale waste of material involved in the weaving of it: for only a few amongst the wealth of impressions we receive are seized and incorporated into our picture of the world.

  • Joshua
    2019-05-18 16:20

    As someone working on a serious Zen practice it was interesting to read a more Christian take on spiritual practice that was very much was in alignment with Zen. Well written and understandable and certainly inspirational. Be warned though, it is actually lacking on practical advice as to how one practices. Much more a book to confirm ones spiritual suspicions than a guidebook to daily practice.

  • Graham Richard
    2019-05-25 14:29

    Wonderful book!This little book needs to be read again and again. It makes clear and accessible many things that many other writers veil in a mist of confusion.

  • Keith
    2019-06-14 18:08

    Certainly different from the self-help books of the current era that I was expecting, but it was beautifully written and highly motivating all the same.

  • Jocelyn
    2019-05-22 16:27

    What Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross say in riddles, Evelyn Underhill makes crystal clear.

  • Andrew
    2019-05-29 16:16

    This book - with its great subtitle: 'A Little Book for Normal People' - came out in 1914, and is an introductory guide condensing Underhill's vast knowledge in the field of mysticism.There are a lot of profound moments expressed in language that sparks, mixed in with a reasonable amount I just wasn't sure about. Rooted in the Christian faith, Underhill's methodology is to pull together the commonalities of various mystical traditions (from across various religions) and describe a path to experiencing the divine or 'Reality'.Underhill sets out a three-stage progression along a spiritual pathway, developing human awareness, and examines what this might mean in normal life (hence the title). She's writing in the context of the beginning of WW1, and is conscious of this, even addressing (in the introduction) what contemplation and mysticism might mean in the midst of the hell of war. Amongst the profound moments, she describes "the double movement of Transcendent Love, drawing inwards to unity and fruition, and rushing out again to creative acts". I was struck by that, recognising words that pretty accurately encapsulate (I realised) a decent chunk of what it is that I'd like my life to be about and for - they could almost be a motto for what I most desire. This doesn't mean I need to embrace her methodology in total, but it does suggest (at least) that she might be on to something.

  • Peter
    2019-06-01 14:00

    Evelyn Underhill is poetic and earnest in her description of the mystic life. She contends that man naturally has both the ability and the need to reach beyond the world of our sight and experience the greater Reality. Her descriptions of five stages of the mystic life are simple - but by no means are these five easy steps.A pleasurable read for anyone interested in mysticism, especially Christian mysticism. Not academically dense, but perhaps not always immediately clear in its poetry-like descriptions (as is often the case with mystic writings).

  • Ci
    2019-05-19 18:19

    This is my first read of Evelyn Underhill, who was a well-known poet and writer, and Anglo-Catholic mystic of import during the first half of the 20th century. It is noted that her work “Mysticism” published in 1911 was only shadowed by Aldous Huxley’s “The perennial philosophy” in 1946. This slim and free version of her mysticism bears an unintentionally ironic “Practical Mysticism” as title. However, Underhill’s writing style is archaic and elegant, passionate without bombastic. I found her writing both exhilarating, fresh and melodiously beautiful. Underhill stated that “Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.” Then “What is Reality”? Here the author compared the Reality as the living, breathing, wild and lovely hare with the materialistic version of a cooked carcass on one’s dinner plate. This reminds me of the scientific reductionism in our high-tech, life-hacking mental culture which worships data as information, information as knowledge, and lastly knowledge as wisdom. The things we discarded unthinkingly, unfeelingly, are those not fit into the finite space of our mental toolshed. The finiteness is what the mysticism tries to overcome. There are several reasons for human’s mind to become particularly attached to finiteness: it is simple, neat; it has one’s cultural and societal support; it feeds into the identifiably single center of self-interest; there is “image-maker” between him and Reality. The fact that as human we have cognitive problem to appreciate “infinite” is an interesting observation in mathematics and physics. Even the noble Aristotle banned infinity from Greek thought nearly two thousand years ago. Recall one’s first encounter of “infinite” in algebra and calculus, recall the incredulity suppressed by a student’s resignation “fine, if you say so”. I recently learnt how the sad fate of Moscow school of mathematicians Egorov and Luzin who were persecuted severely by their understanding of infinite with the Marxist Materialism under Stalin. In our own time, the frittering away our attention at all directions based on genuine or manufactured desire is the norm. Consumerism and Hedonism go hand in hand to provide a paradise on earth, with human mind flits hither and thither, sampling the goods from the hands of others. Underhill supposed that such distracted, superficial touches give no real engagement with the Reality itself, but difficult to lodge as human consciousness is powerfully drawn to its egotistical center.So what is the loss? The inability to experience the deep flow of life within and without, the ever presence anxiety and dread, the void and irritation, the “smear on the window” of our senses. The “practical” aspect of Underhill’s mysticism has five sequential steps: “the first two stages prepare the self for union with Reality, and the last three unite it successively with the World of Becoming, the World of Being, and finally with that Ultimate Fact which the philosopher calls the Absolute and the religious mystic calls God.” In other words:Step 1: Meditation and Recollection. This is the “gathering up” one’s fractured attention, doing deep work instead of scattered dilettantism, this is about concentrated energy in readiness. (This is similar to the “flow” state in positive psychology).Step 2: Self-adjustment. Where should we direct our gathered attention? From the small center of Self outside. Here the author talked about the “love of life” as a “ mostly cupboard-love. We are quick to snap at her ankles when she locks the larder door: a proceeding which we dignify by the name of pessimism.” This is human nature without achieving the cultivation of maturity. In fact, “Seven Deadly Sins of Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust … the seven common forms of egotism. They represent the natural reactions to life of the self-centred human consciousness”. Simply put, one can not see Reality if one is locked-in egoism. I remember Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis along similar vein. (This step has a moral and ethical component)In so prepared, we should have the “Love and Will” to attend to next three steps of contemplations. Here the “contemplation” is not a leisurely non-doing, instead:“Contemplation, you see, has no very close connection with dreaminess and idle musing: it is more like the intense effort of vision, the passionate and self-forgetful act of communion, presupposed in all creative art.” It is not sentimental aestheticism or emotional piety, but a directed outstretching toward higher visions. Step 3 to 5 are progressive stages from communion with Nature to Communion with the Absolute. (Will reread and review after putting the first two steps into action).The “high life” achieved through mysticism is “You feel yourself now a separate vivid entity, a real, whole man: dependent on the Whole, and gladly so dependent, yet within that Whole a free self-governing thing.” A glorious vision indeed.

  • Justin
    2019-05-18 14:15

    hard to understand, repetitive

  • James
    2019-06-05 16:02

    This book is free on Kindle which means I probably won't keep the old paperback copy I acquired from someone's used book sale. This book was first published over a hundred years ago and sets out to explain mysticism is 'practical' terms that the everyman can understand. Underhill gives this definition of mysticism: "Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or lesser degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment"(pg 5, E.P Dutton, 1943 edition). Despite the word 'practical' in the title, this is not particularly practical. I think what Underhill meant by the term 'Practical Mysticism' was a non-technical, simple presentation about what it is. There isn't much direction about actual practice here. Underhill does urge a disciplining of the mind (i.e. learning to concentrate on one thing) and learning self forgetfulness as requisite for entering into the mystical life. The former prepares your faculties, the second sends your will through purgation. The 'three forms of contemplation' which she describes, are degrees of being able to attend to Reality. This is one of those classic texts that is often referred to, though I think contemporary treatments are perhaps more beneficial for most readers.

  • Susie Webster-toleno
    2019-06-07 18:08

    Reading this book was work -- not because it's hard, but because it requires much thought, partly because of the subject matter and partly due to the changes in language over the decades. I suspect I'll need to return to it again to really plant it within me, but also that it will be worthwhile to do so.

  • Patty
    2019-05-29 17:04

    I am afraid that I can't say that I really liked this because I am not sure that I fully understand all that Underhill is trying to tell me. She is trying to make the practical "man" understand why mysticism is something that he should strive for. I believe that there are aspects of mysticism that I should apply to my life, but I am not sure that reading this book of Underhill's has made these any easier for me to comprehend. I am pretty sure this is not Eveylyn Underhill's fault, but all my own.The major problem, for me, is that I just haven't given contemplation the time it deserves. One can't achieve proficiency in a practice if time is not given to actually doing that practice. I am willing to sit - for about three minutes. Anyone interested in contemplative prayer knows that isn't even a beginning.Until I give prayer the time I need, this is all theory. All I can do is keep trying.

  • Yaholo
    2019-05-25 13:07

    Evelyn Underhill was the first person to try to combine modern methods of instruction with the ancient traditions of mysticism. In many ways it is the original "Mysticism 101" introduction. Evelyn strives to put the deep reaching intuition and mysteries of mysticism into simple terms of modern language.Come criticize the book for failing in this attempt to bridge the gap between mysticism and modernism, but others understand that it more of a first step between the two. In that respect, it succeeds brilliantly. In the book is a basic history of mysticism, review of past mystics and their writings, and a break down of central concepts and habit. I recommend it wholeheartedly as a first step for those completely unfamiliar with mysticism.

  • J. Marshall Jenkins
    2019-06-13 19:06

    Timely read 100 years laterAs descending darkness in our social-political world tempted me to set aside contemplation as irrelevant, I stumbled across this little book on practical mysticism. As Europe plunged into WWI, Underwood offered this guide to contemplative prayer as a way to face reality and thus engage in the world with deeply rooted hope. Poetic, learned, and wise this book is just what I need a century after its publication. I feel led to this book, and this book will lead to more works by Evelyn Underhill along with more engagement in the world.

  • joey
    2019-06-11 15:11

    A good, concise introduction to mysticism. Coming from a Catholic tradition, Underhill couches her cross-religion discussion in some biblical phrasing, without however making it an exclusively Christian approach to expanding one's consciousness. Despite the title, however, Underhill does not go into the "nuts and bolts," or the practice, of mystical action and contemplation. Perhaps an apter title would have been simply An Introduction to Mysticism, better capturing the accessible approach Underhill offers to the core concepts common to many mystical traditions.

  • A.L. Stumo
    2019-06-11 16:10

    This book seems quite relevant still, even though it was written in the midst of early 20th century Natural Religion and other movements. It can also be a practical bit of advice. Her tone of wonder and awe does come across as the sort of naive sentimentalism she speaks against, and her upper-class, white, male bias is off-putting. If you get past those and read it knowing it is very WWI erudite London, then it makes mysticism seem attainable on a daily level.

  • Jay
    2019-06-17 18:21

    "You have long been like a child tearing up the petals of flowers in order to make a mosaic on the garden path; and the results of this murderous diligence you mistook for a knowledge of the world. When the bits fitted with unusual exactitude, you called it science."I like things that attempt to unify the religious experience. Underhill throws in the creative endeavor to boot. Far from life-changing, but not a waste of time either.

  • Michael McCue
    2019-06-13 12:08

    Evelyn Uuderhill wrote that " mysticism was the art of union with reality....a science of love..a condition of being, not of seeing" This was a very rich dense little book, I will need to read it again. Many people have abandoned Christianity for Eastern religions because they did not find a deep spirituality there, the deep life Underhill describes offers everything to be found in all belief systems and transcends them all.

  • Jeannine
    2019-05-21 12:21

    I read this after reading Interior Castles by St. Teresa. At first, I thought I should have read them in reverse order, but now am not certain. In a way, this is more remedial and aimed at those who have no experience / understanding of mysticism. However, it is helpful for those living in the 21st century and needing to balance the spiritual / contemplative life with the realities of a modern world.

  • Andrej Kamenský
    2019-05-24 15:25

    Oh, I really realized how far am I from contemplative thinking. I hoped it will be about contemplation written using analytical language "for a practical man". But it was not. It was for a practical man using contemplative language which i don't understand yet... Ach, I was so nervous! For some time I think I'll read scientific books about contemplation. Those I can comprehend!

  • Sheila Pritchard
    2019-06-17 17:13

    Under hill does a marvellous job of taking complex material and making it very down to earth and practical without in any way letting it become simplistic.This is a book I could read again more than once and agin from it every time.

  • Jim Johnson
    2019-06-12 12:03

    This read like the author was a seventh-grader who was trying to write a 5000 word essay but only had about 500 words of material. The author did a great job (if her goal was to spout a lot of unsubstantiated and completely unfalsifiable assertions. What a colossal waste of time!

  • Rock
    2019-05-23 13:19

    The mysticism of the faiths of God.

  • John Gravitt
    2019-05-17 12:28

    This has some very good advice on contemplating reality and still going about your average day. I'm incorporating some of it as I practice the "focus" portion of my upcoming book "Superengaged."

  • Michael Laflamme
    2019-05-26 19:29

    The Ebook version I had was too poorly formatted to juggle. I'll have to get it in another format.

  • Caleb Roberts
    2019-05-17 15:21

    Perhaps the best introduction to "English Platonism" that I've encountered, as well as a helpful introduction to the contemplative life. And with exceptionally beautiful prose.

  • Dean P.
    2019-05-29 15:24

    The prose felt clunky and expository, not free flowing like some of her other work.

  • Dan Lurie
    2019-06-02 18:19

    Overly redundant.Very verbose and doesn't actually explain how to achieve these states. Not particularly useful, in my humble opinion. Cheers, all.

  • Ben Fredrick
    2019-06-04 12:14

    This was my first book by Evelyn Underhill. She has a beautiful way of writing, but it really didn't click with me. Some authors 'click', and she just isn't one.

  • Lrgallagher
    2019-05-29 18:16

    Made me feel very expansive - wonderful.