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Evelyn Underhill's Developing Spiritual Theology: A Discovery of Authentic Spiritual Life and the Place of Contemplation

John R. Francis

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What is authentic spirituality and what is the role of contemplation in the spiritual life? Throughout her life, Evelyn Underhill journeyed on a process of discovering the answers to these questions. The life of the Christian involves ongoing conversion, and Underhill’s was no exception. Her works reveal Underhill’s developing thought on the goal and nature of the spiritual life, self-surrender, and contemplation. In Underhill’s life and work the integration of spirituality and theology can be seen, in that her discovery of truth coincides with her deepening conversion and vice versa. Beginning in 1907, Underhill’s Christian life began to move away from neoplatonic spirituality and thought toward Christocentric contemplative action. To facilitate a demonstration of this process, in this essay a selection of Underhill’s works are divided into three periods, beginning with Mysticism, and her thought is examined with regard to the goal and nature of the spiritual life, self-surrender, and contemplation.

 
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