A spirituality for moral responsibility?: Evelyn Underhill today
Ryan, T. (2008). A spirituality for moral responsibility?: Evelyn Underhill today. Australasian Catholic Record, 85 (2), 148-161.
In 1936, Evelyn Underhill, the Anglican spiritual writer, opens a retreat with two comments. Firstly, she notes that a retreat's aim is to 'wait on the Lord', to be spiritually nourished 'not for our own sakes but for the sake of the world.' Later she observes that the more the Spirit, the 'Life of God possesses us, the more fully and inevitably it will bring forth its fruits.'
The premise of this article is that Evelyn Underhill's observations suggest possibilities for spirituality today. This is particularly in the light of two trends: first, many seem to pursue the spiritual path apart from, even in opposition to, Church institutions; second, some do so on the understanding that spirituality is a form of self-development with little or no relationship to others in moral responsibility.
I will set the context by noting key aspects in Underhill's theological development. Secondly, guided by the two quotations from Underhill, the article will uncover four intersecting themes underpinning her spiritual moral vision. Thirdly, I will test the possibility that Underhill's Spirit-based approach anticipates today's spiritual seeker outside either institutional religion, or Christianity, and may even offer something to those whose spiritual quest is pursued 'without God'. The article will conclude with some comments on the significance of Underhill's work in the past and present.