Books: The Grey World, Evelyn Underhill

I have taken a few running starts at Underhill’s major work on Practical Mysticism, but I have never gotten through it. I was surprised to discover this remarkable thinker was also a novelist. In the Grey World Underhill deals with life from the perspective of the dead, rather than death from the perspective of the living. In a post-war world waiting for resurrection the dead may have seemed even more crowded than the living. Underhill takes us on an eerie adventure, looking for meaning in the ruins. These works appeal to me because so much literature of the 19th and 20th century unfold in on supposition that God is entirely absent. The Grey World assumes God entirely present, though largely silent and unseen.

There is something about this moment that also finds us looking for meaning in the wreckage. Whether meaning will emerge may depend on the assumptions upon which we begin. Mystics, like Underhill, begin with the idea that the immediate presence of God is the primary thing in the universe, and that our inability to recognize Him is a symptom of our primary issue, a broken normalcy. The Grey World challanges this broken normalcy and offers us the chance to see light beyond the grey.

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