The Death of Worship

It is true that beyond and within all conscious and sensible worship is the supra-sensible action which this mediates: the pure act of adoration, the theocentric impulse, arising in the “ground of the soul”. But so deeply hidden is that substantial movement that the Godward affections, images, and thoughts, which lie well within the field of normal consciousness, generally seem to the normal self to be the very substance of its communion with Him. When they disappear or disclose their merely symbolic and approximate character in regard to unknowable Reality, the ensuing blankness is at first regarded as the death of worship: instead of that which it really is — the exchange of the comfortably furnished world of religious imagination for the “wilderness where lovers lose themselves.” (178-179)

Evelyn Underhill | Worship


Unity for Sanctity, Sanctity for Adoration

Certainly the total life of the Body is a real, indeed a personal life, transcending and enfolding that of its separate members and essential to their growth. But the quality of this total life must depend on the extent in which each unit is open towards God, and responsive to His secret action. Thus the corporate worship in which this life is offered to God must be for each member a vital interest, which kills a mere self-interested spirituality. None the less, and indeed because of this greater life, the production and maintenance in each unit of that realistic relation with God which makes of the human soul an instrument of adoration must be a concern of the whole: for it directly serves the Church’s supreme object, the increase of the Glory of God. The Church “unites only in order to sanctify, and the sanctifies only the better to adore,” and no enthusiasm for corporate action must be allowed to blur this truth. (163-164)

Evelyn Underhill | Worship

The Hare of Reality

It is notorious that the operations of the average human consciousness unite the self, not with things as they really are, but with images, notions, aspects of things.  The verb “to be,” which he uses so lightly, does not truly apply to any of the objects amongst which the practical man supposes himself to dwell.  For him the hare of Reality is always ready-jugged: he conceives no the living, lovely, wild, swift-moving creature which has been sacrificed in order that he may be fed on the deplorable dish which he calls “things as they really are.”  So complete, indeed, is the separation of his consciousness from the facts of being, that he feels no sense of loss.  He is happy enough “understanding,” garnishing, assimilating the carcass from which the principle of life and growth has been ejected, and whereof only the most digestible portions have been retained.  He is not “mystical.” (5-6)

Evelyn Underhill | Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People