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The Cloud of Unknowing
ed. by Evelyn Underhill

“The Cloud of Unknowing is a practical spiritual guidebook thought to have been written in the 14th century by an anonymous English monk who counsels a young student to seek God not through knowledge but through love.

The book, which draws on the mystical tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, has reputedly inspired generations of mystical searchers from St. John of the Cross to Teilhard de Chardin. It has been described as Christianity with a Zen outlook, but has also been derided by some as anti-intellectual.

The practical prayer advice contained in The Cloud of Unknowing formed the basis for the practice of centering prayer, a form of Christian meditation developed by Trappist monks William Meninger, Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating in the 1970s.”

About the Author:

“Evelyn Underhill (December 6, 1875 — June 15, 1941) was an English author, an Anglo-Catholic, well known for her numerous writings on Christian mysticism and religious practice.

Underhill was born in Wolverhampton, England and was a controversial writer on mysticism, novelist, pacifist and metaphysical poet. She was formally educated at King’s College, where she was later elected as a Fellow. Underhill was one of the most widely read writers on the spiritual life in the first fifty years of the twentieth century, and with her book Mysticism, published in 1911, no other book of its type met with such success until Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy of 1946. An only child, her early mystical insights were described by her as “abrupt experiences of the peaceful, undifferentiated plane of reality—like the “still desert” of the mystic—in which there was no multiplicity nor need of explanation.” The meaning of these experiences became a lifelong quest and source of private angst, leading to her research and writing on the subject of mysticism. She and her husband, Hubert Stuart Moore, grew up together and were married on July 3, 1907. She traveled regularly to the continent, primarily Switzerland, France and Italy where she pursued her interests in art and Catholicism, visiting numerous churches and monasteries. Neither her husband (a Protestant) nor her parents shared her interest in spiritual matters.

Underhill was called simply “Mrs. Moore” by many of her friends, but was not without her detractors. She was a prolific author and published over thirty books either under her maiden name Underhill or under the pseudonym John Cordelier, as was the case for the 1912 book The Spiral Way. Initially an agnostic, she gradually began to acquire an interest in Neoplatonism and from there became increasingly drawn to Catholicism against the objections of her husband, becoming eventually a prominent Anglo-Catholic. Her spiritual mentor from 1921—24 was Baron Friedrich von H�gel, who was appreciative of her writing, yet concerned with her focus on mysticism and encouraged her to adopt a much more Christocentric view as opposed to the theistic/intellectual one she had previously held. After his death in 1925, her writings became more focused on the Holy Spirit and she became prominent in the Anglican Church.”

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