Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 England. Although her family was associated with the Anglican church, neither her mother nor her father were practicing Anglicans. Evelyn addresses this situation when she writes, “I was not brought up to religion.”
Her father turned away from the church when he grew tired of the constant chapels he was required to attend in boarding school. Oddly, though, his younger brother had the opposite reaction and eventually became an Anglican priest.
In spite of this, at 15, Evelyn began study for her confirmation into the church. She keeps herself an arm’s length away from true conviction. She writes in her diary,
As to religion, I don’t quite know, except that I believe in a God, and think it is better to love and help the poor people round me than to go on saying that I love an abstract Spirit whom I have never seen. If I can do both, all the better, but it is best to begin with the nearest. I do not think anything is gained by being orthodox, and a great deal of beauty and sweetness of things is lost by being bigoted and dogmatic. If we are to see God at all, it must be through nature and our fellow men. Science holds a lamp up to Heaven, not down to the churches.
And the woman who would become the world’s greatest expert on mysticism, as a girl writes about prayer the following.
I don’t believe in worrying God with prayers for things we want. If he is omnipotent he knows we want them, and if he isn’t, he can’t give them to us. I think it is an insult to him to repeat the same prayers everyday. It is as much as to say he is deaf, or very slow of comprehension.
This just goes to show how awkward some of our steps toward God can be.