ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Intimations Of Spiritual Depths

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Intimations Of Spiritual Depths

From The Spiritual Life

Many Christians are like deaf people at a concert.  They study the program carefully, believe every statement made in it, speak respectfully of the quality of the music, but only really hear a phrase now and again.  So they have no notion at all of the mighty symphony which fills the universe, to which our lives are destined to make their tiny contribution, and which is the self-expression of the Eternal God.

Yet there are plenty of things in our normal experience, which imply the existence of that world, that music, that life.  If, for instance, we consider the fact of prayer, the almost universal impulse to seek and appeal to a power beyond ourselves, and notice the heights to love – the power it exerts, the heroic vocations and costly sacrifices which it supports, the transformations of character which it effects – it is a sufficiently mysterious characteristic of man.  Again and again it is discredited by our popular rationalisms and naturalisms, and again and again it returns, and claims its rights within human life; even in its crudest, most naïve expressions retaining a certain life-changing power.  No one who studies with sympathy, for instance, the history of religious revivals, can doubt that here, often in a grotesque and unlovely disguise, a force from beyond the world really breaks in upon the temporal order with disconcerting power.

So, too, all who are sensitive to beauty know the almost agonizing sense of revelation its sudden impact brings – the abrupt disclosure of the mountain summit, the wild cherry-tree in blossom, the crowning moment of a great concerto, witnessing to another beauty beyond sense.  And again, any mature person looking back on their own past life, will be forced to recognize factors in that life, which cannot be attributed to heredity, environment, opportunity, personal initiative, or mere chance.  The contact which proved decisive, the path unexpectedly opened, the other path closed, the thing we felt compelled to say, the letter we felt compelled to write.  It is as if a hidden directive power, personal, living, free, were working through circumstances and often against our intention or desire; pressing us in a certain direction, and molding us to a certain design.




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