The “Overplus” of Reality

Man and the Supernatural

Man and the Supernatural

Indeed that which, beyond all else, spiritual genius never fails to give us, is  this realistic sense of the overplus of Reality; a perfection exceeding in its totality and splendor all possible human apprehension.

— Evelyn Underhill, Man and the Supernatural

I stumbled across the quotation from Evelyn Underhill the other day in an anthology of her writings (Daily Readings with a Modern Mystic) and was immediately struck by the whimsy of the word “overplus.” Clearly this was written before George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its Newspeak idea of “doubleplusgood” — I imagine Underhill might have tried to come up with a more poetic word had she been aware of Orwell’s withering satire which explores how language might in some unspecified future time become another tool of the state’s efforts to control the population.

But Underhill is not dealing with totalitarian ideology, but rather an attempt to invite her readers to expand their imagination to the limit, and then push beyond it. God is greater than we can imagine, and the possibilities inherent in the mystical life take us beyond the boundaries of what we consider possible. The Divine Mystery exceeds “all possible human apprehension,” meaning that God  takes us into the place of impossible apprehension.

Meanwhile, I suspect that the more of us who contemplate this little mystery of the infinity of contingency, the better equipped we as a people shall be to prevent the rise of a Newspeak kind of state, either in the near or distant future. “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” This has political as well as spiritual ramifications.

What Has Not Yet Been Revealed
Social Media... and Silence
Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr
Timothy Keller Gets Contemplation Wrong


  1. Thank you. I love Evelyn’s work. This seems to be a theme of late. The freedom is in the knowing for me.

Leave a Comment