M. C. Richards on Art As Meditation, the Way of the Prophets

In her now classic book, Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person, potter M. C. Richards offers us a near-Bible on Art as Meditation.  

M.C. Richards: portrait by Jonathan Williams from the cover of the documentary of her life, The Fire Within

For her art as meditation is about a new kind of power.  The word craft, she explains, “comes from the German word Kraft, meaning power or strength…. We can’t fake craft.   It lies in the act….We do not have the craft, or craftsmanship, if we do not speak to the light that lives within the earthly materials; this means ALL earthly materials, including people themselves.” 

Jose Arguelles warns us that when people are “deprived of the power of expression, [they] will express themselves in a drive for power.”[i]

Art as meditation embodies feminist energies.  A patriarchal spirituality often prefers to define meditation exclusively as psychic withdrawal from our senses and distrusts creativity.  Poet Adrienne Rich underscores how “the deeply reverenced art of pottery making was invented by women [and] was regarded as a sacred process:”

Pottery by M.C. Richards (photographer unknown)

    The making of the pot is just as much a part of the creative activity of the  Feminine as is the making of the child…. In pottery making the woman experiences… primordial creative force…. The manufacture of pots, like most operations in primitive society… partakes of a ritual or religions character… The pot’s identity with the Great Mother is deeply rooted in an ancient belief through the greater part of the world.[ii]

Theologian/sociologist Gregory Baum comments that faith used to be understood as residing in the intelligence, but “it may be more realistic and ultimately more profound to say that faith resides in the imagination.”[iii]  Thus education for faith means training, exercising, nurturing the imagination.  Art as meditation gets this done.

Richards links imagination with prophetic action when she talks of Moral Imagination.  “We are not always able to feel the love we would like to feel.  But we may behave imaginatively: envisioning and eventually creating what is not yet present.  This is what I call Moral Imagination.” 

Imagination is the special gift of the prophet.  “From the child’s ability to imagine grows as well the adult’s capacity for compassion: the ability to picture the suffering of others, to identify.  In one’s citizenship, or the art of politics, it is part of one’s skill to imagine other ways of living than one’s own.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Deep Ecumenism, Ecojustice, and Art as Meditation,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling With The Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life, pp. 234-236
[i] Jose Arguelles,  The Transformative Vision (Berkeley: Shambhala, 1975).
[ii] Adrienne Rich,  Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (New York: Norton, 1976), 96-97.
[iii] Gregory Baum, Religion and Alienation: A Theological Reading of Sociology (New York: Paulist Press, 1976), 244.
Banner image: Untitled by photographer Leslie Eckert on Pixabay.

Queries for Contemplation

Be with the “Light that lives” inside the materials for art—clay, soil, colors, the body, sounds. Invite that Light to speak to you. 

Be with the term “moral imagination” What is it telling you?  What follows from developing one’s moral imagination? 

Invite ancestors into your meditation, and others whom you feel exercise prophetic and moral imagination.  What are they saying to you and to us today?

Recommended Reading

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages in substantive discussions with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets on today’s social and spiritual issues on such challenging topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interspirituality, and more.

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

2 thoughts on “M. C. Richards on Art As Meditation, the Way of the Prophets”

  1. Avatar
    Elaina Hyde-Mills

    Matt, I’m really enjoying these meditations. It is re-grounding me in the work that I did with you in the late 80’s, making it fresh and integrative. Thank you. I am blessed. Elaina

    1. Gail Ransom

      Elaine, It is good to have you back in the movement! You join many others in re-discovering Creation Spirituality again and finding it as relevant today as it was when you first worked with it. ….and how many of Matt’s predictions have come to be spot on? I will make sure Matt receives your greeting.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the DM Team

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: