M.C. Richards on Reinventing Education, part 2

The Via Creativa very much inspires the Via Transformativa in the work and life of M. C. Richards, who devoted a great deal of her life to reinventing education in practice and in theory. It was my privilege to work with her for years in my educational programs in creation spirituality.  Among her books are The Crossing Point; The Public School and the Education of the Whole Person; Imagine Inventing Yellow; and Opening Our Moral Eye.

MC Richards’ cover image on Toward Wholeness reflects Rudolf Steiner’s principle that education should include scientific observation, artistic imagination, religious reverence, and practical activity.

In her classic book Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, M. C. poses the question: “How does transformation come about? Not only of consciousness but of character?”  She proposes that images taken from the potter’s craft, centering and the ordeal by fire, show the way.

M.C. credits Quakers for grasping “centering” as “a feeling of flowing toward a common center in their meetings for worship.”

What is centering?

To feel the whole in every part. . . . Centering has nothing to do with a center as a place. It has to do with bringing the totality of the clay into an unwobbling pivot, the equilibrium distributed throughout in an even grain.

In her book Toward Wholeness: Rudolf Steiner Education in America, M.C. tells us what drew her to Steiner:

…the totality of the vision — and because everything is connected with everything else. This spirit reflects the direction in which modern consciousness is evolving.  The grammar of interconnections is a new discipline of our age.

M.C. credits Steiner with providing a “common archetypal ground for art, science, and religion. The whole is found in every part.”  Both documenting and contemplating have a role to play.

“I Am The Door” sculpture by M.C. Richards, included in Stations of the Cosmic Christ by Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

She welcomes how “in its forms it provides a search for a renewal of a feeling for who we human beings really are, and for reconnection with the universe — inwardly as well as outwardly.”  We see her celebrating psyche and cosmos, heart and mind.

Elsewhere M.C. decries the rupture of science from religion and cosmos from psyche–which I date to the year 1600 and the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake–in the following words:

There is a palpable disunion.  This split obstructs the poetic consciousness; it is a characteristic malady of our society….The inner soul withdraws, goes underground, splits off from the part that keeps walking around.  Vitality ebbs.  Psychic disturbance is acute.  Suicide may be attempted.

It follows that a new cosmology and a new spirituality—one that is not modern and human-centered but pre-modern and cosmos-centered—holds tremendous potential for healing, for the return of vitality and love of life and empowerment.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, 262-264. 
And Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, p. 1.

Banner image: “Centering” Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

MC asks the question: How does transformation take place both of consciousness and of character?  Are you asking those questions also?  What do you think of her answer?

MC defines centering as: feeling the whole in every part.  What are the implications of that understanding?  Is she speaking to the marriage of psyche and cosmos?

Do you recognize the split of science and religion, cosmos and psyche as a “malady of our society”?  Do you recognize a healing happening in these post-modern times?

Recommended Reading

 While Matthew Fox recognizes that Eckhart has influenced everyone from Julian of Norwich to Eckhart Tolle, Karl Marx to Carl Jung, and Annie Dillard to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.

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