Transformation and the Divine Feminine: Rich & Eckhart

Speaking of creativity, Eckhart applies the annunciation story to our creative work when he writes:

Hildegard of Bingen receiving and recording a vision. Public Domain, on Wikimedia Commons.

The work that is ‘with,’ ‘outside,’ and ‘above’ the artist must become the work that is ‘in’ him, taking form within her, in order towards the end that she may produce a work of art, in accordance with the verse ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee’ (Lk. 1:35), that is so that the ‘above’ may become ‘in.’

Indian art historian and Hindu philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy recognizes that “Eckhart thinks of God as a mother.”

Adrienne Rich tells us:

the images of the prepatriarchal goddess-cults did one thing; they told women that power, awesomeness, and centrality were theirs by nature, not by privilege or miracle; the female was primary.

The Goddess represented the intrinsic power and sacredness of creativity itself. She embodied transformation, and one expression of this in ancient societies was the reverence for pottery making, which, Rich writes, “was invented by women, was taboo to men, [and] was regarded as a sacred process.”  She observes:

Women making clay vessels by traditional methods, Ramallah, Palestine, c. 1905. Wikimedia Commons.

It does not seem unlikely that the woman potter molded, not simply vessels, but images of herself, the vessel of life, the transformer of blood into life and milk — that in so doing she was expressing, celebrating, and giving concrete form to her experience as a creative being possessed of indispensable power. Without her . . . invention and skill, the pot or vessel — the most sacred of handmade objects — would not exist.

She adds that in primordial terms the vessel is anything but a ‘passive’ receptacle; it is transformative — active, powerful. . . . The transformations necessary for the continuation of life are thus, in terms of this early imagery, exercises of female power.

This power was not over others, but transforming power, was the truly significant and essential power, and this, in prepatriarchal society women knew for their own.  In biological motherhood, too, as in these other activities, “woman was not merely a producer and stabilizer of life: there, too, she was a transformer.”*  

*See Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood As Experience And Institution, pp. 93f., 96-99, 101

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 69-73, 95f.

See also Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, pp. 39-40.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Left to right: 1) Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey (c. 6000-5500 B.C.E.) Wikimedia Commons. 2) Mycenaean “Bird Goddess” with something in her arms, possibly a child. Late Bronze Age, 15 to 13 century B.C.E. National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Wikimedia Commons. 3) Goddess with upraised arms and with snakes. Terracotta, Kania, Gortys, 1300-1200 B.C.E. Archaeological museum of Heraklion. Wikimedia Commons. 4) Pottery Figure with Mortar and Pestle, Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 C.E.) Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What does it mean to you to be told that the annunciation story applies to you when you are being creative?  What follows on Rich’s teaching that women’s power is transformative power?  How does that differ from power as power-over?

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, 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.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

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.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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4 thoughts on “Transformation and the Divine Feminine: Rich & Eckhart”

  1. Avatar

    Very powerful poetry! Inparticular the following words read, moved deeply within me… “touching the wound beyond the wound… not turning away in disgust… be truthful about what brings us together… relieve one another’s pain.” Memories rose to the surface, the many faces of the elders that I have cared for over the years. Part of this was cleaning and dressing their bodily wounds, what we call wound care. Many people cannot handle this level of care… but for me it was as if I was tending to the wounds of Christ. I have a little statue of the Pieta, by Michelangelo, that is placed on my altar, that keeps me mindful of how and whom I am really touching when I enter into solidarity with another. Thank you so much for sharing Adrienne Rich’s poetry, which I had never heard until today.

  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You ask today, “What does it mean to you to be told that the annunciation story applies to you when you are being creative?” With this question, what immediately comes to mind is a quote from Meister Eckhart, where he says, “”What good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his/her Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?” And concerning Rich’s teaching that women’s power is transformative power, and differs from power as power-over, I would say that I feel that Eckhart answers this better by saying, “The work that is ‘with,’ ‘outside,’ and ‘above’ the artist must become the work that is ‘in’ him, taking form within her, in order towards the end that she may produce a work of art, in accordance with the verse ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee’ (Lk. 1:35), that is so that the ‘above’ may become ‘in.’”

  3. Avatar

    It’s time to redefine “power”, remove the weapon from the word. No longer power-over, but power-with, being willingly present in the trenches of pain. Power-with is the often-grueling, thankless task of helping and caretaking of the suffering and confused, of the impoverished and the ailing and dying, of those who make us uncomfortable because their pain is a reminder of our fragility.
    Women have traditionally been the quietly ferocious carriers of this type of power, hidden behind the scenes while carrying on the vital work of human survival at its most intimate level. Their courage and commitment is taken for granted, used like a backup generator in societal continuity. Ironically, women are stereotyped as “gentle, passive, weak, fragile, clueless little things,” incapable of anything “important”. But every caretaker knows that it takes patience, grit and determination to care for someone else. There is no weakness in the power of love.

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