MC Richards & Julian of Norwich on Creativity & Mothering

Potter, poet, philosopher, MC Richards (who took up painting at 70 years of age and confessed, “it’s too late for technique),” knew something about Creativity.  Indeed, her book Centering: In Potter, Poetry, and the Person is considered a classic on the subject of the creative process. 

Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person by M.C. Richards. Photo by Matthew Fox.

Daniel Rhodes, in the Craft Horizons, said this about MC’s iconic book:  

This book, in its form and in its content, seems almost without precedent.  Its style flows directly from an intensity, an honesty, and a frankness which are rare.  It is a poem, a sutra, a tract, a confession, a revelation, a guide to art and life….This is not merely a good book, it is a great book.

I invoke MC in the opening lines of my chapter on “Creativity and Compassion” in my book, A Spirituality Named Compassion when she tells us: 

We have to realize that a creative being lives within ourselves, whether we like or not and that we must get of its way, for it will give us no peace until we do.

This one sentence, I propose, challenges our entire culture.  It challenges Patriarchy which prefers to sentimentalize motherhood than to recognize how all persons, both women and men, are creative and therefore called to motherhood. 

It challenges education: Is creativity a value there, from kindergarten through graduate school?   

“Father hands” Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash.

It challenges our self-understanding: In what way do we recognize the “creative being that lives within ourselves”? 

And it challenges us to find peace and to get out of the way of fear and doubt and projections onto others so that creativity and healthy mothering can flow.  To learn to let go therefore.

Julian of Norwich is saying something similar when she proposes that “Christ is a mother.”

What are the characteristics of a mother for Julian? Compassion is one such characteristic.

Compassion is a kind and gentle property that belongs to the Motherhood in tender grace.

Mother and child at Indigenous Day Native March. Artful Activism organized by Backbone Campaign. Photo by Alex Garland on Flickr.

What is this tender compassion about?

Compassion protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals.

At the root of compassion lies love in action.

The ground of compassion is love and the working of compassion keeps us in love.

Compassion, then, is love at work. It is an action. 

Compassion is a sweet gracious working in love, mingled with abundant kindness; for compassion works at taking care of us and makes all things become good. 

Compassion is about putting kindness and caring into action. It is our work and it brings goodness into the world.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, p. 104.  

And Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 49.

Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 236f.

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


Banner Image: “Mothers in Kargi, a remote nomadic settlement in Kenya. It’s been a while since I got to experience a people so constantly happy and full of joy as the people of here”. Photo by Ian Macharia on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What do you think about MC’s conviction that a creative being resides within us all and the only way to peace is to heed its presence and get out of the way? And Julian’s teaching about the divine motherhood and compassion?

Recommended Reading

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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14 thoughts on “MC Richards & Julian of Norwich on Creativity & Mothering”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You ask of us today in our Queries for Contemplation: “What do you think about MC’s conviction that a creative being resides within us all and the only way to peace is to heed its presence and get out of the way?”
    This one sentence, Matthew proposes, “challenges our entire culture. It challenges Patriarchy which prefers to sentimentalize motherhood than to recognize how all persons, both women and men, are creative and therefore called to motherhood.”
    Then we have Julian’s teachings about the divine motherhood and compassion? And once again, Matthew proposes that “Compassion protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals. At the root of compassion lies love in action. The ground of compassion is love and the working of compassion keeps us in love. Compassion, then, is love at work. It is an action.”

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I have found myself to get completely lost… in the sense of being lost to all concept of time, while involved in the creative process. Literally hours have flown by, while I found myself to be totally immersed in the present moment of simply creating. I always feel completely energized in these sacred moments. There is something surprisingly wonderful that unfolds and evolves during the act of creating… this something for me is JOY!

    Creativity is also apart of Motherhood. I remember, as a young child, my mother turning learning into fun filled creative activities. Learning to cultivate our imagination in the creative process was a big part of learning. If I had a school project to do on the country of Italy, we would decorate the kitchen table, in Italian style, make an Italian dinner, play Italian music, learn a few words in Italian and pretend to be in Italy. Through this, I experienced the pleasure and joy of learning… through engaging my imagination in creative, playfully ways. To this day, this is the most natural way for me to learn new things.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You are right Jeanette–“Creativity is also apart of Motherhood.” And as I said yesterday, it is because of this that Meister Eckhart can say that we are all mothers of God.

  3. Avatar
    Joe Masterleo

    That soul is mother who cooperates with God in being the source and nurturer of life. In celebration of Mother’s Day:

    Divinity always has its druthers;
    appearing most in the form of mothers;
    tending to her brood with uncanny devotion, committed to caring with every motion; single-minded in purpose and goal, nurturing and training, making you whole; faithfully riveted to crib and cradle, skilled at setting a wholesome table; sending you off to worship and school, teaching you the Golden Rule; there when u passed, and when you failed, at your bedside when you ailed; warmly enfolding embracing you, when friends are many, when friends are few; always there with your birthday cake, there to give but never take; spanking your bottom, mending your britches, holding your hand while getting stitches; taking your side against your dad, whenever you goofed, and he got too mad; there to wash your dirty clothes, there to stop a bloody nose; ready to offer wise direction, overlooking imperfection; comforting when you’re troubled and fearful, there with a hug, ever so cheerful; always having her way with you, her quiet example sticking like glue; upholding you in fervent prayer, ever present, ever there; with unspeakable grace and serenity, forming your deeper identity; the spirit and marrow of every dwelling, a presence so vital and compelling; steadfastly loyal at sickbed and tomb, a holy guardian of the fruit of her womb; at your side more than any other, God appearing in the form of mother.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you for this pleasantly rhyming play of descriptors of the motherly role, well-played. I recognize the most beautiful faces of my mother through your words ~

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Joyful, I’m with you on Joe’s “pleasantly rhyming play of descriptors of the motherly role!”

  4. Avatar
    William McLean

    Where might this line of thinking and education lead us in addressing youth violence and suicide or our violent culture. Each day recently in the daily meditations, I am sensing God calling me to do something and share the vision with leadership in our community. The focus is on gun control and blaming the lack of parenting. In listening to Matthew I am seeing other more promising approaches many he has shared: addressing toxic masculinity, enlisting children and youth in creative endeavors to bring beauty into their lives, field trips into the open spaces to see the stars, etc. I keep thinking it may take Our Village to Raise our Children differently in creative new ways. Matthew, can you help us come up with lists of activities and thing we might do? For years, I have been a student of Dr Murray Bowen ( and think often of his having said in the 1960s speaking to a professional group, we in our culture are beginning a “Downward Siral of Societal Regression.” When asked What it would take to turn this around, he said “Leadership!” At 86 I’m hearing Matthew calling us to be prophetic leaders. Can We work together to share our thoughts and list what creative we might proceed?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      William, Thank you for your comment, and to your question: “Can We work together to share our thoughts and list what creative we might proceed?” I reply with a resounding YES we can !!!

  5. Avatar

    Yes, Matthew, another beautiful and profound meditation for us from our mystical spiritual tradition — the Loving~Wisdom~Suffering~Creative~Beautiful~Joyful Presence within and among us in Mother Nature and All Her creatures, All Creation, the multiverse~Cosmos, and our eternal evolving souls as compassionate co-Creators — the Cosmic Christ~Diverse Loving Oneness with-in our Loving Mother~Father Creator….

  6. Avatar

    As a storyteller, writer and poet myself, I too care not for technique nor structure. Compassion flows out of passion, the heart. The heart desires freedom, including in expression. I choose prose and free verse as my own medium, my art. My passion is simply, humbly to express something of and in Divine LOVE. }:- a.m

  7. Avatar

    As we contemplate the sacred feminine and masculine I remember a poem by Russian /Ukrainian Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It was published in Catholic New Times, December 1983. It seems timely now:


    Now here’s an oddity; behold a pregnant man.
    An alien burden makes me totter and devours my strength,
    As if I bore the world itself in embryo,
    Not merely for a term but all eternity,
    As if with millions of feet it pummelled my insides.
    Within my belly every pregnant woman grows apace
    And, simultaneously, every child.
    Among my foetuses there number bombs and tanks,
    Kisses, flowers and putrefying bones.
    Time and again I suffer stabbing from within,
    Pierced by the Kremlin battlements and Eiffel Tower;
    Within me are the oceans surging to and fro,
    America and Russia too, like Siamese twins.
    My eyes are pregnant with all hearts,
    And every wise man grows to fulness in my head.
    (If only that could spare me from stupidity!)
    But what fate is worse than carrying a rogue!
    I dreamed the makings of all killers,
    Bureaucrats, police and armies could be shed –
    For what fate could surpass aborting those!
    I’m pregnant with all tears and laughter on this earth.
    And having quietly infiltrated my own womb, I bear myself.
    I carry every mortal whose conception is to come,
    And all who, having died, are yet to rise.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, Thank you so much for sharing. Did you know that Meister Eckhart also wrote of being a pregnant man?
      “I once had a dream. I dreamt that I, even though a man, was pregnant, pregnant and full with Nothingness like a woman who is with child. And that out of this Nothingness God was born.”

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