M. C. Richards, Centering, and Fusion of the Opposites

We have been meditating on Holiness and what it means in the 21st century.  Père Chenu, a great historian and theologian, who named the creation spirituality tradition for me when I studied with him 55 years ago, points out that when societies evolve their ideas of holiness also evolve.

What is the difference between religion and holiness? Christopher Anadale

We have suggested that today’s understanding of holiness might include these four elements: Joy, Courage, Generosity and Justice.  Holiness is not something exclusively interior, it is not divorced from what we give back to society.

At the same time we were discussing such matters, the Supreme Court issued its rulings for the year, many of which seemed distant from generosity or justice or bringing joy to others.  They seemed almost punitive toward the poor, the young, people of color and sexual minorities. 

And toward the Earth and the environment which touches the young especially because it is about the future of parenting and of quality of life on this planet for generations to come.

CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson and chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett discuss the making of the current intransigent Supreme Court.

We called on the deep justice-oriented spirituality of Thomas Aquinas to inspire resistance to acts of injustice that a Supreme Court is capable of when it owes more to billionaire buddies with cases before the court than to listening to those who suffer under their decision-making. 

Or, in the sad case of Justice Barrett, to five visits she made giving paid speeches before an anti-gay hate group. 

Today I want to introduce you to a spiritual writer who was on my faculty for many years, M. C. Richards.  M. C. was a potter, poet, painter, philosopher and critic of education.  Her book Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person is a classic on art as meditation.  I first met her on reading that book when she responded heartily to the rather lengthy review I wrote about it. 

“M.C. Richards: The Fire Within” is an adventure into discovering the source of our creativity told through the life of Mary Caroline Richards (1916-1999).

Happy to say, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of that book while she was teaching with us in the Bay area and her good friends Merce Cunningham and John Cage, who were teachers with her at the experimental Black Mountain College (along with Buckminster Fuller) participated in that celebrative event.

I think she was a champion in Joy and Courage, Generosity and Justice.

In the Introduction to the anniversary edition of Centering she writes: 

We move inwardly in opposite directions.  Toward self-definition and toward community.  Toward ethical individualism and toward social justice.  It is this fusing of the opposites that Centering enables. 

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 125, 153.

Also see Matthew Fox, “Deep Ecumenism, Ecojustice, and Art as Meditation” in Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 215-242.

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

Banner Image: “Person Molding Vase” by Swapnill Dwivedi on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with M. C. that “fusing of the opposites” such as happens on a potter’s wheel is a way of deepening our inner (and outer) journeys?  What follows from that?

Recommended Reading

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

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9 thoughts on “M. C. Richards, Centering, and Fusion of the Opposites”

  1. Avatar

    We need both the freedom to be and becoming part of and contributing to the ‘greater good’, at the same time.

    Neither are mutually exclusive. If we only want individual freedom to be our sole focus, the inclusion and diversity of others is not considered, and they may suffer. If we only want a focus on ‘the greater good’, the expansive freedom of expression and creativity will suffer from the constraint of uniformity and constriction. — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Yes, I agree with M. C. Richards, that “fusing of the opposites” is a way of deepening our inner and outer journeys. What follows from this, is that the fragmentations of both of these worlds, becomes a beautiful mosiac of wholeness and holiness.

    The illusions of seperation and divisive dualities melt… transformed, this becomes the sodder, that fuses the shards of stained glass together, creating a sacred place and space for the vision and image of being Oned With… to radiate forth, gently touching self, others and all life… with the warm embrace of accepting all that one experiences and encounters both inwardly and outwardly… no longer black or white… but rather seen in a wash of new colors… the journey itself, now holy ground.

  3. Avatar

    Jeanette Metler’s words express vividly the inner and outer change that has to take place. The fusion, transformation of illusions, stained glass, awash with colors every description calls me to shout “Yes, yes, that’s it.

  4. Avatar

    Yes! I am a professional violinist and teacher. One concert I took my seat and in the audience before me sat a woman who seemed to be clothed in a body cast, It was obvious that she was in pain. I started asking myself why I had chosen a career that gave me so much joy, when I might have chosen one that would help others. My life was spending so many hours of practice by myself, joy in teaching others to play well and concerts of music that were so much fun it was a shock I would actually be paid! At the finish of the concert I looked at the woman. The smile on her face was immense! Through the music, she had taken a vacation away from pain. After that concert, I heard two friends greet each other. The first was surprised the second had come to the concert. The second told her friend that her doctor had told her not to go to the concert and explained that her doctor did not understand how music helped to heal. I was taught “not to [ever] leave my heart in the studio”,

  5. Avatar

    Do you agree with M. C. that “fusing of the opposites” such as happens on a potter’s wheel is a way of deepening our inner (and outer) journeys? What follows from that?

    I think ultimately they are not opposites, but one. As I take the inward journey to Holy Spirit or true Self, and away from false self, the flesh, the ego, I find that true Self is unified with everything else. The more I fully identify with true Self, the more I identify as community and the whole universe. Every physical creation has a spiritual element, its own true Self. Our journey inward is to find that true identity and fully identity with it. The extent that we can do this is the extent to which we become unified with all of creation. The inward journey is the journey to community.

  6. Avatar

    YES!!! This is the ‘unio mystica’ of all mystics and all deep genuine spiritual traditions…

    On our spiritual journeys we’re being transformed toward integrating our human and Divine natures in our daily daily lives with one another and beautiful Sacred Mother Nature, each of us in our own unique sacred way, “Our True Heart Self~Soul,” by the the PRESENT and ongoing co-Creator~Source’s evolving LOVING Diverse ONENESS….

  7. Avatar

    ….”pulverized by beauty”–What a lovely phrase! Beauty breaks us down, in a good way, so that we rise renewed as part of the miraculous whole of creation.

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