Realm of the Muse

Any poet in Milton's day could claim a Muse, and most did. But the reign of the Muse was rapidly coming to an end. Puritans like William Dell insisted that they and all pagan gods and goddesses were the work of the devil and that Christians should forget the names of their gods and muses, which were but devils and damned creatures. Dell demanded that Christians let go of their mythology and other fabulous inventions since these came directly from Satan.

However the far greater threat to the power of the Muse came from thinkers like Thomas Hobbes who began to subject the Muses to rational scrutiny in much the same way one might look at Jacobs Ladder or the Tower of Babel. The scorn and indifference of thinkers such as Hobbes had a devastating effect on the Muse. Intellectually discredited the Muses were forced to retreat to sanctuaries far from man. The belief of mankind shapes the world and all reality and since the Muses were not 'real' they were deemed not to exist.

As the road to the House of the Muse lengthened with all these encompassing views dominating, the world writer's and artists alike became more secretive about their association to the Muse. Even I, a true votary of the Muse find myself applying reason when my students snigger at the idea of invoking an ancient goddess and calling upon her to restore their creativity. So, rather than lose them I soothingly point out that the Muse is a symbol, a means of focusing and quieting monkey mind.

The truth is that my Muse is like the fabulous treasury at Delphi which hoarded gifts from the likes of the fabulously wealthy Croesus of Lydia in the mid-sixth century BC or the Egyptian Masis. All that is original lies waiting for me to summon forth from this treasury. All I have to do is summon her and she will drift down from Mount Parnassus to be with me.

My road to the House of the Muse has shortened as I have found small fragments of gold amid the words of modern writers.

Recently as I introduced a new group of Year Twelves to the Muse Isobel Allende came to the rescue with her account, in her autobiographical 'Paula' of the ritual she follows when writing. Allende describes an almost identical process to the one I have been using and promoting in writing sessions for some time. She writes "When that time comes, I try to be alone and silent for several hours; I need a lot of time to rid my mind of the noise outside and to cleanse my memory of life's confusion. I light candles to summon the muses and guardian spirits. I place flowers on my desk to intimidate tedium and the complete works of Pablo Neruda beneath the computer with the hope they will inspire me by osmosis. If computers can be infected with a virus there's no reason why they shouldn't be refreshed by a breath of poetry. In a secret ceremony I prepare my mind and soul to receive the first sentence in a trance, so the door may open slightly and allow me to peer through and perceive the hazy outlines of the story waiting for me."

The House of the Muse is so much closer now. Indeed the magical doorway to enter the realm of the Muse lies very close if you care to look and step inside.

To test whether the world of the Muse is now easier to traverse try the following exercises.

Search and find a picture of a white horse like Pegasus, the winged horse who Athene gave to the Muses, to put in your writing area. It was Pegasus who gave Mount Helicon a kick and bought out of the mountain the soul inspiring waters of the fountain of Hippocrene. Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses has always been at the service of poets and his presence will help inspire you.

Select a seashell and hold it in your non dominant hand. Look carefully at the doorway to this miniature house and take a moment to consider what the door to the House of the Muse might look like.

Lay a copy of your favourite poetry alongside you, light a candle, start your favourite CD and begin a flight of imagination by doing a guided imagery.

Begin to write. Do not think. Just allow your hand and pen to glide across the page or your fingers to lightly move across your keyboard.

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