Here is the interview with Miranda Moondawn author of Mooniana: And the Secrets of the Lost Chronicles of Sophia
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your book, of combining the Hindu, Greek and Nordic lore?
A. Well, I live in Denmark, the land of the Vikings and Hans Christian Andersen, so the Nordic lore was an obvious choice there. Although I must admit that the presence of Nordic tradition is much stronger in Norway and Sweden where they are even more strongly influenced by trolls and elves and other beings from folklore. In Norway there are heaps of stories about young farmer girls marrying troll princes and becoming rich and Sweden is the birthplace of Astrid Lindgren, one of the most famous writers of children’s books in the world.
The Greek influence is all over Europe of course. Greek Philosophy, architecture, mythology, drama and so on has been prominent in Europe since the Renaissance and it became even more so after the Enlightenment, where many nurtured radical desires to replace Christianity with Greek Democracy and thought. The original proposed name for Washington DC, for example, was said to be New Rome!
As for Hinduism, it was introduced to the West during the Romantic period, through William Jones and the first scholars to learn Sanskrit and translate books like the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Laws of Manu and parts of Mahabharata into Latin, English, French etc. From the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, the passion for Hinduism spread to other places in Europe – the Sanskrit and Orientalist schools became particularly big in Germany, where Indian belief and lore made a huge impression on their philosophy and literature in the latter part of the Romantic period.
Although the mythology and lore of these three cultures do not dominate the everyday lives and the culture of present-day Scandinavia and Europe, all three are an essential part of the cultural history of Europe since the Renaissance onwards and, as such, they lie buried in what Jung would call the collective unconscious of Europe and I would call its collective Group Soul. In my book Mooniana, I have utilized the literary technique of Magic Realism to juxtapose this archetypal tendency of the collective unconscious with contemporary events from everyday life and history – beginning from around the fall of the Soviet Union and ending with the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre. Where the two worlds meet and cross over and then diverge again in the book was a very interesting process for me to explore as a writer.
Q. What sort of research did you do to write this book?
A. I did both practical and theoretical research – I read heaps of books on Gnosticism, Qabalah, Tantra and other Hindu Philosophy and practices, I also practiced many of the techniques and rituals in these books – I joined a Tantra school, learnt to meditate on the chakras, practice yoga asanas and the art of raising the Kundalini-Shakti. I also practiced Qabalah and Tree of Life meditations and exercises. I have also been doing Bhakti Yoga for some years, along with the meditation techniques of Raja Yoga. I also did some shamanic Rituals in Nature as part of the process of Ritual Theatre as a means of psychospiritual transformation. Most of these experiences, practices and the philosophy behind them are described in depth through the eyes of the six sister Muses in the book.
Q. You have studied Bollywood film and Hindu culture (I read it in your Bio). What inspired you for it?
A. I first got into Bollywood at Copenhagen University where I was doing a Masters degree in English Literature. One of the course options at the time was Reading Bollywood Film. I was already pretty obsessed with Indian Philosophy and culture so I thought I would dive into it. Along with some of the old films like Sholay and Deewar, they also put on films like Devdas, Lagaan and HAHK (Hum Aapke Hain Koun). The last three films especially were filled with images of Hindu religious iconography – darshan and dharma – so after the course was finished I did a Master’s paper on the link between Bollywood film and Hindu ritual and religious iconography. I put a number references to Bollywood and the Hindu cultural tradition like the Gita Govinda and the Natyashastra in my book Mooniana.
Q. What books have most influenced your life?
A. George Macdonald’s fairytales and Blake’s Poetry and the entire Romantic tradition were a large influence on my writing. I was also influenced by Gnosticism and the Hermetic writers, especially Dion Fortune and her books like the Mystical Qabalah and Moon Magic. Later on, as I got more deeply into Indian Philosophy and lore, I was influenced by books like the Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavatam Purana and Peter Brook’s amazing staging of Mahabharata, along with writings on Kundalini Yoga and Tantra. As I write in my bio on Amazon, my work is also influenced by the Magic Realist School of writers like Amitav Ghosh and Salman Rushdie. Magic Realism is a genre where a minority culture attempts to find a voice in the face of its alienation from the dominant cultural mainstream. Although generally associated with imperialism and racialist discourses, I found this feeling of alienation and disorientation from a dominant mainstream very relevant to my own life, so I used the Magic Realist genre to express this.
Q. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
A. Absolutely, although I wouldn’t call it a spiritual practice as much as a psycho-spiritual practice. That’s because on one level I write to get stuff out of my system – both good and bad stuff – and to discover and explore parts of myself that I can’t express in daily life. So on one level writing is creative therapy for me. On another level my writing is a way for me to commune with the divine and to explore the higher truths of life and the universe – to rethink and renegotiate the culture, myths and ideas of some really awesome thinkers, writers and visionaries that have helped establish the collective culture and ideas of our world. I don’t think that I am qualified at all to do this – Who is – but someone has to do it so why not me? As the great Vedic sage and author of Mahabharata – Vyasadev said “On one level I wrote the Mahabharata for the purpose of restoring Dharma. But at the same time I also wrote it to comfort my terrors of the dark.”
Q. There are many places mentioned from India and other parts of the world. Have you visited any of those places for writing this book? If so, which place did you like most?
A. I have visited most of the places mentioned in the book – Vattern and Gothenberg in Sweden, Bergen in Norway, the Rhine area in Germany, Vienna in Austria, Copenhagen of course – places like Agra, Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Goa in India. When I came to write the book, I was already familiar with these places, but it was really a unique experience to relive them through the narrative and see them through the eyes of the main characters – the six Siren Muses and the central male protagonist, the Teacher Paul Vallidin. It was quite amazing to see how the energy and atmosphere of these places and the experiences I had of them altered when I let my imagination and other personae run free to explore them.
As it happens, I haven’t visited Verona in Italy or Varanasi yet, so I had to wing it with those places. As for my favorite spots – in Scandinavia the place I liked most was Lake Vattern. Liv von Sommer (Mooniana’s) weird and wonderful experience there of bathing and floating up into the sky to become one with the Sun was based on an experience I had there a long time ago. There was no ritual or anything involved it was just a purely spontaneous out of body Samadhi experience! And the place in India I loved most was Rajasthan. All the forts and palaces there – the whole atmosphere and energy of the city – I found to be totally amazing. And I felt totally at home there, like I had been there many times before. This is a feeling of DEJA VU that I experience every time I go to India in one way or another. It was just strongest in Rajasthan.
Q. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
A. I get really happy with good reviews, because I know that my book, due to its subject matter and the Magic Realist genre is very difficult and challenging to read, so I am really happy when people see where I am coming from and what I am trying to do with the book. Bad reviews – I have only got one for Mooniana so far and she said that although the book was pretty well written, she didn’t get what it was on about and was particular put off by all the esoteric references to Gnosticism and Hindu mysticism. There is an awful lot of Philosophy in Mooniana and Magic Realism is also a difficult genre for many people to get into, so this confusion is understandable.
Q. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
A. I have no favorite chapter as such – but I think I liked the third part of the book the most – even though for most readers it is the hardest part to follow and digest. This section of my book Mooniana is called Atropos, after the third and last Fate sister – and in it all the six sister Muses, the Sirens, have their own special individual sections – so the reader really has a chance to get to know them in depth. Part three is also when the sisters kind of take the quantum leap from their human and astral personae to become living archetypes – embodiments of the Universal Goddess Sophia-Shakti. This was totally amazing to write but also extremely complex, because as an author I was not only going beyond the physical world and its astral counterpart – but I was entering the divine world of archetypes and cosmic forms. In Tantra these cosmic forms are called the Maha Vidyas or Cosmic Powers of Universal Wisdom and Knowledge. And despite the fact that I have had both theoretical and practical experience of this world, it is still a realm that is VERY different from the everyday world and the world of our astral dream life – so writing this section was just as much a Rite of Passage for me as it was for the six sisters. And I would recommend anyone who wants to understand this part to read it over more than once!!
Q. What was the hardest part of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?
A. The end part of section three of the novel called Atropos – was the hardest part to write. The book ends with a very unusual play about the six sister Muses and the central male protagonist in the novel, the Teacher Paul. The drama functions as a Ritual Theatre performance (the sister Muses and Paul have all metamorphosed into their animal shapes) and through the Ritualistic structure of the drama I attempted to merge the archetypal world of myth, magic ritual and drama with the very real and historical event of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre. The destruction of the WTC as the climax of the sisters’ drama comes as a terrible shock for both the audience as well as the performers – the sister Muses whose intention it is to use the performance as a magical catalyst to help transform the Group Soul of humanity and bring the Wisdom of Sophia-Shakti into the world. It is a BIG disappointment for them when they see that instead of helping humanity in its development and evolution – from the archetypal depths of the World Soul, the 9-11 disaster comes instead. Interestingly, only Paul and the Ruler Ialdabaoth-Zeus don’t seem very surprised by the outcome, leaving us with the question of whether or not the Ruler and Paul were in on it together all the time! This last part of Mooniana where I try and join the archetypal world of art, ritual and performance together with contemporary world events and real life was a very complex and difficult part of the book to write, and I reworked it several times.
Q. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
A. Apart from the old Greek motto of “Man Know Thyself” through Gnosis and Individual Awakening, I think the most important message in Mooniana is that the basic fundamentals of Freedom and Equality which we have taken for granted for so long in our Democracy are not something which we will keep as our God Given Right – Rather, it has become increasingly obvious that the freedom and equality which we think is our birthright is something we have to earn and fight to keep. And if we fall asleep and take our freedom for granted it will soon be taken from us.
An actual example of this is in my book Mooniana. In the middle of 1992, Denmark had a Referendum to choose whether or not to change its constitution and devolve some of its independent powers to Brussels under something called the Maastricht Treaty. All the major political parties as well as the newspapers and the State controlled TV channels campaigned for a yes vote. At the same time, all the left wing and grass roots movements campaigned furiously for a no vote and amazingly the Nay Sayers actually won by a very slim margin and Maastricht was rejected. Unbelievably though, the Danish politicians and the powers that be in Europe refused to accept the no vote and told the Danish people that they had been very naughty children and had voted wrong. Even more unbelievably, the Danish government scheduled another referendum for the next year in 1993. After a huge scare campaign, the media and the major parties turned the vote around and the good people of Denmark reluctantly entered Maastricht. Of course, this whole scenario doesn’t make the Danish people look very good either. If they had had any political conviction or backbone, they simply would’ve told the government to shove it and refused to vote a second time, as was their right. This is a very good example of what happens if you are not awake and don’t stand up for your right to defend your basic democratic freedom!
In my book Mooniana, I use the Gnostic myth of Sophia’s struggle with the Ruler – Ialdabaoth/Zeus – to symbolize this struggle between ourselves, the people and our unscrupulous elected representatives. And to ensure that our liberties and rights are not infringed upon any more than they already have been by our Rulers, we need more than just a strong political will, we also need knowledge, awareness and Gnosis – the old Greek adage of Man Know Thyself. One of the main themes of Mooniana is that Democratic institutions can only truly function when the people themselves have freed their minds and liberated themselves through the Wisdom of Sophia and Gnosis. Otherwise, every government, however noble and egalitarian in its principles will inevitably degenerate into despotism and tyranny. Williiam Blake said it all in his poem Jerusalem –
I shall not cease from mental struggle
Nor shall my sword rest in my hand
Til I have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Mooniana is my contribution to that mental struggle and spiritual fight!
Q. What is your favorite motivational phrase?
A. Oscar Wilde – “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about” .My favorite phrase from Mooniana is- ”The Ways of God might be Strange, but the ways of the Goddess are EVEN STRANGER!”
Q. What are your future project(s)?
A. There are plans for a sequel to Mooniana – a reunion with the Sirens and Paul after 9-11 which takes place around the time of the second Iraq War in 2003 and from there, they continue the ongoing struggle to bring the Wisdom of Gnosis into the world. But the sequel remains in manuscript form for the present. It will demand a lot of editing and rewriting to try and bring it out. And at present there hasn’t been a big enough interest in the first book to warrant a sequel. But who knows, if Sophia wills and the world wants it, I will finish it one day!
Q. The end was little difficult to understand for me. Was the whole story a dream of God?”
A. The end is difficult I agree. To understand the end you have to realize that the book is very much a nostalgic looking back at Scandinavia and Europe in the late 80s and early 90s – the radical left wing anti EU and NATO movements, the avante garde theater and culture scene, the interest in alternative lifestyles and spiritual practices like Gnosticism and Tantra. There was a very real and powerful counter culture acting as an alternative to the mainstream at the time which I vividly remember and wrote down so I wouldn’t forget it. And this book has been both an attempt to recapture that mood and express it to a generation – the post 9-11 generation – who didn’t experience that mood of political Radicalism and spiritual Enthusiasm.
There is no doubt that Europe and the world has become more closed up and narrow minded in its cultural politics since 9-11. Just look at the new US President Donald Trump! This is one of the main reasons why Mooniana and the Secret of the Lost Chronicles of Sophia covers the decade from the fall of the Soviet Union to the 9-11 attack on the WTC. In between those two events, I believe, there was a Window of Opportunity for the alternative thinkers and the mainstream to get together and try to create a New World based on the principles of Love, Wisdom and tolerance. Instead, after 9-11, the alternative culture kind of ran out of steam and the establishment closed ranks to create a New World Order based on fear, ignorance and prejudice. The Window of opportunity was lost and that is why the book ends in such a strange and ambiguous way.
And yes we are a dream in the mind of God. How else can we explain all the beauty, joy and magic in our World, along with all its darkness, misery and chaos?
How readers can discover more about Miranda and her work.
Amazon Author Page:
I would like to thank author Miranda Moondawn for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. Thank you!!