The Forties (1987-1996)
Coelho’s life from 1987 to 1996 was characterized by him promoting his own work. He employed an agent, Monica, to promote his and Cristina’s art work in Brazil and abroad. At the same time, Coelho, Cristina and their friends handed out leaflets at parties or night bars to promote their work. The promotion resulted in television shows and publicity (Morais, 2009).
Some projects, such as the “mystery travel project” - which was a spiritual package holiday - failed (Morais, 2009), but Coelho simply continued promoting himself. One strategy that really worked for him was revealing himself as a magus and as being able to “make it rain”. This marketing strategy moved him to new television shows and articles in newspapers (Morais, 2009).
The Pilgrimage (1987)
The first of Coelho’s successful and famous books, “The pilgrimage” (2003), was published in 1987. In “The pilgrimage”, Coelho describes in an autobiographical way his experiences of travelling the Road to Santiago. The book tells his personal and spiritual journey on the Road to Santiago de Compostela, an old road for pilgrims. He describes his experiences, his thoughts, his emotions and personal spiritual development while walking on this road that runs through parts of France and Spain.
When Coelho started his journey he had just failed to become a master of the RAM practices and was therefore in search of his sword, a symbol of mastery in the tradition and belief of RAM. The sword had been hidden by his spiritual master, somewhere along the Road to Santiago. Coelho (2003a) described his personal development in terms of spirituality, spiritual insights and beliefs and how he was guided through the pilgrimage by his guide, Petrus. He shared with Coelho his ideas on God, spirituality, life and death, as well as on the RAM practices. Along the road Coelho practised ten exercises, which he had been given by his guide and which he presented in his book. He practised these meditative and spiritual exercises to develop himself spiritually and find his purpose and path in life. These exercises dealt with his personal development and spiritual growth, time, his change of mind and mindset, as well as the transition from negative towards positive thoughts and attitudes. He explored new ways of positive thinking, as well as the importance of intuition (Coelho, 2003a). However, Coelho also learnt exercises to gain experience with trance and meditative states of being to explore the unconsciousness even more than he had done before through his long walk to mastery. During his journey he confronted his personal death, and got to know the day of his death.
Coelho describes himself as fully aware and conscious about death and as a result he does not invest in accumulating riches, but rather “in life itself’ (Arias, 2001, p. 59) by paying attention, doing things well, not leaving anything until the next day that can be done today and not entertaining feelings of guilt (Arias, 2001,
Right at the beginning of the journey, Coelho was taught the messenger ritual, which connected him to the “messenger”, an inner voice that helped him to make decisions and connected him to himself and the world in a different way, by using his unconsciousness. When Coelho started the journey, he had already undergone many years of RAM training, practices and traditions. He had already experienced magic and magical aspects in his own life (Coelho, 2003a, p. 23) and had gained a certain view on spiritual concepts and the devil (Coelho, 2003a, p. 22), which he revised throughout his journey.
He learnt the importance of practising the RAM practices from a different perspective, by including breathing exercises and meditative states of being. The last steps to regain his sword were understanding of how to deal with his own shadow, with the sides of the shadow, listening to nature, and dance exercises that carried him into a certain dance state.
To deal with burdens that he had created in his life, Coelho (2003a, pp. 26-27) learnt the seed exercise, which at a certain point made him feel “reborn” (Coelho, 2003a, p. 29) and able to enjoy the beauty of life “up there” and the state of rebirth and reincarnation into a new spiritual thinking (Coelho, 2003a, p. 29) that would later, after the end of the journey, initiate the writing of his first broadly recognised book.
Coelho developed the idea that his search for the sword was a spiritual development that included ecstatic states, doubts and the training to be able never to lose sight of the objective, of the personal aim and dream for which an individual strives in his/her life (Coelho, 2003a, p. 34). Coelho learnt that the sight of the objective needed to be balanced with the desire to arrive at the goal and the attention that needed to be paid to the walk on the road to Santiago (Coelho, 2009, p. 36). On the way, Coelho also learnt how to get pleasure from a speed he was not used to, to let a new person grow inside him (Coelho, 2003a).
The book became a world-wide success and Coelho was motivated to move on with his career as a writer. After having published his first autobiographical book, Coelho went on a trip to Cairo, in Egypt, with Claudia, a friend, and Paula, Cristina’s mother. One evening, he saw an apparition in the desert, a lady with a pot of clay on her shoulder (Morais, 2009, p. 357). As the shape approached Coelho, it faded away and disappeared as mysteriously as it had come. The trip to Egypt inspired him to write the book “The alchemist”. Coelho saw himself as a writer and therefore as a catalyst for the experiences of others (Arias, 2001, p. 22). When he returned to Brazil, he read in the newspaper that his book, “The pilgrimage”, was on the week’s best-seller list. However, shortly afterwards he was disappointed about not being nominated for the prize awarded by the Ministry of Education in Brazil. He was so disappointed that he seriously considered stopping to write (Morais, 2009, p. 357).
During 1988, Coelho asked the I-Ching, the Chinese oracle, how to sell his next book 100,000 times. The oracle told him that “The great man brings good luck.” (Morais, 2009, p. 358).
In 1988, “The alchemist” was released and 40,000 copies of “The pilgrimage” were sold (Morais, 2009). Coelho focused on a strong market strategy and developed and distributed leaflets about “The alchemist” together with Cristina and some friends (Morais, 2009).