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Home arrow Psychology arrow The Life and Creative Works of Paulo Coelho : A Psychobiography from a Positive Psychology Perspective
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Introduction to “The Pilgrimage” (1987)

“The pilgrimage” is Coelho’s first successful book, in which the author documents his personal experiences of the pilgrimage to Santiage de Compostela “on a contemporary quest for ancient wisdom” (Coelho, 2003b, Cover). The work consists of a prologue followed by 15 chapters that integrate ten descriptions of spiritual exercises and one description of a ritual. The book closes with an epilogue.

The prologue introduces the reader to the sacred practices of RAM and refers to the situation in which Coelho, as a member of RAM, is invited to a ceremony to become a master. During this ceremony, the master usually receives a sword as a symbol of initiation. However, during this situation on 2 January 1986, on one of the peaks in the Serra do Mar in Brazil, Coelho accepts the offer of the sword and thereby fails the ritual - he should have rejected it. His master tells him that he has to walk the Road to Santiago to retrieve his sword.

Chapter 1 - The Arrival - deals with the author’s arrival in Spain together with his wife. They split up after the arrival: Cristina takes the sword to a secret place where Coelho has to retrieve it on his way to Santiago, Coelho drives to Saint-Jean- Pied-de-Port to start his journey.

Chapter 2 - Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - introduces the author and the reader to the little village Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Coelho gets in touch with his contact person, is sent to a certain place to meet his guide, Petrus, and meets instead a gypsy. His interaction with this stranger - who tells him he could find his sword for him while

Coelho could return home - is commented on: “We had met with the devil” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 22). Coelho’s journey with Petrus starts with the walk on the Road to Santiago, where Coelho has to practise his first exercise.

Exercise 1 - The seed exercise - is a bodily exercise in which a person has to sit on the earth and silently stretch out to heaven while standing up. The exercise ends with a scream to release the bodily tension of the stretch. Coelho is advised to repeat this exercise during the following week every evening at the same time for 7 days.

Chapter 3 - The creator and the created - describes Coelho and Petrus’s journey through the Pyrenees. The two protagonists speak about the journey, about abandoning work at home, about travelling and goal setting and the way towards the goal. Coelho and Petrus meet a monk and Coelho realises that he has walked in circles in the Pyrenees for 7 days, because he did not pay attention to the journey, being occupied with his objective.

Exercise 2 - The speed exercise - is concerned with extracting the secrets from seeing what individuals see every day and thereby breaking through daily routines. In the speed exercise, a person has to walk for 20 min at half the speed a person usually walks while focusing on details of people and surroundings. Coelho has to repeat this exercise for 7 days.

Chapter 4 - Cruelty - relates to the basic question of faith and how to see God. Coelho and Petrus discuss the concept of God and the good fight in the name of a person’s life dream (Coelho, 2003b, p. 50). When thinking of the good fight and the realisation of a person’s dream, destructive thoughts need to be overcome.

Exercise 3 - The cruelty exercise - deals with overcoming destructive and depressive thoughts: Every time a thought comes to mind that makes Coelho feel bad about himself, he has to dig the nail of his index finger into the cuticle until the thought disappears.

Chapter 5 - The messenger - introduces a view of the devil as a fallen angle (Coelho, 2003b, p. 64), interconnecting the person with his subconsciousness. Petrus explains the concept of the messenger and how to deal with him: “If I had to use a metaphor, I would say that your angel is your armor, and your messenger is your sword.” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 65). Through a ritual, Petrus teaches Coelho how to get into contact with his messenger, the subconciousness (Ritual 1 - The messenger ritual, Coelho, 2003b, pp. 66-67). The chapter ends with a description of Coelho having learnt the messenger’s name, which is important for communication.

Chapter 6 - Love - refers to the practical application of the RAM practices in daily life. Coelho again meets with the devil in the shape of a dog that is cursed by evil spirits (Chapter 6, Coelho, 2003b, p. 77). Coelho exorcises a woman’s demon by using the “gift of tongues” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 83), understanding and speaking the dog’s language. He is finally filled with love: “An immense love for everything and everybody had invaded my being” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 79). Explanations by Petrus of love, agape, RAM practices and intuition follow (Coelho, 2005, p. 82) in Exercise 4 - The arousal of intuition (The water exercise). For at least seven days, for 10 min every day, Coelho has to make a puddle of water, make designs in the water and look at them. This exercise aims at evoking Coelho’s intuition.

In Chapter 7 - Marriage - Coelho recognises the struggle for the truth in people’s conversations and Petrus and Coelho reflect on the concepts of love: “eros, philos, or agape?” The concept of love is explored with regard to “Eros, the feeling of love that exists between two people” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 95), “philos, the love in form of friendship” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 98) and “agape”, which combines eros and philos (Coelho, 2003b, p. 98).

Chapter 8 - Enthusiasm - refers again to love, the good fight and agape, which Coelho and Petrus explore through a personal talk. Agape is experienced through enthusiasm, through trance, ecstasy and a connection to God (Coelho, 2003b, p. 106).

Exercise 5 - The blue sphere exercise - connects to life, to the feeling of being alive, to the connection with the saints and the light appearing through communion with the saints to experience agape (Coelho, 2003b, p. 110).

In Chapter 9 - Death - Coelho meets with the dog again. He has a vision of a nun who strengthens him to deal with the dog (Coelho, 2003b, p. 118). Coelho learns to fight the demon that had already appeared in the gypsy. He is told to give the demon a place, otherwise he would return to Coelho for the rest of his life because of obsession (Coelho, 2003b, pp. 118-119). Coelho learns about his sense of mastery, his confidence and his faith in the nun (Coelho, 2003b, p. 120), as well as the “love that consumes” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 124).

Exercise 6 - The buried alive exercise - is about imagining the details of one’s own burial and Coelho exercises this RAM practice during a night alone in the field. He has a vision of his death, and decides to “drink from the fountain of life” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 131).

In the following Chapter 10 - Personal vices - Petrus prays for Coelho and his ability to use his sword in a good way.

Chapter 11 - Conquest - starts with a sign Petrus perceives. They follow the sign to a dangerous mountain, which they climb. The mountain symbolises challenges while managing the climbing reflects resilience (Coelho, 2003b, p. 143). In the context of the mountain climb, the issue of faith is introduced, as well as problemsolving and the simplicity of life (Coelho, 2003b, p. 145).

Exercise 7 - The RAM breathing exercise - integrates the inner sensations and the outer world, connecting the person with peace, harmony and love, thus strengthening the person to reconnect to the environment in a confident and faithful way.

In Chapter 12 - Madness - Coelho learns about the positive energies of trees and nature, as well as about ideas and their alterations (Coelho, 2003b, p. 153). The chapter relates to life changes, to the force of agape and one’s satisfaction in life through allowing the “Creative Imagination to do its work” in the life of a person (Coelho, 2003b, p. 158). Petrus teaches Coelho about the effect of decisions.

Exercise 8 - The shadows exercise. During this exercise a person has to study his shadow and the shadows of everything around him, then focus on a problem and find the wrong solutions. Finally, the person should focus on the correct solutions, letting creativity take over. After the exercise, Coelho meets the dog for the third time, fights with him and wins the final battle because of his faith and his experience of agape (Coelho, 2003b, p. 167).

Chapter 13 - Command and obedience - deals with Coelho’s injury and recovery from the dog’s bite. He experiences that the enemy needs to become part of agape to be integrated, to become whole.

Exercise 9 - The listening exercise - deals with the focus on sound. If the sound is separated, a person learns to hear the “voices of people from your past, present and future” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 177). This exercises supports decision-making and advice about the surroundings.

Chapter 14 - The tradition - deals with the process of learning and teaching and with mastery as one important lesson to learn in life.

Petrus teaches Coelho Exercise 10 - The dance exercise - Through remembering childhood songs, a person is led into a dance while singing along. Coelho learns that dance offers an “almost-perfect means of communication with the Infinite Intelligence” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 193). He integrates religious approaches and reunites the “main monotheistic religions of the time: Christian, Jewish, and Islamic” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 195). He remembers that “the house of the Lord has many mansions” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 195). After this recognition and created awareness, Coelho and Petrus separate and Coelho moves on to the last step on his journey, to find his sword.

In Chapter 15 - El cebrero - Coelho reviews his learning experiences throughout the journey and applies them. On page 214 (Coelho, 2003b), Coelho describes how a “faith, an unshakable certainty, took control of’ him. He starts to talk to his surroundings on his Road to Santiago and he feels the presence of his master. He concludes: “by teaching myself, I had transformed myself into a Master” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 214). Through his trained intuition, through a voice from within, through remembering Petrus and prayer, Coelho finally finds his sword on the Road to Santiago, his master holding it in his hand.

The epilogue: Santiago de Compostela provides a conclusion to Coelho; resting in Santiago de Compostela, he realises: “I guess it is true that people always arrive at the right moment at the place where someone awaits them” (Coelho, 2003b,

p. 226).

After having provided an overview on the contents of “The pilgrimage” (2003b), the contents will be related to Alexander’s indicators of psychological salience.

 
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