Holistic Wellness in “The Pilgrimage"

“The pilgrimage” (2003b) is analysed in terms of the HWM, life tasks, life forces and global events. Because of the limitations of this study, only selected aspects of life tasks, life forces and global events are provided, as emphasised in Sects. 8.3.1 and 8.3.2, and no claim to completeness of analysis is asserted.

Life Tasks in “The Pilgrimage”

Firstly, life tasks of “The pilgrimage” (2003b) are analysed and reflected on in the context of autobiographical writing.


The five dimensions of spirituality defined by Mosak and Dreikurs (2000) will be used to analyse excerpts of the book, “The pilgrimage”, with regard to the life task spirituality.

The book describes autobiographically a spiritual journey of the protagonist and writer. The book refers to all five dimensions of spirituality referred to in Sect.

The book offers (a) a description of God - responding to the question: Do I believe in God and if yes, how do I communicate with God and how do I build up a relationship? God is described as a powerful force and Coelho recaps in the chapter

“Tradition”, almost at the end of the journey, what Petrus had taught him: “the house of the Lord has many mansions” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 195). Coelho refers to the old knowledge of the Knight Templars who had tried to put an end to religious conflict by unifying Christians, Muslims and Jews. Coelho experiences God in different ways and through different approaches. God is experienced through the power of the exercises, through nature and through celebrating life (Coelho, 2003b, pp. 214215), but also through “agape” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 178) and listening to inner voices.

Coelho describes his new experiences about (b) the choice of practice of religion - responding to the question: How do I practise spirituality and how does spirituality fit into the concepts and practices of religion? He walks the Road to Santiago to learn about the RAM practices and the practice of religion (spirituality is a central point and a focus of the narrative). Petrus provides Coelho with new insights and the author describes the narrative between the two protagonists as a learning curve. The RAM practices are described by Petrus as “so simple, that people like you who are used to making life too complicated, ascribe little value to them” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 24). Coelho practices the RAM principles and the exercises are explained to the reader for self-development. The exercises develop the individual self by applying new foci on a subject, through new experiences of imagination, silence or listening and placing the focus on the impact of the higher force. All the practices and their success are fundamentally based on the concept of love (agape), their practical application in life and the assumption that the path of the practices can be followed by anyone (Coelho, 2003b, p. 25). That is an outstanding new experience in the eyes of Coelho. The exercises aim at a healthy approach to life and “will free you from the burdens that you have created in your life” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 26). Spirituality is practised on an individual basis and puts the individual experiences with oneself and the higher force first. However, it can also be experienced in group rituals or exercises, such as in initiation rituals (see Coelho, 2003b, p. 187).

In this creative work, spirituality is more obviously connected to the concept of God than to others and God is defined as an outstanding life force in the chapter “Personal vices” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 133). Petrus refers to God through a personal communication. Again, in the RAM traditional ritual, the high priest, as well as the disciples, relates to the concept of God (Coelho, 2003b, pp. 202-203). This shows that the concept of spirituality is not an exclusive one. It relates to meditative exercises reconnecting the individual with the higher power through collective rituals. However, Coelho calls the power that strengthens him the power in his personal faith. This is shown, for example, in the situation where Coelho sees the dog, becomes fearful of its powerful forces and sees an apparition of a nun that strengthens him and fills him with faith (Death, Coelho, 2003b):

A figure stopped for an instant and then came directly towards us. It crossed my line of sight

as I stared at the dog, and this person said something that I could not understand in a feminine voice. Its presence was good - friendly and positive. (p. 117)

Coelho is convinced that the nun helped him; however, Petrus explains that it was just his faith that created the fantasy of this positive force (Coelho, 2003b, p. 118). Through the description, the power is anchored in the individual’s faith and not in external forces.

Petrus refers directly to the question of (c) the conceptualisation of humankind’s place in the universe - responding to the question: How do I see humankind and its relation to God and the universe? (Coelho, 2003b, pp. 92-93). He explains that the “truth and the life are in your heart”, which can be interpreted as an individual only being able to find God within him/herself. If this is the case, the individual can reflect the collective faith and place “the individual and humankind in the center of life”. Petrus emphasises (Coelho, 2003b):

There is no religion that is capable of bringing all of the stars together, because if this were to happen, the universe would become a gigantic, empty space and would lose its reason for existence. Every star - and every person - has their own space and their own special characteristics. (p. 93)

Through this statement, Petrus accepts individuality within religions and religious practice, which is constructed through an individual’s faith and its redefinition within the individual and the collective. Petrus, who can be interpreted not only as Coelho’s guide, but also as an inner voice that connects to the soul of the individual and the collective unconsciousness, thereby highlights that religious practice is highly subjective, dynamic and bound by the individual’s ability to understand the world.

In “The pilgramage” (d) the nature of immortality - responding to the question what the soul is and if and how it might live on after death as well as how humans try to overcome mortality - is addressed.

Coelho (2003b) refers to the topic of immortality extensively in Chapter 9 - Death - by describing his fear of death. Petrus responds that “we do not see that death is only another manifestation of agape” (Coelho, 2002b, p. 124). While Coelho describes the negative and scaring face of death, Petrus highlights its transformative force, the love that it involves and its positive aspects (Coelho, 2003b, p. 124). Through the buried alive exercise, Coelho realises the transformative force of death and that “there was a life after death, but it had never occurred to me to wonder how the transition was made” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 125). Through this experience he becomes aware of his desire to live his life to the full. Death, at the same time, gains presence and gentleness for Coelho: It becomes a part of life, a transition into “other worlds” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 131) and the experience of this exercise becomes a symbol for the rebirthing process. Death becomes a connecting force in the name of agape and he recognises the immortality of the soul. The description of the exercise provides a plot in the entire narration. It is a turning point in which immortality is recognised consciously and the writer accesses a new dimension of spirituality and spiritual transformation through agape and God.

This key situation and plot lead directly to (e) the contemplation of the presence and nature of the meaning of life - responding to the question of how meaning in life is created. In the prologue, meaningfulness is created through becoming a master of RAM, holding the sword as a symbol (Coelho, 2003b, p. 1). For Coelho, meaningfulness is at first also created through his work and through friendships in Brazil (Coelho, 2003b, p. 20). On the journey, the meaningfulness transforms and his aim to find the sword gains the highest meaningfulness. After the first week of the journey, the aim to find the sword becomes less meaningful and the process of self-development and the experiences on the journey gain the highest meaningfulness.

Coelho realises that meaning in life is created through the presence and gentleness of death, through the limitations of life (as in Ring & Valarino, 1998). The meaningfulness is based on the ability to “to drink from the fountain of life” (Coelho, 2003b, p. 131), through the daily life experience of existence and human experience, which include managing obstacles, overcoming fears and boundaries, personal development and the creation of faith (Coelho, 2003b, p. 126).


In the following section, examples and interpretations of the life task self-direction (Myers & Sweeney, 2008) are provided, by including the 12 sub-dimensions of selfdirection (Myers & Sweeney, 2008).

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