Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development in “Aleph”
In the following section the stages of faith development will be analytically discussed and interpreted in the context of Paulo Coelho’s work, “Aleph”, to support a deeper understanding of his faith development.
Stage 0 - Primal Faith
The first chapters of “Aleph” (Coelho, 2011) deal with Coelho’s doubts about spirituality, religion, the meaningfulness of his life, his identity and his way forward. Coelho has lost the disposition of trust and loyalty that is usually built up during the first three years of faith development in life (Fowler, 1981; Stroud, 2004). The trust, loyalty and relationships that are usually built up with the primary caregivers need to be rebuilt in Coelho at the age of 59 years. Coelho is not fully loyal to God and his experiences with the universal and divine power and he is not loyal to J. and his order, the RAM, either. However, indirectly and through the critical views of J. (Coelho, 2011, pp. 6-9), Coelho expresses his loss of trust and loyalty to his order of faith and this situation is like at the beginning of life: Coelho becomes aware that he has to “regain his kingdom” which has gone “corrupt”. He has to become “king of his kingdom” (Coelho, 2011, p. 9) again, build trust, new relationships with God and relevant others - divine and human caregivers - and remember that objects that are out of sight still continue to exist, as in early childhood (Dell & Duncan, 1998). Coelho (2011, pp. 2-4) has to relearn to connect to the universal source and to realise that invisible forces still exist (Coelho, 2011, p. 7).
The most important aspect during this stage is the relationship to the parent and/ or caregiver to create trust, bonds and meaningful commitments (Fowler & Dell, 2004). J, who is Coelho’s master of RAM and his “parent” and caregiver, asks Coelho to create new trust and new bonds and to make a meaningful commitment (Coelho, 2011, p. 12, p. 25). Coelho agrees to start anew and commits himself to the journey to Russia and his personal development. Through this commitment, Coelho takes the first step to rebuild trust, while being well aware that he has a separate identity (Fowler, 1981, 1987) from J. He knows that he has to develop his identity further and create a new form of healthy self-image (Fowler, 1984, 1987) to overcome stagnation and depression.
Although Coelho is 59 years old, he relives Stage 0 of the stages of faith development, gaining a new change to recreate himself, to create new, meaningful commit?ments and to develop further spiritually and personally. It is as if he has returned to a primal faith stage.