Paulo Coelho’s Life and Creative Works in the Context of Stages of Faith Development

Referring to the FDT, Paulo Coelho’s life can be described as a life that is connected to faith and the development of faith throughout the lifetime. Faith played a very important role in Paulo Coelho’s life. His vocation was dynamic and changed throughout his life. The findings are summarised and conclusions are drawn.

Summary of Faith Development in the Life of Paulo Coelho

The findings regarding the FDT (Fowler, 1981) in Paulo Coelho’s life show in summary that Coelho developed from Stage 0 in early childhood (1947-1953) through Stage 1 during his childhood and schooldays (1953-1961) and Stage 2 in his teenage years (1962-1966). Stage 3 stretched from his teenage years (1962-1966) to his twenties (1967-1976), while Stage 4 occurred during his thirties (1977-1986) and forties (1987-1996). Finally, Coelho experienced Stage 5 during his fifties (19972006) and sixties (2007-2017). Paulo Coelho has not yet reached Stage 6, but the values and priorities described for Stage 6 gain in focus during his sixties, emphasising the social good of his actions while he himself remains in the self-focus and self-reliance mode.

However, two highly important aspects of Coelho’s faith self-development cannot be related to the stages of faith development: Firstly, from childhood onwards Coelho was a highly self-reliant individual who did not restrict himself to social group norms, socio-cultural values and norms, as outlined by Fowler (1981). Coelho chose the social groups and/or partners who supported or accepted his values, norms and faith development without criticising him and limiting him through their judgements. He chose membership of (alternative) social groups with whose values he was in balance. He did not fight for membership of social groups of mainstream society that were not sympathetic to his individual values and norms.

Secondly, Coelho turned away from God completely during his twenties, turning to Satan. Such an extreme turn away from his original faith towards the opposite of the previous faith is not described as a usual development during Stage 3 (or any other stage) of the faith development stages. However, Coelho needed this extreme choice of evil to later return to God, creating an integrative faith and religious belief in his later adult life.

Faith developed in extremes in Paulo Coelho’s life, from a strict Catholic faith to an atheistic attitude, faith in the devil, the regaining of Christian belief, commitment to and faith in RAM and its deepening as an integrative religious and faith approach. Faith is an overall topic in Paulo Coelho’s life that is consciously approached, lived and deepened. The autobiographic accounts of Coelho’s life describe many aspects of his faith development, his crises and his resilience.

Figure 9.3 shows that Coelho lived the stages of faith development throughout his life from Stage 0 to Stage 5, supported by the arrows indicating clock-wise movement. The findings of his autobiographical accounts, however, show that the development of faith did not move only forward in the stages described (indicated by the two anti-clockwise arrows). The stages of faith were interrupted in their development by phases of crisis, doubt, loss or questioning of faith, as described in the findings section (Chaps. 7 and 8). These phases of doubt led the subject back to reflection on previous stages of faith development that needed to be redefined, reconstructed and rethought. The analyses of both “The pilgrimage” and “Aleph” show a short revision of all the stages of faith development at a certain point of the life of Coelho. This necessary revision and recreation of the previously established stages and the living through these former stages - as a short revision of the lessons learnt - supported Coelho to define his personal standpoint in terms of his own faith development and revising it in times of crisis. This revision of faith throughout Coelho’s life supported the conscious understanding and reflection of his personal (not as straight as assumed) process and provided the basis for decision-making in terms faith development, the spiritual quest and the definition of meaningfulness in life.

With regard to the development of vocation in the life of Coelho, findings show that the vocation is reflected in his creative works, as well as in his life: In “The pilgrimage”, Coelho aimed at overcoming his traditional faith, in “Aleph” he transformed and integrated his beliefs. While Coelho learnt to follow his dream, as part of his vocation in the 1980s, he experienced the reclaiming of being the “king of his own kingdom” in the first two decades of the new millennium. Through defining his vocation in life, Coelho re-established his meaningfulness in life, aimed at overcoming lifetime limitations and reconnected his vocation not only to his personal dream, but also to a calling of God.

Reconstruction of faith development across the Life span (Source

Fig. 9.3 Reconstruction of faith development across the Life span (Source: Researcher’s own construction)

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