Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Pilgrimage

So how does one go about writing a review for a book by the great author Paulo Coelho? His novel 'The Alchemist' is a classic and a bible to so many readers around the world. I haven't read any of his books and this one is my first. What intrigued me was the summary that this novel and the journey captured within was the starting point for his now famous book. So what better way to start reading Paulo Coelho than the beginning - The Pilgrimage.

The book makes a very interesting reading and exists in multiple planes. While at one level it is an autobiographical account of the author's journey along the famous Santiago de Compostela, at another level it is an adventure novel while at a completely different level it is a story of self realisation that makes you think about yourself.

The story has it that in 1986 Paulo Coelho was sent by his Master on this pilgirmage, this journey to find his sword that will complete his initiation into the Order. He is assigned a guide along this journey and is instructed to trust and follow his guide blindly with complete faith. The book talks about the author's jouney from being a skeptic and focussed on just completing the journey to find his sowrd to a phase where he forgets all about his outside world and is focussed on learning and living the moment.

Across the pilgrimage Petrus, his guide introduces him to various exercises to make him one with the elements and to bring him in touch with his inner self. These include the Seed exercise, the Speed exercise, the Cruelty exercise, the Messanger ritual, the Water exercise, the Blue Sphere exercise, the Buried Alive exercise, the RAM Breathing exercise, the Shadows exercise, the Listening exercise and the Dancing exercise. These are esoteric exercises that make you think that the pilgrimage might be a work of fiction. But if you scratch the surface you see that each one of these are meant to teach you something - patience, listening, facing fears, banishing bad emotions etc. I leave it to you to discover your teachings when you read the book.

Across the journey the author also has to vanquish a rabid dog to advance. He faces this dog multiple times in the journey. Paulo Coelho does get his sword at the end of the journey but not before realising some simple truths.

The sword stands for what you want in your life - your dream or your inner power. But you can attain that dream or that power only if you know what you intend to do with it. Without having a purpose for that goal, attaining the goal is useless. Along the way you will have to face your deepers fears and you will have to fight these. Either you will have to vanquish your demons and fears or they will ride you for the rest of your life and attaining your goal will loose its purpose. The various exercises prepare you to face your fears, fight the good fight and realise your dream.

Your goal - your sword - might be to have a happy life with a family. Your intention once you attain this could be to pass on this happiness to as many people as you can through your actions but your deepest fear could be commitment. Now think, how can you get your sword and fulfill its purpose without fighting your deepest fear? Either you win over it to get your sword or you let it vanquish you which means that attaining your sword is pointless.

When you read 'The Pilgrimage' keep this in mind. Read it not as an adventure story or as an aotobiographical one or even as the one that inspired Paulo Coelho to write his masterpiece but read it to know something about yourself and to discover some truth about yourself and your life.

Its a 4/5 for me and a book that must be read at different times in your life.