I’m going on another Camino next year, so I felt the need to read Pilgrimage (Plus) by Paulo Coelho. I’ve avoided books on spirituality because I’m far from being spiritual. Even information about Catholicism make more sense to me, though I’m not Catholic either.
Coelho’s purpose for walking the Camino is to find a sword that he lost somehow. To find the sword, he has to walk the Way. At St. Jean Pied to Port, he meets his guide, Petrus. Is this another example of a made-up companion to make the book more interesting?
Petrus shows Coelho the true path to wisdom. It involves Agape – love that consumes – from the ancient Greek. Coelho mentions the word, Agape, many times. Wisdom also has practical applications to your life.
Petrus convinces Coelho that wisdom is a path that can be followed by anyone, like the road to Santiago. It’s similar to my motto: No place is too far to walk if you have the time.
Petrus also inducts Coelho in an Catholic organization, Regnus Agnus Mundi (RAM), which is either an obscure Catholic sect or a figment of the writer’s imagination, depending on what you read. But RAM created physical exercises that you must do on the Camino; they are eerily similar to yoga and meditation exercises. The first one, the seed exercise, is a variation of child’s pose.
I was not surprised to learn that yogis have appropriated the RAM exercises as poses. Now yoga poses I can understand. This is just one example of description of these poses at http://findandlove.blogspot.com/2012/07/ram-practices-pilgrimage-by-paulo.html
Why the guide? Was Petrus a spiritual guide or a trail guide? Why not follow the yellow arrows on the Camino? When you write about a linear journey, a guide or companion is a handy tool to have. Otherwise you’re just talking in your head or to random people you meet and will never see again.
Think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza or Katz in A Walk in the Woods.
Coelho sprinkles the book with wise sayings that were worth writing down
- Human beings are the only ones in nature that are aware that they will die.
- I was more frightened by the way in which I would die than death itself.
- The most important is to enjoy life fully.
Coelho, who is Brazilian, mentions the Falkland Wars and claims that the conflict between the Argentinians and Falkland Islanders was predicted two months before the invasion. Since I’m going to the Falkland Islands next month, that got my attention. He explained the reasons as an astral level for the conflict. I don’t think Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister at the time (1982), would have bought the argument.
A real organization, The Order of the Knights Templars, watched over pilgrims on their way to Santiago. It was trans-national military-religious order which spanned two centuries of the High Middle Ages, from the Order’s founding in the early 12th century to its suppression early in the 14th century.
The UK Guardian, who reviewed the book, said it best:
Coelho is widely acclaimed as a powerful storyteller and his legions of fans credit his books as “life-changing”. Critics, while acknowledging the power of his fables, have been less convinced of his literary worth, arguing that the simplicity of his tales represents no more than pandering to the lowest common denominator of new age gullibility.
Did you read the book? What did you think?