You industrious ones among my readers are objecting. Vociferously.
And yes you are correct. Paulo Coelho is the Marianne Williamson of the Spanish-speaking world.
More often than not, Coelho tweets from the land of the Hallmark card.
Coelho is a Pied Piper of Easy Belief, and as such, one of many who have entranced our fellow wayfarers.
At the end of my last piece–and wasn’t it sweet?–don’t expect that in future–I gave you a morsel from the end of Coelho’s Pilgrimage. But here is a more representative passage:
“Petrus was right again: by teaching myself, I had transformed myself into a Master.”
No wonder Paulo Coelho is revered. His message is that Truth–however you name it–the meaning of life, the divine–is to be found in oneself. By looking deep. By performing the spiritual equivalent of a daily fitness workout. Recognize this sentiment? It is a commonplace of our Age of Individualism. If you listen to Krishna Das or other yoga teachers, as I do, you are familiar with his directive to his followers to find the Divine within.
Coelho’s particular schtick is to meld Christian tropes with this core assumption that “the self” is the center of the world. Here is a sample of Coelho’s apotheosis of belief at the end of his pilgrimage:
“‘My Lord, I said, finally able to pray, ‘I am not nailed to this cross, nor do I see you there. The cross is empty, and that is how it should stay forever; the time of death is already past, and a god is now reborn within me. This cross is the symbol of the infinite power that each of us has. Now this power is reborn, the world is saved, and I am able to perform your miracles, because I trod the Road of the common people [the camino] and, in mingling with them, found your secret. You came among us to teach us all that we were capable of becoming, and we did not want to accept this. You showed us that the power and the glory were within every person’s reach, and this sudden vision of our capacity was too much for us.'”
A mere moment of consideration lays bare the essential absurdity in the notion that each human being is himself or herself a little god. And as adults, we should be able to grasp the banality here, because God has given us the gift of intelligence if not divinity.
Do not conclude, however, that Coelho’s particular version of Easy Belief–or Krishna Das’s for that matter–is my point.
What is my point? Why am I ragging on Paulo Coelho? Because he is just like me. Like you. Like all of us. He wanders off into the weeds that grow along the road of faith. For all his literary gifts and glorious imagination and empathy, Coelho is a dunderhead. He–we–cannot keep focus on the road.
The road is not circular. It is not internal. It does not lead back to or in to ourselves. It leads outward, through acts of discipline and searching and commitment and self-abnegation and ultimately witness to God. I will be writing about these acts in future weeks.
We lean upon the staff of humility. We do not raise up in judgment. That act belongs to God alone.
So yes I point out Coelho’s inanities–how could I not? For God has given me–has given all of us to greater and lesser degree–the gifts of intelligence and discernment and He expects us to use those gifts. But I do not sit in judgment on Paulo Coelho. I would very much like to meet him someday, and I feel quite sure that I would love him.
And here is a wonder-filled corollary to our particular stupidities. God uses our wanderings off-course for His own ends. Paulo Coelho is a conduit through which God reaches other human beings. I do not know these people, maybe many maybe a few–in a sense it is none of my business–but I am sure this is true. Why? Because I see this dynamic everywhere. Earlier I mentioned that I listen to Krishna Das. In fact, I listen to Krishna Das yoga radio on SiriusXM. Krishna Das and other yogis sing the names of God. In devotion. In discipline. Daily. For hours. Here is the true practice of the First Commandment: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Here is real praise music. And here is God using what we seekers bring with us, however broken our offerings and clouded our beliefs, to reveal Himself to us.
God is Thrifty.
One more thing about Paulo Coelho. In my previous piece, I wrote that he has 2 million followers on Twitter. I need to update that figure. He now has 9.1 million followers on Twitter. Oh wait a minute. He has a few more. Now 9.3 million followers on Twitter. A development that leads me to another nature of the divine that I will address next:
God is Unfair.
August 1, 2014
Farther and Further:
Matthew 22: 35-40
Paulo Coelho recent tweet: “Thank you! #Adultery in the top of the lists in every single country it is published. Today: Korea & Bulgaria.”
Krishna Das available on iTunes. On SiriusXM, by premium subscription only.