Paulo Coelho’s life is an extraordinary story in itself, worthy of being penned down as a full-fledged novel. As a teenager, his parents committed him to a psychiatric hospital for his rebellious attitude. A decade later, in his twenties, he dropped out of law school, became a hippie, and wandered about in South America, Mexico and Europe. On the verge of turning 40, his life changed for the better, when he took a religious pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and found his calling of becoming a writer.
Ever since Paulo Coelho has written several masterpieces on the themes of philosophy and spirituality. The Alchemist, Brida, The Zahir are but a few examples. His works demonstrate insight, profundity, and sensitivity that he seems to have gained after tapping into his spiritual side. So, how did Coelho discover spirituality? What happened during his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela? His bestselling novel The Pilgrimage narrates the adventure his life has been, as it simultaneously delves into the author’s spiritual journey and awakening thereafter.
The Pilgrimage begins as the protagonist is about to be ordained as a master of the Order of RAM (Regnum Agnus Mundi), a Catholic sect for the study of symbols. He buries his old sword (as part of an esoteric ritual) and is about to be given a new one. But as he is about to be ordained, the master realises he isn’t ready. And so, he asks him to set out on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to earn himself the sword. The plot of the book is straightforward: will the protagonist go all the way to get his hands on the sword? Will he learn what he needs to, to become ready for his initiation?
His first stop during the pilgrimage is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port where he is given a cape and a hat with scallop shells (a dress code for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela). He then meets his guide Petrus, who accompanies him through the pilgrimage across a sacred path illuminated by the light of the Milky Way Galaxy. As they travel through the desert, Coelho learns valuable life lessons. He learns to tap into his intuition, to love unconditionally, and to enjoy the journey without worrying about the destination. The guide also teaches Coelho several ‘exercises’ which Coelho intensely practices as his journey progresses. With each exercise, Coelho undergoes an inner transformation—he learns to dream, fight the demons within, accept his imperfections, and even overcome fear.
Through prose that flows like poetry, Coelho manages to etch all the wisdom he’s gained in his life unto the pages of the book that can easily be described as a spiritual catharsis. For this reason, the book is an essential guide in your personal quest to understand the meaning of life and discover your life purpose. Woven generously with an inspiring thought-process, The Pilgrimage moves you, makes you introspect, and urges you to listen to your heart. A semi-fictionalised autobiography of the author Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage is a worthy companion if you are looking to begin a spiritual, introspective journey of your own.