Aleph by Paul Coehlo

Indescribably amazing book. But probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Paul Coelho has really changed the publishing industry. He puts his books online for free in many places and then asks only that if people like the book, they then buy a copy. He also interacts with his readers on social media and that is very exciting. He actually discusses his books with his readers as he writes them.

This is a book for people who spend their time questioning the meaning of their lives, who undertake the work of a spiritual warrior in their quest to find out and who are interested in esoterica and spirituality. If you are a skeptic of magic/alchemy/spiritual tradition then this book is probably not for you. It has been a very long time (a significant number of years) since I have spent time underlining passages in a book. Within the first few pages I was looking for a pen and getting busy.

SPOILERS NOW

The story starts with the author in a spiritual malaise. He goes to visit his “guru” for want of a better word and in the typical mystic tradition, provides few answers and more questions to encourage the spiritual quest. “When a sense of dissatisfaction persists, that means it was placed there by God for one reason only: you need to change everything and move forward.” To this end the author undertakes a grueling book tour but the focus is primarily on a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostock.

The author, his translator, his publisher and a small entourage are ready to set off when a young violin prodigy, Hilal, approaches the author revealing that she has been called to follow him and that she is in love with him, despite the fact that he is happily married. Because of a complex issue that he is trying to resolve, he asks her to travel with the group.

As it turns out, the author, Hilal and the translator Yao are all on personal spiritual journeys. At some point, I boarded the Trans-Siberian railway and joined them. A conversation about becoming a writer between the author and Yao resonated with me: “Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do. Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes. They are precisely the kind of people who change the world, and after many mistakes, do something that will transform their own community completely.”

Which brings me to the Aleph. This is the first letter in the Jewish alphabet but for those familiar with the bible, it is the beginning and the end – a timelessness in which all things are always occurring at every given moment. A small aleph occurs when you find yourself at a place and time stands still so to speak. You enter the perfect moment. A large aleph occurs when two people with a strong affinity for one another meet in a small aleph and their energies merge into one. Most people think of this as “meeting one’s soul mate” but that is only one example. Two people can be together for a long time or meet only once and part, but the message is one from the divine bringing two people together to manifest love – many times people miss the opportunity for a whole variety of reasons – timing, place whatever – and so must continue meeting over “time” until they achieve their mission. In his description, the author says “Love is the only thing that can save us” and that “Dreamers will never be tamed.

The mission of the author and Hilal is to resolve a past life conflict. To this end there is some meditative and esoteric practices that unfold the back story of their past lives. There is also the unfolding story of Hilal’s unrequited love for the author. It is a complicated and delicate matter well handled in the end by both.

But there is a parallel mission between the author and his interpreter Yao. Yao is attempting to recover from the loss of his wife and to this end, has made repeated trips to a place in Siberia known for its shamans. He is seeking meaning in his wife’s death and meaning for himself to keep going. In a serendipitous turn of events, all three go to see the shamans. Hilal experiencing an event with the female shamans and Yao and the author with a male shaman. It is a very well described and explained experience and for anyone who has spent time with a mystic, it will immediately resonate.

Again there was a passage for my spiritual journey that helped me progress. It explains leaders and shamans and how originally shaman’s were women. Leadership changed and became corrupted and when men had secured and corrupted the leadership role, they then usurped the role of the shaman. “Force won out over harmony. The natural qualities of women were ignored; what mattered was their power….whenever they (women) put themselves forward however they were treated as heretics and prostitutes. If the system felt threatened by them it did not hesitate to punish them with burnings, stonings and in milder cases, exile.”

Bottom line – much is learned, some things are resolved, some are not. Time is reinterpreted. A trip is taken and completed. The mystical tradition is experienced and explained. A book is written and read.

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