Aleph - Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway
A certain nobleman went into a a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and return. — Luke 19:12
I realised a long time ago that a warrior in search of his dream must take his inspiration from what he actually does and not from what he imagines himself doing. — Paulo Coelho
When faced by loss it’s best to take advantage of the large space that opens up before us and fill it with something new. — Paulo Coelho
An oak tree at least half a millennium old silently watches the follies and foibles and woes of humankind. It fears the axeman and of late man with a chain saw. At least the man wielding the axe puts in some effort.
The oak tree knew William Shakespeare, was there long before the existence of the United States of America.
Man clearfells old growth forests not even for the timber but for wood pulp. All with the approval of Greenpeace, RAN, WWF. Shed a few crocodile tears, pass the tissues, they have FSC approval.
An all knowing, all powerful God, full of love and grace. Why therefore does he allow suffering? A question most frequently asked and rarely answered.
Maybe God does intervene. But how would we know? God does not write a sign in the sky.
Were God to intervene, we would have the Law of Unintended Consequences. One bullet, one shot, triggered the start of World War One. We stop one path, we follow another. Were God to regularly intervene, the laws of physics would not work.
We doubt our faith. There is nothing wrong with that. Those who do not doubt are fundamentalists.
It is the Jewish tradition to ask questions, to challenge God. If we have run out of questions, there is something wrong.
Abraham and Job questioned and challenged God. The Book of Lamentations virtually put God on trial. Jesus nearly always responded to a question with a question.
Doubt makes us question our faith. We dig deeper.
When things go wrong in our life, it is a message.
A tragedy can destroy us, it can also open the opportunity for good to enter.
A friend was raped when she was aged nine, her sister aged thirteen. Both were raped by their Mother’s boyfriend. She kept silent, fearing what would happen if she told. Eventually she went off the rails: drink, drugs, sleeping around. Slowly she has pulled herself together. She wants no retribution but cannot forgive.
Collective memory: He who controls the present controls the past, he who controls the past controls the future. We cannot go back and change the past. We can redeem the past in the present and thus change the future.
We live in parallel worlds. Sages, saints, prophets can with ease cross the transition zone. Seemingly so can subatomic particles. Us mere mortals have greater difficulty.
The eyes look into the soul, tears are the blood of the soul.
I looked into the eyes of my lovely friend Sian and time stood still, we had known each other for ever. Sadly she was mad, or at least schizophrenic, her madness grew and destroyed us both.
We sacrifice animals, sometimes people, in order that the sun rises in the morning. We have the proof our rituals work as each morning the sun does indeed rise. We could put this to the test, and not carry out the rituals, but why risk the wrath of the gods, why risk the sun not rising?
We know this to be nonsense. The sun rises due to the laws of physics.
But are we any different? People say their prayers, or at least make demands, they see God as a friendly grandfather with a flowing white beard handing out the sweets to the children.
When I sit on Brighton Pier or the sea wall in Puerto de la Cruz and look at the sunset I am looking at the Divine.
Writing is telling stories. I can always tell when someone has been on a creative writing course. Their writing is so bad. Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, did not need to go on a creative writing course.
What is it about railway journeys and grand stations? I do not mean short commuter hops and stations that are little more than a platfrm with a bus shelter.
I used to travel down to Penzance in Cornwall. I put my cycle on the train, then cycled around Cornwall and walked along the cliff paths. More recently, I travelled down to Swansea in Wales for an International Film Festival. Arrive at Brighton and the station is a work of Victorian art and engineering.
Two of the famous railway trips are the Orient Express and Trans-Siberian Railway.
When in Istanbul I was staying around the corner from the railway station and walked past it everyday. Passengers from the Orient Express were carried from the station, across the river and up to the Pera Palace Hotel in a sedan chair. It was at a press conference on St Joseph’s Day at Pera Palace Hotel that Paulo Coelho discussed his trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
How do you plan an unplanned journey? An oxymoron if ever there was one. Easy if you are a well known writer at the London Bookfair. You speak to the first publisher you meet, who happens to be from Bulgaria. You say arrange for a book signing for the following week. To the next publisher you say arrange a book signing for two weeks hence. And so on. Eventually you have sufficient. Oh and by the way, after the afternoon book signing throw a party in the evening in order that the author may meet his readers. You then go out to dinner that evening and ask your Russian publishers to arrange for trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
At a press conference at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul to mark St Joseph’s Day, Paulo Coelho said he lost his way. He found himself by going on a journey. Part of that journey was on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is the story of that journey that he tells in Aleph.
Aleph is a point in time and space.
Aleph, a point in space and time.
Jorge Luis Borges describes it:
The Aleph was about two to three centimetres in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no diminution in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point on the universe.
Paulo Coelho describes Aleph:
The small Aleph always appears by chance. You’re walking down a street or you sit down somewhere and suddenly the whole Universe is there.
The great Aleph occurs when two or more people with a strong affinity happens to be in the small Aleph. Their two different energies compete with each other and provoke a chain reaction.
What is reality?
I take pictures with my camera. I transfer to my laptop. I upload to the internet to share with friends. It is all an illusion. What I have uploaded is sequence of binary digits.
As a child I used to think our eyes projected onto the world. When I studied optics and light I became confused. I then learnt we process what we see, our eyes are pinpoint light detectors arranged in a matrix, which send electrical signals to our brain. We construct our image of the world.
Why travel? Whey did millions of medieval pilgrims travel El Camino de Santiago? Why did Paulo Coelho in the mid-1980s? Why do many modern-day pilgrims today.
There are things we cannot teach or preach or read about. That is why Jesus conversed with the Devil in the desert.
I didn’t make this journey in order to find the words missing from my life but to be king of my own world again. And it’s here that that I’m back in touch with myself and with the magical universe around me.
Aleph is a journey in time and space. A journey to a lake, a journey to the Spanish Inquisition, a visit to a shaman, a journey from Moscow to Vladivostok.
It was on this journey that Paulo Coelho met Hilal, a young Turkish violinist.
Our environment talks to our genes. The subatomic is influenced by the universe
The Trans-Siberian Railway is 9,288 km, it crosses seven time zones. It was constructed under the direction of Alexander III.
Paulo Coelho is criticised by the critics in their bile drenched reviews. No doubt Aleph will get the same treatment.
Aleph is a work of literature, a literary masterpiece. Destined to become a modern classic.
Published as O Aleph in Brazil (August 2010). Elif in Turkey (March 2011). Aleph in UK and UK (September 2011). in the first six countries of release, Aleph shot to No One within days of publication.
At the press conference in Istanbul, Paulo Coelho was asked was Elif a true account of what took place. He responded that apart from small changes for narrative flow, yes, it was a true account of what had taken place.
Synchronicity: I thought of my friend who was raped. I read why Hilal learnt the violin. I listened to the music of Hildegard von Bingen. I read of Hilal playing the violin.
- Aleph quotes on Paulo quotes
- Tears are words that need to be written
- the fire of friendship
- Aleph in Farsi
- The Aleph Video
- The Pilgimage
- Love Wins
- The Shack
- What’s So Amazing About Grace
- The Tao of Physics
- The Dancing Wu Lee Masters