High profiles – Paulo Coelho

You have said that it took you just 14 days to write your best-seller The Alchemist. Was that because (as you have recently remarked) it was already written in your soul?
Let me try to explain myself better. I believe that each one of us has a spark of the divine light to manifest. It is our task here on this earth, and our human condition demands – demands – that we do it, to justify ourselves. So, my dream since I was very, very young was to be a writer, though I – well, I was procrastinating, because sometimes you fear to face your reason to be here.
When I decided to burn my ships and start writing, I was 40 years old. I wrote about my first experience on the road to Santiago [de Compostela, in The Pilgrimage1]. And then, for my second book, I decided to write a metaphor of my life, never knowing, of course, that this was going to touch many souls. So, The Alchemist [1988] was just a matter of looking back and finding a good story, finding a metaphor, for me to understand myself. And then it took me, yes, two weeks to put it down on paper; but the book was there long before, because it is my life.

Is writing for you simply a matter of finding the treasure that is buried within you? Or is it more a matter of craft, a labour of love?
I would say that [love] has to do with everything we do. First, you have to hear this call. You know, when you are close to something that justifies your life – it can be gardening, it can be cooking, it can be driving a taxi, it can be whatever you do with love – the clue is exactly that: love. I don’t think that a writer is better than anybody else. Everything that you do with enthusiasm, you are really manifesting God.
The next step is to learn the craft. So, for writing, first I had to read. You don’t learn writing from courses or workshops – I don’t believe in them. You learn how to write by reading other writers, people who have tried to share their souls, their experiences, whatever they have, with their fellow human beings. Then you have to make some choices: What shall I write about? What are my main questions? And then you start to develop your own technique. You start innovating, in the sense that you try not to repeat what other people are doing.
In my case, basically my challenge was to simplify. I used to read very complicated authors and sometimes I was grabbed by the story but I thought, ‘Oh my God, they are complicating so much! Why are they using one paragraph, one page? One sentence is enough.’ So, I start learning how to cut, and now this is what I do. The first version of any book of mine has three times more pages than the final one. It is like cutting your own flesh, but you need to do it.

You have said you are not a spiritual writer. Do you find ‘spirituality’ an unhelpful term?
I believe that each one of us has a spark of the divine light to manifest. It is our task here on this earth, and our human condition demands that we do it
Just because I write sometimes about my main question and it is in the spiritual world does not make me a spiritual writer. If you write about war, it does not make you a general. If you write about spies, it does not make you a spy. But when you are labelled a spiritual writer, people think: Oh, he has some answers, or he has a better connection, or… No! If there is one thing I really hate, it’s the New Age. The New Age for me is this melting pot of all types of religions created by people who do not have the courage to assume one religion.
So, I’m not a Catholic writer, I’m a writer who happens to be Catholic, uh? Sometimes I totally disagree with the Pope. I respect the missionaries of my church, of my religion, but – how can I say this in English? I want to go beyond my religion in the sense that I think spiritual insight is not only for the privileged, or Catholics or whoever: you have to discuss with people from different faiths.
In Eleven Minutes [2003], Maria says about herself: ‘Although she was very capable of writing very wise thoughts, she was quite incapable of following her own advice’ –
It is my case – sometimes. But I try to be as close as I can to my words, because mostly I write for myself. I write to… yeah, to have a better glimpse of who I am. I’ve just finished a new book and I realise, my God! these things were there and I couldn’t see them. Like when Jesus heals the blind man, he goes to the synagogue and says, ‘Hey, he healed me!’ And they say, ‘Oh, come on! He’s a fake, he’s a charlatan.’ And the man says: ‘I don’t care. I was blind but now I see.’ So, this is a little bit my case: sometimes I’m blind to myself but the answer is in my soul and all of a sudden I start seeing.

I have heard this comment a lot of times. Let me tell you my impression. I have two ways to meet my readers: at my book signings and on the internet. Probably one person out of a thousand asks me what to do. At my signings, never. On Facebook or Twitter, eventually they’ll say, ‘Oh, today I’m like this…’ – but like I say to my wife, ‘Oh, today I don’t feel very enthusiastic about this,’ not because she has the ultimate answer for my life but because I feel like sharing my problems with her. My readers don’t ask me, ‘Paulo, what is the meaning of my life?’ They know I don’t have the answer.
Nonetheless, for many of them The Alchemist has been one of those books that transform one’s life or the way one sees the world. So, even if you never set out to do so, you have played a role in many people’s lives –


Begona Miguel of the Huelgas Monastery says: “San Juan de La Cruz teaches us that silence has its own music; it is silence that enables us to see ourselves and the things around us.

“I would like to add that there are words that can only be said in silence, odd as that may seem. To compose their symphonies, the great geniuses needed silence – and they managed to transform this into divine sounds. Philosophers and scientists need silence.”

“In the monastery, at night we practice what we call the ‘Great Silence’. In the absence of talk we can understand what lies beyond.”

Therefore, it is time for me to enjoy the silence. This blog takes a vacation, returning by the end of August, when I will start helping the release of my new book

You are always welcome to browse the ARCHIVES below

Enjoy your summer.

The Swiss scientist

I FEEL nothing. I think nothing. I get straight into my car and drive, not knowing exactly where I should go. No one is waiting for me at the end of the journey. Melancholy has become apathy. I need to drag myself onward.

Five minutes later, I’m outside a castle. I know what happened here; someone breathed life into a monster that remains famous to this day, although few people know the name of the woman who created him.

The gate into the garden is closed, but so what? I can climb through the hedge. I sit on the cold bench and imagine what happened in 1817. I need to distract myself, to forget everything from before and concentrate on something different.

I imagine that year, when the castle’s tenant, the English poet Lord Byron, decided to live here in exile. He was hated in his own country, and also in Geneva, where he was accused of holding orgies and getting drunk in public. He must have been dying of boredom. Or melancholy. Or rage.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that one day in 1817, two guests arrived from England: another poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his nineteen-year-old wife, Mary. (A fourth guest joined them, but I can’t remember his name right now.)

They doubtless talked about literature. They doubtless complained about the weather, the rain, the cold, the inhabitants of Geneva, their English compatriots, the lack of tea and whiskey. Perhaps they read poems to one another and praised one another’s work.

They thought they were so special and so important that they decided to make a bet: they would return to that same place within a year, each with a book he had written describing the human condition.

Obviously, after the initial enthusiasm and conversation about how the human being is a complete aberration, they forgot about the bet.

Mary was present during that conversation. She wasn’t invited to participate, first, because she was a woman, and, even worse, because she was very young. And yet that conversation must have marked her deeply. Why did she not just write something to pass the time? She had a subject, she simply needed to develop it and keep the book to herself when she had finished it.

However, when they returned to England, Shelley read the manuscript and encouraged her to publish it. Further, since he was already famous, he decided to submit it to a publisher and write the preface himself. Mary resisted, but in the end agreed, with one condition: her name should not appear on the cover.

The initial print run of five hundred copies quickly sold out. Mary thought it must be because of Shelley’s preface, but, on the second edition, she agreed to allow her name to appear as author. Ever since, the book has remained a constant presence in bookshops around the world. It has inspired writers, theater directors, film directors, Halloween partiers, and those at masked balls. It was recently described by one well-known critic as “the most creative work of Romanticism and possibly of the last two hundred years.”

No one can explain why. Most people have never read it, but almost everyone has heard of it.

It tells the story of Victor, a Swiss scientist, born in Geneva and brought up by his parents to understand the world through science. While still a child, he sees a lightning bolt strike a tree and wonders if that is the source of life. Could man create another human being?

And like a modern version of Prometheus, the mythological figure who stole fire from the gods in order to help mankind (the author used The Modern Prometheus as her subtitle, but few remember this), he begins to work to try and replicate God’s greatest deed. Needless to say, despite all the care he takes, the experiment slides out of his control.

The title of the book: Frankenstein.
(taken from my book ADULTERY)

Lao Tsu, China – 6th century B.C.

Paulo Coelho

Based on my message earlier this week – about the different languages of God – I would like to share with you this week some of the prayers that point in the same direction:

“For there to be peace in the world, the nations must live in peace.
For there to be peace among nations, cities must not rise up against one another.
For there to be peace in the cities, neighbors must get on well with one another.
For there to be peace among neighbors, harmony must reign in the home.
For there to be harmony at home, it must be found in your own heart.”

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Life is full of surprises


Yesterday I was starting to climb Le Saleve (Haute-Savoie) and in a small village I saw this house. It happens that it is true! The text reads
“The Valkyrie were composed here.”
“Here lived Two Immortals : Richard Wagner (1856) – John Ruskin (1863 – 1864).”

How to observe the flight of the arrow

The arrow is intention projected into space.
Once it is fired, there is nothing left for the archer to do except accompany its path towards the target. From that moment on, the tension necessary for the shot has no more reason to exist.
The archer therefore keeps his eyes fixed on the flight of the arrow, but his heart is at rest and he smiles.
At that moment, if he has trained enough, if he has managed to develop his instinct, if he has maintained his elegance and concentration throughout the whole process of the shot, then he will feel the presence of the universe and hw will see that his action was fair and deserved.
Technique makes both hands always ready, breathing always precise, eyes able to fix on the target. Instinct makes the moment of the shot perfect.
Whoever passes by and sees the archer with his arms open and his eyes following the arrow will fancy that he is stopped. But the allies know that the mind of the one who fired the arrow has changed dimension and is now in contact with the entire universe: the mind goes on working, learning everything of a positive nature that the shot has brought, correcting any mistakes, accepting his qualities, and waiting to see how the target reacts when it is struck.
When the archer stretches the string, he can see the whole world inside his bow. When he accompanies the flight of the arrow, this world comes close to him, caresses him and makes him relish the perfect sensation of having fulfilled his duty.
A Warrior of Light, after fulfilling his duty and transforming his intention into gesture, need fear no more: he has done what he had to do. He has not allowed himself to be petrified by fear, for even if the arrow fails to reach its target, he will have another opportunity, because he has not been a coward.

(taken from my ebook “The Way of the Bow”)

Iran and Rumi

by Rumi, Persian poet (1207- 1273)

Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you’ve never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn’t wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

Question by the reader : Maria Edwards

My question is, can you tell us more about this quote of the day, “Anyone who gives help also receives help and needs to teach what he has learned?” How can we share the light we’ve found with people in our lives who may not have found their own path yet?

Firstly by trying to understand why they are acting the way they are. Before judging if a person is or not in their path, first we need to understand why they thread in the current path they are threading.
Of course, if a person is unhappy and they let you know about this – then you can actually say what you think. But remember, while giving your opinion you need to leave very clear that you are doing this out of love and nothing else.
The best way to reach someone is by letting them know that they have reached your heart first.

Please send your question for selection to [email protected]

The Warrior Of Light and Faith

The warrior of light, once he has learned how to use a sword, discovers that his equipment is still incomplete – he needs armour.
He sets off in search of this armour and he listens to the advice of various salesmen.
‘Use the breastplate of solitude,’ says one.
‘Use the shield of cynicism’, says another.
‘The best armour is not to get involved in anything,’ says a third.
The warrior, however, ignores them. He calmly goes to his sacred place and puts on the indestructible cloak of faith.
Faith parries all blows. Faith transforms poison into crystalline water.

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Mata Hari’s last week


THE SPY brings to life the true story of Mata Hari, the famous courtesan and accused spy who was executed for treason one hundred years ago. Mata Hari was a dancer who shocked and delighted audiences during the First World War, and she became a confidant to some of the era’s richest and most powerful men. She dared to liberate herself from the moralism and provincial customs of the early twentieth century, but she ultimately paid for it with her life. As she waited for her execution in a Paris prison, one of her last requests was for a pen and some paper to write letters.
Over the past twenty years, MI5 in the UK and Germany and Holland have released their files on Mata Hari, and it provided Coelho with a trove of information as he was researching his novel.

“I ended up with a mountain of documents,” Coelho said, “but also with a question: What did Mata Hari write in those letters? And how was she caught in so many traps, set by both friends and enemies?”
Using first-person narrative, Coelho reimagines Mata Hari’s life through her final letter, which was written the week before her execution. There, from prison, Mata Hari reveals the choices she made in pursuing her own truth – from her childhood in a small Dutch town, to her unhappy years as the wife of an alcoholic diplomat in Java, to her calculated and self-fashioned rise to celebrity in France.

“Mata Hari was one of our first feminists,” Coelho said, “defying male expectations of that time and choosing instead an independent, unconventional life. There are lessons we can draw from her life today, where accusations by the powerful still cost the innocent their lives.”
At her death by firing squad – as she stared down her executioners and refused to be blindfolded – Mata Hari famously said, “I am ready.” Coelho says of that moment, “her only crime was to be an independent woman.”

My Favorite Painters – Magritte

Respect for mystery

Paulo Coelho

I had to live for many years before I realized that love is an act of faith in another person, and its face should continue to be wrapped in mystery. It should be lived and relished at each and every minute, but whenever we try to understand it, the magic vanishes.

When I accepted this I also began to let my life be guided by a strange language that I call “signs”. I know that the world is talking to me, I need to listen to it, and if I do so I shall always be guided towards what is most intense, passionate and beautiful. Of course, it is not easy and at times I feel like Psyche at the cliff, cold and terrified, but if I can pass through that night and deliver myself to the mystery and faith in life, I will always end up waking in a palace. All I need is to trust in Love, even though I run the risk of making a mistake.

To conclude the Greek myth: desperate to have her love back, Psyche submits to a series of tasks imposed by Aphrodite (or Venus), the mother of Cupid (or Eros), who is envious of her beauty. One of the tasks is to deliver some of her beauty to Aphrodite. Psyche grows curious about the box that was supposed to contain the Goddess’ beauty and once again is unable to cope with the Mystery, so she decides to open it. Inside she finds not beauty but rather an infernal sleep that leaves her inert and immobile.

Eros/Cupid is also in love, regretful for not having been more tolerant towards his wife. He manages to enter the castle and wake her from her deep sleep with the point of his arrow and once again tells her: “You almost died on account of your curiosity.” That is the great contradiction, Psyche sought for security in knowledge and found only insecurity.

The two of them go to Jupiter, the supreme god, and implore that their union will never be undone. Jupiter passionately pleads the cause of the lovers and succeeds in gaining the support of Venus. From that day onwards, Psyche (the essence of the human being) and Eros (love) are always together. Whoever does not accept this and tries to find an explanation for magical and mysterious human relations will miss the best part of life.

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Emotional independence

“At the beginning of our life and again when we get old, we need the help and affection of others. Unfortunately, between these two periods of our life, when we are strong and able to look after ourselves, we don’t appreciate the value of affection and compassion. As our own life begins and ends with the need for affection, wouldn’t it be better if we gave compassion and love to others while we are strong and capable?”

The above words were said by the present Dalai Lama. Really, it is very curious to see that we are proud of our emotional independence. Evidently, it is not quite like that: we continue needing others our entire life, but it is a “shame” to show that, so we prefer to cry in hiding. And when someone asks us for help, that person is considered weak and incapable of controlling his feelings.

There is an unwritten rule saying that “the world is for the strong”, that “only the fittest survive.” If it were like that, human beings would never have existed, because they are part of a species that needs to be protected for a long period of time (specialists say that we are only capable of surviving on our own after nine years of age, whereas a giraffe takes only six to eight months, and a bee is already independent in less than five minutes).

We are in this world, I, for my part, continue – and will always continue – depending on others. I depend on my wife, my friends and my publishers. I depend even on my enemies, who help me to be always trained in the use of the sword.

Clearly, there are moments when this fire blows in another direction, but I always ask myself: where are the others? Have I isolated myself too much? Like any healthy person, I also need solitude and moments of reflection.

But I cannot get addicted to that.

Emotional independence leads to absolutely nowhere – except to a would-be fortress, whose only and useless objective is to impress others.

Emotional dependence, in its turn, is like a bonfire that we light.

In the beginning, relationships are difficult. In the same way that fire is necessary to put up with the disagreeable smoke – which makes breathing hard, and causes tears to pour down one’s face. However, once the fire is alight, the smoke disappears and the flames light up everything around us – spreading warmth, calm, and possibly making an ember pop out to burn us, but that is what makes a relationship interesting, isn’t that true?

I began this column quoting a Nobel Peace Prize winner about the importance of human relationships. I am ending with Professor Albert Schweitzer, physician and missionary, who received the same Nobel prize in 1952.

“All of us know a disease in Central Africa called sleeping sickness. What we need to know is that there is a similar disease that attacks the soul – and which is very dangerous, because it catches us without being noticed. When you notice the slightest sign of indifference and lack of enthusiasm for your similar, be on the alert!”

“The only way to take precautions against this disease is to understand that the soul suffers, and suffers a lot, when we make it live superficially. The soul likes things that are beautiful and profound”.

Character of the week: Muhammad Ali

to Paulo, from Muhammad Ali

” I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.
At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.

I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.

If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 4, 2016) a former American boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion,

China’s last eunuch spills sex secrets

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) – Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting’s eyes in old age — the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China’s last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the “Emperor’s slave” but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of “living history.”

To read the rest of the story, please click here.

The whole in everything

Paulo Coelho
When Ketu turned twelve years old he was sent to a master, with whom he studied until he was twenty-four. Upon finishing his training, he came back home filled with pride.
His father asked him:
“How can we know what we can’t see? How can we know that God the Almighty is everywhere?”
The young man began to recite the sacred scriptures, but his father interrupted him:
“That’s all too complicated. Isn’t there an easier way for us to learn about the existence of God?”
“Not that I know of, my father. Today I am a learned man and I need this knowledge to explain the mysteries of divine wisdom.”
“I have wasted my time and money sending my son to the monastery,” complained the father.
And taking Ketu by the hand, he led him to the kitchen. There he filled a basin with water and poured in a little salt. Then they went for a stroll in the city.
When they came back home, the father told Ketu:
“Bring the salt that I put in the basin.”
Ketu looked for the salt but did not find it because it had already dissolved in the water.
“So you can’t see the salt any more?” asked the father.
“No, the salt’s invisible.”
“Then taste a little of the water that’s on the surface of the basin. How does it taste?”
“Try a little of the water in the middle: how does it taste?”
“As salty as on the surface.”
“Now taste the water at the bottom of the basin and tell me what it tastes like.”
Ketu tried it and it had the same taste as he had felt before.
“You have studied for many years and can’t explain simply how Invisible God is in all parts,” said the father. “Using a basin of water, and calling God “salt”, I could make any peasant understand that. Please, dear son, forget the wisdom that moves us away from men and look again for the Inspiration that draws us closer.”

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Using both pockets

A disciple remarked to Rabbi Bounam from Pssiskhe:

“The material world seems to suffocate the spiritual world.”

“Your pants have two pockets,” said Bounam. “Jot down this sentence and put it in the right pocket: ‘The world was created only for me.’ Now write in the left pocket: ‘I am nothing but dust and ashes’.”

“Divide your money between the pockets. When you come upon misery and injustice, remember that the world exists only so that you can show your kindness, and use the money in the right pocket. When you are tempted to buy things that you haven’t the least need for, remember what is written in your left pocket and think twice before spending it. In that way the material world will never suffocate the spiritual world.”

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Manuel goes to Paradise

Paulo Coelho

One day our dear, honest, dedicated Manuel ends up dying – as will happen to all the Manuels, Paulos, Marias and Monicas in this life. And here I resort to the words of Henry Drummond, whose brilliant book “The Supreme Gift” describes what happens from this point on:

“All of us at some moment have asked the same question as every other generation: “What is the most important thing in our existence?”

We want to use our days in the best possible way, for nobody else can live our lives for us. So we need to know where we should direct our efforts, what is the supreme objective to be met.

We are used to hearing that the most important treasure in spiritual life is faith. Many centuries of religion rest on this simple word. Do we hold faith to be the most important thing in the world? Well, we are quite wrong.

In his epistle to the Corinthians, chapter XIII, Saint Paul takes us to the early days of Christianity. He ends by saying: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”

This is not some superficial opinion of the author of these words, Saint Paul. After all, talking about Faith a moment before, in the same letter, he said: “And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Paul did not avoid the question; on the contrary, he compared faith and charity and concluded: “(…) the greatest of these is charity.”

Matthew offers us a classic description of the Day of Final Reckoning: the Son of God sits on a throne and like a shepherd separates the goats from the sheep.

At that moment the great question for human beings will not be: “How did I live?” but rather: “How did I love?”

The final test of all quests for salvation will be Love. No account will be taken of what we did, what we believed in, what we achieved. None of this will be asked of us. What we will be asked is how we loved our neighbor. The mistakes we have made will not even be remembered. We will be judged for the good we have failed to do. Because keeping Love locked up within ourselves is to go against the spirit of God, it proves that we never knew Him, that He loved us in vain, and that His Son died to no avail.”

In this case, our Manuel is saved at the moment of his death, because although he never gave any meaning to his life, he was capable of loving, providing for his family, and doing what he did with dignity. However, although it is a happy ending, the rest of his days on earth were very complicated.

Repeating a phrase I heard from Shimon Peres at the World Forum in Davos: “optimist and pessimist both end up dying. But they each use their lives in a completely different manner.”

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Witches and pardon – Part 2

Paulo Coelho


But I also met many people who were truly capable of dealing with forces that were far beyond my understanding. I saw time being altered, for example. I saw operations without anesthesia, and on one of these occasions (precisely a day that I had woken up with many doubts about man’s unknown power) I placed my finger inside the incision made with a rusty pocket knife. Believe it as you wish – or ridicule it if that is the only way of reading what I am writing – I have seen metal being changed, cutlery twisted, lights shining in the air around me, because somebody said that would happen (and it did). I was almost always with witnesses, generally skeptical. In most cases these witnesses went on being skeptical, always thinking that it was all just a very clever “trick”. Others said it was “the work of the devil”. Finally, a few believed that they were witnessing phenomena that went beyond human comprehension.

I have seen this in Brazil, France, England, Switzerland, Morocco, and Japan. And what happens to most people who manage to, let us say, interfere with the “immutable” laws of nature? Society always considers them as marginal phenomena: if they cannot explain, then they do not exist. The vast majority of these people also fail to understand why they are capable of doing astonishing things. And for fear of being labeled charlatans, they end up suffocated by their own gifts.

None of them are happy. They all await the day when they can be taken seriously. They all await a scientific answer to their own powers (and in my opinion I do not think that is the solution). Many hide their potential and end up suffering – because they could help the world, and they do not manage to. Deep down I feel that that they are also waiting for the “official pardon” for being so different.

Separating the wheat from the chaff, and not growing disheartened by the giant amount of charlatanism, I feel that we should ask ourselves once more: what are we capable of?

And then go out and seriously develop our immense potential.

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Witches and pardon – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

On 31 October 2004, resorting to a feudal law that was abolished the following month, the town of Prestonpans in Scotland granted official pardon to 81 persons – and their cats – executed for practicing witchery in the 16th and 17th centuries.

According to the official spokesman for the Barons of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun, “most of them had been condemned without any concrete proof – based only on the witnesses of the accusation, who declared that they felt the presence of evil spirits.”

There is no point in recalling once more all the excess of the Inquisition, with its torture chambers and bonfires of hate and vengeance. But there is one thing that is very intriguing to me in this news item.

The town and the 14th Baron of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun are “granting pardon” to the people who were brutally executed. Here we are in the heart of the 21st century and the descendants of the real criminals, those who put innocent people to death, still have the right to “grant pardon”.

In the meantime, a new witch hunt is beginning to gain ground. This time the arm is no longer red-hot iron, but rather irony or repression. All those who, in developing a gift (generally discovered by chance), dare to speak of their capacity, are mostly either looked on with suspicion or else prohibited by their parents, husbands and wives to say anything about it. Having interested myself from an early age in what they call the “occult sciences”, I came into contact with many such people.

I believed in charlatans, of course. I dedicated time and enthusiasm to “masters” that later on dropped their masks, revealing the total void in which they found themselves. Irresponsibly, I took part in certain sects and practiced rituals for which I had to pay a high price. All this in on behalf of a quest that is absolutely natural to man: the answer to the mystery of life.


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