Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Second Chapter

Author: Paulo Coelho

Andrea McCain, 32, actress

‘No one can manipulate anyone else. In any relationship, both parties know what they’re doing, even if one of them complains later on that they were used.’

That’s what Athena used to say, but she herself behaved quite differently, because she used and manipulated me with no consideration for my feelings. And given that we’re talking about magic here, this makes the accusation an even more serious one; after all, she was my teacher, charged with passing on the sacred mysteries, with awakening the unknown force we all possess. When we venture into that unfamiliar sea, we trust blindly in those who guide us, believing that they know more than we do.

Well, I can guarantee that they don’t. Not Athena, not Edda, nor any of the people I came to know through them. She told me she was learning through teaching, and although, at first, I refused to believe this, later, I came to think that perhaps it was true. I realised it was one of her many ways of getting us to drop our guard and surrender to her charm.

People who are on a spiritual quest don’t think, they simply want results. They want to feel powerful and superior to the anonymous masses. They want to be special. Athena played with other people’s feelings in a quite terrifying way.

I understand that she once felt a profound admiration for St Thérèse of Lisieux. I have no interest in the Catholic faith, but, from what I’ve heard, Thérèse experienced a kind of mystical and physical union with God. Athena mentioned once that she would like to share a similar fate. Well, in that case, she should have joined a convent and devoted her life to prayer or to the service of the poor. That would have been much more useful to the world and far less dangerous than using music and rituals to induce in people a kind of intoxicated state that brought them into contact with both the best and the worst of themselves.

I sought her out when I was looking for some meaning to my life, although I didn’t say as much at our first meeting. I should have realised from the start that Athena wasn’t very interested in that; she wanted to live, dance, make love, travel, to gather people around her in order to demonstrate how wise she was, to show off her gifts, to provoke the neighbours, to make the most of all that is profane in us – although she always tried to give a spiritual gloss to that search.

Whenever we met, whether it was to perform some magical ceremony or to meet for a drink, I was conscious of her power. It was so strong I could almost touch it. Initially, I was fascinated and wanted to be like her. But one day, in a bar, she started talking about the ‘Third Rite’, which has to do with sexuality. She did this in the presence of my boyfriend. Her excuse was that she was teaching me something. Her real objective, in my opinion, was to seduce the man I loved.

And, of course, she succeeded.

It isn’t good to speak ill of people who have passed from this life onto the astral plane. However, Athena won’t have to account to me, but to all those forces which she turned to her own benefit, rather than channelling them for the good of humanity and for her own spiritual enlightenment.

The worst thing is that if it hadn’t been for her compulsive exhibitionism, everything we began together could have worked out really well. Had she behaved more discreetly, we would now be fulfilling the mission with which we were entrusted. But she couldn’t control herself; she thought she was the mistress of the truth, capable of overcoming all barriers merely by using her powers of seduction.

And the result? I was left alone. And I can’t leave the work half-finished – I’ll have to continue to the end, even though sometimes I feel very weak and often dispirited.

I’m not surprised that her life ended as it did: she was always flirting with danger. They say that extroverts are unhappier than introverts, and have to compensate for this by constantly proving to themselves how happy and contented and at ease with life they are. In her case, at least, this is absolutely true.

Athena was conscious of her own charisma, and she made all those who loved her suffer.

Including me.

Next chapter will be on-line on: 07.03.07

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