Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Third Chapter

Author: Paulo Coelho

Deidre O’Neill, 37, doctor, known as Edda

If a man we don’t know phones us up one day and talks a little, makes no suggestions, says nothing special, but nevertheless pays us the kind of attention we rarely receive, we’re quite capable of going to bed with him that same night, feeling relatively in love. That’s what we women are like, and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s the nature of the female to open herself to love easily.

It was this same love that opened me up to my first encounter with the Mother when I was nineteen. Athena was the same age the first time she went into a trance while dancing. But that’s the only thing we had in common – the age of our initiation.

In every other aspect, we were totally and profoundly different, especially in the way we dealt with other people. As her teacher, I always did my best to help her in her inner search. As her friend – although I’m not sure my feelings of friendship were reciprocated – I tried to alert her to the fact that the world wasn’t ready for the kind of transformations she wanted to provoke. I remember spending a few sleepless nights before deciding to allow her to act with total freedom and follow the demands of her heart.

Her greatest problem was that she was a woman of the twenty-second century living in the twenty-first, and making no secret of the fact either. Did she pay a price? She certainly did. But she would have paid a still higher price if she had repressed her true exuberant self. She would have been bitter and frustrated, always concerned about ‘what other people might think’, always saying ‘I’ll just sort these things out, then I’ll devote myself to my dream’, always complaining ‘that the conditions are never quite right’.

Everyone’s looking for the perfect teacher, but although their teachings might be divine, teachers are all too human, and that’s something people find hard to accept. Don’t confuse the teacher with the lesson, the ritual with the ecstasy, the transmitter of the symbol with the symbol itself. The Tradition is linked to our encounter with the forces of life and not with the people who bring this about. But we are weak: we ask the Mother to send us guides, and all she sends are signs to the road we need to follow.

Pity those who seek for shepherds, instead of longing for freedom! An encounter with the superior energy is open to anyone, but remains far from those who shift responsibility onto others. Our time on this Earth is sacred, and we should celebrate every moment.

The importance of this has been completely forgotten: even religious holidays have been transformed into opportunities to go to the beach or the park or skiing. There are no more rituals. Ordinary actions can no longer be transformed into manifestations of the sacred. We cook and complain that it’s a waste of time, when we should be pouring our love into making that food. We work and believe it’s a divine curse, when we should be using our skills to bring pleasure and to spread the energy of the Mother.

Athena brought to the surface the immensely rich world we all carry in our souls, without realising that people aren’t yet ready to accept their own powers.

We women, when we’re searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge, always identify with one of four classic archetypes.
The Virgin (and I’m not speaking here of a sexual virgin) is the one whose search springs from her complete independence, and everything she learns is the fruit of her ability to face challenges alone.

The Martyr finds her way to self-knowledge through pain, surrender and suffering.

The Saint finds her true reason for living in unconditional love and in her ability to give without asking anything in return.

Finally, the Witch justifies her existence by going in search of complete and limitless pleasure.

Normally, a woman has to choose from one of these traditional feminine archetypes, but Athena was all four at once.

Obviously we can justify her behaviour, alleging that all those who enter a state of trance or ecstasy lose contact with reality. That’s not true: the physical world and the spiritual world are the same thing. We can see the Divine in each speck of dust, but that doesn’t stop us wiping it away with a wet sponge. The Divine doesn’t disappear; it’s transformed into the clean surface.

Athena should have been more careful. When I reflect upon the life and death of my pupil, it seems to me that I had better change the way I behave too.

Next chapter will be on-line on: 15.03.07

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