September: Aleph by Paulo Coelho
Updated: Oct 8
What if you could transform your life and rewrite your destiny? One of my favorite authors shares his epic journey of personal discovery and faith...
In one of his most personal stories, Paulo faces a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again—to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.
Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before—and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, Aleph invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.
Fuel For Thought Questions:
1. Aleph is a novel full of rituals, starting with Paulo and J.’s opening invocation around the sacred oak. However, Paulo’s reaction to them varies wildly; sometimes they frustrate him (the oak), sometimes he embraces them (the shaman’s midnight chant on the edges of Lake Baikal), and other times he criticizes them for being empty (Hilal’s offering at the church in Novosibirsk). Why do you think this is? Do you think this has to do with the rituals themselves or is Coelho trying to express something deeper about the nature and purpose of ritual? What value can ritual have in your own life?
2. During his initial argument with J., Paulo says: “We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of” [p. 9]. Do you agree? Why do you think J. prescribes travel as a way for Paulo to better focus on the present instead of his past or future?
3. Coelho writes, “To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life” and offers examples of people who have experienced revelations in various ways. Do you agree? What people or writings are you familiar with that support (or disprove) his point of view?
4. Were you familiar with the concept of past lives before reading Aleph? Is it necessary to believe in past lives to grasp the book’s message and meaning?
5. What do you think Coelho means when he writes, “Life is the train, not the station?" What about when he says, “What we call ‘life’ is a train with many carriages. Sometimes we’re in one, sometimes we’re in another, and sometimes we cross between them, when we dream or allow ourselves to be swept away by the extraordinary."