A LETTER TO PAULO COEHLO – MOST VIEWED LAST YEAR, SO PASSWORD REMOVED

Dear Paulo,

I admit I never liked your books very much, purely as a writer. I thought the Alchemist was goodish, but I found the writing and psychological states rather simplistic, and of course that parable-telling, that mixture of self-help and intellectual exposition, always makes you wonder where the real writer is ‘coming from’. Namely whether they are trying to prove an already default position, not exploring the ‘reality’ of life, experience and story through their work, and making discoveries. Not that writing fantasy, as I do, is that dissimilar to trying for parables, or allegory, and my books very much take up those themes of opposites, of good and evil, but this time out of the energy of wild nature, in the guise of talking animals. Perhaps that’s one step beyond our human notion of good and evil, because how can you judge nature, red in tooth and claw, although it isn’t always, as good or evil, if it is simply what it is? But humans need moralities, and now I understand a little more about the use of being simple, and why guides like the Manual of the Warrior of Light might actually help people. We need a mirror to the places we go, or get lost, to know we’re not alone or mad, and like an old belief in God, perhaps it is the crucial guiding authority of the author that truly counts.

I have a story idea for you. It’s rather like the ‘Devil’ appearing in Moscow in Bulgakov’s great fantasy ‘Master and Margerita’, but no-one in a rationalist, communist, scientific world believing he exists, then all hell breaking loose. Of course it was partly a metaphor for Stalin’s Russia, where you could not speak openly, and all sorts of mysterious horrors began to unfold behind the scenes, like the fictional forces of vampires, witches or talking cats. It is very much too about the nature and purpose of fantasy and the imagination, pitted against one of the most moving and realistic takes of what a real Christ might have been like, meeting a troubled Hegemonic power, in the hand-washing and headache-plagued Pontius Pilate. In my story though, a writer, me of course, discovers that a novel I was writing over two years, with the ‘Hegemonic power’ now being my own American Publisher, directly mirrored a sad discovery in my family, about an eyesight problem in a child. There words like good and evil were very much in play, because someone I loved at the publisher had called me evil, and in disgust at the simplicity of it, when he was in so much pain too, I followed those themes into the darkest places of the self and psyche. So, in trying to find the whole and the light again, and using an imagined power called The Sight, I went so dark, I went emotionally and spiritually blind, and lost responsibility badly. I think an ex sensed evil, not only in my despair, but because she had become the complete source of light to me, rightly or wrongly, and in a deep sense split into those difficult opposites. It was a psychological state so intense that it could only be described in a book, and seems far from coincidence, because everything, for several reasons, became about eyes, being seen and seeing, out and in. It spoke of Warrior Storytellers too, whose very voices can effect life itself, and retold the Samson and Delilah betrayal story, and of course that blinding, and then that recovery of belief, to pull down the temple of ‘the Philistines’.

That might be startling enough, but where you might take up the parable, is when he tries to fess up to it all, out of a deal of shame and isolation, to release the dark, but ‘friends’ start to call him mad. Or perhaps he used the term too much himself, because the person he loved and reached out for so hard, had also called him mad and deluded. ‘I am evil’, he cries indignantly now, or I fear I did harm, not to mention being personally terrified, but non-believers and believers alike smile and prefer the easy label of ‘madness’. What is most telling is not a desire to hear, or investigate whether such a strange story might actually be true. Nor to calmly, even rationally, try to judge the possibilities, ie whether it just reflected my father’s eyesight problems and a genetic predisposition, that had already found a voice and theme in all my books, was a clear case of precognition, or worse, the terrible, bottled up intensity of those months, and the rage in the language itself, with such destructive words bound to such wild emotions, could actually have reached out and done physical harm. Instead what is most clear is the pure embarrassment, or even fear, that I should say anything at all. ‘Not the done thing’.

Perhaps it’s the fear that comes into the frame when words like evil are used, with a capital E, although we all know there’s plenty of evil, horror and darkness in the world. Perhaps it is because a true story is impossible to believe. I understand a family’s resistance, most especially for the sake of a child who cannot understand any of this, but not quite an allowance for me to carry all that. The point is not simply agreeing though that we are all made of good and evil bits, eternally struggling together, and so all might help each other to fight for the good and the light. The point is that a ‘story’, that is both parable in a fictional text, and a true story in the events that occurred, over these last three years, with many synchronicities that unfolded, might actually prove something valuable to the real world about us all, and wake people up sharply, asking them to take a better and perhaps more careful look around. In my belief, proof of the strange connections between us, extraordinary ‘powers’ inside us, and of higher states of human consciousness and awareness.

Except that a writer, looking into a crystal ball, might see it unfolding in different ways, as it is. Friends would start the gossip that does such harm. ‘He’s just….” blah, blah, blah. They would isolate what they wrongly think is the dark, which is itself isolation, shame and the dark, made in fear and also too much judgement, in part perhaps because of what they fear being known in themselves. Or they would go to the default position of saying it’s impossible, or such an ‘evil’ force does not exist, and so the devil wanders the world as an untouchable, inside and out, even though he’s just cried out, ‘arrest me, I don’t like this story at all’! Robert E. Johnson makes the point that supposedly even Satan dethroned is trying to get back into heaven one day. It has some high humour, but it’s like the idea that if Christ, who I must admit is certainly not the British TV presenter David Ike, came back to earth, he would simply be crucified all over again. I am starting to agree with the idea that no-one should set out to suffer though, to make themselves a living sacrifice, as I madly did in front of my publisher and inside my story, because Christ was the necessary scapegoat in our limited world, he ‘bore the blame’, if only in story, and God is somewhere else. Perhaps it’s only ‘God’ that is good, because only the whole is light and an explosion of creative energy and life.

I have to be careful of terms, since I’m not Christ, and not the Devil, just another ‘sinner’, discovering the lack, and trying to get his morality and courage back, not even liking the term sin much. While I believe all those characters worked their way into a complex tradition of storytelling because of something about the consciousness of Man, out of evolving nature. Just as I think all truly great ‘Childrens books’ are about the necessary loss of a different state of consciousness, that powerfully includes God, angels, fairies, witches and the rest, and then the search for its renewal in the moral adult. To me that Christ and the Devil sense of story is not quite the same as the vital perception of spirit, a whole, or ‘God’, that many religions try not to name or represent, and even higher science tips its cap to, in notions like ‘The Tao of Physics’, or that galaxies are formed around Black Holes, and matter appears spontaneously. Like you, though I didn’t know it, I went on pilgrimage to Santiago, although in a car and a state of extreme distress. I wanted to say I became an oxymoron, though I think it’s called a zeugma! There was no blinding revelation on the road, perhaps because some kind of awful revelation had already happened, in observable fact, though we know the paradox of interpretation. God did not come down to help either, though the act helped me, and it was strange indeed to see an eye on the cover of the Daily Mail when I got back, announcing new breakthroughs in stem cell research, for the blind or partially sighted. In extremis we do read into things, but perhaps the message is God wants to be revealed through science, healing and more seeing!

Many writers attempt to play God though, with their characters, and with my Warrior Storytellers affecting life, I certainly did. In doing so this time I got the world and myself badly upside down. But the fact remains, and to be fairer to others it is really about what I believe is true, and so what authority I find in telling this ‘story’ at all. I believe that I reached so deep into the unconscious that I either saw or did harm, and it is a warning against words, or too much internalizing, and a call to right action, at the right time. Perhaps it was like a character in the film Minority Report, living at some deeper level of awareness or prediction but I certainly experienced harm too. But I do think we can become so bottled up psychically, that the massive power of the blocked unconscious can reach beyond the everyday, and become literally dangerous. I have other reasons to say it, but I think it explains things like poltergeists, not to mention people going really mad. Perhaps no more dangerous or powerful than a rational mind, of course, or many, out of a social and scientific story itself, overthrowing an old God, discovering how to split the atom, and so inventing a real bomb, that can produce such cataclysmic human destruction in the real world. Our words and actions are always echoing beyond ourselves.

I believe in a Universal ‘Soul’, Jung’s place of the real Self, not an individual one made in the ego, although the human journey is about individuation too, through science and spirit. Also in ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ as states of consciousness, as well as clear realities we make in this life though, all around us, instead of an eternal gift or punishment beyond life. So I’m now wondering how to become one of your Warriors of Light. Though at times I have a bit of the Rolling Stone’s ‘sympathy for the devil’, especially in seeing how people label, react or behave, to what was frightening, tragic and enormously hard to cope with, whatever it means. ‘Faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love’. Faith, or belief, is clearly something I’ve always wrestled with as a writer, so interested in the extraordinary nature of higher science. Einstein said, knowing language’s or consciousness’ essential duality, that you can either see everything as a miracle, or nothing, and with the two languages we carry in the world, out of reason, and out of many traditions of story, sadly but perhaps inevitably at war, you can’t walk down the street without various kinds of belief. Just get on with it. Hope I had in abundance once, and that’s what I’m fighting for in this blog, a certain resentment at the publishing business, and in trying not to lose myself again, certainly not to do harm. Love, real love, is maybe the hardest, when it should be the easiest. But though my intellectuality and knowledge balks at some of your techniques, I love the way you came through, turned it to power and good, not to mention the cash or success in its best sense, with a foundation for the underprivaleged and the young, found your third wife, and have such a stirring picture of an archer on your website, hitting the mark again. Fight, but hit the mark.

Perhaps the key to that is not my over-complicated attempt to understand men and women, or male and female archetypes, let alone myself, not to deconstruct joy and intuition into no-existence, with those vital tools of science and reason, not to explicate on why stories are there at all, and how they interface with reality, but that it is actually the pure simplicity of love, that is the peace and the coming home. I found that in the peace of another person, actually just the touch of a toe, a lovely woman I started to hate, no, almost did for her responses, and who I lost because I was largely wrong, and could not believe in my better self, and that was the real hell and the real devil. The battle with a publisher and why is a slightly different, political story. I studied Tolstoy at University and people always came up with the cliché that Tolstoy was an extraordinary writer, a genius, but absurd in his theories of history, or where he went to spiritually, as such a ‘mad’ auto-didact. In fact, I think Tolstoy’s genius and vision inevitably led him down the road that he went on, especially living in the times he did. I also think you stepped beyond something, in your own brushes with evil and harm, out and in, even before you took up the sword of writing, which defines why you have to try to teach in simple parable. Perhaps it’s the point you make about ancient wisdoms, and following your battles and dreams, dark and light, as far as you can, but knowing when to stop too, to fully wake yourself and others up to some unfolding destiny. For me it’s ideas like Holistic Relativity; science and the spirit walking side by side again, to see the fully human, but also the fully miraculous nature of life, nature, science, the everyday, and of each other. It’s deepest metaphor is seeing whole, but with all we are too, mind, body and spirit.

Yours Sincerely,

David Clement-Davies

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