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Aleph, Paulo Coelho and my Friend: The Journey Within

Aleph, Paulo Coelho and my Friend: The Journey Within
Book Review : ‘Aleph’
(A novel from Paulo Coelho)
By Sibichen K Mathew

       Thousands of years have passed.  Still, life is a mystery for human beings. The creator and the creation are beyond the comprehension of the created. Philosophers like Aristotle and Plato searched for meanings. Theologians like Thomas Aquinas  and St. Augustine delved deep into the subject. Scientists from Einstein to Stephen Hawking had to satisfy themselves with incomplete information while dealing with unresolved mysteries about life. None could provide any valuable insight about what was before life or what is in store after death. But the universe continued to bring miracles in the form of lives, each one of them unique in many respects.
Croatian Edition

          Here is an autobiographical book by Paulo Coelho that would take readers through an eventful journey where life is reincarnated. Those of you who have read ‘The Alchemist’ by Coelho should definitely read this book too. The Alchemist, translated into 72 languages and sold close to 65 million copies, had brought in radical transformation in the lives of many readers.  The Alchemist is a magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure and ultimately discovers that life is indeed generous to those who pursue their destiny. Aleph showcases a long journey where lives transcend centuries to rediscover and fulfil the unfinished tasks and unrealized dreams. In fact, the story depicts the encounters all of us face in this world with our fears and our shortcomings. And it points to the fact that only love and forgiveness can make our life meaningful.

           We all face crises, conflicts and disappointments in life. Even when everything goes well with a good career, family and friends, we would still feel a sort of vacuum in life as years pass. Even though we have firmly believed in certain ideology or faith all these years, there are moments when doubts emerge from within about those deep-rooted ideology or faith. The consequences are disturbing and sometimes devastating. The author also experienced similar confusion and unhappiness amidst the routine. And the teacher tells him: ‘Go and experiment. It’s time you got out of here. Go and re-conquer your kingdom, which has grown corrupted by routine. Stop repeating the same lesson, because you won’t learn anything new that way.’ And Paulo starts his journey, taking the readers along.

          Faced with the grave crisis of faith, he sets out on another journey, this time not to find the treasure in the pyramids of Egypt, but to a series of destinations to seek a path of spiritual renewal and growth.  J., the teacher says: ‘Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.’  The author experiences the same as he undertakes the long journey in the Trans-Siberian railway. For him it was not just a travel to meet publishers or participate in many book signing functions, but to experiment and to reconnect with people and the world. It was a trip to his soul, past, present and future. The story underscores the need to re-conquer one’s lost kingdom, a journey within.

        He meets the young violinist Hilal and identifies her as his ‘past love’, dates back to more than five centuries. The awareness culminated in Aleph, which is the right place where the entire universe is present and provides for a new incarnation in order to finish something that was left incomplete in the past. And the author discovers his past love precisely at this point and a great Aleph occurs. He asks: ‘Where is my first kiss filed away? In some hidden corner of my brain? In a series of electrical impulses that have been deactivated? My first kiss is more alive than ever, and I will never forget it. It’s here, all around me. It forms part of my Aleph’

           Author very vaguely describes Aleph as a point in the universe that contains all other points, present and past, large and small. Jorge Luis Borges wrote in ‘The Aleph’ that it is the only place on earth where all places are – seen from every angle, each standing clear without any confusion or blending  .  This is a point where time and space converge. Coelho was really excited but confused at the same time as he was faced with another chance to fulfil his dream.
Serbian edition 

            On the one hand he faces an ardent and uncontrollable desire to tread on the path to the body of his rediscovered love of the past. On the other hand he feels terribly guilty to commit an act that would disturb his bond of the present. But the mind justifies the desire as it was aimed at a process of purification and healing of a young girl who was severely hurt by an abuse of her childhood innocence by a neighbour, whom everyone thought of as gentle and helpful. She said: He touched my body; but distorted my soul.

      As I read the above passage, I remembered a mail received by me from a friend of mine a few months back. She wrote:

 Dear Sibi,

I had told you about  my childhood abuse by a person close to my family.
As far as I can remember, I was angelic, calm, quiet, and innocent as a little girl. Moreover, highly intelligent too. I stayed at home till I was 7 and then cried to go away to another place,(may be to escape from my abuser) I never used to talk and so never had friends, never needed one. Though I am not from a prayerful family, somewhere along the way, a person called God became real in my life. He became my everything in my secret world, and I used to predict many things out of instinct, which was, to a little girl, told by Him. The more such things happened, I became happy with His companionship. I stood first in class, without much efforts, I didn’t feel proud of that first rank either. Nothing mattered at all.

But later on, I knew that someone did something WRONG to me and I was so sad about that. I started feeling bad, deceived. Gradually I became alone, I left my companion, I never spoke nor prayed to Him personally for many many years. 
I thought I was used as I was so innocent and ignorant. So I wanted to help and protect myself. I became my god and guardian. I thought I was doing me a big favour. But it resulted in losing my innocence, my character, behaviour, all that was originally created. My world collapsed and went out of my control and I realised about ten years back, what the problem was.
It took many years' struggle to deal with the abuse, as an adult. First I had to confront him, which was easier than forgiving him. I had to forgive him, as I wanted to get rid of the feeling of his touch which I could feel even after years. I finally looked into his eyes with God's power of forgiveness and shook hands with him and made peace. Then came the most difficult part, to forgive myself. Years and years of efforts didn't make it possible, till God did it His way.

When I thought my life is going to start again, there came the worst shock of my life. I identified a small little girl, inside me.The original me. She was there, around three years old, asking me to let her free. I suppressed her as I was scared to lose my self-created personality. I ignored her cries all these years. It turned out to be an urge to have a girl to love and care for. But she never came. After years I understood that I was the girl who needed love and care.
Things which happened recently in my life were weird, but all had a reason. With all the boldness and confidence in me, I was just a slave to many hurts and humiliations.  Nothing that I created worked out. 
The girl inside me lived all these years, as my suppressed ignored personality, and I never derived any good feeling from my artificial personality. The night I told myself and God that I hate myself, I understood that there is more to it. I prayed over it and found out that I hate my artificial personality, which I wore for years around that little innocent girl.
The little girl cried for herself and I cried along with her. I knew what she suffered all these years, what she was asking me constantly.  The moment came, that her cries came to the point of her liberation either through death or life, and I had no other choice but to take heed of her sobs. That was the time of the highest realisation in my whole life. INNOCENCE IS THE GREATEST POWER IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE. Nothing that I thought or the way I lived could ever make a slightest change to the thought or life or the little girl inside me. She stayed and waited decades, to win her battle, through the power of her innocence. I decided to liberate her to life by taking away all I had created around her. With God, and only God, all things are possible.

I saw her, the innocent little girl, her smile, her joy, near her stood her childhood companion, who proved faithful all through her journey.
I wanted to know more about my childhood. So I called my aunt who loves me as her own. She told me that I was an angel. I asked her to show me one girl like that in the family or outside. She told me that she has till date never seen such a special child or person who even resembles me. These were the exact words I used to describe my childhood. I used to watch and search everywhere for a kid like me. But I could not find anyone like me.

I thanked God for keeping that angelic personality of mine live in me (though she was a constant cause of inner conflict, many times I thought of killing her, or giving her to God).
Now that little girl gave me back my lost identity and life. I have that strongest desire to go to Heaven after total purification on earth, and  to be called a saint, by God. And I am sure that if I had to live in my real self, I would've been so close to God and lived in His power as His instrument.
Anyway my life is not over and God doesn't need time to do miracles and fill the blank of all these years. 
In every story, God appoints characters. There is a father, a mother, a teacher, a friend, many more, in mine. But among the few main characters, there is a friend, only one, who played a very direct part towards my return to myself, and that friend is Sibi, you. And very surprisingly, I used to call only you by the name "friend". 

I am so thankful to God for all the people and incidents which changed my life. Thank you so much dear, for being God's instrument in my life. I can never repay you in any way and I must not do that for your Divine work. But the Lord who you obeyed, will bless and reward you from His abundant Divine wealth and make you prosperous in everything on earth and heaven. 

I love you so much friend.I am excited to share this joy with you. Take care.

          I read the letter again and found how real Coelho’s Hilal is. In fact there are many Hilals and G's in this world whose innocent childhoods were abused by devilish incarnations in shepherd’s clothes. The experience haunts their entire life. Hilal said the same way G wrote to me: ‘..because I carried all that guilt around inside me, because victims always end up considering themselves to be the culprits, I decided to keep punishing myself. So, in my relationships with men, I’ve always sought suffering, conflict and despair’.

Painting by my friend Sanjay Chapolkar

          Author was on a mission to set her soul free of unwarranted guilt. She said: ‘The girl forgives you, not because she has become a saint, but because she can no longer bear to carry this burden of hatred. Hating is very wearisome. I don’t know if something is changing in Heaven or on Earth, if my soul is being damned or saved, but I feel utterly exhausted and only now do I understand why. I forgive the man who tried to destroy me when I was ten years old.’ She continued: ‘I also forgive myself. May the misfortunes of the past no longer weigh on my heart. Instead of pain and resentment, I choose understanding and compassion. Instead of rebellion, I choose the music from my violin. Instead of grief, I choose forgetting. Instead of vengeance, I choose victory’.

        A few are really blessed to get healed through the divine touch. And some are fortunate to have friends who are ‘imperfect’ angels. This is a story that depicts passions and struggles one face within oneself. This is a story about  one’s determination to complete the pilgrimage by living every moment.   
       It is rightly written as follows. ‘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 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’ 

   Author has quoted many interesting and meaningful stories. Following one is particularly interesting:

     “ …. ‘When he left the shop, Ali noticed that an icy wind was blowing. He felt afraid and decided to ask his best friend, Aydi, if he thought he was mad to accept the wager.
After considering the matter for a moment, Aydi answered, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you. Tomorrow night, when you’re sitting on top of the mountain, look straight ahead. I’ll be on the top of the mountain opposite, where I’ll keep a fire burning all night for you. Look at the fire and think of our friendship; and that will keep you warm. You’ll make it through the night, and afterwards, I’ll ask you for something in return.’
Ali won the wager, got the money and went to his friend’s house.
‘You said you wanted some sort of payment in return.’
 Aydi said, ‘Yes, but it isn’t money. Promise that if ever a cold wind blows through my life, you will light the fire of friendship for me.’ ”
Edition (Brazil)

        All of us might experience the ring of fire at some point of time in our life. The novel makes it clear that love always triumphs over death. And there’s no need to grieve for our loved ones, because they continue to be loved and remain by our side.

        The author thought he has re-conquered the lost kingdom. He rejoiced for being part of the healing process. Was Hilal really healed from the trauma? Was Paulo trapped between the forces from two lives in his experience of incarnation? Did the journey for a new experience up-rooted him from the bliss and blessings of present life? Was the happiness evanescent and ephemeral? To know the answers, readers are invited to complete the journey with Paulo Coelho in ‘The Aleph’.

     Book was published in India on Sept 10, 2011 by HarperCollinsPublishers Pages 300, Rs 325/-                    

Indian edition

In my last birthday note I wrote:  ‘My assets are the occasions I made others smile and the situations I experienced inner joy and peace in these years. My liabilities are nothing but the opportunities I lost for excellence to become a world class citizen’. I am glad to find a similar thought in ‘Aleph’: ‘Hell is when we look back during that fraction of a second and know that we wasted an opportunity to dignify the miracle of life. Paradise is being able to say at that moment: ‘I made some mistakes, but I wasn’t a coward. I lived my life and did what I had to do.’ (p.21)

Please find time to read the comments below. Before that, do not miss the comment by Paulo Coelho (and many of his readers) about the above article. Click here

Read my review of 'Adultery' by Paulo Coelho here


  1. Love it.!!! :) Cheers :)

  2. heart felt and beautifully written only when you go and experience some of the can trulyunderstand the depth...

  3. I will be sharing this with my counseling clients, the most courageous people I have had the honor to meet.

  4. Paulo C. ESCRITOR SABIO CON VIVENCIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS,POR ESO CUANDO ME DIRIJO A EL DIGO ES MUY TERRENAL! ACABO DE LEER LOS PARRAFOS DE ALEPH cual no he leido todavia,leere x q ya he leeido parte de sus libros y son inenarrables,explendidos!eso causa mi admiracion por el.OBRIGADO!

  5. Thanks dear Paulo Coelho, for your detailed note on my review within hours of blog post. Readers, please click the following link to read the comments of Paulo and the comments of many on my review and the letter of 'G' published in my review.

  6. Thank u for letting me know about it...I am going to post the link in my community of bloggers...

  7. What the world needs is more woman wisdom and man compassion.

  8. thank you so much for sharing this letter..

  9. That is Great words from someone who probably reached Purification down this Land .It's coelho who sees beyond what eyes can Reach ! Obrigado Anjo Amigo

  10. I'm like G but still don't have 'friend sibi" yet!! I abused by a family member . I still see him but I can't confront.

  11. Am deeply touched by this letter.... thanks for sharing.

  12. Some time we think we have a big problem, but when we use someone's else shoes, we understand that our problem is nothing compared to others. Thank you for the letter, I enjoy it gratefully.

  13. AS I SOMEWHERE I HEARD " Every one's heart have a deep and dark sea which even we our self don't want explore it and even we do not have courage to have glance on that. But if we are let it to be open atleast once in our life , We definitely recover our great spirit of innocence. But unfortunately it must be happens most probably with the help of true person which who is really touches our heart.

    let our self to wait for that person..the messenger who send by God

  14. I read your post from P Coelho's blog. Very powerful indeed. Thanks for sharing. Keep posting.

  15. Thank you for your post. It's encouraging to know there are compassionate men out there. This encourages me to move forward with my own healing.

  16. Thank you…

    Dear Mr. Coelho, my friend Sibi, all their readers who addressed me,

    I am G, Sibi’s friend.

    Thank you and God bless you Mr. Coelho for publishing my letter (through Sibichen K Mathew’s review) in your blog. I am yet to read Aleph, except for the few lines in the review and in your blog. I was shocked and surprised to see that many things among them were written in my diary.

    Thank you my friend Sibi, who made a new world around me today.

    Thank you all their readers for their genuine words of encouragement and sharing.

    Here I am, the little girl, standing with her Companion, to thank Heaven and earth for everything. I want to smile at all the people who suffer like I suffered and say “God loves you, God cares for you, God can restore whatever you have lost”.

    I know that you have millions of questions to ask me. I too have asked. But never ever say that there is no answer.

    You might be suffering hell on earth and may be you are in a situation in which you think that it is better to die and reach hell than not being able to live at all. But never ever think that life is over.

    I have gone through this long years’ journey of pain and torment which led to forgiveness and gratitude, and finally let free, a three year old kid who lived inside me for past 40 plus years.

    This child has come out to live, to smile, to bring hope. She wants to live as a light which brightens life, and as a love which heals wounds.

    Through her pain she became one with all those who underwent the same experience… may her struggle for liberation give hope to those who fight to come out of their pain..and may her new life stand as the proof for all those who doubt their ultimate liberation.

    Look at me. I am real. All the shame I suffered, all that I lost, all the pains and regrets, everything vanished from me, at the moment of liberation…created new…

    Here I stand before you, as a gift to mankind, who God used as His instrument, to show the world that God is Love and Love never fails and with God, all things are possible.

    Glory fills my soul and my cup overflows…Surely goodness and mercy will follow me, all through my life.
    with love and prayers, G.

    1. i have a frnd trying to bring back her in her own life , she also have come acroos the way similar to like you but way that hurts her life in another way..
      any way pray for her...........i am not a gifted person like sibichan but i will try all my very best way

  17. WOW ,,, amazing and totally true life story !!! thank you for sharing !! i was deeply touched!!

  18. very very well written :) A delightful read.

  19. Sibichen! This is a wonderful review. I was deeply touched. As I was reading your post I could easily make out that you were deeply affected by the thoughts expressed in this book, that you could relate to it quite well. It was straight from your heart.
    To be honest this book was not on my "to read" list. But your review has compelled me to add it to my list. I'll surely read this book one of these coming days. Very well written :) :)

  20. Friend, I am so glad to have come to your blog. The link to this post was sent to me by a friend. I am amazed by the parallels. Aleph also means infinite possibilities of the same set. One can sense time and space converging to a single point and diverging to numberless points of separation in different directions--past, present and future.

    I feel also honoured to know 'G'. Her letter is the soul of your excellent review.

  21. Dear Sibi,

    Such a contexual life experience well represented. It reflects the current scenario of the society wherein the childhood is abused and exploited by the so called 'gentelemen' leaving behind the scars to the mysterious life of an individual.Life is a mystery which nobody has unfolded so far. The more it is being opened, the more it gets complicated. As you go deeper and deeper you are pulled down to further mysteries of life.

    Thanks for sharing and would definitely read the book.



  22. PAULO COELHO'S ----aleph is worldwide best seller, NOW.

    A search for love / forgiveness , is an attempt for INDIAN SOCIAL SCIENTISTS TOO-- TO BE HUMANISTIC IN THEIR life skills-and writing skills

    shaji Issac, PhD.

  23. Dear Sibi,
    Congrats for your progress on the Road Less Travelled. God bless you for your concern for the poor little kids who could never grow up or live as normal people. Hope you understand why I told you that you already are a World Class Citizen. You see what others want to ignore. You speak about what others want to hush up. Continue your journey and give all glory to the Lord. Sindhu

  24. Nice review Sibi. Loved the way you have used your own real life experiences to connect with the book. Keep rocking !!

  25. Wow Sibi.... this post brought tears to my eyes. I have never seen such beautiful and sensitive insight on this topic from a man. I am so glad you were able to serve as such a trusted friend, an angel of sorts to your friend G on her healing journey.

    I was also sexually abused as a young child, and on some level have sought out punishing experiences for myself throughout life. But I am finally coming to terms with what happened, trying to heal the little girl inside and create a different kind of life for myself as an adult. Sadly, this happens all too often- and not just to girls but to boys as well, though it is woefully under reported.

    Anyway, Sibi, may God bless you for being such a wonderful soul and thank you for writing your beautiful and touching prose.


    I remembered this verse: "..unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

    thanks so much for sharing :D G and Sibi you are awesome :D

  27. Thank you for making aware of the book and the d=for the difference that you are making on this Planet. God Bless all of US.with LOVE


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