I have been reading quite a few [author:Paulo Coelho|566] lately. Recently reviewed The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist. The Valkyries was a recently given to me by a friend who said it helped her through a messy divorce. While I am not going through a divorce, when she mentioned something about leather clad motorcycle lesbians and a desert spiritual ritual, I started right in.
Unfortunately for me the Valkyries fell flat. Third best of the three I have read. Skewered on the pitard of too much angel, ritual, “Tradition” talk and not enough context or engaging story narrative. While at times Coelho wants us to believe the story actually happened (mentioning in the epilogue that a letter from a reader verifying the existence of a shrine in the desert is filed with Brazil’s national library as proof of something), I became completely lost and uninterested in his search for his “Angel” and some kind of “Tradition” which remains unexplained. Half allegory and half biography, The Valkyries fails at both. After reading it I don’t know what the characters were looking for, I don’t know what they found and I don’t care. The story confused me and didn’t engage me.
As with all Coelho books, there are glimpses of insight worth underlining. Unfortunately these are few, far between and deeply hidden in The Valkyries. Here are a few of my favorites:
“In order to live in the present, you have to control your second mind. And look at the horizon.”
“Don’t fight your thoughts. They are stronger than you are. If you want to rid yourself of them, accept them. Think about what they want you to think about until they grow tired.” (standard meditation stuff, but well told)
“Let’s suppose that paradise is here. And every person on earth is here in the plaza. Each of them has their own path for arriving here. That’s why people talk to their angels. Because only angels know the best path. It does no good to seek advice about it from others.”
“I’m saying that everything is a ritual. Just as a mass is a great ritual, composed of various parts, the everyday experience of any person is, also. The name of that ritual is ROUTINE. When the ritual becomes consolidated, the person becomes a slave.”
“You need yet another miracle. And you will always need yet another. You will never be satisfied, and you will never understand that the kingdom of heaven cannot be conquered by force.”
“Each would always be fascinated by the other – so long as each remained exactly what the other imagined.” Imagination is better than reality for most people.
After the confusion, I sat back and tried to figure out what my friend gleaned from the book that helped in her divorce. Going back through my notes in the book, I found these notes around the “ritual” Paulo did in the desert cave with one of the Valkyries.
“There was a pact,” valhalla said, “What was it?”
“I promised I would abandon my dreams.” “I promised that I would never grow again. I thought that I could no longer trust myself.”
I have found it to be true that our lives are in large part governed by sacred promises we made to ourselves long ago that we may not be aware of today. Those promises were made to deal with a condition back then, but may not serve us today. Awareness of those pacts and contemplation of their use going forward in our lives is a critical skill I believe everyone should learn and perform about every 5 years. I recently did just that. While this skill and recognition is valuable, it is so far buried here in the story I missed it the first time. This piece is what my friend learned from. I am afraid most people will miss it.
After being completely underwhelmed by the narrative, the Epilogue turned out to be the best part. Coelho says clearly what his story did a terrible job of doing.
“We can share our experiences – as I have tried to share mine in this book but there is no formula for growth. God has generously made His wisdom and His love available to us, and it is easy, very easy, to find them. We, at this moment in history, must develop our own powers. We must believe that the universe doesn’t end at the wall of our room. We must accept the signs, and follow our hearts and our dreams.”
My recommendation: Skip the book, read the Epilogue and you will understand everything.
Also published on Medium.