When the book nourishes the soul

A reflection about Jung and Paulo Coelho's books

 

Once Jung received a very humble woman who wanted to meet him. She said her books were like bread for her. He was surprised to know this woman, so humble, and with so little education, who had not only read, but also understood his books. 

Jung's work is not easy to read or understand, yet his psychology has spread around the world, and its contribution to our culture is invaluable.

Jung speaks of individuation as a major goal of our existence, and for this, we need to know our Shadow, relativize our Persona and developing our personal relationships through the development of the anima and animus. Synchronicity is part of our life, and we are more than human beings with a personal unconsciousness. We share the collective unconscious, which makes humankind unique, without any distinction between color, race or creed.

Jung studied alchemy and the alchemical process, and compared it with the process of individuation. He studied the I Ching, the ancient religions and cultures. People called Jung a genius, lunatic, crazy, visionary, mystic and many other things, but their investigator and scientific spirit have left a trademark.

 

Why are some books like bread? Why do some authors hit sales records, read and create as much controversy to the point that some readers become ashamed to say that they appreciate and read their books?

Paulo Coelho is one of them. The numbers are overwhelming. The criticisms fall into the most rave reviews, even the most aggressive and disrespectful. However, the undeniable fact is that his books are like bread; feeding the soul of those who read them. His books describe the journey of the individuation process, just as Jung described that individuation is a possibility to anyone, since anyone can individuate and be special in their own manner. According to Jung, each individual must individuate on his own way, with no need to be perfect, but with the need to accept his own imperfections, the shadow. Paulo Coelho, in his books, describes among his characters, ordinary people with imperfections, dreams, and their illness.  Some even seemingly futile, but each one of them finding their individuation path amid all odds. Yes, because individuation happens despite adversity.

 

Paulo Coelho read Jung, and his books describe the journey of the hero to individuation. His novels are accessible to all kind of readers. The hero's journey is always present, the hero always unlikely, ordinary, rejected, marginalized, seemingly fragile and clumsy. The type of hero does not matter, what matters is his characters not overcome by hubris, but they are in contact with their Self, thus being able to find the path of redemption.

 

Jung describes that we all have something special, our individuality, and our ability to be unique. Jung appreciates the recognition of the shadow as well as the awareness and relativization of our persona. Paulo Coelho does the same with his characters; the journey begins when they are able to recognize their own weaknesses, as well as the talents hidden by a suffocating social adaptation. Both the analytical process and the heroism of our every day life, simple, but especially daring, have the confrontation with our inner truth in common, an attentive listening of the Self's voice.

 It requires a lot of courage to do so, and both Jung and Coelho value the courage of ordinary people to find meaning and significance in their lives, as insignificant as they may seem to the world.

Jung introduces us with the gaze of recognition of our importance in the world. The fact that we exist, we are unique in the world, with the ability of the individuation, implies acceptance of the other as they are, with an understanding of the human condition that transcends religious barriers, belief, race and culture.

The colective unconscious equates the human race and each individual as part of a larger whole, that in itself gives meaning to human existence that differs from the struggle and conflict.

Fellowship of meaning is inherent in the concept of the collective unconscious.

Solange Bertolotto Schneider

 

(All rights reserved)

Quote: C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters (pages 219-224)

Edition Credits: Lewis Lafontaine, C.G. Jung Depth Psychology (facebook page)

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