Books for the Soul

Books for the soul are plenty. They all offer quick fix solution to life’s problems and agonies and help people tide over personal disenchantments. Most of them sell optimism and dreams. They are spiritual in nature. They give hope and reason to cling on to the beauties of the life. It would be naïve to rubbish these populist books. They too are a part of the pop culture – packaged to appeal to the masses.

Of the many books on spiritual journey, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has become immensely popular. It has been translated into 67 world languages and won many awards. The Alchemist is an allegoric fable about following one’s dream and calling. And the tale of the journey of simple shepherd boy Santiago through many lands is intriguing indeed. But it is the journey through mountains, desert and oasis to the Pyramids in Egypt which is more interesting than the actual tale of pursuit of dream.

But somewhere this tale too gives a false sense of hope through its concept of universal conspiracy. The idea of Universal conspiracy is that when the desire is true everything works in one’s favor and helps achieves one’s dream. Yes dreams are important but one must brace for success as well as failure. These books unfortunately are the fables of success. They seem to look more at half-glass full life. The real answers may lie in the empty half part of life.

On the other hand Carlos Castaneda’s books on his encounter with Don Juan’s teaching are more intriguing and mystic. They have the real psychedelic appeal. Carlos Castaneda was an anthropologist student who went in search of psychotropic plants and their role in culture and ended up becoming disciple of Don Juan and Shamanism. He journeyed along with Don Juan and went through painful process of personal awakening and achieving self realization.

Carlos Castaneda’s  The Journey to Ixtlan looks deeper in to the mystic soul. Instead of de mystifying the whole crux of Don Juan’s teaching is to make the self stronger and mystic for the others so that it doesn’t get manipulated and trampled by others. It speaks about distancing oneself from the trappings of the world. The world around us is only as real as humanity describes it.  But once dissociated and stripped of meaning the world may look more like a mystery and one can explore many alternate realities. The true path of knowledge is to look at the empty half and full half glass simultaneously. In the words of Don Juan –   Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge, because the art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

Its fine to be dreamer but the world is hardly a fable. It makes better sense to be a warrior to face challenges and agonies of the dark soul of man and as well as the dark world we all inhabit.


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