An Encounter with Angels
A facile New Age story in which the author and his wife are initiated into the cult of angels by a band of women bikers in the Mojave Desert. Coelho (The Alchemist, 1993) tells how, at the bidding of his "Master," a wealthy businessman, he and his wife, Chris, go off into the desert for 40 days to look for his guardian angel. They find their enlightenment first from Gene, a young man who lives in a trailer, and finally from eight women, known as the Valkyries, who roam the desert on motorcycles and whose wild leader, Valhalla, becomes the couple's mystagogue. Coelho's basic message is that Paradise is open and angels are present if only we break the pact of our self-betrayal and learn to conquer fear and the distractions of our "second mind." Unfortunately, he fails to go anywhere with this potentially exciting but hardly original vision. What he offers is a kind of doctrinal salad in which belief in angels, channeling, and casual sex are mixed with references to Magic rites, Catholic worship, and reincarnation. Coelho uses his characters to emphasize the dubious position that spiritual knowledge can be gained without any connection to how one lives. At times his wisdom turns out to be the familiar exhortation to follow our dreams, and he asserts, without clarification, that we are all manifestations of the Absolute. Coelho's ignorance and superficiality are most blatant when he tells us that St. Mary of Egypt was canonized for her promiscuity and is remembered by almost no one today, whereas in fact, she was converted during her famous visit to Jerusalem, spent the rest of her life as a penitent, and is solemnly commemorated every year by the Orthodox Church all over the world. More pap for the spiritually challenged.