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Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

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The Magical Life and Creative Works of Paulo Coelho: A Psychobiographical Investigation

Claude-Hélène Mayer, David Maree

Abstract


Based on a psychobiographical approach, this study addresses magical thinking across the life span of Paulo Coelho. Paulo Coelho, who was born in Brazil in the 1940s, has become one of the most sold and famous contemporary authors in the world. In his life, as well as in his books, which are mainly autobiographical accounts, magic and magical thinking, spirituality, meaningfulness, and the living of one’s dream, are key themes. The aim of this study was to explore magic and magical thinking in Paulo Coelho’s life and creative works. The study uses a psychobiographical single case study approach within the methodological frame of Husserl’s phenomenology. The author, Paulo Coelho, was chosen as the subject of research. Documents providing both first person and third person perspectives were subjected to content analysis. The findings show that magical thinking played an important role in Coelho’s creative works and in his life, in the form, for example, of ascriptions of magic to key situations in his life, the performance of daily rituals, mystic interpretations of life events, and his deep religious faith. Magical thinking is usually regarded as indicative of pathological and inappropriate cognitive and psychological behaviour, especially when found in adults in a westernised culture. However, the analysis of Coelho’s life and works shows that magical thinking can be utilised creatively and be integrated into one’s life to enable personal development and growth while simultaneously providing fertile ground for creative production. In Paulo Coelho’s case, the intertwining of religion and magical thinking provided deep meaning that guided his personal development.




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