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Paulo Coelho y el pionero del rock brasileño Raul Seixas. Photo: Oglobo
Paulo Coelho and Brazilian rock pioneer Raul Seixas Photo: Oglobo

Occultism, torture and rock&roll: The other life of Paulo Coelho

The Brazilian 'pope' of self-help books collaborated with rocker Raul Seixas as they confessed their admiration for magician Aleister Crowley, nicknamed 'The…

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This is not a period that Paulo Coelho, author of best sellers such as The Alchemist or Veronika, likes to remember, because it led him to prison and a torture room. To meet this other Paulo Coelho, you have to go back to the 1970s, when he became the lyricist for Raul Seixas, a pioneer of rock in Brazil. 

Seixas' story had already crossed paths with the legend. He started imitating Elvis Presley, and at the age of twelve, left school to start performing concerts in the Salvador area. With his band, Os Relámpagos, they would perform rock, and would soon change its name to The Panthers and, later, to Raulzito e Os Panteras. In 1967, the record company Oeon proposed he record a work that was not very successful, but allowed him to get in touch with the giant that was CBS. There, he worked as an arranger until he got fed up and secretly recorded his album, Sociedade da Grã-Ordem Kavernista Apresenta Sessão das 10, in the company's studio. 

One day, while reading about UFOs, Seixas came across an article he liked. It was written by a young writer who had just left law to start making his way in literature: Paulo Coelho. Soon they formed an artistic couple that produced a hundred songs that today are authentic hymns in Brazil. 

In 1974, the song "Sociedade alternativa" was published, and was an invitation for each one to do exactly what they wanted to do, because the will of each one was exactly "the law." It was a clear reference to one of the most famous phrases of Aleister Crowley (United Kingdom, 1875-1947), a well-known occultist writer, magician and prophet.

It would be too long to summarize here the implausible trajectory of Aleister Crowley, so only a few lines must do: his own mother considered him 'The Beast,' the BBC, one of the hundred most important British people of the 20th century, and the press, the most depraved man in the world. His legacy includes that he was the guru of The Beatles (who put him on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and that he was Barbara Bush's father. Crowley, who mixed science, magic and myths in his rituals, created a characteristic philosophical world in which the young Coelho and Raul Seixas, already thrown to stardom, took notice. 

The libertarian content of the song, in which Crowley was directly quoted, did not please the authorities of the dictatorship, and Coelho and Seixas were arrested in May 1974. It seems proven that Coelho was tortured and Seixas was not. In fact, the writer came to suspect that his friend had turned him in, but he chose not want to pay attention to those inclinations. The government suspected that Coelho was part of the Brazilian Revolutionary Communist Party (PCBR). From 1976, Seixas and Coelho continued to collaborate. In the future, it was not uncommon for Raul Seixas' album covers to incorporate occult elements.

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