Manuscript Found in Accra


In a cave in Egypt in 1945, two brothers discover an urn full of papyruses, most of which wind up at the Coptic Museum in Cairo, and one of which is acquired by the Carl Jung Institute. The papyruses come to be known as the Apocryphal Gospels. The year is 1099, and the Muslims, Jews, and (Coptic) Christians of Jerusalem are about to be overrun by the armies of the European Crusaders. The people of the city will be slaughtered.

On the final day before their death, hundreds of residents gather around the city’s wisest man, the Copt, and question him about their fate, their faith, and the nature of humanity. A scribe records the proceedings. Now, a millennium later, the manuscripts are discovered and with it the wisdom recorded from the Copt.

The book unfolds in series of short interrogatories. A cross-section of citizens - rich and poor, old and young, male and female - asking the Copt about a collection of topics: faith, love, friendship, war and sex.

The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Pain is inevitable: Sometimes pain and destruction is unavoidable. But being anxious and worry will do nothing to stop it. Once you accepted that you have limited control over your fate, you are able savor the present moment.

  2. The reward of our work is not what we get, but what we become.

  3. “I'm not worried about tomorrow, because God is there already, waiting for me.” Paulo Coelho

July 14, 1099. Jerusalem awaits the invasion of the crusaders who have surrounded the city's gates. There, inside the ancient city's walls, men and women of every age and every faith have gathered to hear the wise words of a mysterious man known only as the Copt. He has summoned the townspeople to address their fears with truth: "Tomorrow, harmony will become discord. Joy will be replaced by grief. Peace will give way to war...None of us can know what tomorrow will hold because each day has its good and its bad moments. So, when you ask your questions, forget about the troops outside and the fear inside. Our task is not to leave a record of what happened on this date for those who will inherit the Earth; history will take care of that. Therefore, we will speak about our daily lives, about the difficulties we have had to face." The people begin with questions about defeat, struggle, and the nature of their enemies; they contemplate the will to change and the virtues of loyalty and solitude; and they ultimately turn to questions of beauty, love, wisdom, sex, elegance, and what the future holds. "What is success?" poses the Copt. "It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace." Now, these many centuries later, the wise man's answers are a record of the human values that have endured throughout time. And, in Paulo Coelho's hands, The Manuscript Found in Accra reveals that who we are, what we fear, and what we hope for the future come from the knowledge and belief that can be found within us, and not from the adversity that surrounds us.

On the eve of Jerusalem's conquest by the Crusaders in 1099AD, the 'Copt' provides answers to preserve the memory of the city's harmonious soul. The book is written in a ‘question and answer’ style where the townspeople ask topical questions to the wise copt and he answers with words of wisdom.

Below are the topics discussed;

Defeat

Nothing lasts forever, and no battle ends the tale. Experience enhances our strength and eventually turns defeat today into victory tomorrow.

The Defeated

The defeated are those who didn't flee their battles. If we never engage in battle we can never win.

Solitude

Solitude gives us space to know ourselves and the incredible depth of our souls. We can then learn to love ourselves, to take responsibility for our lives instead of holding others responsible, and to lose our fear of being alone.

Purpose

We are all worthy souls, exactly as we are. By being ourselves, rather than blending into others, we fulfill our purpose.

Change

Everything changes, and we dream of alternative realities. Yet we fear change, and often avoid it until it becomes forced upon us. However change keeps life interesting, while being static is a slow death. We fear new paths at first, but once upon them we develop a momentum which takes us farther than we expect.

Beauty

The eyes mirror the soul, and also the soul of the person looking into them. Our beauty shines brightest when we display our many special colours, but is dimmed when restrained for the sake of conformity or the expectations of our observers.

Direction

Some live life aimlessly, and some become servants to another's cause. But the happiest pursue their own path, led by their heart's natural bliss and enthusiasm. They go at their own pace, enjoying the journey, and rely on their hearts to show them the right way.

Love

Love can heal, and love can wound. We cannot control love, or know what we will receive in return, or for how long. It is different every time, and we fear its unpredictable nature. But if we avoid love because of fear, we become dead to life. Our great goal in life is to love, and for as long as we stay open to it, love will find us.

Powerlessness

We often perceive things to be static and black-and-white, when they are actually multicoloured and changing. Some we have taken for granted may be precious in ways we haven't seen yet, while others we have previously rejected may be worth a second look. We can't change the past or make everything be the way we want it, but we can decide that starting today we will view it all differently, opening our eyes wide in fresh wonder, in order to enjoy life to the fullest, in appreciation of the present moment and its abundant and forever-flowing opportunities.

Sex

Sex can be much more than mere physical pleasure. When we allow it to flow boundless and free, it engages every part of us to find where tenderness and wild passion are combined, courage and shyness coalesce, pleasure meets pain, tension and relaxation commingle, body merges with soul, and two individuals become as one. Giving and receiving then become equally generous, and ecstasy transcends all limits.

Friendship

Our community sustains us, but we must resist the urge to conform. True friends are strong enough to be themselves and accept us as ourselves even though we are different. They are companions in both good and bad times, who love and accept us unconditionally. They aren't afraid to do things their own way, and happily venture into the unknown. As they know that stumbling is a natural part of humanity, and not a sign of weakness, they don't lecture us when we do so ourselves. Nor do they try to control us, being content for our light to shine just as brightly as their own.

Elegance

Elegance is the effortless simplicity gained from casting off superfluous encumbrances. Whereas arrogance requires complex trappings, elegance is pure soul.

Work

Our work is how we demonstrate our love for one another. We each have our own appointed task, and if we choose to love that which has been entrusted to us, it will become a labour of love, bringing joy and love into every day of our working lives.

Luck

Luck comes from patient persistence. Keep trying and you will succeed in the end. The best way to do this is to be happy with merely trying your best. Constantly measuring your success and comparing it to others will take your mind off your task, and may even cause you to give up trying. So focus instead on enjoying the challenge, and checking that you stay true to your values along the way. Success in your endeavours will then come in its own time, and people will call you lucky. But true success in life is simply being able to go to bed each night with one's soul at peace.

Miracles

We think that miracles defy the laws of nature, and yet we cannot fully understand the laws of nature. Everything that lives or acts in this world is a miracle, and every development or slightest difference in the world a miraculous manifestation. May we appreciate all of our daily miracles and keep our eyes and ears ever open to love.

Anxiety

It is natural to worry about things we care about, but if such anxieties become obsessions, our life’s dreams can be transformed into fearful nightmares. Hours previously infused with joy and passion become an endless torment, as we await the realisation of our worst fears. So if we allow anxiety to control us, it can consume us entirely. But the great wisdom of life is to realise that we can be the masters of those things which try to enslave us.

The Future

We are part of the Earth, and in the end, we shall return to it. Until that day, we will reap the love that we sow into this world. Our future will realise our dreams, if we hold true to our path, honouring each step we take and each hurdle we overcome, appreciating everything which sustains us, and taking care not to be derailed along the way by any power, prejudice, fear, guilt, or doubt. The journey is long, but we have everything we need to fulfil our purpose.

Loyalty

We think that a loyal friend will always be there, but life isn’t meant to be static, and each of us treads a different path. Loyalty is allowing our friends to follow their paths away from us, and always welcoming them home again in honour.

Weapons

The wise man does not need weapons because wisdom can transform any man’s strength into a weakness. The most powerful weapon is the word, which the wise man uses not for injury or intimidation, but in the generosity of spirit, to inspire love and loyalty, forgiveness and freedom. Violence is always the last refuge of the incompetent.

Enemies

War is cruel, but sometimes battle needs must. We each have our part to play in the unfolding tale, and should embrace it with honour, and expect our adversaries to do likewise. They stand openly before us, and we may think them our enemy. But our real enemies are ones who lurk among us, beguiling us with lies or betrayal, and manipulating our fears. Let us respect those who challenge us in the light, and revile those who undermine us in the dark. Our rivals test our strength, whereas our enemies test our weakness.

Response of the Jerusalem Religious Leaders: Let these words be spread, for the sake of future generations who may benefit from them, in ways we cannot perceive today.

What I took from it.

Below are some of my favourite quotes from the book;

  • Defeat ends when we launch into another battle. Failure has no end: it is a lifetime choice.

  • No one can go back, but everyone can go forward

  • My smile is my way of saying: "You can destroy my body, but not my soul.

  • Live the life you always wanted to live. Avoid criticizing others and concentrate on fulfilling your dreams.

  • No matter how you are feeling, get up every morning and prepare to let your light shine forth

  • What is success?" poses the Copt. "It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.

Did I enjoy this book? I don’t think so. After reading the Alchemist; which is one of my top 10 books of all time, I was so excited to read more from the author, that I went out a bought a few of his publications, thinking that I would start with Manuscript Found in Accra next. Even though there are some good words of wisdom spoken; I found the style very boring and unimaginative. It’s written in question and answer format with a bit of fiction thrown in there. The book is easy to read, addressing universal questions on how to live the "good life" However, it’s unlikely to widen your horizons if you have had a wide reading experience on the topics covered.

My Rating