La Coruna, Spain, 2005

 

A few days in La Coruña/A Coruña, Spain


NOTE: The second or third time you enter this page, maybe you will want to use these links and go directly to the photo pages, but I recommend you read on the first few times you enter this page because there are some really good links below, to some interesting sites, and several interesting books are also discussed!

 A walk around La Coruña

 An evening ride to see lighthouses, a beach and a castle at Santa Cruz, Spain.

 An A Coruña harbor cruise

 A very old lighthouse on a Roman foundation

 La Coruña from a hilltop

 A visit to mile zero on the Camino: Cabo Finisterre, end of known world

 The beach at Finisterre

To prepare and plan for the personal portion of this trip to Spain I read four books. All of three, part of one, to be exact.

 

Turns out I was to have no real personal time on this trip.  Employer decided I was to go to meetings and come right back: no free days before or after the meetings to wander the countryside as I typically get to do.  As fate would have it, had I not come back until the date I planned to, I would not have been home for my mother's last four days on earth.  So, what I thought was a bad thing turned out to be a good thing.  I spent two of her last four days with her, doing things she liked to do and wanted to do.  I wrote a short biography of her and posted it here: (click to go to Adriana's biography).


But when I first planned this trip it was not like that, and I did some homework.  Besides reading books I also scoured the Internet.

Here is what I discovered in my Internet searches.


1.    I discovered that there exist several excellent descriptive and pictorial websites on the pilgrims’ routes to Santiago de Compostela. So my plan for my few free days (free days that disappeared at the last minute) did not include documenting part of the "Camino" . There were two descriptive sites I liked and looked at a long time (a) http://www.santiago-compostela.net/ (several language choices) (b) http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/index.html (language choices and a plethora of interesting supporting information in which to get immersed, side- tracked, or lost, depending on your mood).

2.    One of the things that made me want to explore the wider region around my work destination at La Coruña (or A Coruña) was the nearness of the Picos de Europa, the peaks of Europe. If you “Google” on Picos de Europa, Google has collected over 9,000 images from hundreds of websites at this one website (if you like a certain photo you can click to enlarge it, or go to the site referred to as its source): http://images.google.com/images?q=Picos+de+Europa&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=ii&oi=imagest

 

3.    I also wanted to see pre-Medieval sites of Celtic fortified cities and Medieval sites of castles belonging to the demolished Order of the Knights Templar who guarded the routes to Compostela. The best one still standing is very well described on its host city’s own web site at: http://www.ponferrada.org/ (You will have to click on the line to the right of “Images” and then on the castle picture to have the series pop up in its own window. There are other sites with Spanish and other Templar castle pictures.)

 

But I did not see any of these things.  Still, the trip was very worthwhile, in terms of business as well as in terms of side trips, most arranged by our spelendid Spanish hosts, as you can see by the picture pages linked to this page (go to the picture pages now, unless you want to read my impressions of the books I read).

 

 A walk around La Coruña

 An evening ride to see lighthouses, a beach and a castle at Santa Cruz, Spain.

 An A Coruña harbor cruise

 A very old lighthouse on a Roman foundation

 La Coruña from a hilltop

 A visit to mile zero on the Camino: Cabo Finisterre, end of known world

 The beach at Finisterre

 

So, look at the photo pages if you wish, using the links above, or stay here and read first a short description my impressions of the four books I read, then if you want to, read more elaborate book 'discussions' using the links under the title of three of the books, numbers 2, 3 and 4 below (meaning NOT book 1 or 5).


Book 1: “Sacred Sites of the Knights Templar” by John K. Young


 

To get a quick orientation on the history and mythology surrounding Santiago de Compostela, I consulted pages 141-154 in a book by John K. Young called “Sacred Sites of the Knights Templar, Ancient Astronomers & Freemasons at Stonehenge, Rennes-le-Chateau, & Santiago de Compostela,”(Fair Winds Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2003).


There is a lot of information in this bakers’ dozen pages, like the fact that the castle at Rennes-le-Chateau in France is on exactly the same latitude as the tomb and cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. Both edifices have an extensive set of myths surrounding them. Santiago is simply Spanish for Saint James. De Compostela appears to mean field of the star, a reference to the local hermit who saw a star shine on a field and upon investigation the tomb of Saint James was found there, complete with an inscription attesting to this fact. This was about 300 years after this knowledge had become lost because of multiple invasions and their ensuing social chaos. First came the Visigoths, then came the Moors.


As soon as a church was built over the place, the pilgrims began to come and have been doing so well over a thousand years.


Young’s analysis of the astrological significance of structures at holy sites finds little encouragement at the cathedral, but what he has to say about some other nearby edifices is quite astonishing. One church not far away and on the pilgrimage route was/is visited on purpose by pilgrims every March equinox so that they could see, exactly at 5 PM, a shaft of light enter the church and illuminate a representation of the Annunciation. Building this into a stone edifice a thousand years ago is impressive. But it is not the sort of thing I care much about except as a means of gaining respect for both the architecture and building crafts of long ago, and for that society’s surprising awareness of the motions of the celestial orbs around us.


Young suggests that although most believe that Saint James the brother of John, the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2), is buried here, there are other ideas. But that I also do not care about. I’ll go with the majority view.


For over a thousand years Compostela has been the third most important pilgrimage destination in Catholicism [and first in importance for New Age devotees, I found out]. First in importance was and is Jerusalem, for reasons obvious to any Christian. Second in importance was and is Rome to visit the tomb of Saint Peter. Third was and is Compostela to visit the tomb of Saint James.

 

 


Book 2:  Shirley MacLaine, 2000, "The Camino, Journey of the Spirit," Pocket Books, New York

 

I did not write a mini review of MacLaine's book to post here, so to see the more elaborate review or discussion please go directly to the page that the title, above, is linked to.   I do have something to say about MacLaine below, however.  

 

Why did I make that snide remark about the importance of this destination to the New Age? Because of the four books I read, of course: I will give a very quick review of each of the other three books on connected pages.


It was my choice to read these particular “New Age” flavored books. There are other books on the menu that do not have this New Age flavor, one by Nancy Grey and one by Bill Hitt, and an early one by Elyn Aviva that was based on her dissertation on the modern pilgrimage phenomenon these other books also address. I would especially recommend the one by Nancy Grey (“Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago,” University of California Press, 1998) for someone that is about to go to Compostela no matter how they plan to arrive there because of the non-judgmental way she describes the many ways one can do pilgrimage: not all people are able to walk all day, let alone 40 to 50 days, and the vast majority come by car and bus and still feel they are pilgrims. And if in their hearts they are pilgrims, then that is what they are.


I have nothing against the New Age per sé, of course. My writings would and could and should be binned there by those who need to bin, like me (and by so doing may miss the point). None of the authors I review for this trip would consider themselves to be writing New Age books, but they are, just as I am. I just have a problem with those trying to make a living off human credulity and installing themselves as masters of occult knowledge to which they can lead you for a price. It is just religion all over again. (I am imitating a tirade in one of the books, the one by MacLaine, in which she fumes about science as the new religion closing and controlling minds.)


Am I including in this broad brush as New Age hucksters the authors of the three “road to Compostela” books I read? No. One, Shirley MacLaine, realized that by doing seminars and such she started to become a leader in the New Age movement and stopped herself. She began to realize she was being used as a spiritual guru and crutch. Rather than followers being empowered by her example, the people she was attracting were looking for a leader who would take away their own responsibility for self discovery and lead them, essentially do it all for them. Good for you, lady.

 


Book 3: "The Diary of a Magus," Paulo Coelho (translated from the Portuguese by Alan R. Clarke), Harper Odysseys, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999 reprint of 1992 edition

 

The second author I consulted about his road trip to Compostela was Paulo Coelho. I just love some of his books, so what can I say? I have helped enrich the man by buying them. But publishing is not a bad thing at all. What better way to reach others with the message of the magical and spiritual milieu within which we all live, whether we choose to recognize it or not? And none of the three authors is saying that they have the only way, the only truth, and the only patent on both.


Some religions, and some New Agers, make these claims and get devotees who pay handsomely for their promise of enlightenment or salvation or whatever it is they seek. Obtaining power over others, obtaining riches, and other promises of this nature are also put out there as bait – it is all part of what masquerades as both religion and New Age spirituality. (I don’t recall science being used in this fashion, by the way.)


Let the buyer beware. As a seeker, you need to know your true inner needs and beware of those who would obtain power over you while making promises of power or wealth coming to you through their secret/sacred teachings.


In this context, one thing I really liked about the second “road” book I read (Coelho’s “The Diary of a Magus”) is that in it Paulo Coelho points out many times that the secret/sacred inner knowledge he has just obtained through some exercise or strenuous feat on the road to Compostela has been taught to others simply by their life experience. They may not be able to name or describe the spiritual gift or deep inner insight they have gained, but the evidence of its presence is on their faces, in their demeanor, and in the way they interact with others.

 

 

Book 4:  “The Journey –A Novel of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Quest” by Elyn Aviva (Pilgrims Process, Inc., Longmont, Colorado, 2004)


The third ‘road’ book, “The Journey, A Novel of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Quest,” by Ellyn Aviva, is also a delightful tome classifiable as New Age. And its author and her husband teach techniques for accelerating spiritual enlightenment. But Aviva says several times in her introductions to the book that it is fiction, it is not the author’s travelogue. It is written by a scholar who did her PhD thesis on the modern pilgrimages along the road to Compostela, and has herself completed the trek three times on foot. She is also a minister. She also teaches some of the spiritual quest techniques she illustrates in the book, and lectures on Sufism. Seems like an OK person to me.


She has written a book describing her experiences along the road (with some esoteric information and insights thrown in, it is called: “Following the Milky Way: a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago,” Second Edition, Pilgrim’s Process, 2001). But in this book she gives us fiction that bends and turns so it can also fold in the whole mythic and historical tapestry that hangs over the area like a shroud of mystery. It is a delightful read, in my opinion, and in it, to recall the theme of New Age gurus that are up to no good, she has in one little subplot an example of a fictitious person seeking to exploit a young woman.


The young woman has a spiritual gift as well as connections he seeks to exploit, and she in turn is infected with the common wish for someone to provide all the answers to life’s questions for her and tell her what her gift means and what she can do with it. This man had an evil intent, the woman was being a fool. Bad stuff happens, he leaves the story, she learns from her mistake and moves on. Good morality tale and caution for Ms. Aviva’s readers!


Aviva invokes arcane details of the mystical revelatory experience reported by many such as the wondrous scent of the air as one is in the presence of the Divine. I enjoyed all those details, because they reminded me of things I had not read for four decades. I was in my 20's when I read and was impressed by H.P. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and “Isis Unveiled” books. Masterpieces of the New Age before there was a New Age.


So, reading these three ‘New Age-flavored’ ‘road’ books showed me there was no reason to try and compose a journey of self-discovery as either an autobiographical or a fictional tale. My covering only 4 days on the main 40- to 50-day pilgrim route to Compostela from France would not have qualified me tell a very credible tale anyway.


I have described my own real but not nearly as dramatic spiritual development over the last decade on this website, so I feel no need to compete with these three authors (and the many others out there in other books on the road to Compostela and on the Internet). And that is enough of that.


A 5th book: “Insight Guides’” travel guide for Spain

 

I should not forget to mention my fifth book, a travel guide with a good section on Galicia (see the snippet from the Galicia map in this book, below, for A Coruña's location on the northwest coast, and also Cabo Fisterra's (aka Finisterre's) location to its southwest).

 

My version is the 2002 edition of the

“Insight Guides: Spain,” (Apa Publications, Singapore). I will be taking it with me when I get another chance to explore Galicia.

If you want to read my impressions regarding the three “road” books I read, please use the links above or below. Otherwise, “Go Home” using the link to either my Front Page or my 2005 ‘Yearbook’ page.

 

Go to MacLaine book review

Go to Coelho book review

Go to Aviva book review

Go to Life in 2005page

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