Old to the World, New to Scholarship: The Predestined Pilgrim and His Brother Reprobate

Christopher Lund discusses his English translation of The Story of the Predestined Pilgrim and His Brother Reprobate, written by Jesuit Father Alexandre de Gusmão.

PROVO, Utah (Apr. 18, 2017)—The Story of the Predestined Pilgrim and His Brother Reprobate was published in 1682 by the Jesuit Father Alexandre de Gusmão, and Christopher Lund’s work is the first English translation. “I had never heard of Gusmão in any course when I was studying Portuguese literature,” Lund, an emeritus professor of Portuguese, said. “I actually stumbled upon his work looking through a rare book store in Portugal in the late 80s. I was so excited. I thought it must be one of the first novels in Portuguese literature.” Gusmão’s work is an extended allegory, explaining Christian virtues.

As a Jesuit, Gusmão focused on teaching Catholic doctrine to the Portuguese settlers during the 17th century of what is now known as Brazil. The Jesuits were created partially to counter the Reformation by bringing new souls into the Catholic Church from all over the world, not just Europe. Gusmão himself built a boarding school to teach young colonists. Describing the  boarding school, Lund said, “It would have been a very Jesuit education…Predestined was a handbook for the instruction of young Catholics.”

“I started scouting early literary histories, and there is always a mention of Gusmão and the Predestined Pilgrim in the same context as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, written just four years earlier, but by a Protestant in England,” explained Lund. Though there is no documentation that Gusmão ever read Bunyan’s work, the Portuguese allegory also centers around the life of a pilgrim who struggles to live virtuously and finally enters into heaven, but Gusmão’s work is from the perspective of a Jesuit Catholic.

The allegory tells the story of two brothers, Predestined and Reprobate and their respective families, who go on a journey. Though they start out together, the first brother branches off toward the New Jerusalem and the other toward Babylon. Along the way both encounter various virtues and vices, until Predestined and his family finally reach their end in the Kingdom of God, where they see Christ and receive salvation. His brother, Reprobate, after reaching Babylon, is subjected to eternal torture and damnation.

“Gusmão underscores free agency time and time again. ‘Predestined’ does not mean what we think of in a post-Calvinist society, but is instead the concept that Augustine debated and arrived at in the fourth century,” explained Lund. “Predestination for Catholics is ultimately a mystery, and that even though God is omniscient, it is still through the process of doing, learning, and experiencing that personal revelation is substantiated.”

Jesuit missionaries in various countries would use allegory to teach new Christians of the value of virtue and the horrors of sin. However, Gusmão’s school would not last. The Jesuits were forced out of the New World largely because Christianizing the indigenous people prevented Europeans from enslaving them. Under persuasion of the Spanish and Portuguese kings, the Pope declared the extinction of the Jesuit order in the New World. “All of the Jesuits left and they closed down the missions. I think that was when Gusmão’s work got lost. The last edition was in 1728, and then thirty years later, all the missionaries are gone from Brazil,” Lund said.

Predestined has been off the world stage since the Jesuits left Brazil, but with Lund’s work – and scholars in Portugal also working on incorporating the novel into studies of Portuguese literature – Lund hopes it will become a part of the world literary canon. “I find it an extremely uplifting and incredible text. It’s characters personify the baroque era and the thinking of the Jesuit order,” he explained.

Though baroque writers would often weave Christian allegory into their works, Predestined goes further than most. “It is 100 percent allegory – everyone in there each of the characters represent  a vice or virtue personified. It is a remarkable 17th-century book,” commented Lund.

Respecting the baroque allegorical tradition, Lund and his publishers worked to choose a cover that would capture the allegorical and pious nature of Gusmão’s work. The cover features a young woman breastfeeding an old man, a theme depicted by several southern baroque artists throughout Italy, Spain and Portugal. Painted by Isabella Maria dal Pozzo in the second half of the 17th century, this baroque painting depicts the allegory of Roman Charity, who kept her father alive while he was incarcerated and starving by feeding him the milk of her own breast.

“Baroque is all allegories, visual and literary,” said Lund. Similarly, in Gusmão’s writings, Predestined also encounters Charity and is breastfed by her. “It’s the depiction of Predestined’s highest point in his mortal sojourn until he walks through the pearly gates,” explained Lund.

Lund knew the allegory of Roman Charity and thought of that immediately when he read Gusmão’s description of Predestined’s encounter with Charity. Finding a painting that resounded with him on that theme, however, was more difficult. “I liked dal Pozzo’s depiction because it wasn’t sensual,” Lund concluded. “A lot of the other depictions I saw seemed to sexualize the encounter, but this one seemed pure and nurturing to me.”

Hannah Sandorf Davis (B.A. art history and curatorial studies ’17)

Hannah covers new publications for the Spanish and Portuguese Department of the College of Humanities. She is a senior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.