So I had been hearing of this book for some time but I never really felt the urgency to read it. It was only when I saw a picture of the cover on a travel page I follow on instagram, that I took keen interest in it. The caption talked about how life is like a book and those who do not travel are only on page one. Because I am so passionate about travel, the caption spoke to me and I decided to fetch the book.
If you don’t know much about alchemy (like me before I read the book), you’ll probably rush to assume that it is about metal fabrication, or mining, or smelting or some some industrial activity like that. True, alchemy involves the use of metals, but like most processes in life, it has a deeper spiritual core that explains it’s existence. I won’t go on to explain what alchemy is. The book does a pretty good job at that. But I will say, nothing is what it seems. There is always a more profound explanation behind the face. And so it is with alchemy, as well as with this book.
And just in case you think the book is about alchemy, you are slightly off track. It is rather, about that deeper and more profound meaning behind the face of life.
The story is centered around a young Andalusian Shepherd- Santiago.
Santiago is an adventurous boy who, with his sheep has walked the entire Andalusian plains of Spain. On one night, he and his sheep make rest in an old abandoned church under a sycamore tree that grows where the sacristy once stood.
That night, Santiago has the same dream he had a week ago. This bothers him, so he decides to consult an old gypsy woman for the interpretation of his dream. In the dream, a child urges him to seek his treasure at the foot of the Egyptian pyramids. To his surprise, the old woman tells him to seek the treasure. As payment for his consultation, the boy must give the woman a tenth of the treasure.
Soon after, the boy meets a strange old man who claims to be king of Salem. The boy makes no mention of his dreams to the old man, but the old man tells the boy to seek his treasure.
After the strange encounter, the boy decides to sell all his sheep and embarks on his journey to Africa.
Santiago arrives in the town of Tangier where he is soon robbed of all his money. Filled with despair, he seeks employment at a crystal shop. Santiago learns a lot about life from the crystal merchant and brings success to the business. As destiny would have it, Santiago recovers all his money and much more within a year. He makes enough to travel back to Spain and buy more sheep than he previously had.
But rather than returning to Spain, Santiago decides to continue on his pursuit for treasure. He joins a caravan which is headed towards Egypt.
He meets an Englishman who is travelling to Al-Fayoum in pursuit of a 200 year-old powerful alchemist who he hopes will teach him the secrets of alchemy. Santiago learns a lot from the Englishman and the two share their experiences and knowledge. The boy comes to learn that the practices involved in alchemy are much similar to the rules of life that have governed his life thus far.
The journey to Egypt is disrupted by violent tribal wars taking place in the desert. Therefore the caravan has to make an extended stay in the oasis of Al-Fayoum. It is here that the boy meets the love of his life and also has a spiritual encounter which saves the entire oasis from attack. The boy also meets the powerful and much feared alchemist. Together, they journey into the desert towards the pyramids. The boy acquires a lot of knowledge on life and alchemy. Also, his faith grows stronger.
His faith is then put to the test when he and the alchemist run into life-threatening desert trouble with one of the tribes at war. His faith delivers them from danger and they soon arrive at a monastery. Here, Santiago witnesses the alchemist perform the greatest and most difficult practice of alchemy.
Santiago proceeds to the pyramids and eventually arrives. He begins digging for his treasure but is met with an unfortunate twist of events. It is through this misfortune that he discovers where his treasures actually lies.
He returns to Spain to claim his treasure and now plans his return to the oasis where he will be reunited with the love of his life.
Concepts and Lessons
The book takes you on a magical yet very human journey from the Andalusian plains of Spain to the sandy deserts of North Africa. As you travel with Santiago, you experience the real fears of embarking on an uncertain journey. Paulo Coehlo defines the journey in a very simple fashion, of course not neglecting the necessary drama you’d expect on such an adventure. But it is the spiritual nourishment of the book that is really captivating. It talks about the ‘language of the world’, and how everything in the world, beast, man, sand, water and all, all speak this common language. It also talks of the ‘soul of the world’ to which we all belong to. The book tells that we all have a destiny which was written by the hand of the Creator.
Most of us do not pursue this destiny because of fear. We allow fear to reign over us and then we forget what we were created for.
We go through life doing the same thing over and over again, and each day seems no different from the rest because we do not look for the beauty in life. Those who are happy have God within them. Happiness can be found anywhere, even in a grain of sand because a grain of sand is a moment of creation.
The book also talks about being present. Not thinking of the past or looking to the future. Rather, enjoying the present moment and acknowledging all it has to offer.
The story is basically the same where ever Santiago goes. Whether with Christians or Muslims, all acknowledged that there is one language of the world and that we all have a destiny to fulfill and this destiny is determined by the creator.
I could go on and on about how this book spiritually touched me. But to to sum it up, I’d say I learned that to find true happiness, one must first have God in him/her.
Have faith in God.
Be open to learn from anything and anyone. Even stones have souls because God created stones, and everything that is created by God has life.
You have the power to do anything. How? Because God lives in you and through God, we can accomplish anything.
Have the courage to pursue your destiny. If God set you on that path, He’ll be sure to see you through.
And remember, it is not so much the destination as it is the journey. While on your quest to find your treasure, don’t forget what you learned and saw on the road. Maybe God wants to show you what’s along the path, more than what’s at the end.
I hope many more will read this book and be inspired like I was. 💜