The first impression that I had, after reading the book was that each and every human being is an alchemist in his/her own right, but only if they try.
The dictionary meaning of an alchemist is a person who can convert baser metals to gold. Furthermore, literally too we perceive from the word al-chemy, as being the procedural predecessor of chemistry.
Coelho has used this philosophy of converting one thing into a completely different entity, in a magical way. He has analogized the attainment of “gold” with fulfillment i.e., attainment of destiny, but with a twist. Twist because, we believe that whatever happens to us is attributed to our destiny. But Coelho, through this story of a young boy, has tried to drill the faith that destiny is something that we make happen. By trying to follow our dreams. In the process, if our efforts are good enough then the final product that results can be safely termed as our destiny. He has succeeded in instilling that faith in me and I am sure same is the case with all those who have read the book and those to follow are bound to be filled with such a notion, I have high hopes for that.
The events in the book are a manifestation of the title.
Now you may ask as to how and why.
It is known that an alchemist changes the nature of a metal viz. Lead to Gold. In other words, the destiny of the metal which seemed to be in being Lead, isn’t the truth. It was worked upon and transformed finally into Gold. Then what was the destiny of the said metal? Not, what was apparent. Similarly, human beings can change their destiny by sheer hard work and by following their aspirations and dreams, with a pure heart. During this journey of pursuing our dream we shouldn’t for once, neglect or overlook the things that life tries to teach us. It is through this process that life enlightens us with respect to many things. Because once we have attained our destiny or we think that we have, we lose the interest of learning other things. It is the urge of reaching the goal ultimate, which provides us with the driving force to assimilate and inculcate the good things that is sprinkled in our path. Making it imperative that we undertake this foray of search. Only then we can learn and achieve. As stagnation is death.
But mere jumping onto this track will be of no use unless we are pure of heart and keep our mind’s eyes open. This will help us in detecting the clues or better termed as, omens. Omens, which followed will truly turn our efforts into ‘gold of destiny’. Now here lies a cliché, and that is omens are difficult to spot. For that one needs to be highly attentive and resolute in purpose, as the omens come and go in a flash and in that split of a second one has to be capable enough to feel it.
Felt it has to be, because it is expressed in the Language of the Universe and to understand it one has to be close to the Soul of the World.
One might question as to the meaning of these terms? To this I will try to answer one at a time.
Language of the Universe is a universal language and applicable to people of all nationality. It is understanding the happenings around us without being told. Achieved just by sheer intuitive realization. That is communication without conversation!
2. Soul of the World is the Creator’s soul. It is He who is responsible for everything. He has entwined the destinies of all things in the world. Thus, if a person is at a specific place then it is the combined destinies of the person and the place that has brought the person at that place. So if we surrender ourselves to this soul we will merge with it and then can, with its help try and change the destinies of the changeable things. Meaning thereby, we have to judge the things that will be susceptible to this change. Here, will help the omens, if honoured. Because omens, if overlooked repeatedly will stop projecting itself to the concerned person. It will ditch him/her and the chances of being an alchemist will perish without that person having even an inkling of it.
It is by this very utilization of qualities, that Santiago, the main character of the book, over a period of time changes his destiny from being first, a student of priesthood to shepherd and finally a master of a treasure. And as he never gave up and stayed a good student of “life”, it was as if the whole world conspired in helping him. Actually the treasure lay where he had started but the omens led him away from it, to test him. It was like taking the longest route to the shortest destination. He absorbed everything on this detour without complaining and attained his destiny. He could even turn himself into a wind just by this soul merger. The gain of this detour was his understanding of the language of the universe and the soul of world, becoming an alchemist in the process.
I feel this book should be in the syllabus of Philosophy, being so strong on it and implicitly believable.