The Culture Club: Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist

Every time we visit a country, we indulge in the books, cinema, and music that are from, or inspired by, the land. With Morocco, we chose Paulo Coelho, author of beloved book ‘The Alchemist’ – a tome which is mysterious and sweet in equal measure; much like Morocco. It was with its grand, sweeping, vision of freedom that we brought with us on our journey to North Africa.

“One is loved because one is loved”

When the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho wrote this line in his 1988 novel The Alchemist, he insisted that such slices of simple, but deep, wisdom (of which his book is decorated with) were ‘already written in his soul’. It’s typical of Mr Coelho, who spent much of his life exploring his place on earth (and Shamanic teachings) to discover what it means to be ‘loved’. In his earlier years, born in a house of strict Jesuits, he struggled to fit in and earn the affection of his family, who considered him a little unusual when he admitted his dream of becoming an author.

Paulo made a name for himself as a songwriter, and while composing for musician – and mystic – Raul Seixas, he began researching higher, more spiritual levels of thinking. After roaming the world as a self-confessed ‘hippy’, he one day sat down and wrote The Alchemist over a two week period – drawing on his experiences and wisdom over a lifetime of coming to terms with his dreams.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the earth in search of a treasure as no one has ever found. From his beginnings in Spain, he crosses the sea to Tangiers in Morocco, and finally to Egypt, where he has a fateful encounter with the Alchemist of the book’s title. As Santiago wanders the land and discovers treasures, we are taught about the importance of our earth, the omens in life’s path, and following our dreams.

The lessons found within The Alchemist influenced our own journey of self-discovery on the Morocco trip. What were we searching for? And how do we draw on alchemic, and shamanic, wisdoms within the book to find it?

The following teachings hovered over us as we wandered from mountain to coast to medina: the first is to Live in the Present. This is an incredibly difficult but necessary aspect to apply to our lives. Forget the past, and disregard the anxieties of the future, it is the present – the here and now – that matters most. This will not only transform our lives, but those around us.

Secondly, we need to re-define treasure (as Santiago discovers on his journey). Being less materialistic and realising that money and wealth are not the true ‘treasures’ of our lives will refocus our goals and make us happier. This also means accepting negative situations we may encounter, and transforming them into valuable, and insightful, lessons.

This goes well with another one of Coelho’s lessons: to follow your heart. Santiago listens to the throbbing call to journey and, consequently, discovers a wealth of experience and purpose. Blocking your mind and heart will prevent the universe’s grandest plans from unfolding in your life. We need to follow our dreams, not ignore them.

It is not just our hearts, but the universe that has our interests in mind – beckoning us with signals to fulfil our journey. Seek the Universe. Look for it in every detail. Sometimes these signs will manifest in large or small ways, and when you embrace them, like the Alchemist and Santiago, they become a chart that leads us to our dreams. As Paulo Coelho wrote: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”

Finally, remember that we all have a purpose. Coelho’s was to become a writer. He knew that from a young age. With determination – and an ear to the universe – he has become incredibly accomplished in his goals. Finding and fulfilling our true purpose may take months or years, but it must be achieved before we leave this world. In fact, it is the essence of our souls to move to purpose. As Coelho himself wrote so wisely, ‘it is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life so interesting’.

The Alchemist is entirely allegorical. It is a physical journey, and a spiritual one. The universe called us to Morocco, and we responded. What we discovered there were treasures that would guide us throughout our lives.