Brazilian Paulo Coelho is one of the world’s most successful authors. His books sell in the tens of millions and unlike most New Age writers, he writes well. The Alchemist, one of his best-known novels, is a charming fable about an Andalusian shepherd boy who wants to find his destiny. A stranger tells him that he must travel to the Pyramids to find the treasure of his dreams. Off he goes, first to Tangiers, then to an oasis in the Sahara in the midst of a tribal war. There he meets the love of his life, but leaves her to look for his destiny. After much hardship, he finds them all: his treasure, his love, his destiny.
The Alchemist is simple, short, beguiling, but beneath its fairy-tale charm, it is a parable of New Age selfishness. Its central message is: let nothing stand between you and your destiny. Unhappiness comes when you are afraid to pursue your dreams, at any cost. “Love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny,” the mysterious alchemist tells the boy.
There is something heartless at the core of the book’s message, a cold disdain for those who ignore the whisperings of destiny.
An interviewer drew Coelho out on this issue a few years ago: “did it ever occur to you that if everybody started paying attention to these things, to this other world, that homes would break apart, and families would break up, and people would lose their jobs by the tens of thousands…?”
“Uh, yes,” the author replied in his slightly fractured English. “They will lose their jobs, they will start having problems, but it is the only choice because in any case you have to pay a price for your dreams.”
No wonder The Alchemist used to carry an endorsement by Spencer Johnson, MD, co-author of The One Minute Manager, as “an entrepreneurial tale of universal wisdom we can apply to the business of our own lives.”
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.