15 Legendary Themes & 75 Quotes from “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (Book Summary)

Sloww
Sloww
Jul 9 · 16 min read

“An entrepreneurial tale of universal wisdom we can apply to the business of our own lives.” — Spencer Johnson, M.D., author of Who Moved My Cheese

It’s no surprise that The Alchemist resonates universally. It’s the story of each of us, and it’s a highly spiritual book.

Some sources say The Alchemist has sold over 150 million copies and has been translated into 80 languages — setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.

Quick Housekeeping: All quotes are from the author, Paulo Coelho, unless otherwise stated. I’ve added emphasis to some quotes throughout this post in bold.)

Summary Contents:

About the Author

Short Book Summary

Full Book Summary (15 Themes & 75 Quotes)

  1. Same Soul
  2. Soul of the World
  3. Universal Language
  4. It is Written
  5. Master Work
  6. Love
  7. Intuition
  8. Desire
  9. Purpose
  10. Personal Legend
  11. Action
  12. Fear
  13. Tests
  14. Attitude
  15. Presence

About Paulo Coelho:

  • “In 1980, he experienced one of the defining moments of his life: he walked the five hundred–plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. On this ancient highway, used for centuries by pilgrims from France to get to the cathedral said to house the remains of St. James, he achieved a self-awareness and a spiritual awakening that he later described in The Pilgrimage.”
  • “Paulo Coelho once said that following your dream is like learning a foreign language; you will make mistakes but you will get there in the end. In 1988, he published The Alchemist, a novel that explores this theme.”

Paulo Coelho’s Personal Legend:

“Like them, Paulo Coelho has followed a dream in a quest for fulfillment. His own dream, to be a writer, met with frustration throughout much of his early adult life, a time in which he worked at various professions, some of them materially rewarding but spiritually unfulfilling. ‘I always knew,’ he says, ‘that my Personal Legend, to use a term from alchemy, was to write.’ He was thirty-eight when he published his first book.”

Short Book Summary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • “I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time. I was following my Personal Legend, and my treasure was my capacity to write. And I wanted to share this treasure with the world.
  • “When I sat down to write The Alchemist, all I knew is that I wanted to write about my soul. I wanted to write about my quest to find my treasure. I wanted to follow the omens, because I knew even then that the omens are the language of God.”
  • “As I wrote in The Alchemist, when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you.”
  • “Though The Alchemist is now celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, it is no relic of the past. The book is still very much alive. Like my heart and like my soul, it continues to live every day, because my heart and soul are in it. And my heart and soul is your heart and soul. I am Santiago the shepherd boy in search of my treasure, just as you are Santiago the shepherd boy in search of your own. The story of one person is the story of everyone, and one man’s quest is the quest of all of humanity, which is why I believe The Alchemist continues all these years later to resonate with people from different cultures all around the world, touching them emotionally and spiritually, equally, without prejudice.”
  • “When I read about clashes around the world — political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes — I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge.

15 Legendary Themes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Book Summary)

1. SAME SOUL: Everyone and everything is alive and has a soul; the same soul because we were all made by the same hand.
2. SOUL OF THE WORLD: Governs all things; when you want something with all your heart, you are closest to this positive force.
3. UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE: There is a universal language; it can be understood by everybody.
4. IT IS WRITTEN: Our life stories, the history of the world, and the future were written by the same hand.
5. THE MASTER WORK: The Elixir of Life + the Philosopher’s Stone.
6. LOVE: Everyone on Earth is capable of understanding the language of the heart.
7. INTUITION: Immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where everything is connected.
8. DESIRE: Dreams make life interesting; when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
9. PURPOSE: Everyone has a central role and a path to follow.
10. PERSONAL LEGEND: What you have always wanted to accomplish; life is generous to those who pursue it.
11. ACTION: Making a decision is only the beginning; you can only learn through action.
12. FEAR: The fear of failure makes a dream impossible to achieve.
13. TESTS: You will be tested on your journey.
14. ATTITUDE: You have a choice.
15. PRESENCE: Concentrate always on the present moment.

75 Quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Book Summary)

SAME SOUL: Everyone and everything is alive and has a soul; the same soul because we were all made by the same hand.

“Everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive…and it has a soul. We are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us.”

  • “He also said that this was not just a human gift, that everything on the face of the earth had a soul, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal — or even just a simple thought.”
  • “This natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom.”
  • “The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”
  • “All things are the manifestation of one thing only.”
  • “Life attracts life.”
  • “The world is only the visible aspect of God. And that what alchemy does is to bring spiritual perfection into contact with the material plane.”
  • “This is why alchemy exists…So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life.”
  • “That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
  • “I learned the alchemist’s secrets in my travels. I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.

SOUL OF THE WORLD: Governs all things; when you want something with all your heart, you are closest to this positive force.

“That’s the principle that governs all things…In alchemy, it’s called the Soul of the World. When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.”

  • “The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.”
  • “Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.”
  • “It’s true that everything has its Personal Legend, but one day that Personal Legend will be realized. So each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only.”
  • “Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. When I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE: There is a universal language; it can be understood by everybody.

“Everything in life is an omen…There is a universal language, understood by everybody, but already forgotten.”

  • “God placed them along my path. He had surprised himself with the thought. Until then, he had considered the omens to be things of this world. Like eating or sleeping, or like seeking love or finding a job. He had never thought of them in terms of a language used by God to indicate what he should do.”
  • “Dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand.”
  • “People become fascinated with pictures and words, and wind up forgetting the Language of the World.”
  • “If I could, I’d write a huge encyclopedia just about the words luck and coincidence. It’s with those words that the universal language is written.
  • “We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it’s doing to help us. It’s called the principle of favorability. Or beginner’s luck.”
  • “There was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.”
  • “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.”

IT IS WRITTEN: Our life stories, the history of the world, and the future were written by the same hand.

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

  • “Maktub…in your language it would be something like ‘It is written.’
  • “To die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world. Everything depended on one word: ‘Maktub.’”
  • “The future was already written by Allah, and what he had written was always for the good of man.”

THE MASTER WORK: The Elixir of Life + the Philosopher’s Stone.

“It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the Master Work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.

  • “The book that most interested the boy told the stories of the famous alchemists. They were men who had dedicated their entire lives to the purification of metals in their laboratories; they believed that, if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the Soul of the World. This Soul of the World allowed them to understand anything on the face of the earth, because it was the language with which all things communicated. They called that discovery the Master Work — it was part liquid and part solid.”
  • “The boy learned that the liquid part of the Master Work was called the Elixir of Life, and that it cured all illnesses; it also kept the alchemist from growing old. And the solid part was called the Philosopher’s Stone.”
  • “I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their Personal Legends, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life.”
  • “It’s only those who are persistent, and willing to study things deeply, who achieve the Master Work.”

LOVE: Everyone on Earth is capable of understanding the language of the heart.

“He learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke — the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert.”

  • “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
  • “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love … the love that speaks the Language of the World.”
  • “It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.

INTUITION: Immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where everything is connected.

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.”

  • “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.”
  • “Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world.”

DESIRE: Dreams make life interesting; when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

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

  • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
  • “You must always know what it is that you want.”
  • “Mysterious force…It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

PURPOSE: Everyone has a central role and a path to follow.

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

  • “God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.”
  • “People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being…Maybe that’s why they give up on it so early, too. But that’s the way it is.”
  • “‘Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,’ his heart said. ‘We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.’”
  • “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
  • “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

PERSONAL LEGEND: What you have always wanted to accomplish; life is generous to those who pursue it.

“To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one.”

  • “Personal Legend…It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is…At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”
  • “You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure.”
  • “The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being.”
  • “It’s true; life really is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legend.”

ACTION: Making a decision is only the beginning; you can only learn through action.

“There is only one way to learn…It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

  • “Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
  • “You’re different from me, because you want to realize your dreams. I just want to dream.”
  • “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible.”
  • “He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he had already experienced, and weren’t really new, but that he had never perceived before. And he hadn’t perceived them because he had become accustomed to them. He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.
  • “Everyone has his or her own way of learning things…His way isn’t the same as mine, nor mine as his. But we’re both in search of our Personal Legends, and I respect him for that.”
  • “He owned a jacket, a book that he could trade for another, and a flock of sheep. But, most important, he was able every day to live out his dream.

FEAR: The fear of failure makes a dream impossible to achieve.

“If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

  • “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.”
  • “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.
  • “People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.”

TESTS: You will be tested on your journey.

“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’”

  • “In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.
  • “Why do they make things so complicated?…So that those who have the responsibility for understanding can understand.”

ATTITUDE: You have a choice.

“He realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.”

  • “I’m like everyone else — I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”
  • “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.” (“A shepherd may like to travel, but he should never forget about his sheep.”)
  • “All people who are happy have God within them.”

PRESENCE: Concentrate always on the present moment.

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.

  • “The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances. How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”
  • “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”

Continue Reading:

5 Life Lessons Learned from The Alchemist’s Secret of Happiness Story

All Book Summaries


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