I’ve recently finished re-reading my favorite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’ve read it dozens of times and each time I have learned applicable, profound lessons in my life that I had already known but had somehow forgotten. Lessons I had realized on some level but never truly faced or realized until I was at a place in my life to face them. Each time I’ve read the book, it’s been as though I had been reading it for the first time.
The premise of the book is simple, beautiful, and endearing. It follows a young shepherd boy through Spain and begins with a recurring dream he has. Even when he was young, he followed his dream instead of doing what his family wanted him to do. He was supposed to be a priest, but he decided to be a shepherd instead. He had done it for only two years at the start of the book, but in that time had mastered everything there was to know about being a shepherd.
Beyond that, he is met by an old man who teaches him about omens and spurs him towards his personal legend. It’s as much a journey of the heart, of dreams, and of learning the language without words and about the soul of the world. The book takes place across Spain and Africa, across the desert and eventually in Egypt. But all the while, he encounters omens that direct him towards his great path and tests to ensure he has learned the lessons given to him.
We encounter various religions in the book but it is also inferred that all is written by one hand.
I am not a theistically religious individual. I believe in the nature of things, in omens, and in following the signs and the language of the world — I had long before I had read The Alchemist but that it spoke so clearly to the things I felt in my heart is why it became my favorite book.
But when it comes to the topic of God, every possible flavor of response can be found easily. Indifference, disdain, reverence, and more. The world is teeming with people who follow the single path of the God of their chosen faith and, it seem that lately, rise up against those who don’t believe in the same exact version of God that they do.
I have found that this book adequately balances the existence of multiple faiths with the singular suggestion that all that occurs is written by one hand. My theory is that we all interpret what we encounter slightly differently and that the personal legends — the things that a person is meant to do in their life — sometimes involves the teaching of these encounters to others so as to nourish the soul of the world with happiness and to bring awareness to the language of all things.
Consider for a moment that all the world has uncovered the same concept regardless of how geographically dispersed they were. We all perceive the language of the world — and we all feel the energy of the soul of the world. When we think of the world, we see it based on what we see in the world itself. Violence and hatred colors the world with dark colors and makes it feel hostile and dangerous, but this makes the light of positive actions that much more influential and powerful to us. When we live in utopia, the slightest misdeed can feel amplified by the contrast of its environment.
But learning this language is perhaps one of the most important things a human being can do.
We can never find our personal legend if we don’t know to follow the omens and to listen to our hearts. To those who have never done this, the very notion my seem absurd. But to those who have seen this and felt this, they know that they are being guided by the hand that has written all — of God — of the Universe — of the Soul of the World. If we call it Jesus, or Allah, or whomever, or if we divide it into as many or as few Gods as we like, it all comes back to the same notion — there is a single hand that writes all things and that sets a path before us all.
Have you ever perceived coincidence that seems eerily placed to be at the perfect time? Perhaps cause and effect demands that it could only have ended that way, but the irony of many encounters begs us to look deeper. What some say is the voice of God, others call the omens of the world. Coincidental and seemingly unrelated things that send you a message that ultimately guides you towards your true happiness.
In The Alchemist the boy is at a very low place. He weeps at the situation and has lost hope. Then, somehow, he perceives his world differently and asks Urim and Thumim to tell him if the wisdom of the old man is still with him. He’s told yes by way of them falling through a hole in the pouch they were in. When we watch the omens of the world, we can slowly begin to see the meaning of all things. Intuition becomes a moment of clarity where we peer into the place where all things are written and some deep part of us perceives it and that knowledge is passed to us without it ever having encountered our traditional senses.
So no matter what you believe in, I think that we are all asked to internalize the language of the universe however we’re able, and not condemn others because their way is different than our way.
One last thought: Many religions say “The one, true God.” in some way or another. I wonder if it is not suggesting that the one, true God is the hand that has written everything and the prophets of those who have come in that hand’s name all represent that hand — with only different words and paths to it — and that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and more all see the same hand, but speak in different voices.