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In Coelho's The Alchemist, the achemist says that for the boy to find his treasure he...

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egghead2 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted June 18, 2013 at 10:54 PM via web

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In Coelho's The Alchemist, the achemist says that for the boy to find his treasure he must listen to his heart.  Why does the alchemist feel that the heart is more important or more trustworthy than the mind?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 19, 2013 at 3:48 AM (Answer #1)

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In Coelho's The Alchemist, the Englishman seems to provide part of the answer to this question. The Englishman is caught up in words: he believes that everything he needs to know he has read in his books. However, when Santiago speaks to the alchemist, the older man explains that the Englishman still has more to learn: he has to learn to understand the desert. This cannot be learned from a book, but from one's heart—a heart that listens to the world and searches for omens.

The alchemist's words echo those of the Bible verse, Matthew 6:21—

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The alchemist says:

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

My understanding in looking at the Englishman's methods (which the alchemist does not dismiss) is that he depends too much on words and not enough on faith and listening to his heart. For while the world and its words will betray one, the heart will speak the truth...if one will only listen. And the heart will lead one to his real treasure.

The Englishman also believes that everything begins with "luck and coincidence." However, Santiago discovers that everything begins because the universe (God) is working to help everyone find that which will bring him (or her) great joy. It's not about accumulating things, but about finding love and realizing one's dreams. These are things that come from the heart.

The mind deals with concrete things. Having his money and Fatima make Santiago fearful to continue on to find his real treasure: to find his Personal Legend. This behavior is based upon thinking or reasoning. However, the alchemist tells Santiago that if he lets his reason take over, he will never realize his Personal Legend and one day he will not be able to hear the language of the desert or see omens. Then he will be forever unhappy. However, if Santiago believes in Fatima's love and trusts his heart, he can dismiss his fears and continue with his quest. For his heart lies with Fatima, and her heart lies with him. The two will be reunited.

To me, this book is about taking leaps of faith: using the heart rather than the mind to make decisions. For while Santiago might accumulate great earthly wealth, accomplishing all he has set out to do will feed his heart and soul; it will be in finishing what he has started that will bring to Santiago wealth beyond gold or camels. It will bring him the wealth of having Fatima and being one with the universe. Only the heart can teach this: the brain would not be able to make sense of it, as we see early on with the Englishman.

Love comes from the heart, and the alchemist tells Santiago that "true love...speaks the Language of the World." He must, therefore, follow his heart to succeed in his quest.

When Santiago asks whether he should learn what the Emerald says (in the study of alchemy), the alchemist says no. He tells the boy to immerse himself in the desert: for this is the only way to learn about the desert. And in order to do so, he does not need to go into a laboratory where his mind would sort out information, but to...

Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.

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