In "The Alchemist", what is the Universal Language?

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In The Alchemist the overriding trope of the universality of man's desire--"the soul of the universe"--is the universal language.

"And when you want something," [the wise King of Salem] Melchizedek, concludes, "all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." (I)

Throughout his travels, Santiago learns that there is a force that propels people to pursue their "Personal Legend." Also, there is a language throughout the world, a language of enthusiasm understood by all people. This is the language that the crystal merchant understands in Part II. After Santiago works for him for some time, the merchant, whose business grows in success from Santiago's ideas, tells the boy:

"I am proud of you....You brought a new feeling into my crystal shop." (II)

Nevertheless, the irredeemable merchant chooses not to accompany Santiago on his quest of his Personal Legend (The inherent dream each person holds of accomplishing his/her greatest desire). But, Santiago is undeterred in his goal, and he continues on his mission, holding onto the magical stones given to him by Melchizedek, stones that keep hope and desire to pursue his goal in his heart.

In the end Santiago learns the truth of what Melchizedek has told him:

". . . when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe." (Epilogue

Unlike the merchant who has chosen the safety of his business and foregone his pilgrimage to Mecca, Santiago has listened to the words of his heart and travels to the pyramids. There he digs for treasure only to be assaulted by two men. Interestingly, he is saved when he stays true to his dream vision because the men think that he is insane. Then, after one of the men tells Santiago of his dream, Santiago returns home to the churchyard where the man has said there is a treasure. This is the place of his original dream; it is his Personal Legend achieved by listening to the universal language. 


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While the straight forward answer to this question is the soul of the world, what does that mean? The soul of the world has to do with the author's attitude toward finding meaning in our individual lives. The author argues that inside all of us are the answers we seek. The challenge lies in asking the right questions, being open to answers (in the form of opportunities- omens), and in moving in the direction that these opportunities seem to suggest.

Because the universal language is one "spoken" by all, it is argued that individuals have the ability to undestand this language. The beginning of the book deals with what the author considers to be the main reasons why so few people (who know the answers, i.e., speak the language) listen to the universal language. It's not easy. There are obstacles to overcome. The author identifies these obstacles as a way for the reader to discover them and address them as they attempt to prevent us from seeking out what it is we want out of our lives.

To understand the universal language is see it, understand it, and use it. It's when we do all of these things that we'll come to fully understand the power which resides in all of us.

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