What do you think about the book The Alchemist?

Paulo Coelho’s 1988 work (English version 1993) was well written and certainly an interesting read. It moves quickly, and its North African setting lends an aura of mystique that is appealing. However, on the metaphysical level I found the book to be yet another exemplar of New Age novel writing.

All happy people have God within them (p.131). Hinduism’s world soul appears (74), along with Gaia (79), monism, the notion that all is one and all distinctions are false, including personality and the difference between God and man (80). One finds a good dose of naive pagan divination as well (101). Bible believers, however, understand that their souls are not one and the same with the soul of the world. The distinction is real; we live in a personal, not impersonal, universe. We are not God. Nor can we accept that "any given thing on the face of the earth could reveal the history of all things" (101).

Similar to Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, the book features the New Age notion that you can have your cake and eat it, too. At least six times we read something like “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” (22, 29, 36, 40, 62, 114). The emphasis on realizing one’s “personal legend” (63) meshes nicely with both American individualism and the egocentrism of our age.

The history was not always right. Coelho's Joseph of Genesis lives in the first century BC, which is off at least 1600 years (106). Yet this is a minor error, compared to the major one of implying that spiritual people will get their way.

And I do not mean to say there were no good points. “I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine” (39). “I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am” (58). These perspectives run through the novel, and made me think. Yet for all the hype accompanying this “international bestselling phenomenon” (front cover), many are going to be disappointed. Not by the book—but by reality. Despite our fondest hopes and wishes, it is highly questionable whether “when you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favor” (36). Christians will remember both David’s disappointed dreams (2 Chronicles 6:8-9) and Christ’s Calvary.