The heat lasted until nightfall, and
all that time he had to carry his jacket. But when he

thought to complain about
the burden of its weight, he remembered that, because

he had the jacket, he
had withstood the cold of the dawn.

"People from all over the world have passed through

this village, son," said his
father. "They come in search of new things, but when

they leave they are
basically the same people they were when they arrived.

They climb the
mountain to see the castle, and they wind up thinking

that the past was better
than what we have now. They have blond hair, or dark

skin, but basically
they're the same as the people who live right here."
"But I'd like to see the castles in the towns where

they live," the boy explained.
"Those people, when they see our land, say that they

would like to live here
forever," his father continued.
"Well, I'd like to see their land, and see how they

live," said his son.
"The people who come here have a lot of money to

spend, so they can afford to
travel," his father said. "Amongst us, the only ones

who travel are the
"Well, then I'll be a shepherd!"

Take to the fields, and someday
you'll learn that our countryside is the best, and our

women the most beautiful."

If he were to tire of the Andalusian fields, he
could sell his sheep and go to sea. By the time he had

had enough of the sea,
he would already have known other cities, other women,

and other chances to
be happy. I couldn't have found God in the seminary,

he thought, as he looked
at the sunrise.

"And 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.

"I told you that your dream was a difficult one. It's

the simple things in life that
are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to

understand them. And
since I am not wise, I have had to learn other arts,

such as the reading of

"What's the world's greatest lie?" the boy asked,

completely surprised.
"It's this: that 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."

"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 destiny."

"It's a force that appears to be negative, but

actually shows you how to realize
your destiny. 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."

The Soul of the World is nourished by
people's happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and

jealousy. To realize
one's destiny is a person's only real obligation. All

things are one.
"And, when you want something, all the universe

conspires in helping you to
achieve it."

"If you start out by promising what you don't
even have yet, you'll lose your desire to work toward

getting it."
The boy told him that he had already promised to give

one-tenth of his treasure
to the Gypsy.
"Gypsies are experts at getting people to do that,"

sighed the old man. "In any
case, it's good that you've learned that everything in

life has its price. This is
what the Warriors of the Light try to teach."

He was sure that it made no
difference to her on which day he appeared: for her,

every day was the same,
and when each day is the same as the next, it's

because people fail to recognize
the good things that happen in their lives every day

that the sun rises.

"I'm surprised," the boy said. "My friend bought all

the other sheep
immediately. He said that he had always dreamed of

being a shepherd, and
that it was a good omen."
"That's the way it always is," said the old man. "It's

called the principle of
favorability. When you play cards the first time, you

are almost sure to win.
Beginner's luck."
"Why is that?"
"Because there is a force that wants you to realize

your destiny; it whets your
appetite with a taste of success."

"In order to find the treasure, you will have to

follow the omens. God has
prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have

to read the omens that he
left for you."

" 'Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give

you,' said the wisest of wise
men. 'The secret of happiness is to see all the

marvels of the world, and never
to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.' "

The shepherd said nothing. He had understood the story

the old king had told
him. A shepherd may like to travel, but he should

never forget about his sheep.

All this happened between sunrise and sunset, the boy

thought. He was feeling
sorry for himself, and lamenting the fact that his

life could have changed so
suddenly and so drastically.
He was so ashamed that he wanted to cry. He had never

even wept in front of
his own sheep. But the marketplace was empty, and he

was far from home, so
he wept. He wept because God was unfair, and because

this was the way God
repaid those who believed in their dreams.
When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those

around me happy.
People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But

now I'm sad and
alone. I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of

people because one person
betrayed me. I'm going to hate those who have found

their treasure because I
never found mine. And I'm going to hold on to what

little I have, because I'm
too insignificant to conquer the world.

"I'm like everyone else–I see the world in
terms of what I would like to see happen, not what

actually does."

"When you want something, all the universe conspires

in helping you to achieve
it," he had said.

"Learn to recognize omens, and follow them," the old

king had said.

He had learned that there were certain things
one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's

own destiny.
"I promised
that I would make my own decisions," he said to


There was a moment of silence so profound that it

seemed the city was asleep.
No sound from the bazaars, no arguments among the

merchants, no men
climbing to the towers to chant. No hope, no

adventure, no old kings ordestinies, no treasure, and

no Pyramids. It was as if the world had fallen silent
because the boy's soul had. He sat there, staring

blankly through the door of the
café, wishing that he had died, and that everything

would end forever at that

"Because we have to respond to omens," the boy said,

almost without meaning
to; then he regretted what he had said, because the

merchant had never met
the king.
"It's called the principle of favorability, beginner's

luck. Because life wants you
to achieve your destiny," the old king had said.

blessing ignored becomes a curse.

"I guess you don't believe that a king would talk to

someone like me, a
shepherd," he said, wanting to end the conversation.
"Not at all. It was shepherds who were the first to

recognize a king that the rest
of the world refused to acknowledge. So, it's not

surprising that kings would talk
to shepherds."

"Everything in life is an omen," said the Englishman,

now closing the journal he
was reading. "There is a universal language,

understood by everybody, but
already forgotten. I am in search of that universal

language, among other
things. That's why I'm here. I have to find a man who

knows that universal
language. An alchemist."

The closer one gets to realizing his destiny, the more

that destiny becomes his
true reason for being, thought the boy.

I've learned things from the sheep, and I've learned

things from crystal, he
thought. I can learn something from the desert, too.

It seems old and wise.

maybe he
was also learning the universal language that deals

with the past and the
present of all people. "Hunches," his mother used to

call them. The boy was
beginning to understand that 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.
"Maktub," the boy said, remembering the crystal


But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter

how many detours and
adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same

compass point. Once
obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course,

sighting on a star that
indicated the location of the oasis. When the people

saw that star shining in the
morning sky, they knew they were on the right course

toward water, palm
trees, shelter, and other people. It was only the

Englishman who was unaware
of all this; he was, for the most part, immersed in

reading his books.

people need not fear the unknown if they are capable

of achieving what they
need and want.

"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


"Once you get into the desert, there's no going back,"

said the camel driver.
"And, when you can't go back, you have to worry only

about the best way of
moving forward. The rest is up to Allah, including the

And he concluded by saying the mysterious word:


"We make a lot of detours, but we're always
heading for the same destination."

"That's the principle that governs all things," he

said. "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."

"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. But in the crystal shop you

probably realized that even the
glasses were collaborating in your success."

"I have watched the caravan as it crossed the desert,"

he said.
"The caravan and the desert speak the same language,

and it's for that reason
that the desert allows the crossing. It's going to

test the caravan's every step to
see if it's in time, and, if it is, we will make it to

the oasis."

But there was one idea that seemed to
repeat itself throughout all the books: all things are

the manifestation of one
thing only.

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.

"It's not easy to find the Philosopher's Stone," said

the Englishman. "The
alchemists spent years in their laboratories,

observing the fire that purified the
metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that

gradually they gave up
the vanities of the world. They discovered that the

purification of the metals had
led to a purification of themselves."

"Why do they make things so complicated?" he asked the

Englishman one night.
The boy had noticed that the Englishman was irritable,

and missed his books.
"So that those who have the responsibility for

understanding can understand,"
he said. "Imagine if everyone went around transforming

lead into gold. Gold
would lose its value.
"It's only those who are persistent, and willing to

study things deeply, who
achieve the Master Work. That's why I'm here in the

middle of the desert. I'm
seeking a true alchemist who will help me to decipher

the codes."

"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 destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of

the World, the
Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life.
"But, above all, I learned that these things are all

so simple that they could be
written on the surface of an emerald."

"Everyone has his or her own way of learning things,"

said to himself. "His way isn't the same as mine, nor

mine as his. But we're both
in search of our destinies, and I respect him for


"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

don't know why these things have to be transmitted by

word of mouth, he
thought. It wasn't exactly that they were secrets; God

revealed his secrets easily
to all his creatures.
He had only one explanation for this fact: things have

to be transmitted this way
because they were made up from the pure life, and this

kind of life cannot be
captured in pictures or words.
Because people become fascinated with pictures and

words, and wind up
forgetting the Language of the World.

Meanwhile, the boy thought about his treasure. The

closer he got to the
realization of his dream, the more difficult things

became. It seemed as if what
the old king had called "beginner's luck" were no

longer functioning. 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.
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.
"Don't be impatient," he repeated to himself. "It's

like the camel driver said:
'Eat when it's time to eat. And move along when it's

time to move along.' "

At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood

still, and the Soul of the
World surged within him. When he looked into her dark

eyes, and saw that her
lips were poised between a laugh and silence, 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. Something

that exerted the same
force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs

here at the well. She
smiled, and that was certainly an omen–the omen he had

been awaiting,
without even knowing he was, for all his life. The

omen he had sought to find
with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and

in the silence of the desert.
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.
Maktub, thought the boy.

"you told me that you loved me. Then, you taught me
something of the universal language and the Soul of

the World. Because of that,
I have become a part of you."

"You have told me about your dreams, about the old

king and your treasure.
And you've told me about omens. So now, I fear

nothing, because it was those
omens that brought you to me. And I am a part of your

dream, a part of your
destiny, as you call it.
"That's why I want you to continue toward your goal.

If you have to wait until
the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go

before then, go on in pursuit of
your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the

desert never changes.
That's the way it will be with our love for each

"Maktub," she said. "If I am really a part of your

dream, you'll come back one

"The desert takes our men from us, and they don't

always return," she said. "We
know that, and we are used to it. Those who don't

return become a part of the
clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines

and of the water that
comes from the earth. They become a part of

everything… they become the
Soul of the World.
"Some do come back. And then the other women are happy

because they
believe that their men may one day return, as well. I

used to look at those
women and envy them their happiness. Now, I too will

be one of the women
who wait.
"I'm a desert woman, and I'm proud of that. I want my

husband to wander as
free as the wind that shapes the dunes. And, if I have

to, I will accept the fact
that he has become a part of the clouds, and the

animals and the water of the

he was grateful to be in love. When you are in love,
things make even more sense, he thought.

"When people consult me, it's not that I'm reading the

future; I am guessing at
the future. 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."

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."

What is a stranger doing in a strange land?"
"I am following my destiny. It's not something you

would understand."
The stranger placed his sword in its scabbard, and the

boy relaxed.
"I had to test your courage," the stranger said.

"Courage is the quality most
essential to understanding the Language of the World."

"Show me where there is life out in the
desert. Only those who can see such signs of life are

able to find treasure."

"I'm going away," he said. "And I want you to know

that I'm coming back. I love
you because…"
"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is

loved because one is loved. No
reason is needed for loving."
But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with

a king. I sold crystal and
crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared

war, I went to the well,
seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the

entire universe conspired to
help me find you."
The two embraced. It was the first time either had

touched the other.
"I'll be back," the boy said.
"Before this, I always looked to the desert with

longing," said Fatima. "Now it
will be with hope. My father went away one day, but he

returned to my mother,
and he has always come back since then."

"You're crying?"
"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her

face. "But above all, I'm a

Don't think about what you've left behind," the

alchemist said to the boy as
they began to ride across the sands of the desert.

"Everything is written in the
Soul of the World, and there it will stay forever."

"There is only one way to learn," the alchemist

answered. "It's through action.
Everything you need to know you have learned through

your journey. You need
to learn only one thing more."

"And what went wrong when other alchemists tried to

make gold and were
unable to do so?"
"They were looking only for gold," his companion

answered. "They were seeking
the treasure of their destiny, without wanting

actually to live out the destiny."

It's a code," said the boy, a bit disappointed. "It

looks like what I saw in the
Englishman's books."
"No," the alchemist answered. "It's like the flight of

those two hawks; it can't be
understood by reason alone. The Emerald Tablet is a

direct passage to the Soul
of the World.
"The wise men understood that 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.
That's what I mean by action."
"Should I understand the Emerald Tablet?" the boy

"Perhaps, if you were in a laboratory of alchemy, this

would be the right time to
study the best way to understand the Emerald Tablet.

But you are in the desert.
So immerse yourself in it. 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


"How do I immerse myself in the desert?"
"Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it

came from the Soul of the
World, and it will one day return there."

"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy

asked, when they had made
camp that day.
"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll

find your treasure."
"But my heart is agitated," the boy said. "It has its

dreams, it gets emotional,
and it's become passionate over a woman of the desert.

It asks things of me,
and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I'm

thinking about her."
"Well, that's good. Your heart is alive. Keep

listening to what it has to say."
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