"My heart is a traitor," the boy said to the

alchemist, when they had paused to
rest the horses. "It doesn't want me to go on."
"That makes sense," the alchemist answered. "Naturally

it's afraid that, in
pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've


"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"

Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet.

Even if you pretend not
to have heard what it tells you, it will always be

there inside you, repeating to
you what you're thinking about life and about the


Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know

your heart well, it will
never be able to do that to you. Because you'll know

its dreams and wishes, and
will know how to deal with them.
"You will never be able to escape from your heart. So

it's better to listen to
what it has to say. That way, you'll never have to

fear an unanticipated blow."

The boy continued to listen to his heart as they

crossed the desert. He came to
understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as

it was. He lost his fear, and
forgot about his need to go back to the oasis,

because, one afternoon, his heart
told him that it was happy. "Even though I complain

sometimes," it said,

because I'm the heart of a person, and people's hearts

are that way. People are
afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because

they feel that they don't
deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve

them. We, their hearts,
become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away

forever, or of moments
that could have been good but weren't, or of treasures

that might have been
found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because,

when these things
happen, we suffer terribly."

My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the

boy told the alchemist one
night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse

than the suffering itself. And
that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search

of its dreams, because
every second of the search is a second's encounter

with God and with eternity."
"Every second of the search is an encounter with God,"

the boy told his heart.
"When I have been truly searching for my treasure,

every day has been
luminous, because I've known that every hour was a

part of the dream that I
would find it. When I have been truly searching for my

treasure, I've discovered
things along the way that I never would have seen had

I not had the courage to
try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to


his heart began to tell him things that came from the

of the World. It said that all people who are happy

have God within them. And
that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from

the desert, as the
alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a

moment of creation, and the
universe has taken millions of years to create it.

"Everyone on earth has a
treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We,

people's hearts, seldom say
much about those treasures, because people no longer

want to go in search of
them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we

simply let life proceed, in
its own direction, toward its own fate. But,

unfortunately, very few follow the
path laid out for them–the path to their destinies,

and to happiness. Most people
see the world as a threatening place, and, because

they do, the world turns out,
indeed, to be a threatening place.

"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We

never stop speaking out,
but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we

don't want people to
suffer because they don't follow their

hearts."Continue in the direction of the Pyramids,"

said the alchemist. "And continue to
pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of

showing you where the
treasure is."

"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"
"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to

know is this: before a

"Why don't people's hearts tell them to continue to

follow their dreams?" the
boy asked the alchemist.
"Because that's what makes a heart suffer most, and

hearts don't like to suffer."
From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked

it, please, never to stop
speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far

from his dreams, his
heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore

that, every time he heard
the alarm, he would heed its message.
That night, he told all of this to the alchemist. And

the alchemist understood that
the boy's heart had returned to the Soul of the World.

the Soul of the World tests everything that was

learned along
the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so

that we can, in addition to
realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned

as we've moved toward
that dream. That's the point at which most people give

up. It's the point at
which, as we say in the language of the desert, one

'dies of thirst just when the
palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'
"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every

search ends with the
victor's being severely tested."
The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It

said that the darkest
hour of the night came just before the dawn.

"Are you crazy?" the boy asked the alchemist, when

they had moved on. "What
did you do that for?"
"To show you one of life's simple lessons," the

alchemist answered. "When you
possess great treasures within you, and try to tell

others of them, seldom are
you believed."

"Does a man's heart always help him?" the boy asked

the alchemist.
"Mostly just the hearts of those who are trying to

realize their destinies. But they do help children,

drunkards, and the elderly, too."
"Does that mean that I'll never run into danger?"
"It means only that the heart does what it can," the

alchemist said.

"Trust in your heart, but never forget that you're
in the desert. When men are at war with one another,

the Soul of the World can
hear the screams of battle. No one fails to suffer the

consequences of
everything under the sun."

"Your eyes show the strength of your soul," answered

the alchemist.

If we're going to go our separate ways soon," the boy

said, "then teach me
about alchemy."
"You already know about alchemy. It is about

penetrating to the Soul of the
World, and discovering the treasure that has been

reserved for you."
"No, that's not what I mean. I'm talking about

transforming lead into gold."
"Everything in the universe evolved," he said. "And,

for wise men, gold is the
metal that evolved the furthest. Don't ask me why; I

don't know why. I just
know that the Tradition is always right.
"Men have never understood the words of the wise. So

gold, instead of being
seen as a symbol of evolution, became the basis for

"There are many languages spoken by things," the boy

said. "There was a time
when, for me, a camel's whinnying was nothing more

than whinnying. Then it
became a signal of danger. And, finally, it became

just a whinny again."
But then he stopped. The alchemist probably already

knew all that.

"I have known true alchemists," the alchemist

continued. "They locked
themselves in their laboratories, and tried to evolve,

as gold had. And they
found the Philosopher's Stone, because they understood

that when something
evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.
"Others stumbled upon the stone by accident. They

already had the gift, and
their souls were readier for such things than the

souls of others. But they don't
count. They're quite rare.
"And then there were the others, who were interested

only in gold. They never
found the secret. They forgot that lead, copper, and

iron have their own destinies to fulfill. And anyone

who interferes with the destiny of another thing
never will discover his own."

"The sea has lived on in this shell, because that's

its destiny. And it will never
cease doing so until the desert is once again covered

by water."

"What is an alchemist?" he asked, finally.
"It's a man who understands nature and the world. If

he wanted to, he could
destroy this camp just with the force of the wind."
The men laughed. They were used to the ravages of war,

and knew that the
wind could not deliver them a fatal blow. Yet each

felt his heart beat a bit
faster. They were men of the desert, and they were

fearful of sorcerers.
"I want to see him do it," said the chief.

"Don't let them see that you're afraid," the alchemist

said. "They are brave
men, and they despise cowards."

"You gave them everything I had!" the boy said.

"Everything I've saved in my
entire life!"
"Well, what good would it be to you if you had t6

die?" the alchemist answered.
"Your money saved us for three days. It's not often

that money saves a person's

"Don't give in to your fears," said the alchemist, in

a strangely gentle voice. "If
you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart."
"But I have no idea how to turn myself into the wind."
"If a person is living out his destiny, he knows

everything he needs to know.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible

to achieve: the fear of

"I'm not afraid of failing. It's just that I don't

know how to turn myself into the
"Well, you'll have to learn; your life depends on it."
"But what if I can't?"
"Then you'll die in the midst of trying to realize

your destiny. That's a lot better
than dying like millions of other people, who never

even knew what their
destinies were.
"But don't worry," the alchemist continued. "Usually

the threat of death makes
people a lot more aware of their lives."

"Remember what I told you: the world is only the

visible aspect of God. And
that what alchemy does is to bring spiritual

perfection into contact with the
material plane."
"What are you doing?"
"Feeding my falcon."
"If I'm not able to turn myself into the wind, we're

going to die," the boy said.
"Why feed your falcon?"
"You're the one who may die," the alchemist said. "I

already know how to turn
myself into the wind."

"Somewhere you are holding the person I love," the boy

said. "So, when I look
out over your sands, I am also looking at her. I want

to return to her, and I
need your help so that I can turn myself into the

"What is love?" the desert asked.
"Love is the falcon's flight over your sands. Because

for him, you are a green
field, from which he always returns with game. He

knows your rocks, your
dunes, and your mountains, and you are generous to

"The falcon's beak carries bits of me, myself," the

desert said. "For years, I care
for his game, feeding it with the little water that I

have, and then I show him
where the game is. And, one day, as I enjoy the fact

that his game thrives on
my surface, the falcon dives out of the sky, and takes

away what I've created."
"But that's why you created the game in the first

place," the boy answered. "To
nourish the falcon. And the falcon then nourishes man.

And, eventually, man
will nourish your sands, where the game will once

again flourish. That's how the
world goes."
"So is that what love is?"
"Yes, that's what love is. It's what makes the game

become the falcon, the
falcon become man, and man, in his turn, the desert.

It's what turns lead into
gold, and makes the gold return to the earth."
"I don't understand what you're talking about," the

desert said.
"But you can at least understand that somewhere in

your sands there is a
woman waiting for me. And that's why I have to turn

myself into the wind."

"Help me," the boy said. "One day you carried the

voice of my loved one to
"Who taught you to speak the language of the desert

and the wind?"
"My heart," the boy answered.

"You can't be the wind," the wind said. "We're two

very different things."
"That's not true," the boy said. "I learned the

alchemist's secrets in my travels. I
have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the

stars, and everything
created in the universe. We were all made by the same

hand, and we have the
same soul. I want to be like you, able to reach every

corner of the world, cross
the seas, blow away the sands that cover my treasure,

and carry the voice of
the woman I love."
"I heard what you were talking about the other day

with the alchemist," the
wind said. "He said that everything has its own

destiny. But people can't turn
themselves into the wind."
"Just teach me to be the wind for a few moments," the

boy said. "So you and I
can talk about the limitless possibilities of people

and the winds."

wanted to talk about those things, but it didn't know

how to turn a man into the
wind. And look how many things the wind already knew

how to do! It created
deserts, sank ships, felled entire forests, and blew

through cities filled with
music and strange noises. It felt that it had no

limits, yet here was a boy saying
that there were other things the wind should be able

to do.
"This is what we call love," the boy said, seeing that

the wind was close to
granting what he requested. "When you are loved, you

can do anything in
creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all

to understand what's
happening, because everything happens within you, and

even men can turn
themselves into the wind. As long as the wind helps,

of course."
The wind was a proud being, and it was becoming

irritated with what the boy
was saying. It commenced to blow harder, raising the

desert sands. But finally it
had to recognize that, even making its way around the

world, it didn't know how
to turn a man into the wind. And it knew nothing about

"In my travels around the world, I've often seen

people speaking of love and
looking toward the heavens," the wind said, furious at

having to acknowledge its
own limitations. "Maybe it's better to ask heaven."

"The wind told me that you know about love " the boy

said to the sun. "If you
know about love, you must also know about the Soul of

the World, because it's
made of love."
"From where I am," the sun said, "I can see the Soul

of the World. It
communicates with my soul, and together we cause the

plants to grow and the
sheep to seek out shade. From where I am–and I'm a

long way from the earth–I
learned how to love. I know that if I came even a

little bit closer to the earth,
everything there would die, and the Soul of the World

would no longer exist. So
we contemplate each other, and we want each other, and

I give it life and
warmth, and it gives me my reason for living."
"So you know about love," the boy said.
"And I know the Soul of the World, because we have

talked at great length to
each other during this endless trip through the

universe. It tells me that its
greatest problem is that, up until now, only the

minerals and vegetables
understand that all things are one. That there's no

need for iron to be the same
as copper, or copper the same as gold. Each performs

its own exact function as
a unique being, and everything would be a symphony of

peace if the hand that
wrote all this had stopped on the fifth day of

"But there was a sixth day," the sun went on.
"You are wise, because you observe everything from a

distance," the boy said.
"But you don't know about love. If there hadn't been a

sixth day, man would not
exist; copper would always be just copper, and lead

just lead. It's true that
everything has its destiny, but one day that destiny

will be realized. So each
thing has to transform itself into something better,

and to acquire a new
destiny, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes

one thing only."
The sun thought about that, and decided to shine more

brightly. The wind, which
was enjoying the conversation, started to blow with

greater force, so that the
sun would not blind the boy.
"This is why alchemy exists," the boy said. "So that

everyone will search for his
treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he

was in his former life. Lead
will play its role until the world has no further need

for lead; and then lead will
have to turn itself into gold.
"That's what alchemists do. They show that, when we

strive to become better
than we are, everything around us becomes better,

"Well, why did you say that I don't know about love?"

the sun asked the boy.
"Because it's not love to be static like the desert,

nor is it love to roam the
world like the wind. And it's not love to see

everything from a distance, like you
do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the

Soul of the World. When
I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of

the World was perfect. But
later, I could see that it was like other aspects of

creation, and had its own
passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of

the World, and the world we
live in will be either better or worse, depending on

whether we become better
or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in.

Because when we love,
we always strive to become better than we are."
"So what do you want of me?" the sun asked.
"I want you to help me turn myself into the wind," the

boy answered.
"Nature knows me as the wisest being in creation," the

sun said. "But I don't
know how to turn you into the wind."
"Then, whom should I ask?"
The sun thought for a minute. The wind was listening

closely, and wanted to tell
every corner of the world that the sun's wisdom had

its limitations. That it was unable to deal with this

boy who spoke the Language of the World.
"Speak to the hand that wrote all," said the sun.

The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and

saw that it was a part of
the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was

his own soul. And that he,
a boy, could perform miracles.

"From here on, you will be alone," the alchemist said.

"You are only three hours
from the Pyramids."
"Thank you," said the boy. "You taught me the Language

of the World."
"I only invoked what you already knew."

Will I learn to do that someday?" the boy asked.
"This was my destiny, not yours," the alchemist

answered. "But I wanted to
show you that it was possible."

"But I'm going in search of my treasure," the boy

said. "I'm very close to it
"And I'm certain you'll find it," the alchemist said.
"Then why this?"
"Because you have already lost your savings twice.

Once to the thief, and once
to the general. I'm an old, superstitious Arab, and I

believe in our proverbs.
There's one that says, 'Everything that happens once

can never happen again.
But everything that happens twice will surely happen a

third time.'

"Where your treasure is, there also will be your

heart," the alchemist had told

"Be aware of
the place where you are brought to tears. That's where

I am, and that's where your treasure is."


But here he was, at the point of finding his treasure,

and he reminded himself
that no project is completed until its objective has

been achieved. The boy
looked at the sands around him, and saw that, where

his tears had fallen, a
scarab beetle was scuttling through the sand. During

his time in the desert, he
had learned that, in Egypt, the scarab beetles are a

symbol of God.
Another omen! The boy began to dig into the dune. As

he did so, he thought of
what the crystal merchant had once said: that anyone

could build a pyramid in
his backyard. The boy could see now that he couldn't

do so if he placed stone
upon stone for the rest of his life.

But before they left, he came back to the boy and

said, "You're not going to die.
You'll live, and you'll learn that a man shouldn't be

so stupid. Two years ago,
right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too.

I dreamed that I should
travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined

church where shepherds and
their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore

growing out of the ruins
of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the

roots of the sycamore, I
would find a hidden treasure. But I'm not so stupid as

to cross an entire desert
just because of a recurrent dream."

"No," he heard a voice on the wind say. "If I had told

you, you wouldn't have
seen the Pyramids. They're beautiful, aren't they?"

It's true; life really is generous to those who pursue

their destiny, the boy
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