“You are an alchemist; make gold of that” William Shakespeare

Every now and again, a word, phrase or quotation hovers, disappears only to return again and again, until it becomes almost a mantra on many writer’s minds. A while ago, I became fascinated by the word Labyrinth and it cropped up in reading matter on several occasions, until I found myself compelled to write about it. This time it was the word alchemist and its magical connotations. An alchemist, supposedly, can turn dirt into jewels, cure illnesses…make one actually believe in magic…And then the penny dropped as I recalled the book I’d read about, but not read, called ‘The Alchemist’ written by Paulo Coelho and my curiosity was further aroused. His story is an amazing one!

Paulo picBorn in 1947 to devout Roman Catholic parents in Brazil, Paulo, it seemed, was an unusual, slightly disturbed child, who happened to enjoy writing. For some reason, his parents did not agree that their son should be a writer, but should choose a more ‘worthy’ vocation in life. His rather questionable behaviour thereafter, lead his parents to have him committed to an Asylum for three years. Upon release, he travelled and became a hippie, and then a songwriter and political activist, which lead to imprisonment and torture. His thinking gradually then changed, and he walked the gruelling 500 km pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and felt a spiritual awakening, which lead him to write The Pilgrimage, which eventually sold well, after a slow start. His second book, The Alchemist, was a simple, while inspirational story, about an Andalusian shepherd boy. Sales were also weak, and it was said that he literally begged people to buy a copy….Incredibly, over time, it grew in popularity, until astronomical sales figures were reached and it was translated into 70 languages!.

book - smlPaulo met and married an artist named Christina Oiticica and they bought two homes: one in Brazil and another in France. He became so successful, sales of his books reached 65 million and he started a Charity for deprived children and needy elderly people, much to his credit. One wonders whether his parents lived to see their son’s amazing achievements? He has now written 26 books – one every two years, and continues to prosper.

The true alchemists do not change lead into gold, they change the world into words (Anon)

Oddly enough, though fairly happy with what I had read about alchemy, the word cropped up again in two places and so, I dug deeper, as I sometimes do…(curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.) Wow!

the-alchemist-discovering-phosporus‘Alchemy’ (from Arabic and ancient Greek) is complicated and obscure and goes way back to an ancient branch of natural philosophy, historically practised in India, China and the Muslim world and in Europe in Western form. It was first attested in a number of texts written in Greco-Roman Egypt during the first few centuries. New interpretations of alchemy merge with New Age or radical environmental movements. Freemasons have a continued interest in alchemy and its symbolism, and in Victorian times, occultists interpreted alchemy as a spiritual practice and the merging of magic and alchemy is a popular theme.

Alchemy also has a long-standing relationship with art in texts and mainstream entertainment. William Shakespeare certainly mentioned it, and Chaucer, in the 14th century, began a trend for alchemy in satire, and alchemists appeared in fantastic, magical roles in films and on television, in comics and video games.

When it comes to medicine, how often has an accidental splash of liquid – or even a tear – combined in a Petrie dish with other mysterious substances, to produce some near miraculous cure? Now that is something to ponder on.

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2022

41 thoughts on ““You are an alchemist; make gold of that” William Shakespeare

    • joylennick 18/01/2022 / 5:21 pm

      Thank you, Alethea. There are so many intriguing people in this world of ours! x

  1. Darlene 18/01/2022 / 5:01 pm

    I love Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist as well as some of his other books. He is a talented author. Alchemy itself is a fascinating subject. Something to ponder.

    • joylennick 18/01/2022 / 5:23 pm

      Hi Darlene, There are some amazing folk on our planet…Thank you. x

  2. robbiesinspiration 18/01/2022 / 6:41 pm

    Hi Joy, I did not know the story of Paulo Coelho’s life and what an interesting and amazing path he walked. Your commentary around alchemy is very interesting. It is not a subject I know a lot about, but your comments about medical breakthroughs are spot on.

    • joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:35 am

      Gracias Robbie. I understand the magic with words…and medicine. Thanks for reading. Be lucky. Hugs xx

  3. quiall 18/01/2022 / 9:52 pm

    I love posts that make me think, make me ponder… And I pondered the word serendipity. I think it fits in nicely with yours.

    • joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:37 am

      It certainly makes one think, eh Pamela! Especially re words and medicine. Thank you. xx

  4. Yeah, Another Blogger 18/01/2022 / 10:38 pm

    We need an alchemist to discover a permanent cure for all Covid variants, including those that haven’t emerged yet!

    • joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:42 am

      Hi Neil, I couldn’t agree more. Gracias for reading. The poor world is being battered at present.(That should be the world’s poor, of course…) x

  5. Liz Gauffreau 18/01/2022 / 11:11 pm

    I’ve been seeing Paulo Coelho’s name around lately, and I’ve been curious about him. Of course, the notion of alchemy is a fascinating one to me–mainly because people through the ages have wanted so badly for it to be true. I do believe in the alchemy of writing, though.

  6. Joy Lennick 19/01/2022 / 10:26 am

    Thanks Liz. Intriguing, I think, is the word…I do agree that words can evoke such a magical transformation in people. Even at a basic level, words can seek out and breathe life into seemingly dormant emotions. I love that. xx

  7. D. Wallace Peach 19/01/2022 / 4:39 pm

    What an interesting bio for Paul Coelho. I read The Alchemist and enjoyed it, but didn’t know anything about him or his life. It is a great word and concept… perfect for fantasy writers. 🙂 Great post, Joy.

  8. Jacqui Murray 21/01/2022 / 6:14 pm

    I have seen that book on and off for a while. So you liked it? And Diana liked it! It’s probably time to try it out.

    • joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:49 am

      Thanks Jacqui, I had a copy of it years ago but probably lent it to someone.. Hey ho- I miss the British libraries as I now live in Spain.

  9. Jennie 22/01/2022 / 11:15 pm

    Joy, this was fascinating! I learned quite a bit, so thank you for that. What a sad childhood, yet he found his way. I am embarrassed to say a good friend gave me the book to read a few years ago, and I have not read it. Now, I certainly will!

    • joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:28 am

      Thanks for reading, Jennie. I’m sure I had a copy of the book years ago but probably lent it to someone.I do miss the British libraries…Cheers. x

      • Jennie 23/01/2022 / 2:38 pm

        I bet you definitely miss the libraries! I found my copy!

  10. Audrey Driscoll 23/01/2022 / 4:09 am

    I haven’t read Paul Coelho’s book, but I’ve been interested in alchemy almost all my life. No, I haven’t tried turning anything into gold, but I’ve read and thought about the symbolic aspects, and even worked them into some of my novels. Carl Jung wrote a whole book about alchemy. I own a copy, but admit I haven’t read it with full attention. Gardening is a kind of alchemy; so is writing.

  11. joylennick 23/01/2022 / 10:19 am

    Thanks for reading my post, Audrey. That’s one thing I do miss about the UK :the libraries, as I’m retired in Spain. I’m sure i had a copy years ago but probably lent it to someone
    It’s a fascinating subject. Cheers! x

  12. Gloria 23/01/2022 / 8:05 pm

    What an interesting story Joy.

  13. Jacquie Biggar 23/01/2022 / 11:40 pm

    Poor Paolo, the road to fame wasn’t very easy, was it?

  14. joylennick 24/01/2022 / 10:08 am

    Thanks Jacquie. It certainly was a rough road, but he sounded a worthy soul. x.

  15. dgkaye 25/01/2022 / 2:59 am

    You’ve just proven – we get what we focus on. A word comes to mind, and suddenly it’s appearing frequently. If we’d all focus our thoughts on good things instead of so much evil going on, the world would get well again. I loved Paulo’s The Alchemist. In fact, it may be time to read again. So many life lessons in that book. And I also loved the quote. “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold, they change the world into words”, Great post Joy! Hugs xox

  16. joylennick 25/01/2022 / 10:17 am

    Thanks, Debs for reading and kind comments. There were and are so many fascinating characters in our world, aren’t there?! Iove the ‘word analogy’ and also the fact that ‘happy accidents’ can produice medical miracles, which we certainly need at present! How are you setting in your newur apartment? Keep busy and well, and catch all the fun and laughter that you can…Hugs xxx

    • dgkaye 25/01/2022 / 5:08 pm

      The apartment is a whole ‘nother story. I’m just summoning up the courage to get ready for my big trip to Mexico. That’s what the soul needs most. ❤

  17. joylennick 25/01/2022 / 6:03 pm

    You’ll have to write a post about it, Debs. Meanwhile, full steam ahead to Mexico. Relax as much as you can and drink in all the good bits…And, have a great, while reflective, time. That’s an order!
    Love Joy xx

  18. Tandy | Lavender and Lime 27/01/2022 / 7:40 am

    How awful to be committed to an Asylum because ones parents don’t like your chosen path in life. Great and interesting post.

  19. joylennick 27/01/2022 / 10:28 am

    Good hearing- Thank you Tandy, Pleased you enjoyed it. ..

  20. Annika Perry 30/01/2022 / 5:33 pm

    Joy, thank you so much for this superlative article. ‘The Alchemist’ is one of my all-time favourite books but I had no idea about the author’s life. What kind of parents commits their child to an asylum because they don’t agree with his choices. It’s great he found happiness and is such a prolific and amazing writer. I enjoyed learning more about the word alchemist as well. A learned Sunday afternoon! 😀

  21. joylennick 30/01/2022 / 5:50 pm

    How very kind of you to write such kind words, Annika. So pleased you enjoyed the post. Although most of my own writing is based upon actual happenings, it’s refreshing and intriguing to ponder on Alchemy, Coincidence and Serendipity now and then Cheers! xx.

  22. Endless Weekend 04/02/2022 / 5:45 am

    There’s this passage from The Alchemist:

    “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, too.”

    Thank you for sharing a story that can make us better than we are… Alchemy in action?

  23. joylennick 04/02/2022 / 10:18 am

    Endless weekend, Thank you so much for reading my post. What an excellent excerpt from The Alchemist. I shall use it next time I refer to alchemy., The striving is hard, but worth it! Hope,,Love and Peace.

  24. Marsha 09/02/2022 / 6:51 pm

    Fascinating post, Joy. I haven’t read the book, but with such high recommendation, it is going on my list. I did not know the word was so intermingled with the Free Masons. I can’t imagine living in an asylum but I can imagine parents wishing there was someone to help them raise a troubled child. I just can’t imagine going to that extreme.

  25. joylennick 09/02/2022 / 7:06 pm

    Thank you, Marsha. There are so many fascinating people on our planet,aren’t there! It is difficult to know whether the parents’ strict religious beliefs had any bearing on their son’s behaviour initially, or if he was so badly,mentally, affected that he had to be locked up regardless?! He obviously recovered.Cheers.

  26. Norah 13/03/2022 / 12:19 pm

    I’m pleased I found this old post languishing in my inbox, Joy. I enjoyed reading about alchemy and Paulo Coelho. I read and enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist years ago. The Philosopher’s Stone seems to turn up with some frequency in books and songs, doesn’t it?

  27. joylennick 13/03/2022 / 1:09 pm

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Norah! There are so many fascinating subjects to read about and always so much to learn…Take care. xx.

  28. Damyanti Biswas 19/04/2022 / 12:39 pm

    Ah! The alchemist definitely had some magical words spun into gold for sure 🙂

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