THE ALCHEMIST BY PAUL COELHO: OF OMENS AND SORCERY

by Marcia Montenegro, Written September, 2016 (page 1 of 2)

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

The focus of this book is on following a dream, and that this is what "God" wants us to do. "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it" is stated many times. Themes of the book are omens, following your Personal Legend, the Soul of the World, the Language of the World, maktub ("it is written"), and finding your treasure. Exactly what does all this mean?

Panentheistic God?

The author uses "the universe" and "Soul of the World" apparently as indicative of his concept of God. Both of these terms are impersonal and suggest a possible panentheistic view of God. In fact, the "World-Soul" was a term used in the earlier versions of Panentheism (God contained in the world and the world in God, but God also beyond the world).

Panentheism, even though some forms of it make distinctions between God and creation, always includes some kind of relationship whereby God is dependent in some way on the need for creation or is participating in it in a way that affects His knowledge or His nature. 

Although "God" and "Allah" are referred to, it is usually in vague terms and it seems that the "Soul of the World" is a manifestation of God.

The Stealing of Melchizedek

The main character, a shepherd named Santiago, meets a man who says he is the "King of Salem." I immediately thought of Melchizedek in the Bible and, sure enough, further down the page (19), the man says he is Melchizedek (Melchizedek first appears in Genesis 14;17-20; is mentioned in Psalm 110:4; and is discussed extensively in Hebrews chapters 5, 6, and 7).

This Melchizedek even tells Santiago that he must give him one-tenth of his sheep, clearly a parallel to when Abraham (then called Abram) gave one-tenth of the spoils of a battle to Melchizedek in the Genesis account. In fact, a short while later, this character recalls meeting Abraham (33) and states he required one-tenth from Abraham. However, the Bible does not say Melchizedek required anything; it only tells us that Abraham (Abram) gave one-tenth to Melchizedek.

Coelho's Melchizedek seems omniscient and can read Santiago's mind. He tells Santiago about seeking his "Personal Legend." The Personal Legend is about how one is here to live out his or her personal dream. This Melchizedek can also appear as anything, even as a stone (24) in order to accomplish a certain purpose.

Santiago is told by Melchizedek to follow "omens" and that God has left these omens for everyone to follow (29). However, the true God specifically forbids following or reading omens (Deuteronomy 18:20, 2 Kings 17:17).

Under his cloak, Melchizedek wears a gold breastplate made with precious stones and which contains a black stone and white stone called Urim and Thummim; he gives them to the boy for asking yes and no questions (30). The author is confusing passages about the Urim and Thummim given first to Aaron in Exodus 28. There is no record that Melchizedek had these. No one is sure what the Urim and Thummim were although some surmise they were a black and white stone. We do know that God initiated this as a means by which the high priest consulted God at certain times (the last mention of the Urim and Thummim is in Nehemiah).

However, in this story, Melchizedek gives them to the shepherd to use as an omen, with no connection to God and certainly out of context with anything in the Bible. Urim and Thummim were used only by the high priest in the Old Testament, under direct instructions by God.

The Importance of the Real Melchizedek

The biblical Melchizedek is mentioned only briefly in the Old Testament but at length in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Why? Because although Melchizedek is an Old Testament figure, his significance is a New Testament one.

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.
Hebrews 7:1-3

No record is given for Melchizedek's lineage. "Without father, without mother, without genealogy" does not mean he had no parents but that his lineage is irrelevant, contrary to the need for lineage for the priests under the Law, who must come from the tribe of Levi. This is to contrast Melchizedek with the Levitical priesthood and is set up prior to and apart from the priesthood under the Law.

Having no "beginning of days nor end of life" does not mean that Melchizedek is godlike but rather that his priesthood foreshadows the eternal priesthood of Jesus. "Made like the Son of God" tells us not that he is the Son of God but that he is a type of the coming Messiah.

This is a theme in the book of Hebrews building up to the point that Jesus is not a priest under the Law, the Levitical priesthood, but is a high priest in the manner of Melchizedek, which preceded the Law and the Levitical priesthood, and which is an eternal priesthood. Jesus is the final and superior High Priest due to His sacrifice on the cross and bodily resurrection, and the fact that He ascends to a superior tabernacle in heaven. (This is explained in detail in Hebrews chapters 5 through 9).

The theme of the book of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus as high priest because this was written to encourage Jewish believers who were being persecuted to not return to the old covenant sacrifices and rituals (the Temple was still standing but soon to be destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D.). Therefore, the author of Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus Christ to the priesthood under the old covenant.

The False Melchizedek

Coelho's Melchizedek goes against God by recommending omens and by giving Santiago advice that contradicts what God has said. He tells Santiago that he must find his dream and Personal Legend and that this is what God desires. In actuality, God's will is that all should come to trust His Son, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross enables all who believe to have forgiveness and eternal life, and to live for and serve the true living God.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3, 4

This false Melchizedek bears no resemblance to the real one and is used by Coelho as a prop for articulating his self-help New Age beliefs. Using a biblical character to represent values that go against God is a move of hubris and defiance. The book's Melchizedek is presented as all-wise when, in fact, he represents the wisdom of the world as opposed to God's wisdom.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 1 Cor. 1:20-21 

The Englishman

We must not forget the title of this book. Santiago meets an Englishman who is traveling to an oasis in search of an alchemist reputed to be 200 years old. Alchemy supposedly can give immortality, and the Englishman is on a quest to find the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. Both of these originate in the occult art of alchemy which sought to turn base metals to gold. However, alchemy was more than that.

The Philosopher's Stone should ring a bell in our culture due to the title of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published in the U.K. under the original and more accurate title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone).

Quote from this writer's CANA article==The "Philosopher's Stone" is part of the lore of alchemy and medieval sorcery, and was supposedly a stone which could be used to turn base metal to gold, and was the Holy Grail of sorcery (Bill Whitcomb, The Magician's Companion, St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1994, pp. 351, 485, 527).==From CANA article, "Harry Potter, Sorcery, and Fantasy" at goo.gl/J1OaNN

And more from the same article:
Quote==The philosopher's stone is connected to alchemy, an occult practice that combined the exploration of minerals with Gnostic practices of sorcery seeking to turn base metal into gold, and through that, attain an inner spiritual transformation. Alchemy is defined by one occultist as "the process of the transmutation and purification...of the soul via the discipline of purifying and combining physical materials and chemicals which are symbolic of spiritual transformations," and the Philosopher's Stone was a "metaphor for the illuminated mind," and the "First Substance from which all other metals derived," (Whitcomb, 485, 527). ==From goo.gl/J1OaNN

This Englishman, it turns out, also has a Urim and Thummim, and he also seeks omens. He also is seeking the "universal language" (70). He also speaks of the Soul of the World, saying that "When you want something with all of your heart, that's when you're closest to the Soul of the World. It's always a positive force" (78). He continues, saying that everything has a soul, including earth, and that "we are part of that soul" (79). The shepherd boy later realizes this is all true.


 

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