Before a dream is realized, 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 beginners luck, and 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.
When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.
Your eyes show the strength of your soul.
The boy already knew about alchemy. It was about penetrating to the Soul of the World, and discovering the treasure that has been reserved for each person.
The seashell on the desert. The desert was once a sea. The alchemist told the boy to place the shell over the ear, and which the boy had done numerous times as a child, heard the sound of the sea. 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.
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 failure.
The boy had to turn himself into the wind. He said he was not afraid of failing, just that he didn’t know how to turn himself into the wind. The alchemist said then, “Well, you’ll have to learn; your life depends on it.” The boy questioned what if he can’t do it. The alchemist continued, “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. Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.”
The world is only the visible aspect of God. What alchemy does is to bring spiritual perfection into contact with the material plane.
Then comes the climax where the boy has to turn himself into the wind, if not he and the alchemist would be killed by the arabs.
“What did you want here today? The desert asked him. “Didn’t you spend enough time looking at me yesterday?”
“Somewhere you are holding the person I love,” the boy said. “So, when I look 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 wind.”
“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 him.”
“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 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 this what love is?” the desert asked.
“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.” the boy said.
“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.” the boy said.
The desert then told him, “I’ll give you my sands to help the wind to blow, but alone, I can’t do anything. You have to ask for help from the wind.”
A breeze began to blow, and the wind approached the boy and touched his face. The alchemist smiled. The boy asked for help from the wind, which asked him, “Who taught you to speak the language of the desert and the wind?”
The boy answered, “My heart.”
“You can’t be the wind,” the wind said. “We’re two very different things.”
“That’s not true,” the boy said. “I have 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.”
The wind said it had overheard the boy’s conversation with the alchemist, that everything has its own destiny, but then 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.” The wind’s curiosity was aroused, something that had never happened before. It 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 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 commenced to blow harder, raising the desert sands. But finally, it had to recognize that, even with its way around the world, it didn’t know how to turn a man into the wind. And it knew nothing about love.
“In my travels around the world, I’ve often seen people speaking of love and looking towards the heavens,” the wind said, furious at having to acknowledge its own limitations. “Maybe it’s better to ask heaven.”
“Well then, help me do that,” the boy said. “Fill this place with a sandstorm so strong that it blots out the sun. Then I can look to heaven without blinding myself.” So the wind blew with all its strength, and the sky was filled with sand. The arabs became scared.
“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 its 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 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 creation.”
“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 too.”
“Well, why did you say 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 boy questioned.
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 wind screamed with delight, and blew harder than ever. The arabs’ tents were being blown off, and animals freed from their tethers. The men on the cliff clutched at each other as they sought to keep from being blown away.
The boy turned to the hand that wrote all. As he did so, he sensed that the universe had fallen silent, and he decided not to speak. A current of love rushed from his heart, and the boy began to pray. It was a prayer he had never said before, because it was a prayer without words or pleas. His prayer didn’t give thanks for his sheep having found new pastures; it didn’t ask that the boy be able to sell more crystal; and it didn’t beseech that the woman he had met continue to await his return. In the silence, the boy understood that the desert, the wind, and the sun were also trying to understand the signs written by the hand, and were seeking to follow their paths, and to understand what had been written on a single emerald. He saw that omens were scattered throughout the Earth and in space, and that there was no reason or significance attached to their appearance; he could see that not the deserts, nor the winds, nor the sun, nor people knew why they had been created. But that the hand had a reason for all of this, and that only the hand can perform miracles, or transform the sea into the desert, or a man into the wind. Because only the hand understood that it was a larger design that had moved the universe to the point at which six days of creation had evolved into a Master Work.
The boy reached to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was 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.
When the sandstorm ceased, everyone looked to the place where the boy had been, but he was no longer there. He was standing on a sand-covered sentinel, on the far side of the camp.
No matter what he does, every person on Earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.