Reflecting Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ with Sartre’s insight

our existence makes us to understand the essence we are looking for. The essence is a quality which an individual wants to see in himself. It is not that thing which is pre-existing in man. “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.”

Jean Paul Sartre, an existentialist philosopher speaks of the man’s existence in this world. His most popular theory ‘existence precedes essence’ has changed the direction of philosophy. Before Sartre, the entire philosophy was trying to discover the hidden potentialities in a man. They thought man has a-priori(pre-existing) knowledge of the world around. But, the reality is something different. Man gains the knowledge of things around through his experiences. The curiosity to know helps man realize his hidden potentials. This means that all the happenings are created in a man after his realizations of life-existence. Man is not aware of the things unless he comes into existence.

Sartre freedom explains the man’s desires to achieve completeness. The concept of freedom helps man to realize its consciousness. Also, the concept of freedom helps man to realize the potentialities he is most suitable for. Descartes Cartesian analysis of the world ‘cogito ergo sum’ is a consciousness of being consciousness. It means before realization of existence there is a appearance of consciousness. ‘I think therefore I am’ implies the qualities of consciousness before existence.

If we go by steps, then it is like:

  1. Consciousness
  2. Existence
  3. Essence

Now we will bring a comparison on the concept of Sartre with a book ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo coelho. Alchemist starts with a concept that man always search for a truth. The search for truth implies the true nature of a man. He would travel from one place to other and tries to switch profession. His curiosity takes him near the truth he seeks for. He would keep on getting the hints to discover the real treasure of life. ‘Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead.’(excerpts from The Alchemist)

In the last chapters, the narrator meets an alchemist- the one who converts a metal into another. This completely twists the story line.Way before, the narrator was seeking for treasure around, and now he understands that he was already leaving the treasure besides. The real treasure lies in realizing self-existence and striving for perfection. ‘When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better.’

Altogether , we realize that our existence makes us to understand the essence we are looking for. The essence is a quality which an individual wants to see in himself. It is not that thing which is pre-existing in man. “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.” Once you realize your passion, you start searching for the knowledge required to convert your passion into destiny. Once you realize your existence, you start searching in the world the essence which is meant for you. It all starts with the realization of existence.

I hope this comparison will make us understand that the things we need in life is not present inside us. It is to be discovered, analysed and reflected. We could get the hints from out intuitive minds, but rest of the things we need to discover around. All this is only possible by understanding the true meaning of our existence.

Author: Madhvi

A philosopher, Writer, Traveler, PhD Scholar, Vegan and pet-lover.

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