Paulo Coelho —
The Alchemy of Pilgrimage

The Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho is best known for his book, The Alchemist — which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 400 weeks. His fable-like stories turn life, love, writing, and reading into pilgrimage. In a rare conversation, we meet the man behind the writings and explore what he’s touched in modern people.

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is the author of many books including The Pilgrimage, Veronika Decides to Die, and The Alchemist. His forthcoming book out in the fall is The Spy.

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Paulo Coelho photographed by Philip Van Volsem.

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Wow. This was the most serendipitous episode for me to hear today. I leave next week for the pilgrimage to Compostela, starting from the middle of France. I am college student, and I chose to do this pilgrimage partly to find my own voice as a writer, a trait in myself that for my entire life I have denied out of fear. I had this crazy idea months ago, and constructed an entire semester of independent study around it, and suddenly in this past month the panic has crept in. It's become more about finishing papers and less about understanding the meaning of the walk. It has become more about disbelief over this journey and leaving loved ones than the excitement of what I will discover. In the midst of each crisis of panic,however, I have noticed a clear thought forming, which reads something like this: "These worries prove that I need to take this journey."There is something powerful and rich--and filled, yes, with love--in these experiences of uncertainty. Mr. Coelho, thank you for reminding me of the validity of this thought running through my mind, and for reminding me that it's never too late to work toward a dream. And thanks, Krista, for another wonderful episode before my long journey.

I'm sorry that you set is up as a class for yourself.

I honor your courage to do this pilgrimage and to take on the voices of your own worry. As Mr. Coelho's example shows, it is an inner journey, but has the potential to touch other people. I hope your experience inspires you to create something you can share.

''Reprime tu voz del lloro y tus ojos del llanto ,pues tus penas tendràn recompensa'' Palabra de Dios Sra :Piedad Zenteno.

La búsqueda espiritual es continua para el que tiene esa inclinacion, ir en búsqueda de la espada es como el símbolo de la verdad, del amor, y de unir el yo, tiene magia también, descubrir el verdadero sentido de la vida, del camino del amor, como hace referencia, de las personas comunes .el viaje es un deleite espiritual y por momentos lleno de la misma obscuridad del alma que busca incesantemente respuestas. Citando a Paulo-tenemos siempre la tendencia de fantasear acerca de las cosas y a no ver las lecciones que están delante de nuestros ojos-en algún punto ,me recuerda a castañeda,el viaje es digno de imitar ,no sé cuándo pero también lo hare, probablemente ,busque en ese viaje, respuestas profundas para el alma, ser un poco más sabia, tal vez ,un punto de vista diferente que se me haya pasado por alto en la vida, los viajes abren el alma y la mente y este libro muestra también que el miedo es cosa que puede superarse, Petrus tiene un rol vital y misterioso en la historia, me encanto, y por ultimo dentro de ese mismo misterio que envuelve a Petrus que lo lleva hasta las ultimas palabras, las personas llegan a la hora exacta donde están siendo esperadas. Para esta buenísimo.

The passage with the sentence" Lord I'm not worthy that you come to me, but I speak One Word and I shall be healed" has changed my life around. I used that line as a Mantra and I am healed form allergic attacs. I am greatful for your beautiful book. I hope you'll write many more wonderful books. The Alchemist has touched me deeply. Love Nelleke

I have spent years trying to avoid my "personal legend" as Mr. Coelho refers to it; he is right--it never goes away and it will continue to haunt you. It seems it is a greater burden to not "follow your heart's desire" than to give yourself completely to it. I have begun a part of my journey to live my personal legend and have found great joy in knowing I am being true to myself. I have always believed this is what we are all here for, and it takes great courage of conviction to state it and live it. Love doesn't just mean loving others--although very important; it also means loving ourselves enough to become the persons we are meant to be. When we are true to ourselves, then the world, as a whole, becomes a fountain of inspiration, a place of abundance and possibility, a source of nourishment and comfort. Thank you Ms.Tippett and your production staff for sharing these podcasts with us, and thank you Mr. Coelho for sharing your heart.

Thanks Barry for the beautiful inspiration. It truly touched as much as the interview did. I can absolutely relate as I am constantly in the quest for my own Personal Legend

I appreciate the notion of each of us remaining undefined. I will never know who I am. I also appreciate Coelho's optimism. However I found Coelho's opinions about the degree to which we cause the manifestation of our "personal legend" unsupported and disappointing. Twice our host pressed for clarification on this topic (i.e. asking about how this applies to people in true poverty). In both cases Coelho used his own experience of ultimately being widely published as evidence that one can manifest one's own "personal legend." This reasoning employs post-hoc and teleological fallacies. I say this not to undermine Coelho. In fact I was so entranced by the interview that I was eager to hear how he believed the universe worked (it "conspires for us"). I was hoping to find answers to big questions. So, while his message is hopeful, it ultimately is not something that I can find comfort in.

I agree with Erin. It's all very well to say that we choose the life we manifest, but Krista's observation that there are very real barriers for those living in poverty was an important one, and it's one that, it seems, Mr. Coelho has no real answer for. Then again, maybe it's not fair to expect him to have an answer to one of humanity's most profound and enduring questions and one of the most troubling social issues in our world. Which is why I still found his talk very inspiring and engaging.

This was the best interview I've heard on "on being"....dare I say..Paulo's words in this dialogue is about to change my life ...thank you Ms Tippett for scoring a great interview

A very beautiful, candid interview. Paulo's sense of humor and embodiment of joy and love came through. A very humble man. LOVE is all you need...hard to achieve for some, but not cheesy at all! ;)

I respect the host's ernest inquiries into philosophical and spiritual matters, but I felt she gave Mr. Coelho an easy pass. The conversation seemed more about how to market one's book than anything else. My impression has always been that the author is a huckster peddling positivism and entitlement. This conversation confirmed my suspicion. It's no wonder he rarely gives interviews.

I have a great wish, my motivation is that the bigger the wish and want a world full of security, health and safety. I've checked and I've noticed that there are Integrity in the peoples who have a good mental image architecture the result is a good mathematical Logic. Integrity is the source of all goodness. Intangible assets is one of them... That will lead such asset to the human environment health and safety.
This idea has led the industry tend to be products of medicinal plants especially herbal drugs, herbal supplements and herbal soft drinks .I am currently seeking the thoughts of the world
to invest in the field of intangible assets especially for herbal soft drinks .
I believe the fact that there are people who have good mathematical logic have a great effectiveness on the world if our products to generated intangible assets for humanitarian
our market is the heart of all good people in the world a permanent global market with the optimum profit. I think that is a value idea for investing globally. It is important about your comments to my .I would be pleased to know it. Can I count on your help?
Best Regard,

I so enjoyed your comments on the podcast..."on Being" the one
specific with Paulo Coleho......u can count on me!! I am intrested inhearing
more of your company of herbal soft drinks!! Send me something?? thanks

I so admire PAULO COELHO and have listened to the episode three times in three days. Two of my favorite voices (Coelho & Tippett) talking about life and art and writing is like breakfast to my brain. I adore how he can give a dose of reality and fantasy in the same sentence. To speak about his struggles as a writer with such beauty and simplicity is a great blessing for me. The Alchemist was one of the books that changed my life and set me also on the course and journey to be a writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Paulo Coelho seems to be unable to connect with the ordinary people that live their lives in quiet desperation. Sure he connects with Bill Clinton, Will Farrell and all the other successful people. He has a good understanding of his position in life, how many millions of readers, who the famous people are that read him, and his celebrity. But, only a small percentage of those that embark on a pilgrimage can be famous. Yet he seems to imply that we are all wimps, because we have not made a big name for ourselves. Come on let go, give up striving for worldly things and you will manifest your dreams and be incredibly successful. This sounds like good advice, except when you are living hand-to-mouth as so many are these days. I didn't hear one word of thankfulness, to God for blessing him so. Yea I understand I'm cynical.

I laughed, I cried and I smiled deeply with this interview. I loved the closing comments.

I read a comment below about the listener's hope to learn about how the universe conspires with us. I wonder if the universe he refers more to is the internal one. One which resonates joy.

Having lived in Brasil, experiencing like a shadow the abject poverty of children and elders, joy was a piece of the puzzle about a living- well life. It is not connected nor associated with material possession.

I note Krista refers to the social idols as the pinnacle of "personal legend" but ultimately are not connected with the realities of the masses such as you and me. Paulo states not to judge your legend not in terms of rich or poor.

But I agree it is the anonymous who are truly impoverished. Those whose status is shunned, punished and brutalized. As the Dali Lama has said..This suffering is hard.

In the end I took a cupful of joy from this interview and wished we had more time on the couch to joy deeper.

with thanks

This man has given me the experience of "elegance" in each and every one of his books. Listening to this talk about our "pilgrimage to Love" feels like a blessing...
sprinkled with simple gems of wisdom. My "camino" was truly a walk with the unseen world that so shapes our life experiences.

This is probably the best interview I have heard with Paulo Coelho, and I think is all due to your gentle sincerity and warmth Krista.
He wasn't on the defensive, but relaxed with you.
I have met Paulo twice. I am the real-life Santiago of The Alchemist. I lived in Andalusia, and long before I had ever heard of his book, cosmic things started to happen in my life, and I found myself going to a land of pyramids after experiencing a life-changing dream after visiting my favourite ruin in the Andalusian countryside.
My account of my odyssey is TREASURE: A Soul Journey with The Alchemist - out on Amazon in Dec 2014 as an ebook. Paulo has found it impossible to believe that his book psychically predicted my own spiritual odyssey. I understand this, but hope that he will change his mind when he reads TREASURE. Wonderful soulful, and loving interview Krista. Congratulations. Karen Williams xxxxxx

Loved this interview. So inspiring and wonderful to think at 40/50/60 I may change my path at anytime and achieve dreams. I love the feeling I get when you realise that life is full of exciting possibilities.

When travelling in Australia in 2000 I came across Paolo's book, The Alchemist, while stopping off at a very small town on the east coast to stock up on fuel. There was a house where the living room had been turned into a thrift shop of travellers unwanted items. I was immediately drawn to it. I loved the book. It found me at the right time in my life & it will be a book i'll always remember.

Dear Ms Tippet - Paulo Coelho isn't the only alchemist around. Absurd as it may sound, his book The Alchemist was a psychic premonition of my own spiritual odyssey. I lived in Andalusia next to a magical ruin, and The Alchemist happened to me when I had never heard of the book. It is LIFE IMITATING ART. Paulo knows me, but I think would prefer the world not to know my book TREASURE: A Soul Journey with The Alchemist.
It is on kindle as an ebook. Take a look and you will discover the real-life Santiago.

I have read "The Alchemist" many times and I like it so well it is an inspiration. For me it is spiritual as well. I have been and is a spiritual person for 80 years, growing up in Norway. I want to write books. One is a true story that I am convinced would be an inspiration to many. It is my dream to meet and speak to Paulo Coelho.

Love and Light from

Ella Belling

Thank you for a very enjoyable and enlightening program that everyone should be lucky enough hear. Great questions and answers to reflect on and grow from. Will have to listen in the future and also look back at what I've missed. You are a gem in a world filled with much cheesiness.

Funny thing is, I have never heard of Paulo until I heard Will Smith, the Actor refer to him in an interview as his "mentor".

Yesterday, I listened to this interview while waiting for a flight at an airport in a South Asian country and today serendipitously met a young Afghan women refugee in a neighboring country who shared with me her love of “The Alchemist” which she has read in Farsi. This young woman is living on her own and facing significant life challenges and has found solace in poetry and literature, written by others and herself. She has so much kindness, love and wisdom to share with the world and I hope and pray she will get to do just that very soon.

the 'alchemist' was given to me by a 'relationship' in 1997. earlier that year i had a liver transplant, an emergency liver transplant! an was up an walking within 2 weeks! so this relationship last a while but moved on, an this book was given to me. i read it, an have since read it 3 more times, an have offered it 'an loaned it out 3 times' with only the signature an the person's short little commentary on it. reading that has caused me to read almost all others of Paulo Coelho's an it's the only author i read. i look forward to each book that is written as it takes me off traveling with him an is most interesting.

He is Joseph Campbell resurrected -follow your bliss and doors will open!

Every week I look online to see who Krista will be talking to on NPR on Sunday morning here. Sometimes I am underwhelmed by what I read before I listen, and this was one of those Sundays. I am rarely underwhelmed after listening and the conversation with Paolo Coelho was no exception. Rich, funny, deep, lovely all around. I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on his marriage and their mutual "destructions" over the years that have let their current selves emerge. Thank you, Krista, for another absorbing, uplifting, thought-provoking program. I will defnitely listen again. And maybe again after that. Arthur Moore, CT

I listened to your interview with Paulo Coelho. Paulo coelho is ridiculous...a fraud. He is a type of Brazilian Wayne Dyer.
Lovely...sell people B.S. and get very rich. ...and then say money doesn't matter.

You asked him a question about poverty and despair. He dismissed it and talked about "joy of life" and how Brazilians have it. Yes ..multi-millionaires like him have it. I lived in Brazil for 12 years and the poverty is appalling and brutally oppressive ...not much "joie de vivre." A lot of misery...and some joy in cachaca , Brazilian sugar cane alcohol.

this guy Paulo DOES know magic (i don't care if you spell with a g or j...just watch the spells ;)

i know the tears that he speaks of...different flavours depending on circumstance...the emotional overload of being wide open and handling all of what you get sent...the bridge that must be crossed,or you can't go.

after reading the i'm a truck driver...doesn't stop me from having many of the same fame desired or intended from this quarter*shrug*so Paulo is a what?

I just wanted to say thank you for the unedited conversation with Paulo Coelho. I listen to the unheard cuts podcasts while I walk and exercise, and it is a wonderful gift to eavesdrop on intimate, meaningful, inspirational and profound conversations such as this. Thank you.

Wow, I have listened now twice and will probably listen again. There are so many messages in this interview. I am struggling with "what am I supposed to be doing with my life, and who am I"? Now I see and feel is the time to live my personal legend and be clear about it, let the universe work with me instead of always fighting it out of fear of failure........... And I will read The Alchemist again and I'm sure it will feel like the first time.
Thank you for this interview.

My high school freshmen listened to this on the first day of school yesterday. Next week, we'll start reading The Odyssey, but I wanted to introduce modes of travel that were not "heroic." What if the journey were not competitive, and the goal predominance?

I would love to be interviewed on this podcast. I have much to say about the difference between school and education, much to say about love, about expressionist composition theory and liberatory pedagogy. I think of my classroom as sacred ground, as much of what is learned is done so by way of epiphany--mine and the students'.

I'd be happy to send my Master's thesis to you, which gained distinction at UC Irvine. There much of my practice is given voice beyond the classroom, complete with its theoretical, philosophical, and spiritual foundations. This is my thirtieth year in the vineyard.

I always enjoy OnBeing & the conversations of Krista Tippett. I listen Sunday mornings, it is medicine for the week. This particular episode I went back and listened two more times! There were so many layers. I had to chuckle when the mention of the term "cheesy" kept on coming up. I am a native English speaker ( American, English) but I also speak Spanish. I have a good command of the language, I use it for work and socially. I have often joke that "cheesy" has no translation is English. I believe it is in part because culturally there is a way that "cheesy" is not embraced the way I see it in other cultures. As Coelho says "because you want to love, you want to share your love, you want to show your love, but you don’t want to be cheesy". It made me think, "there's something to my theory!". Keep up the great work On Being, we appreciate you!! You have even inspired a book group of women here in New Orleans, Louisiana. Thank you.

"To be totally honest, I don't know who I am," he said, "and I don't think people ever will know who they are. We have to be humble enough to learn to live with this mysterious question: who am I? So I am a mystery to myself."

The idea that we could be humble and recognize that we cannot fully know ourselves has a unique resonance for LGBTQ people, who are so often asked to put ourselves in a box so that the mainstream might understand us better. So that we may be less threatening in our otherness.

For all of our differences, I credit my parents with instilling in me a keen sense of justice and a deep trust in my own mind and heart. And although I used the word "gay" for my new blog, I've wrestled with all of the language thrust upon (and yes, often owned and embraced) by LGBTQ people. It's part of the reason it's taken me so long to begin writing about my own otherness.

I've started doing so here, where you can comment: