In actual fact, this concept is not so new at all. Fourteenth Century writer Geoffrey Chaucer mentions the "annueleer" (chantry priest) in search of a "cure for souls" through spiritual alchemy in his epic "The Canterbury Tales." "The Great Work: (Spiritual Alchemy)" by Paul Foster Case dates to 1939, and Swinburne Clymer's "Science of Spiritual Alchemy" was released in the late 1950s. More recent froms of this idea can be found on album covers like Steven Halpern's album, "Tonal Alchemy,"(2005) described as a "spiritually-charged" form of sound healing.
But coming back to Coelho; despite his rather "old school" choice of theme, he has maintained popularity with the general public, Ewha students included. Out of the 360 students participated in a survey on fatalistic and spiritual beliefs, 44 percent answered that they had read "The Alchemist," 61 percent said they approved of its overall content, 31 percent disapproved and 13 percent remained in limbo. As to what the hero Santiago, and other characters in the story had to say, Ewhaians' opinions varied somewhat.
1. Camel Driver: "Because I don't live in either my past or my future, I'm interested only in the present." Ewha Students Disagree: 54% said they have had their fortune told by a fortune teller. Out of the 46 % who hadn't, 54% said they intended to.
2. Boy's heart: "All people who are happy have God within him." Ewha Students Agree: 65% answered they had a certain religion, 77 % answered that they believe in some form of supernatural power (disregarding religion).
3. Narrator: "What the boy felt at that present moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life......with no need for words, she recognized the same thing." Ewha Students Agree: 57.5% said they believe in predestined love.
4. The Old Man: "...we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world’s greatest lie." Ewha Students Disagree: 59% answered that they believe in fate.
5. King: "When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it." Ewha Students Agree: 93% answered that the choices and actions we make today will determine what happens in the future.
Thus, we can conclude that most Ewha students consider the results of their actions, acknowledge a higher power, wonder about their future, and believe fate, and of course in predestined love. Mr. Coelho's interpretation on spiritual alchemy may not suit your fancies, but it has proved to resonate with many. If it hadn't then he could not have climbed that best sellers' list so easily, or for so long.