1. "In the cycle of nature there is no such thing as victory or
defeat; there is only movement" [p. 16]. What do the cycles of the
natural world teach us about the balance of difficult and rewarding
moments in our lives? In what ways can personal experiences of
setbacks, loss, and even the death of a loved one serve as an
impetus to moving on to a new chapter of life?
2. "Defeat ends when we launch into another battle. Failure has
no end; it is a lifetime choice" [p. 23]. Why are people
often reluctant to accept or admit to defeat? How does it affect
our ability and willingness to deal with life's challenges?
Is it possible to avoid risks and still live a full and meaningful
3. "Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when
our soul is free to speak to us and help us decide what to do with
our life" [p. 29]. Do the demands of everyday life (work,
family, and other responsibilities) prevent people from examining
insecurities or do these obligations, real and perceived, serve as
an excuse for avoiding self-knowledge?
4. "In a desperate attempt to give meaning to life, many turn to
religion, because a struggle in the name of a faith is always a
justification for some grand action that could transform the world…
And they become devout followers, then evangelists, and finally,
fanatics" [p. 40]. Do the Crusades of the time exemplify this
distortion of religion? What examples are there today of religion
degenerating into fanaticism?
5. "We are afraid of change because we think that, after so much
effort and sacrifice, we know our present world" [p. 47]. How
does the appeal-and comfort-of the familiar affect the choices we
make? How can we reconcile our belief in the value of perseverance
with the imperative to embrace change?
6. "Beauty exists not in sameness but in difference" [p. 61].
Using your own examples, discuss how this definition of beauty
applies to works of art, natural phenomena, and people commonly
thought to be great beauties. The Copt also speaks about elegance
[pp. 111-13]. What do the conversations about these seemingly
superficial topics reveal about the different, perhaps surprising,
elements that contribute to our spiritual life?
7. Why is the desire to give our lives meaning so strong?
What role does the fear of death-the ultimate confrontation with
the "Unwanted Visitor"-play?
8. What insights does the Copt offer into the nature of love
between individuals? Does his assertion that "love is an act of
faith, not an exchange" [p. 76] reflect your own experience? Does
thinking of love this way make it easier to face disappointment or
9. "I will look at everything and everyone as if for the first
time" [p. 84]. Have you ever put aside habitual thoughts and
emotions and viewed familiar surroundings through fresh eyes? What
did you discover?
10. The Copt tells his listeners, "See sex as a gift, a ritual
of transformation… Fearlessly open the secret box of your
fantasies" [pp. 95-96]. How does this point of view compare with
teachings about sex in traditional religions and spiritual
practices? How does it both augment and extend the Copt's
11. Do the discussions of work [pp. 117-21] and success [pp.
125-29] offer a new way of looking at your own situation? To what
extent does talking about luck and comparing oneself with others
influence people's attitudes about their jobs? How would you answer
the Copt's questions about the rewards of work [p. 127]?
12. In what ways does the section on miracles [pp. 133-37] evoke
the tone and style of prayer? What does it illustrate about the
connection between beliefs and behavior? About accepting the
mysteries as well as the realities of life?
13. Anxiety lays a claim on all of us at one time or another.
What kinds of situations trigger your anxiety? Have you developed
techniques to cope with it? Has faith played a role in helping you
control anxiety? What would you add to the Copt's suggestions for
keeping anxiety at bay [pp. 145-46]?
14. What is the role of community in creating the strengths
necessary for survival? Do the Copt's explorations of
friendship [p. 105], loyalty [pp. 159-62], and confronting enemies
[pp. 175-80] shed light on the social and political divisions in
the world today?
15. "The most destructive of weapons is not the spear or the
siege cannon… The most terrible of weapons is the word, which can
ruin a life without leaving a trace of blood, and whose wounds
never heal" [p. 170]. Discuss how this applies both to individuals
and to groups and nations.
16. "Our great goal in life is to love. The rest is silence" [p.
76]. How is this message woven into the teachings in the
17. There are vivid analogies and parables throughout
Manuscript Found in Accra and the book concludes with
allegoric stories from a rabbi, an imam, and a Christian priest.
Why are analogies and parables so effective in making complex ideas
accessible? The book also contains echoes of the Bible as well as
familiar contemporary sayings. Why do you think Coelho draws on
these sources in telling a tale set centuries ago?
18. The Alchemist, Aleph, and other books by Coelho
have been widely translated and have become international best
sellers. What makes his books appealing to readers of different
cultures and religions? What does he capture about the universality
of the human experience? How would you describe his view of the
role of fate in our journeys through life? If you have read
his other books, which one is your favorite and why? What influence
has he had on your ideas and beliefs?