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"The Celestine Prophecy"

By James Redfield

Copyright © 1993 by James Redfield

Published by Warner Books

ISBN 0-446-51862-X

Reviewed by Michael Kisor

There is a reason why The Celestine Prophecy was originally a self-published work, and there is a reason why it stayed so long on the Best Seller list once a mainstream publisher finally picked it up. It was originally self-published because publishers know a bad manuscript when they see one. It made the Best Seller list, and lingered there, not on its literary merits -- it has none -- but because its message of hope for a better future is at once attainable, timely, and compelling.

The Celestine Prophecy's rise to fame had humble beginnings. At first it was promoted by word of mouth. Eventually Warner Books took notice of its public appeal and decided it had commercial potential in spite of its insipid, lackluster narration and dull, poorly developed, two-dimensional characters. The Celestine Prophecy will not be winning any awards for literary excellence. Even so, there is something compelling about the book: Its message of hope and the validation of our collective social awakening in the twilight of the millennium.

The narrative, while it has its moments, is neither gripping nor compelling. The plot sometimes begs the reader for forgiveness while Redfield occasionally beats one of his points to death by overly illustrating it. One sometimes wonders if Redfield, faced with the prospect of hanging a picture at home, would choose a sledge hammer to pound the tacks? Then there are times when the plot takes the opposite extreme and fails to properly develop a situation. The sole romance in the novel, for example, is so superficial and underdeveloped that it would have been better to have omitted it altogether; it is not believable, it doesn't serve as a vehicle to illustrate Redfield's "addiction to another" message, nor does it even serve to titilate us. But this is consistent with the fact that all of Redfield's characters are poorly developed, two-dimensional, and totally devoid of charisma. Even the main character is flat and uninteresting, not to mention a bit dull and dimwitted. Frequently you'll want to strangle this character, or you will ask yourself: "Doesn't this guy get it? Is he completely stupid or what?" From a literary perspective, there is nothing to recommend this book -- a point even the book's ardent admirers will readily admit.

Literary ineptitude notwithstanding, Redfield wisely presented his ideas as a work of fiction. In that venue his message is most palatable and will reach and influence a larger number of people than had he written a treatise on the subject. The reader may feel that Redfield goes astray once in awhile in his concepts, such as his ode to pop-psychology especially in the "Sixth Insight." But informed readers nevertheless know that there is much truth underlying The Celestine Prophecy's facade of fiction, and this may be what so many have found endearing about Redfield's work. The appeal of the The Celestine Prophecy surely does not come from the telling of the tale, nor the tale itself: It is rooted in the hope that Redfield's optimistic message might be true, and in our seemingly innate need to see something bigger in life than just ourselves. The reader who is knowledgeable of theories of cosmic energies, serendipity, chi (life) energies, positive visualization, Schrödinger's cat, sub-atomic physics, or Quanta-Gaia knows that there is actually a substantial basis to believe (at least partially) in Redfield's message. So does the spiritual sojourner and the optimist. Redfield breaks no new ground here.

Every concept found in the The Celestine Prophecy can be found elsewhere, however Redfield's presentation is easily digestible for the average person and many of his readers are likely to be encountering these concepts for the first time. Even for the person who is familiar with these concepts, The Celestine Prophecy can be a worthwhile read. I do not regret having taken the time to read it, i only wish it had been ghost written by a professional writer who could have given depth to the characters and breathed life into the plot.

The appeal of The Celestine Prophecy is derrived from its spiritual message of hope for a better future -- an attainable future. The skeptic, the pessimist, and the materialist will likely hold The Celestine Prophecy in great disdain as it will have little to offer them that they are willing to accept -- even though they are the ones who might benefit most from the book's message. Each of us must find our own path in life.

Author's Note to The Celestine Prophecy:

For half a century now, a new consciousness has been entering the human world, a new awareness that can only be called transcendent, spiritual. If you find yourself reading this book, then perhaps you already sense what is happening, already feel it inside.

It begins with a heightened perception of the way our lives move forward. We notice those chance events that occur at just the right moment, and bring forth just the right individuals, to suddenly send our lives in a new and important direction. Perhaps more than any other people in any other time, we intuit higher meaning in these mysterious happenings.

We know that life is really about a spiritual unfolding that is personal and enchanting -- an unfolding that no science or philosophy or religion has yet fully clarified. And we know something else as well: we know that once we do understand what is happening, how to engage this allusive process and maximize its occurrence in our lives, human society will take a quantum leap into a whole new way of life -- one that realizes the best of our tradition -- and creates a culture that has been the goal of history all along.

The following story is offered toward this new understanding. If it touches you, if it crystalizes something that you perceive in life, then pass on what you see to another -- for I think our new awareness of the spiritual is expanding in exactly this way, no longer through hype nor fad, but personally, through a kind of positive psychological contagion among people.

All that any of us have to do is suspend our doubts and distractions just long enough... and miraculously, this reality can be our own.

Excerpt from The Celestine Prophecy:

We join a conversation already in progress where one of the characters, Dobson, is explaining the prophecy of the "Ninth Insight" to his comrades:
"Guided by their intuitions, everyone will know precisely what to do and when to do it, and this will fit harmoniously with the actions of others. No one will consume excessively because we will have let go of the need to possess and to control for [our own personal] security. In the next millennium, life will have become about something else.

"According to the Manuscript," he went on, "our sense of purpose will be satisfied by the thrill of our own evolution -- by the elation of receiving intuitions and then watching closely as our destinies unfold. The Ninth depicts a human world where everyone has slowed down and become more alert, ever vigilant for the next meaningful encounter that comes along. We will know that it could occur anywhere: on a path that winds through a forest, for instance, or on a bridge that traverses some canyon.

"Can you visualize human encounters that have this much meaning and significance? Think how it would be for two people meeting for the first time. Each will first observe the other's energy field, exposing any manipulations. Once clear, they will consciously share life stories until, elatedly, messages are discovered. Afterward, each will go forward again on their individual journey, but they will be significantly altered. They will vibrate at a new level and will thereafter touch others in a way not possible before their meeting."

As we gave him energy, Dobson became ever more eloquent and inspired with his description of the new human culture. And what he said rang true. I personally had no doubt that he was describing an achievable future. Yet I also knew that throughout history many visionaries had glimpsed such a world, Marx for example, yet no way had been found to create such a utopia. Communism had become a tragedy.

Even with the knowledge imparted in the first eight insights, I couldn't imagine how the human race could get to the place described by the Ninth, considering human behavior generally. When Dobson paused, I voiced my concern.

"The Manuscript says our natural pursuit of the truth will lead us there," Dobson explained, smiling directly at me...

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