What the hell is The Celestine Prophecy?
Quite possibly the most annoying book ever written, that’s what. There’s this manuscript – sorry, Manuscript – dating from 600 BC that has surfaced in the rainforests of Peru. It contains nine “insights” into the meaning of life, and the novel traces our hero’s exploits as he tracks down each successive portion of the Manuscript and learns a greater spiritual wisdom.
As a novel it’s risible, with nil characterisation and dialogue that has all the wit and brio of the Road Code. So why has it been on the New Zealand bestseller lists for, at last count, 35 weeks, having already sold some two million copies in the US?
Because, sadly, of its message. This is that “we’re all looking for more fulfilment in our lives, and we won’t put up with anything that seems to bring us down. . . most of society’s recent ills can be traced to this restlessness and searching”. Forget poverty, starvation, racism, war, drugs – the major problem in the world is that a lot of middle-class white persons are feeling a bit sad.
The first step in your own personal evolution is to realise that every coincidence is meaningful. Always follow your intuition rather than rational thought. Then, understand that “every event has significance and contains a message that somehow pertains to our questions”. This, of course, is the world-view of the average paranoid schizophrenic.
The book has several versions of the ever-popular concept (UFOs, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the CIA killed Kennedy) of a secret idea known only to a few initiates, and at the same time to the government, which is trying to suppress it. As most governments leak like sieves, this is a preposterous notion, though maybe not to devotees of that other pop-culture paean to paranoia, The X-Files.
“The Manuscript says we will learn that sudden, spontaneous eye contact is a sign that two people will talk.” We are told to approach everyone whose eye we catch, as they will have a message for us. In some places I know, this message will likely be “Who you looking at?” followed by a swift blow to the head.
The culmination of the book is the Ninth Insight, which says that in the future we “will find alternative solutions to the pollution problem because someone will intuit these alternatives”. So, all you scientists, get intuiting.
What’s more, in an echo of fundamentalist Christianity’s “Rapture”, eventually we will “continue to increase our vibration. . . Whole groups of people, once they reach a certain level, will suddenly become invisible to those who are still vibrating at a lower level. . . At some point everyone will vibrate highly enough so that we can walk into heaven, in our same form.”
This is what happened to the Mayans, who were so evolved and vibrating so much that they all one day “crossed over together” and disappeared. Perhaps this also explains the vanishing of the dinosaurs? A cynic might observe that the Mayan classical period lasted until about 925 AD, so how did the Manuscript’s author in 600 BC know this – and come to think of it, how did the Manuscript survive in a rainforest?
Redfield is a Carlos Castenada for the 90s: for all the high-minded talk of spiritual bliss, he’s really describing a drug experience without the drugs. In some ways this goes beyond daffiness. The book is, to say the least, polite towards fundamentalist Christianity (Redfield is from Alabama) but hostile to Catholicism for being slavish to authority. At the same time it respects unquestioningly Native American (alternative-spirituality flavour of the year) traditions, and its own “wisdom” is not to be questioned, but elucidated for our benefit by more highly evolved beings.
In the Ninth Insight there is a curious passage on the economics of the future: “our gifts should go to the persons who have given us spiritual truth. When people come into our lives at just the right time to give us the answers we need, we should give them money.”
You can easily do this for James Redfield, because an advertisement at the back of the book suggests that you send him $US43 for a monthly newsletter with “more information”.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
#7 in this occasional series of reprints from Quote Unquote the magazine is from the June 1996 issue. It is one of a series I wrote called “What the hell is. . .?” which described to readers some elements of popular culture they might have heard of but had been lucky enough to avoid (see my account of John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus here). This one tackles James Redfield’s New Age bestseller The Celestine Prophecy: