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A RING OF TRUTH: James Redfield's Spiritual Parable Speaks
Redfield is speaking to Uptown Express on the telephone from Miami, one of the stops on his 14-city promotional tour arranged by Warner Books, the publisher that reportedly paid $850,000 for the hardback rights to his New Age mystery novel.
"We thought our timing was right in terms of the information, and it became clear from the very beginning that the book was going to be a pass-along book that people embraced," states Redfield. "But, you know, you never quite are ready for what has happened now."
"What has happened now" is that in March of 1994, just a few weeks after Warner's release of the hardback version of The Celestine Prophecy, the book hit the top of The Wall Street Journal fiction list and achieved Number One on The New York Times Bestseller List.
"I think what has happened," states Redfield, "is that the book just perhaps puts into words an experience that a whole lot of us are having at the same time, and that is what I think explains the degree of pass-along, where people just sort of embrace it and say, 'This is a message I also believe in and want to see circulated.'" And the readers have embraced it, frequently buying several copies in a fervor to share the book's message with friends and relatives.
Described by The Washington Times as "rule-breaking" and "a maverick hit," the key to this modest volume's incredible success appears to be the message of hope woven into an adventure-filled plot, complete with bullet-dodging chase scenes, nocturnal escapes on foot through the rainforests of Peru and an ancient manuscript that holds the key to the world's fate. One reader likened it to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," another to Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys.
"The book is a story; it is an adventure tale, as I call it," states Redfield, "but it's based on my experiences. The format of the search and the trying to figure out the discoveries most illustrated to me my own experience, the experience of getting a clarity about spirituality."
Redfield attributes the birth of his own spiritual quest to a book he read in the early 1970s, How to Make ESP Work for You by Harold Sherman. "In graduate school, I came at this from the humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology entry. And then, of course, it became very clear that most scientists pretty much left out the mysterious side of life. I was motivated also just for more clarity. My own search was for the key features of this new spiritual world view--this new emerging paradigm."
In tidy sequential order, a feat only achieved in fiction, the story's main character receives translations of each of the ancient manuscript's nine "Insights," nine steps that are the vehicle for humanity's evolution from violence and power struggles to peace and cooperation.
Referring to his story as a spiritual parable, Redfield explains, "These are the insights we're coming to right here at this period of history, so they're almost archetypal . . . they're built into the way humans grow spiritually."
"The First Insight occurs when we become aware of the mysterious coincidences that happen in life," he says. "Everybody can recall some uncanny sequence of events that created a new job or resulted in a new relationship. It's the sense that a divine force is operating to send our lives toward a particular destiny, a phenomenon the psychologist Carl Jung called 'synchronicity.' This perception opens us up to a new awareness of the spiritual in everyday life."
"We can't really get our lives on track and reach our full potential and destiny until we see how we distract ourselves and get in our own way," he continues. "We have to stay alert and connect with the inner energy described by the mystics in order to keep the coincidences coming."
The fictional manuscript's "Third Insight" predicts that people will learn to perceive what was formerly an invisible type of energy. "What we perceive as hard matter is mostly empty space with a pattern of energy running through it," writes Redfield. The book's main character learns to see this energy, a phenomenon popularly known as "seeing auras."
Redfield has his character observe an argument and see energy passing between the two combatants, aggressively striking out, as if to capture the other's light. This scene is used to illustrate one of the tenets of the "Third Insight" that attributes all human conflict to a general perception of energy scarcity, thus resulting in attempts to steal energy from others -- what we would call power plays. The idea sounds similar to a popular definition of jealousy -- the feeling that occurs when one perceives a shortage of love. If that guy/gal gets loving attention from my special one, there won't be enough left over for me to be special. Redfield maintains that all conflict is based upon a perception that energy is in short supply, and, therefore, we attempt to steal it from one another.
"Love and this energy is [the same thing]," says the soft-spoken Redfield. "Love, though, is also a measure. There's some life energy that we have, and we sort of share it with people we might be relating to, and that operates whether we're feeling in a state of love or not. But love is the measure of whether we're really connected with the internal source of this energy, where we can consciously fill up and amplify the amount of energy that we're able to take in from the inside."
Though seeing this energy is a key theme in The Celestine Prophecy, Redfield, who readily admits he sees auras, says, "I don't know that it's important that everyone visually observe that as much as they sort of intuitively feel the movement of energy between people and especially between themselves and other people."
Redfield's modern fable even ventures into the issue of having more children than one can afford, but the author is not writing of finances. He contends that there is such a thing as having more children than one can spiritually afford. Redfield is drawing from his personal experience. With a B.A. in Sociology and an M.Ed. in Counseling, he has spent 15 years as a therapist with abused children, emotionally disturbed adolescents and families.
One answer Redfield sees to the healing of our perceptions of energy scarcity is the rearing of children with the knowledge that there is enough. "One should not bring into the world more children than one can raise in a spiritual way," he states with conviction. "We're redefining what spiritual raising of little souls is all about, and one of the things it's about, in my view, is being able to supply them with enough energy until they get their pathways open and can meet the challenges of life, so that a natural transition takes place, and they don't feel short of energy or insecure."
"You know, we're just now beginning to take seriously how children can be raised from a spiritual view in a spiritual community," he states, "and all I meant to convey was that however many children you have, you need to make sure that there are enough people to make a commitment so that the kids don't run short of energy."
Redfield sees our society living in a state of awakening spiritual awareness, a process that began in the early 1960s when we all began to ask the big question: What am I doing here anyway?
"I think that what's happening is that there's a clarity that's forming about living a fuller spiritual life," he says, "and I think the book participates in that in the sense of sort of defining the features of this new spirituality."
There are so many people out there, and we're all sort of coming to this same clarity at the same time.And so there's a real swell of genuineness about all of this, because people don't really want to just pretend about it. They want to do more than explore," he states earnestly, "they want to have the actual experiences. And that's what's different here in the 90s."
Earth changes, the term now applied to the cataclysmic earth quakes, floods and volcanic eruptions, which are the subject of both ancient and modern prophecy, do not seem to figure into the idyllic future predicted in Redfield's novel. "I think that there's a correlation between how quickly we move into this new spiritual world view and whether the earth changes come," states Redfield. "I think that if there are enough of us that make the spiritual transformation without that sort of motivation then that motivation won't be necessary. And I think that's what the earth changes will be. They're sort of the earth shifting to wake us up, and, if we're already awake, we don't need that. I think that the earth changes do not need to happen, don't have to happen. But there is a spiritual urgency, a sort of imperative to act, to try to spread this view and clarify what our new spiritual common sense is all about."
"It's an adventure tale; it's a parable," insists Redfield. "But, you know," he adds, "I seem to have a sort of psychic connection with this information that leads me to think that there may really be an old manuscript. Now, I don't know where it is or whether it's discoverable or whether it exists in some other dimension, or what. That's the reason that I really just want this to be understood as a story that brings on an experience, and it's up to the reader to sort of experientially verify whether it rings true for them--that's the spirit in which the book is offered."
Some readers are convinced that Redfield's tale is true. "There's more of it that's true than I will ever talk about," states Redfield, "but what I'd say to people is that it's based on truth, but it's a construction of many experiences . . . Any author will tell you a book like this sort of comes from kind of beyond you. You know, a lot of it feels like you're just getting it down, but your best ideas are just sort of arriving in your head."
Redfield has already begun work on his next book, a sequel dealing with the "Tenth Insight." Fans of The Celestine Prophecy are hungry for more, and the author isn't secretive about the message of the next book.
"Once we understand that our contribution is to make the world a more spiritual place, how we shift in place, how all the institutions of the world shift in place and transform into their true function as a part of the whole--that's the Tenth Insight."
He elaborates by using the example of attorneys. "They're really supposed to be conflict resolvers, but right now they create conflict. But as they see through that, their true function will be to teach other people how to resolve conflict."
The Celestine Prophecy is not a great literary work. It is, however, a very readable book and a very important book. Quite simply, Redfield's modest volume has touched a chord of recognition in the legions of seekers who simply want to be good human beings, know their mission in life and fulfill its purpose.
After a thoughtful silence, Redfield says, "My mission is to promote a kind of spirituality that's growth oriented and adventure and self-discovery oriented as opposed to self-denial oriented."