For the past five months, I’ve participated in my first ever book club. I had gone to the occasional book discussion at the library if I was interested, but I’d never been in an actual group that I committed to seeing everyone in it at least once a month. I couldn’t be happier I did. I’ve mentioned my totally awesome and insightful book club members before, but let me regale you with their praise once more. Collectively, the group is made up of teachers ranging from elementary to college level, nurses, sales managers, and counselors. I am their token young person. I joined up when a coworker of mine invited me knowing I had been an English Major and loved to read. The first night I met the group I couldn’t believe how welcoming they were and how they opened up the discussion to ask me my opinion on things. I love how each member has their own unique way of relating to the book. Myself and one other member love researching the history behind the book, why did that author have to write this story, what’s the author’s background, what is the public saying about the story. Other members have notebooks that they jot down questions about specific scenes where they want to know the thought process behind the character. And others come to chat and bounce ideas off of our discussions.
Get to the point, Witkins, you startin’ up a talk show or what?!
So, over the past five months, one member had repeatedly brought up the same book title at every other book’s discussion. Because we heard it so often, we agreed to read it.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Celestine Prophecy discovers the story of a Peruvian manuscript that is said to highlight nine insights that all humans will come to understand in consecutive order. It takes the reader along the spiritual journey of John, a man with no direction at the beginning of his story. The first insight is the noticing of coincidences. It is believed that human beings will start to realize the uncanny timing of occurrences in their lives, be it the people they meet, the information they need to learn, or the path they should travel. After that, the insights build upon one another with emphasis on energy connections and self awareness.
Now, a story isn’t a good story without conflict. This tale, being a spiritual one, has conflict when the church authorities begin hunting down the existing manuscript and confiscating any copies that may be in circuit. They are determined to teach that the manuscript defies the one true God and the Church’s teachings.
So begins our Indiana Jones-style adventure story, following John as he learns and experiences the nine insights.
Some Background Information:
I didn’t particularly think The Celestine Prophecy was well written. It was difficult to get through and there was simply “no fluff” in the dialogue. It is written out very matter of fact: John asks himself questions, John meets who he needs to meet, asks what he needs to, travels on.
However, I did like the story. There’s something to be said about noticing coincidences, and you may call it whatever you want. I believe there is a spiritual aspect to our lives. How else can we explain that innate feeling we get when the phone rings and you know who’s on the other line, or when you have a dream that something bad is going to happen and a loved one dies? What sets us apart as humans is the ability to see and read and feel each other. But like everything else, it’s a learned skill. We have to be open to getting to know someone. In that sense, I think the Celestine Prophecy has a lot to offer.
But check this out! When Redfield first attempted to publish the tale, he refused all offers because it would be additional 12-18 months of editing before publication. Umm, isn’t that the standard?
He believed the story needed to be published now (which was in 1993), and “driven by intuition to seek [a publishing consultant from New York] he decided to self-publish the book.” He met his wife, Salle Merrill, right after publication and the two of them basically drove around the midwest/southern part of the country handing out copies of his book out of their car trunk. Word of mouth spread, and the book was picked up by Warner Books and published a hardcover edition in March 1994. Now what I’m wondering is is this a prime example of social media hard at work creating the dream of a New York Times Bestseller (which Prophecy was for 3 years)? Or is this just fodder for one man’s quest to revolutionize religion?
I did a little hunting on the local library catalogs and only 1 out of about 6 housed the book in non-fiction. In truth, it is published as fiction. There wasn’t a real “John” who backpacked around Peru and met up with renegade priests who taught him how to grow corn using his mind’s energy and who made his way to Machu Picchu to assist finding the ninth insight.
The book has nonetheless skyrocketed in sales, and become so popular, Redfield has written three other books, The Tenth Insight, The Secret of Shambhala, and The Twelfth Insight. He now puts out newsletters and has written programs to help people propel forward in their own spiritual journeys.
Reading the reviews on Goodreads, the points range from one star to five. You’ll see the recently relocated person give it two thumbs up for reminding them to take life into their own hands and make the changes they want to see, while others write angry reviews that the book is nothing more than psychobabble and a waste of time. I’m going to stay somewhere in the middle on this. I said before, it’s not well written, I wouldn’t recommend it for its eloquent language, but if taken for what is, a parable about how life could be, perhaps should be, with more thought to how we communicate with each other and how our own “control dramas” impact our learning, then I think it is a worthwhile read.
The author, James Redfield, did lead an interesting life that I think demonstrates why he would have a need to write this book. Redfield grew up in a Methodist community-rich environment. He did question elements of the faith and went on to study many Eastern philosophies like Taoism and Zen, while studying Sociology at Auburn University.
For 15 years he worked as a counselor for abused teens, and used methods of human potential and psychic phenomena to assist his patients. When he left, it was to write full time and found that while writing The Celestine Prophecy, he himself underwent the kinds of phenomena described in the book that helped him put it all together. He was given learning tools and met people who helped teach him the exact spiritual insight he was trying to write about.
Your turn! What do you think of The Celestine Prophecy? Have you read it? What insight would you most want the whole human race to realize? Have you had any coincidences in your life lately?
Note: I purposely didn’t include the full nine insights, so as not to spoil the book for anyone wanting to read it, but you may view the insights on Redfield’s site here.