More than 10 years on, Rosamund Burton finds "TheCelestine Prophecy" has more relevance than ever.
Like millions of others, I read "The CelestineProphecy" in the mid 1990s and was inspired byits message. I remember everyone was talking about thebook and its ideas. Its impact and widespread appealwere similar to "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho,published in 1988, and "The Secret" by RhondaByrne more recently. Now, more than 10 years later,"The Celestine Prophecy" film has just beenreleased in Australia on DVD, and the author is givingworkshops in Sydney and Melbourne early next month.What he is doing and has to say today still has incrediblerelevance.
James Redfield was born in 1950 and grew up in ruralAlabama. He was brought up in the tradition of the MethodistChurch, which he describes as "loving and communityorientated", but found he needed to move beyondits confines to find the answers to his questions aboutspirituality. While studying for a degree in sociology,he also studied Eastern philosophies including Taoismand Zen. Redfield then completed an MA in counsellingand spent 15 years working as a therapist to abusedadolescents.
During this period, he became involved in the humanpotential movement and used some of its ideas on intuitionand psychic phenomena to help his clients. At the beginningof 1989, Redfield left his job to write full time and,for the next two years, wrote "The Celestine Prophecy",the adventure story with its vision of a new spiritualunderstanding emerging in the world today.
"A new spiritual awakening is occurring in humanculture, an awakening brought about by a critical massof individuals who experience their lives as a spiritualunfolding, a journey in which we are led forward bymysterious coincidences." This is the first ofthe nine insights in "The Celestine Prophecy".
"The reason that people are pursuing a deeperspirituality," Redfield explains when we speakon the telephone, "is that they are getting morefeedback. They are getting more direct experience thatthe spiritual life is valid and there is a spiritualconnection to life."
When I ask him to give me an example of a "directexperience" he talks about "meaningful coincidences-those times when we meet someone who is working inthe very area we have thought of moving to, for example.
"It seems like we are being helped spiritually,"Redfield explains, "that the divine in the worldis acting out so that our lives are better and we havemore fulfillment."
It is this awareness of coincidences and synchronicitiesthat he is talking about in his one day workshops. Heis also teaching how to develop a guiding intuitionthat informs our decision making and life choices sowe can follow our higher calling and mission in life.
Redfield himself found that he was actually guidedby a series of coincidences in writing "The CelestineProphecy". Books would show up mysteriously, andhe found himself encountering the exact sort of individualshe was attempting to describe.
Yet, when he began sending "The Celestine Prophecy"to publishers in 1992, the coincidences came to a halt.The publishers who were interested said it would takeat least a year to release, and Redfield felt it wasimportant to get it out immediately. Initially, he sawhis lack of publishing opportunities as a failure, butthen realised that it was this interpretation that waspreventing the coincidences continuing to occur.
"When I realised what was happening," herecounts, "I snapped to attention and made morerevisions to the book, emphasising this point."
Redfield is still a regular churchgoer, although headmits that does not mean every Sunday. He is also veryinterested in what other faiths have to offer, so oftenvisits the places of worship of other religions anddenominations. It was an intuitive decision that madehim go to a Unity church one evening, where a womancalled Salle Merrill happened to be giving a meditationclass.
"We saw each other and started talking, and wewere married six months later." Having decidedto self publish "The Celestine Prophecy",Redfield and Merill spent six months on the road, visitingsmall bookshops all over the United States and givingcopies away. Of the first 3000 books they printed, theygave away 1500.
Redfield admits this was a very testing time for him,as he had no idea if the book was going to be acceptedand recommended or not. But within six months, therewere 100,000 copies of the book in print. Then WarnerBooks bought the rights and published the hardback editionin 1994. "The Celestine Prophecy" shot tonumber one on the New York Times bestsellers list, andremained on the list for more than three years, beingjoined later by Redfield's second book, "The TenthInsight".
In 1999, "The Secret of Shambhala: In Search ofthe Eleventh Insight", which is about faith, positivethinking and the power of prayer, and how these makeour visions reality, was published. Worldwide salesof Redfield's books now exceed 20 million, and "TheCelestine Prophecy" has sold more than 700,000copies in Australia alone.
When I ask Redfield what he thinks of the latest bookto make record sales in this genre - "The Secret"by Rhonda Byrne - he admits that he is a big fan andadds, "It's pure 11th insight stuff".
"It was wonderful to me to see "The Secret"come out and have so much clarity on this whole ideathat we can create the world we want, and that thereare laws of creation and manifestation," he says,But, he adds, there are more concepts we have to understandabout how manifestation works, that we have to makesure that what we are intending comes from a higherself connection and not just from the desires of theego.
One of the important messages of "The CelestineProphecy" series is that part of our spiritualjourney is to connect us with our higher calling andhelp us understand that each and every one of us ishere to "deliver truth in some area of life".Often this is brought about through a challenge. WhenRedfield is asked what he has found particularly challengingin his life he says, "I had to really live andwork to move from a kind of abstract idea of spirituality,an academic sort of grasping of all this, to bring itdown to real life. I was aware that I wasn't doing thatenough, which compelled me and drove me to work it outwell enough to talk about it."
He has found that, in writing the books, he has movedfrom the idea to the reality of this and adds, "Weall teach what is hardest for us."
Another challenge for Redfield and Merrill was therealisation, after Merrill had suffered four miscarriages,that they would not be able to have children. Redfieldhad two daughters from a previous relationship, butMerrill was faced with the reality that she could nothave children of her own.
"That was difficult," says Redfield. "Butlike anything else, any of the other challenges in life,we just went back to the well, back to seek the divinemission that we are on and let that lead us into somethingbetter."
This couple has certainly been doing some significantwork recently. They have been very much a part of themaking of "The Celestine Prophecy" film. Merrillwas the executive producer and Redfield was one of thethree screenplay writers, as well as a producer. Heis very excited by the film, and says, "I thinkit very much complements the book in terms of creatingan understanding of how it feels to be pursuing a spirituallife."
He and Merrill have also initiated the Global PrayerProject. For more than a year now, they have broughttogether people all over the world every fortnight foran hour's prayer. The group prays that people involvedin conflict will attain a greater spiritual awareness,and be able to move beyond the cycles of revenge andother factors that contribute to the conflict. Recently,their focus has been on the troubles in Kenya, withthe war in Iraq also a primary concern. Redfield alsotalks about some of these conflicts, and their rolein our spiritual evolution. He believes that humanshave been expanding their consciousness since the beginningof civilisation. The challenge we are facing today,he says, is that extreme forces of various religionsin the world are creating violence because they wanteverybody else to adhere to their spiritual viewpoint.The solution, he believes, is tolerance: "It isto begin to try to understand and accept the moderateview of every religion and support the moderate in everyreligion. If the moderates in every religion supporteach other, then the extremists will be pushed back.Their power will be taken away because the moderateswithin each religion will take the centre stage."
When this "founding father" is asked abouthow he feels spirituality and the self help industryis progressing today, he comments on the merging ofspirituality and self help into the mainstream: howbusiness books are likely to talk about a spiritualapproach, or psychology books may discuss the importantaspects of the transcendence of life. As a result, hebelieves there are not so many self help books out thereas there used to be. "It's not because people aren'tinterested in it anymore," he adds, "but theyare getting it from lots of different places and alsoin conversations with other people."
And this is what the book he is working on now, whichhe calls "The Twelfth Insight", is about -"doing it, living it and knowing it". Redfieldsees "The Twelfth Insight" as integratingspirituality into our personal, everyday lives. Today,he thinks people are not so much interested in talkingabout the ideas, but rather talking about how they applythem to their daily lives.
His final words of inspiration are: "We have tolet ourselves be guided. We have to explore all thechance events which happen in our lives. If we do that,then our world can change dramatically. We are facingwhatever challenge we might be facing and we can finda solution - a mystery which will show us a way thatleads our lives to a better place."