From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: Celestine Prophecy
15 Sept 2009
I read the Celestine Prophecy a few years ago and just recently bought the movie. I read your comments and I just don't think you "get it." Maybe it's just not your time to understand. That's okay. If people will stop fighting themselves and just relax and let things flow...then I think you might start to understand. Meditate, take time for yourself, step away from the hustle and bustle of the world and admire the beauty of nature. Release negative thoughts/feelings, let go of things that hurt you. That's a good start. I'm not looking to argue here, not at all. I'm merely trying to help you to understand. Then you'll start hearing/sensing your own intuition. It's not all mystical and "out there." There's no reason to belittle it (The Celestine Prophecy) just because you don't understand. Just accept (and love) who you are and where you are on your own path. It will unfold.
reply: Thanks for just setting the record straight. I was just beginning to think the Celestine Prophecy was just something like a 12-step program for spiritual junkies.
29 Jul 2004
Firstly, I would like to say I think your site is one of the best on the Internet. Having read your summaries of a number of topics, reader comments and your replies, I think you have an evenhanded approach to topics, accept and respond to criticism fairly and do not suffer fools.
reply: For once, I agree with a commentator!
I grew up in a family of Fundamentalist/ Pentecostal Christians, then reacted strongly against their cult-like beliefs, to the point that I consider myself an atheist, although my mind is open to the idea that God exists, but I would need to see proof. It seems that every religion or spiritual belief uses the argument that you have to believe before you can see. I have also read that anyone can be hypnotised or resist hypnotism, depending on whether they allow it to happen. Thus your website, with its emphasis on rigorous scientific method to prove or disprove hypotheses, appeals to my way of thinking. I have also found it a useful starting point for research on various topics.
(Sorry to be so long-winded. The point of my email is to bag the Celestine Prophecy, but I wanted to explain where I’m coming from, and to basically say thanks because it has helped me deal with a number of issues, and led to a better scientific understanding of some of some very weird things which I saw and was told in the Pentecostal Church.) So:
Having ‘escaped’ from a Pentecostal upbringing, many of my friends have suggested reading The Celestine Prophecy, with comments such as, ‘it will really help you out,’ or ‘help you make sense of things.’ I am half way through it, but find, through sheer boredom, that I can go no further. I am baffled as to how so many intelligent, rational people can find this drivel of any value whatsoever. It is one of the worst written books I have ever read, (there is a complete absence of wit, and he seems to have a fascination with the word ‘foliage,’) but my criticisms go far deeper.
For a start, if it is intended, as some of your readers have suggested, merely as a guide, you may as well read anything. It does not really say anything new. I already have a deep appreciation of nature, beauty, and of how people you meet, sometimes by accident, can have a profound effect on your life. I hate to admit, but Jesus’ old line about ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ sums up a lot of religions, and much of this book.
However, even a brief moment spent on Redfield’s website and a glance at the sequels he has produced would suggest that he and many of his ‘followers’ take it very seriously indeed. So I will raise two specific issues I have with the book.
1. I disagree with the first insight (and it just goes downhill from there.) There is a mathematical probability for just about any kind of occurrence, e.g., bumping into an old friend. The odds are that I would bump into them sooner or later. When I do, I say, ‘oh what a coincidence I should bump into you." But it’s not a coincidence. It’s just an accident which had a certain mathematical probability of occurring, and it just happened to occur. Not meaning to get Post-Modern on you, but the concept of a coincidence is a construct, a name we give to a random event to give it meaning.
A lot of coincidences have been positive for me, many have not. One could say that every event that ever occurred anywhere was a coincidence.
When I was just a kid, I was told that god had a plan for my life. When I stopped believing the Pentecostal teachings on which I had been raised, I found the realisation that I am solely responsible for the decisions I make and for the direction of my life a profoundly liberating and exhilarating feeling. But if you follow Redfield’s argument, and other New Age ideas such as karma, we are merely passive, pawns, looking for guidance at every step.
2. Redfield’s hijacking of science to support his ideas is disturbing. (Look at his abuse of the concept of a Critical Mass.) Quantum Mechanics, one of the most intriguing areas of science, is challenging old ideas, and, if mastered, promises almost fantastic advances. However Redfield, along with other New Age movements such as TM and Reiki, appear to take the view that its theories, such as unified fields, and the discovery that observation of subatomic particles may change their physical properties, fit in perfectly with their own. They turn apparent parallels into correlations, without a rigorous explanation of how or why. (As you have said elsewhere on your website,) new age energy is not energy- e- as understood by physics, but The Celestine Prophecy uses what is still a speculative and largely unexplored area of science to give an air of scientific legitimacy to its own ideas.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight a line in the book on page 60 from the chapter, A Matter of Energy, in reference to an apparently angry scientist with a red aura:
When he walked up to us he turned to Sarah and condescendingly said, "You’re a scientist, aren’t you?"
Apart from the fact that a good writer shouldn’t need to use the word ‘condescendingly’ to portray condescension, it should be noted that Redfield uses the argument between the two characters which follows to paint a very condescending picture of anyone who isn’t open minded enough to give some of his ideas a go. (Not to mention dismissing off-hand the idea that one needs to conduct a 'controlled' experiment.')
The ideals espoused in The Celestine Prophecy are not open-minded. I believe they are a retreat to an archaic, superstitious belief system where people who are insecure about themselves and their place in the world, who need to believe in something greater than themselves to give their life meaning, can hide. It structures a view of the world which is restrictive and simplistic.
I want my money back.
David Hiscox, 26
reply: Sorry, David, no refunds in this lifetime!
18 Mar 1998
I hope you don't mind an unsolicited email, but I just finished reading your piece on the Celestine Prophesy and I wanted to write a quick note thanking you. I must have sounded like a Southern Baptist with my shouts of "amen" and "preach on" as I read it. There were more than a few raised eyebrows among my co-workers. As soon as I was done reading it through I printed it off and waited anxiously for lunch so I could run a copy to my partner.
The fact is I was spending a lot of time today on the web looking for information on James Redfield (it's spring break here at IU-Bloomington where I work so things are a bit slow in the office). I'll explain why I was looking for such information in a moment.
I've been active in various progressive issues since I was 18. Most of my energies have been devoted to various labor and environmental issues. Currently I am going back to school for a second degree (in GIS) and I've found myself working closely with a great group of people who focus on our public forests. This organization serves as an umbrella group for a wide variety of grassroots activists throughout the central hardwood region. In June of this year we are having our annual meeting, down in the Smokeys, and I just discovered that James Redfield is going to be the keynote speaker.
Now, another member of this group has been a friend of mine for years. Sheis a very intelligent, caring and valued friend. Her advice, assistance and friendship have meant a great deal to me over the years. Some time ago she came across the Celestine Prophesy. She loved the book and wanted all of her friends to check it out as well. She knew a group of us were headed down to Kentucky for a backpacking trip and she encouraged us to take along her copy for campfire reading.
Well, that particular trip was the worst of my life! We ended up getting hit hard by a freak storm. One of our tents was demolished during the deluge and we ended up spending a miserable, freezing, water-logged night under a makeshift shelter. Somewhere around 3 a.m. the rain lightened up enough for my partner to decide we could all do with a nice fire. The only thing that was dry, however, was the Celestine Prophesy. I was thankful for James Redfield at least that night.
We replaced the book when we got back to town and have tried to avoid any deep discussions about Redfield's "ideas" with our friend. The fact is, who hasn't bought into fuzzy-thinking at one (or two) times in their life? I didn't want to appear judgmental, and I certainly didn't want to upset a dear friend. So, I kept my opinions to myself (normally, not an easy task for me).
But now my friend is very excited that James Redfield is coming to address a major meeting of hundreds of environmental activists. Why we are not having a speaker address the issues of zero-cut, or the role of multinational corporations in our society, or the effect of GATT, NAFTA and MAI on the environment, working people and democracy in general, I do not know. Instead, we have an astrologer who wrote some very bad prose and apparently has some nebulous connection to a few "green" organizations.
So, I've decided to find out what I can about this fella and make sure the tools in
my skeptical toolbox are in good repair. Your Skeptics Dictionary has been a
fantastic resource. Sorry to go on an on, but I wanted to know you've really brightened up
the day of this Hoosier Skeptic! I send my best wishes to you and yours.
reply: There seems to be a trend among "leaders" to invite astrologers,
psychics, spiritual novelists, etc. to speak to "followers" and
"workers". I suppose the idea is to inspire the troops. James Randi wrote
recently about Lucent (formerly Bell Laboratories) inviting a paranormalist to inspire
their scientists. I'd be worried if my scientists were inspired by James Van Praagh or
14 Apr 1997
I think that you have clearly missed the message of the Celestine Prophecy. If you really would give it an honest chance you would find that these insights are truly just a guide. The meaning of life isn't the same thing for everyone. This book is not leading up to one worldwide solution. This book inspires people to think for themselves and to find their own personal meaning of life. You are entitled to your opinion but I firmly believe that no harm can come from this book if it is understood correctly.
reply: I agree that people find the meaning of life in a variety of ways, including
science fiction and fantasy literature. If the Celestine Prophecy inspires people
to think for themselves, then I have misjudged the book completely. If, on the other hand,
you think that disregarding facts in favor of fiction and fantasy is "thinking for
oneself," then I stand by my original evaluation.
25 May 1998
I am writing in regards to your skepticism towards The Celestine Prophecy. I am an adolescent, who is constantly struggling to survive. My goal is to create a clearer picture of who I am in this society we have made. This picture is added to and given more depth as I encounter different people and situations in my life. I choose what to admire and what to frown upon, who to follow and who to guide. These are decisions that I, along with everyone else, wake up in the morning pondering.
Just like religion, it is suggested to many of us, to follow a leader, or their ideas on life. So too, is The Celestine Prophecy. If you read the book, looking for guidelines to criticize, you will have found them. However, if you were looking for an alternative suggestion to dealing with this confusion we live in, and hope to come out alive, then you might begin to understand where James Redfield is coming from.
The Celestine Prophecy opened my eyes to a beauty that I had never seen before. This was an indescribable beauty that could only be seen through an open mind. My life has been changed since reading this novel for reasons that you, a skeptic, will find empty. I'm not sure what proof I can offer you, except for the fact that I am not a weak person looking for guidance from a stranger. I am a proud, strong willed, open-minded teenager. I pity those adults, who have not yet realised that maybe science is just a theory and theories may be wrong.
I do appreciate you giving me the opportunity to voice my opinion. I'm sorry if I've
insulted or offended anyone along the way. My bottom line, however, is that maybe you're a
little to quick to judge us who see auras as delusional. My good sir, instead of opening
your eyes to the hate in our world, open your eyes to the beauty that is left.
Meghan Edmonds - Age 15
British Columbia, Canada.
reply: Your letter is very touching. I am glad that you have found truth and beauty
in this novel. I wasn't much older than you are when I felt the same way about Kahil
Gibran's The Prophet. I still open my eyes to the beauty in the world, but I no longer see
it in this book.
19 Jul 1998
I understand your skepticism, I truly do. I, too, am a skeptic of anything that seems to make sense or challenges me to feel happy and blissful. How can we not be skeptical, having been raised in a society where the key to happiness is only an infomercial away? And upon entrusting our faith and our soul (not to mention our pocketbooks) to such gurus, we soon find ourselves crashing down from this high, a little lighter in the wallet, and a lot more anxious than we were before.
The Celestine Prophecy, however, does none of those things. In your own writing on the topic, it is quite easy to see (for someone who is looking), that there is perhaps a part of you that wants to believe in such things. Your eloquent and detailed account on the state of the world, on the violence and hatred and scheming and lies, could not have been written by someone purely poking fun at the idea. You know that the world is not utopia. You know that something has to change in order for civilization as a whole to move forward, to survive at all, for that matter.
For argument's sake, what if it is the Celestine Prophecy? What if all we have to do is focus on our energies, on our surroundings, on ourselves to be happy? Of course, it's simplistic and childlike. Ever wonder why children are basically inherently happy?
This book is not meant as a bible. The nine insights are not commandments. They are simply ideas meant to stimulate thought and examples as to how each of us, personally, can obtain a feeling of peace and happiness in our lifetime, and how we can help others to feel peaceful and happy. It is a message for our times, and really, it doesn't call for any sort of skepticism. Not only doesn't it ask you to purchase any products or ask for tithing in order to obtain this underlying sense of peace, but it doesn't demand that you live by a stringent set of guidelines - it's different for each individual.
Look at the world around you. Reread the book. Ask yourself if any of the messages
in it help you to make sense of what is going on in the world around you. Don't believe
that we'll pay each other for insights in 500 years - that's not the real point of the
book, as I think you know. The point is that it is possible for humankind to be decent and
loving to one another, if each individual takes the time and makes the effort to better
his own outlook and existence.
reply: Of course I do not object to love and peace, decency, etc. However, I don't think we need James Redfield's added metaphysical baggage to promote those things.