Among all the New Age sages hawking their sugary blends of psychology, cosmic awareness, and miracles — Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Matthew Fox, M. Scott Peck, Shirley MacLaine — James Redfield looks like the best bet to spawn his own sect. (Redfieldites? Celestinists?) His The Celestine Prophecy has taken permanent lodgings near the top of the best-seller list, and before settling there two years ago, it achieved legendary success as a self-published book. Now Redfield, who also nourishes his growing flock with a monthly newsletter, The Celestine Journal, has produced a sequel, The Tenth Insight. Both books are, technically, fiction, but they are bought, read, and meditated upon as scripture.
So it seems almost blasphemous to mention that as a novel The Tenth Insight falls short of even the comic-book standard set by The Celestine Prophecy, which featured wooden characters in a cardboard Peru chasing after a mysterious Manuscript while being chased by sinister soldiers and priests. (The Manuscript, written in 600 b.c. by authors unknown, contained nine insights about cosmic energy and addictive relationships and human evolution into ”higher and higher vibrations,” ancient wisdom that sounded only about as ancient as A.D. 1968.)
The nameless and usually clueless narrator of the first book is back in this one, stumbling through an Appalachian wilderness sacred to local Indians and perforated by ”openings” to a transcendent dimension where your disembodied, pre-birth soul has been busy planning your life. This time the villains are mad technocratic scientists fiendishly intent on ruining their environment, and the narrator’s effort to foil them is helped along by spiritually aware animals and holistic humans with names like Maya Ponder. The suspense won’t keep even the most ardent New Agers on the edge of their hot tubs, though, because every time a stray bullet or boulder is about to obliterate our heroes, it’s deflected by fuzzy blobs of white light. These are later revealed to be angels, who, as we know, are always there to protect inspirational authors from low sales figures.
Redfield believes every mishap or illness, every dream, every thought or image that crosses your mind and stranger or dog that crosses your path, has, like a Chinese fortune cookie, a hidden spiritual message for you. Even a cynical book review has a message. Perhaps something like ”Relax. You’ve evolved to such a high level of vibration that you’ve transcended the need to spend money on feel-good metaphysical goop like The Tenth Insight.” D