In 1989, James Redfield quit his job as an adolescent counselor and became a full-time writer. He combined his interests in psychology, Eastern and Western philosophy, science, futurism, ecology, history, and my
sticism, and by 1992 he had written The Celestine Prophecy. Unable to find anyone to publish it, Redfield self-published his story. He and his wife, Salle, had 3000 copies printed and gave half to small book shops in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and
Virginia. The Celestine Prophecy, "an adventure in pursuit of a spiritual mystery," stunned those who picked it up and read it. In a few short months by word of mouth, over a hundred thousand people in the country had become excited by it and Warner Pu
blishing picked it up and carried it to the bestseller list, where it remained for several years.
TCP is exciting and uncanny, mystical and chilling. It is the adventure of a man searching for an ancient Peruvian manuscript which holds nine insights of the human race. The man's search takes him to the rain forests of Peru, through the Andes mounta
ins, and ancient ruins of civilizations. The secrets of how we will save the planet and its creatures are uncovered as one by one the man discovers each insight, while church and state both wildly try to stop its uncovering.
It is a New Age novel that is so appropriately timed in its release and full of so much "insight" that critics cannot help but ream it. There is no doubt that even by low scholarly standards, TCP is poorly written. "The prose is stiff and awkward, the
characters stereotypical and the perils in which they are embroiled hackneyed..." (San Francisco Chronicle). Several critics sight it as an Indiana Jones type of adventure and take pleasure in criticizing its elementary style. "As common-sense notions a
re transformed into supposed divine wisdom, one detects the unmistakable makings of a bad B-movie" (The Humanist). And even worse, as a book that is sometimes praised for fusing Christian beliefs, from the Christian Science Monitor: "Well-intended but..
. a poorly written, thinly disguised allegory... there are glimmers of - forgive the pun - insight, but the whole is a mishmash of religion and new-age thinking."
Yet TCP has sold 8 million copies worldwide and spent 152 weeks on Publisher's Weekly fiction list. From its small-time beginnings as a word of mouth self-published book, it has become a monster phenomenon. James Redfield has a personal web-page, ther
e are several web-pages for fans and believers, there is a CD that accompanies the book, pocket guides of the insights, and CBS is making a miniseries to air sometime in 1998. All of this seems impossible if you paid any attention to the critics. But it
has certainly made it, and so have the sequels: The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision became an instant bestseller in 1996.
What is the overwhelming appeal? First of all, it appeals to everyone and anyone. Yes, the prose is basic, but it's as complicated as it gets for some people. The reading audience (and consuming public) becomes a lot greater when the book attracts so
meone other than upper middle class people. It's short, the words are printed big, and it's reads like a breeze. Even if it's not good, the reader hasn't wasted too much time. And the ideas are burned into their heads, too, due to repetition and ve
ry little other plot to concentrate on. This aspect, however, was unfailingly commented upon by critics. They seemed insulted by Redfield's underestimation of the public's intelligence level, his degradation of their minds.
The timing is appropriate as well. What better time to write a book about the incredible upheaval that the world will undergo at the millennium than in the decade before the millennium, just when people are starting to get curious about it. Redfield di
scusses the "restlessness" that society is currently or is beginning to feel that, according to the ancient manuscript, is the earliest sign of what is to come. A restlessness that American society has been heading into for awhile now. TCP comes to us a
t a time when there are New Age and self-help books on everyone's shelves at home. There is certainly an obsession with the quest for the perfect self, and a book that describes how all of mankind is going to reach this enlightening period is not just r
ead out of curiosity, but out of hope.
Indeed, in a time when there seems to be murder, rape and corruption around every corner, a book that predicts such bliss is popular if only for a need to believe. There is a need to believe that, despite all this atrocity around us, the future looks br
ight; things will not only be okay, but it will be worth all this chaos. Reading books that are so optimistic makes the reader optimistic because there is a place in the mind that is actually open to the possibility of anything - even the unbelievable.
It is not logical to believe in this book, yet millions have been touched by it and changed their way of living. People have many goals, but in the long run, all everyone wants essentially is to be happy. Most people go through hell and back to find tha
t happiness, so when someone hands them the key to everything like this, they jump.
Many of the reading audience, and the believers, also grew up in the same decades as James Redfield and remember their Woodstock, flower-power days, as other generations also recall their college years as the freest and most liberal and open times of the
ir lives. And as they begin to look towards retirement and reflect on their lives, perhaps they see some wasted times, that somewhere along the way they "grew up" and lost the freedom and bliss of believing in the possibility of anything. TCP is a refre
sher, a reminder of how easy it is to believe in the things that sound so great.
So maybe James Redfield read the public well, knew what we were ripe for and produced an appealing story. Maybe it's just a poorly written story that people have stupidly bought. Maybe the writing doesn't matter because people want something to belie
ve. Maybe it's all true. Maybe we are all just a little too cynical of the fantastic, of the mystical and spiritual.
There are no philosophers like there were in Ancient Greece today. There is little left to be said that is profound and new. And even if there were a lot still to be said, the cynicism of the public would shame a person from opening his or her mouth.
New Age books in general are not accepted well by the critics, nor are self-help books and advice books. Yet they consistently sell while people unceasingly search for the solutions to their problems - they're too fat, they're too poor, they're depres
sed, they're children are drug addicts. In a world where technology is constantly reinventing itself, new ideas are seized like candy. The machines people have become constantly search for ways to individualize and humanize themselves again. And gener
ally, the advice and wisdom that people have to give are logical, they have just been pushed aside in the rush for success in today's world.
The popularity of TCP spread over a period of time. It started with the tiny book shops on the southeast coast and spread like a virus over the nation and over the world. And it did this despite the bad reviews and the poor writing. The message of the
book was what was taken away by the reader. TCP was not a piece of literary art. It was an idea, an idea that James Redfield thought could transform the world. And his spirituality and enthusiasm have come through to the public. He has achieved an in
credible feat, reaching so many.
His message of connectiveness and touching other people's lives is inspirational, if taken as it is. Can anyone deny that such a world would not be incredible? The story is told and received with a feeling of awe. If he allows himself, the reader will
be swept up in James Redfield's message and his life will change. Ask people and they will say it, albeit with some reservation. "I don't usually fall into the trap of this sort of book, but I read it and it honestly affected how I live." So often p
eople think through their decisions too much and don't rely on instinct and gut feelings. But after reading TCP, and putting their faith in its message and actually taking a chance, they find an incredible difference in their lives, an incredible feelin
g of clarity and spirituality that they didn't know they had in them.
So Mr. Redfield is a fool to some, a man who can barely write with a loopy message to share, who hopes to make a buck off the idiocy of the American public. To others, he is a hero, almost a god, who has brought the wisdom of the millennium to light and
who will help us empower ourselves and save the world. It has the surreal feeling of a cult, which as of late has become even more taboo. But it is harmless. If it changes the way people act toward each other, and we are suddenly nicer to one another o
n the subway and on the street, then no one is the worse for it. Perhaps people will only be moved by TCP for a little while, and it will soon fade into the woodwork with so many other books and ideas. Or perhaps it will eventually reach and touch every
one and parents will teach their children the story and the world will be as the ancient Peruvians prophesied.