Prophet Motives Author: Good-natured guru James Redfield happens by to to promote his sequel to "The Celestine Prophecy."

November 09, 1996|By Ken Fuson | Ken Fuson,SUN STAFF

What a coincidence!

Here I was, my first week in town, and this is the assignment: Profile James Redfield, the author of "The Celestine Prophecy," a man who believes everything happens for a reason.

There it is, right on Page 6: "The First Insight occurs when we become conscious of the coincidences in our lives."

(If your first book sold 6 million copies, spent more than 2 1/2 years perched on the New York Times best-seller list and became a worldwide publishing phenomenon, you would number and capitalize your insights, too.)

So I wondered: What mysterious force had brought us both to the Bibelot bookstore in Pikesville -- God, destiny, or the synergy created when a panicked reporter eager to please his boss collides with an author who has another book to pimp? Had Redfield and I sparred in another life? Would our energy flows compete? Would meeting Redfield and his wife, Salle Merrill Redfield, unlock my Birth Vision, solve my control drama and help me gain critical mass?

A coincidence, Mr. Redfield?

He laughs. Not one of those polite, dismissive successful author titters, but a genuine, spirited, rock-your-head-back guffaw.

"You never know," he says wisely.

Go ahead. Hit him with your cheapest shot. He can take it. He's the second-most critically savaged best-selling author of this decade (see Waller, Robert James and "The Bridges of Madison County"), and he has heard it all before.

From The Humanist: "A New Age novel that boldly claims not to be a New Age novel, 'The Celestine Prophecy' is yet another simple, uninsightful and phony attempt at bridging the gap between science and religion, between gods and humankind."

From USA Weekend: "Redfield created a New Age novel, a 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' for the '90s. Part action-adventure, part self-help psychobabble "

From the Montreal Gazette: "But fear has also brought me to an insight of my own. I call it No. 11. This is the message: Do not read anything by James Redfield."

That's the kind of statement that might -- how can we put this? -- zap the positive energy flow in less enlightened mortal. But Redfield, 46, doesn't flinch. Any person bold enough to claim he has discovered nine (now 10) insights into spirituality, who then self-publishes a book containing them, who then watches as that book skyrockets to the top of the best-sellers' charts, who then listens as readers tell him his book changed their lives -- well, that man has the confidence and inner peace that he's onto something.

"This is not a fad," he says. "This is not voodoo. This is going for the real thing."

The insights

Explaining the book's popularity is puzzling enough. Summarizing its contents is like explaining calculus -- where does one begin? Redfield calls the book "an adventure parable." It revolves around the disappearance of an ancient Peruvian manuscript that contains the nine insights necessary for spiritual awareness.

For the few of us who don't already know them by heart, they are: One: We are guided by an unexplained force. Two: Our quest for enlightenment has a historical context. Three: Everything in the physical world -- even people -- emit and receive energy. Four: People compete with each other for this energy. Five: There's plenty of energy out there if we know how to tap into it. Six: Clear your past and quit controlling other people. Seven: Listen to dreams, focus on events that might have seemed random otherwise. Eight: Use the energy without becoming addicted to other people. Nine: Really good things can happen when enough people understand the first eight.

And the Tenth Insight? Easy. There's always a sequel.

No, wait, "The Tenth Insight," Redfield's latest book, contains the subtitle, "Holding the Vision." It, too, is an adventure parable, it, too, is nearly unreadable, and it, too, contains a few startling conclusions, such as this one: Truly enlightened humans can become invisible and move through other dimensions, including the afterlife.

"We really do come from somewhere and we go back there," Redfield says.

Has he, uh, been there?

"Not really," he says. "But I've had some deep meditative experiences. There's a rich legend of this in other cultures, this speaking with ancestors. The Christian mystics communicated with angels."

And there is this gem: "The act of lovemaking itself opens up a portal from the Afterlife into the Earthly dimension." (For more on this topic, see Waller, Robert James.)

Redfield does not, as you might have imagined, wear a flowing white robe, preferring a sports coat and tieless shirt. He does not clutch grapes in his hands, just a pair of reading glasses. He is not accompanied by nubile maidens gently waving palm branches, but by his wife, Salle, 36, who has blond hair, large, round, blue eyes and could pass as Shelley Long's sister.

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