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Celestine Sports Fan

James Redfield
Robert Scheer

You may disagree with James Redfield, but it's no sweat off his paperback

By Ami Chen Mills

WHEN THE Celestine Prophecy hit the bestseller list three years ago--spawning the formation of "Celestine groups," Celestine-related "adventure tours" and Celestine "experiential guides"--critics were unrelenting. They called the novel-cum-New-Age-spiritual-treatise superficial, jargon-ridden "McSpirituality," too simple and too flat for those possessed of even mildly advanced gray matter.

There are still Web sites devoted exclusively to picking at the Prophecy and its second earthly manifestation: the newly released--and, of course, wildly bestselling--The Tenth Insight. Obsessive critics update the "Why I Hate the Celestine Prophecy" home page, and quote Dorothy Parker when referring to the Prophecy: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force."

None of his detractors, however, has managed to even annoy James Redfield, the now-famous author of the Celestine series, who continues to receive roughly 1,000 letters a week from fans of the Prophecy and its message of spiritual transformation. After appearing on Oprah and basking in a legendary 160-week position on the New York Times bestseller list, Redfield ain't looking back. No, indeed--he's currently in the midst of negotiations for a television miniseries.

I met with Redfield in his San Francisco hotel room, minutes before the start of the Super Bowl. He graciously allotted me a full interview despite the impending game. (He even missed the kickoff, though not without some anxiety.)

"The extreme skeptics are on the defensive," asserts Redfield, who, in dress slacks and loafers, looks very ordinary. "I used to get cynical stories [in newspapers], but that has not happened at all in the past year. The total skeptic now looks irrational."

Why? Redfield points to the metaphysical experiences all of us--even journalists--appear to be having, like it or not: with spirits from the afterlife, with death (or near-death), with past-life memories and out-of-body travel. And he points to the emergence of a new "honesty"-based spiritual dialogue in this country, devoid of the faddish icons (crystals, beads, drugs) and the "me" orientation of recent decades, and grounded in established religions and psychology.

Check out other books currently on bestseller lists: Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue (by a man who claims his writing hand was divinely directed); The Path to Love, by the irrepressible Deepak Chopra; Living Faith, by Jimmy Carter; and the somewhat more abstruse The Soul's Code, by Jungian analyst James Hillman. The Dalai Lama is writing about Christ. Practicing Jews are writing about Buddhism. Spiritual books are on an undeniable upswing, setting industry records with a 15 to 20 percent annual growth rate.

Skeptics might argue that Baby Boomers are fueling this trend--that they can't face the fact of their own inevitable and maddeningly unprofound aging without a garland of spiritual roses to accessorize their decline. But placed in historical context, such an integration of culture and religion on a global scale has never been seen before.

"Now we can have a conversation about almost anything," Redfield notes. "And we're not pretending anymore. In the '80s, you'd go to a Whole Life Expo and there'd be people walking around with pyramids on their heads. Now we want the real mystical experience."

According to Redfield, we each have a mission: to evolve ourselves so that our cumulative, raised, ego-free consciousness will end the destruction of the wilderness and direct us into a new Heaven on Earth.

Certainly, we're all going somewhere. Why not into the Promised Land?

Redfield saw it all coming. In 1971, at the age of 21--seated in a place of power, a "vortex" or high-energy point in Alabama--Redfield says he had a vision of himself writing a book that would transform the consciousness of humanity. Everything then began falling into place, his work as a therapist, his study of spiritual history, meeting his agent. He says the past-life memories of the main character in his books are his--recalled at vortexes. Still, he argues, "I'm not a guru or a mystic. That's not who I think I am. I'm just reporting all this stuff."

As for stubborn critics and prickly Web sites, "None of that really bothers me."

When your book is a runaway bestseller and you're pretty sure you're leading humanity into a new spiritual era, you don't spend your Sunday worrying over the people who don't like your books. You order room service and settle in to watch the Super Bowl.

James Redfield will appear at Gateways Book and Gifts in Santa Cruz on Thursday at 7pm, East West Books in Mountain View on Friday at 5pm, and the Whole Life Expo at the San Jose Convention Center on Sunday at 1pm.

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From the January 30-February 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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