Popular books have a habit of becoming critically unpopular when they attract the attention of the masses, but rather than scoffing at Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, how about we appreciate that these popular books actually get people reading. I love seeing books swapped around friendship circles and discussed over cups of tea. When books are popular they reach out to people and give them the ability to change perspective and grow. I find myself profoundly overcome when an author articulates a feeling or idea that resonates with my own world view. For me it is a transcendent experience to be inspired by an intricately crafted idea that sprung from the mind of another. I am the creation of everything I have ever read, every facet of my consciousness has come from words and ideas that have resonated with me and left a lasting impression. In my opinion, sometimes we should indulge in the decadent escapism of a beautiful story, regardless of the cultural status of the book you have in hand. Surely anything in this world that makes us feel something is worthy of respect.
My connection with The Celestine Prophecy began over twenty years ago. My parents were utterly enamored by a hyped spiritual book that was sitting atop the New York Times bestseller list. As a curiously inquisitive child I was intrigued by the exotic ideas that I heard my parents discussing, as if the earth and all living things had a secret life and this book told the reader all of those secrets. I have vivid recollections of my Dad teaching me to breathe in the energy of trees and I obediently and wholeheartedly inhaled as if I was filling my lungs with some kind of fairy dust.
My parents enthusiastically recommended The Celestine Prophecy to their friends, but being dwellers of a small country town some people found this novel a little controversial. A few rolled their eyes and others just diverted the subject. These observations were the first time I noticed that people are intimidated by change. Whether it was the ideas expressed in this book that unsettled people or just the change in perspective that my parents were excited about, who knows? This book was either embraced or rejected. The small minded ones saw it as a bunch of hocus pocus, preferring to retreat safely back into the confines of their comfort zones. I was confused. I wondered if discussing ideas was a bad thing? As soon as my parents started talking about energy and spiritual awakening, people got seriously uncomfortable. Friends and family were behaving like my parents were trying to sell a religious cult on their doorstep. It was just a book, not the bible!
It was 1993, the year that I decided I would never be one of those people. This book was special to me, but I was only ten years old and hadn’t even read it! I could see the profound spark it ignited within my parents and I knew from that young age that books must be pretty magical if they could light people up so vividly.
An appreciation of nature is a key point in the Celestine Prophecy and this trait still prevails within me daily. I take pictures of spring flowers in bloom, sunlit trees, autumn leaves, moody skies, and fairy floss sunsets. These small observations make me happy. When you are a child, all the little details captivate your attention – collecting seashells on the beach, counting clouds, making shadow puppet silhouettes on your bedroom walls, finding caterpillars and ladybugs, jumping in puddles, chasing butterflies, and playing outside in the garden with snapdragons and marigolds. I spent my whole childhood outside making mud pies and magical potions from crushed rose petals and water. I was truly happy. When we grow up, we forget the wonderment of the simple things in life and we end up striving for material possessions that never truly satisfy us. My favourite play spot was a tree, not a luxury cubby house.
At age sixteen I distinctly remember asking my Dad if I could read his copy of the book, I felt ready. Unfortunately he had lent it to somebody months beforehand and to this day the book has still not been returned. This is part of this book’s magic, it evades you until you really need it. Many years passed and the book still had not crossed my path.
Fast forward another sixteen years. I forgot my lunch for work and during my search for a sandwich on my lunch break I discovered a brilliant second-hand bookstore with an expansive collection of classics. Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, William Shakespeare, all for a dollar or two. Here I found my copy of The Celestine Prophecy. I opened the cover and it was priced at two dollars. I piled it atop a selection of Arthur Miller plays that I had rescued from the bargain bin for fifty cents apiece and left the store feeling much richer. That afternoon I finally began reading The Celestine Prophecy and didn’t stop reading for two days straight. It may sound a little melodramatic, but this book seemed to find me right when I needed it most.
I will refrain from recounting the entire book, as The Celestine Prophecy is a personal journey that I certainly do not wish to interfere with. Do not read any further if you have not yet read the book, I repeat, stop reading right now! I do not want to be responsible for ruining any of the magic.
The first chapter instructs you to pay attention to all of the coincidences in your life that lead you down a certain path. Even my relationship with this book is riddled with mystery, why did I come across this book at this very moment in my life? As I flipped the pages of this enigmatic story it became increasingly clear. I was destined to find it.
I have to admit that I am not a practical person. I love grand gestures, grand romances, and grand adventures – to hell with the consequences. Moving around like a gypsy for ten years was the best way for me to learn about the world and myself, but upon my return home to normality and familiarity, I felt like an outsider in my own life. I was deeply unsettled and restless for something more than small town life. I did not belong there anymore and I unconsciously began to search for some form of awakening. I found some direction by resuscitating my half finished university degree and began to immerse myself in the beauty of learning and enlightenment.
A renaissance of consciousness is where the first insight begins, a spiritual transformation in human society. And the first indicator is restlessness, a feeling I have long been acquainted with. The intrigue of the first chapter had me hooked. Rich language, exotic imagery – a recently discovered ancient artifact, a mysterious manuscript, a half mooned evening, a thunderstorm, a chance meeting with an old flame, an invigorating conversation.
The first insight is surreal, something you can easily believe because you’ve felt it before. We are sensing it again, as in childhood, that there is another side of life that we are yet to discover, some other process operating behind the scenes. Overall, the first insight is simple – we are restless because there is more to life than we know, we are recognising that there is another force at work that sets our lives into motion.
I loved the second chapter, a gentle critique of religion. I apologise if my views offend or degrade the beliefs you may hold, however, these views were formed by my own experience with religion. I do not disrespect any person with different views to my own. We all have the right to our own beliefs.
Religion is a problematic ideal for me. I was raised by an Atheist father and a Catholic mother. I learned to say the rosary and could recite the Hail Mary and Our Father, I dressed in a veil and a white dress to receive communion for the first time and I attended a private Marist secondary college school, which meant an ash cross drawn on my forehead at Easter and being splashed with holy water at school mass. Completing my sacraments was more of an obligation to my Mother, but I enjoyed the bible stories, which reminded me of fairy tales. When I began studying history and travelling, I actually felt quite sick to be Catholic. The Catholic Church is wickedly wealthy, and you only have to walk through the Vatican Museums to see that a few commandments were broken in the acquisition of all that wealth and priceless art.
When you become an adult you are free to form your own views and for me religion is just a mass brainwashing factory pumping out obedient little lambs to follow the rules. Led to believe that if you behave and live your life by the book, you will go on to eternal bliss in heaven. Really? Sounds like “do as your told, and we will pay you later” and by then you’re dead.
The second insight states that whilst religion defines reality for so many people, the evolution of human culture will see religious bodies lose their credibility. The whole world is being thrown into question. Less and less people will blindly follow religion as truth. It is true that people turn to religion for guidance, truth, knowledge and purpose. I see the comfort and community that religion can offer people and I think it’s a beautiful way to live. I also see the goodness and charity of religion, however, I also see the destructive side of any given power.
This is only the beginning of what would end up a very LONG review. I have decided to leave you all in suspense for the remaining insights.
Please start your search for this mind altering book now, or it will find you.