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James Redfield's The Tenth Insight

An Enlightenment Review by Idysseus Highway

Overall Rating: 2 (out of 10)

Difficulty Level: 2 (out of 10)

Recommendation (a/k/a the 11th insight): Skip It

*To Purchase*

[Special Feature: Find a summary of all 10 Insights at the end of this review.]


It wouldn't have been difficult to predict that Jame's Redfield's The Tenth Insight would simultaneously be (1) a huge success and (2) a poorly written, hard to follow, and not very interesting book. The Tenth Insight is the sequel to Redfield's earlier book, The Celestine Prophecy. In order to understand why The Tenth Insight is so disappointing, it's necessary to start by considering the earlier book.

Essentially, The Celestine Prophecy is a novel about a man who goes to Peru to help discover and disseminate an ancient manuscript which foretells of our time. The key to the book is the system of nine "Insights" contained in the apocryphal manuscript. These Insights -- which for the sake of the curious are summarized at the end of this review -- help to explain what is "really going on" with regard to human consciousness, personal and planetary evolution, and other cosmically large and mind-boggling issues. As the enticing back cover puts it:

Are three decades of interest in modern physics, ecology, mystical religion and interpersonal psychology finally synthesizing into a new spiritual "common sense"? Are we now beginning to live this new common sense? Can it become the dominant paradigm of the next century? Join the adventure and let this synchronistic perception guide you through a daring search for the remaining insights. Each will be found in turn, and each will clarify how a growing link with the spiritual is relentlessly transforming human life. Reading like a story of high adventure, but having the in-depth affect of a spiritual parable, The Celestine Prophecy will take you on a journey that will lighten your soul, and connect you with a vision and an experience that is already changing the world.

Being strongly in favor of spiritual truths that are capable of "changing the world," I had high hopes as I started Redfield's first fictional adventure. While I admittedly found myself engaged as I read the story, that engagement fell far short of the mesmerization that I was hoping for. In large part this was due to the quality of the writing, which was acceptable, barely, but not really all that good. As a friend of mine put it, the book reads like a poorly scripted low-budget made-for-TV movie, with strained plotting, stereotyped bad guys (the Catholic Church and the Peruvian government), and stilted dialogue.

As for the Insights, on the one hand they were basically all interesting. I found myself strongly in agreement with some of them. I'll even admit to quoting the different Insights to friends for several weeks after finishing the book. On the other hand, most of the Insights were oversimplifications of very complex issues and metaphysical principles, which became progressively more vague and unbelievable. Also, although I liked what the book was saying, I was surely not overwhelmed with its eloquence, power, incisiveness, or depth. Good? Yes. Interesting? Very much so. One-of-the-best-things-ever-written and certain-to-blow-the-garage-doors-off-the-Millenium? Not a chance.

Bottom line: The Celestine Prophecy, with all its faults, had a story-line that mostly held together while serving as a vehicle for delivering a fairly coherent system of provocative spiritual truths that helped wake a lot of people up. There was undeniably a lot of value in Redfield's first book, and this, along with a great marketing effort, explains why it has been on the New York Times bestsellers list for over two years.

Now let's consider The Tenth Insight. The protagonist has returned to the United States, and soon finds himself in a federal park in the eastern United States where mysterious bad-guy scientists are in cahoots with Forest Service Rangers and are performing very dangerous experiments with breakthrough energy producing technologies. Most of the book consists of the protagonist meeting up with newcomers and various characters from the first book who are part of each other's "soul groups" and who have reincarnated to stop the implementation of this destructive technology. Throughout the book we get little pieces of the 10th Insight, which is never coherently set forth anywhere in the book.

The first problem with the book, like its predecessor, is the writing. Characterization is appallingly thin, action scenes are poorly handled, and time and time again the reader is exposed to unbelievable dialogue and lectures by characters who just happen to wander into each other at the most opportune times. Sure, Redfield tells us that this book is a "parable" and should be understood that way, but such a disclaimer should not be taken as a license for rotten writing, especially if a full-length, distinctly un-parable-sized, work is being offered. Conventional pieces of fiction may be filled with wildly improbable events, but it is precisely the skill and artistry of the writer that renders those events believable; such artistry and skill is sorely lacking here.

For example, the way the main characters would pop into and out of different dimensions often just seemed absurd, or even ridiculous. Here's a typical sentence:

I raised up on one elbow and looked around, noticing immediately that my body felt heavy and fatigued, just as it had the last time I left the other dimension.

Whether or not these other dimensions exist as Redfield describes them, it seems highly unlikely that people would relate to them the way the characters of this book do. And throwing all of this into a mix with bad-guy scientists and government officials and reincarnational drama has the ultimate effect of trivializing the very valid Insights that Redfield does have to offer.

An even bigger problem than the writing, though, is that this book just isn't very interesting or revealing. In The Celestine Prophecy I occasionally found myself genuinely challenged by the various Insights and found myself struggling to test them against my own knowledge. In this book there were only one or two times when the core psycho-spiritual material was any good, for example, Redfield's description of how a modern physician who understands both alternative and western medicine would guide someone through healing a sprained ankle. If you want to read about "soul groups" then the works of SETH (by Jane Roberts) are a much better choice. If you want to read about "the afterlife" then there are many better sources of material to turn to.

Another major content problem consists of Redfield's sweeping visions of the past and future. His visions of the past are filled with untenable generalizations and outright mistakes. For example, Redfield has the earliest revelations of Judaism and the rise of Greek democracy occurring at the same time (sorry, but these happened in different millennia), and doesn't seem to distinguish between Hinduism and the much later rise of Buddhism. His visions of the future -- an "enlightened capitalism" working hand-in-hand with decentralized energy producing units and an enormous upswelling in social activism -- seem unrealistic and improbable, and pretty self-serving:

As we watched, we first saw the Tenth Insight groups forming all over the planet, reaching a critical mass of energy, and then learning to project this energy in such a way that the entrenched sides of the polarization immediately began to lighten and ease, overcoming the Fear.

It's hard not to want to insert the words "and buying my books and taking my seminars" after the word "planet" in the previous sentence.

And as for the tenth Insight itself, well, it's really hard to say exactly what it is, what it means, how we should use it, or what to do about it. The value of the first book was the system of increasingly powerful and intriguing Insights which, somewhere around number eight or nine, began to become pretty nebulous. The tenth Insight, unfortunately, is the most nebulous of all, and just doesn't add that much to the first nine.

My strong recommendation (a/k/a the 11th insight) is to skip this book and find something either spiritually meatier or better written to spend your summer with. Yes, everyone may be reading The Tenth Insight, but you'd don't have to! Do yourself a favor by picking up some old Castaneda if you want magical fiction, or by reading Ken Wilber's new book, A Brief History of Everything, if you really want to sink your teeth into something profound (and controversial).


As promised, here's my summary version of the 10 Insights:

First Insight. Synchronicities (meaningful coincidences or connected events that can not be explained by ordinary science) are real, frequent, meaningful, purposeful, and enlivening;

Second Insight. Through psycho-spiritual historical reflection we can live in a "longer now" and see through our historical, cultural, and consciousness fixations;

Third Insight. The world consists of energy that human beings can directly interact with in ways that transcend current scientific understanding;

Fourth Insight. Humans compete with each other for energy, and by recognizing this habit, we can transcend it;

Fifth Insight. Through a mystical awareness and focus on "beauty" we can supply ourselves with nearly unlimited energy;
Sixth Insight. Our control dramas from our childhood hold us back and must be "cleared" or transcended

Seventh Insight. By paying attention to our thoughts and experiences, and by focusing on positive outcomes, we fully engage in our own personal evolution;

Eighth Insight. A new "interpersonal ethic" is arising which teaches us to promote ourselves by energetically promoting others;

Ninth Insight. A grand and glorious future awaits humanity as we become aware of and begin to practice the wisdom of the previous Insights; and

Tenth Insight. We can maintain our optimism and stay awake, and integrate the previous Insights, by seeing our lives from the higher perspective of the "Afterlife."

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