More than a decade after its publication, James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophecy" is being released as a movie. Not that the story--an allegorical adventure about the intrinsic connectedness of all beings--and its nine insights into human nature and spiritual reality have been out of the public consciousness: The book remains a steady seller, with more than 20 million copies in print, in 50 languages. In addition to writing and overseeing the production of the movie, Redfield is a popular lecturer; his wife, Salle Merrill Redfield, often opens his talks with a guided meditation. The Redfields recently visited Beliefnet's offices for a video interview, at the end of which Salle offered a guided meditation.
For those who haven't read the book or who read it a long time ago, can you explain synchronicity, one of its key concepts?
"Synchronicity" was coined by the psychiatrist Carl Jung years and years ago. It means the perception of meaningful coincidences. What it refers to is times when maybe we sense a direction we want to take in our lives and then maybe the next day in the subway or at the table next to us in a restaurant, we meet someone who just happens to be in that career or happens to have those skills, or happens to know how to open a door for us.
It's those kinds of coincidences that seem beyond chance--we used to call it luck, we used to call it just being fortunate--but really what we're beginning to believe and validate experientially is that this is a force in the universe that works to open doors for us to be the best we can be and to fulfill a kind of inner destiny. Because that's what it feels like when these coincidences happen, and really expand our lives in some way or bring information to us at just the right moment, we think our lives are on a path that feels destined. That's what it is. It's a key perception in one's development of a deeper spirituality.
How did the movie come about?
Ten years later, we finally have a movie of the "Celestine Prophecy." We certainly had a lot of offers to make the movie, but it never seemed to work until I just took the time and wrote a screenplay myself. Then it started to flow better. We were able to raise money. We decided to do it independently rather than go through a studio, and that was primarily because we wanted the movie to be true to the book--something every author wants, but I really felt like it was important, given that this is a very spiritual book and vast numbers of people really hold it in high esteem, and it's something really dear to them.
The book has an interesting plot, but it is really about the ideas. How do you translate that to film?
The whole idea of the book was that the concepts, the insights, have to be illustrated for people to really get them. So that was the main challenge in the movie. We had to make sure that we were showing a deeper spiritual consciousness, the insights that one has to have to discover a deeper spirituality for themselves. I argue that these are a series of insights that the human society is going through as we move toward a deeper spirituality as a part of culture. We had to show it in action. It actually was not that difficult to do it in a movie. A movie was probably the ideal format for that.
Can you give an example?
One of the key concepts in the book is that there's an energy, a subtle spiritual energy, that flows between people that people can feel. It's when you feel uplifted by someone, you feel like you're being given energy by someone as you talk--or you feel as though you're being criticized or not respected or maybe energy is actually being taken from you, you feel a kind of draining experience when you talk to people. So that, of course, on the screen can be shown; with visual effects we can actually show what the human aura looks like, what the mystics say about the energy field that surrounds people, and then tie that into a kind of scene in which it's represented visually.
Making a movie has its moments of stress. How did you apply the ideas and insights from the book to the process of filmmaking?
We certainly had to do that over and over again. It was an effort or a kind of example of having to hold a vision for something that you think needs to come into being. There's something about holding that vision and realizing that through a faithful patience we can bring together a team, bring together the elements to make it all work.
And that happened with the movie. We contacted some actors who didn't work out, and we wondered why, but then we got a better actor after that. We found locations by running into people who knew of, for instance, an old park in Florida that had beautiful 400-year-old trees everywhere and could be [the setting for] the Viciente Estate in the book. We couldn't do the movie until we found that spectacularly beautiful place with old trees.
We had to put all of it into action--the synchronicity. If something was coming, we just held the vision, expected a synchronistic event to happen, and in the end everything did.
What is the key audience for the film?
The key audience is people who are on a path or who intuit that they want to be on a path, who want to have spiritual discoveries. They want the kind of elative life marked by synchronistic, mysterious occurrences that open doors, want to feel like their life is not just ordinary, that there's a mystery behind the unfolding of our destiny--each of us, all of us.
In the book, the early years of the 21st century are so key to the prophecy. We're now in that period. So, how are we doing?
I'm asked that a lot: "James, is there really a continuing spiritual renaissance occurring on this planet? Look at all the conflict, look at the wars." And I believe, yes, we're still moving toward a deeper spirituality. It's personal. It's grassroots. It's everybody trying to get their own connection made, and from there it grows out. And I think already the whole culture of the world is more focused on spirituality, because if you look at the war and the conflict, they're over whose spirituality is the best.
So we have a challenge to get past that ego competition about spirituality, but we are discussing it more, it's in our culture, everybody knows--senses--there's a deeper spiritual consciousness that they can develop and cultivate. And that just makes more conversation, and eventually, if we focus on the experience itself, then we're going to get past this war and conflict over trying to force people to accept our ideological way of looking at spirituality.
Where do you see the movement going in the next half century or so?
First, we've got to get over fighting over whose religion is best. Fundamentalists from every religion have to be replaced, have to be disempowered. And the only way to do that is you have to have a large, tolerant, moderate force in every religion, who realize that it's not about the ideology--we choose a religion that speaks to us--but what it's really about is the common experiences that happen no matter what we call ourselves, what religion we're fond of and we grew up with.
It's about really having a God connection, a connection with the divine behind the world and flowing forth out of that in a positive way with love and moving toward making a contribution that pushes forth the evolution of the world.
What are the prospects for that actually happening?
I think that they're very, very good. The question is how hard is it going to be before enough of us wake up to it and really realize that that's where we have to center ourselves if we're going to save the world. It's not about having enemies, being angry at enemies, or getting into angry politics one way or the other, it's about holding that tolerant space that calls for a deeper spirituality and actually sending the kind of energetic message out in the world that says we all have the capacity to move into that, reinforcing it in people. And then what happens is that people move into that experiential consciousness that we're discussing, and that saves the world. That's the only way to reduce the conflict and ego fights over ideology.
The world is very different now than when the book came out. How is the experience of reading the book different now than 10 years ago?
There are a lot of challenges out there for people. The world seems less safe in context. So to some degree that motivates a kind of awakening earlier. We can't just distract ourselves with games and material toys so much, because here's this conflict--we're at war--that shocks people. And I think, rather than say, "Well, there must not be any spiritual dimension in this life, because things have gotten bad," people say, "What can I do to help? What kind of vision do I need to hold to help this world turn in a positive direction?" And of course, I think it's this personal, deep spirituality that transcends religion.
Finding that sort of optimism and purpose must be that much more powerful now against the backdrop of war and terrorism.
Maybe it's harder to feel comfortable enough to casually explore the spiritual dimension of life. It might be harder to do that. But what happens is that what we do gets crystallized, gets focused, especially when we discover that it's the spiritual life that makes our existence easier. We don't have to work everything out without egos and hope for the best.
There's a destiny for everybody. The world is set up--as foreign as that can be to some people who are very materialistic--but there is a force in this world, once we step into it, that opens doors for us, that gives us a sense of purpose and the greatest life there is, in my view. Once you sense that, then it doesn't matter what's going on in the world. That's what you want, just for personal reasons, but it's also exactly the best thing we can do for the world as well.
Since the book came out, the market for books about personal spirituality has exploded. "The Celestine Prophecy" is in some ways the granddaddy of the genre. How do you feel about what's happened in the category?
I think it's all good. It's part of this discussion out of which a consensus is forming. And the consensus is, hey, there's a spectacularly better life that we can find. It has to do with connecting spiritually with a greater part of our being. It feels like a connection with the divine. If we recognize it as such, then who we think we are, our whole feeling about ourself, our feeling about whether we're smart or wise, all that moves into a higher connection, where we discover these intuitions that come, and we realize that if we follow these intuitions, what happens with these mysterious coincidences, doors open for us, opportunities of our lives emerge, we realize we're on a path to do something in the world that makes a difference, to push forward the evolution of the world spiritually. That's forming through all this discussion and all this readiness to talk about the hard issues of life--which is life, death, why are we here.
What are you reading these days?
I try not to recommend too many books, frankly, because I think there's a certain synchronicity that happens when people discover books. What I would say, though, is that there's a wealth of information out there, especially with all the spiritual websites. And I would just make this caution, though: I would say, remember that the main measure is, Is it love based? Does it recognize a divinity that's based on love, where love is the measure, compassion is the measure, an ethical stance toward other human beings is there? And that it points to a certain opening we can have personally, a connection we can have personally. There's another book every day. There are so many that one has to trust that those that we synchronistically need to open the door for us will fall into our lap. So I would say, become the explorer.