I finally got around to reading The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield’s attempt to trace the “mechanics” of the spiritual Relationship we can have. He describes similar phenomena that I see as a follower of Jesus, but then tries to pursue that spirituality in merely functional ways.
The spiritual experiences are a valid way of approaching the core stuff, but I can’t help thinking he really needs to grasp another way as well – especially the relational way. I think his schema is actually a backwards step from Christianity, into a new legalism, whereas Jesus said we should start with, “Abba.” The simplest and most profound of ‘operating systems’ – a relationship.
How the “Nine Insights” equate to my experience as a follower of Jesus:
First Insight: personal awakening to spiritual dimensions. Yep, that’s basic to Christian experience. Learning to ‘see’ God at work in your life. Other dimensions are real.
Second Insight: Western Culture is rediscovering spiritual sensitivities. Yep, modernist science took Western culture overboard by reducing reality to merely the physics of space & time. Post-modern movements named the issue: that a holistic approach to life must include other, spiritual dimensions as a part of reality too.
But the history Redfield gives is grossly simplistic, and equates Christian concepts like a relational God, with the power-abusing Churchmen of the Dark Ages. From this he casts God as an immature, even manipulative misconception. He then reduces spirituality to merely ‘evolutionary energy,’ which is the big flaw in the book.
Third Insight: The Universe is a system of energy. Yes, and we don’t have to visibly see the energy to know that, although sometimes one can sense a stronger spiritual presence or liveliness. And yes, I agree that the physical universe is fundamentally “organized energy.”
But I also think there’s more than energy, that the dynamic that organizes that energy is spiritual (remember, there’re more dimensions beyond space, time & physics.) A Mind is at work through the energy (which I call God.) And prophets & seers are especially attuned to these spiritual dynamics.
Fourth Insight: Conflicts are attempts to gain energy from people. To me this is about the basic craving for love, acceptance, affirmation, approval. Yep, craving people want to “win over” others to affirm themselves. And that’ll produce conflict.
But that’s less about energy, and more about relationship needs: when we don’t get the affirmation, it’s not that we feel depleted, it’s that we feel rejected, ashamed, sad, or scared – relationship dynamics. We don’t just feel tired, we feel lack of love.
Fifth Insight: Receive energy from a higher source, rather than gain it from people. Yep, trying to get other people to make us feel beloved, is doomed to fail: they cannot do it – only God can infinitely, spiritually, fill our ‘cup’ of love, and God’s perspective counts most. This is key to really loving others without grasping for them. Hang out with God long enough to realise you are Beloved, then you can love without grasping.
Sixth Insight: clear out old dramas (learned manipulative patterns), and discover your real purpose (which will be based your family of origin.) Well, yes, we all should get to a point where we have to name and overcome our childhood manipulative strategies, and take responsibility for our decisions & lives. God can help us do exactly that, by making us a new creation, giving us new identity, a purpose, and a calling. The heritage our parents create for us is very significant, but our calling may reach way beyond our parents’ influences.
Seventh Insight: Engaging the flow. Question /intuition /answer. Yep, this is like keeping in step with the Spirit. At times this is the background, the reality in which I live, move & have my being. Other times I need to tune in very consciously – prayer, for guidance with a question, listening for an answer, and acting on that answer in faith. But I don’t treat God like an ATM.
Eighth Insight: Relating to others to bring out their best – focus the loving energy their way, defuse their old dramas by naming & not playing into them. Yep, but again this love is relational, energizing, but not merely energy. Love them, defuse by naming and not playing their manipulative games, be generous, and pay attention to what the Spirit is doing in the moment, in and through them and me.
Ninth Insight: The overall aim of the evolution, is harmony with nature, technology, spirituality, economy. And ultimately disappearing into higher energetic vibrations. Well, the harmony sounds like Isaiah 65’s vision of how this world can be. And as for disappearing to the spiritual plane, yes, it sounds like Hebrew 12’s “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on. But I’d include other dimensions beyond energy.
So good. Redfield is trying to describe spiritual phenomena, and so I’m cheering that he sees those phenomena. But he’s doing so without reference to God, because he has made an a priori assertion that “God” is an immature concept.
So, rather than his view being an advance on mine, it’s a reduction, limiting and omitting significant information:
- Retreating from seeing God in relational terms, seems quite unnecessary. We know that relationship is perhaps our highest way of knowing. So why couldn’t higher, spiritual Beings be capable of relationship. If it’s true that God, being other dimensional, is far beyond our limited capacity to grasp, doesn’t it make sense that God would choose to become relationally knowable? Indeed relationally is the only way we can know God to be love. Like a child can know and trust Daddy, even though the child may not have the slightest appreciation of the fullness of who daddy is! This relational spirituality makes grace possible, in a way that Redfield’s mechanistic view can’t.
- We can know whatever God chooses to reveal to us. That includes the phenomena Redfield observes, but so much more than that…
- Redfield wants to name love, but can’t do it consistently, because of his line of impersonal, evolutionary energy, ebbing and flowing. But I see that Love is about relationship between two or more relational beings. (Which is why it makes sense that God is a Trinity, that the essence of God is love, which God eternally expresses relationally among the Three of the Godhead.)
- Why omit these teachings of Jesus about spirituality? They are primarily relational in nature. This is not primitive, but beautifully fulfilling. Instead of trying to learn techniques, Jesus teaches us to simply, “ask Daddy.”
- Why omit spiritual revelations through the Bible? It does make sense when read as that progressive revelation. Plus the record of prophetic fulfilments is both extensive, and unique (nothing else has even one specific fulfilment).
- Why omit Jesus’ resurrection, when the evidence is so strong? Plus there are the implications that must domino from the resurrection, including Jesus divinity, and his work on the Cross.
- Redfield is exclusively optimistic about the evolutionary energy theory. His optimism gives no real room for premature death, suffering, hellish experiences, or relational sins. Except to say, oh well that was unevolved. There’s no justice here. Plus, I can see that the end-times re-entry into higher spiritual dimensions, can happen the easy way (rapture), or the hard way (apocalypse.)
Redfield omits these specifically Christian elements, yet these are valid and important elements of basic Christianity, embodied by Jesus and the whole movement. Yes in the mid 4th century Rome began to corrupt the movement with power-positions, but this basic faith continued to be embodied by the Desert Fathers and by the Celtic church beyond. Yes the Churchmen of the Dark Ages had certainly lost the pure, Christlike relationship, as had those in power, abusing their power. But that makes it all the more important to include the relational essence of the faith. Despite the bad parts, the robust, living Way of Jesus continued, and continues today.
It is Redfield’s fundamental error to cast God as a puppet from the Dark Ages, and therefore an immature concept to be left behind. It moves away from Christ’s relational, spiritual foundations (like grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and yes judgement) and it moves backwards to a new kind of legalism. I’ve seen too many people becoming virtually obsessive-compulsive over the plethora of activities they have do to ‘release the energies.’ When all they had to do, was simply, “ask Daddy.”
In sum, Redfield does seem to identify legitimate spiritual experiences, but he’s still fearful of giving himself to an actual relationship with the Divine – the very phenomena he is tracing. That why his schema is limited, and omits important revelations that contribute to our perception of, and relationship with, spiritual reality.
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