James Redfield, THE SECRET OF SHAMBHALA: In Search of the Eleventh Insight, 1999, New York, Warner Books, hardcover, 238 pages.
James Redfield had a runaway success with The Celestine Prophecy. It was the first of his books in an unusual genre – metaphysical fiction. In other words, it was a ripping yarn which entertained while teaching deep spiritual insights. A modern parable! Further success was accorded to the best-selling sequel, The Tenth Insight. In this present work we have the further adventures of our nameless hero, his enigmatic friend Wil James, and a host of other compelling characters.
It is a timely and elegant publication that deals specifically with the nature of Shambhala, the Buddhist paradise on earth. In the West we have the legacy of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon which deals with just such a place – called Shangri-La. As a parable and work of fiction, this story ranges over nearly every issue that is affecting the spiritual development of the planet and its evolutions. Author Redfield deftly deals with political, economic, environmental and health issues. Everything that affects our development as individuals and as a planet unfolds quite naturally during this exciting fiction thriller.
The setting for the bulk of the action is in the Tibet of the present with its myriad political and religious problems. Shambhala is believed to be in the remote fastness of the Kunlun Ranges in North Western Tibet. Dedicated seekers are trying to get to Shambhala, communist Chinese officials are trying to stop them (Our reluctant hero just wants to go home). Along the way there are mysterious helpers, strange pathways that open, deep wisdom offered and healings dispensed. The feeling is of breathless action, with not a minute to be wasted.
Within the main plot the spiritual truths offered are natural extensions of the Tenth Insight. These make up the Fields of Intention, or Prayer Fields. There are four extensions and the means of mastering these. Not by accident, a wealth of very sound knowledge on energy levels, beneficial nutrition, positive attitude, gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, causes of disease, and many other important issues is embedded in the story. I was particularly interested in the nutritional and disease aspects, of which I had been unaware. This is all imparted effortlessly while breakneck action is taking place.
This novel is definitely easy to read. Do not discount the valuable truths within because of its universal popularity. I fell prey to that trap when reading The Celestine Prophecy. With more writing experience, this is a much better written and edited work, with the plot unfolding in a more even way. The characterization is a bit thin, but after all, it is a parable. The message is delivered in a way that is easily understood by anyone who enjoys an action thriller.
Shambhala is something on which to pin our aspirations, it is real if you want it to be real. If it seems like a delightful myth, that is OK.
I applaud James Redfield and his way of delivering the Insights. The book is recommended as an enjoyable way to learn valuable life lessons. The form is familiar, the message timeless.