49 pages 1 hour read

James Redfield

The Celestine Prophecy

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1993

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Summary and Study Guide


The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure is a 1993 novel by James Redfield. A bestseller, the novel is a compilation of New Age philosophical and spiritual concepts, which Redfield labels as insights, that are loosely connected by a plot that follows the narrator’s search for them in the Peruvian jungle. An ancient manuscript is rumored to have been discovered, and the insights in the Manuscript claim that the end of the 20th century will witness a collective spiritual awakening. It contains nine separate insights. The word “celestine” means “celestial being” and refers to the ultimate stage of human evolution, in which human beings will approach a godlike nature, entering a “heaven on Earth.” The novel has been in continuous print since it was first self-published by Redfield in 1993. In 2006, it was adapted into a movie. This guide refers to the 2018 reissue of the novel.

Plot Summary

The story follows the plot of the hero’s journey, in which the hero (traditionally a man) journeys out from his home, passes through a threshold into a different dimension, encounters mentors and obstacles, eventually achieves his goal, and returns home transformed. The hero is an unnamed narrator who is contacted by Charlene, an old friend he has not heard from in years. They meet up for dinner, and Charlene talks excitedly about an ancient manuscript she learned about during a recent business trip to Peru. She met a priest who told her that the manuscript presents numbered “insights” and predicts a great change that is about to happen in society. The nine chapters of the novel sequentially unfold these teachings.

Charlene tells the narrator about the First Insight, which relates to the idea of synchronicity: All humans are connected by a greater consciousness that will become apparent through a series of meaningful coincidences. Her initial descriptions intrigue him. Even though he is skeptical, he decides to go to Peru to find the truth. 

On the plane, he meets a historian named Dobson who is headed to Peru for the same reason. This is the first of many coincidences. Dobson went to Peru a few weeks ago and saw copies of the first two insights. He explains the Second Insight to the narrator: A new sense of historical perspective is being achieved. Dobson gives the narrator a broad tour of the last millennium of Western history. People once relied on religion to answer life’s big questions, he says, but they turned to material possessions when spirituality started being questioned by science. Now, realizing the spiritual void this created, humans seek answers in new places.

Upon arriving in Lima, Peru, the two men decide to search for the manuscript together, and they agree to meet at Dobson’s hotel later. However, the narrator soon realizes he is being followed and decides to meet Dobson right away. As he arrives at the hotel, he hears gunfire and sees Dobson running away. He is unsure of Dobson’s fate but also runs away. In the chaos, a man named Wilson (Wil) offers to help him. Wil is also looking for the manuscript and knows the priest who told Charlene and Dobson about it. He is heading out to find the Ninth Insight and invites the narrator to come along. He happily accepts.

In the first stage of the quest, Wil and the narrator head to a conference center, Viciente Lodge, where they meet a scientist named Sarah and two other searchers, Phil and Marjorie. Sarah tells the narrator about the Third Insight, which is about the ability to see the subtle energy that surrounds all living things. The narrator rises early the next morning, and Sarah gives him lessons about how to see the energy fields around plants when human beings interact with them. During an argument between Sarah and another scientist, the narrator sees the two of them “steal” energy from each other.

After leaving the lodge at Viciente, the narrator and Wil travel farther toward the jungle. Responding to an intuitive nudge, the narrator asks to stop at a gas station where he sees a man working on his car. The man, Reneau, is a French psychologist who specializes in relationships. The narrator takes note of another coincidence: Reneau reminds him of an old friend. Reneau shares the Fourth Insight: Humans are always in competition with each other for energy. This struggle causes interpersonal conflict, just as the narrator witnessed at Viciente Lodge. At dinner that evening, the narrator witnesses another struggle for energy within the family that operates the gas station.

Next, the narrator and Wil arrive at a village, where they meet Marjorie again. After a military group attacks the village, the narrator rescues her but loses Wil. Marjorie is eventually captured and arrested, and the narrator is forced to hide in the mountains. While running from the military, he witnesses the killing of a fellow searcher. Reaching the peak of the mountain, the narrator spends several hours recovering from the turmoil and enters a mystical state of union with the universe in which he visualizes the unfolding cosmic history of evolution. Later, he meets a priest, Father Sanchez, who takes him to his mission and shares the Fifth Insight: The competition for energy is meaningless, since there is subtle energy abundant in the world, and humans can easily connect to it by seeking a higher consciousness.

Fearing a military attack, Father Sanchez takes the narrator to a friend, Father Carl, who lives near Machu Picchu. Father Carl shares the Sixth Insight, which deals with getting rid of “control dramas.” These are the narratives people construct to take away energy from others through controlling or manipulative behaviors. They are learned in childhood through relationships to parents, and they become deeply engrained ways of interacting with others. News arrives that the military is about to attack Father Sanchez’s mission, and the two priests head back to defend it. The narrator chooses to continue on his way to find Wil, but he is arrested by the authorities for having copies of the manuscript on his person. While in jail, the narrator meets a man named Pablo who shares the Seventh Insight, which is about using one’s intuition to find answers.

The narrator tries to put the Seventh Insight into practice as he envisions himself escaping with Marjorie and realizes she is being held in the same jail. The two succeed in escaping and find yet another follower of the manuscript, who takes them to a safe place. There, the narrator meets Julia, a woman he previously came across in his travels. She shares the Eighth Insight, which is about relating to other people and allowing them to find energy without control dramas. Marjorie returns to America, and the narrator continues his travels with Julia.

Next, they arrive at a village, Iquitos, anticipating that Wil could be there. They encounter Father Sanchez as well as the chief opponent of the manuscript, Cardinal Sebastian. The cardinal is the force behind the government’s persecution of the manuscript’s followers, and the narrator and Father Sanchez try to convince him to stop. They fail, but Father Sanchez manages to see a copy of the Ninth Insight and share it with the narrator. It is a vision of how society will change over the next 1,000 years. People will practice “conscious evolution,” by which they will attempt to use intuition to find energy and achieve a higher state of being. It is implied that the Mayans successfully achieved this and left their manuscripts behind in their ancient cities.

Meanwhile, Julia heads off with Wil to find the Ninth Insight. They succeed in stealing it and using it to escape, but the narrator is arrested again. The manuscripts are destroyed during his time in jail, and he later returns to America determined to share the wisdom he gained.