Divine Abstraction: The Celestine Prophesy and Galapagos, a comparative review

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Zapatistas

not yet disappeared
not yet disappeared

It is one of the worst books I ever read. Something called The Celestine Prophecy . I forget the author. I forget most things about it. It was a profoundly forgettable book.

Something I do remember is that at some point the author has the entire Mayan race "disappearing": that is, he seems to say that they all evolved into higher dimensional beings overnight, and vanished from the Earth. Well yes. Except that any visitor to the Chiapas region of Mexico would soon realise that the Mayans are still very much with us, and making a great deal of noise down there as one of the tribal groups involved with the armed Zapatista movement, fighting for indigenous people's rights.

I guess they must have taken a temporary holiday from the higher dimensional regions in order to return to Earth to take up their posts as revolutionary fighters. Maybe that's what evolution has taught them: how to handle a Kalashnikov rifle.

Actually, as revolutionaries go, this lot do seem to have a sense of humour. I remember reading about the Zapatista air force, and puzzling how such poor indigenous peoples could afford to buy planes, let alone build air fields. Until I discovered what it was all made of, that is. It was made of paper. The Zapatista air force consists entirely of paper planes thrown into the barracks of the Mexican army, with revolutionary messages, urging them to desert.

But that was the kind of absurdity that The Celestine Prophecy was full of: whole peoples evolving into higher spiritual beings, pre-Columbian Latin American books written in Aramaic, stilted conversations between stilted characters in a high, stilted, philosophical style, and people wandering around happily handing deeply meaningful messages to each other before themselves evolving into higher spiritual beings. I only read it because a friend of mine passed it on to me. It was like Mills & Boon on Prozac. It probably took about ten days to write.

It was, however, hugely popular at the time. I remember being in a pub in Bath a few weeks after reading it. I was introduced to someone who immediately asked me what my message was.

"Pardon?"

"I think you have a message for me."

I had no idea what the guy was talking about. It was later that I saw the copy of The Celestine Prophecy sticking out of his jacket pocket and figured it out.

"You know you said I might have a message for you," I said.

"Yes?"

"Well it's this: don't believe a single word in that book."

My own reading of the book was happily seasoned by finding a copy of Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. in a second hand bookshop the day after finishing it. You could say that this was "synchronicity" (which is what The Celestine Prophecy is all about, after all - meaningful coincidence): and, in fact, Galapagos does have a similar theme to that other, more spiritual book, being about the evolution of the human race. But whereas The Celestine Prophecy has us all evolving "upwards", into higher beings, Galapagos has us evolving "downwards" instead, into little, furry seal-like creatures, living off raw fish from the Ocean. And whereas The Celestine Prophecy is full of deep and meaningful coincidence to guide us into our higher state, Galapagos is full of bleakly absurd and heart-rendingly inane coincidences, that have us almost wiping ourselves off the planet, before, finally, finding happiness as simple creatures with flippers instead of hands, a million years in the future.

The Celestine Prophesy is optimistic, whereas Galapagos is not. The Celestine Prophecy is confident that our life on this planet has purpose and direction, whereas Galapagos can only point to the sheer absurdity of us thinking that the Earth gives a flying Iguana about any of us. The Celestine Prophecy is spiritual, whereas Galapagos is ironical.

Galapagos also has the advantage of being very, very funny and beautifully crafted, with simple grace and style; two things I can say with confidence that The Celestine Prophecy does not have. It probably took about five years to write.

I'm trying to remember what it was that started me on this train of thought. Oh yes: it was a burning sensation on the back of my neck on the day that Venus transited the Sun. It was, if you remember, a fiercely hot day that day. So I felt the Sun's heat as soon as I walked out of my door in the morning. I wanted to observe the transit but knew that it would blind me. That's when it struck me: how unutterably awesome the Sun is, that it can throw off such heat and such light through the immense vacuum of empty space, all those distances, for us.

I think it was Voltaire (that great eighteenth century sceptic) who said, "God is the Sun". How can we doubt it? Indeed: why do we need to posit any other kind of God - something abstract and unknowable, invisible and inhumanly judgemental - when we feel our own Sun's fierce nuclear presence every day of our lives, offering us joy and delight and quickening our bodies into sensual life?

We seem to be addicted to abstraction, to vagaries and systems, preferring to limit our lives with moral strictures and arbitrary rules, seeking "meaning" in everything, as if meaning was something inherent in the Universe, rather than just in us.

That's what so annoyed me about The Celestine Prophecy , that it was full of vagary and abstraction: vague characters wandering around an abstract South America having vague conversations about abstract philosophies in an vague Universe.

That's what annoys me about God too, His tendency to vagueness.

If God had meant me to believe in Him, He'd've let me know by now.

Prediction August 2004

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Comments 22 comments

pgrundy 7 years ago

My ex insisted on reading the Celestine Prophecy aloud to each other each night before bed. Looking back, I can see that this was a form of torture but I was too stupid to realize it at the time. I begged to skip this ritual every night, and eventually he relented and we never did finish reading the book aloud. We got halfway through though, and I remember I kept asking him, "When does it get good? You said it gets really good." It never got good.

What really drove me nuts about the book was how badly written it was. If you want to convince people that you carry a highly-evolved message that you are putting on paper for the ages, shouldn't you at least be able to keep your readers awake and not wanting to slit their own wrists? Or is that just my bad attitude talkin'? How did this guy get this book published, yet I can't do anything more than annoy people who pay in copies? What's wrong with me?

I take it all really personally.

I read Galapagos too. Vonnegut had it right. Near the end of his life he was asked about Intelligent Design on a talk show and he said something like, "Intelligent design? From the Deity who gave us the giraffe and the clap?"

He was from Indiana you know, same as me. At least I have that. Thanks CJ.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I love Kurt Vonnegut too. When did he die? Not that long ago I think. I remember him making statements post 9/11 about the invasion of Iraq. I looked him up specifically and I wasn't disappointed, though I am now to discover that he's passed away. Are all Indiana people as bright as you two? Is it genetic or something in the water?


pgrundy 7 years ago

LOL! He's been dead about a year now I think. He was a brilliant man, but you flatter me. I'll take it though! Coming from you it's almost as good as actual success. :o)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia

CJ, I have not read either of the above mentioned books and from what you and Pam have written I feel quite lucky that I have not.

My question comes from your writing above where you say,

"Galapagos has us evolving "downwards" instead, into little, furry seal-like creatures, living off raw fish from the Ocean." Not a happy thought?

But my question ( tongue in cheek) can you really say that process is evolution?

I have noticed this sort of furry stuff growing on my face. Should I be worried?


lbtrader profile image

lbtrader 7 years ago from Canada

The entire rapt thing and spirituality is really very controversial...it really is the seed of lots of new age stuff like DivineCosmos stuff which i like to read about but run away from...too cultish for my blood.

As for the rays of the Sun, again it fits right in with all this 2012 stuff. A place to discover more on that is in the work of David Sereda where he looks into the effects of the sound of the sun on water molecules....really very interesting...


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Vonnegut gone and now Carlin too. We're loosing some great minds there.

The sun is god? I started watching Zeitgeist the other day. Didn't get to watch much but what I saw was most interesting. It seemed to be heading toward that same conclusion, that all religions were actually based on worship of the sun.

Seems a lot more rational than worshiping some mythical character who's OK with things like genocide and slavery.

Excellent hub CJ. Always a pleasure.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I'd rather be in Vonnegut's distant future with dimwitted but happy people, er, aquatic creatures. I find his work irreverent and comedic, always a good read.

I haven't read the Celestine Prophecy, a conscious effort not to jump into any bandwagon, and, after reading this, probably never will. Great read, thanks for sharing :D


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I echo some others in saying that you have saved some time. Will cross that book off of my "to do" reading list. Certainly don't want to feel like slitting my wrists like pgrundy was tempted to do! (Smile) Galapagos sounds interesting on the other hand.


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

I have a copy of TCP on my shelf unread. TCP doesn't the name give you a clue? Stinky and septic? Or is that noxious stuff just a Uk thing?


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Are you referring to Town and Country Planning or Transmission Control Protocol, Julie-Ann? haha Both sound inept. But what do I know. I live in the middle of the west where the buffalo once roamed. I read the Celestine Prophecy but for the life of me I cannot remember a thing about it. I also read the one Tom Hanks starred in that took place in the Louvre and I can't remember the name of that one. Let's see. The spiritual book that I love is small and beautifully written and it is a translation of the Aramaic Lord's Prayer by Neil Douglass Klotz. It goes deeper every time I read it. Oh, I also liked Separate Reality by Castaneda. My favorite Vonnegut book must remain Slaughterhouse Five, i.e., how it played with time as character. Somehow it reminds me of John Cage. I know I'm rambling, but I am entertaining myself, so I guess someone is enjoying it.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I was enjoying it Storytellersrus and will look out for the Aramaic Lord's Prayer. Ps I like John Cage too.

Hi Julie-Ann, I've often used the Celestine Prophecy for rinsing out my mouth too. t makes a great antiseptic.

Peggy, lapagos is highly recommended. Plus, as storyteller mentions, Slaughterhouse 5 is another great book.

Cris, maybe you sould read Celestine after all, just to see what the fuss was all about. Maybe it's just me. I have weird tastes.

CWB, yes I'm with God as the Sun myself. There's nothing more awsome (and real) in my vicinity.

Will check out that David Sereda stuff ibtrader. Thanks for the imput.

agvulpes, well evolution can ado all sorts of things, and who says turning into seals wouldn't be an improvement?


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Chris, his hub is nearly the reverse of my latest one with a series of videos by Freeman in which he praises the Celestine Prophecy highly and talks about how he is living his life by synchronicity and that this is the answer for the future. I have never read the book but intend getting a copy after hearing Freeman.

In the meantime and for the past three days I have been battling with a dead PC causing me to be offline, having to buy a new one that has taken all the money I had and a long journey to get it, and now trying to set it up so I can work. I have to get the PC converted to English, I had to battle with the small font of Vista (sorted that now), and I have lost all the usual software tools I normally use like Word and Paint Shop Pro - they are all on the dead PC. This new PC has too much on it but it's all in Spanish and I am lost! I have 3 day's worth of work to catch up on and will have to spend a lot of my holiday (I have a week off) doing the undone work and sorting this out. I have missed out on spotting the synchronicity I should be following it seems!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Steve, that's why I put it up. Watching Freeman reminded me of it. Hope you can bear the book. It's just appallingly badly written is all, and full of ridiculous historical and cultural anomalies.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Well, I rate Freeman very highly as you know, Chris, so his recommendation has got me after all these years to actually want to read it. I have thought for the last year or so that he has the best grasp of the world situation and is one of the best researchers. I also am impressed by how Freeman is able to be on friendly terms with Christians and Satanists - takes some doing - and able to have rival authors/speakers on his shows but never gets caught up in any squabbles or ego tripping. So if he reckons Celestine Prophecy is an important book that's good enough for me!

It's interesting that you point out that the Mayas are still living because Freeman has met these people and hung out with some of their shamans, and having done that he still has no problem with the Celestine Prophecy.

When I get it I'll let you know what I think.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Chris, I have it and am not impressed so far. It is badly written and not an enjoyable read. I think you are right so what is all the fuss about? I will persevere!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Steve, I told you didn't I? I guess the fact that it's badly written would be excusable if it wasn't so full of absurdity at the same time. It's just another New Age money-making marketing scam. I think he's up to about the thirteenth insight now. Actually the book it most reminds me of is Justine by the Marquis de Sade, which is also an unlikely fantasy in which everyone talks in a high-flown philosophical style. It has the same air of weirdly disconnected unreality about it in which everyone in the book is just another facet of de Sade's aberrant personality.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

I am two thirds through it but it hasn't given me any insights or changed my life in any way! It's OK but very forgettable and has long pasages that are just boring! I won't be reading any more of Redfield's books after this!


RebeccaMcCoo 5 years ago

You are right Mr Stone. I read the book about 7/8yrs ago and as the idea of synchronicity rings true with me the book was a total sham.The writing appalling and shallow.Thanks for reminding me because i am going to read i again just to remind myself not to get caught up in the mumbo-jumbo.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

You should also read Galapagos Rebecca, if you haven't already. It is a great antidote to the Celestine Prophesy, and a hugely enjoyable book, joyously pessimistic.


RebeccaMcCoo 5 years ago

I shall do and also i have just re-read your book The last of the Hippys...brilliant.Been there and done that.Outright laughing on the tube. Thanks for the memories !


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Rebecca.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

CJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think you sold me on TWO books here!!! I do, of course, take most things with a grain of salt....but some things taste much better with lots of it!!!

Also, what you linked to for Kurt will be the next hub I read!

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