A Worldview in Conflict

Looking at James Redfield’s Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight

(This originally appeared in the Spring 2000 edition of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 6)

By Sarah Flashing

The Secret of ShambhalaJust imagine . . . You are Indiana Jones on an adventure seeking to discover a lost civilization. On part of the journey, you run through a cave that leads to an exciting, mythical world. Well into the excursion, you race through corridors of a religious temple while its walls are crashing down around you. In spite of this, you are able to utilize the special powers you recently have discovered within yourself. With these powers of visualization, you intend (with your mind) a force field opening in the space of air immediately in front of you that serves as an escape route to safety. The only things really missing from this adventure are the power coins that provide life-sustaining energy and the stars with cute little smiley faces which you are entitled to obtain at the end of the game—your reward for successfully overcoming the evil which you have so bravely endured. Wait a minute—a game? While this very closely describes a popular high-tech video game, it also portrays many of the events (minus the power coins and smiley face stars, of course) in James Redfield’s most recent book entitled, The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (hereafter The Eleventh Insight). It is the latest contribution by Redfield to The Celestine Prophecy series. The intent of this blatantly New Age (yet somewhat intriguing) page-turner is to follow up on the previous ten insights to spiritual awareness found in the first two books of this series. Indicative of the title, the eleventh insight to spiritual awareness is to be found within the pages of this book. As a fictional work, it serves as Redfield’s illustration for the virtually unlimited power a person attains after discovering the insights that provide spiritual awareness.

The main characters of The Eleventh Insight are two American men who separately venture to Tibet with intentions of meeting each other upon arrival. The purpose of their adventure is to locate the not-so-mythical community of Tibetan Buddhist legend referred to as Shambhala upon which the stories of Shangri-La are based (page 19). Arriving at Shambhala is dependent upon their arriving at spiritual awareness, but upon closer examination, the arrival at Shambhala seems to be metaphorical for arriving at spiritual awareness. As an element of this spiritual nature, Redfield teaches that people can engage others in a world where each person is in control of their own reality—this being due to the expansion and utilization of their newly discovered spirituality.

The eleventh insight into this spiritual awareness, in detail, is the extension of prayer fields to other people and consists of four parts, or extensions. In the first extension, a person must “… first improve the quality of energy …” (202) taken in physically. This means one must eat foods that are “alive” because they have an “… alkaline effect and enhance our vibration …” (202). Food allegedly is the source of this energy that produces ‘vibration.’ “Heavy and processed foods build up acid solids in our molecular structures, lowering our vibration and eventually causing disease” (202). Obviously, the idea here is to be health conscious because the healthier food one eats, the more enhanced one’s vibration becomes. But why is it necessary for anyone to have a vibration, let alone a healthy one? How is it known that such vibrations even exist? No explanation is supplied for these questions. According to The Eleventh Insight, “… the purer we vibrate, the easier it is to then connect with the more subtle energies available within us” (202). And the “legends say” that the “… higher our level of energy, the more beauty we see … using our emotional state of love as a measure that this is occurring” (203). The ambiguity and relativistic nature of this concept is evident. Terms such as “love” and “beauty” are left undefined, because without an objective base by which to measure, they simply cannot be defined. An “emotional state of love” provides no answers regarding truth—especially regarding this “energy” which remains a vague concept at any rate. But above and beyond this, it is not explained (apart from “the legends say …”) how it is known that such vibrations exist and why they are necessary for spiritual growth. No logical reason is stated as to why anyone should believe in the supposed health benefit of vibrations.

The second extension involves being “… in a state of conscious alertness and expectation for the next intuition or coincidence that moves our lives …” (203). This state of “alertness and expectation” is considered a vehicle for sending out energy to others so that the inner energy of everyone becomes stronger, thus enabling the intentions of people to align with the “intended process of growth and evolution structured into the universe itself” (203). It is never explained how it is known that there is this “energy” within anyone, or how it can go out and become stronger. Likewise, how it is known that our intentions can align with the “intended process of … the universe” also goes unexplained. How Redfield knows what these intended processes are also remains a mystery. Redfield maintains an abundance of beliefs but does not show that his beliefs have a solid foundation. Redfield gives no account for any of his so-called knowledge. His is a worldview that stands on the authority of his own imagination.

The third extension of the prayer field is closely related to the second extension in that the energy that goes out boosts the level of energy in other people (203). This process enables them to connect with the “divine” within them and serves “the likelihood of them giving us intuitive information that can further enhance our own level of synchronicity” (203). In other words, once people recognize that they have within themselves a divinity, they will send out information that will cause others to be more in tune with the universe and, in turn, recognize their own divinity.

Finally, the fourth extension involves positive thought processes and expectations. The belief that negative thoughts produce negative results and positive thoughts cause positive results is the basic teaching being presented here. An example of teachers and their expectations of students is utilized in The Eleventh Insight, asserting that students give to teachers only what the teachers expect (204). In challenging this faulty logic, questions need to be asked regarding the parent’s expectations of the same student or even the student’s expectations of himself. If a parent (or the student) expects positive results, while the teacher expects negative, is it a duel of expectations? Whose expectations determine the results for this student? The idea that one person can determine the success or failure of another person with negative or positive thoughts is simply absurd. An analysis of Redfield’s ideas seems to leave one with more questions than answers regarding his logic. All tested hypotheses down through history would confirm that man has not the power to control his own reality, nor anyone else’s.

For Redfield, Shambhala serves as an example to his readers of how life on Earth can and should be. In Shambhala, people are the masters of technology and use it in the service of spiritual development (204). This allows people to begin to understand:

 “ … the real reason we are here on this planet: to create a culture on Earth that is conscious of our role in spiritual evolution and to teach that understanding to our children” (204).

Redfield again provides no objective proof  that he knows the “real reason we are here.” Also, his belief in a spiritual “evolution” is quite ambiguous. What are we evolving from and to? Possibly “revolution” would be a better term, as his worldview appears to be just another revolt against Christian truth. In his efforts to put forth the idea that everyone has a personal divinity within—that they alone are the power behind prayer—he denies that this power belongs to the Creator alone. Paul states in his letter to the Romans:

For since the creation of the world, His invisible {attributes} are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, {even} His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse …” (Romans 1:20, NKJV).

While Redfield hasn’t denied the existence of God, he has wrongly attributed divinity to creation as well, thus denying the Creator/creation distinction that exists between God and man. He more closely identifies with a pantheistic view in that he asserts:

“… everything in the universe is alive with spiritual energy and is a part of God. We must intentionally ask to connect with the divine inside us.”

Redfield is in a position of futility because he can give no objective basis for his assertions. Outside and independent of the Christian worldview, one cannot account for any knowledge. Only within the bounds of the biblical Christian faith can anyone comprehend God and ultimate reality because through the Bible. His knowledge has been revealed to us.

This book not only promotes the significant details of New Age philosophy, but it also displays evidence of Postmodernist thought. It expresses a view of pick-and-choose theology; a conglomeration of different faiths and religions in which the warm fuzzy “love” of each religion is retained and the remaining doctrines, beliefs, and teachings are tossed aside. Redfield essentially regards no one single religion as true … and none are completely false. It is on this basis that Redfield can borrow from religious systems to create his new (and notably inconsistent) worldview. This is the heart of his agenda – “the final unity of all religions” (170). Such false unity is dangerous to the hearts and minds of those truly seeking the one true God. In a world where truth doesn’t matter and people are forced to rely on subjective standards to determine their spirituality, one can be expected to follow the path that seems to make them feel good over the path that leads them to the truth of the Lord Jesus.

Taking a selected passage from the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel, The Eleventh Insight opens with:

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste and spake … Did we not cast three men bound in the midst of the fire?

… Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire …,

and they have no hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the son of God …

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted him.”

Placing this passage even before the first chapter of The Eleventh Insight, Redfield begins by setting up the notion that he accepts the authority of Scripture—that it is inspired by God. However, this is not the case. If Redfield were not attempting independence from God, he would accept Scripture in its entirety; and he does not do this. This is revealed in his belief that everyone is internally divine which ignores the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

The average reader might not even notice that Redfield has reduced the identity of this Angel—this deliverer from Daniel chapter 3—from the “Son of God” (NKJV) to the son of God. From “His Angel” (NKJV) to his angel. In fact, until one has read this book (or at least part of it), it is hard to know why he has placed this passage here at all, and it can leave the discerning reader perplexed. It appears that Redfield quotes the Bible as part of his objective to unify all religions despite their fundamental differences. One discovers this by what is stated regarding Redfield’s identity of this angel. Who does he say the angel is? He identifies this angel to be a helper sent to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the flames. While not necessarily wrong, this is where he first introduces dakini, a term used by Buddhism, which refers to angel-like beings “… from the spiritual world” (47). He goes on to state that they “… usually appear as females, but they can take any form they wish” (47). They, too, seem to be in full control of their reality. “In the West, they are known as angels, but they are even more mysterious than most think” (47). But the text continues, “I’m afraid they are truly known only by those in Shambhala … they move with the light of Shambhala” (47). In interpreting what Redfield is stating (understanding that Shambhala is metaphorical for spiritual awareness), he is declaring that only those who have what he has defined as spiritual awareness are the ones who can have true knowledge of these angels or dakini. And because of the divine energy within people, it is by their power that these angels are sent out to provide assistance. “Just maintain your visualization of a positive outcome. Fear will actually bring the dakini closer” (181).

This is where Redfield’s view of religious truth enters in. He states that each:

“… religion has a different name for them {dakini}, just as each religion has a different way of describing God and how humans should live. But in every religion the experience of God, the energy of love, is exactly the same” (49).

And love makes the world go round, of course. Redfield proves here that he has little understanding of the meaning of truth, let alone biblically defined love. By means of “integration of all religious truth” (49), Redfield has brought down the God of the Bible to a love experience. The Triune God of the Bible whom Christians worship is not an “experience,” but is the Sovereign Creator who does not guarantee warm fuzzy feelings of love to overwhelm our lives at every moment. What God has lovingly provided for us is eternal life, which is due to the most incredible gift ever to be given to anyone … the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of the Son of God Who is the second person of the Trinity. Through His death and resurrection, we are given the precious gift of eternal life with Him, not a meaningless existence on this planet. We are not guaranteed an easy, comfortable life where we have feelings of love from other people all the time. This distinction remains; we are His creation and He is our Creator. Asserting our own will only leads to destruction.

Our thanks go to Sarah Flashing for her review of The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight. Sarah is married and the mother of three little boys. She and her family reside in Brookfield, IL and are members of LaGrange Bible Church. In addition, she attends Trinity International University majoring in Christian Ministry. Her interest in apologetics/countercult ministry developed over many years of attending different Christian and cult organizations. She has a personal ministry vision to aid in equipping the church with the knowledge to counter the secular humanism/relativism of our popular culture for the purpose of evangelism.

© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

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