The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield Bantam $136 THIS fictional story, which has been a major hit in the United States, focuses on a man at the crossroads of his life. A former counsellor, the narrator of the tale, is taking time off to re-think his life. He hears about the existence of an ancient manuscript in Peru which gives people nine key insights into their existence with the aim of bringing about a new world order. At the end of the book we learn about a tenth insight, paving the way for a sequel. Propelled by curiosity and a desire for illumination, the ex-counsellor seeks them out, only to discover that the church and government are conspiring to prevent their dissemination in fear that they will bring chaos where now there is relative order in society. They, of course, are also seeking to protect their own vested interests. Undeterred, he ploughs on with the help of others of like mind, avidly devouring insight after insight, dodging government agents sent out to stop him and gradually acquiring an understanding of how the world could become a better place for all. This affords the basis for a good adventure story and if it were treasure that was being hunted, the author would have fewer problems carrying the reader with him. However, what we are being asked to take on board is the revelation of a series of perceptions about life which grow increasingly obscure and philosophically doubtful. Not only that, they are wrapped up in a narrative remarkably devoid of good description and character development. If it were not for the exotic location and the sense of urgency imparted by the hunt for the documents, we could very well be left with an arid account of one man's search for, and understanding of, spiritual enlightenment. The first insight contained in the Peruvian manuscript involves recognising that there is no such thing as coincidence. Every apparent accidental encounter has an ulterior reason which we as humans should learn to interpret. Others teach people to identify the unity of life on the planet or the energy fields that radiate from each organism and how they can fluctuate according to conditions. One of the more arcane seeks to demonstrate that energy can be taken from or bestowed upon humans by the exercise of will power. This is not a new concept. In fact, it is dealt with exhaustively and more effectively in a book called The Space Vampires by British author Colin Wilson. It comes as no surprise to learn James Redfield has a degree in sociology, a Master's in education in counselling and spent 15 years working as a therapist with emotionally disturbed adolescents. This book is infused with the optimistic evangelising that people in that business need to carry on. I can understand how such a work would be popular in that nation of therapists and nihilists known as America. But it ultimately failed to convince me.