I read The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight years ago, when I was a student, but somehow missed this one. Really missed it. I mean it was published back in 1999 and I had never even heard of it. Then one day recently there it was right in front of me, on the bookshelf of a charity shop. What James Redfield would call a meaningful coincidence, because I had been discussing the concept of Shambhala (or Shangri-La) with a friend only the previous evening. (We had both of us read Silk-Roads and Shadows by Susan Schwartz – I must do a post on that wonderful book sometime! – and both of us been to India; but neither of us to Tibet, for obvious reasons.)
The Secret of Shambhala is subtitled “In Search of the Eleventh Insight” but it is in fact more an account of putting the Tenth Insight into practice. The author’s neighbour’s fourteen-year-old daughter informs him out of the blue that they “are not living the Insights“. Taken aback – he was unaware that she had read his books – he tells her it is not easy, it takes time. “But there are people living them now,” she responds. “In central Asia. The Kunlun Mountains.” And she tells him “You have to go there. It’s important. There’s something changing. You have to go there now. You have to see it.”
Naturally, one thing leads to another and off he goes to Tibet, where he learns that the people living the Insights are doing so in Shambhala. But what and where is Shambhala?
The Chinese who occupy that raped and martyred land have criss-crossed it with roads and military installations, have explored every inch of it in their helicopters. Surely there cannot be a great fertile valley somewhere among the snowy peaks that they have missed? But yes, there is, he is informed. Only it is hidden.
This is Redfield’s usual mixture of adventure and mysticism. The adventure lies in being hunted across Tibet by the Chinese and is sometimes pure James Bond, but with an ongoing moral dilemma as to how they ought to respond to Chinese terror-tactics and ethnic cleansing: yes, I mean ethnic cleansing. “The Chinese are doing the same thing Stalin did in Manchuria,” the author’s friend Yin tells him, “importing thousands of outsiders, in this case ethnic Chinese, into Tibet to change the cultural balance and institute Chinese ways. They demand that our schools teach only the Chinese language.” And he – Yin – adds later, “Ironic, isn’t it? The culture of Tibet is totally dedicated to the spiritual life. We are arguably the most religious anywhere. And we have been attacked by the most atheistic government on Earth – that of China. It is a perfect contrast for all the world to see.”
And the mysticism? That lies in the four extensions of the prayer field, of prayer-energy, that the author must master before he can hope to gain access to Shambhala.