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Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Time Event
2:20a
Valuable but frustrating ...
This was one of those books that has come to me via the LibraryThing.com “Early Reviewers” program … It would have been an “early” review had the book come out on time, but this was from the December batch (with a February 15 release date) and only arrived this week. I suppose the benefit (for me) of the delay was that, instead of getting an ARC (advance reader copy, often in various degrees of not being “finished”), they ended up sending out the hardcover. I was initially somewhat surprised to have been selected to get James Redfield's The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision as I was under the impression that I'd “lost touch” with the Celestine material after reading his early books “back in the day”. However, I recently discovered that his books on the tenth and eleventh “insights” (which I've read) were not, as I had supposed, preceded by separate volumes on the first through the ninth, so I guess I'm pretty much “up to speed” on his stuff.

Of course, “up to speed” is hardly “on the bandwagon”, as anybody who read my review of The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight will recall. I had attributed my “issues” with that largely to my not reading much fiction, but early on in this one I realized that it was not so much it being fiction, as it being extremely flat fiction. As opposed to even other books more-or-less in this genre (such as the Casteneda corpus), there is almost no descriptive copy about people, places, and things, and the resulting effect is like watching a stick-figure animation as opposed to an actual movie. It almost feels like he'll look up a handful of attributes about a region, and then drop them in, where one might expect more scene-setting. Again, it's like stick figures walking through a stick-figure scene with an occasional label on something (like mentioning a place had cottonwood trees, or that a house was adobe) and letting it stand with that.

Most of the text is the inner discourse of the unnamed protagonist, interspersed with wooden dialog, and the occasional oration where one of the characters will launch into a spiel on some subject that Redfield is obviously wanting to get around to. As I've previously noted, the sense that the author has never seen the places he's writing about, let alone been there, is a constant in these books, and this may be more from this “symbolic” (it is a red mountain, very much like the other red mountain) style than the author's total disconnect from the particulars that has been my take-away when reading these. Of course, who am I to judge a guy who's created an entire publishing empire for himself cranking out books in this particular voice? Again, this is one of the main reasons why “I quit reading fiction”, as I'd prefer my metaphysics come to me in a treatise than in a fable.

This all being said … I found The Twelfth Insight a remarkable read. As I've discussed in the context of his other books, Redfield is aggravating in that there are gems of really powerful spiritual perceptions and/or techniques buried in the two-dimensional mud of the narrative. Usually, there will be a scant handful of points in his writing where I'm sticking in a bookmark and getting excited mentally cross-referencing what he's presented with other related concepts, traditions, and practices from my own studies. Well, in this one, they just keep on coming, and for a book which I had very low expectations, I was engaged and eager to press on to the next part.

This is likely due to the (predictably sketchy) over-arching concept here that some poorly-defined group of mysterious people were responsible for “the secret release of an old, unnamed Document” which had “both Hebrew and Arabic origins” … this only appears in translation (from what? By whom?) with no indication of its origins (as opposed to a Dead Sea Scrolls sort of “fragmentary” state, this appears to be one complete document, the parts of which are “appearing” ... in xerox copies of translations ... in various places around the globe). There are twelve “Integrations” which are detailed in the bits and pieces that conveniently pop up as needed. As weak as this structure is, each of the elements have those little bits of “shiny” truth buried in the text, and so it draws one into the clumsy narrative despite the stick-figure dynamics.

The main plot is that these sections of this “Document” start appearing, and the protagonist and his associate Wil jet off to find out more about these. The initial part of the book involves them heading off to Sedona, where Wil's Hopi friends inexplicably tie this in to the Mayan Calendar (the whole “2012” thing hangs over this, and it is set in “Spring of 2011”). It would have been much more interesting to have woven in the Hopi prophesies and world vision here, but I guess it's far more marketable to hook onto the hot apocalypse of the moment. Eventually, the group he's working with jets off for Egypt and beyond (there never is much attention paid to who's funding these trips), to head for the area around Mt. Sinai. Opposing “the good guys” are a global conspiracy of primarily Islamic and Evangelical “Apocalyptics” who have teamed up to try to start a global nuclear war, and bring on whatever version of end-time end-games happens to play out. It is an interesting perspective that these folks are deeply disturbed by all new age and/or “human development” teaching and are pretty much “over the edge” looking to protect their own mythos, enough so that they're willing to conspire with equally-unhinged extremists of "enemy" groups to trigger Armageddon.

Of course, the protagonist (who is, really, very “clueless” most of the time … I found myself mentally yelling at him about stuff that he learned, but wasn't using, from the last book!) and his band find the right parts of the Document at the right times and are able to rapidly advance through the assorted “Integrations” to the point where they're able to save the day. But you expected that, right? Again, this is a disappointingly written book which still harbors in it sufficiently high-quality spiritual material that I feel that I have to recommend it. Go figure. I would have loved for Redfield to have actually provided “the Document”, but there aren't even scraps to piece together, just people talking about it … however, if any of what he's “hidden in the text” is actually true (and, especially, is hooked into a 2012 schedule), this is something that anybody with a metaphysical bent might want to have read.

As The Twelfth Insight is brand-new (it's still just out in Hardcover and grossly-overpriced electronic editions), you're likely to have to find it at retail. Fortunately, both Amazon and B&N have it at more than 40% off on-line, which would be your best bet at the moment.


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