The Secret of Shambhala: An interview with James Redfield


In Search of the Eleventh Insight

Don’t be surprised if The Secret of Shambhala, the third in a series of Celestine books by James Redfield, seems familiar–and not in the sense that you’ve read it before.

While it is true that this new novel’s plot mirrors the good guys-bad guys chase scenes of The Celestine Prophecy, The Secret of Shambhala (1999, Warner Books) unveils a vision of humanity that we’ve heard of before, but perhaps we haven’t understood in such a personal way.

The quest for the mystical Shambhala, where humans live without aging and feast upon wisdom, has long been part of our collective consciousness, reinforced time and time again from such adventures as the search for Shangri-La in the film Lost Horizon (1937) and even Star Trek Insurrection (1998), where the Next Generation crew try to save a utopian people.

Redfield’s task of showing us where we are headed collectively takes him in his novel on a search for Shambhala, which embraces many of the principles he spends most of the book explaining. In this book, he offers a vastly more powerful definition of prayer–one that makes you second-guess any judgmental thought in your mind–as well as explores as a follow-up to Celestine Prophecy ways we can strengthen and maintain our personal vibration.

Redfield spoke with The EDGE by phone from his home in Alabama.

The Secret of Shambhala has a different energy than your last book, The Celestine Vision. It is a lot like The Celestine Prophecy in terms of how it relates to personal energy, and practices we can do to maintain that state.
James Redfield: It was similar to Celestine in that it sort of wrote itself. It was a real interesting experience, the whole creation of the book and exploring what it is that is coming up now, what insight is emerging now.

It really started to come together that it’s this creative power that we have. We’ve always used it and talked about it in terms of positive thinking, and faith and visualization, but now I believe it’s coming together at a higher octave. More people understand that they have this creative prayer power, this ability to set a field and increase all the magic in their lives.

So it was very fascinating trying to describe it.

Your new book is set in Tibet. Have you had experiences there, and what does Shambhala mean to you?
Redfield: I got back from Tibet last month. The country is fascinating. It’s beautiful. The whole country is a sacred site because of the energy of the mountains. The elevation of the whole country is so high. Lhasa is at about 13,000 feet. And the light is different. It really does something to your consciousness by being there.

Tibet, to me, is the place where there are struggles around issues of prayer and compassion. Here we have this relationship between Tibet and the Chinese, who are very practical-minded and frankly not very spiritual at the governmental level, who are out to erode and destroy this beautiful culture, because they don’t believe in anything spiritual. The Tibetans, led by the Dalai Lama, are reacting to that with compassion and prayer. It’s amazing to see how they talk about the Chinese, without even the slightest bit of hatred, even though the Chinese are doing some terrible things. They’ve made Lhasa into a frontier town with gambling and prostitution–and some of the younger Tibetans are getting involved in some of that.

It’s an amazing place where aggression is being met with compassion, and prayer energy. There is a lot to teach us there.
Tibetan Buddhists have always believed in Shambhala, this ideal community of adepts and those of a higher energy, who not only serve as a model for where humans are going eventually, but also act through prayer and energy to help raise the consciousness of the rest of the world. They believe Shambhala is a very real place–as do I.

I was curious if you believe there are beings who are doing what you describe in the book.
Redfield: Absolutely. I think there’s a place that is difficult to get to. It’s in the physical dimension, but it’s of higher energy made of fine matter that an ordinary person might walk right through it and not see anything.

I do think that one of the things coming up for all of us, as this eleventh insight emerges, is that there are ideal communities that humanity is trying to establish. In the next book I’m going to develop that a little bit more in terms of how we can create those communities.

Would that be the elusive Twelfth insight?
Redfield: (laughing) I think so. What I am trying to with each of these books is to describe insights that are already emerging. So it would be totally unclear to me for a while what that looks like.

Would you say The Secret of Shambhala is a continuing dialogue about waking up–living outside the illusion?
Redfield: Absolutely. I call these books the Celestine Series. This is about the eleventh insight, the next episode in the series.

I think all of this is occurring, and I’m very serious about that. I tell the mainstream press that. There is a spiritual renaissance taking place, and the press is missing that huge story. I’ve got poll data that shows dramatic shifts in what people think about their own spiritual lives, increases in beliefs about the effectiveness of prayer and the possibility of real life-changing connection with the divine within us. There is a true renaissance happening on every level, across every religion, in my view.

And this waking up process runs counter to our culture. There are so many distractions that keep us asleep.
Redfield: It’s a pretty natural thing. Humans are either bored silly by distracting themselves with all these games and toys, or they’re into the greatest life that is available, which is the spiritual exploration that is happening out there. So you see both sides. We are having a polarization. At the same time people are becoming more and more spiritual, there’s another large group of people who are becoming more alienated, materialistic and frustrated that life is so meaningless. It’s out of that group that we have all the violence that the media focuses on. Meanwhile, it’s not focusing on the spiritual renaissance that’s happening at the same time.

Like The Celestine Prophecy, in The Secret of Shambhala you emphasize the value of eating consciously to uplift our vibration. Will you discuss the personal responsibility and discipline that’s required to maintain harmony with the insights that you’re describing?
Redfield: Related to the food we eat, I believe we’re in the dark ages of nutritional science. There is a nutritional element to our spiritual development. You can’t eat junk and acquire enough energy to increase your spiritual perceptions to the degree that we’re talking about, to the degree that we intuitively know is available to us. But food is such a terrible addiction. We all grow up eating the stuff we like to eat–it’s all full of salt and sugar. It takes a lot of discipline to turn that around. But the pay-off in energy is worth it.

What’s happening now in developed, civilized cultures is that we are eating worse and worse. There’s the whole time problem of not having time to cook. That creates the climate that may produce some of the epidemics that Cayce envisioned. We’re getting further and further away from eating live foods. There are more and more processed foods. If you eat beef and pork, that’s a long way from the original source of the sunlight, the plants that these animals ate. The further you get away from the light, the photosynthesis that turns light into energy, the less energy you have for yourself.

The people who are leading that discussion include such thinkers as Theodore A. Baroody. The idea he proposes is that human disease and general loss of energy happens when we accumulate too many acids in the body and fewer alkaline foods. Another leader on the new frontier of nutrition is Robert Young, who has a new book coming out soon. I believe this is the leading edge of nutritional science, and people are going to have to make a choice between eating things they think taste good–a lot of it is virtually cardboard in terms of its nutritional value–or getting back to foods that are alive. I believe there’s a whole wave of people within the spiritual movement who have experienced the increased energy that comes from juicing live vegetables and eating a lot of green food sources. That’s where a tremendous boost in energy comes from. It’s amazing.

I’ve taken an octave up in my own nutritional practices, with a lot of juicing of green vegetables and lot of salads, with no coffee or alcohol or all the other things that really drag us down.

I think this information is coming up for all of us to look at now. It’s part of the eleventh insight. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more illness that is explained away as this or that, but it’s because our immune systems are just collapsing–more every year, because we’re eating more processed foods than ever before. I believe cleaning up our diet is an element within the spiritual awakening.

In Celestine, there were chases from the South American government, and in Shambhala, the Chinese government is in fast pursuit. However, the new book emphasizes the importance of keeping negative thoughts out of our minds concerning other people, and this is a fresh approach in terms of how we view our adversaries.
Redfield: The whole secret of extending prayer energy is the heart of this book. It’s not enough to know that we can pray and that prayer works. We also can know that we can extend this power within us. The thing that erodes it, that collapses it entirely, is when we start to pray negatively. Every thought is a prayer essence. Whenever we criticize some group or perceive someone behaving badly and condemn him, it takes us out of our divine nature. Our higher self, that is part of God and is connected with the Divine, is not a part of that condemning energy. By harboring negative thoughts toward others, we cut ourselves off from our greatest energy, and the effectiveness of our thought power and prayer power just collapses.

If there is someone acting like an enemy toward you, and if you acknowledge that to yourself and say, “This is a terrible person who’s acting evil and they’re after me,” that’s just praying for that outcome. So as I write in the book, we have to become very mindful of our thoughts. It’s not a question of seeing reality. If that person is acting negatively and trying to do harm, you have to see that. But be sure the prayer you send out is for that person to be uplifted to their higher self intuition in which that kind of behavior is not possible.

That’s the call for mindfulness. If we’re going to extend this prayer power, we’ve got to become very mindful of our thoughts. A random, critical thought that we hang onto, whether it’s about ourselves or anything, is a negative prayer that just collapses everything.

Your use of the word prayer is something new for most of us.
Redfield: Instead of prayer as just asking for something and hoping we get it, it’s prayer in an active way. We know that the strength with which we expect it and visualize it adds to the probability that this outcome will occur.

Over the years I’ve come to believe that humans are creative masters walking around with much more power than we believe we have. We limit ourselves to a great extent.
Redfield: Yes, I hinted at this in the book. I was listening to Kenneth Copeland, a television evangelist who is pretty much fundamentalist and judgmental in some respects, and he said something that was very interesting. He said, “Listen. You’ve got to get yourselves under control. God is not going to turn up the power in you if you use that power to blow out tires and cause wrecks when someone pulls out in front of you.”

And he’s right about that. Until we get this power managed and are able to use it in the right way, we’re not going to get the power turned up in us.

He’s acknowledging that our negative thoughts are causing these negative things to happen.
Redfield: That’s right. And what’s interesting is that there is a core within fundamentalist Christianity that is much closer to this new spirituality that I’m describing than somebody who works on Wall Street and never gives spirituality a second thought. There’s a closeness between these two extremes of spirituality. Everyone’s really moving toward this direction of a lived spirituality, toward the acknowledgment that we’re very strong spiritually, that we have an influence on the world and that we’re a part of this divine universe. It’s part of this new renaissance that I know is happening.

It’s just being expressed in different ways.
Redfield: Absolutely. It’s just a dialogue. There is a lot of traditional judgment that has to be overcome. It’s actually that judgmentalness that is the negative prayer that keeps people from being all they can be.

The word “expectation” comes up a lot in The Secret of Shambhala. What does that word mean to you in this context?
Redfield: What I’m getting at is the power of our faith. Every time we have an assumption, it has a power that goes out and creates whatever we assume is true. Our challenge, if we’re going to extend our prayer fields and visualize them going out from us and having an effect on the world, is to do that with a firm and solid expectation that it will work. We have to watch our assumptions and our fears, which erode this solid faith. We have to expect it to work, and it’s out of that expectation and visualization that prayer grows in strength and can do some amazing things in our lives.

In the new book you also note the wisdom of the younger generation. What are you noticing our the children today?
Redfield: These kids are about no nonsense. A lot of the kids naturally get caught up in the Hollywood buzz and all the games you can play on this earth, but there’s a real, solid group that seems to be wise beyond its years. It’s not that they are fully awakened yet, but you can see signs of that.

This generation’s intensity also can be turned in a negative direction. They can become very angry and powerful. The kids involved in these school shootings are a part of that. Everything is more spiritually powerful. Like at Columbine in Colorado. This was a school where kids were very successful. That had drama and sports and everybody was involved in everything. And like any high school, though, kids who are successful look down on those who, for whatever reason, are unable to be successful and call them losers. That took place 10, 20 and 30 years ago in highs schools also, but it wasn’t at the intensity that it is now. What happens is, when the majority turns their judgments on these other kids, they feel it at a higher level and they react to it at a higher intensity.

I think that, along with all the reinforcement of violence in our culture, is what is leading to these shootings. It’s just a lesson for us. Kids are more powerful and adults, who say it is just something high school kids do, are going to have to get in the middle of all of this judgment and stop it. It just cannot be done anymore.

Interestingly, in discussing the Eleventh Insight, you suggest that we have the ability to empower our angels and guides with energy. Discuss that a little.
Redfield: If you look at the literature, a lot of it talks about how angels are here to help us, but they have to wait to be invited. They’re in the service of humankind. They’re here to help amplify us and give us power. I think more and more people truly understand that these beings are really out there, that they’re really a part of our world.

I think what we’re understanding is that they will serve us and help us if our intent is true. If we are connected to the divine to the point that we know we’re trying to uplift others who are in a bad situation and believe that our prayer energy can lift them out of whatever’s going on, then we can empower the angels to also help in this encounter. And they can now move, because they are in our service. And we have to consciously direct it.

Sure, that might be the hardest part of this book for people to believe, but a lot of people had problems with the ascension ending of Celestine, as well. I think it’s something that is real and people will come to see that.

The part that we are conscious participants in the whole process.
Redfield: That’s right.

In The Secret of Shambhala, you have set the energy for a new way of being within one’s self, as well as in relationship with others. To what degree do you feel this book, as well as the two preceding ones, are holding the energy for these insights to be noticed, understood and practiced?
Redfield: My mission is to chronicle and illustrate. I am describing insights that are already happening. I put them into words, create a vision of them and help clarify what they are so people can recognize the truth about them. They can see these insights in practice and see people exploring them in a story. This illustration helps to crystallize this spiritual journey–this awakening that I believe we all share.

By letting people know that’s it’s here, you allow them to become engaged in it.
Redfield: That is my intention and my hope.

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Tim Miejan
Tim Miejan is a writer who served as former editor and publisher of The Edge for twenty-five years. Contact him at [email protected].


  1. I have read all but Shambhala by James Redfield. Will have it soon. Many things have changed in the last 10 years and so am I. Keeping mindfulness thoughts is difficult due to so many distractions. I will continue to watch my thoughts. Thanks for all the information. Makes sense to me.


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