Edgar Cayce was born on March 18, 1877, in Beverly, Kentucky, a rural agricultural area of south Christian County about twelve miles south of Hopkinsville. He grew up in Beverly and finally left at the age of sixteen (in 1893). Amazingly, none of Cayce's biographers except Sidney D. Kirkpatrick seem to have ever visited the area. As a result, most writers give his birthplace simply as "Hopkinsville," even though any trip into town would have required a several hours' walk (we also find Cayce riding on horseback or in buggies) in each direction. This is a crucial point since so much of Cayce's subsequent experience growing up would have been molded by the rural nature of his society and surroundings. (1) Census data from 1880 records two main occupations for the men of south Christian County: "farmer" for those who owned land and "farm laborer" for those who did not. (Dark tobacco was then the major cash crop: today, it Is burley and soybeans.) Cayce's paternal grandparents actually owned the modest landholdings on which Cayce grew up. Thomas Jefferson Cayce and Sarah Thomas Cayce, Cayce's parents, Leslie Burr Cayce (1853-1937) and Carrie Elizabeth Major Cayce (1853-1926)- sold the farm a few months after the death of the grandmother in 1893 (a nationwide depression had begun, and tobacco prices had plummeted) and left Beverly for what they hoped would be greater opportunities in Hopkinsville. Besides those already mentioned. Cayce's family included four younger sisters (Annie, Mary, Ola, and Sarah) plus two more siblings who failed to survive infancy and a complex extended family encompassing to some degree much of the population of Beverly. As a modem inhabitant of the area, it would have been natural to feel more of a tie with a fifth cousin who was a neighbor than with a first cousin who lived in Chicago. Perhaps half of the people who knew Cayce in Beverly would have "counted kin" with him in this way.

Like his sisters, Cayce attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse from 1883 to 1889, after which the school was rebuilt as the two-room Beverly Academy. An 1890 class photo shows Cayce with about fifty other white children. The Cayces' church. Liberty Christian Church (called "Old Liberty") was nearby and was approximately the same size as the school. Several other churches. Most Baptists were located in the area, and much of Beverly's social life centered around church activities. Those goods which could not be made at home were mostly bought from two local general stores, where more socializing took place. Nearby were two doctors' offices and a blacksmith's shop. A Masonic lodge (Forest Lodge No. 308) met in one of the general stores in an upper room, with several of Cayce's relatives in attendance and at one point Cayce's father running the store below. The Masons could not have had many secrets in such a community. Additional social events were offered by something called the Adelphians Debating and Literary Society, which organized recreational debates on such questions as to whether there was "Anything to be Feared from the Growth of Catholicism in America" (the society voted no), or whether "the Government and People of America are Justifiable in Their Treatment of the Indians" (the society voted yes, apparently unmoved by the 1838-1839 passage of the Cherokee "Trail of Tears" through Christian County). Cayce's mother, and possibly his father as well. occasionally participated. (2) Other South Christian County social events to which Cayce would have been exposed included revivals and chautauqua-style lectures.

In an unpublished study of Cayce's family of origin. (3) Stephan A. Schwartz begins by reminding his readers of the temporal and geographic proximity of the U.S. Civil War. then invites us to picture an entire generation suffering from personal losses compounded by lingering antagonism toward the victorious enemy. (Christian County was split on the war issue. with Hopkinsville's Seventh Street being the traditional dividing line.) If the subject is rarely broached in Cayce literature. This is perhaps because the Cayce's were Southerners, whereas his biographers were Northerners. The character of Cayce's parents--another subject glossed over in the popular Cayce literature-would have been deeply affected by postwar insecurities. Assisted by two psychiatrists specializing in family issues and a psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress syndrome (Cave's biographical details but not his name). Schwartz paints a disturbing picture. Cayce's father was regarded as a hard drinker and a militant racist even by the day's standards. (Cayce drank moderately. and though sometimes his readings all but match the racism of his father,(4) at other times they affirm the "Brotherhood of Man" as an ideal instead.) Schwartz portrays the father as a failure in life who abused his family out of frustration. As for the mother, Cayce rarely discusses her, suggesting that she played a passive, codependent role in the marriage. A likely pattern would have been for Cayce to grow up fearful of his father and distrustful of his mother (for being unable to protect him), only in his later years to harbor contempt for the father and remember the mother as a long-suffering, saintly figure. Children of abusive parents are also particularly prone to dissociation—a fact that may shed considerable light on Cayce's subsequent psychic experiences. The remarkable thing about Cayce, says Schwartz, is the extent to which he managed to rise above his abusive background, ultimately achieving a relatively successful career and family life. I would add that Cayce's religious upbringing augmented his already considerable natural creativity and drive with a certain introspective tendency, coupled with a confidence that God would help him if only he would keep his half of the covenant. This is clearly a powerful blend of attitudes, whatever one makes of the religion that inspired it.

Cayce felt an early, profound connection with nature as well as the supernatural. Both sets of his memoirs devote much attention to descriptions of the fields and woods of his childhood, and it is surely no accident that Cayce describes his opening up to nature and the supernatural almost in the same breath. For Cayce, the natural world held deep spiritual significance:

Even then, it appeared to me if God had made the little birds, the trees, the flowers, the beautiful sky, and set the stars in their places ... He must be in every one of those little creatures in some manner or form. (5)

In many ways, Cayce's experiences can be likened to that of members of indigenous cultures. Indeed. Cayce's Beverly-whose families had mostly lived there for many generations-might easily occupy some intermediate ground between truly indigenous cultures and the highly mobile American society of today. Even contemporary natives of Beverly will look on the hills, trees, and fields of the area and be moved to affirm their familiarity (and hence relation) with these natural patterns or remember some relative or ancestor who lived there. For them, kinship recognition is extended not only widely but also deeply, with the reality of one's ancestors constantly being reinforced by such reminders of their former presence on the earth. Numerous cross-cultural parallels can be observed between Cayce's experience and shamanism. The caveat that the meaning and scope of the term "shamanism" is a topic of ongoing debate among specialists. For example, in Cayce, we find the typical shamanic: themes of an initiatory illness. Hereditary abilities, tutelage by spirit guides, ecstatic trances, visions, and narrated journeys into the spirit world searching for healing knowledge and/or personal advice.

At the risk of venturing into the realm of psychology. It seems that when people live in relative isolation for extended periods, especially in a natural setting, thoughts and impulses dredged up from the mysterious depths of the unconscious often find expression in powerful ways. For example, a neighboring area in Tennessee has produced the more famous case of the Bell Witch, a spirit who haunted one particular family until its stated goals were met--the father died. And a daughter broke off her engagement. In the process, the spirit conversed with several visitors, including Andrew Jackson. (6) Spiritualist mediums and their audiences similarly received many such messages from the spirit world, though their contacts were seldom so malevolent. Within the Protestant fold, Logan County, Kentucky (two counties away from Christian County) was the scene of great revivals. The Holy Spirit frequently possessed participants to say and do all sorts of improbable things, ranging from barking like dogs to rolling around on the ground in convulsions. Cayce's supernatural experiences as a child and later on attracted suspicion not because such things were unknown to the good people of Beverly. But because the prevailing attitude held that these were best left alone.

Using the same glowing language with which he describes nature, Cayce recalls childhood encounters with invisible playmates who showed him around the family's tobacco-curing barn, as well as conversations with his deceased grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Cayce. (7) In life, the sir and father had seemed to possess psychic abilities:

On several occasions, I saw him do some very unusual things that I have since learned many people attribute to the working of discarnate spirits. In a conversation from time to time, I heard people ask him to be present at some meeting. The purposes of these meetings I did not know. I saw him move tables and other articles, apparently without any contact with the objects themselves. On such occasions, he would say, "I don't know what the power is, but don't fool with it."(8)

Thomas Jefferson Cayce drowned in 1881 (when Edgar was four years old) after being thrown by a horse into the middle of a pond. where he was knocked unconscious; according to his memoirs, Edgar Cayce saw him go under. (9) Intriguingly, many years later, Edgar Cayce would identify- his newborn grandchild, future ARE president Charles Thomas Cayce, as the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson Cayce.

Like most of the people he knew, Cayce looked mainly to the teachings of his church for guidance in spiritual matters. While his primary loyalty would have been to Christianity in general rather than to the Disciples of Christ in particular, the influence of his church experiences is undeniable, and few of his spiritual insights could have been entirely unmediated by this background. Suppose we could eavesdrop across time to a Sunday morning at the close of the nineteenth century, we would likely find some twenty-five to thirty souls gathered to worship at Old Liberty, out of a total listed membership of several times that. One-third of these would consist of Cayce's, while another third would consist of Majors (Edgar's mother's family). During this period, ministers of the church tended to be professors at South Kentucky College in Hopkinsville, who might preach at Old Liberty twice a month. On other Sundays, the pulpit would be filled by ministers from other churches, Circuit-riding evangelists, or (less formally) by the church's own elders. No musical instruments were used until 1906 when a congregation member donated an organ over the vigorous objections of one of Cayce's grand-uncles. Church governance was congregational, with the formal authority vested in a board consisting of elders, deacons, and the minister.

The service would have been typical of Protestant churches in general, with (Calvinist or Baptist) hymns. Congregational prayer, a sermon, and the "Lord's Supper" are celebrated every Sunday (the frequency being an important theological issue). The whole proceedings would have lasted approximately two hours. At some point, a collection plate would be passed, usually on behalf of some specific cause or expense. This practice was supplemented by more direct financial appeals first to the congregation as a whole, then if volunteers lacked specific individuals in public. After the service, people would invite one another to dinner (i.e., the midday meat), a custom I am pleased to have been a modem beneficiary. Some took the opportunity to discuss the sermon or other religious topics, perhaps controversial ones. Bro, who knew Cayce during 1943 and 1944, describes Cayce's recollection of this activity:

Discussing sermons was an art form of the time [the late nineteenth century], both recreational and serious. Here Edgar was not shy at all... Not infrequently, the exchanges mirrored his reading, both 'in the Bible and the tracts and magazines common in the Christian Church.

Years later, I found he could discuss animatedly the issues that grasped church leaders of the period: biblical authority, the status of ex-slaves, excesses of the Industrial Revolution, musical instruments in worship (when a boy, his church voted against an organ as not scriptural), the validity of missionary societies, the five-fingered "plan of salvation," immersion baptism, communion open to all believers, alcoholism, personal idealism, service to the poor, and more. (10)

In addition, Old Liberty offered Sunday school for children, organized Bible study for adults. and hosted a revival perhaps once a year; Brooks Major calls the years between 1878 and 1900 "the years of growth" for Old Liberty-from 85 listed members to about 150--due to the large number of new enrollments resulting from religious revivals. (11)

Should Old Liberty be regarded as conservative? Today most Disciples of Christ churches lie toward the liberal end of the Protestant spectrum. but then these churches have remained after several twentieth-century schisms in which the more conservative churches broke away. (The present-day Liberty Christian Church- which is rather conservative, is an exception.) However, in Cayce's boyhood, the now-familiar division between religious liberals and conservatives had not yet occurred. People attended Old Liberty because they identified with a certain theological position and because their family attended or the nearest church. Suppose its late nineteenth-century outlook appears conservative by modem standards, so would most other churches (and people) of the period. For example, the literal truth of the various biblical myths was not only generally believed but largely taken for granted since scientific and scholarly information to the contrary took some time to trickle down. Another example: Before the 1920s, the boards of Old Liberty and other churches (especially the Baptists) would censure members for such moral lapses as drinking, swearing, or cardplaying. Particularly incorrigible sinners might be "churched" (i.e., expelled from the congregation) until they showed signs of sincere repentance, then readmitted until they relapsed. Many years later, in Bowling Green. Cayce would have such proceedings brought against him for heresy. by which was meant his psychic activities. He was acquitted but banned from all leadership positions in that congregation (e.g., Sunday school teaching).

Even because the Bible and Christianity were a much more pervasive part of American culture in those days, by all accounts, Edgar Cayce was fascinated with religion from an early age. At ten (in 1887), he served as sexton—the first of many volunteer church positions. At twelve, Cayce resolved to read the Bible straight-through once for every year of his life, even to the extent of catching up with the twelve years that had already passed. Sure enough, when he died at the age of sixty-seven. He had read the Bible sixty-seven times. Cave's religious interests quickly grew into an intense spiritual search which led him far beyond his own denomination:

More and more, I sought the companionship of teachers and ministers that chance brought my way, ministers of all creeds and denominations. I remember very well some discussions I had in my earlier years with a very devout Mormon, who was forced to leave the colony when there was the passage of the law that no one could have more than one wife. Also, I remember the conversations I had with an elder in the Methodist Church. and ministers in the Baptist, the Presbyterian, the Christian, the Unitarian, and the Congregationalist churches. For some time, I was with a Catholic church priest, seeking I knew not what. Is it any wonder I was called peculiar by my schoolmates? (12)

Following Disciples custom. Cayce was baptized by immersion at the age of thirteen (in 1890). This is lightly said, but the event could have only come after Cayce specifically requested it, having pondered the decision in his heart and felt moved by the Holy Spirit to declare himself a believer. One can only imagine what the experience must have meant to a boy with such strong spiritual inclinations. Shortly afterward, while Cayce was reading his Bible in a secluded spot near his home.

...there was a sudden humming sound outside, and bright light fills the little place where eddy sat, and a figure all in white bright as the noon daylight, and the figure spoke--saying your prayers have been heard. what would you ask of me, that I may give it to you-just that I may be helpful to others, especially to children who are ill, and that I may love my fellow man, and the figure was gone. (13)

Cayce's memoirs describe this incident only vaguely. Sugrue's characterization of the visitor as a feminine angel is widely remembered in ARE circles. At the same time, Bro doubts this and remembers Cayce denying that this luminous figure or presence had any discernable gender. (14) Whatever its nature, the entity seems to have offered Cayce a wish, whereupon he asked to become a healer.

The following day there occurred his famous "spelling-book incident." Cayce, who was never much of a student, to begin with, now found himself hopelessly distracted from his spelling lesson:

In school the next day, eddy missed his lessons as usual and had to remain to write the word cabin 500 times on the blackboard. When he arrived at home that evening, his father was waiting for him-eddy studied his lessons in the evening but seemed not to be able to concentrate, at about that even he had the first experience of hearing the voice with-in-and it recalled the voice of the visitor of the evening before-but it said "Sleep, and we may help you" eddy asked his Father to let him sleep five minutes, he slept, and at the end of the time eddy knew every word in that particular seller. (15)

Cayce's father made generous use of corporal punishment as a teaching aid so that Edgar received "many a buff and rebuff" before the incident was finally resolved. (16) As a result of his newfound guidance.

Not only was I able to spell all the words in the lesson, but any word in that particular book; not only spell them, but tell on what page and what line each word could be found, and how it was marked ... they appeared before my eyes as recited. (17)

Cayce's father then beat him again, this time for having concealed his ability to spell.

Cayce soon found that he could do the same thing with any book. For his eighth-grade graduation ceremony, he showed off his ability by reciting an hour-and-a-half-long speech that their visiting congressman, James "Quinine Jim" MacKenzie, had given against the quinine tariff. Some details of these incidents suggest that Cayce's mysterious ability to absorb the contents of books may have been a photographic memory. For example, he could use his ability to memorize detailed printed information (e.g., page numbers) and learn subjects like grammar or mathematics. At the same time, other people with this ability do not need to leave the conscious state to activate it. There is no reason to think that it could not have worked this way for Cayce. At any rate, such an explanation would spare us the necessity of invoking such things as angels or the akashic plane. Sugrue and Bro add that Cayce placed the speller under his head--as if learning could somehow occur by osmosis--but this is not found in any of Cayce's own accounts. On the other hand. Bro reports testing this ability of Cayce's many years later with a review copy of Hans Vincent's Lighted Passage, which Bro had just received in the mail and not yet read. Cayce reportedly took the book in hand without opening it (or going into a trance) and gave what Bro recalls as an excellent summary of its contents. (18)

At fifteen (in 1892), Cayce gave what many regards as his first reading. Following the urgings of his teacher, Professor Thom. Cayce (who was inexperienced at sports) attempted to join other boys in a game of "Old Sow," only to be hit on the head by a baseball:

Someone must have struck me in the middle of my spine or the back of my head, for I remembered nothing that happened the rest of the day--though it was said that I rather mechanistically went through all the activities throughout classes. It was unusual for me to be peculiar to the rest of them, but my sister had to lead me home in the evening. (19)

That evening he acted more and more strangely until, at one point, he called for a poultice to be applied to the back of his head. His mother did as he asked, and by the next morning, he had recovered. The incident was soon forgotten by his family, only to be recalled later when his psychic abilities eventually surfaced in full force.

At sixteen. Cayce fell in love with a girl named Bessie Kenner, who unfortunately did not share his spiritual values. He tried to tell her about his visions.

... but all seemed to fall on deaf ears--for Bess laughed at him and his misterious tale, and plainly told him she liked him, but didnt care for all these unnatural things to her. she liked to play and romp go to parties go buggy riding, sit and talk, dance, go places for entertainment, this was a sad sad day for eddy, again and again he tried to tell her he loved her wanted her for his wife, home, to build for themselves a place in the world of life and activity--Oh said he I know we are just children as yet, but I can study hard, and be something--maybe the best preacher in the country, we will have a church like Old Liberty, and a lovely garden and fields of pretty crops and the like, but Bess laughed the more--she would never be a preacher's wife--and besides this foolishness of seeing things wasnt right, only crazy people talked about such things, besides Dad says you are not right in the head and can never come to any good end--even if you grow up to be a man-I want a real man a man of the world, that will go out and be something-, not a dreamer of dreams, not one that likes the Bible better than a good love story, one that would make me love him by force, take me in his arms and make love to me, kiss me and make me love him and you, you think all such is foolishness, that is life that is what ever girl hopes for.

Later Cayce confronted Bess's father, A local doctor- about his feelings for Bess:

Eddy--said he, you are a good boy, but you are just a kid, not 16 vets are you Oh yes--was sixteen last Mar, said eddy, well any way says the Dr you are too young to think of getting married--while it is the wish of every Father that his daughters marry a fine upstanding man, one well thought of in every sense of the word--but he must be a man eddy... you should be like other boys--be with other boys, you never played marble--spun a top--threw a ball, or did any of the things other boys do--don't you feel the difference when you are with other boys, but you do not go with other boys do you, do that and after four-five years come to talk with me again. (20)

Determined to follow the doctor's advice, Cayce fell in with Tom Andrews, a macho former cowboy who boarded in his house and seemed to enjoy some familiarity with worldly vices. For example, Cayce recalls catching a stray bullet in the collarbone in the aftermath of a craps game that the two of them attended. (21) After Andrews left for the West in the company of another man's fiancee. Cayce attempted to attend the circus in Hopkinsville. even after his God-fearing neighbor had warned him that the circus was "a weapon of the Devil." Fortunately, divine intervention temporarily immobilized Cayce's pony in the manner of Balaam's ass, forcing Cayce to return safely home, whereupon he solemnly resolved not to be such a hell-raiser. (22) As for his relationship with Bess, we hear nothing more on the subject.

Cayce's formal education came to an end after his eighth-grade year since Beverly Academy did not teach the higher grades, and his family could not afford to send him elsewhere. Cayce, not wanting his sisters to be similarly deprived of high school education. Urged his parents to move to Hopkinsville, which they did in 1893. From that time on, the family finances would be perpetually problematic. Meanwhile, Cayce went to work on his grandmother's farm under the management of his uncle, Edgar T. Cayce, partly to help support his sisters' education. (To distinguish between them, people took to referring to Cayce as "Edgar Cayce, Jr.") In August of 1893, Cayce's angel (if that is what it was) appeared to him again, urging him to leave the farm to be with his mother. (23) Cayce immediately quit and began walking the thirteen or fourteen miles into town. That very evening Cayce joined his family in Hopkinsville.

Although he had been to "Hoptown" before, it is instructive to reflect on the impression it must have made on the sixteen-year-old Beverly native. Hopkinsville, a regional agricultural hub and Christian County seat, boasted a census population of 5.833) in 1890, 7.280 in 1900, and 9.419 in 1910. (24) In Beverly, everybody knew each other. Not so in Hopkinsville, although most people probably had at least one friend in common with most others within their racial community (Hopkinsville being approximately two-thirds white and one-third black at the time). Beverly had only a handful of non-residential buildings. Hopkinsville boasted a regular downtown area with three- or four-story buildings. Tobacco warehouses, mills, brokerage offices. Newspapers, stables, stores, hotels, and boarding houses. Restaurants and bars, a theater. A courthouse. a jail, a sprawling mental hospital, a civic auditorium (Union Tabernacle, where Cayce heard such notables as Theodore Roosevelt. John Philip Sousa. Booker T. Washington. And William Jennings Bryan), a railroad station. At least half a dozen fraternal orders, several colleges (South Kentucky College, Bethel Female College, Hopkinsville Male & Female College after 1899), and more than a dozen churches. The Ninth Street Christian Church, which the Cayce's attended, had everything that Old Liberty did not: gothic architecture, a choir, an organ (installed in 1887. over the protests of some forty members), a baptistry, stained glass windows, a full-time minister (J.W. Mitchell until 1896, then Harry D. Smith until 1914), and a full range of Sunday School and prayer group activities for adults. I propose that Edgar's experience of Ninth Street Christian, which must have impressed him with its many seeming improvements over Old Liberty, opened him up to a corresponding expansion of his understanding of the Bible and theology.

Given Cayce's ability (whatever its nature) to effortlessly absorb the contents of books, it seems inevitable that Cayce would have attempted to acquire religious knowledge in this way. While Cayce lacked the education or funds to pursue his hoped-for career as a Disciples of Christ minister, less formal resources were available to him. The day after he arrived in Hopkinsville, Cayce searched for a town-based job and found one with E.H. Hopper & Son Bookstore, which from 1874 to 1913 also housed Hopkinsville's collection of public library books. (25) His biographers add that he initially offered to work without pay and did such a good job that the owners were essentially embarrassed into paying him a salary. Cayce himself records that his Bible had come from the Hopper store. (26) There "seemed to be something appealing" about the bookstore, and Cayce recalls that "the several years I remained there seemed to be the stepping stones: yea. even the door. to life itself."(27) without explaining why. For him, farming represented the expression of material things for sustaining the physical man-and these here in the store for sustaining the mental man but was there not beauty in both-were they for the same persons. Or is there one thought for the city or town man and another for the toiler of the soil.no the basic truth is the same? They are different phases of man's experience and must be treated as one. or so eddy reasoned..(28)

Years later, while entranced, Cayce would often envision the akashic records (more on that in later parts of this investigation) as shelves of books.

Those Cayce writers who argue that occult books could not have influenced the pre-Dayton Cayce since none were spotted on his own bookshelves miss an obvious and crucial possibility--namely that Cayce read such books while working bookstore clerk. Here it is important to realize that while Cayce was certainly able to read (and possibly gifted with perfect recall), he would probably not have been capable of discerning whether a particular book was sober and realistic or highly speculative in its argument. In that sense, he was uneducated.

The Hopper store served as something of a social center for young people attending the local academies and colleges:... to be sure many were the friendships made that ripened into love, eddy became the post office for a note between girls and boys from either school, and he was invited to the social hours quite often. (29)

 

Following is the overview of the other parts in this major case study whereby underneath you will see the footnotes in reference to the above section:

Robert Smith claimed that if Cayce did meet President Wilson, however, he was never told of this and suggested that he had confused Wilson with a cousin of the president's for whom Cayce did, in fact, give readings. Also, several of Cayce's partners and associates in the several oil ventures were clearly promoters of dubious character. The question must be asked whether Cayce himself should be considered one as well rather than simply as an innocent pawn of others, as ARE literature suggests. That Cayce no less than Kahn was an active participant in what came to be known simply as "the proposition" is illustrated by his travels to "New Orleans, Jackson, Memphis, Denver, all over Texas, St. Louis, Chicago. Indianapolis, Cincinnati- Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Florida.," as well as Columbus. Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and New York City. In any case, what began as a search for oil and then for oil investors around 1922 blurred into a direct search for hospital donors. Allies in Birmingham, New York, and Chicago all indicated a willingness to raise money for the venture, provided it would be located in their respective cities. The readings, however, indicated the Norfolk area, apparently for spiritual and karmic reasons, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 2.

Attempts to pinpoint Cayce's religious heritage are inevitably contentious given the strong feelings of so many people who seek to claim (or reject) him as a representative of their own beliefs. Christian-oriented Cayceans such as Bro stress the Christian basis of his teachings while asleep and active church life while awake over the objections of Christian opponents of Cayce, who emphasize his many departures from mainstream Christian doctrine. New Agers note Cayce's use of language and ideas consistent with various Western esoteric traditions; simultaneously, Christian-oriented Cayceans point to his efforts to distance himself from Spiritualism and occultism. There is something to be said in favor of all of these perspectives. I propose to call Cayce a syncretizer since this brings out the diversity of his sources and suggests fruitful link's with other turn-of-the-century syncretizers.- In 1906, a test was arranged for Cayce in which he would give a reading for a patient chosen for him before a large audience of visiting physicians. However, when the reading proved accurate, members of the audience stormed up to him while he still lay in a trance and began conducting impromptu tests to see if he really was under hypnosis. One doctor peeled back one of his fingernails, while another stuck a hatpin through his face-common stunts in stage hypnosis at the time. Cayce did not flinch but later awoke in great pain. As a result of this experience, he resolved to stop trying to convince skeptics and give readings only for those who genuinely wanted his help. To Cayceans, the incident illustrates the limitations of a formal scientific or scholarly approach to the readings, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 3.

The usual approach to the readings also ignores the passage of time. Readings from different decades are quoted alongside one another typically (due to the nature of the ARE's citation style for readings extracts) with no indication of when they were delivered. Yet, a certain evolution can be observed in the content and tone of the readings over the five decades of Cayce's psychic career, which becomes lost whenever readings from different periods are lumped together the indiscriminately.-The chronic problem is that those aspects of Cayce which manage to find their way into popular publication are those which match the needs and mores of the Cayce movement. These are often arbitrarily or ideologically chosen, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 4.

In the course of surveying the history and teachings of the Cayce movement, it is easy to lose sight of the experience of its participants. After all, Cayceans are typically less interested in studying the origins of their institutions than in contemplating the possibility of deeper levels to the universe and themselves or in changing their lives to reflect more of spiritual orientation. How these aspirations are expressed are numerous, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 5

Today, the ARE's request that study groups collect contributions seems to be practiced regularly when not disregarded altogether. Of the groups I have attended, only the one at ARE headquarters solicited donations each week, with one dollar appearing to be the standard per capita contribution.- A democratic ARE (to the extent that such a thing is even conceivable) might easily prove even more anti-intellectual and personality-driven than its present incarnation. At the same time, the example of the Swedenborg Foundation demonstrates that it is possible to combine academic respectability (recent monographs have dealt with D.T. Suzuki. Henri Corbin and Kant) with at least nominal democratic safeguards (e.g., proxy voting). A key difference is that the various Swedenborgian churches are institutionally separate from the Swedenborg Foundation- whereas the ARE combines both of these functions and many more, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 6.

Some leave when they do not find their vision reflected, complaining about the politics of Virginia Beach. Others accommodate themselves to a framework with which they are not entirely comfortable or become outspoken in their attempts to change the organization. The ARE leadership presently incorporates several distinct visions--some complementary, some not. The organization is sufficiently decentralized to keep these visions in a sort of equilibrium based partially on inertia (once a given program is started, it will probably be continued) and partially because most Cayceans have multiple interests concerning the readings. However, skeptical or scholarly approaches are definitely a minority interest within the ARE. They are almost wholly unrepresented within those functions that have the greatest capacity for influencing the Caycean masses (e.g., study groups, publishing, or conferences). -An object of ARE charity really a public relations activity, a disguised form of product development, or an expression of a liberal theological identity (against those Southern Protestant denominations that are perceived as anti-scientific). Inquiries into the source question have lacked the necessary connections for the first category, are not particularly well-suited to the second or third, and work at cross-purposes to the fourth by giving comfort to the ARE's enemies. The result is that Cayce's research has proceeded for half a century now without much appreciation of the Cayce movement's forebears, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 7.

Edgar Cayce's readings are full of Masonic allusions- Cayce refers to Jesus's initiation through a series of degrees in Egypt. Besides the obviously Masonic concepts of initiation and degrees, turn-of-the-century Freemasonry often wrapped biblical themes in ancient Egyptian motifs, following the pattern set by Cagliostro. In addition, Cayce sees geometry as containing deep spiritual insights, a quintessentially Masonic notion. The letter "G" in the Masonic symbol is sometimes said to stand for "geometry," although American Masons usually interpret it as standing for "God." The Royal Arch degree, known as the "Knight of East and West," even uses the symbolism of the Book of Revelation in an initiatory context, as does Cayce, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 8.

During his lifetime, Cayce was widely assumed to have some connection with Spiritualism, as illustrated by this 1930 headline from the Baltimore Sun: "Spiritualist Research Aim of Atlantic University." (177) Observers of Cayce had good reason to associate him with Spiritualism, since Cayce's practice of medical clairvoyance was known from the Spiritualist movement (Edgar Cayce would also subsequently claim to have become a reader of the “Akashic Records"), continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 9.

Like Blavatsky, Cayce, too would report being visited by a being wearing white robes and a turban. Several of Cayce's friends had an interest in Theosophy, including Arthur Lammers and Morton Blumenthal, and while awake, Cayce spoke before at least one Theosophical Society meeting (in Birmingham, Alabama), continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 10.

The Cayce readings refer to New Thought denominations from time to time; 3063-1 recommends "Divine Science, Unity, or Christian Science; provided they do not require that the body be kept from making those administrations for the physical and mental self." Except for Christian Science, Cayce appears to regard these movements favorably, without any of the qualifications which inevitably accompany his praise of other religious movements such as Spiritualism or Theosophy. Today, ARE functions bear more than a passing resemblance to New Thought services, and many ARE conferences and retreats are held in Unity churches and the like. A retreat jointly sponsored by Unity and ARE was held at Unity Village in 1996 after several previous ARE events. (Charles Thomas Cayce met his eventual wife, Leslie Goodman Cayce, at just such an occasion.) The ARE Library has acquired the Metaphysical Society of San Francisco, established by Homes of Truth founder Annie Rix Militz, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 11.

The outlines of the "proto-New Age" should be clear enough now. Around the turn of the century, several spiritual leaders and movements whose teachings mixed themes from Spiritualism, Theosophy. New Thought, and alternative health. They emphasized reincarnation, astrology, and psychic phenomena and spoke of Atlantis, ancient Egypt, the Essenes- and Jesus's Journey to India. They endorsed alternative health practices (often naturopathic ones). They accepted a view of human anatomy which merged the chakras and nadis of Indian lore with the glandular and nervous systems of the Western fore. Many (though by no means all) 'incorporated racist or anti-Semitic beliefs into their spiritual systems. It is here that we should take for Cayce's closest theological relatives.-Despite Cayce's reluctance to endorse it, the teachings of The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 12.

Cayce's psychological or spiritual interpretation of the fourth dimension and the explanation was given, consistent with Ouspensky's explanation in Tertium Organum. Although Cayce's division of human nature and the universe into three levels seems natural, it represents a departure from most other Western esoteric traditions and comes closest to that of Rudolf Steiner, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 13.

Apart from pulp fiction which, as we described, also led to Scientology, there is an earlier precursor that also might have inspired the ancient astronaut theory first popularized by the "Occult Science" of H.P. Blavatsky, who wrote in her widely sold book "The Secret Doctrine" (which claimed to reveal "the origin and evolution of the universe and humanity itself") that already during the time of "Atlantis" there were flying machines and that knowledge of such machines "was passed on" to later generations in India. Similarly, the founder of today's top-rated Waldorf schools Rudolf Steiner, also claimed that the Atlanteans had aircraft that had steering mechanisms by which they could rise above mountain ranges.

In the perpetual motion milieu, frauds who have appealed to occultist thinking have abounded. For example, from 1873 until he died in 1898, John E. W. Keely of Philadelphia promoted a mysterious motor that ran on "etheric force" derived from the "disintegration of water." He raised millions from financiers and the public for his company on the strength of his demonstrations of such phenomena as musical notes causing weights to rise and fall. Of these performances, which had a kinship to séances, he remarked, "I am always a good deal disturbed when I begin one of these exhibitions, for sometimes if an unsympathetic person is present, the machines will not work." Theosophists of the age admired him for combining "the intuitions of the seer with the practical knowl­edge of mechanics."

Rudolf Steiner firmly believed in and confirmed his own so-called clairvoyance the reality of the Keely phenomena to next claim to e able to duplicate Keely through his own Clairvoyantly as described in the article "From the Keely engine to the Strader machine. Except as Wouter Haanegraaf clearly demonstrated, Steiner's clairvoyance was based on 'imaginative fantasy.' Continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 14.

The readings claim that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were affiliated with an Essene community based on Mount Carmel, which was a continuation of a "school of the prophets" begun by Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, and ultimately Melchizedek (254-109). The Essenes are not mentioned in the Bible. Yet Several occult gospels confirmed that Jesus had been a member of the Essenes and the Great White Brotherhood.

The notion that Jesus had spent his "lost years" wandering Asia by no means originated with Cayce. Its first proponent seems to have been the Russian war correspondent Nicholas Notovitch (1858-c. 1916), who describes his travels in British India in work entitled La Vie Inconnue de Jesus-Christ (The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ), published in 1894. But as we pointed out early on is seen to be a fraud. Continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 15.

 

1. Beverly's relative isolation is illustrated by the fact that Rural Free Delivery of mail became available only in 1901. and that gravel turnpikes (many of them freed after 1901) were the main arteries that connected Beverly with Hopkinsville and other points. Christian County would not have its first paved road until 1932.

2. Brooks Major, History of Liberty Christian Church. p. 16.

3. Stephan Schwartz, "Edgar Cayce: A Revisionist Perspective," in A. Robert Smith et al., Griffin report.

4. For example, in 1923, the sleeping Cayce was asked, "Why is It not possible to take a reading on a negro?" (Over the years, Cayce knowingly gave only a handful of readings for black people, although others may have received theirs through the mail without alerting Cayce to their race.) The answer: "For the same reason that it would be impossible to teach a dog to talk" (3744-1). Cayce went on to describe negroes as being lower in vibration or soul-evolution. In a 1938 reading in answer to an -inquirer who wanted to know whether to hire a white housekeeper or a black one, Cayce replied that "White, of course, is preferable to the colored: if this is in keeping with the purposes and desires" (257-277). Gladys Davis speculates in a note attached to the first reading that Cayce may have been influenced by racist ideas in the mind of the conductor of the reading, in this case, his father.

5. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs, p. 4.

6. Two works on the Bell Witch are Bell, The Bell Witch: and Brent Monahan. The Bell Witch: An American Haunting. So far as I am aware, none of these people are related to me.

7. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. Memoirs, p. I.

8. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs. p. I

9. Ibid., p. 1)

10. Harmon Bro, A Seer Our of Season, p. 271. The "five-fingered plan of salvation" derives its name from evangelist Walter Scott's habit of enumerating on his fingers five steps on the way to salvation: faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The first three items constitute the believer's responsibilities: the last two represent God's half of the agreement, i.e., the benefits God promises to provide those who meet the first three conditions. Where other revivalists sometimes suggested that an emotional, spiritual experience would accompany the moment of salvation. For those who did not have such an experience, Scott's rationalist formulation eliminated much spiritual uncertainty.

11. Brooks Major, The History of Liberty Christian Church, p.18.

12. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs. p. 3.

13. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. Memoirs. p. 3.

14. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 277,

15. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. Memoirs. p. 3.

16, Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs. p. 6.

17. Ibid.. pp. 6-7.

18. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.

19. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs, p. 7.

20. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. Memoirs: pp. 6-7.

21. Ibid.. pp. 8-9.

22. Ibid.. pp. 9-10.

23. Ibid., p. 12.

24. William T. Turner. Gateway From the Past, vol. II, p. 5.

25. Ibid.. p. 10.

26. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. Memoirs, p. 13.

27. Edgar Cayce. 95-pp. Memoirs, p. 10.

28. Edgar Cayce. 47-pp. Memoirs, p. 13.

29. Ibid., p. 23.

 

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