Theosophy and its heirs

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) was an outspoken, free-wheeling, cigar-chomping Russian national raised in the Caucasus as a military dependent and seventeen (i.e. in 1849), was married off to a general stationed in Armenia. A few months later, she fled to Constantinople, where she found employment as a circus bareback rider and spent the rest of her life traveling worldwide. While Blavatsky's early itinerary is nearly as murky as her finances, she seems to have relocated first to Europe and the Near East (1849-1873), where she became involved in fringe Masonry; then to New York (1873-1878), where she encountered Spiritualism and invented the idea of hidden 'masters' which developed in the famous Mahatmas of Theosophy particularly also during the time she was in British India (1879-1885), where she came into contact with Hinduism, Buddhism,(185) and Sikhism. As the primary intellectual force behind the Theosophical movement, Blavatsky taught a mishmash of Eastern religions and Western occultism, to influence nearly every occultist after her. Along the way, her activities won new respect for the civilizations of Asia on the part of the West and the Indian subcontinent.

In 1875, while in New York, Blavatsky joined Henry Steele Olcott (1832-1907) in founding the Theosophical(186) Society. With the intention to create a secret society its membership was drawn primarily from Spiritualist circles. The purposes of the Society were given as follows:

1 The formation of universal human brotherhood without distinction of race. creed, caste, or color, 
2 The encouragement of studies in comparative religion, philosophy,, and science, and
3 The investigation of unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

In fact, the main impetus behind its founding was interest among a small group of people in messages which Madame Blavatsky claimed to have begun receiving from certain Oriental Masters, just as Spiritualist mediums received messages from their contacts in the spirit world. Blavatsky's Masters, however, were not dead but existed physically in remote parts of the world. (187) At first, these Masters boasted names like "Tuitit Bey," "Serapis Bey," and "Hilarion". They belonged to something called the "Brotherhood of Luxor" (essentially a quasi-Masonic fraternity devoted to helping worthy pupils advance on the spiritual path) with headquarters. Appropriately enough, in Egypt. Much speculation has been aired about Blavatsky's relationship with the real-life Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, a then-contemporary occult order based in Cairo. Later, the Masters evolved to take on more Indian (and then Tibetan) trappings, perhaps because Egypt (and then India) turned out not to be quite remote as it must have seemed from New York.

At the same time as the founding of the Theosophical Society, Blavatsky wrote her first major work, Isis Unveiled (1877), which criticizes the prevailing attitudes of science and theology in answer to the raging question of Darwinian evolution. What is wrong with Darwinian evolution is that it does not go far enough since it fails to recognize that evolution embraces more than mere biology. Just as the physical world follows natural laws, so does the nonphysical world; science and religion would benefit from studying these. Still, the bulk of Isis Unveiled is devoted to attacking existing belief systems rather than setting forth Blavatsky's own views. Interestingly. in light of her later writings, in Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky rejects reincarnation as superstition. (188)

Isis Unveiled was written when Darwin's (and Wallace's) theory of evolution had widespread social consequences. Thomas Huxley's 1860 debate with Bishop Wilberforce--in which the latter came across as hidebound and reactionary-was something of a watershed event in this regard, pitting as it did science against established religion, with the issue of evolution as the deciding factor. In general, the theory of evolution catalyzed a social backlash against religion and religious values (in which category ethics was popularly included). For example, the popular reception of natural selection made the principle out to be violent and ruthless, inspired the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and his sympathizers on the night and anarchist Nietzsche cults on the left. This, in turn, inspired various reactions from those who wished to salvage some aspect of religion. Some denied the truth of evolution, a view most famously championed by William Jennings Bryan in the 1925 Scopes Trial. Many religious people were willing to concede the reality of evolution, but felt that other, more important elements of their religions could be left as they were. Still, others tried to reinterpret evolution itself so that it could be made to yield values similar to those championed by religions. This impulse provided the initial drive to create "evolution of consciousness" theories such as those of Blavatsky, Henri Bergson, Ernst Cassirer, Jan Smuts, Erich Kahler, Jean Gebser Erich Neumann, Aurobindo Ghose, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Julian Jaynes, and Ken Wilber. The question of the evolution of consciousness was by no means introduced by spiritually oriented writers but has always been present in the mainstream of evolutionary biology. After all, Darwin wrote about the origin of human thought in The Descent of Man (1871) and Origin, the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). The difficulty of explaining the gradual rise of complex structures (the eye being the stock example) led to the "emergent" evolutionary theories of C. Lloyd Morgan, Samuel Alexander, and others, which held that such structures emerge relatively suddenly as if guided by some coordinating intelligence whose purpose is to guide life to increasingly higher "levels" (e.g., matter, life, mind, and spirit according to Morgan's enumeration). After Blavatsky, a certain breed of evolutionists of consciousness became convinced that religion and mythology can tell us something useful about the origins of human consciousness. For some, the significance of religion lies in its use of symbolism which reflects the actual, literal evolution of the human psyche; others point to its recognition of mystical states of awareness that anticipate the next phase of evolution; still, others use otherwise improbable stories from religious and mythological sources as historical testimony to the thought processes of archaic peoples, others posit some teleological purpose or originating impulse to evolution to imbue it with a meaning similar to that of religious myths of creation or eschatology. Blavatsky's genius was to interbreed evolutionary ideas from Samhkhva with those of the West.

The Theosophical Society would not really come into its own until Blavatsky and Olcott set sail (with Olcott's money) to India, which they reached in 1879. The impetus behind their relocation was the lure of hidden Masters, who ostensibly directed their journey through messages delivered by various paranormal means. At this time, Blavatsky was in contact with at least one real Indian religious leader--Swami Dayananda Saraswati, founder of the conservative Hindu renewal movement Arya Samaj. Leaders of the two groups agreed to establish the Theosophical Society as a branch of the Arya Samaj. Undoubtedly, neither side understood what it was getting into. When their leaders finally met in person, bringing the Theosophical fantasy into a head-on collision with Indian reality, the deal fell through almost immediately. Still, for several years the "Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj," as Blavatsky's group continued to call itself until their formal break, retained loose ties with Dayananda's group.

Soon after its arrival. Theosophy gained adherents among the Anglo-Indian population, from which it spread throughout the English-speaking world. Like the Arya Samaj, the Theosophical Society attracted attention for its support of Indian culture to the great consternation of British authorities. At the same time, it spoke out against what it perceived as superstitions or distortions of the original religious teachings, such as the caste system. Blavatsky presented her teachings not as Hinduism or Buddhism per se but as the core of truth behind all world religions and science to boot. The most memorable of Theosophy's political stances came in 1880. when Blavatsky and Olcott traveled to Ceylon. At the time, Ceylon was experiencing a resurgence of Buddhist identity as a backlash against abuses by Christian missionaries. Adding their voices to the fray, Blavatsky and Olcott arranged publicly to receive Pancha sila ("the five precepts")--in effect, to declare their belief in Buddhism. While, in retrospect, Buddhism was never really the primary source of their spiritual beliefs, the gesture was much appreciated: Olcott, in particular, went on to become active if an idiosyncratic participant in the Buddhist renaissance. 

The uniqueness of India's theosophical movement rested on the fact that theosophy initiated its own brand of modernity, thus creating a nexus between religion and politics in a much more pronounced way than the other neo-Hindu organizations did. Professor Gauri Vishwanathan tells us how the theosophists cite race theory to get Hindu converts. As shown earlier, the ‘Aryan myth’ found great popularity in 19th century Europe. German Idealism started viewing Indian upper castes as Aryans: though much degenerated than their European counterparts due to long intermarriages with Indian aborigines. Blavatsky and her followers saw Aryans as the fifth root-race on earth and the highest in contemporary times.


As in America, the main source of Blavatsky's fame in India lay in her presumed contacts with the Masters (also known as Adepts, Initiates, Brothers, Mahatmas, and Secret Chiefs). By this point, their order was referred to as the Himalayan Brotherhood or the Great White Lodge. The putative director of the Theosophical Society was not Blavatsky, but Master Morya (189), described as a Rajput prince. His colleague Koot Hoomi (or Kuthumi) was said to be a Kashmiri Brahmin. Other Masters from Blavatsky's Indian period include Djual Khool (or Djwal Kul), the Maha Chohan, and Sanat Kumara. It must be admitted that none of their names or descriptions sound terribly convincing, especially since the Masters were now said to reside in Tibet. (190) Accordingly, Blavatsky claimed to have actually studied in Tibet for several years, where she was supposedly given advanced occult training. (In reality, she is unlikely to have made it any further than Ladakh, Sikkim, or Darjeeling from the Indian side or Astrakhan from the Russian side.) Gradually, the Masters' powers of telepathy and teleportation made the question of their physical residence academic, and they began to be conceived as incorporeal beings, like their Spiritualist counterparts. This opened the way for deceased or mythical religious figures such as Jesus, Buddha, Manu, and Maitreya to be gradually assimilated into the Theosophical pantheon.

Johnson points out that there is an alternative to either accepting Blavatsky's accounts of the Masters or dismissing them as fabrications. He suggests that they are disguised (or perhaps fantasized) accounts of her meetings with real people. For example, Johnson identifies Koot Hoomi with the Sikh activist Sirdar Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia and Morya with Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir. Such distortions make sense because the British authorities would have disapproved of native princes and religious leaders making common cause with one another (or with a Russian!) in favor of Indian self-assertion. Johnson further speculates that Blavatsky's followers invariably misunderstood this, supposing the Masters to be essentially magical beings. Their enthusiasm for the concept of the Masters inspired Blavatsky to elaborate on their stories, to the point where the disguised fact was transformed into pure fiction. (191)It appears that Johnson (himself previously president of a Theosophical Lodge) is overly polite in supposing her to be in any way reluctant to make up details about them or forge letters from them. After all, the first letters appeared in 1875, while Blavatsky was still in New York. 

Sometimes the Masters communicated with their followers by appearing before them in person, as Morya had supposedly done before Blavatsky at London's Great Exhibition of 1851. Later, Cayce would report being visited by a being wearing white robes and a turban. (192) The Masters were also capable of telepathy, which means they assisted with the composition of IsisUnveiled. Most famously, they could precipitate written messages. Early Theosophists received letters from the Masters, which would miraculously materialize in unlikely places. Here is a sample courtesy of the Master Koot Hoomi (whose name, as usual, has been reduced to initials in imitation of the "pundits" who surreptitiously mapped Central Asia for the British):

The "friend" of whom Lord Lindsay speaks in his letter to you is, I am sorry to say, a true skunk mephitis, who managed to perfume himself with ess-bouquet ... and so avoided being recognized by his natural stench...Though a poor sickly cripple, a paralyzed wretch, his mental faculties are as fresh and alive as ever to mischief... So-beware! --K.H. (193)


The information contained in these letters was compiled into several classic expositions of Theosophy, among them The Occult World (1881) and Esoteric Buddhism (1883), both by A.P. Sinnett. A scandal ensued when examples of plagiarism were discovered in the former, apparently drawn from a Spiritualist newspaper called The Banner of Light. Worse yet, in 1884Richard Hodgson of the London Society for Psychical Research was called upon to investigate the phenomenon of letter precipitation. Hodgson based his scathing conclusions on the testimony of two disgruntled former employees. Emma and Alexis Coulomb accused Blavatsky of having authored the letters herself. Soon afterward, a false back was discovered in a special shrine in which letters were wont to materialize. In the face of this evidence, many leading Theosophists (most notably Olcott, whom she never forgave) conspicuously failed to rally to their founder's defense. Blavatsky left India in a huff in 1885 and settled in London in 1887, where she would remain until her death in 1891.

There she assembled her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine (1888). The title was probably inspired by a term from Eliphas Levi, whose system similarly invokes the adepts of Eastern religions and Western occultism. Blavatsky's work consists of the cryptic Stanzas of Dzyan, interspersed with voluminous commentary. The Stanzas are purportedly based on a set of ancient Tibetan manuscripts, otherwise unknown to orientalists, written in the likewise unknown (but allegedly ancient and sacerdotal) language of "Senzar." Blavatsky claimed to have memorized the text during her novitiate in Tibet, and scholars have accused her of cribbing them from a wide variety of sources. Her prose is extraordinarily dense and difficult to read, even for readers who are not bothered by the profusion of untranslated Sanskrit and Tibetan terms. While the work almost defies description, it basically describes the origins of the universe (Part One, "Cosmogenesis") and humanity (Part Two, "Anthropogenesis"), as reflected in esoteric symbolism from India and the West. Blavatsky planned a third volume (on the lives of great occultists) and a fourth (giving instructions for the spiritual path) but died before these could be written. Additional volumes were eventually published, but Theosophical scholars disagree to what extent these contain authentic Blavatskean material or faithfully reflect her intended project.

Many themes of The Secret Doctrine are anticipated in The Occult World or Esoteric Buddhism. As in classical Hindu cosmology, The Secret Doctrine describes the universe as eternally oscillating between cycles of repose (pralaya) and activity (manvantara). Manvantara includes involution and evolution. Involution occurs when the unitary supreme spiritual reality (Parabrahman) brings forth plurality and materiality out of itself. This process is divided into seven aeons called "rounds." each lasting billions of years, of which we are living in the fourth. Evolution is the process whereby everything in the universe--from rocks to plants to animals to humans to the angelic planetary spirits-becomes aware of progressively higher planes, culminating in conscious unity with the divine. Reincarnation is the mechanism by which this is accomplished. Like involution, evolution is similarly divided into units and subunits of seven, so that we are living in the fifth subrace of the fifth race.

The universe is divided into units of seven not only diachronically but also synchronically in seven levels or planes of existence. In this system, the top three planes are named (highest to lowest) Atma (which Blavatsky translates as the "divine"), buddhi ("spiritual"), and manas ("monadic"), borrowing terms mainly from the Samkhya system. (194) Below the Triad is the Quaternary, the part of the universe which participates in involution and evolution. Blavatsky gives the four lower levels (top to bottom) as kama rupa ("desire body"), pranha rupa or jiva ("energy body"), linga sarira ("astral body," borrowing a Hermetic term as a presumed functional equivalent), and sthula sarira (i.e., the physical body), with other sets of terms employed as well. The lower Quaternary suggests Aristotle's classification of mineral, vegetable, animal, and rational faculties in man, a gradation which was carried over Into Iranian Sufism. (195) For Blavatsky, these seven levels encompass human nature as well as the nature of the universe. Like all existence, humans are evolving from the lower planes to the higher ones. Somewhere ahead of us in this grand scheme are the Masters, who are responsible not only for guiding individual seekers but also for directing the course of human evolution in conformity with this cosmic design.

A few choice examples will serve to convey a sense of Blavatsky's influence. Many of the founders of the Indian National Congress were Theosophists or at least influenced by Theosophy. As a young law student in England, Gandhi had never read the Bhagavad-Gita before a Theosophist presented him with a copy of Sir Edwin Arnold's The Song Celestial. In Europe, poets such as Yeats and A.E., and painters like Kandinsky and Mondrian, used Theosophical themes. Theosophy first assembled many elements of the present-day New Age movement. For example, it was a Theosophical revival of astrology that led to the newspaper horoscopes of the twentieth century. Furthermore, if today we speak of "consciousness-raising", "good vibrations," or "reincarnation" (as opposed to "transmigration" or "metempsychosis"), we make use of language and ideas first popularized by Theosophy. So, if Madame Blavatsky indeed influenced Cayce, as we argue, he is certainly in good company.

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). The sleeping Cayce is ambiguous as to whether Theosophy is a worthwhile spiritual path-although he seems to approve of those who study it as a part of their spiritual search. he tends to assume that the end of the search should be Christianity. In one place, he says.

In seeking through all interpretations, all interpretations may be gained: if ye will not become confused by those who say. "Here! This way!" [262-89]

In another reading, he warns an inquirer with interests in Buddhism and Theosophy of an image depicted in his life's seal, namely Peter fleeing from the cross (3054-4). And when yet another person asked, "On which of the Masters of Wisdom should I meditate for spiritual guidance?" Cayce replied, "There's only one Master" (3545-1).

The Cayce readings refer to The Secret Doctrine just once by name; when an inquirer asks whether it would be beneficial to study the book, Cayce replies,

The study of any portion of the same is of benefit, but only in so far as it will enable the self to open for that which may be given in its meditation. Commence, and then we may aid!


While his attitude is favorable, this extract does not indicate whether the sleeping Cayce was actually familiar with the work. Yet, as we will see in succeeding chapters, other aspects of the readings--especially their account of archaic human history--betray a dependence on either The Secret Doctrine or some other book containing the same ideas.

After Blavatsky died in 1891 and Olcott's in 1907, the leadership of the Theosophical Society passed on to Annie Besant (1847-1933), who before her conversion, had been active in the Fabian Society (i.e., socialism) and the National Secular Society (i.e., atheism). Besant's great contribution to Theosophy was her outspoken activism on behalf of Indian home rule, which she could get away with as an upper-class Britisher. Unfortunately, she was not a gifted occult writer like her predecessor. and the most important Theosophical thinker during this period was not Besant herself but her lieutenant Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934). a former Anglican priest who had converted to Theosophy in 18833. Whereas Blavatsky had been suspicious of other claimants to clairvoyance. the relatively insensitive Besant was happy to delegate this function to Leadbeater, who filled many volumes with his visions of other realms. To many Theosophists, the partnership of Besant and Leadbeater must have curiously recalled that of Blavatsky and Olcott, except that it was Besant who (like Olcott before her) held authority in temporal matters. At the same time, Leadbeater (like Blavatsky) possessed spiritual expertise. Leadbeater additionally drew upon his clerical background to organize something called the Liberal Catholic Church, giving an esoteric spin to its Catholic liturgy. The scandal arose when Leadbeater was accused of molesting several boys in his charge, including young Krishnamurti. Leadbeater tried to explain that he had only been trying to teach the boys how to masturbate. The parents were unmoved, but their demands for Besant to punish Leadbeater resulted only in his temporary banishment.

Leadbeater first worked out the details of the hierarchy of the Masters. in such works as The Inner Life (1910) and The Masters and the Path (1925). The divine organization chart looks something like this: (196)

The Solar Logos is the closest thing Theosophy has to a God since it is omnipresent and supreme. (Its three aspects are identified with Blavatsky calls aima, buddhi, and manas; or sat chit, and ananda.)The Solar Logos is surrounded by seven planetary logoi, angelic beings who correspond to the "seven spirits before his throne" from Revelation 1:4. A more personal God-like being is Sanat Kumara, a "Lord of the Flame" who came to earth many eons ago from Venus. He resides at Shambhala in the Gobi Desert (formerly the Gobi Sea), from which he directs the course of human evolution. Several Masters serve under him in various capacities. In answer to whether there are any female Masters (Mistresses?), Leadbeater gives us the World Mother, whose position on the hierarchy is unclear. She was once Mary, the mother of Jesus, and has also revealed herself as Kuan Yin. (197)

The seven rays are seven distinct channels by which the infinite spirit is expressed in matter. In the human realm, they respectively stand for:

1. Strength of will.

2. Spiritual wisdom.

3. Service to humanity.

4. Harmony and beauty.

5. Science and scholarship.

6. Religious devotion.

7. Ceremonial activity.

Over each presides the Chohan, or "Lord," whose name is given above. (The Maha Chohan has authority over five such Chohans.) These offices are somewhat fluid so that as a Master evolves spiritually, he may be promoted to positions of progressively greater responsibility. For example, Gautama Buddha once served as Bodhisattva or World-Teacher before yielding that position to Maitreya. At the same time, the sixth-ray off-ice formerly occupied by Jesus has passed on to the soul known to us as Apollonius of Tyana and as Ramanuja. As for the soul known to us as Jesus, Leadbeater tells us that he has risen to become one with the Second Aspect of the Logos and that Jesus was one of the incarnations of Maitreya. (198) (I am not sure how to reconcile these apparently conflicting descriptions.)

A number of talented Theosophists left the movement or were expelled, resulting in a fragmentation of the Theosophical movement. Most American lodges seceded from the Indian headquarters in 1895 at the behest of their leader, William Quan Judge, although they continued to consider themselves Theosophists. Judge's successor was Katherine Tingley, who organized a utopian community at Point Loma, California.

In 1912, Austrian educator/occultist/agronomist/Goethe scholar Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) broke with the Theosophical Society, taking most of the German-speaking lodges with him. The most immediate causes of this split were Besant's displeasure with Steiner's emphasis on mystical Christianity(199) rather than the Eastern religions which she favored, coupled with widespread German frustration with Besant's promotion of young Krishnamurti as the long-awaited world messiah. In any case, the result was the formation of the Anthroposophical Society under Steiner's direction. The outbreak of World War I further polarized matters, ensuring that the rift would remain permanent.

The waking Cayce knew at least one Anthroposophical couple, Helene and Ernest Zentgraf of Staten Island, with whom the Cayce's and Gladys Davis stayed while in New York in 1932. Carter adds that the Cayce's "once went to visit the Steiner Threefold Farm, at Spring Valley, New York as guests of Ralph Courtney. (200) Cayce is asked about Steiner in several readings (e.g.,, 311-6, 3976-24), although these particular answers do not suggest that Cayce actually knew anything about Anthroposophy. In response to a question about the prospects for Steiner's threefold social order (201) for example, Cayce explains that "there's only one Name given whereby man shall be directed" (3976-24). Several prominent Cayceans (Mark Thurson, Edwin Johnson) have been involved with Steiner groups. At one point, Atlantic University officials held discussions with Steiner editor Robert McDermott about the possibility of his taking over as AU president.

Many similarities between Cayce and Steiner can be identified, although a comparison of the dates of Cayce's readings with those of Steiner's translations into English discourages the idea that Steiner could have influenced Cayce before the 1930s. Like Cayce but unlike Blavatsky. Steiner sees the life of Christ as the focal point of human evolution- an event for which the Essenes (and for Steiner, other mystery religions as well) had been preparing. Cayce's system of karmic astrology is remarkably suggestive of Steiner's cosmology; Human souls spend time on other planets between incarnations. (In this case, both Cayce and Steiner may have been influenced by the writings of British Theosophical astrologers.) Like Cayce, Steiner places great emphasis on the role of the archangel Michael in guiding human evolution.(202)

Also, in a commentary on Revelation 13. Steiner gives the year 1933 as the time when Christ and

Antichrist will return. (203) The intensity of their conflict, he says, will peak in 1998, a year which Cayce identifies with the conclusion of his predicted earth changes and the beginnings of the Second Coming of Christ (5748-5).

In 1919, Alice Bailey (1880-1949) was visited by Master Djwal Kul, who assisted her with her first book, Initiation, Human and Solar. The following year, Bailey found herself ousted from the Theosophical Society, probably because Besant would not tolerate her claim to have received independent revelations. In 1923, Bailey founded her Arcane School, and established full moon meditation groups as its main practice. (The timing of group meditations to fall under the full moon is intended to recall not lycanthropy but the Tibetan custom of conducting bimonthly temple ceremonies.) Bailey emphasized the imminent return of the World Teacher known as Christ and Maitreya. The waking Cayce knew at least one person associated with the Arcane School, George M. Wolfe, who gave a talk on symbols at an early ARE Congress. (204) The sleeping Cayce was once asked about the Arcane School, and while his comments do not suggest that he actually knew anything about Bailey's movement. he nevertheless appears less than enthusiastic:

This [question] can be best answered in self when those suggestions here indicated are determined within the self. This is not meant to be a finding of fault--with any: but rather that self KNOWS within self those that are the best channels. God is God of ALL, not just a chosen few who may appear to have more intellectual or physical or mental abilities than others... [2402-2]

According to correspondence attached to 2329-3, Bailey expressed an interest in meeting him shortly before Cayce's death.

The I AM movement was not a Theosophical offshoot per se, since neither of its early leaders appears to have belonged to the Theosophical Society, but that of Blavatsky and Leadbeater clearly inspires its theology. The movement's founder, Guy W. Ballard (1878-1939)--who later took the pen name of Godfre Ray King-reportedly met the legendary eighteenth-century alchemist. the Comte de Saint-Germain, at Mount Shasta. The I AM movement emphasizes "decreeing" (i.e. command-like prayers which make use of the holy name, "I AM"). the use of colors associated with the seven rays (especially violet), and the special role of Saint-Germain in the new dispensation. In addition, the I AM movement has a conservative, patriotic political outlook that sees America as a divinely-constituted civilization. Prior to World War II. Ballard supported the Silver Shirts, the American Nazi movement. In 1939, a minor scandal ensued when Ballard died without ascending bodily to heaven- His widow. Edna Ballard took over a messenger from the Masters, who now included the newly-minted Master Godfre (i.e., Ballard). In 1941, the I AM movement was convicted of mail fraud, on no other grounds than the fact that it was using the malls to solicit financial support for a religion that appeared obviously false to the postmaster. The U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned the decision. Even so, the I AM movement has kept a low profile ever since.

The sleeping Cayce sometimes makes use of the divine name "I AM" on his own initiative, for example when he says that "the I AM that seeks may grain. then, that access to the I AM that brought, brings, holds the worlds in their place" (254-85). Still, it is quite possible that he encountered this language through some movement other than the I AM movement. As in Ballard's theology, Cayce places the I AM presence within the human heart as well as 'in the heavens.HOWEVER, the I AM movement's emphasis on the violet ray is not shared by Cayce, whose remarks on color give emphasis rather to the color blue. While more than nine hundred of his health readings do recommend something called a Violet Ray device to treat everything from poor circulation to baldness to demonic possession, the name has nothing to do with the seven rays of Ballard or Leadbeater but was inspired by the color of its electrical discharge. (205)

The I AM movement is mentioned by name in several readings. In answer to one inquirer who is wondering whether to join an I AM group, Cayce challenges,

Does this answer to that within which assures thee of those tenets that were the promptings in thy developing years? No,--turn to Him who ALONE is the way, the truth, the light! [2035-1]

Another inquirer, however, is told that.

The 'I AM' movement is well, provided these are not imposed upon others. For it is the spirit of the Christ in which, through which we may obtain mercy and judgment. Hold fast to same!" [4055-2]

Yet another is told that although the I AM presence is true, "the all-knowing within self between Ballard's system and the teachings of the Gospel of John as confirmed by our inner experience, "there is a slight variation" (1158-12). As for the Comte de Saint Germain (regarded by the I AM movement as equal In status with Christ). Cayce is characteristically ambivalent: while Saint Germain does take part in the activities of the Great White Brotherhood "when needed," their work is directed not by Saint Germain, but by "the Master of masters" (254-83).


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:

Cayce's ability (whatever its nature) to effortlessly absorb books' contents makes it seem inevitable that Cayce would have attempted to acquire religious knowledge in this way. 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. 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." without explaining why, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 1.

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.

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.


185. Actually, since she lived among Kalmyck Mongols for a few years during her childhood, her encounter with Buddhism in India would not have been her first exposure to that religion.

186. H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, vol. I, p. 351

187. The term "theosophy" or its equivalents has been used by the neo-Platonist Ammonius Saccas. Rosicrucian author Johann Valentin Andreae (in his Christianopolis), and the Protestant mystic Jakob Boehme. In the early 1800's one Robert Hindmarsh even founded a "Theosophical Society" based on Swedenborgianism, Mesmerism, and homeopathy. A certain species of Kabbalists also use the word "theosophical" Blavatsky's idea of a secret society devoted to esotericism, and the betterment of humanity owes much to the body of lore surrounding the Rosicrucians, a legendary order whose name first appeared in several early seventeenth-century tracts. These tracts claimed to be announcements from a secret knightly order following one Christian Rosencreuz, who had brought back esoteric wisdom from the Islamic world. The announcements inspired much interest, and some aspirants circulated public replies petitioning for admission to the order. The title character of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's popular novel Zanoni (1842) is one of two surviving members of an occult order similar to the Rosicrucians, whose members are gifted with prolonged life and mastery of the Hermetic arts. In 1865, French Masons incorporated a "Rosicrucian" degree as the eighteenth grade of the Scottish Rite. Another possible source for the myth of the Masters is Strict Observance Freemasonry, which had a following in Russia prior to the 1780's (when Catherine the Great suppressed the order), and whose members owed allegiance to certain "unknown superiors" located in Egypt, India, and other far-flung places. According to K. Paul Johnson (The Masters Revealed, pp. 20-22), Blavatsky's grandfather was a member of this order, and Blavatsky herself alludes to clearly related Masonic myths Russian, which places the Masters in Tibet.

189. Cayce refers to this Mahatma without admitting his existence in 2441-2, in which the inquirer "saw some very penetrating 'eyes' whom at the time I thought was the Christ. Since I believe they were the eyes of the Master M. Is this true?" To which Cayce replied, "Rather the indication of the abilities that lie within self to raise the vibration to such an extent as to bring light to the inner self. They were rather the eyes of the Master--not of Mora or Marhi." (A note from Cayce's secretary, Gladys Davis, is appended, explainings that she did not know how to spell these names.)

190. Whereas Egypt and India turned out to be fairly accessible to Theosophists, hardly any Westerners had been to Tibet. Not only were the Tibetan authorities often hostile to foreigners, but all of the surrounding countries also had compelling reasons for keeping one another out. China claimed authority over Tibet as a Chinese dependency, while Russia and British India vied for control of Central Asia in what became known as "the Great Game." Lurid accounts of Tibetan Lamaism including secret tantric rituals, magical powers, and the adoration of demons, heightened Westerners' curiosity. Otherwise, Tibet might have seemed no more inherently magical than (say) Iran.

191. K. Paul Johnson, The Masters Revealed, pp. 8-9.

192. e.g., Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 391.

193. A.T. Barker (transcriber), The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnet, p. 37.

194. In the Samkhyakarikas of Ishvarakrishna manas and buddhi are two of twenty-five tattvas (i.e. principles of the universe). Samkyha emphasizes the evolution of matter (Prakriti)in the direction of consciousness (Purusha)and back again during the stage known as pralaya or involution, in great cosmic cycles lasting many aeons. However, in Samhkya theory, prakrti is of an utterly different nature from purusha and can never reach it. Blavatsky replaces purusha with the Upanishadic and Vedantin atma or atman is consistent with her ultimately monistic worldview. Blavatsky holds that her Triad corresponds to the well known sets of three in other religious traditions, e.g. the Vedantin sat "reality"), chit ("consciousness"), and ananda ("bliss"): the first three sephirot of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life: and the Christian Trinity.

195. Islam inherited from the Hellenistic world not only Aristotle but a fondness for septenary metaphysical schemes corresponding to the seven planetary spheres. As a result. a widespread Sufi classification scheme added to Aristotle's four levels, three higher. spiritual states culminating in union with God. The number seven has additional religious connotations for the Isma'ilis (and by extension, the Druzes. K. Paul Johnson (Initiates of Theosophical Masters, pp. 149-153) speculates that Blavatsky might have picked up the rudiments of the Isma'ili system either from Jamal-ad-Din "al-Afghani" or from Druze informants in Lebanon. Another possible source for Blavatsky's septenary system is the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, in which the ten sephirot occupy seven levels. Yet another would be those tantric systems which identify seven chakras.

196. After C.W. Leadbeater, The Masters and the Path, p. 227 ff.

197. Ibid., pp. 251-253.

198. Ibid., pp. 259-260: 278.

199. After Blavatsky, Steiner's cosmology owes most to the angelic hierarchy of Pseudo-Dionysius, and the Mystical Chronology of Trithemius, Abbot of Spondheim. The latter work divides human history into periods of several centuries each, with each successive period ruled by one of the planets and its corresponding archangel. The age of the sun, ruled by Michael, would begin in 1879, Steiner agrees that we are now living in the aeon of Michael, whose station is closest of all the angels to that of Christ. However, Steiner lengthens Trithemius' periods considerably so that each planetary reign is made to correspond to one of Blavatsky's "rounds." Also, he changes the order of the planets so that earth is given fourth place (the mid-point).)

200. Mary Ellen Carter, My Years With Edgar Cayce, p. 108.

201. According to Geoffrey Ahern, Sun At Midnight, p. 64, the three components of Steiner's intended world commonwealth are: (1) a spiritual/cultural organization. (2) a human rights body, and (3) an alliance of producers, distributors, and consumers for economic harmonization.

202. At the same time, Michael is emphasized in other religious traditions as well. For example, the Mormon view of Michael makes him the third son of Jehovah (after Jesus Christ and Lucifer) and hold that he incarnated into the flesh as Adam.

203. As recorded in the preface of Emil Bock, The Apocalypse of St. John.

204. Mary Ellen Carter, My Years With Edgar Cayce, p. 115.

205. Gladys Davis Turner, An Edgar Cayce Home Medicine Guide, p. 110 ff.: also Reba Ann Karp, Edgar Cayce Encyclopedia of Healing, p. 517 ffThe Violet Ray was the popular name for what is now generally known as a high-frequency device. i.e. high voltage (50.000 volts)/low amperage (only a few milliamperes) source of static electricity. The appliance was commonly available in hardware stores during the first few decades of the twentieth century, and thought by some to have medical benefits when applied topically or along the spine.


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