The Metaphysical movement

The Metaphysical movement is traditionally conceived encompassing Phineas Quimby, Christian Science, and the various New Thought churches. However, the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), whose writings predate them all, is an inescapable part of the movement. Under neo-Platonist and Swedenborgian inspiration, Emerson (a lapsed Unitarian minister) taught an "idealistic," "Transcendentalist" worldview (both names were then in current use in German philosophy in the wake of Kant and Hegel) in which spirit or mind enjoys primacy over the world of matter or appearance. (206) Emerson also taught the existence of the "over-soul" (in the eponymous essay), a universal level underlying and uniting all human minds, a concept which seems to have been inspired by the neo-Platonic anima mundi in combination with the Upanishadic Brahman. Other important themes include Emerson's exaltation of nature as divine (or a reflection of the divine) (207) and his admiration of Asian religions. In the late nineteenth century, Emerson's writings were highly influential, so much so that even very moderately educated Americans could hardly have avoided his ideas. However. Emerson did not attempt to use his philosophy to heal people of their diseases or help them solve other types of problems, as the Metaphysicians were famous for doing.

The Metaphysical movement is usually traced to Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), who worked as a Maine clockmaker before becoming a metaphysical healer. Quimby began his career by magnetizing Lucius Burkmar and instructing him psychically to diagnose illnesses, much like Cayce a century later (or Victor with de Puysegur earlier). Later Quimby discovered that he could direct Burkmar silently through mental commands. So far, Quimby's approach differed little from that of other Mesmerists. By 1862, however, Quimby realized that the specifics of Burkmar's prescriptions were not the cause of the patient's recovery-since Burkmar on one occasion substituted a simple homeopathic remedy for a medical one which the patient in question could not afford--but that the patient's faith in the treatment was the crucial factor. Homeopathy was effective for patients who believed in it, and the same was true of every other type of medicine. When Burkmar temporarily ran off with another Mesmerist. Quimby changed his technique. The prodigal Berkmar soon returned. Complaining of several ailments that Quimby proceeded to heal by suggestion, assisted by the laying of hands. Overtime. Quimby came exclusively to perform spiritual healing:

To illustrate: suppose a patient calls on Dr. Q. for examination. No questions are asked on either side. They sit down together. He does not know the patient's feelings through his natural senses until after placing his mind upon them. Then he becomes perfectly passive, and the patient's mind is troubled [this] puts him into a clairvoyant state, thus [he is in] two places at once; when he takes their feelings, accompanied by their state of mind and thoughts. A history of all their troubles thus learned, together with the name of the disease, he relates [this] to the patient. (208)

(This passage was written by Quimby. despite its use of the third person.) Quimby eventually discovered that the patient's physical presence was unnecessary. Accordingly, he began his lucrative but controversial practice of healing through the mail.

Quimby views God and the Christ spirit in Impersonal terms as a kind of infinite source of goodness. He sees Jesus primarily as a faithful human exemplar of what he at one point actually refers to as "Christian science." (209). While Quimby is never specific about the afterlife, he does speak of a "next world" and refer to belief in death as "error." (210) Quimby often contrasts his spiritual "Science" with the materialist perspective, calling the former "Truth" and the latter "error." Similar language had been used by Andrew Jackson Davis, who urged his readers to "Fear not, for Error is mortal and can not live, and the truth is immortal and cannot die." (211) For Quimby, belief in the reality of the disease is an error perpetuated by the religious, educational, and medical establishments, none of which he approves of. This aspect of his perspective set the dominant tone of the teachings of his pupil. Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910).

Quimby never established a movement or institution on his own and trained relatively few practitioners. Besides Eddy. Quimby's other students (most memorably. Warren Felt Evans and Julius, and Annetta Dresser) saw their work as healers, not clergymen or clergywomen. By contrast, Eddy's healing career brought her enough followers to now be remembered as the "Founder" and "Leader" of the Church of Jesus Christ. Scientist. (In her lifetime, she was referred to as "Mother," hence the name of the Mother Church 'in Boston.) Christian Scientists tend to downplay Quimby's influence on Eddy, preferring instead to view their founder's writings as the exclusive product of her own genius coupled with divine inspiration. In any case. after being miraculously cured by Quimby in 1862. Eddy studied under him for three months. Her essential insight into Christian Science came in 1866, according to her recollection. In 1875 she wrote Science and Health (with further revisions until 1910). to which was later appended a new section called Key To the Scriptures. The work was heavy, though not exclusively, influenced by Quimby's ideas. Later, in the face of competition from other students of Quimby's. Eddy would distance herself from Quimby, claiming to have discovered the central truths of Christian Science on her own. Thus, the issue of Eddy's borrowings from Quimby has inspired ceaseless debate between their respective partisans. Contributing to the uncertainty was the fact that the Quimby manuscripts were not published until 1921, so that until that time, neither side could be certain of what Quimby had actually taught without engaging in substantial research.

The basis of Eddy's theology is her assumption that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God would not permit evil to occur. Therefore no evil can exist, despite our apparent experiences to the contrary. Evil, including disease, is an illusion that will disappear when we finally manage to accept the truth that the world is perfect. Our persistent refusal to do so is not so much "evil" as "error." Christian Science is therefore said to be capable of striking at the root cause of disease by replacing error with truth. A somewhat different formulation of Eddy's theology is to say that all matter--and by extension, disease--is unreal. Therefore, if the mind refuses to believe in disease, it will go away. A crucial difference between Eddy's theology and other Metaphysical writers is that Quimby and most other New Thought figures see thought as capable of creating anything, good or evil (since the matter is a mere shadow of the mind) focus on persuading people to change their attitude. Eddy, by contrast, sees goodness as something already present as an inherent part of the universe and evil as illusory. Accordingly, she instructs patients not to pay any heed to their illusory complaints but to simply have faith in the inherent flawlessness of God's creation. This, she promises, will result in the stripping away of all obscurations to our recognition of our own God-given health, Hearkening back to Emerson's over-soul. Eddy taught that there is no difference between "soul" and "spirit" (212) or between the human "spirit" and the Holy "Spirit," Just as God is one and indivisible, so are we. Furthermore, just as God is infinite and omnipotent, so are we when we rightly understand our true nature. Illness occurs when we lose sight of this: the purpose of Christian Science is to remind us of it.

The procedure taught by Eddy requires the assistance of a certified Christian Science practitioner, whose role Is to guide patients back to a correct view of their true nature. At this point, the illness will be revealed to be illusory, or so the theory goes. Eddy discouraged her followers from resorting to materia medica on the principle that such action only serves to affirm the existence of the illusory disease. "If Mind is foremost and superior." she writes. "let us rely upon Mind, which needs no cooperation from lower powers, even if these so-called powers are real." (213). A common misconception among outsiders is that Christian Scientists are expected to abstain from all types of medical attention other than spiritual healing. However. Christian Scientists are allowed to visit dentists, ophthalmologists, and the like. If necessary may undergo surgery. Anesthetics are permissible, on the theory that without them the patient may be unable to concentrate on prayer to overcome the belief in pain. Eddy herself wore glasses and dentures, and even accepted shots of morphine. (214) Eddy's healing method consists of "affirmations." in which the patient affirms the existence of a healthy state (e.g., "I have a perfect liver"), along with "denials," in which the patient rejects the illness in question as nonexistent (e.g., "This disease has no power over me"). Eddy seems to have personally made use of physical manipulation as well as the laying on of hands. (215) Sometimes, the practitioner attempts orally to persuade the patient of the unreality of the illness in question, while sometimes the practitioner directs herself silently to the problem. The theoretical basis for this is unclear. Who is the practitioner trying to convince, herself or the patient? And what is the medium--telepathy? Intercessory prayer? The practice raises the disturbing possibility of using the technique to harm rather than heal, and sure enough, we find Eddy complaining of "mental malpractice" on the part of her enemies. (216)

At first, Eddy simply taught students on an individual basis, like Quimby before her. During the 1870s and 1880's she experimented with a wide variety of organizational structures for her work, culminating in the 1892 establishment of the Church of Christ. Scientist under a board of directors chosen by her. Eddy retained strict control of the organization. retaining for herself the power to approve all appointments. While technically Christian Science churches were organized according to a congregational system, all officers had to be members in flood standing of the Mother Church- which a self-perpetuating Board of Directors controlled with power to strip dissidents of their membership. Eddy also regulated the training of Christian Science practitioners to a high degree, with many prominent teachers having been expelled over the years.

Since its inception, Christian Scientists have been forced to defend their views in court—practitioners, for practicing medicine without a license; ordinary believers, for refusing medical attention for themselves or their children. In 1918, two bodies within Christian Science (the Board of Trustees of the Publishing Society and the Board of Directors of the Mother Church) concluded what became known as "the Great Litigation," over control of Christian Science publications. The point at issue was whether the Directors had the right to remove Trustees from office when the trust by which the Trustees operated had allowed such action only under circumstances that could no longer technically be fulfilled due to a reorganization of the church. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts decided in favor of the Mother Church.

Eddy's theology uses the expression "Father-Mother God," which probably originated with another sect with a female founder, the Shakers. From Eddy, it spread to some New Thought groups, where it aroused controversy at the turn of the century (although by now, it is commonplace and has spread to many other denominations), the fact that Christian Science practitioners were overwhelmingly female was one of the most noticeable features of the new movement. This demographic tendency was carried over into most of the New Thought denominations. It is often suggested that the church's interest in affirming the femininity of God is related to the preponderance of women among its leaders. Cayce uses the phrase "Father-Mother-God" nine times, mostly in prayers or affirmations.

Below a picture of Donald Trump at the time, a follower of New Thought promoter Norman Vincent Peale: 

 

Like Quimby and Eddy, Cayce accepts the primacy of mind over matter and recommends the practice of spiritual healing,

There are, in truth, no incurable conditions ... for the condition is the breaking of a law, and the healing forces will of necessity become the compliance with other laws that meet the needs of the condition. The healing depends upon the individual and the attitude taken toward conditions... [3744-1]

In places, Cayce even attributes illness to "error," as Davis, Quimby, and Eddy do. He asks,

When there are rebellions of body or mind against such [Christ], is there any wonder that the atoms of the body cause high blood pressure or cause itching, or cause running sores, or cause a rash, or cause indigestion?" [3174-1]

At the same time, while admitting the possibility of dramatic healing as a result of changed spiritual attitudes, Cayce's emphasis on karma means that such healing cannot be taken for granted. While it is true that in Cayce's system, karma is thought to be no longer applicable once its lessons are learned, the process of changing spiritual attitudes is assumed to be rather lengthy. Instantaneous transformation is the exception, not the rule. Cayce is less dismissive of the constraints of the material world, which he sees as existing for a reason. Consequently. he does not join Eddy in her rejection of materia medica.

Many people were attracted to Eddy's theology but grew uncomfortable either with her personal style or with the strictures of the church she founded. Among them was one of Eddy's own students. Emma Curtis Hopkins (1855-1925). who served as editor of the Christian Science Journal until 1885. The ultimate root of the falling-out between Eddy and Hopkins remains unclear but was probably based on personal conflicts rather than theological differences, in any case. Hopkins left Eddy to found the Christian Science Theological Seminary (an independent institution). Many of Hopkins' students--or in some cases, her students' students--would go on to found most of the important New Thought denominations. Her students included Charles and Myrtle Fillmore (Unity School of Christianity), Ernest Holmes (Religious Science); Annie Rix Militz (Homes of Truth); Malinda Cramer (Divine Science), and Kate Bingham, teacher of Nona Brooks (Divine Science). This is not to suggest that Hopkins' teachings were invariably the primary influence on her students' thoughts, however. At first, the name "Christian Science" was extended to all of these movements (over Eddy's vigorous objections), but by the 1890s, the name "New Thought" came to be used instead. "New Thought" is actually a collective name for the movement as a whole and is not generally used in the names of its constituent denominations.

Hopkins's students would have made a formidable denomination had they cooperated more closely. Instead, New Thought teachers in different cities tended to start their own organizations, often limited to one or two cities. The most successful movements were the Unity School of Christianity. Religious Science (now divided into two independent bodies) and Divine Science. However, the New Thought movement has always been home to many more ephemeral denominations. as well as independent churches with no denominational affiliation. (A contemporary example would be the ministry of Robert Schuller.) In addition, New Thought ideas were adopted by several individual teachers who nevertheless chose to remain within their old churches (e.g., Norman Vincent Peale, a Reformed minister). Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein started a Jewish Science synagogue in New York City, partly to lessen Jews defecting to Christian Science. Perhaps the farthest-flung New Thought offshoot is Japan's Seichono Iye, founded by Masaharu Taniguchi in 1921.

The Unity School of Christianity was founded by Myrtle Page Fillmore (1845-1931) of Kansas City, Missouri, and her husband, real-estate agent Charles Fillmore (1854-1948). In 1886 Myrtle was healed of tuberculosis by one of Hopkins's students, who convinced her that "I am a child of God and therefore do not inherit sickness." (217). As a result, Myrtle and later Charles decided to dedicate their lives to God, trusting in him for their health and prosperity. Over the 1880's they attended lectures by several Hopkins's students and eventually enrolled in Hopkins's Christian Science Theological Seminary, culminating in their 1891 ordination at her hands as ministers of "Christian Science." That same year the Fillmores ceased using the name "Christian Science" to refer to their own work--not because they recognized Eddy's exclusive claim to the name, but to avoid confusion. "Unity" first arose the name of a magazine (previously known as Christian Science Thought), then in 1903 as the name of a building fund ("the Unity Society of Practical Christianity"). The word refers to what the founders perceived as the common teaching of all religions, namely oneness with God. (218)

In 1890, Myrtle organized the Society for Silent Help (later Silent Unity), whose members prayed for all those who requested it. Silent Unity has existed continuously ever since, and today the organization receives millions of prayer requests annually by mail or telephone. Other prayer groups and study groups came to be formed elsewhere, many of which were ultimately organized as independent churches in their own right. In 1906, the Fillmores had themselves and several others ordained as Unity ministers (as opposed to Christian Science ministers). That same year Unity built its first church building at Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. (Their land is now separately incorporated as Unity Village. Missouri.) The Unity School of Christianity's formal existence began in 1914 as a Unity Tract Society and Silent Unity union. Governance was established on a congregational basis, but ministers had to receive training at Unity headquarters and be approved by the field department, a division of Unity formed to evaluate the theological integrity of would-be Unity churches. Ultimate authority lay with a centralized, self-perpetuating board. Descendants of the founders have so far retained the leadership of Unity.

Several pamphlets, texts, and other material were prepared, and in 1910 a group called Silent Seventy was formed to arrange for their free distribution. Besides Unity, the most noteworthy among these are the magazines Daily Word (since 1924), the children's magazine Wee Wisdom (1893-1991), and a basic Unity text, Emilie H. Cady's Lessons in Truth (first published in installments 1894-1896). Unity's refusal to charge for this literature is In keeping with its philosophy of trusting that God will provide for all needs. (Intriguingly, the same principle prevents the denomination from operating according to an annual budget.) In addition to printed material, Unity has also arranged for its radio ministry to be broadcast nationwide, and from 1924 to 1934, even operated its own radio station (WOQ in Kansas City). Cayce could very easily have listened to Unity programs over the radio had he been so inclined.

Today, Unity churches vary greatly in tone and demographics, with the quality of the minister being the single most important determinant. Ministers appear to come in several main varieties:

·         The slick car-salesman type, the aged spiritual theoretician type.

·         The alpha female type (these often turn to spirituality in mid-life).

·         The couple.

The younger. more upbeat churches will engage in such unsolemn observances as the Hug of Peace. or the singing of "Happy Birthday" to everyone who is having a birthday that month. Hymns range in solemnity from the signature anthem. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me" to something called "New Thought. New Thought" (sung to the tune of "New York, New York"). At this writing, many Unity churches host study groups devoted to A Course in Miracles, The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations With God, or other New Age literature.

Unity and the ARE resemble one another in that they both emphasize Christ but affirm the validity of other religions; encourage the same type of meditation; and allow (or encourage, in the case of the ARE) belief in reincarnation. Organizationally, for many years both were led by descendants of the founders (for Unity, this is still true) and denied being a church or religion (as the ARE still does). Cayce was aware of Unity and favorably disposed towards it. In 1932, the waking Cayce wrote Mrs. 2110 that.

Unity is doing very wonderful work, I think. For many years I have been in touch with some of their leaders and teachers. We gave some information once for Mr. Fillmore. [2155-2 correspondence]

No further information or confirmation is available regarding this rather intriguing statement by Cayce.

Religious Science was founded by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes (1887-1960), a Maine native who had been influenced primarily by the writings of Emerson and Thomas Troward (1847-1916), an English judge in Punjab who became an influential spokesperson for New Thought after his retirement. In 1917, Holmes joined his older brother Fenwicke in Los Angeles, where they began their respective careers as New Thought teachers. In 1925, the brothers split up for Fenwicke to take advantage of an upsurge of Metaphysical interest on the east coast. In Los Angeles, Ernest Holmes studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins. Later he wrote his most influential work, Science of Mind (1926)under what he felt was divine inspiration. This was by no means the limit of his paranormal involvement—according to Braden (219), Holmes occasionally diagnosed illnesses clairvoyantly, as did his wife, Hazel Foster Holmes. In 1927, Holmes organized an "Institute of Religious Science and Philosophy" and arranged for the Science of Mind magazine publication. A permanent building was finally acquired ten years later, in 1937. While Holmes is seldom mentioned in the readings (e.g., 2138-1), Melton names him the primary avenue of New Thought influence. (220)

At first, Holmes objected to attempts by his students to form Churches of Religious Science, but he had little effective control over them. By the time Holmes was won over to the social and tax benefits, several such churches were already in operation and had banded together as the International Association of Religious Science Churches. Holmes presented his own proposal for a denominational structure resembling that of Unity. Outlying churches were subject to a centralized field department, and ultimate authority lay with the Institute's board of trustees. However, many of the new churches were unwilling to yield their independence to what some took derisively to refer to as "the Mother Church" after the Christian Science institution. The result was a 1953 schism in which approximately forty-seven churches joined the newly-organized Church of Religious Science, and nineteen remained with what is now called Religious Science International. Still, others remained independent of both sides.

Divine Science is a fusion of two movements founded respectively by Nona Brooks (1861-1945), a Pueblo, Colorado schoolteacher who was healed of a throat condition by one of Hopkins's students: and Malinda Cramer of San Francisco, who had had a disability before learning what she came to refer to as "Divine Science." In 1892, Cramer organized the International Divine Science Association, which was ecumenical across the various New Thought groups despite the name. Her emerging reputation as a New Thought teacher encouraged Brooks's sister, Fannie James, to correspond with her. In 1898, after Cramer and Brooks had conducted unrelated healing ministries and classes for many years. Brooks had herself ordained by Cramer and returned to Colorado to found the first Divine Science Church (in Denver). The church also offered home-study courses and a prayer ministry similar to Silent Unity. Other churches formed over succeeding decades, and in 1957, these formed the loose-knit Divine Science Federation to arrange for book publication and ministerial education. Apart from the founders, the most influential Divine Scientist is Emmet Fox (1886-195 1). who shopped around for a denominational affiliation only after building a thriving congregation.

The International New Thought Alliance (INTA) is not a denomination as a loose confederation of usually like-minded religious groups who nevertheless insist on retaining full autonomy. INTA grew out of meetings of the more localized New Thought Federation and the International Metaphysical League around the century. The former finally absorbed the latter in 1904. The name "New Thought Alliance" was adopted in 1916. Most but not all of the New Thought churches maintain membership in INTA. The main exception is Unity, whose founders disapproved of many of the Spiritualist or occult ideas of other New Thought leaders. The Fillmores participated in several exploratory congresses in 1903 and 1904; Unity briefly joined INTA during 1919-1922, and many individual Unity churches hold INTA membership. (Individuals, congregations, or denominations may join.) More recently, in the wake of the late-1980's era conflict over what was sometimes seen as New Age encroachment, one group (Teachings of the Inner Christ, Inc.) was actually expelled from the INTA trance-channeling practice of its leader, Ann Meyer McKeavor.

To go into the theological differences between the various New Thought groups would be far too tedious-after all, few of them were particularly creative (although there are important stylistic differences), and all the main groups seem to have been influenced by one another's writings. While diversity certainly exists within the New Thought movement. this is not primarily a function of the group affiliation. Here I will venture a few general observations.

Whereas Christian Science focuses on healing as the primary result of a changed spiritual attitude, many New Thought teachers extend the principle to other areas of life. As Holmes puts it,

When we use our creative imagination in strong faith, it will create for us, out of the One Substance, whatever we have formed in thought. In this way, man becomes a Co-Creator with God. (221)

Mental events are by no means private and inconsequential but possess considerable independence from the mind, giving rise to them and possess the power to shape the material world. (This calls to mind the Theosophical doctrine of thought-forms, in which thought patterns could take on a life of their own separate from the thinker.) Again, as Holmes writes. "Thoughts are things." (222). Therefore, one is enjoined to banish negative thinking from one's mind not only concerning health but in all things--otherwise, the mind may proceed to create the imagined event. Cayce similarly holds that "Mind is the builder and that which we think upon may become crimes or miracles, for thoughts are things..." (906-3). Each human soul is thus a "co-creator with God" (5259-1). However, the conclusion which Cayce draws is not so much that we should strive to banish fear from our thoughts, but that we should choose spirituality and selflessness over materiality and selfishness.

New Thought writers identify several universal spiritual laws for seekers to apply in their lives. For example. Holmes refers to the Law of Attraction (223), the Law of Faith, the Law of Consciousness, and Cause and Effect. (224) These all refer essentially to the same process in which the universe brings us that which our consciousness attracts. The first person to identify spiritual laws as such appears to have been Andrew Jackson Davis, who refers to the "Universal Law of Cause and Effect." (225). The conviction that these spiritual laws are every bit as dependable as scientific ones is the reason why several Metaphysical denominations incorporate the word "science" into their names. Meanwhile, the Cayce readings identify by name the Law of Attraction (2410-1), the Law of Cause and Effect (288-29), the Law of Love (3744-4), the Law of Relativity (900-24), and the Law of One (1010-12), among others. Since it rarely happens that the reading in which a law is named will also be a reading in which that law is satisfactorily explained. I am unable to match these laws with their descriptions, such as: "Like attracts like" (349-17); "As ye sow so shall ye reap" (1650-1); "What ye expect, ye receive" (945-5); "Nothing happens by chance" (136-2); "Knock and it will be opened unto you" (294-183); "Ask and ye shall receive" (254-55); and "As ye aid others, more help comes to thee" (1709-7). (I presume that the reader will recognize the biblical allusions: in fact, this sort of exegesis is an important aspect of New Thought writing.) For Cayce, fulfillment of these laws need not necessarily occur in this lifetime but may be delayed over the course of multiple incarnations.

One critical area in which universal law may be applied is financial. The idea of "supply" or "prosperity consciousness" was a major innovation of New Thought writers. Although the concept is present in Christian Science, it has always suffered neglect compared to that denomination's emphasis on healing. Charles Fillmore brashly adapts the Twenty-Third Psalm to express this principle:

The Lord is my banker; my credit is good.
He maketh me to lie down in the consciousness of omnipresent abundance...
Thy silver and thy gold, they secure me.
Thou preparest away before me in the presence of the collector;
Thou fillest my wallet with plenty ... (226)

The idea of prosperity consciousness spread well beyond New Thought circles, and Cayce (in common with innumerable television evangelists) endorses it in several readings. A distinction should be made between the principle that as one uses what one has, "then MORE may be GIVEN thee. Remember the talents!" (2254-1); or that one's financial situation will improve if only one can muster enough faith or finer receptivity; that one should mentally visualize the desired riches (e.g., 11-6); or that one should give more to receive more (e.g., 1532-1).

The New Thought movement popularized the use of thought-for-the-day(227) style "affirmations" or "meditations" to attune oneself to the divine. The justification is that since the mind controls matter, by mentally affirming something to be true despite any evidence to the contrary, one can make it true. Here is an example of an affirmation, in this case, composed by Hopkins and circulated widely by her students:

O countenance! Beholding me, looking toward me through the ages. Breath of the everlasting life in me, and manna to my fadeless substance, Thy name, which folds me round with tenderness, is Jesus Christ. (228)

Each chapter of A Search for God begins with an "affirmation" composed by Cayce in the same tradition. However, he variously refers to them as affirmations, meditations, or prayers in the study group readings. Meditation as a devotional practice is also common in New Thought circles, e.g., in church services (often with soft organ music playing in the background). The most typical methods involve contemplation of a scriptural passage or affirmation or a mental opening-up to God.

Many New Thought writers have been influenced by Eastern religions and other non-Christian sources, often through the medium of Transcendentalism or Theosophy. For example, both of the Fillmores, as well as Emmet Fox, accept reincarnation and karma. (229) although the idea has remained controversial in those denominations. The first chapter of Emma Curtis Hopkins's Twelve Studies In High Mysticism manages to cite a Vedic hymn, two Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita, the Tao Te Ching, the Zend-Avesta, the Vendidad, Buddha, Hermes Trismegistus, Appolonius of Tyana, Plato twice, and "Amen-Ra," in addition to eight church fathers and a dozen books of the Bible. Malinda Cramer quotes from the Bhagavadgita and mentions Kabbalah and Hermeticism. (230) Charles Fillmore included articles by Spiritualists and Theosophists in his magazine. (231) Ernest Holmes was an avid reader of Aurobindo. Two important early figures in the development of New Thought were Swami Abhedananda of the Vedanta Society, who spoke at several New Thought congresses; and "Swami Ramacharaka" (nee William Walker Atkinson), the author of several Metaphysical books published by the Yogi Publication Society of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.

Some New Thought organizations (representing the vast majority of believers) emphasize Christian elements; some do not. INITA dropped all references to Christ in its Common Statement of Belief in 1957. Within the Christian-oriented New Thought groups, as well as others who allude to Christ from time to time, a distinction is usually made between the principle of Christhood and the human being known as Jesus who achieved, revealed, or exemplified it. Warren Felt Evans, for example, writes that Jesus "was not born Christ any more than Abraham Lincoln was born president of the United States."(232). In this view, Christ consciousness is not something unique to Jesus, but is present within all of us. In place of the traditional concept of "atonement" through the blood of Christ, the standard New Thought interpretation is to parse the English word so that it yields "at-one-moment,"(233) referring to the goal of becoming aware of this inherent unity. Cayce also uses the expression "at-one-ment" (e.g., 2174-3), and in general follows the usual New Thought Christology quite closely. Another Christological pattern popular in New Thought views Christ as "the Fulfilling of the Lawl"(234), meaning that he demonstrated mastery of universal laws such as those mentioned above. Cayce accepts this teaching as well.

The Religious Science and Divine Science bodies appoint practitioners authorized to conduct spiritual heating and other prayer-based services, somewhat like their counterparts in Christian Science. Unity has never recognized practitioners per se but requires would-be Unity teachers to take courses at Unity Village and receive a license in an entirely separate track from ministerial training. The ARE has no official means of licensing teachers or practitioners except by hiring or featuring them at conferences. However, at one point, a system of teacher certification was contemplated.

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.

 

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.

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 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.

 

 

206. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature." parts VI and VII: also "The Transcendentalist."

207. Cayce joins Emerson in his celebration of nature. For example. 5747-1 asks, "How is the best way to explain God to a child under twelve years of age?" Cayce answers. "In nature. As the unfolding of that is seen ABOUT the child itself, whether in the grasses, the flowers, the birds, or what: for each are an expression of the Creative Energies in its activity, and the sooner EVERY SOUL would learn that they themselves are a portion of everything about same. with the ability within self to make one's self WITH that that brought ALL into being, the change is as that of service in its NATURALNESS."

208. Horatio Dresser (ed.). The Quimby Manuscripts, p. t 9 t.

209. Ibid., pp. 272, 388.

210. Ibid., pp. 136, 407.

211. Andrew Jackson Davis, The Principles of Nature.... p. I.

212. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, ch. 14.

213. Ibid.. ch. 6.

214. Charles S. Braden, Spirits In Rebellion, pp. 37-38.

215. Ibid., p. 337.

216. Ibid.. p. 343.

217. Thomas Witherspoon, Myrtle Fillmore, p. 38.

218. Ibid. P. 49).

219. Charles S. Braden, Spirits In Rebellion, p. 296.

220. J. Gordon Melton, telephone conversation, 1997.

221. Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind, p. 157.

222. Ibid., p. 114.

223. Ibid., p. 264.

224. The last three in Ernest Holmes, Dictionary of New Thought Terms.

225. Andrew Jackson Davis, The Principles of Nature, p. 116. par. 42.

226. In Martin A. Larson, New Thought Religion, p. 352.

227. In fact, the very concept of a "thought for the day" appears to have originated in New Thought circles. The earliest reference to it that I have come across is attributed to Alice Ritchie of Divine Science, in magazines beginning in 1902 (mentioned in Charles S. Braden, Spirits In Rebellion, p275).

228. Thomas Witherspoon, Myrtle Fillmore, p. 56.

229. See Martin A. Larson, New Thought Religion, p. 353 for Charles: Thomas Witherspoon, Myrtle Fillmore, pp.231-232 for Myrtle), and Emmet Fox, Reincarnation Described and Explained for that teacher's view.

230. Charles S. Braden, Spirits In Rebellion, p. 270.

231. Thomas Witherspoon, Myrtle Fillmore, p. 47.

232. Martin A. Larson, New Thought Religion, p. 12 1.

233. Of course, this is not the true etymology of the English word "atonement," which is derived from the Greek ton ("to do") with an alpha negative, hence "to undo."

234. Thomas Troward, Edinburgh and Dore Lectures on Mental Science, p. 167: cf. Matthew 5:17.

 

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