To understand why so little has been published on the source question, one must first understand the nature of the Cayce movement and particularly that of its driving force, the ARE. Unfortunately, such an understanding is not easy to come by. The only book-length history of the Cayce movement yet written is A. Robert Smith's biography of Hugh Lynn Cayce, About My Father's Business (1988). His edited book The Lost Memoirs of Edgar Cayce (1997) also contains many primary sources for the early years of the Cayce movement. Other historical material may be culled from ARE periodicals such as Venture Inward, or made the object of original research at Virginia Beach. A Search For God (1942, 1950: my page citations follow the two-volume edition) is an indispensible part of Cayce's legacy, as are the study groups centered around it. Other important printed sources used in this chapter are the Handbook for ARE Study Groups (1957, revised 1971, hereinafter referred to as the ARE Handbook), and assorted ephemera.
The Cayce movement is not quite identical with the ARE. To begin with, Cayce's followers were meeting well before that organization's formation. Moreover, many consumers of ARE-sponsored products and participants in ARE-sponsored activities are nonmembers. Finally, several organizations besides the ARE are devoted to Caycean or partially Caycean perspectives. The Edgar Cayce Foundation is legally separate from the ARE. but has an identical board of trustees. Atlantic University has a separate board and until recently was closely allied with the ARE. Cayce study groups and the Glad Helpers healing prayer group receive support from the ARE but operate independently of any institutional control (by Cayce's design, I am told). The ARE Clinic in Phoenix and Home Health Products in Virginia Beach are linked with the ARE mainly on the basis of franchising or licensing agreements. The Logos Center of Scottsdale, Arizona (Anne and Herbert Puryear) and the Pilgrim Institute of Cape Cod, Massachussets (June and Harmon Bro) were founded by prominent dissidents within the Cayce movement. The Heritage Store in Virginia Beach branched out from providing Cayce products to become a general New Age center. Somewhat farther a field we find the Gathering, a UFO-oriented intentional community in Schuyler, Virginia whose leader--Tom Ringrose--hails the devil (actually a reptilian alien) as a liberator. Although most Cayceans would probably be aghast to learn of the Gathering's evolution from a Search For God group in the 1960's, many of its practices and mores do stem from the Cayce movement. The ranks of those who have been loosely influenced by the Cayce readings would probably include much of the New Age and holistic health movements in general, as illustrated by the vast number of Americans who have heard rumors to the effect that California is doomed to sink 'into the ocean without realizing this to be a distorted form of a Cayce prophecy.
A. Evolution of the ARE
In Chapter One we left Cayce after his 1925 arrival in Virginia Beach. In 1927 Cayce, Kahn, the Blumenthals, and several others formed a nonprofit corporation called the Association of National Investigators (AND for the purpose of supporting psychic research. To that end the ANI raised money for the establishment of a small (thirty-bed) hospital in Virginia Beach known as the Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment, which opened the following year, Cayce filled many of the available positions with his relatives. In 1930 another ANI-sponsored project opened its doors, this time a small liberal arts college dedicated to Cayce's teachings. Also based in Virginia Beach. Atlantic University attracted more than two hundred students in its first semester. Unfortunately, both projects suffered from fundamentally unsound finances exacerbated by a lack of planning or accountability, graft, nepotism, personal conflicts between trustees (Kahn and the Cayces versus the Blumenthals), and the onset of the Great Depression. The Association of National Investigators was disbanded in 1931, the hospital closed that same year, and Atlantic University shut down in 1932.
After the collapse of the ANI, Cayce contacted a number of people who had received readings and asked them whether they thought he should continue his work. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A meeting was quickly held with sixty-one persons in attendance.
Friends, I have nothing to sell. I am not attempting to spread propaganda. Each one here has had personal experience with the information. or phenomena, as manifested through me: some of you know of my own shortcomings. as well as shortcomings of others. It isn't a question as to whether I want to go on. but the question is. do you. as a group. as individuals. want to see a study of the phenomena. or the information. continue? Is it worth while? My own position is this: Some years ago, when through the information my wife's life was spared. a little later my boy's eyes received their sight [Hugh Lynn was said to have been temporarily blinded in an accident involving photographic flash powder] and the younger boy was healed also. I could only say. 'God. I don't understand. but for the good that has come to me, may I be able to help others when they ask.' You all know from your own experiences whether this is worth while. Do not consider my experience, but your experience.(79)
A round of testimonials followed. interspersed with pleas urging Cayce to continue his work- A new organization, the ARE, was formed by those present. In accordance with a suggestion by the sleeping Cayce, the ARE adopted as its purpose or ideal, "that we may make manifest the love of God and man" (254-42. cf. Luke 10:27), a desideratum which is now inscribed above the doors of the ARE Library Building. Cayce's son Hugh Lynn, who had recently graduated from Washington and Lee with a bachelors degree in psychology, was named its first director (later president). Unlike its predecessor, the ARE drew its strength primarily from Cayce's grassroots supporters rather than a few major donors. It deserves noting that during Cayce's lifetime, the bulk of the ARE's membership--like that of the ANI before it--consisted of those who had enrolled because membership (which costed ten dollars) was required of those who sought a reading from Cayce. The idea was to prevent Cayce from being charged with fortune-telling or practicing medicine without a license, since technically Cayce himself was not receiving any money for his readings. In those years the ARE operated out of the Cayces' house on Arctic Crescent.
The same year that the ARE was founded (1931), the first Cayce study group began meeting (and would continue in some form until 1970). Under the inspiration of study groups organized by Hitler supporter and occultist William Dudley Pelley, who offered to teach people how to become psychic, several people who frequented Cayce's weekly lectures asked him whether he could do the same. Cayce agreed, resulting in the formation of Study Group 41. Its dozen or so members included Gertrude, Les Cayce. Hugh Lynn. Gladys Davis. Mildred Davis (Gladys's cousin). and Esther Wynne (a Norfolk English teacher). The sleeping Cayce steered the group toward spiritual deepening through meditation, prayer, dream analysis, Bible study, and most especially the transformation of attitudes. Cayce also asked group members to summarize in writing the lessons learned. resulting in the two (or three) slender volumes of. A Search For God. Theoretically a collective work by the members of Study Group #1 A Search For God was actually compiled by Esther Wynne and edited by Hugh Lynn. The whole effort took place under Cayce's psychic direction between 1931 and 1942. Much of its unwieldy languageis taken directly from readings given by Cayce especially for this purpose (262-1 through 262-1-30). Each chapter focuses on a topic relevant to the spiritual path, such as "Cooperation", "Know Thyself'" and "What Is My Ideal?" These were suggested by Cayce himself who asked members of the group not to leave a topic until they felt (and the readings concurred) they were successfully applying, that principle in their dally lives. Other groups quickly formed in the wake of Study Group #1. Cayce himself urged the formation of the Glad Helpers intercessory healing prayer group, whose original membership largely overlapped with the first study group. Most new groups, however, arose by themselves and chose to follow a format centered around. A Search For God. That is, rather than create their own texts and follow the discipline of the first group. subsequent groups would simply study the text which was already written and which had received Cayce's imprimatur. New formats were developed for later groups which, unlike Study Group #1, could not center their activities around Cayce's personal psychic guidance. Over the years the ARE has made support for study groups one of its main tasks, providing materials and referring inquirers to local groups.
The first annual ARE Congress was held in the summer of 1932 at the instigation of Hugh Lynn. Sixteen people attended. Like every ARE Congress ever since, the week-long event took place at Virginia Beach: and like future conferences it featured speakers from diverse fields who lectured on the relevance of Cayce for their areas of expertise. In those early years Cayce himself would give lectures as well, both while awake and while entranced. which must have been the high point of the Congresses. In 1948 additional conferences came to be offered during the summer tourist season, and today the role of organizing conferences has become another of the ARE's most basic functions. Incidentally, ARE Congresses have no legal authority although they often forward recommendations to the ARE board. which may or may not deem them feasible. In recent years Congresses have been treated essentially as a peculiar sort of conference.
Cayce died of a stroke on January 3, 1945, and Gertrude died three months later. Both Hugh Lynn and Edgar Evans Cayce were serving overseas at the time, leaving Gladys Davis, graduate student Harmon Bro, and a few others to rally the shrinking number of people (from several hundred down to several dozen) involved with the ARE. There was a real question as to whether the ARE could survive the death of the psychic whose teachings it had been founded to study. For six months a certain Dr. Bidwell gave readings in Cayce's place (Cayce having left a huge backlog of undelivered readings). Controversy arose over what to do with the 145.000 carbon pages of the Cayce readings. with some trustees urging that they be donated to Harvard or Duke University (the latter owing to the fame of its parapsychological program). Davis responded by securing the readings in their vault (which had been built into the Cayces' home). and the vault key on her person, until such time as Hugh Lynn could return from the army to take charge of the ARE.(80)
On his eagerly-awaited return in the fall of 1945, Hugh Lynn had to decide whether to steer the ARE to become (as Smith puts it) "a research foundation, an adult education fellowship, a quasi-religious lay order, a healing center, [or] a publishing firm."(81) Hugh Lynn ultimately decided to concentrate the ARE's dwindling energies on bringing the philosophy of the Cayce readings to the attention of the world. To that end he fired Dr. Bidwell. As for the fate of the readings, some members proposed that a separate entity--the Edgar Cayce Foundation--be created that would have both physical custody and legal ownership of them. and sponsor research into them as well. This proposal inspired vigorous objections from others who preferred that the ARE retain them. but the arrangement offered Hugh Lynn the irresistable opportunity to control how the readings would be used through his appointments to the new board. Throwing his support behind the proposal- Hugh Lynn won the agreement of the ARE board of trustees in 1947, and the Edgar Cayce Foundation (ECF) was chartered the following year.(82) Today the ECF board of trustees is identical to that of the ARE.
In the 1950's and early 1960's, the ARF could easily have been taken for a local religious cult. Most of the members lived in Virginia Beach, with core participants living on the premises of the ARE headquarters (the former Cayce Hospital, which Hugh Lynn had managed to buy back in 1956). Hugh Lynn practiced an authoritarian, tempermental leadership style made possible by his status as Cayce's son, augmented by his effective control over appointments to the APLE board of trustees. He made policy decisions unilaterally, and did his best to control the content of any Cayce books published. Conference lecturer Jessica Madigan found herself summarily stripped of AR-E sponsorship after Hugh Lynn tired of her infatuation with him.(83) An "image committee" led by former reporter Mary Ellen Carter was formed to dispel the public impression of the ARE as (in Carter's words) "the nuts on the hill."(84) Free public lectures began to be offered--first weekly, then daily--in order to provide an opportunity for local people to acquaint themselves with the ARE. These lectures continue today. The 1960's counterculture brought a wave of interested seekers to Virginia Beach- resulting in a serious culture clash between the newcomers and a more conservative old guard. After some initial consternation. Hugh Lynn eventually decided to reach out to the hippy camp and encourage their assimilation.
Although Hugh Lynn explored the idea of recruiting some new psychic to replace Cayce, ultimately the ARE never expanded its purview beyond the Cayce readings. Betty McCain and Ray Stanford gave Cavce-like readings at the APLE in the 1950's, but Hugh Lynn evidently lost interest in them.(85) In later years many more psychic claimants offered their services, and periodically ARE members would become enchanted with one or another of them. More than one medium claimed to have received posthumous messages from Cayce himself, to no discernable effect on the ARE or the Cayce family. Smith cites a 1970's-era wisecrack attributing to the APLE an eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt have no other psychics before me."(86) More recently a number of professional psychics have spoken or taught at ARE conferences. and psychic readings are even provided as career counseling aids to students in the ARE-affiliated Atlantic University class. "Finding Your Mission In Life." While the ARE has never officially endorsed any psychic-- including Cayce--in practice psychic claimants are somehow being evaluated in the process of considering their suitability for these roles.(87) Aron Abrahamson, Kevin Ryerson, Al Miner, Paul Solomon, and Carol Ann Liaros are well-known psychics with ARE ties.
Prior to the late 1960's. the main route whereby information on the Cayce readings saw print was through newsletters and pamphlets, whose 'influence was primarily limited to ARE circles. During Cayce's lifetime, a few popular accounts of his work had appeared. In 1943 positive articles by Margueritte Bro (Harmon's mother) had appeared in Christian Century ("Explain It As You Will") and Coronet ("Miracle Man of Virginia Beach") resulted in a flurry of interest: and the same thing occurred on a larger scale with the release that year of the first full-fledged Cayce biography, Thomas Sugrue's There is a River. After Cayce's death in 1945, popular interest declined: flared briefly with the publication of Gina Cerminara's Many Mansions in 1950 and Morey Bernstein's The Search for Bridey Murphey (which contains two chapters on Cayce) in 1956; then continued to fall until 1967, the year Jess Steam's The Sleeping Prophet was published. This book drove demand for more Cayce titles. Soon the number of Cayce books skyrocketed, including not one but two independent series on him (namely the "Edgar Cayce's Story of..." series by Berkeley, and the "Edgar Cayce On..." series by Paperback Library and Warner). The bulk of these feature an introduction by Hugh Lynn. Between 1969 and 1970 Hugh Lynn hired onto the ARF staff four psychology Ph.D's with parapsychological or Jungian orientations (Herbert Puryear, Mark Thurston, Henry Reed, and Charles Thomas Cayce), all of whom went on to become well-known ARE writers and lecturers. In the 1980's. the ARE, which had self-published an ever-increasing number of volumes beginning with A Search For God,established the ARE Press. In recent years the ARE Press has published an average of perhaps a dozen trade paperbacks per year, but has not vet succeeded in effectively marketing and distributing its books to people outside of the Cayce movement. In 1996, its editors announced a distribution agreement with Putnam-Berkley. which they hoped would result in Cayce books being sold from supermarket bookracks. The following year they admitted that the agreement had in fact fallen through, but pointed to progress with several bookstore chains.
The popular availability of Cayce books is an important consideration in the health of the Cayce movement. since readers of Cayce books constitute the main source of new Cayceans. With that in mind, the ARE makes every effort to present information about the organization either at the beginning or end of every new book. along with its postal address. Starting in the 1970's. business-reply cards offering to send information on ARE membership and/or study group participation have often been included as well. and recently the ARE has even experimented with free three-month trial memberships. Advertisements in non-Caycean publications have not been emphasized. owing to Cayce's discomfort with the idea of commercializing his teachings. However, conferences were advertised in several New Age magazines during the 1970's, and advertisements for the ARE Press may be seen in similar publications to this day.
Before the 1970's. few Cayce readings were generally available outside of popular books-and even the authors of these required the cooperation of Gladys Davis. who alone knew how to locate information on a given subject in the voluminous and unsystematic material. Following Cayce's death, Davis supervised the ARE's efforts to preserve and index the Cayce material until her own death in 1986. The initial task of noting all the topics mentioned in each reading took approximately twenty years. The readings were microfilmed by Remington Rand during 1959-1960. The process of indexing these topics took another decade, until 1971.(88) The ECF claimed copyright to the readings at this point, although the legal basis for this is questionable.(89) Beginning in the 1970's, "circulating files" compiling Cayce's teachings on a growing number of medical and religious subjects were prepared, which members could borrow through the mail. Between 1973 and 1988 the ARE gradually published twenty-four volumes of The Edgar Cayce Library Series, which served a similar purpose. In 1994, nearly all the extant Cayce readings were made available on CD-ROM, along with many supporting documents and convenient search features.
With the rise of the modem New Age movement in the 1970's and 1980's. Cayce's teachings enjoyed their widest audience. Phillip Lucas entitled his article on the ARE "Saved by the New Age"(90) to indicate that organization's probable fate had Hugh Lynn not managed to market Cayce to New Agers. At the same time, the ARE lost its cutting-edge quality as new spiritual movements succeeded in establishing themselves. Those who sought deeper interpretations of Christianity now had other trance-channeled material to choose from.(91) Those uncomfortable with Christianity altogether had access to a wide variety of Eastern religions and Western esoteric organizations. Those seeking an intimate gathering dedicated changing its members' lives with the aid of a higher power could join a twelve-step group. In short, the ARE lost much of its market share to upstarts: fortunately for them, the market itself was booming, giving the ARE a thinner slice of a considerably larger pie. Here is a chart showing, ARE membership rates between 1945 and 1995:
1945 300 (average, estimated)
1955 1.000 (average, estimated)
1960 2.000 (average, estimated)
1965 3.000 (average, estimated)
1970 12.000 (average. estimated)
1985 43.762 (as of JuIy 1), of which 29.319 were regular paid members
1990 (92) 70.202 (as of July 1), of which 39.114 were regular paid members
1995 31.939 (as of July 1), of which
28.934 were regular paid members
Since then, the membership levels have fluctuated around 30.000 (give or take a few thousand), with almost all members residing In the United States or Canada.
Estimating the number of study groups or study group participants is vastly more difficult. While the ARE asks study groups to register with the study group department at headquarters. it is clear that many groups neglect to enroll, perhaps in order to avoid the inevitable fund-raising letters from the ARE. At present there are approximately 800 study groups which are formally affiliated with the ARE, and perhaps 100 unaffiliated ones. No reliable historical statistics are available, since Hugh Lynn tended to Live an optimistic "parson's count" which he apparently calculated by dividing the number of ARE members by the ideal number of study group participants. Study group coordinator Jim Dixon thinks the number peaked in the late 1980's, while membership director Kevin Todeschi thinks the study group numbers have remained relatively steady for several decades, independent of fluctuations in the number of ARE members. In 1997 the ARE appointed a task force to determine how to halt what is apparently a trend toward a shrinking, number of study groups.
As the ARE achieved a certain critical mass. it was able to expand services and programs as well as membership. The number of Cayce-oriented retreats and conferences multiplied. In 1969 the Heritage Store opened in Virginia Beach for the purpose of selling, health products recommended in the Cayce readings (as well as New Age books. A competing store with the unlikely name of "PNIS" opened in 1974.(93) In 1970 the ARE Clinic opened in Scottsdale. Arizona for the purpose of treating patients using Cayce's medical and health recommendations. An ARE children's camp which had been held at Virginia Beach since 1958 was moved to its
present site in western Virginiain 1974. In 1975 the ARE completed the Library Building, the building most frequently pictured in ARE literature and the main reception center for visitors or tourists. The ARE magazine Venture Inward, a glossy bimonthly, began publication in 1984, although it had several predecessors extending sporadically back to the 1930’s. In 1985 Atlantic University (whose charter had been kept active despite the institution's collapse) was resurrected from the dead. this time as an unaccredited(94) institution offering masters-level courses in "Transpersonal Studies," mostly by correspondence. Thus the ARE has managed to restore Cayce's failed hospital and university. or reasonable equivalents thereof.
Hugh Lynn officially stepped down as ARE president in 1976- at the age of seventy, in favor of his son Charles Thomas Cayce, Charles Thomas, whose doctoral training was in child psychology had previously served as ARE youth coordinator. The combination of his qualifications, ancestry, and personal connections were easily sufficient to elevate him to the ARE presidency over his nearest rival. Herbert Puryear.(95) Despite his official resignation, Hugh Lynn continued to exercise considerable informal authority for several years more. He died in 1982. In marked contrast to his father, Charles Thomas does not seem to have been gifted with either a forceful personality or natural managerial abilities, and, as a result, his formal authority has declined considerably over the years. The board of trustees lessened his responsibilities to "president" in name only--first by creating a new office of CEO (filled by Edwin N. Johnson from 1992 to 1995) with full administrative responsibilities, then in 1995 by appointing an "executive council" consisting of Nancy Eubel, Mark Thurston, and John Van Auken.(96) Charles Thomas remains sole president of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, however, and exercises considerable clout behind the scenes at the ARE as well. In the early 1990's a decentralization strategy resulted in the devolution of a number of ARE functions to (so far) ten multi-state regions and several metropolitan areas. This process is likely to continue. with progressively greater authority and responsibilities given to the regional directors. Cayce Centers have opened in New York. Los Angeles, Tokyo, Stockholm, Madras, and Costa Rica, among other places.
The ARE's membership levels already place it on a level comparable with the total world followings of Theosophy or Anthroposophy(97) --both of which. I cannot resist pointing out. have received far more sustained academic attention than the Cayce movement. Furthermore, the number of people for whom the Cayce readings represent an important component of their spiritual path is much larger than the number of people who pay dues to the ARE. For example, formal membership is not required in order to participate in study groups, order books from the ARE Bookstore, or attend conferences. Cayceans would probably rather gauge Cayce's influence in terms of the number of people w ho have been led to "venture inward" or conduct their own search for God" as a result of his teachings. Unfortunately, I see no good way of counting these people, let alone assessing the degree to which their lives have been transformed. In any event. ARE membership levels are significant in that it is primarily through the efforts of the ARE that the Cayce material is promoted and these various opportunities to be influenced by it sustained.
What prospects are there for the future of the Cayce movement'? Cayce himself indicated that his study groups might still be meeting a hundred years later, or 2034 (262-71), and this seems likely enough. As for how many people we can expect to be involved in them. this would depend on certain critical assumptions: Will there be future surges of interest in subjects relevant to Cayce? Will the ARE be effectively managed and marketed? How will its competitors fare? Will the oft-rumored Cayce movie ever actually be produced, and if so will it be successful? My own sense of the matter is that the natural course of evolution is for the Cayceans to slowly dwindle in number. After all, new Cayceans are neither born (ARE membership does not tend to be multigenerational, despite the ARE's best efforts to encourage youth participation) nor made (the ARE does not actively seek converts as the Mormons do), but must volunteer. Such volunteers will be forthcoming only when the ARE is an obvious choice for people seeking to meet a felt spiritual need. As the Cayce movement ages. However, its theology is likely to appear increasingly quaint and its organizations hidebound. Many aspects of the ARE which make it unique are also those which are most likely to age poorly. I do not mean to write their obituary-after all, the number of Swedenborgians has dwindled, but visitors to their churches will discover a movement which is very much alive despite its declining numbers. Perhaps the ARLE should be compared to the various New Thought churches, whose fortunes have varied mainly depending on to what extent they have succeeded in shedding traditional Protestant trappings in favor of New Age ones. Some observers (e.g. J. Gordon Melton) conclude that the New Age movement is presently on the wane, in which case both the ARE and the New Thought churches could soon face a choice between transforming a second time. or competing in an environment for which they are not very well-adapted. The AR-E has published a long-range planning document called the "2020 Vision" report which anticipates substantial membership and study group growth and the creation of several new programs.(98) Unfortunately. the document only covers the year 2020 and not any of the intervening years, during which the planners apparently rely on the Holy Spirit to arrange the projected growth, K. Paul Johnson also has an optimistic view of the ARE's future, arising out of his observations of that organization's adaptability as well as the possibility of membership growth through international outreach (one of the goals mentioned in the "2020 Vision" report). I see the ARE's "adaptability" rather as a lack of any clear purpose or defining characteristics. and am dubious of its ability to attract many members from outside the United States and Canada.(99)
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.
In the course of surveying the history and teachings of the Cayce movement, it is easy to lose sight of the experience of its participants. After all, Cayceans are typically less interested in studying the origins of their institutions than in contemplating the possibility of deeper levels to the universe and themselves or in changing their lives to reflect more of spiritual orientation. How these aspirations are expressed are numerous, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 5.
Today, the ARE's request that study groups collect contributions seems to be practiced regularly when not disregarded altogether. Of the groups I have attended, only the one at ARE headquarters solicited donations each week, with one dollar appearing to be the standard per capita contribution.- A democratic ARE (to the extent that such a thing is even conceivable) might easily prove even more anti-intellectual and personality-driven than its present incarnation. At the same time, the example of the Swedenborg Foundation demonstrates that it is possible to combine academic respectability (recent monographs have dealt with D.T. Suzuki. Henri Corbin and Kant) with at least nominal democratic safeguards (e.g., proxy voting). A key difference is that the various Swedenborgian churches are institutionally separate from the Swedenborg Foundation- whereas the ARE combines both of these functions and many more, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 6.
Some leave when they do not find their vision reflected, complaining about the politics of Virginia Beach. Others accommodate themselves to a framework with which they are not entirely comfortable or become outspoken in their attempts to change the organization. The ARE leadership presently incorporates several distinct visions--some complementary, some not. The organization is sufficiently decentralized to keep these visions in a sort of equilibrium based partially on inertia (once a given program is started, it will probably be continued) and partially because most Cayceans have multiple interests concerning the readings. However, skeptical or scholarly approaches are definitely a minority interest within the ARE. They are almost wholly unrepresented within those functions that have the greatest capacity for influencing the Caycean masses (e.g., study groups, publishing, or conferences). -An object of ARE charity really a public relations activity, a disguised form of product development, or an expression of a liberal theological identity (against those Southern Protestant denominations that are perceived as anti-scientific). Inquiries into the source question have lacked the necessary connections for the first category, are not particularly well-suited to the second or third, and work at cross-purposes to the fourth by giving comfort to the ARE's enemies. The result is that Cayce's research has proceeded for half a century now without much appreciation of the Cayce movement's forebears, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 7.
Edgar Cayce's readings are full of Masonic allusions- Cayce refers to Jesus's initiation through a series of degrees in Egypt. Besides the obviously Masonic concepts of initiation and degrees, turn-of-the-century Freemasonry often wrapped biblical themes in ancient Egyptian motifs, following the pattern set by Cagliostro. In addition, Cayce sees geometry as containing deep spiritual insights, a quintessentially Masonic notion. The letter "G" in the Masonic symbol is sometimes said to stand for "geometry," although American Masons usually interpret it as standing for "God." The Royal Arch degree, known as the "Knight of East and West," even uses the symbolism of the Book of Revelation in an initiatory context, as does Cayce, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 8.
During his lifetime, Cayce was widely assumed to have some connection with Spiritualism, as illustrated by this 1930 headline from the Baltimore Sun: "Spiritualist Research Aim of Atlantic University." (177) Observers of Cayce had good reason to associate him with Spiritualism, since Cayce's practice of medical clairvoyance was known from the Spiritualist movement (Edgar Cayce would also subsequently claim to have become a reader of the “Akashic Records"), continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 9.
Like Blavatsky, Cayce, too would report being visited by a being wearing white robes and a turban. Several of Cayce's friends had an interest in Theosophy, including Arthur Lammers and Morton Blumenthal, and while awake, Cayce spoke before at least one Theosophical Society meeting (in Birmingham, Alabama), continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 10.
The Cayce readings refer to New Thought denominations from time to time; 3063-1 recommends "Divine Science, Unity, or Christian Science; provided they do not require that the body be kept from making those administrations for the physical and mental self." Except for Christian Science, Cayce appears to regard these movements favorably, without any of the qualifications which inevitably accompany his praise of other religious movements such as Spiritualism or Theosophy. Today, ARE functions bear more than a passing resemblance to New Thought services, and many ARE conferences and retreats are held in Unity churches and the like. A retreat jointly sponsored by Unity and ARE was held at Unity Village in 1996 after several previous ARE events. (Charles Thomas Cayce met his eventual wife, Leslie Goodman Cayce, at just such an occasion.) The ARE Library has acquired the Metaphysical Society of San Francisco, established by Homes of Truth founder Annie Rix Militz, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 11.
The outlines of the "proto-New Age" should be clear enough now. Around the turn of the century, several spiritual leaders and movements whose teachings mixed themes from Spiritualism, Theosophy. New Thought, and alternative health. They emphasized reincarnation, astrology, and psychic phenomena and spoke of Atlantis, ancient Egypt, the Essenes- and Jesus's Journey to India. They endorsed alternative health practices (often naturopathic ones). They accepted a view of human anatomy which merged the chakras and nadis of Indian lore with the glandular and nervous systems of the Western fore. Many (though by no means all) 'incorporated racist or anti-Semitic beliefs into their spiritual systems. It is here that we should take for Cayce's closest theological relatives.-Despite Cayce's reluctance to endorse it, the teachings of The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 12.
Cayce's psychological or spiritual interpretation of the fourth dimension and the explanation was given, consistent with Ouspensky's explanation in Tertium Organum. Although Cayce's division of human nature and the universe into three levels seems natural, it represents a departure from most other Western esoteric traditions and comes closest to that of Rudolf Steiner, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 13.
Apart from pulp fiction which, as we described, also led to Scientology, there is an earlier precursor that also might have inspired the ancient astronaut theory first popularized by the "Occult Science" of H.P. Blavatsky, who wrote in her widely sold book "The Secret Doctrine" (which claimed to reveal "the origin and evolution of the universe and humanity itself") that already during the time of "Atlantis" there were flying machines and that knowledge of such machines "was passed on" to later generations in India. Similarly, the founder of today's top-rated Waldorf schools Rudolf Steiner, also claimed that the Atlanteans had aircraft that had steering mechanisms by which they could rise above mountain ranges.
In the perpetual motion milieu, frauds who have appealed to occultist thinking have abounded. For example, from 1873 until he died in 1898, John E. W. Keely of Philadelphia promoted a mysterious motor that ran on "etheric force" derived from the "disintegration of water." He raised millions from financiers and the public for his company on the strength of his demonstrations of such phenomena as musical notes causing weights to rise and fall. Of these performances, which had a kinship to séances, he remarked, "I am always a good deal disturbed when I begin one of these exhibitions, for sometimes if an unsympathetic person is present, the machines will not work." Theosophists of the age admired him for combining "the intuitions of the seer with the practical knowledge of mechanics."
Rudolf Steiner firmly believed in and confirmed his own so-called clairvoyance the reality of the Keely phenomena to next claim to e able to duplicate Keely through his own Clairvoyantly as described in the article "From the Keely engine to the Strader machine. Except as Wouter Haanegraaf clearly demonstrated, Steiner's clairvoyance was based on 'imaginative fantasy.' Continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 14.
The readings claim that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were affiliated with an Essene community based on Mount Carmel, which was a continuation of a "school of the prophets" begun by Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, and ultimately Melchizedek (254-109). The Essenes are not mentioned in the Bible. Yet Several occult gospels confirmed that Jesus had been a member of the Essenes and the Great White Brotherhood.
The notion that Jesus had spent his "lost years" wandering Asia by no means originated with Cayce. Its first proponent seems to have been the Russian war correspondent Nicholas Notovitch (1858-c. 1916), who describes his travels in British India in work entitled La Vie Inconnue de Jesus-Christ (The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ), published in 1894. But as we pointed out early on is seen to be a fraud. Continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 15.
79. Edgar Cayce, "My Life and Work", in Jeffrey Furst, Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus, p. 394.
80. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business,p. 159.
81. Ibid., p. 159.
82. Ibid., pp. 160-161.
83. Ibid., p. 176.
84. Ibid., p. 196.
85. Ibid., p. 253.
86. Ibid., p. 257.
87. Former conference manager Rebecca Ghittino explains that psychics offering to use their ability to guide others at ARE conferences are evaluated by several staff members. The evaluation consists of the psychic giving readings for the staff members, whereupon the staff members decide if their readings seem helpful.
88. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 165: cf. Mary Ellen Carter, My Years With Edgar Cayce, pp. 135-137.
89. Harmon Bro on p. 29 of Why Edgar Cayce Was Not a Psychic writes: "The act of copyrighting work by a person who did not seek that status in his lifetime, and gave away copies of much of his work without restriction, is illegal, as a firm of copyright attorneys has pointed out in an expensive brief."
90. Phillip Lucas. "The Association for Research and Enlightenment: Saved By the New Age" in Timothy Miller (ed.). America's Alternative Religions.
91. Of these, A Course in Miracles (1975), channeled by New York psychiatrist Helen Cohn Shucman, seems to have made the most inroads into the Cayceans' natural market. The Course boasts several significant marketing advantages over the Cayce material. To begin with, its author is said to be Jesus Christ. Its language is usually prettier and more comprehensible than that of the Cayce material, and its New Thought-oriented teachings are designed for general application (as opposed to the Cayce readings, which are usually addressed to individuals). The three volumes of the Course are far more managable than the 14.306 extant Cayce readings. Finally, in some cities students of the Course have established full-fledged churches complete with Sunday morning services. A number of Cayceans are also students of the Course, and Course speakers have been featured at ARE conferences. At the same time, differences between the two systems have not escaped the notice of their respective supporters-- from the Caycean side, Harmon Bro and Ed Birchhaus attacked the Course at the 1992 ARE Congress, leading to furious debate in the wake.
92. Startingr in 1979 and 1980 the ARE experimented with free three-month trial memberships, $ 15 nine-month trial memberships, and direct mail solicitations through American Family Publishers (Ed McMahon). As a result, ARE membership rolls swelled to more than 100.000, although few of the new recruits renewed their membership. (Core, paid membership levels remained constant at about 25.000 to 30,000.) The costs and administrative burden for these programs were considerable, leading new CEO Edwin Johnson to end the practice over the objections of most of the board, especially by Gerald C. Madin (cf. his essay, "What is our membership strategy?" in Venture Inward,Jan/Feb 1994, p. 49) and Charles Thomas.
93. A. Robert Smith on p. 222 of About My Father's Business reports that PMS ran into financial trouble when the ARE board refused to agressively promote its products, fearing an FDA crackdown. In 1982, the company was bought by Samuel Knoll, who renamed it Home Health Products. Knoll reached an agreement with the ARE under which the ARE certified that the products sold did indeed follow Cayce's recommendations (several different types of product integrity were distinguished), sent catalogues to everyone on the ARE mailing list, and received royalties. In 1996 Home Health Products was purchased by the Darby Group, which has indicated that it will renew the ARE agreement when it expires in 1998. but only with respect to direct sales to consumers.
94. In 1992 AU received accreditation from something called the Distance Education and Training Council, which is not one of the regional accrediting bodies. AU literature points to the fact that the DETC's accrediting commission is "listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally-recognized accrediting agency" and "a recognized member of the Council on Postsecondary Education." Former AU administrative director Kieth VonderOhe explained to me that the AU board had seized on DETC accreditation as a means of satisfying the requirements for a state charter, and insisted that this was not an attempt to deceive prospective students who might have lacked expert knowledge of the accreditation system. However, this would not explain why fundraising letters trumpeted that AU had achieved "accreditation" without specifying what kind, or why Venture Inward (Sept/Oct 1994, p. 5) similarly called AU "accredited" without qualification.
95. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 266.
96. Mark Thurston is a longtime ARE writer and administrator with a psychology Ph.D. from Saybrook. Nancy Eubel was brought on board as the chief financial officer. John Van Auken, a popular conference speaker on such subjects as kundalini or the end times, is the main executive in charge of the ARE Press.
97. Geoffrey Ahem on p. 100 of Sun At Midnight reports an estimated total world membership of all Theosophical societies as 34,421 (of which some 10.000 are Indians born into the tradition), compared with approximately 23,000 Anthroposophists.
98. The three programs are a "health and rejuvenation center" (translation: a Virginia Beach version of the ARE Clinic in Phoenix), perhaps as an expansion of the Reilly school: a Life Purpose Institute where people can learn their mission in life much as Cayce's inquirers did: and a School of Intuitive Sciences devoted to training people how to be psychic ("Visionary Long-range plan proposed." in Venture Inward 13no. 3. May/June 1997). The last two programs are apparently 'intended to replace elements of the Atlantic University curriculum now that the ARE and AU have had a falling-out. Harmon Bro notes that each of the three is a pet program of one of the planners.
99. In theory, the ARE could dramatically expand its membership by claiming even a tiny fraction of spiritual seekers 'in Latin America or Eurasia. However. the obstacles are formidable. ARE membership is too pricy for many of these markets. Headquarters is ill--equipped to handle inquiries in languages other than English, while local groups in foreign countries must either organize spontaneously or be developed through resource- intensive missionary programs. The ARE has little experience organizing under conditions of serious governmental or church hostility. In many countries. the ARE's natural niche is already occupied by other organizations such as the Steiner groups in Western Europe, the Roerich groups in Russia. or the Kardec groups in Latin America. Most basically, almost everything that the ARE does is oriented toward the interests of middle-class white Americans. While medical remedies could be marketed easily enough. ARE culture as a whole (Including the Cayce myth itself) Is as American as Caodaism is Vietnamese, and simply lacks a compelling basis for non-Americans to adopt it.