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. On an individual level, the ideal Caycean lifestyle would theoretically include meditation, prayer, dream analysis, Bible study, charity, the formulation and application of ideas, maintaining a positive attitude, exercise, massage, regular eliminations, and observance of a complex body of dietary restrictions. In this section, however, I feel it would be more illuminating to focus on practices typically encountered at group functions to more realistically convey what participation in the Cayce movement is actually like.
The New Age is sometimes called a bookstore religion, and New Age books are clearly a typical way of learning about Cayce and the ARE for the First time. (100) Suppose that one has just read a Cayce book and finds its teachings attractive. There are two immediate possibilities for further involvement: joining the ARE and/or participating in a Cayce study group. Although they ARE readily sends inquirers information about both, these are really two distinct choices, since many study group participants are not on the ARE rolls, while many ARE members are not active in a study group (perhaps because their town or region lacks one). (101)
There is not much to ARE membership per se. As of 1997, three types of membership were available:
Associate member scholarships are available for those with financial needs. This price structure had remained stable since the 1930s when the ANI offered $15 "Associate" membership for those who had received readings before: $20 "Subscription" membership: $250 " Life" membership: and $ 1000 or more for " Endowment" membership. With membership came the privilege of requesting Cayce to give readings at $ 10 each. Today, the main benefits of ARE associate membership include subscriptions to The New Millennium and Venture Inward magazines (bi-monthly), assorted pamphlets, discounts on ARE conferences, access to ARE Library material by mail, and a membership card. The benefits of sponsoring membership are essentially the same, except that sponsoring members additionally receive three new releases from tile ARE Press over the course of each year of membership. New sponsoring members are also sent a copy of the Individual Reference File compiled by Gladys Davis Turner and Mae Gimbert St. Clair (1970). Life members receive all of the above, plus two permanent conference passes (on which, however, restrictions have begun to be placed, much like frequent flyer miles). As a side-effect of membership, one can also count on receiving catalogs for Home Health Products and the ARE Bookstore. In fact, I received six of the latter in a single year, again illustrating the central place of New Age books in the Caycean experience. Note that nearly all ARE membership benefits are also available to nonmembers for a price and that the phenomenon of ARE membership exists primarily through the mail. Some ARE leaders have expressed a desire to move away from the concept of ARE membership as essentially a package of products and services provided in exchange for money. However, it is not at all clear what else membership could conceivably mean unless the organization was to encourage its members to identify with it as with religion or else democratize in such a way as to give members some say in its direction. Neither of these is likely. As for the Cayce dissidents, none seem to offer anything like "membership" as conceived by the ARE, although they do maintain lists of supporters and other interested parties.
Apart from contacting Virginia Beach, information on local Cayce study groups may also be found in New Age directories or the bulletin boards of metaphysical bookstores. The ARE presently distinguishes between three principal varieties of study groups: (1) weekly Search For God groups, the oldest and most popular type: (2) weekly "Venture Inward" groups, which follow the same format but substitute other material in place of A Search For God: and (3) mutual interest groups, which meet monthly and focus on some particular specialized topic such as dreams. In 1990, the Northern California/Northern Nevada region boasted about forty Search For God groups, eight Venture Inward groups (including four devoted to A Course in Miracles, one variable-topic group and one each on angels, astrology, and healing), and seven mutual interest groups (including two variable-topic groups and one each for "economic healing," dreams, prayer healing, numerology, and a teenagers’ group).
Several printed sources profess to formulate or characterize the purpose of ARE study groups. The 1971 ARE Handbook states that.
An ARE Study Group is a group that is affiliated with ARE Headquarters Study Group Department and which holds to the ideals outlined in the Handbook with appropriate material based on the Edgar Cayce readings and/or where the study is based on the Search for God books. (102)
In another book from the same period. Worth Kidd itemizes some of the things which are meant to be excluded from the purview of ARE study groups:
It is not the purpose of an ARE group to function as an open-ended discussion group, a hypnotism club, a development group for mediumship or psychic phenomena, a contact point with astral bodies or spaceships. Nor is it a research club for ghosts, out-of-body experiences, palmistry, astrology, phrenology, card reading, crystal ball gazing, or any other prediction or fortune telling service. It recognizes the existence of extra-sensory perception but does not pursue it. Nor does ARE recommend or endorse anyone commercially involved in these fields. It does not promote a new religion, endorse or sponsor any causes--particularly political causes--and does not become allied with any other organizations, crusades, or movements. (103)
Earlier formulations reflect somewhat different concerns. For example, a 1947 pamphlet defined group study as "a cooperative method of studying and presenting the records of Edgar Cayce's clairvoyant readings." and also as "a plan for stimulating and directing the thinking of friends and neighbors toward metaphysical truths" as well as relating the Cayce material to "other records of truth."(104) A decade later. Esther Wynne wrote an article in The Searchlight characterizing ARE study groups as "an endeavor to make a careful study of how Jesus became The Way: and of how an individual may, by forgetting self--as he did--reach a consciousness of at-one-moment."(105) While such statements are noteworthy, it is unclear what authority any of them have ever carried since study groups are "congregationally" governed.
Anyone can start an ARE study group, whether or not one is an ARE member. The ARE will send interested parties a start-up packet when someone fills out a form declaring that they would like to form a new study group. The ARE will send notices to its members in the area once the study group starts meeting regularly. The ARE will give out their contact information to any new inquirers from that area. That is about the extent of the ARE's involvement. Study groups are theoretically free to follow whatever format they choose. However, I attended a group in San Francisco that was initially refused registration as an ARE study group (a mistake. according to study group coordinator Jim Dixon) because they wanted to focus on A Course In Miracles. When I met them, they agreed to use A Search For God to be put on the list. But eventually decided to switch to James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy, which like the Course they considered to be teaching, essentially the same thing as Cayce. On the other hand, the groups I attended in Phoenix and Virginia Beach followed almost all of the ARE's recommendations--partly (I surmise) out of conservativism, partly owing to a lack of better ideas. partly because following a standard format provides a better sense of connection with the Cayce movement as a whole, and partly because the format honestly worked well for them.
Besides the official group study policies outlined in the ARE Handbook, the ARE's suggestions are incorporated into several handouts included in the study group start-up packet. For example, a rosary-card style bookmark entitled "Suggested Order: Search for God Study Groups" sets forth a recommended format for meetings along with the text of several important Caycean prayers: Cayce's Prayer of Protection," the Lord's Prayer, and the Twenty-Third Psalm (the last two in the King James Version). A checklist reprinted from the ARE Handbook is also included, and its details are Instructive:
1. Do you start on time?
2. Do you open with a prayer?
3. Do you read from the Bible?
4. Do you discuss dreams?
5. Do you study SFG for an hour?
6. Do you have disciplines?
7. Do all members report?
8. Does everyone take turns leading?
9. Do you keep on the subject?
10. Do you keep to SFG?
11. Do you relate to other ARE books?
12. Do all talk?
13. Do you discuss "opportunities"?
14. Do you meditate at each meeting?
15. Does everyone take turns leading meditation?
16. Do you have healing prayers?
17. Does the group have a prayer list?
18. Does everyone meditate daily?
19. Do you receive an offering?
20. Do you close on time?
I will refer back to this checklist in the course of my discussion of ARE study groups. Keep in mind that other handouts give slightly different instructions owing to the complex social and textual history of study group publications. (106) and that, in any case, not all Cayce study groups are equally concerned about following the ARE's diverse recommendations.
Generally, anyone is welcome to attend ARE study groups. Whether or not one is an ARE member. A one-page memorandum entitled "Ideals and Purposes of ARE Group Work" states that "the only requirement for group membership interests in researching the readings. desire to apply concepts from the readings in life's circumstances, and a desire to cooperate in group study." Even this is probably a stricter standard than most study groups actually demand. Nevertheless, many early groups were closed to outsiders (Study Group #41 limited itself to twelve members, in imitation of the twelve apostles), which is true of a few groups today. Since the ARE will only give out phone numbers, not addresses, there is little chance of a study group being visited by unwanted guests.
Visitors to ARE study groups can expect to find them meeting one evening a week in someone's living room (except in the few large cities with Cayce Centers), often the same person’s every week. The number of participants will typically range from four to twelve,(107) at least two-thirds of whom will be female. (108) These evenings are usually not family affairs. Children and teenagers are rare, while married people frequently attend without their spouses. (109) Most participants appear to be middle-aged or elderly, and with some regional exceptions, are mainly white. educated professionals. (110) No special effort is made to dress up. Participation is free.
They ARE also recommends that one person lead the proceedings and that leadership is rotated regularly. However, some groups may not bother appointing a formal leader for the evening. In contrast, others may look toward one person (typically the host or hostess) to perform that function on an ongoing basis, especially when volunteers are lacking. The leader of the San Francisco group I attended held that role permanently because group members acknowledged her as having well-developed psychic abilities. I have already mentioned Tom Ringrose, who led a faction of one New York City study group to reform itself into an apocalyptic UFO commune. Cayce himself seems to have anticipated the recognition of permanent study group leaders. A 1937 "Study Group Manual" written by Esther Wynne announces the tile creation of a "teacher training group," whose members must promise to attend their groups regularly and devote at least two hours per month to studying the material. In addition, the teacher should (a) "be a Christian" with Inner experience of the Father: (b) know the Bible, study group lessons, and "other principles of religious thought" as well as "have some knowledge of the opinions held by Ouspensky, Hudson, James, Kant, etc."(111) and (c) "know self." It is unclear whether such teachers were ever found, but by the 1970's the assumption that a single group leader would be desirable seems to have been abandoned in the wake of concern about "the tendency to lean on some teacher, master, or guru."(112) ARE literature also calls for a slate of elected officers such as a chairperson and secretary/treasurer,(113) although this recommendation does not seem to be commonly followed.
After a certain amount of socializing and inquiries after those who have not yet arrived, the leader for the evening (if there is one) will typically call the meeting to order by leading the others in prayer. The bookmark recommends that "business" be discussed in the proceedings for those few groups with no real business to discuss. Announcements of ARE or other New Age-type events may also be made at this time, and new participants introduced and welcomed. Following Cayce (262-100), the bookmark also recommends that study groups read from tile Bible, searching for ways to apply the passages encountered, and the Search For God workbooks suggest Bible passages to accompany the various Search For God chapter topics. Of course, a tile Protestant Christian Bible is meant, although Catholics and Jews are well-represented in ARE circles. Some study groups have mixed feelings about the Bible and consequently leave this part out, while others feel just as strongly about retaining the practice. The bookmark recommends discussion of dreams, but this seems to be commonly omitted. Although Cayce taught (and most Cayceans believe) that dreams are safe sources of spiritual guidance and can even preview future events, not everyone can bring themselves to inculcate the habit of writing their dreams down to remember them. Another factor to consider is that discussion of dreams can easily eat into the time allotted for other activities.
After these preliminaries. The first half of the evening will typically center on the group discussion of a text. Most but not all ARE study groups choose to discuss A Search For God. Why would some groups decline to use this material" To begin with, the writing style (drawn in equal measure from the Cayce readings and the King James Version of the Bible) is frequently impenetrable, nearly always stilted, and follows no discernable organizational structure. Moreover, the books are frankly Christocentric, and many of their topics (not to mention their pious tone) appear to have been drawn from the genre of prewar religious tracts. Study group participants with mixed feelings about mainstream Christianity may prefer to discuss angels, dreams, reincarnation. Atlantis, or the spiritual laws which govern the universe. Another factor to consider is that many groups will simply grow tired of it after many years of working with A Search For God. Meanwhile, the text's defenders argue that it possesses the significant virtue of focusing on fundamental issues of the spiritual path-living up to our ideals, respecting others, opening up to God--without getting sidetracked into esoteric details about it Atlantis or reincarnation. Furthermore, they say, few of us are likely to have truly mastered these principles or be incapable of benefitting from another reading of them.
Those groups that use A Search For God will usually have each person read a paragraph or two. Pausing after each passage for comments and discussion. At the same time, Cayce asked the members of Study Group #1 to stick with each topic until they had successfully incorporated its insights into their lives. The more usual practice is to remain with each chapter for the length of time it takes to read the material aloud and discuss it to the group's satisfaction. Application of the material is most often made on a week-to-week basis, using exercises (the "disciplines" mentioned in the bookmark) from a set of workbooks published by the ARE in the 1970s. For example, commenting on a line from A Search For God asks us to "replace our negative thoughts with positive ones." Thurston suggests the following:
Experiment: Work on relating to others with kindness. Especially focus on speaking kindly. Record those instances where you could replace an impulse to speak harshly or thoughtlessly with kind words. Record as well, without a sense of self-condemnation, those instances where greater kindness than you expressed would have been helpful. (114)
Most Cayce study groups devote considerable time to this type of practice, with participants reporting their experiences applying a given "experiment" during the previous week. (It is by no means uncommon for attendees to confess that they forgot to do it or to find that they cannot remember what the exercise was.) After reading further in A Search For God during the meeting, a new discipline will be agreed upon for the following week. K. Paul Johnson is convinced that the exercises are Gurdjieffian in nature, and Thurston does indeed have some spiritual roots in the Gurdjieff work. (115) However, the earliest mention of such exercises within the Cayce movement dates from Esther Wynne's 1955 Searchlight article (116), which lists a few for each Search For God chapter.
After about an hour of discussion and perhaps a short break, the rest of the evening will center around a period of meditation. Although the meditation itself only lasts about fifteen minutes (with lengthy prayers before and after), it is almost universally felt to be a crucial part of the proceedings. Consternation inevitably arises on those rare occasions where it must be omitted for some reason (for example, if the discussion lasts too long and people have to go home). Interestingly, some early study group meetings seem not to have included meditation, and Cayce himself seems to have preferred Christian prayer (although his attunement process while going into a trance might be considered "meditation"). Other early study groups expected their members to meditate every day at a commonly agreed time. (Cayce himself had asked his inquirers, wherever they were, to spend in prayer the hour in which their readings would be given.) Even though a few study groups still do this, today, the bookmark's suggestion that everyone "meditate daily" should be taken as more of a pious ideal than a reflection of common practice.
A Search For God recommends some form of preparation for meditation to place the meditator in a receptive mood. While [ have never known a study group to engage in ritual hand-washing or to ask members to abstain from sex (both of which are mentioned as possibilities in A Search For God), many will light candles, bum incense, do simple breathing exercises, roll their necks. Chant "ALIM" or "Arrr-see-ommm."(117) or play New Age music. Prayer is the most widely-used preliminary, and the bookmark recommends a particular sequence of prayers that is therefore often used. To begin with, each of the twenty-four chapters of A Search For God includes an "affirmation," and these are often rotated every month. For example, the "Cooperation" chapter (1: 24) suggests the following affirmation (which Cayce actually refers to as a "prayer." I Hugh Lynn having later ordered the change to New Thought terminology):
Not my will but Thine. O Lord, be done in and through me. Let me ever be a channel of blessings, today, now, to those that I contact. in every way. Let my going in, mine coming outs, be accord with what Thou would have me do, and as the call comes. "Here am I, send me--use me!" [from 262-3). cf. Luke 22:42. Isaiah 6:81
Next on the bookmark comes Cayce's mysterious "Prayer of Protection":
As we open ourselves to the unseen forces that surround the throne of grace, beauty, and might, we throw about ourselves that protection that is found in the thought of Christ. [Paraphrase of 762-3]
According to Cayce, spiritual practice makes one receptive to many inner voices, not all of which are equally worthwhile. Focusing on our ideals and weighing insights gleaned during meditation against them, less exalted voices can be tuned out. Accordingly, this prayer places participants under the "protection" of Christ, regarded by Cayce as the highest ideal. (Similarly conceived "prayers of protection" may be encountered in Unity churches.) The Lord's Prayer, which Cayce regarded as a prayer of cleansing for the seven charkas, is also recommended and commonly used. (Kidd adds. "Let's agree to say 'debts' to avoid confusion.")(118) Study groups have been known to occasionally suffer great controversy over whether such obviously Christian prayers ought to be omitted out of consideration for Jewish participants or retained out of fidelity to Cayce and/or Christ.
No particular instructions for meditation are usually given on the spot, and Cayceans may variously try to eliminate all thought from their minds, focus their minds on God or their ideals, or simply relax. The "Meditation" chapter of A Search For God views meditation essentially as a way of opening up to divine guidance. Meditation should be used in conjunction with prayer, the text advises, since "In prayer, we speak to God. In meditation, God speaks to us." Through prayer, we ask for cleansing, and through meditation, we are cleansed of "all that hinders the Creative Force from rising along the natural channels of our physical bodies to be disseminated through the sensitive spiritual centers in our physical bodies" (1: 6). Sometimes, A Search For God uses "flow of forces" imagery. The divine is conceived as a kind of internal river flowing through the subtle body: the process of meditation as removing obstacles to the flow of kundalini energies through the seven chakras. The chapter also uses "vibration" imagery, in which the goal is a radio-like "attunement" with the divine. Another source, the Suggested Meeting Format, explains that "During the silence, each person holds their attention on the affirmation and when the mind starts to wander, brings it gently back to the affirmation."
Participants usually remain seated in their chairs to meditate, although some may sit cross-legged on the floor on the floor (in an ordinary way, not in the lotus position). That the eyes should be closed appears to be taken for granted. Another widespread assumption is that the spine should be kept straight. Ostensibly to keep from blocking the flow of kundalini energy up the spine. Most often, the meditation is silent, although members of the San Francisco group were accustomed to having their leader guide them verbally in the style of a hypnotic suggestion ("With your feet flat on the floor, you feel grounded by healing earth energy…"). If the meditation is a silent one- it is usually brought to an end when the leader rings a little bell or simply begins reciting a prayer which others then join in.
The Twenty-Third Psalm is a common closing devotion. Often other prayers are included as well-- for example, the group in Virginia Beach would hold hands with each person around the table, saying in turn, "I pass the love and light to you. [name of next person]." At some point in the proceedings, intercessory prayers are typically offered on behalf of others known to group members. Some groups keep written prayer lists, while others invite those in attendance to say aloud the names of those in need. The group I attended in Phoenix used a similar pattern for prayers of petition. Going around the room, each person was offered a chance to pray for whatever they felt appropriate, while the others attempted to augment that person's requests with their own prayer energies. Adapting a practice common in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish services, an ARE handout also recommends that participants pray for "All absent members and those on their personal prayer lists." "The ARE, its members and activities." and "Other areas of Group concern, i.e., leaders of nations, troubled areas of the world, community concerns, etc." Meetings most frequently dissolve into a generous period of socializing and refreshments, during which Cayce's dietary recommendations are wantonly and unashamedly violated.
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.
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.
100. A 1991 Member Survey based on responses to a questionnaire in Venture Inward reveals that out of 1.948 respondents, 68,3 percent first heard about Edgar Cayce through a book, followed by 31.8 percent whose initial exposure came via a friend or relative. The figures for how members first heard of the ARE were 60,0 percent and 25,4 percent for the same two responses. Whatever its methodological failings, this survey is all we have.
101. The 1991 Member Survey found that out of 1.948 respondents. 32,2% had contacted an ARE study group in their area, while another 0,7% had started one. No Information 'is available as to how many study group attendees are ARE members.
102. 1971 ARE Handbook, p. 5.
103. Worth Kidd, Edgar Cayce, and Group Dynamics, p. 11.
104. "A Program for Group Study with the Association for Research and Enlightenment Incorporated" ( 1947), p. 1. From the ECF archives.
105. Esther Wynne, "Group study: Suggestions from the Edgar Cayce readings." Searchlight 7 no.9 (Sept. 1955). p. 3.
106. The first study group manual was "started" by Esther Wynne in January 1935. It was first published around 1937 after its contents were approved by the sleeping Cayce (262- 100- the manual itself is included as a supplement to that reading). A decade later, she wrote an article for Searchlight 7 no. 9. (Sept. 1955), which was republished two years later as A Handbook for Group Study with the Association for Research and Enlightenment (1957). This was the First ARE Handbook, major revisions of which were undertaken in 1964 and 1971. In the meantime, study groups were meeting, experimenting with different formats, and offering their own suggestions. Thus, a particular study group handout might have been inspired by any closely related sources.
107. P.7 of 1971 ARE Handbook suggests "two to ten": reading 254-96 gives ten as the upper limit.
108. The 1991 Member Survey respondents were, as a group, 67.8 percent female, with the remainder consisting almost entirely of males. Note that Venture Inward's readership is only loosely correlated with study group participation.
109. The 1991 Member Survey, at 1.948 respondents, found 51,29% were married (24.2% were single, 17,2% divorced, and 5,8% widowed), and only 25,2 percent had children under eighteen living at home.
110. The 1991 Member Survey, at 1948 respondents, found 7,5% with a total household income under $ 10.000 per annum: 12,5% with $ 10-20.000; 23,9% with $21-30.000; 15,6% with $31-40,000; 11.4% with $41-50.000: 9,8% with $51-65.000; 11,9% above $65,000; and $7,37% who did not answer the question. As for age, 6,0% were under 30; 25,3% were 31-40; 31,2% were 41-50; 17,6% were 51-60; 14,5% were 61-70; 5,0% were over 70; and 0,5% did not answer. At 100 respondents, 16,0% had a high-school education or less whereas 84,0% had had at least some college. Data on race was not collected.
111. The names of Ouspensky. (Thomson Jay) Hudson and (William) James frequently appear in the recommended reading lists because Cayce recommended books by all three authors. As for Kant, my best guess is that he was included because Hugh Lynn had to read him for a 1929/1930 course he took at Washington & Lee on the fourth dimension (his summary of which is preserved in the ECF archives) since several important early theorists on the subject were inspired by Kantian metaphysics.
112. 1971 ARE Handbook, p. 2 1.
113. e.g., 1971 ARE Handbook, p. 8.
114. Mark Thurston, Experiments in A Search For God. p. 4.
115. The fact that the Gurdjieff and Cayce movements each refer to themselves as "the Work" need not suggest any particular causal relationship. Not only Is an equivalent term (opus) well known in alchemy, which influenced both indirectly, but it is also found in the "theme song" of a women's group at Liberty Christian Church circa 1935, "To the Work" Major 1957: 25).
116. Esther Wynne, "Group study: Suggestions from the Edgar Cayce readings," Searchlight 7no.9 (Sept. 1955), p. 7.
117. Cayce refers to exercises "with the body seated IN what is ordinarily termed as Chinese or Japanese fashion, and with the chant that has long been a portion of the body--of the Ar-ar-r-r-e-e-e-o-o-o-m-m-m, in the deep breathing and the circular motions of the body" (275-45).
118. Worth Kidd, Edgar Cayce, and Group Dynamics, p. 32.