Study groups have been asked to "pass the basket" from the very beginning. Esther Wynne's manuals stipulate that a "free-will offering" be collected to defray the cost of outreach, and suggest using the money to start a small library of ARE books, sponsor public lectures, distribute literature, finance the expenses of ARE writers, or support other special projects. (119) 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. Another group kept a kitty into which contributions could be made on the initiative of individuals present, which seems to have happened once or twice a year. Still, another did not appear ever to collect any money. Theoretically, "One-half of the receipts should be sent quarterly to the Association Headquarters at Virginia Beach," and the rest should go to charities chosen by the group as a whole. (120) (The bookmark's reference to discussing "opportunities" refers partly to this practice and partly to good deeds of a nonmonetary nature.) ARE study group coordinator Jim Dixon expressed some frustration with the reluctance of many study groups to support his department financially since those funds are used to mail information and start-up material to new study groups. Solicitation from the ARE itself (as opposed to one's study group) is separate and takes the form of annual or semi-annual mass mailings. Their tone ranges from the businesslike to the evangelical: and in this connection, I cannot resist mentioning, a recent letter from John Van Auken which announces that 1998 may turn out to be the year of Christ's return and that ARE members can help make this event possible through their donations.

Beyond attending Study groups, many possibilities for further ARE involvement might be described. However, only one other ARE activity would be experienced by more than a fraction of devout Cayceans (121), and it is to this activity that I now turn. Each year in recent years, there have been offered about thirty conferences at ARE headquarters in Virginia Beach (averaging four to six days in length), about the same number of field conferences (which are sponsored by Virginia Beach but held elsewhere), and more than a hundred region-sponsored programs (which however tend to be much shorter, lasting either a day or a weekend). These conferences variously call to mind quasi-academic gatherings to present papers, group religious retreats, or New Age fairs such as the tile Whole Life Expo. Perennial conference topics include psychic experience and psychic guidance, holistic health, reincarnation, death, career choices, relationship issues, hypnotherapy training, 1998 and the millennium, meditation, divination systems such as astrology or tarot cards, and the Atlantis/Egypt conferences. Unlike study groups, these conferences are by no means free. In fact, they are quite upscale, although a limited number of partial scholarships are available for some conferences. During 1997 tuition alone was typically around $300 for a four-day headquarters conference and $600 for a six-day conference (prices varied considerably), with ARE members receiving a small discount. The lowest-priced headquarters conference was the annual ARE Congress ($25. formerly free), while the most expensive event was "Health, Rejuvenation, and Wellness Week" ($1500 members; S1540 nonmembers) because participants would receive services from medical doctors as a part of the program.

The standard pattern in ARE conferences is to have morning. Afternoon, and evening lectures, with guided meditations incorporated into them. Early-morning exercise and meditation sessions are usually offered daily, and fun-type activities such as parties and games may also be scheduled during longer conferences. Special programs for children and youth are often offered as an adjunct to the larger conferences. Conferences at Virginia Beach generally feature at least two and possibly many more speakers, while about two-thirds of the field conferences and region-sponsored events feature one speaker only. Regional conferences such as the semiannual conference at Asilomar, California, sometimes substitute for a lecture a choice of "workshops" in which local ARE members give presentations, in imitation of the simultaneous lecture format of the Whole Life Expo. Some conferences organize "small groups" or "sharing groups" consisting of around ten conference attendees plus a facilitator to provide a degree of interactivity. After all, for many Cayceans, one of the chief attractions of ARE conferences are the opportunity to meet other Cayceans. So practices like these fill a felt need.

Insofar as the Cayceans alter the decor of their conference environment, it will be in the direction of liberal Protestant or New Age trappings. For example, the Asilomar organizers hang colorful banners depicting the night sky, rainbows, a flaming pyramid, a lotus, crosses, angels, doves, the Holy Grail, and several heavenly figures who are probably meant to represent Christ. Corporate sponsorship is not solicited, and commercial activity at conferences is more likely to take the form of the sale of ARE books, tapes, incense, oils, and herbs; the production of astrological charts; professional massage; the placement of information tables with stacks of pamphlets for various ARE programs; and the auction of donated items.

Who is chosen to speak at ARE conferences? By my count, out of 65 individual speakers at all 1997 headquarters conferences, 23 were well-known ARE people, 30 were prominent New Age figures (usually authors) from outside the ARE, and another 12 were miscellaneous professionals. Many of the ARE people spoke at more than one conference, so their total representation was greater than these figures suggest. Rebecca Ghittino, who until recently served as ARE conference director, explains the topic is chosen first, then the participants. The subjects would be evaluated according to whether they are "of interest to people now" and are "topical to the readings." (This last criterion is interpreted broadly enough to include a wide variety of spiritual perspectives.) Then Ghittino would ask herself, "who is good in that field," with intuition also playing a part in her selection. Ghittino does not think that name-recognition plays so important a role in her selection as I suppose, and points out that one of her most popular speakers, John Van Auken- was relatively unknown before she began spotlighting him. Kieth VonderOhe, her successor, describes much the same procedure but adds that since Ghittino's tenure ARE conferences have faced more competition. forcing organizers to pay more attention to factors such as name-recognition. As for speakers at field conferences and region-sponsored programs (whose contents are chosen by other people), these appear to be roughly evenly divided between familiar and unfamiliar names. As a general rule. The fewer the number of speakers, the more likely they are to be primarily ARE figures. All told, outsiders and Cayceans alike might be forgiven for concluding that the pinnacle of the Caycean spiritual path is to either write a New Age book or go to work for the ARE.

Even those Cayceans who never visit Virginia Beach (as most probably do not) will find constant references to it in ARE literature. It would therefore be fitting to describe this Caycean Vatican, this axis MundiThe ARE headquarters are located somewhat north of a three-mile boardwalk fined with expensive hotels and tacky tourist shops (there are dolphins in the ocean); just south of an army base, Fort Story (the town's signature lighthouse is located on its premises); and adjacent to Seashore State Park, euphemistically known as a wetland. Other major local attractions include a marine science museum and a center and university founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson. The ARE grounds themselves are unremarkable. Picture a square parking lot with its eastern border bounded by Atlantic Avenue (and a block away, the ocean). On the other side (i.e., west) of this parking lot, the three-story Hospital Building sits on top of a hill. Painted in the blue-and-white of ARE stationary or perhaps Jesus's robes (the building was originally brown), it houses most ARE offices as well as the Reilly School of Massotherapy. Facing the north side of the parking lot is the two-story Library Building, whose modem style would blend into that of many community colleges. Besides the library itself, it houses the ARE Bookstore, ECF offices, two auditoriums, and a meditation room. Cayceans may be interested to know that I dreamed of the interior of this building, including its spiraling staircase before I ever went there. The comer between the two buildings is a meditation garden and the rather nondescript Esther Wynne Building (which houses Membership Services and the ARE Press). Each day visitors are given free tours. Introductory lectures on various topics and an opportunity to test their ESP through an electronic Zener-card machine.

We personally tend to think of "the Beach" in terms of the various people I met there. In this light, I should mention that I found most of the ARE higher-ups to be quite approachable (Charles Thomas, for example, answers his own phone) even though many Cayceans tend to view them as "stars," or that not everyone who approaches thein is entirely sane. At the same time, there is a darker side to the Beach which a casual tourist may not encounter. Still, most people working there acknowledge namely the byzantine and incestuous politics. The nature of the ARE and its affiliates is that decisions are rarely discussed, arrived at, or explained openly. Personal connections are typically decisive in determining what projects will be supported, whose views will be publicized, who will be hired or invited onto the board. The ubiquitous internal gossip is probably an important means of communication, not to speak of self-preservation, by those whose careers depend on maintaining good kuan hsi. The resulting rumor-mill can verge on the bizarre. At one point, we were told of recently-discovered documents supposedly implicating former board chairman Gary Christie and/or former CEO Edwin Johnson in a plot to turn the ARE over to the Moonies. (122) Notwithstanding the evident absurdity of the rumor (and those who think it even remotely plausible should read the preceding note), I am told that it was spread by ARE board members, whose closed and minute-less meeting format has apparently been known to encourage unbridled discussion of persons not present.

ACCORDING TO SOME, the ARE/ECF board is self-perpetuating and has become dominated by a few key personalities. (Trustees serve for one-year appointments that are usually renewed for five years, after which they must leave the board for at least one year.) While the ARE makes a great show of soliciting nominations for the board, as often as not, the board already knows who will be selected before the call for nominations goes out. (New board members are typically known to sitting trustees through ARE activities such as regional work.) The blame for the ARE's lack of democracy must be placed squarely on Cayce himself, who insisted on having board members selected or approved by the readings and allowed an ANI prospectus to specify that "No class of membership possesses the privilege; of the vote." Self-perpetuating boards are not unusual among charities or research organizations, not to mention businesses (and Cayce's psychic activity was, after all, a family business on which the Cayce's depended for their livelihood). Even the closed nature of the board's proceedings is common enough in those spheres. However, given the ARE's Southern Protestant roots-where a high degree of openness and church democracy is the norm-the ARE's politics must be considered regressive. Individual ARE members periodically call for the ARE to democratize. Still, many points out the logistic difficulties associated with having some thirty thousand members elect a board from among candidates they know little about. Of course, the mere existence of democratic mechanisms would not necessarily lead to a more enlightened institutional culture, again as illustrated by many Southern Protestant churches. 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. Meanwhile, the Baha'is are even more geographically diffused than the Cayceans and manage to govern themselves through an elected hierarchy of local and national assemblies. I should add that despite their vastly greater ethnic diversity, the Baha’is are much more united and organized than the Cayceans; that their system avoids reliance on individual leaders and encourages the active participation of ordinary Baha'is to a remarkable degree; and that these democratic gains are somewhat offset by a religious culture which anathematizes serious dissent. Less centralized but equally participatory religions include the Quakers, most neo-Pagans, and many communitarian groups. At the other extreme lie top-down but nonprofit religions such as Roman Catholicism and the so-called "client religions" (often New Age or psychological in nature), which deal with followers almost exclusively on a fee basis. The ARE lies more toward this end of the participatory spectrum, although elements within it (such as study groups) have had power devolved to them.

 

C. Selected variations

So far, we have discussed a few ARE-sponsored activities as if their numeric predominance made them normative. Let me now suggest something of the diversity of Caycean practices. One can hardly get any more diverse than the Gathering, which I have been exploiting mainly for its shock value as an example of the more outrageous fringes of the Cayce movement. However, once one overcomes the fact that its members believe themselves to be in regular contact with space aliens. And that the nine core members pool their income. they seem like remarkably normal people--sincere, articulate, idealistic, and open to other points of view. Some of their practices reveal the group's Caycean roots. Every day at 5:00 A.M. before shuttling off to their jobs in Charlottesville, core members meet in an upper room of their house for morning devotions. Before entering the sanctuary, they remove their shoes and don white sashes, yarmulkes, and Jewish prayer shawls. Seating themselves cross-legged, they begin by chanting psalms for perhaps ten minutes- Then, one of them celebrates the eucharist; after this comes several exercises which Cayceans will find familiar: breathing exercises in which one nostril is used at a time; neck-rolls (although Cayceans may be startled to see them synchronized); ten minutes of silent meditation; followed by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-Third Psalm. Unusual given the Cayce movement's usual Protestant trappings is the Gathering's inclusion of the Hail Mary in the service.

Cayceans may challenge the appropriateness of my including the Gathering in a description of the Cayce movement. especially since that group now focuses on Ringrose's readings rather than Cayce's. I admit the difficulty but point out that the usual boundaries conceal as much as they reveal. Many Cayceans (including some highly-placed in the movement) have sought readings from other psychics, whose teachings inevitably differ from Cayce's on some points. Several ARE administrators have been quite open in recommending certain contemporary psychics to me, and more than one well-known Caycean has given Caycestyle readings himself. It seems that like many religions. They ARE as an institution is more open to claims of subordinate spiritual experiences that bolster its worldview and social structure than to claims of independent experiences that modify ARE perspectives or threaten to divert power away from it. When members of one New York City study group apparently achieved the psychic benefits hinted at in ARE literature but failed to subordinate its insights to the Cayce movement, the Gathering results.

The mission of the Glad Helpers healing prayer group is a good example of the opposite tendency since it assumes the reality of certain paranormal events (i.e., the efficacy of intercessory prayer) but restricts their expression in a way that subordinates them to the ARE worldview rather than risks them blossoming into independent revelations. Unlike the ARE, the Glad Helpers are not an open membership group. Participants join in prayer weekly in the ARE meditation room (or in their homes in the case of those who live far away). Like the similar organization Silent Unity, pray for the names on a long prayer list and a detailed itemization of international trouble spots. During meditation, those present are offered the opportunity to receive healing through the laying on of hands. Several people who the Glad Helpers have approved offer themselves as channels of healing by standing behind empty chairs, while those in need of healing take those seats. Both healer and receiver silently attempt to open themselves up to spiritual forces. After that, the receiver sits down and is replaced by another person until everyone who seeks a turn has had one. This healing ritual has spread to several other Caycean groups,, including the Logos Center and the ARE Camp.

By any measure,, healing is a major emphasis of the Cayce movement. Of the several Cayce organizations headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, two are medical clinics, while the third (the Logos Center) also offers medical care. The ARE Clinic was begun by William McGarey (an M.D.) and Gladys Taylor McGarey (an M.D./homeopath) in 1970, partly for research purposes and partly to provide a place where Cayceans could go for Cayce-oriented medical care. With the divorce of the co-founders in 1990, Dr. Gladys left the ARE Clinic to found the Scottsdale Holistic Medical Group. Both clinics are family practices whose patients are not necessarily Cayceans. However, they will usually be attracted to holistic health (perhaps because they have found traditional medicine ineffective for their complaints). Both McGareys agree that they ARE Clinic hews more closely to Cayce's health recommendations. In contrast, the Scottsdale group uses elements drawn more broadly from across the spectrum of alternative medicine. However, even the ARE Clinic makes use of non-Caycean alternative therapies such as acupuncture and biofeedback. At the ARE Clinic, patients with "serious or chronic" conditions are encouraged to undergo the "Temple Beautiful" program (named for a comprehensive healing institution in Cayce's Egyptian readings), a seven- or eleven-day residential program in which various holistic treatment modalities and lifestyle modifications are combined with counseling, meditation, and spiritually-oriented workshops.

Several chiropractors affiliated with the Logos Center also offer Cayce-oriented health care, who also practice other techniques, including "Neuro-Emotional Complex Therapy" (whatever that may be) and various naturopathic approaches. Still, the Logos Center does not have just one function any more than the ARE does. Besides the chiropractors, the center houses a New Age bookstore and hosts speakers and study groups (including both ARE and A Course in Miracles groups). For some time, founder Herbert Puryear envisioned Logos as an educational institution. calling it "Logos World University." While this apparently did not take a "Logos Church," which Puryear started in an attempt to secure First Amendment freedom of religion protection for the center's alternative medical products, it has taken on a life of its own. About a hundred people were present for a Sunday service with Christian metaphysical or New Age trappings when I visited. Photocopied extracts from the Cayce readings were passed out along with the hymns, and a Glad Helpers-style healing service followed the main service. Before the service, Puryear had led a study group devoted to the Aquarian Gospel. Because we observed the ARE board of trustees, I was intrigued to learn that the Logos Center's board members are selected by "the information." Further inquiry revealed that "Anne Puryear channels the information." A professional psychic. Anne receives spirit messages from a son who committed suicide and has written a book about this experience (Stephen Lives!).

The Pilgrim Institute, another multifaceted entity founded by Cayce dissidents, describes itself as

…a small non-profit center for research, graduate-level education, and publication in spirituality and culture, located at Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where it was founded in 1974. It is governed by a national board of trustees who are church members of various traditions. (123)

To the casual observer, the main purpose of the Pilgrim Institute may appear to be to further various projects of its co-directors, June and Harmon Bro. However, perhaps several dozen other people are involved with it to varying degrees. (How Harmon Bro's recent death will affect the Institute is unclear in this writing.) Its "publication" has consisted mostly of articles or progress reports by Harmon and must have quite a limited distribution. Harmon's video and audiotapes are also produced and sold there, and the Institute stocks several spiritual books favored by the directors. The above passage's mention of "graduate-level education" refers primarily to a master's program in "depth education of adults," which the Bros organized for Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its curriculum emphasizes Jungian studies, world religions, and selected spiritual practices (meditation, dream analysis, and small group Work). (124). Doctoral and post-doctoral researchers may also apply to become fellows of the Institute and study directly under its auspices. "Research" refers not only to this but also to a "prayer guidance research project" in which several Christian ministers and their spouses attempt to give Cayce-style readings for those in need of medical or nonmedical aid. Recipients must be members of a church, synagogue, or the like-- and have access to a minister or rabbi, chiropractor or osteopath, psychotherapist, and medical doctor. Following Cayce's example, emphasis is laid on the motivation of the inquirer. No claims of the program's medical efficacy are made-rather, the program is intended to research this question-but the ministers involved are cautiously optimistic.

Atlantic University is the most well-known attempt by Cayceans to establish an educational institution. As a full undergraduate program complete with a football team, its original incarnation lasted about a year and a half (from the fall of 1930 to the end of 1931). In the 1970s, the name "Atlantic University" was revived for a series of glorified conferences. In its present form, AU accepted its first students in 1985 and (after receiving a license from Virginia) awarded its first degrees in 1990. The sole degree offered is an M.A. in something called "Transpersonal Studies," conceived as a blend of transpersonal psychology with various other subjects of interest to spiritual seekers. Anyone with a bachelor's degree may be admitted to the program, which in 1997 cost about S500 per course or S1500 per semester. Most students take most of their classes by correspondence, although a few residential courses have been offered at ARE headquarters (some of them piggy-backed with conferences). Besides an introductory class, AU's core curriculum consists of "Religious Traditions East and West"; "Origin and Destiny of Human Consciousness" (i.e., the evolution of consciousness as described by writers like Ken Wilber, Erich Neumann, and Rianne Eisler); "Spiritual Philosophies and the Nature of Humanity" (which compares Cayce to two other similar modern figures such as Gurdjieff and Steiner, or Jung and Montessori); and "The Inner Life" (which introduces students to the practice of meditation and dream analysis). Other classes emphasize creativity and the arts, archetypal studies, or the cultivation of psychic abilities. (125). Course requirements are typically low (e.g., five-page reflection papers), and the qualifications of the professors are often marginal or in dimly related fields. (126)A survey of some thirty-odd masters theses accepted to date reveals wide variations in quality. Many students have made valiant and worthy efforts, often producing theses the length and quality of dissertations; others should have never had their theses considered, let alone accepted. I would estimate that about two-fifths of the theses probably deserved to be accepted, another two-fifths clearly did not, and I am undecided about the remainder. The major problem is that thesis topics are all over the disciplinary map and have included everything from Brazilian spiritism to sports medicine to early childhood education to the Noachian deluge. Either the handful of professors who have consented to judge all of these diverse subjects are polymathic geniuses, or the program is ill-defined.

AU had just added even more subjects to its already full plate when a rift developed between AU and the ARE. Apparently, some ARE board members have long faulted AU for insufficiently emphasizing Cayce in its curriculum, in what some feel to be a pointless attempt to curry favor with regional accreditation authorities (pointless because Cayce-oriented studies were Atlantic University's raison d’etre). In 1996 AU president Jerry Cardwell died unexpectedly after only a few years in office. When the AU board finally agreed on his replacement a year later, they chose Thomas Wallace, a candidate with no particular ties to Cayce or the ARE. The ARE board objected and demanded a majority of seats on the AU board for their own appointees to forestall future disagreements. The AU board refused, prompting the ARE to make good on its threat to sever its relationship with AU and evict the nascent university from its premises. Some observers blame these developments on the personalities of certain individuals; others say that the conflicts themselves were primary. At any rate, Atlantic University moved out of the ARE Library Building a few months later (in September of 1997). This writing appears intent on continuing its present course independent of the ARE.

The ARE Camp is located in Rural Retreat, Virginia (near Wytheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains), surrounded by a state forest and a tree farm. To call the facilities "primitive" hardly begins to capture the camp's intentionally rustic charm. Each summer, several coeducational children's camps, several family camps, and an adult camp. Although at times there have been complaints of sexual abuse.

Compared with other camps the cost is quite reasonable. Most camp activities are of the sort that could be found at any camp--games. Hikes, Handicrafts, folk songs, and square dances. Cayce is not overly stressed since many of those who attend are not particularly interested in Cayce but were brought (or sent) thereby Caycean family members. At the same time, many of the camp's operating principles assume Caycean perspectives:

The camp's "lawnchair exclusion principle" stipulates that no one is nagged to attend any of these activities at the family and adult camps. Although I am told that different sessions have different atmospheres, the ambiance of Family Camp seems to owe as much to the 1960's counterculture as the New Age movement, possibly owing to the orientation of several of its organizers. I met several people who had attended the camp as children and returned years later (often for the same session) with spouses or children in tow. I wish I could convey something of the camp's spirit of cultivated goofiness. In that spirit, I reproduce the following jewel of Caycean hymnology, Which may double as a fitting summation of the Cayce movement in general:

"Turning ARE" [sung to the tune of "Turning Japanese"]

1) I held a crystal: I had a dream
You were so lucid; I had to scream.
And you told me not to eat
Lots of sugar and red meat...

[Chorus] I think I'm turning ARE, I think I'm turning ARE,

I really think so.
I think I'm running ARE. I think I'm turning ARE,
I really think so.
No gum, no candy, no soda, no TV.,
No flush toilets are found at ARE camp.
Everyone around me is meditating,
Even the garden is vegetating,
Edgar... Oh, oh-oh, Edgar...

2) I meditated: my mind was clear,
I dreamed of Genie, and she was there,
And now I'm hopin' and a-praying.'
That my vision will be stayin'... [Chorus]

3. I hear a ringing inside my ears. 
Someone is singing, but no one's here. 
And now there's clearly no disguising 
That the kundalini's rising... [Chorus] 

[Fade away to the baseline of "Arr-ee-omm, Arr-ee-omm"]

 

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

Cayce's ability (whatever its nature) to effortlessly absorb books' contents makes it seem inevitable that Cayce would have attempted to acquire religious knowledge in this way. The day after he arrived in Hopkinsville, Cayce searched for a town-based job and found one with E.H. Hopper & Son Bookstore, which from 1874 to 1913 also housed Hopkinsville's collection of public library books. There "seemed to be something appealing" about the bookstore, and Cayce recalls that "the several years I remained there seemed to be the stepping stones: yea. even the door to life itself." without explaining why, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 1.

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

119 Esther Wynne, "Study Group Organization" (1937 manual). From the ECF archives. Cf. the 1947 "Program for Group Study with the Association for Research and Enlightenment Incorporated." p. 7. from the same source.

120. 1971 ARE Handbook, p. 8.

121. According to the 1991 Member Survey, at 100 respondents, 25,0% had attended conferences. However, the same level of respondents also produced the information that 67,0% were male, a result so wildly out of touch with ARE demographics to suggest disregarding the information about conference attendance.

122. How could intelligent people believe that ARE board members would willingly yield hard-won turf to a religion to which none of them actually belong? The basis for the rumor appears to be that Johnson is experimenting with various operating models for the board (today, he likes to cite Rudolf Steiner's threefold model and the Carver model) contacted the spiritual teacher of an Alice Bailey group called the Human Service Alliance (HSA). The HSA offered to send several people to sit in on the ARE board. Although this was never done, when the board failed to renew Johnson's contract, he mailed to each trustee a packet containing communications he and Christie had received from the HSA teacher. Since Johnson's wife had worked with the Moonies twenty years before (but is not a member herself), and since that church's full, official name is the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of Christianity (with the first three words often abbreviated, coincidentally, to "HSA"), some Cayceans feared the worst.

123. From a 1996 Pilgrim Institute application form.

124. "Curriculum in Depth Education for Adults: Content, Evaluation, and Administration" (1994-95). Pilgrim Institute in association with Leslie College, Cambridge, MA.

125. Atlantic University 1995-1996 Academic Catalogue.

126. Of the four full-time faculty members in 1997, Raye Mathis has a master's degree in social work plus some studies at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Robert Danner, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, has a doctorate from an unaccredited university and works on a D.Min. Douglas Richards has a Ph.D. in zoology. Henry Reed, whose Ph.D. in psychology is from UCLA, would seem to have the best paper qualifications; unfortunately, my eavesdropping on two of his classes suggested serious academic shortcomings. Other Instructors during 1997 included Kieth VonderOhe (a United Church of Christ minister with an M.Div.), Greg Deming (an artist with an M.F.A.). and David McMillin (who has a masters degree in clinical psychology ). If this seems like a strange assortment, remember that in the 1980's the ARE drafted nearly every available Caycean with a graduate degree to teach for AU.

 

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