The nature of the ARE
At last, we are in a position to assess the nature of the Cayce movement in general and the ARE in particular. Fundamental is the question of whether the ARE is or is not a de facto religion. Institutional attitudes toward skepticism directed at the Cayce material are a closely related issue. To illustrate: if the ARE were something like a religion, then depending on the nature of the religion, it might be unrealistic to expect it to give voice to skepticism, any more than one would ask Vatican publications to provide equal space for atheism. Alternatively, if the ARE were closer to a research society (whether historical, medical, or parapsychological), it would be a very poor one to the extent that it favored believers over skeptics. If the ARE were something like a twelve-step organization or an alternative healthcare provider, we would not expect it to encourage either skepticism or explicit dogma since neither of these is likely to be perceived as having clear, practical relevance to the task of changing lives. Still another possibility is that the ARE is primarily a business, in which case its leaders would support whatever they thought would make money.
Officially, the ARE exists
to promote the study, application, and dissemination of the information contained in the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce and to help people change their lives for the better through the spiritual concepts in the Cayce readings.
Even if this statement were perfectly nonproblematic, this would not be the final word on the ARE's identity since subunits such as the study group program publish mission statements of their own which are quite different from this one.
Most decision-makers within the ARE actively resist suggestions to the effect that their organization is a church, denomination, or religion, for example, after my frequent slips of the tongue in which I absent-mindedly compare them with "other religions." (I take "church," "denomination," and "religion" to be interchangeable in this context- since the independence and organizational complexity of the ARE are not in dispute.) To the extent that ARE leaders admit they ARE to resemble a church, they usually rue this tendency. Yet, the ARE propagates a distinctive set of spiritual teachings and organizes spiritual practices (e.g., through study groups) for its members, who often draw from the organization a sense of belonging or spiritual identity. For this reason, the ARE is listed in Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, along with many other organizations with similar reservations about their inclusion. It is amusing to note that the Logos Center is devoted to a set of nearly identical perspectives to that which the ARE sponsors, yet does not shrink from identifying itself (or one of its components) as a church.
Much ARE literature, beginning with the readings themselves, encourages members to remain active within their own churches and synagogues, as Cayce did. (Cayce perhaps failed to anticipate that so many ARE members would not belong to any regular church.) One handout explains "Why the ARE is Not a Cult." Some of the reasons offered were:
- We encourage you to work in your own personal preferred church or religious organization. If it comes to a choice between ARE and your church, stay with your church.
- We do not encourage you to "identify with" ARE. Identify with the Christ principle.
- We encourage the comparative study, not just the study of one source or perspective.
- Membership in the ARE is based upon a wish to work with this information and support this work--not upon agreeing to a dogma or belief system. (127)
Some of Puryear's provisions seem to assume that if they ARE were a church, denomination, or religion, that would make it a "cult" in the popular pejorative sense. Is it automatically wrong to start a new church, denomination, or religion" Presumably, Puryear no longer thinks so now that he has left the ARE to establish the aforementioned Logos Center.
Conceptions of religion formulated with mainstream Western Christian institutions frequently prove inadequate when applied to movements from outside this tradition. While the task of defining the term "religion" is notoriously vexed, it seems clear enough that not all of what we normally take to be religious traditions demand the exclusive allegiance of their followers; expect adherence to a set of beliefs; conduct weddings or funerals; ordain clergy; organize rituals, or possess any other nameable characteristic that might serve to distinguish religions from non-religions. Thus, the ARE cannot legitimately avoid the label "religion" on any of these bases. Why then, would the ARE object to being called a religion? The original reason seems to have been to avoid offending members and prospective members who already belong to one of the many religious traditions that expect exclusive allegiance from their adherents. According to this, the ARE presents itself as something more similar to a parachurch organization (such as a prayer group or Bible study group) rather than an independent church 'in its own right. At the same time, much institutional resistance to the "religion" or "church" label seems to arise out of a widely-felt discomfort with the exclusivist positions of certain Christian groups, which ARE members are determined not to emulate. Some make the distinction between "religion" and "spirituality" in this connection. This may explain why the APE can officially deny that it is a religion. but largely take it for granted that it is a "spiritual organization."
What kind of spirituality is the ARE devoted to? Cayce's type of spirituality, of course, but this leaves substantial room for interpretation. Today, a certain amount of cultural conflict can be observed between the more conservative Cayceans, who tend to see Cayce as more reliable than other psychics, and Christianity as closer to the truth than other religions; and the more liberal Cayceans who typically view the Cayce material as one of many equally helpful sources of guidance, and the various religions as equal paths to truth. These are not two distinct camps so much as extremes along a spectrum that appears closely correlated with age (the older, the more conservative) and geography (the closer to San Francisco, the more liberal). Conservatives control ARE periodicals and the study group program; liberals control conferences and most of the regions.
Christian language and practices have held a privileged position within the Cayce movement for two reasons: First, most participants are oriented towards Christianity by their upbringing. If a study group consists of six Christians and one Jew, it will probably have six Christian prayers for every Jewish one-a situation more hospitable to the Christians than to the Jew. Second, the Cayce readings themselves make frequent use of Christian imagery. Kevin Todeschi thinks that ARE leaders would "shoot themselves in the foot" if they tried to downplay the Christian elements owing to a large number of Christian references in the readings but proposes reinterpreting them in terms of "oneness" 'to make them acceptable to people from other religions (an approach which he attributes to Cayce). Others profess to be open to adopting multireligious approaches but have never arranged for such approaches to be adopted. As a result, the Christian language has become the ARE's lingua franca. At the same time, since most Cayceans are also interested in other types of alternative spirituality, (128) the ARE has played host to everything from chanting Tibetan Buddhist monks to lecturers on UFOs (with whom Cayce writers enjoy a strange but friendly rivalry over matters Egyptological). Despite such variety, a certain perennialist outlook prevails in ARE circles which has it that all of these diverse ideologies at some level reflect the same truth. "Correlations" between Cayce and other systems are celebrated; serious conflicts are minimized or regarded as something of an embarrassment. The same holds for ARE-sponsored comparisons of Cayce and those whom I consider being his sources. (129)
I have been examining the Cayce movement’s attitude toward Christianity and other religions, but what about its attitude toward Cayce? Could the Cayce movement's veneration of Cayce be considered analogous to the reverence of "other religions" for their respective founders? Although Cayceans will usually deny this interpretation (and some will find it offensive), it so happens that certain crucial roles within the ARE are officially limited to believing Cayceans. Periodically, the combined ARE/ECF board of trustees places an announcement in Venture Inward soliciting nominations for new board members:
ARE Life and Sponsoring members may recommend candidates. A nominee must have been a life or sponsoring member for at least three years; have a background of organizational leadership experience; demonstrated a character and personal life representing spiritual ideals and purposes; is not. nor is their spouse a paid employee; has received personal help from applying the Cayce readings; and is nominated by five Life or Sponsoring members. (130)
While it makes sense for a church to limit board membership to believers in the religion or denomination in question, such a requirement seems wildly out of place concerning a research society or a business. Interestingly, the ARF/ECF board has limited applicants not only to religious believers but more specifically to those who are willing to affirm that they have "received personal help from applying the Cayce readings." While the board of Atlantic University has a similar requirement. It was not applied to AU presidential candidate Thomas Wallace was the proximate cause of the ARE/AU split. Ordinary ARE staff members do not seem to be officially subject to the requirement, except for counselors and cooks for the ARE camp, who, according to the application forms, must believe in a spiritual worldview "such as" that of the Cayce readings. The Glad Helpers have an implicit religious requirement for those who wish to serve as conduits for spiritual healing through the laying of hands. These must first apply to the group and be accepted before taking on this role during Glad Helpers prayer services. Again, Cayce must take the credit or blame for this situation-even rank-and-file member of the ANI were technically required to "have faith in the Divine, around the psychic manifestations of which the activities of the Association hinge." (131)
Skepticism toward the Cayce material has been articulated from time to time within ARE organs, but only on a limited basis. For example, Cayce's account of predynastic Egypt has often been criticized on archeological grounds; (132) his predictions of catastrophic earth changes have also been doubted, with at least four different strategies having been proposed for explaining how the Cayce material might still be considered reliable even if nothing happens as predicted 1998; (133)and the Christian content of the readings has been a point of considerable debate, with several articles devoted to the role and perspective of Jewish ARE members. (134) However, no serious dialogue ever arisen between believers and skeptics with respect to the Cayce material in general. When The Skeptical Inquirer printed an article purporting to debunk Cayce, (135) no Caycean organ took notice.
A. Robert Smith (editor of Venture Inward since 1984), Robert Grant (editor of The New Millennium from 1996 to 1997), and Rebecca Ghittino (former ARE conference director) all profess to be open to including more radical skeptical perspectives, but have never done so. (In all fairness, the question seems to have never come up before I raised it.) Kieth VonderOhe (the current conference director) correctly points out that skeptical speakers are simply not what conference attendees are looking for. The bookstore's mission statement dedicates it to promoting only books "based on or compatible with" the Cayce readings. The library contains a perfect collection of metaphysical and esoteric literature, including books by skeptics and others whose perspective is opposed to the ARE. (As an extreme example, the catalog lists Anton Szandor LaVey's Satanic Bible.) However, a book in the ARE library is much less likely to impact Cayceans than a book sold through the bookstore(136) or published by the ARE Press. While the ARE Press has redesigned its publication criteria three times in the past five years and has not had a consistent policy as to whether a skeptical work might be considered, its books have invariably supported the Cayce material.
Since many religions are more interested in the behavior than the beliefs of their followers, we should consider whether the Cayce movement prescribes any particular practices or lifestyles. As an open-membership organization, the ARE cannot exclude anyone from membership on any such basis, but we have seen much more to the ARE than mere membership. Study groups and the like will expect that attendees participate in whatever activities the group has chosen. Another good illustration is the ARE Camp, which requires (during the children's sessions) three main types of observances of its campers and staff: meditation, dream analysis, and the Cayce diet. Of course, no Caycean would suggest that anyone has a religious obligation to attend study groups (let alone something like the ARE camp) or follow the various practices associated with them. Yet, the ARE clearly favors and encourages certain practices to such an extent that those who are not religious or whose religious views are markedly different from those prevailing within the Cayce movement will find themselves in a subculture with hardly any place for them.
Discussion of the status of (the surely rare) nonbelievers within the ARE leads naturally to the question of whether the ARE can be considered a research organization since genuine research presumes the admissibility of skepticism. "Research is our middle name," one spokesperson quipped, and this clearly represents an important institutional emphasis. At the same time, it is equally clear that the ARE's notion of "research" is greatly expanded from those of the relevant scientific or scholarly disciplines to which it aspires to contribute. For example, whenever ARE literature speaks of "researching" or "experimenting with" ideas from the Cayce material, this is typically meant to apply them in one's life to decide if they seem helpful, not evaluating them systematically using generally accepted methodologies. To take a particularly glaring example, for many years, the ARE bookstore advertised computer-printed horoscopes by inviting readers to participate in a "research project," which apparently consisted solely of whatever studies the persons ordering the chart chose to undertake.
The ARE board of trustees has recently appointed a research committee to formulate a formal research policy for the organization. Charged with summarizing the committee's conclusions, board chairman C.K. Stan Khury explained that "research" could be interpreted as encompassing such varied activities as study groups (because they encourage attendees to explore Cayce's basic spiritual perspective as well is "dreams. astrological applications, healing touch, prayer, past-life regressions, the Bible, etc."): individuals engaged in meditation, dream analysis, or following Cayce's dietary recommendations; conferences and tours; publishing stories of people helped by the Cayce material: and even massotherapy. "Every activity of the ARE can be cast in this research context." he concluded(137)Khury's statement came in the context of controversy over the ARE mission statement, one draft of which omitted any mention of research. While his analysis raises obvious methodological concerns, it captures very well the reality that,, for better or worse, the AR-E is identified with a certain set of ideas and practices on which its institutional energies will probably always be focused.
Still, some ARE members (e.g., Edgar Evans Cayce) have been vocal in their support of actual research, and many ARE leaders (especially the doctorate-holders in psychology and the physical sciences) are presumably well aware that personal testimonials and the like do not provide good reasons for believing in the Cayce material. As a result, the ARE has recently begun sponsoring a limited amount of research that attempts to meet scientific standards. For example, the nonprofit Meridian Institute(138) has received an ARE grant to research Cayce's analysis of epilepsy using a thermographic camera (the readings mention a "cold spot" on the abdomen due to incoordination of the nerve plexuses), as well as his recommended treatments (castor oil poultices plus several types of therapeutic electrical appliances). The project is also intended to study "psoriasis ... schizophrenia, depression, and anemia." (139). Whether the study's results will pass muster with the wider scientific community remains to be seen. Independently of any ARE sponsorship, chiropractor John O.A. Pagano has experimented with the Cayce readings on psoriasis, apparently with great Success. (140) William McGarey's earlier research on castor oil also deserves citation this context, (141)especially in light of his influence on the alternative health movement in general.
Turning to Caycean research in fields other than medicine, during the 1960s and 1970's Hugh Lynn led ECF delegations to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas (where they attempted to locate archaeological remains of sunken Atlantis); Shustar, Iran (the site of some of the Persian readings); and Haifa, Israel (in search of evidence for Cayce's readings on the Essenes). These excursions are probably more accurately characterized as group vacations rather than serious research expeditions. In 1977 and 1978, the ECF sponsored work by the Stanford Research Institute to conduct a remote sensing survey of the Sphinx at the expense of between USD 70,000 and 100,000. An excavation was conducted in front of the Sphinx temple as well. (142) The Cayce readings indicate the existence of a tunnel under its right paw, which leads to the Hall of Records, where proof of the historicity of Atlantis supposedly awaits. Mark Lehner, who has since become one of the top authorities on the Giza Plateau, represented the ECF's interests in the project. At the American University in Cairo, Lehner's graduate education had been financed largely by the ECF at Hugh Lynn's behest, apparently, because Hugh Lynn recognized him from a previous life. (143) From the ECF's standpoint the project was inconclusive, as were various attempts to reach the elusive tunnel by drilling. As for how Cayceans have managed to secure government permission to engage in such quixotic and destructive projects, a clue may be glimpsed in Hugh Lynn's assertion, a lie arranged for the doctoral education of Zahi Hawass, now Egyptian Department of Antiquities director-general for the Giza plateau, at the University of Pennsylvania. (144) (Hawass denies the allegation.) In 1984 the ECF sponsored carbon dating of the Great Pyramid, in hopes that the results would show it to have been built around 10,500 B.C.rather than the conventional Fourth Dynasty dating of around 2500 or 2600 B.C. The results suggested a date of 2900 B.C., older than the standard view but far too young to be considered a confirmation of Cayce's account. (145)Lehner has since concluded that the evidence in favor of the Fourth Dynasty dating is overwhelming and that Cayce's Egyptian readings should be considered mythical (in a positive, quasi-Jungian sense) rather than historical in nature. Some Cayceans regard his conversion as a betrayal, although Lehner denies any ill-will toward the Cayce movement. More recently Venture Inward has given attention to the claims of geologist Robert Schoch, who dates the construction of the Sphinx to 5000-9000 BC "or even older" (against a conventional age of about the same as the Great Pyramid) based on wind erosion patterns; but not to the counterarguments of Lehner or geologist James A. Harrell. (146)Worse yet, Schoch is a pillar of respectability compared to many of the speakers at the annual ARE "Atlantis/Egypt" conferences (e.g., Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval).
In the 1970s, the four ARE executives with psychology Ph.D.'s published psychology papers based on ARE home-study projects. Herbert Puryear, Charles Thomas Cayce, and Mark Thurston co-authored "Anxiety reduction associated with meditation" (Perceptual and Motor Skills, Oct. 1976), while Henry Reed wrote, "Improved dream recall associated with meditation" (Journal of Clinical Psychology, January 1978). Several doctoral dissertations in psychology have been written on Cayce, including Cleveland Kent Evans's Religion and Cognitive Style: An Exploration of Jung's Typology Among ARE Study Group Members (University of Michigan, 1985) and John Zola Amoroso's PastLife Therapy: An Integrated Transpersonal Psychotherapeutic Approach (Union Institute, 1992).
Beyond these limited projects, the ECF and ARE deserve credit for making the Cayce readings available in the first place since the process which led to their eventual publication on CD-ROM would have been impossible without a substantial commitment of labor and resources. Yet, the mere dissemination of Cayce's information should not in itself qualify the ARE as a research organization. Instead, we should ask whether ARE culture embodies scholarly ideals and attitudes, and here the answer seems to be no. Basic ARE activities such as publications and conferences tend not to reflect well-reasoned, critical approaches-on the contrary; they typically play host to any number of dubious ideas for which criticism is kept muted. Almost any claim (whether medical, historical. or spiritual) may be given to an audience provided it is sufficiently alternative or confirmatory of ARE beliefs; and that the speaker or writer at least hints at some privileged connection with the truth. The result is that ARE activities are closer to entertainment than to research or education, and the ARE admits as much in an apparent Freudian slip at the back of several books when it names as its goals "assisting spiritual growth and providing nourishing entertainment. (147) Even Atlantic University, which might be expected to cultivate a more critical attitude in its students, presently disappoints.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step groups, the ARE might be considered primarily as a life-support system for the small groups meeting under its auspices, in which case its mission would presumably become one of changing its members' lives. In fact, this language is incorporated into tile's current mission statement, in which the ARE aspires in part "to help people change their lives for better through the spiritual concepts in the Cayce readings." This would also explain why trustees have to affirm having been "helped" by the readings, as well as the emphasis on "application" over mere study-as if attempts to apply Cayce's suggestions, however uncritical or unsystematic, were something obviously worthy of encouragement. Again like Alcoholics Anonymous, ARE literature is heavily oriented toward personal testimonials, with little effort to include the voices of those who find concepts from the readings unhelpful. Bro finds it significant that the first study groups began meeting within a few years of the formation (148). However, the latter may be traced through the Oxford Movement to evangelical Protestant roots similar to Cayce's.
Another possibility is to view the Cayce movement primarily as a source of alternative health care and health advice. Certainly, it often functions as such. Cayce-recommended massages and colonic irrigation treatments are available through the Reilly School of Massotherapy, various services from the two Caycean clinics in Arizona, and the Logos Center, Cayce-recommended products and electrical devices Health Products, and the Heritage Store, and healing prayer through the Glad Helpers. From the demand for health-related information and products, it seems clear that Caycean therapy is often self-prescribed. Given the demographics of the Cayce movement, it is easy to see why health would be a major concern for many Cayce people. (149)
The suggestion that the Cayce movement could be considered a business consortium might be greeted either as libelous since the ARE and its affiliates operate on a nonprofit basis (although this, of course, would not apply to commercial publishers or health care providers); or as tautological, since no organization, however lofty its goals, is exempt from economic reality. By invoking this model, I mean to underscore the extent to which the Cayce movement centers around the sale of goods and services such as books, conferences, tours, health products, and medical treatment. Even ARE membership itself might be considered just another type of product to be marketed. To put the issue in perspective, consider that the ARE at year's end 1996 had total assets of about S 10.7 million, and an annual l budget of about $7 million. Total annual sales income had been $2.3 million, more than half of which was profit. Fees brought in nearly $2 million. Memberships provided about $1.5 million, and donations of various types totaled another $1 million. Meanwhile, operating expenses were $5.6 million for program services and S 1.3 million for support services. Does the ARE's reliance on revenue from sales and fees compromise its ability to support critical approaches to Cayce? Certainly, the (nonprofit) ARE bookstore and ARE Press must give a great deal of weight to the market demands, although these also purport to evaluate books according to quality. The magazine editors are somewhat less constrained since their periodicals are automatic member benefits, yet they too cater to the interests of the average Caycean. Cayce dissidents often complain that the task of maintaining ARE finances has tended to interfere with its stated spiritual or intellectual mission.
All told, the ARE "is" whatever its members and leaders make out of it. Inevitably not all of these will agree on what the ARE is or should be. 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), partially because most Cayceans have multiple interests concerning the readings. Skeptical or scholarly approaches, however, are definitely a minority interest within the ARE. They are almost wholly unrepresented within those functions which have the greatest capacity for influencing the Caycean masses (e.g., study groups, publishing, or conferences). Despite the support of some board members (who disagree on what "research" is and how much money the ARE can afford to devote to it), research is neither a major goal of the ARE in its own right nor an effective means to other ends. Rather, it is variously an object of ARE charity, 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.
Following is the overview of the other parts in this major case study whereby underneath you will see the footnotes in reference to the above section:
Cayce's ability (whatever its nature) to effortlessly absorb books' contents makes it seem inevitable that Cayce would have attempted to acquire religious knowledge in this way. The day after he arrived in Hopkinsville, Cayce searched for a town-based job and found one with E.H. Hopper & Son Bookstore, which from 1874 to 1913 also housed Hopkinsville's collection of public library books. There "seemed to be something appealing" about the bookstore, and Cayce recalls that "the several years I remained there seemed to be the stepping stones: yea. even the door to life itself." without explaining why, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 1.
Robert Smith claimed that if Cayce did meet President Wilson, however, he was never told of this and suggested that he had confused Wilson with a cousin of the president's for whom Cayce did, in fact, give readings. Also, several of Cayce's partners and associates in the several oil ventures were clearly promoters of dubious character. The question must be asked whether Cayce himself should be considered one as well rather than simply as an innocent pawn of others, as ARE literature suggests. That Cayce no less than Kahn was an active participant in what came to be known simply as "the proposition" is illustrated by his travels to "New Orleans, Jackson, Memphis, Denver, all over Texas, St. Louis, Chicago. Indianapolis, Cincinnati- Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Florida.," as well as Columbus. Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and New York City. In any case, what began as a search for oil and then for oil investors around 1922 blurred into a direct search for hospital donors. Allies in Birmingham, New York, and Chicago all indicated a willingness to raise money for the venture, provided it would be located in their respective cities. The readings, however, indicated the Norfolk area, apparently for spiritual and karmic reasons, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 2.
Attempts to pinpoint Cayce's religious heritage are inevitably contentious given the strong feelings of so many people who seek to claim (or reject) him as a representative of their own beliefs. Christian-oriented Cayceans such as Bro stress the Christian basis of his teachings while asleep and active church life while awake over the objections of Christian opponents of Cayce, who emphasize his many departures from mainstream Christian doctrine. New Agers note Cayce's use of language and ideas consistent with various Western esoteric traditions; simultaneously, Christian-oriented Cayceans point to his efforts to distance himself from Spiritualism and occultism. There is something to be said in favor of all of these perspectives. I propose to call Cayce a syncretizer since this brings out the diversity of his sources and suggests fruitful link's with other turn-of-the-century syncretizers.- In 1906, a test was arranged for Cayce in which he would give a reading for a patient chosen for him before a large audience of visiting physicians. However, when the reading proved accurate, members of the audience stormed up to him while he still lay in a trance and began conducting impromptu tests to see if he really was under hypnosis. One doctor peeled back one of his fingernails, while another stuck a hatpin through his face-common stunts in stage hypnosis at the time. Cayce did not flinch but later awoke in great pain. As a result of this experience, he resolved to stop trying to convince skeptics and give readings only for those who genuinely wanted his help. To Cayceans, the incident illustrates the limitations of a formal scientific or scholarly approach to the readings, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 3.
The usual approach to the readings also ignores the passage of time. Readings from different decades are quoted alongside one another typically (due to the nature of the ARE's citation style for readings extracts) with no indication of when they were delivered. Yet, a certain evolution can be observed in the content and tone of the readings over the five decades of Cayce's psychic career, which becomes lost whenever readings from different periods are lumped together the indiscriminately.-The chronic problem is that those aspects of Cayce which manage to find their way into popular publication are those which match the needs and mores of the Cayce movement. These are often arbitrarily or ideologically chosen, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 4.
In the course of surveying the history and teachings of the Cayce movement, it is easy to lose sight of the experience of its participants. After all, Cayceans are typically less interested in studying the origins of their institutions than in contemplating the possibility of deeper levels to the universe and themselves or in changing their lives to reflect more of spiritual orientation. How these aspirations are expressed are numerous, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 5.
Today, the ARE's request that study groups collect contributions seems to be practiced regularly when not disregarded altogether. Of the groups I have attended, only the one at ARE headquarters solicited donations each week, with one dollar appearing to be the standard per capita contribution.- A democratic ARE (to the extent that such a thing is even conceivable) might easily prove even more anti-intellectual and personality-driven than its present incarnation. At the same time, the example of the Swedenborg Foundation demonstrates that it is possible to combine academic respectability (recent monographs have dealt with D.T. Suzuki. Henri Corbin and Kant) with at least nominal democratic safeguards (e.g., proxy voting). A key difference is that the various Swedenborgian churches are institutionally separate from the Swedenborg Foundation- whereas the ARE combines both of these functions and many more, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 6.
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.
127. Herbert Puryear. "Why the ARE Is Not a Cult" (reprinting a July 1982 article in ARE News).
128. Harmon Bro in Charisma of the Seer, p. 164 reports that for earlier Cayceans, this was not the case--not only was Cayce not interested in discovering parallels but "by and large his followers were not either, except as grounds for drawing the attention of others to them-selves and their message."
129. For example, articles have been written comparing the teachings of Cayce to those of Blavatsky (Kirk Nelson. "The fifth root race" in Venture Inward 10 no. 5. Sept./Oct. 1994. p.42 ff, also Violet M. Shelley. "What about Theosophy" in Venture Inward 2 no. 6. Nov./Dec. 1986. p. 48 ff.), Steiner (Richard H. Drummond, "Reflections on Rudolf Steiner" in Venture Inward 7 no. 3, May/June 1991, p. 20: Eleanor Amidon, "Karma: Cayce and Steiner compared" in Venture Inward 7 no. 4. July/Aug. 1991, p.2 1). The Aquarian Gospel (Robert M. Grant, "The nature of Jesus' miracles-a comparison" in The New Millennium Inc. 1. Aug./Sept. 1996, p. 25 ff.). Spiritualism ("Early prophecies of earth changes and Atlantis" in Venture Inward 12 no. 1, Jan./Feb. 1996, p. 16 ff.), and several having to do with alternative medicine.
130. "Trustee nominations due by June 14."in Venture Inward II No. 2 (March/April 1995) p. 6.
131. From the ANI prospectus
132. See A. Robert Smith, "The Great Pyramid reveals her age" in Venture Inward 2 no. 3, May/June 1986,p. 12 ff.: also A. Robert Smith interviewing Mark Lehner, "The search for Ra Ta" In Venture Inward I no. 3. Jan./Feb. 1985, p. 6 ff.; continued in vol. I no. 4, March/April 1985; response by Richard H. Drummond et al.. "The search for Ra Ta: Truth is a growing thing." vol. I no. 5. May/June 1985.
133. See Kevin J. Todeschi. "Earth changes: Changing the planet or changing us?" in Venture Inward 10 no. 3. May/June 1994, p. 16: also W.H. Church, "The Hallaliel question" in Venture Inward 8 no. 3. May/June 1992, p. 32. also, John Peterson. "Earth changes An alternative view," p. 20 of the same issue. The "four excuses" are: ( 1) such events can be averted by turning to righteousness, (2) they are symbolic of inner transformation: (3) these readings were dictated by entities such as Hallaliel and are therefore untrustworthy: (4) Cayce accurately foresaw the events but not the dates. Thurston ( 1981: 22 ff.) answers that if (4) 'is true. then why did Cayce give specific dates" As for (2), Thurston protests that there is no evidence that Cayce meant these readings to be symbolic, let alone for what the symbols are held to mean: and wonders whether
Cayceans would be willing to apply the same approach to Cayce's teachings on reincarnation.
Christ, ESP or the medical readings, (1) is the same excuse the UFO cultists offer (actually
the Sanandra group) in When Prophecy Fails. Thurston does not discuss (3).
134. For the Christian issue, see Timothy H. Wright, et al. "Is the ARE too cautious or too Christian?" in Venture Inward 4 no. 5. Sept./Oct. 1988,p 44, ff.. responding to D.D. Delaney. "is the ARE too cautious?". letter to the editor of vol. 4 no. 3. May/ June 1988. For the Jewish issue, see Sandy Koi, "The real truth is one", in Venture Inward 3 no. 2 (March/April 1987): also Rhonda J. Miller, "For Jewish members: the dilemma of the Christ-oriented readings," in Venture Inward 2 no. 6 (Nov.[Dec. 1986). p. 13 ff.
135. Dale Beyerstein, "Edgar Cayce: The 'Prophet' Who 'Slept' His Way To the Top."
136. 1991, Member Survey indicates that out of 1.948 respondents, 9,1 % had borrowed books from the ARE library in the previous two years. Only a fraction of these are likely to represent skeptical literature.
137. "Research: Our Common Purpose," in Venture Inward II no. 4, (July/Aug. 1995), pp. 5-6.
138. The Meridian Institute consists of Douglas Richards (an Atlantic University professor who writes on electric medicine). Eric Mein (a physician who writes on Cayce's medical readings). John van Auken (an ARE executive with an 'interest in the chakras and kundalini). David McMillan (who writes on Cayce's medical readings), and Carl Nelson (a chiropractor). As its name suggests, the Institute is dedicated to discovering medical applications using vital energy within the human body.
139. Robert J. Grant, "Median research focuses on epilepsy, appliances," Venture Inward II no. 4 (July/Aug. 1995). p. 11.
140. John O.A. Pagano. Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative.
141. William McGarey, Edgar Cayce and the Palma Christi.
142. A. Robert Smith, About MyFather's Business, p. 249.
143. Ibid., p. 244.
144. Ibid., p. 250.
145. A. Robert Smith, "The Great Pyramid reveals her age," in Venture Inward 2 no. 3 (May/June 1986), p. 12 ff.
146. This debate has been conducted mostly through the pages of KMT magazine. which is the Egyptological equivalent of Biblical Archaeology Review (i.e. a scholarly magazine for interested laypeople). See Robert M. Schoch, "Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza": James Harrell, "The Sphinx Controversy: Another Look At the Geological Evidence", and Mark Lehner, "Notes & Photographs On the West-Schoch Sphinx Hypothesis," The "West" in Lehner's title refers to John Anthony West, who belongs to the same general school of Egyptology as Schoch, Hancock, and Bauval.
147. e.g. in Mark Thurston, The Great Teachings of Edgar Cayce, after p. 153.
148. Harmon Bro, Why Edgar Cayce Was Not a Psychic, p. 35.
149. According to the 1991 Member Survey, at 1.948 respondents 6,2% have contacted an "ARE health care professional" in their area.