Spiritualism and psychic research

Nineteenth-century Spiritualism introduced the world to séances, ouija boards, table tippings, mediums, spirit guides, and psychic powers. The field of parapsychology also has its roots in this movement since organizations like the Society for Psychical Research grew out of a desire to test the spirits, as it were. While the relationship between these two camps was often adversarial, I propose to view them as symbiotic since they served to popularize the same set of religious notions.

Although many of the phenomena associated with Spiritualism are quite ancient, modern Spiritualism represents the nineteenth-century convergence of several earlier occult strands. One of these strands is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), a Swedish mining engineer and parliamentarian who published on such varied subjects as mathematics, astronomy, physics. Chemistry, physiology, mechanics. Economics and foreign policy. In 1744, Swedenborg began recording (in Latin) a series of theological works based on visions that had initially come to him during a lengthy coma. These describe the inhabitants of heaven, hell, and the spirit world: set forth an allegorical interpretation of the Bible: and give a detailed system of correspondences between the physical and spiritual realms. Swedenborg's revelations won him a following not so much within the Swedish Lutheran church (whose authorities were generally unreceptive) but in the Netherlands. England and the United States. The Church of the New Jerusalem, founded after Swedenborg's death, is based on his teachings. His influence is much wider than that- however, and extends not only to a long list of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century luminaries (e.g., Blake, Coleridge, Kant, Emerson, Henry James, Sr.) but essentially permeated the whole of the Mesmerist and Spiritualist movements. For example. Swedenborgianism appears to have been the most immediate inspiration for the central Spiritualist idea of peering into "the other side" and relaying information about it to people in this world.

Another strand was the work of Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (17334-1815), whose theory of magnetism animale ("animating magnetism," but usually translated as "animal magnetism") led to the first experiments with hypnosis, hence the term "mesmerism." According to Mesmer, there is a subtle fluid or ether that permeates all space and serves as a medium for psychic communication. By manipulating this ether, it is possible to heal diseases or place a subject in a trance state. Mesmer accomplished this by using hands or a special wand, with which he would make "magnetic passes" over the patient's supine body. Later he discovered that the technique could make his subjects involuntarily dance or perform other amusing stunts while somnambulistic. Mesmer's patron, the Marquis de Puysegur, found that a young shepherd named Victor, when "magnetized," was capable of speaking with vastly greater intelligence than he possessed while awake. On being roused from the trance, however, Victor remembered nothing. Even more intriguingly, while entranced, Victor could also respond to unspoken mental commands. After a halt in research necessitated by the French Revolution, nineteenth-century magnetists turned their attention to the "higher phenomena" made possible by their art- including telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, stigmata, apportation, and prophecy. Of especial interest to students of Cayce are the phenomena of "traveling clairvoyance" (or remote seeing) and "medical clairvoyance" (in which the subject diagnoses ailments and prescribes cures, usually consisting of folk remedies). Under the Swedenborgian influence, magnetists also contacted disembodied spirits, both human and nonhuman, through their trance subjects. Mesmerism even came to be successfully employed in surgery instead of anesthesia. At this point, around the 1830s, Mesmerism gained a following in the United States through the lectures and demonstrations of Charles Poyen and his subject, Cynthia Gleason, in New England. Whereas in Europe. Mesmerism had been approached primarily as a scientific phenomenon. In the United States, Poyen's showmanship transformed Mesmerism into a means of popular entertainment. Although the theoretical basis for Mesmer’s work came to be superseded by psychological explanations by the turn of the century, magnetism and hypnosis remained connected in the popular understanding well after the demise of Mesmerism per se. (Al Layne's card read "osteopath and magnetic healer.") The presumed occult properties of magnetism were echoed by the sleeping Cayce, who accordingly advised his waking counterpart to lie with his body-oriented north-to-south while giving readings--Cayce's head would be pointed north for a physical reading, and south for a life reading (294- 133).

The origins of the American Spiritualist craze are usually traced to the 1846 poltergeist style "rappings" associated with the sisters Margaretta and Kate Fox of Hydesville. New York (near Newark). At the time the noises started, the sisters were fifteen and twelve, respectively. The Fox family began to hear mysterious pounding or knocking, whereupon the sisters contrived to communicate with the invisible source using a simple code. It then surfaced that their visitor was the unnamed spirit of a peddler who had supposedly been murdered by a house's previous occupant, a blacksmith named John C. Bell. As more and more living humans turned up at the Fox household to observe the rappings (including Bell, who came to protest his innocence), the Foxes decided to separate their daughters. Kate was sent to live with a third sister. Leah, who was between marriages at the time. The rappings then shifted to Leah's house, with more and more spirits clamoring to speak to their living friends and relatives through the new "spiritual telegraph" (this only a few years after Morse had invented the real telegraph). The reunited Fox sisters--organized by Leah--began charging money for their séances and even went on tour (so to speak) to other parts of New York. Repeated efforts to expose the phenomena as fraudulent were unsuccessful until the girls themselves finally broke down and confessed to having made the mysterious noises themselves by snapping their toe joints. Still later, however, the confessions were retracted.

The Hydesville rappings were by no means the first American encounter with the spirit world. For example, between 1837 and 1844, several Shaker communities--whose founder. Mother Ann Lee combined Swedenborgian metaphysics with communitarianism and millenarian expectations--experienced visitations from angels and spirits of the dead, which would cause them to whirl around and jerk their bodies wildly until they collapsed in a heap. (This behavior calls to mind similar practices from Christian revival meetings.) War parties of invisible Indians would whoop through the Shaker villages at night, and any humans possessed by them would behave in a manner befitting uncontrolled savages--even to the point of threatening to violate celibacy, a primary Shaker lifestyle requirement. Before the phenomena faded, Shaker communities from upstate New York to Kentucky were experiencing phenomena ranging from glossolalia to demonic possession and writing books dictated from the spirit world. Yet, these phenomena failed to spread much beyond the Shaker communities. What is significant about the Hydesville rappings in contrast to other outbreaks of Spiritualist-type activity is not the phenomena themselves (which were unoriginal) or the resulting spiritual teachings (which were dreadfully pedestrian), but their fame. Whereas the Shaker phenomena disappeared spontaneously, the Hydesville visitations inspired mediums on several continents to begin conducting seances. These mediums would bring their own occult background to the table, hence the influence of Swedenborg and Mesmer. It is important to remember that Spiritualism is essentially an unorganized, grass-roots movement lacking any effective means of ensuring dogmatic conformity so that mediums enjoy enormous freedom to say and do whatever their patrons will support.

Among the most immediately influential of these new mediums was the "Poughkeepsie seer" Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910). whose psychic career actually began slightly before the Hydesville rappings. That Cayce was aware of Davis is attested by Cayce's son Hugh Lynn. who notes extensive similarities between their methods. (169) In 1843, Davis, a poorly-educated teenage shoe store clerk, was inspired by the visit of "phrenomagnetist"(170) J. Stanley Grimes to try Mesmerism for himself, enlisting a local tailor named Levingston to act as a conductor. Davis turned out to be quite gifted at traveling clairvoyance and medical clairvoyance, and the two men quit their regular jobs to follow this new calling. A few months later, Davis underwent a powerful visionary experience in which the shades of Galen and Swedenborg appeared to him. as if to commission him for some great spiritual task. Shortly afterward, Davis announced while entranced that he would begin delivering a series of psychic revelations. These were published in 1847 as The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to MankindAlong the way, Davis fired Levingston, replacing him with a professional magnetist named S. Silas Lyon. and engaged Universalist pastor William Fishbough to take dictation.

The book's long title merges the headings for its three parts. The first part (The Principles of Nature) describes the progressive evolution of the oceanic. Luminous "Positive Mind" or "Great Forces"(171) to bring forth the universe, then life, then humanity. After death, humans can continue to advance until they reach the seventh celestial sphere, representing unity with the Divine Mind. The second part (Nature's Divine Revelations) constitutes a commentary on spiritual history from the Old Testament to the nineteenth century. Davis seeks to defend the Bible against those who would read superstition into it. (172) To that end, he denies the divinity of Christ and rejects the sanctity of the Bible. The third part (A Voice to Mankind) consists of social criticism. Davis condemns the stratification of his society, preferring instead a more egalitarian. Fourieristic order. Lawyers, doctors, and clergy members come under particularly scathing treatment. Cooperatives and credit unions are favored, however, and Davis expresses sympathy for the plight of women.

A visiting biblical scholar named George Bush attested to the sleeping Davis' mastery of Hebrew, linguistics, geology, archaeology, mythology, and other subjects. His promotion of Davis' Principles of Nature was largely responsible for bringing it to the attention of literary reviewers. However, Bush (who was a Swedenborgian) later criticized Davis for denying the existence of the Swedenborgian hell in favor of a Universalist scheme. Much of the attraction of the book stemmed from the fact that its author was supposedly semi-literate. (Davis had only read one book--a novel--that he would admit to). Less charitable minds have discerned in its literary influences from scientific books of the time, contemporary newspapers, and the writings of Swedenborg. (173)

Besides Davis, some other mediums became famous in the wake of the Hydesville rappings. For example, Daniel Dunglas Home (who was active in the 1850s) could produce rappings, relay messages from the departed, levitate tables, summon handwritten letters from the spirit world, hold hot coals in his bare hands, elongate his body by nearly a foot, and make invisible hands play tunes on a visible accordian. On one occasion Home floated out of a window seventy feet above street level, then returned by way of another window. More influential was his practice of emitting the spirit-substance "ectoplasm" from his body. (174) In investigating Home's phenomena, the chemist William Crookes became convinced of its genuineness.

While initially, Spiritualist communications came mainly from spirits of dead relatives, some mediums (perhaps responding to market stimuli) took to relaying messages from sources that were perceived as more exalted or exotic. Among these were American Indian princesses.

Hindu sages, and such worthies as George Washington or Socrates. One particularly ubiquitous spirit, John King, assisted mediums all over the country, including Madame Blavatsky. Early Theosophists began claiming to communicate with a higher source of information(175) than the Spiritualists, namely the Masters of the Great White Brotherhood. Spiritualists were quick to add the Masters to their repertoire. By the 1920s, many Spiritualist mediums had even accepted reincarnation, although at first glance the two afterlife theories might appear to be incompatible. With the fresh example of The Book of Mormon (1827) before them, quite a few mediums began receiving messages from quasi-biblical sources. This resulted in such works as The Oahspe Gospel (1882). A Dweller on Two Planers (1899), and The Aquarian Gospel (1907). Another less biblical but equally successful dictated work was The Berry Book (1937). At present, Spiritualist mediums are often difficult to distinguish from trance-channelers. They are as likely to communicate with angels, space aliens, or other cosmic entities as with spirits of the dead. Although it often goes unrecognized, such syncretism has ling been typical of Spiritualism.

The waking Cayce distanced himself from Spiritualism on the grounds that Spiritualist sources are less lofty than "universal" ones. In a 1933 lecture he put it this way:

Some people think that the information coming through me is given by some departed personality who wants to communicate with them, or some benevolent spirit or physician from the other side. This may sometimes be the case though in general I am not a "medium" in that sense of the term. However, if a person comes seeking that kind of contact and information, I believe he receives it....

So I believe that if the source is not wavered by the desires of the individual seeking the reading, it will be from the universal. Of course, if an individual's desire is very intense to communicate with Grandpa, Uncle, or some great soul, the contact is directed that way, and that becomes the source. Do not think that I am discrediting those who seek in that way. If you're willing to receive what Uncle Joe has to say. that's what you get. "What you ask you receive" is a two-edged sword. It cuts both Ways. (176)

The sleeping Cayce's attitude toward Spiritualism is more ambiguous. While the readings generally take the truth of Spiritualist phenomena for granted, seekers are usually warned not to become distracted from higher spiritual purposes. In that sense, mediumship represents an unhealthy fascination with phenomena instead of more exalted objects of religious devotion such as God, inspiring Cayce to characterize Spiritualism as "that which comprehends rather only the result, than the source" (5756-11). Even so, Cayce allows that communication between the living and the dead may often be spiritually beneficial (e.g. 136-48). However, here he Is, thinking of communications received during dreams rather than seances.

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"). In addition. Cayce had many contacts with followers of Spiritualism. and even dabbled in it himself on occasion. Some aspects of his teachings suggest a Spiritualist influence. For example. the waking Cayce described his experiences while entranced as follows:

I see myself as a tiny dot out of my physical body, which lies inert before me. I find myself oppressed by darkness, and there is a feeling of terrific loneliness.... Suddenly, I am conscious of a white beam of light. As this tiny dot, I move upward following the light- knowing I must follow it or be lost.

As I move along this path of light, I gradually become conscious of various levels upon which there is movement. Upon the first levels, there are vague, horrible shapes-grotesque forms such as one sees in nightmares. As I pass on, there begin to appear on either side misshapen forms of a human being. Some parts of the is body magnified.

Again there is a change, and I become conscious of gray hooded forms moving downward. Gradually these become lighter in color. Then the direction changes. and these forms move upward--and the color of the robes grows rapidly lighter.

Next, there begin to appear on either side vague outlines of houses, walls, trees, etc., but everything is motionless. As I pass on, there is more light and movement in what appear to be normal cities and towns. With the growth of movement, I become conscious of sounds--at first indistinct rumblings, then music, lau, and birds' singing birds. There is more and more light; the colors become very beautiful: a blending of sound and color.

Quite suddenly, I come upon a hall of records. It is a hall without walls, without a ceiling; but I am conscious of seeing an old man who hands me a large book--a record of the individual for whom I seek Information. (178)

Several important Spiritualist themes are included within this passage. Cayce first describes what it is like to exit the physical body, a perennial Spiritualist concern, then alludes to phantasms and robed figures of various descriptions. The penultimate paragraph resembles Spiritualist accounts of Summerland, a heavenly paradise where some departed souls dwell.

While awake Cayce met a number of mediums. most notably Eileen Garrett (1893- 1970), whose spirit guide was an Arab with the unlikely name of Uvani (or Ouvani). In 1934 Cayce and Garrett exchanged readings. The sleeping Cayce cautiously praised Garrett's work (507- 1). Uvani for his part suggested that Cayce would benefit from the assistance of a spirit guide of his own and that a suitable guide (named Hallaliel) had volunteered his services. After consulting with his closest followers, Cayce declined the offer, preferring instead to contact the divine without any intermediary except Christ. Nevertheless, the sleeping Cayce did relay a further message from Hallaliel, apparently spontaneously (3976-15). Other readings allude to the presence of disembodied entities, including Ouspensky (136-59), a guardian angel named Demetrius (33 11-6), a student of Zoroaster named Zorain (311-10), George V of England (877-7), and "Lamech, Confucius, Tamah, Halaliel, Hebe, Ra, Ra Ta, John" (5756- 10).

Although Cayce did not usually allow discarnate entities to speak through him, there were exceptions. The following selection depicts Cayce's side of a conversation with spirits of the dead, which intruded--seemingly spontaneously-- into the course of an ordinary reading. No reason was ever offered as to why this occurred. Notice the marked change in style from Cayce's other readings. Some here would speak with those who are present if they desire to communicate with them.

GC [Gertrude Cayce]: We desire to have at this time that which would be given. (long pause)

EC: Don't all speak at once. [pause] Yes. I knew you would be waiting. though. Yes? Haven't found him before? All together now, huh? Uncle Porter, too? He was able to ease it right away, huh? Who? Dr. House? No. Oh, no--no. she is alright. Yes. LOTS better. Isn't giving any trouble now. Haven't you seen her? Why, where have you been? Oh. She is in another change? How long will they stay there? Oh, they don't count time like that. Oh, you do have 'em. Well, those must be pretty now, if they are all growing like that. Yes? Yes. I'll tell her about'em. Tell Gertrude you are all together now. huh?

(5756-13)]

Sometimes Cayce channeled figures from the Bible--for example, "John" (5749-4), or "Michael, Lord of the Way" (presumably the archangel). Michael interrupted readings on several occasions to admonish Cayce's companions to cease their divisiveness and rally behind Cayce:

BOW THINE HEADS, YE CHILDREN OF MEN! FOR I, MICHAEL, LORD OF THE WAY, WOULD SPEAK WITH THEE! YE GENERATION OF VIPERS. YE ADULTEROUS GENERATION, BE WARNED!

THERE IS TODAY BEFORE THEE GOOD AND EVIL, CHOOSE THOU WHOM YE WILL SERVE!

WALK IN THE WAY OF THE LORD! OR ELSE THERE WILL COME THAT SUDDEN RECKONING, AS YE HAVE SEEN!

BOW THINE HEADS, YE WHO ARE UNGRACIOUS, UNREPENTANT! FOR THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS AT HAND!

THE OPPORTUNITY IS BEFORE THEE! ACCEPT OR REJECT!

But don't be PIGS! [294-208]
 

The most exalted being ever to be channeled by Cayce is apparently meant to be Jesus:

Q. Might I receive at this time a message from the Master?

A. Come, mine daughter, mine sister. In choosing me, as I have chosen you, there comes that beauty of oneness in knowing the way that brings to others peace, joy, happiness, in DOING HIS will; for he that seeks to do HIS will may IN me have that peace, that joy, that understanding, that gives to each in their RESPECTIVE spheres their needs, their desires, as their desires are in me. Be faithful then, even as thou wert faithful THEN. [993]

The readings refer to Jesus in the first person on several other occasions, thereby implying that Jesus served as the trance source for these readings as well.

A number of scientists and scholars took it upon themselves to investigate Spiritualism. The London Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in 1882, and its American counterpart shortly thereafter. William James, who served as president of the former branch and was an active member of the latter, investigated a medium named Lenora Piper beginning in 1885. Piper and her spirit control Phinuit, he discovered, were able to reveal information about people's dead relatives, which Piper could not possibly have known through natural means. James' lifelong interest in psychic subjects informs much of the 1901 lectures published as The Varieties of Religious Experience (which focuses on the phenomenology of spiritual or mystical experiences). Bro reports that Rhine met Edgar Cayce at Duke, and that Rhine sent Lucien Warner to Virginia Beach to study him. (179)

The possibility of eliciting psychic abilities from a hypnotized subject continued to arouse popular and scholarly interest at the turn of the century. Thomson Jay Hudson, the author of The Law of Psychic Phenomena (1893), framed his explanation for the phenomenon as follows: The human mind consists of "objective" and "subjective" aspects. The objective mind is the part which makes use of reason, The senses, and materiality and corresponds to the ordinary conscious state. The subjective mind. by contrast, is nonsensory, intuitive, not bound to the body, forgets nothing, and possesses amazing powers:

It sees without the use of the natural organs of vision, and in this, as in many other grades. or degrees. of the hypnotic state, can be made, apparently, to leave the body, and travel to distant lands and bring back intelligence, oftentimes of the most exact and truthful character. It also has the power to read the thoughts of others, even to the minutest details, to read the contents of sealed envelopes and closed books. In short, it is the subjective mind that possesses what is popularly designated as clairvoyant power and the ability to apprehend the thoughts of others without the aid of ordinary, objective means of communication. (180)

Elsewhere, Hudson identifies the subjective mind with soul or spirit. and sees it as "partaking of the nature and attributes of the Divine Mind." (181) The sleeping Cayce endorsed the views of Hudson's Law of Psychic Phenomena by name (254-48, 254-633, 5746-7), and elsewhere resorted to Hudson's terminology by way of explaining the nature of his gift.

In contrast to his cautious attitude toward Spiritualism, the sleeping Cayce supports parapsychological research without qualification, to the point of urging that the ARE engage in it (e.g., 257-20). Morton Blumenthal led an ARE course that included Hudson's Law of Psychic Phenomena, James' Varieties of Religious Experience, Ouspensky's Tertium Organum, and Bergson's Creative Evolution Mind Energy (report of 1800-15) on its reading list. At one point, Hugh Lynn contemplated studying parapsychology as a graduate student, and in the 1930s, hosted a radio show on parapsychology called "Mysteries of the Mind," on which Lucien Warner appeared as a guest. (182) The allure of psychic powers has always been an important part of the ARE's appeal. although the organization stresses the cultivation of personal psychic experiences as guides along the spiritual path, rather than scientific res, it is ordinarily understood.

Nineteenth-century research into hypnosis and parapsychology was an important if generally unacknowledged influence on early psychoanalysis. Although Freud appears to have viewed such subjects with suspicion-perhaps as threats to the acceptance of psychology as a scientific discipline--Jung was fascinated by them and reported several paranormal experiences in his writings. In 1931, at his hospital in Virginia Beach, the waking Cayce gave a lecture entitled " Psycho- Analysis." (In previous weeks he had spoken on mental healing and psychic phenomena.) The contents of this lecture suggest that Cayce knew little about Freud. Here Cayce criticizes Freud's interpretation of dream symbolism as too shallow, since it does not take into account the possibility that dreams might represent past-life memories. Jung, too, criticized Freud's interpretation of symbolism from myths and dreams as too shallow. though not for the same reasons that Cayce cites. I see no good reason to suppose that Cayce was Influenced by Jung, who was then relatively obscure. The sleeping Cayce (e.g. 1402-2) makes the same distinction between "personality" and "individuality" that Jung does. but this by itself is not very strong evidence that Cayce was acquainted with Jung's work. (183) Also, there is no mention in the Cayce readings of archetypes (except as an alternate name for the aura charts of Nancy Lansdale, unless "patterns" are accepted as a functional equivalent as some suggest), alchemical symbolism. the individuation process, or other central Jungian notions. The case could be made that Cayce taught something like Jung's collective unconscious. While the idea of a universal mind is found in numerous nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theories. Cayce joins Jung in pointing to such unconscious activity as dreams as the primary gateway to experience this realm. Jungians will also appreciate Cayce's description of God as both "within and without" (1158-12): his exhortion to "find self" (1401-1) or "crucify" the self (57492): and his description of Christ as the point where "extremes meet" (2449-1). Despite crucial differences between the two systems. (184) Jung has become quite influential among Cayce writers, and his ideas are probably better represented within the curriculum of Atlantic University than those of Cayce.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, the ARE's request that study groups collect contributions seems to be practiced regularly when not disregarded altogether. Of the groups I have attended, only the one at ARE headquarters solicited donations each week, with one dollar appearing to be the standard per capita contribution.- A democratic ARE (to the extent that such a thing is even conceivable) might easily prove even more anti-intellectual and personality-driven than its present incarnation. At the same time, the example of the Swedenborg Foundation demonstrates that it is possible to combine academic respectability (recent monographs have dealt with D.T. Suzuki. Henri Corbin and Kant) with at least nominal democratic safeguards (e.g., proxy voting). A key difference is that the various Swedenborgian churches are institutionally separate from the Swedenborg Foundation- whereas the ARE combines both of these functions and many more, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 6.

Some leave when they do not find their vision reflected, complaining about the politics of Virginia Beach. Others accommodate themselves to a framework with which they are not entirely comfortable or become outspoken in their attempts to change the organization. The ARE leadership presently incorporates several distinct visions--some complementary, some not. The organization is sufficiently decentralized to keep these visions in a sort of equilibrium based partially on inertia (once a given program is started, it will probably be continued) and partially because most Cayceans have multiple interests concerning the readings. However, skeptical or scholarly approaches are definitely a minority interest within the ARE. They are almost wholly unrepresented within those functions that have the greatest capacity for influencing the Caycean masses (e.g., study groups, publishing, or conferences). -An object of ARE charity really a public relations activity, a disguised form of product development, or an expression of a liberal theological identity (against those Southern Protestant denominations that are perceived as anti-scientific). Inquiries into the source question have lacked the necessary connections for the first category, are not particularly well-suited to the second or third, and work at cross-purposes to the fourth by giving comfort to the ARE's enemies. The result is that Cayce's research has proceeded for half a century now without much appreciation of the Cayce movement's forebears, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 7.

Edgar Cayce's readings are full of Masonic allusions- Cayce refers to Jesus's initiation through a series of degrees in Egypt. Besides the obviously Masonic concepts of initiation and degrees, turn-of-the-century Freemasonry often wrapped biblical themes in ancient Egyptian motifs, following the pattern set by Cagliostro. In addition, Cayce sees geometry as containing deep spiritual insights, a quintessentially Masonic notion. The letter "G" in the Masonic symbol is sometimes said to stand for "geometry," although American Masons usually interpret it as standing for "God." The Royal Arch degree, known as the "Knight of East and West," even uses the symbolism of the Book of Revelation in an initiatory context, as does Cayce, continue in Edgar Cayce's Secret, Part 8.

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.

 

169. Thomas Sugrue, There Is a River, p. 289.

170. Following founder Franz Joseph Gall, phrenologists purport to analyze personality by measuring the bumps on a person's head. Phrenology was quite popular in the nineteenth century, and many practitioners of Mesmerism hastened to incorporate the new science into their theory and praxis--hence the term "phrenomagnetism."

171. Andrew Jackson Davis, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and A Voice To Mankind, p. 40. par. 14.

172. Ibid., p. 116. par. 42).

173. Slater Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism, p. 100.

174. For those whose exposure to ectoplasm is limited to the Ghostbusters movies. It must be said that photographs of the substance make it look very much like white bedsheets. In fact. the modern depictions of sheet-draped ghosts in cartoons and Halloween costumes may be traced to the Spiritualist movement. in which white bedsheets appear to have served as rudimentary special-effects devices (unless Caspar is wearing a stylized shroud).

175. Theosophists did not condemn all Spiritualist activity as fraudulent (as one might expect given the difficulty of reconciling belief in ghosts with the theory of reincarnation). but denied that the entities with which Spiritualist mediums communicated were in fact human spirits. Instead, they were said to be the mere astral shells of the departed. discarded along with their physical bodies and hardly worthy of being contacted.

176. Edgar Cayce, "What is a Reading," in Jeffrey Furst, Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus,p. 16.

177. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 373.

178. In Jeffrey Furst, Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus, pp. 53-54.

179. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 398.

180. Thomason Jay Hudson, The Law of Psychic Phenomena, pp. 29-30.

181. Ibid., p. 208.

182. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 119.

183. For example, the distinction is found in Jung's "Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewussten" ("The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious"), first published in 1928. However, it is also found in H.P. Blavatsky's Key to Theosophy,p. 1 and Ernest Holmes' Science of Mind, pp.332-334.

184. For example, Cayce accepts that God, the soul, reincarnation, and psychic phenomena have a reality which is independent of our thoughts about them. Jung is ambiguous about such things, and in any case his system does not presuppose the literal, physical existence of an archetypal image. Despite superficial resemblances, Cayce's concept of "meeting self" (through karma) is very different from Jung's concept of integrating the shadow, and Cayce does not emphasize either a conjunctio of male and female elements or mandala imagery. Their respective approaches to myth are also worlds apart.

 

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