was born on March 18, 1877 in Beverly, Kentucky, a rural agricultural area of south Christian County about twelve miles south of Hopkinsville. He grew up in Beverly and finally left at the age of sixteen (in 1893). Amazingly, none of Cayce's biographers except Kirkpatrick seem to have ever visited the area. As a result, most writers give his birthplace simply as "Hopkinsville," despite the fact that any trip into town would have required a several hours' walk (we also find Cayce riding on horseback or in buggies) in each direction. This is a crucial point, since so much of Cayce's subsequent experience growing up would have been molded by the rural nature of his society and surroundings.(1) Census data from 1880 records two main occupations for the men of south Christian County: "farmer" for those who owned land, and "farm laborer" for those who did not. (Dark tobacco was then the major cash crop: today it Is burley and soybeans.) The modest landholdinas on which Cayce grew up were actually owned by Cayce's paternal grandparents. Thomas Jefferson Cayce and Sarah Thomas Cayce, Cayce's parents, Leslie Burr Cayce (1853-1937) and Carrie Elizabeth Major Cayce (1853-1926)- sold the farm a few months after the death of the grandmother in 1893 (a nationwide depression had begun, and tobacco prices had plummeted) and left Beverly for what they hoped would be greater opportunities in Hopkinsville. Besides those already mentioned. Cayce's family included four younger sisters (Annie, Mary, Ola, and Sarah) plus two more siblings who failed to survive infancy, as well as a complex extended family encompassing to some degree much of the population of Beverly. As a modem inhabitant of the area. Brooks Major, explained it to me. It would have been natural to feel more of a tie with a fifth cousin who was a neighbor than with a first cousin who lived in Chicago. Perhaps half of the people who knew Cayce in Beverly would have "counted kin" with him in this way.
Like his sisters, Cayce attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse from 1883 to 1889, after which the school was rebuilt as the two-room Beverly Academy. An 1890 class photo shows Cayce with about fifty other white children. The Cayces' church. Liberty Christian Church (called "Old Liberty"), was nearby and was approximately the same size as the school. Several other churches. mostly Baptist. were located in the area. and much of Beverly's social life centered around church activities. Those goods which could not be made at home were mostly bought from two local general stores, where more socializing took place. Nearby were two doctors' offices and a blacksmith's shop. A Masonic lodge (Forest Lodge No. 308) met in an upper room of one of the general stores. with several of Cayce's relatives in attendance and at one point Cayce's father running the store below. The Masons could not have had many secrets in such a commmunity. Additional social events were offered by something called the Adelphians Debating and Literary Society, which organized recreational debates on such questions as whether there was "Anything to be Feared from the Growth of Catholicism in America" (the society voted no), or whether "the Government and People of America are Justifiable in Their Treatment of the Indians" (the society voted yes, apparently unmoved by the 1838-1839 passage of the Cherokee "Trail of Tears" through Christian County). Cayce's mother. and possibly his father as well. occasionally participated.(2) Other South Christian County social events to which Cayce would have been exposed included revivals and chautauqua-style lectures.
In an unpublished study of Cayce's family of origin.(3) Stephan A. Schwartz begins by reminding his readers of the temporal and geographic proximity of the U.S. Civil War. then invites us to picture an entire generation suffering from personal losses compounded by lingering antagonism toward the victorious enemy. (Christian County was split on the war issue. with Hopkinsville's Seventh Street being the traditional dividing line.) If the subject is rarely broached in Cayce literature. this is perhaps because the Cayces were Southerners whereas his biographers were Northerners. The character of Cayce's parents--another subject glossed over in the popular Cayce literature--would have been deeply affected by postwar insecurities. Assisted by two psychiatrists specializing in family issues and a psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress syndrome (who were given Cavce's biographical details but not his name). Schwartz paints a disturbing picture. Even by the standards of the day, Cayce's father was regarded as a hard drinker and a militant racist. (Cayce drank moderately. and though sometimes his readings all but match the racism of his father,(4) at other times they affirm the "Brotherhood of Man" as an ideal instead.) Schwartz portrays the father as a failure in life who abused his family out of frustration. As for the mother, Cayce rarely discusses her, suggesting that she played a passive, codependent role in the marriage. A likely pattern would have been for Cayce to grow up fearful of his father and distrustful of his mother (for being unable to protect him), only in his later years to harbor contempt for the father and remember the mother as a long-suffering, saintly figure. Children of abusive parents are also particularly prone to dissociation. a fact which may shed considerable light on Cayce's subsequent psychic experiences. The remarkable thing about Cayce, says Schwartz, is the extent to which he managed to rise above his abusive background, ultimately achieving a relatively successful career and family life. I would add that Cayce's religious upbringingaugmented his already considerable natural creativity and drive with a certain introspective tendency. coupled with a confidence that God would help him if only he would keep his half of the covenant. This is a clearly a powerful blend of attitudes. whatever one makes of the religion that inspired it.
Cayce felt an early, profound connection with nature as well as the supernatural. Both sets of his memoirs devote much attention to descriptions of the fields and woods of his childhood, and it is surely no accident that Cayce describes his opening up to nature and the supernatural almost in the same breath. For Cayce, the natural world held deep spiritual significance:
It appeared to me even then, if God had made the little birds, the trees, the flowers, the beautiful sky, and set the stars in their places ... He must be in every one of those little creatures in some manner or form.(5)
In many ways Cayce's experiences can be likened to that of members of indigenous cultures. Indeed. Cayce's Beverly-whose families had mostly lived there for many generations-might easily occupy some sort of intermediate ground between truly indigenous cultures and the highly mobile American society of today. Even contemporary natives of Beverly will look on the hills. trees. and fields of the area and be moved to affirm their familiarity (and hence relation) with these natural patterns, or else remember some relative or ancestor who lived there. For them. kinship recognition is not only extended widely but also deeply, with the reality of one's ancestors constantly being reinforced by such reminders of their former presence on the earth. Numerous cross-cultural parallels can be observed between Cayce's experience and shamanism. with the caveat that the meaning and scope of the term "shamanism" is a topic of ongoing debate among specialists. For example, in Cayce we find the typical shamanic: themes of an initiatory illness. hereditary abilities, tutelage by spirit guides, ecstatic trances and visions, and narrated journeys into the spirit world in search of healing knowledge and/or personal advice.
At the risk of venturing the realm of psychology. it seems that when people live in relative isolation for extended periods, especially in a natural setting, thoughts and impulses dredged up from the mysterious depths of the unconscious often find expression in powerful ways. For example, a neighboring area in Tennessee has produced the more famous case of the Bell Witch. a spirit who haunted one particular family until its stated goals were met--the father died. and a daughter broke off her engagement. In the process, the spirit conversed with a number of visitors, including Andrew Jackson.(6) Spiritualist mediums and their audiences similarly received many such messages from the spirit world. though their contacts were seldom so malevolent. Within the Protestant fold Logan County, Kentucky (two counties away from Christian County) was the scene of great revivals in which the Holy Spirit frequently possessed participants to say and do all sorts of improbable things. ranging from barking like dogs to rolling around on the ground in convulsions. Cayce's supernatural experiences as a child and later on attracted suspicion not because such things were unknown to the good people of Beverly. but because the prevailing attitude held that these were best left alone.
Using the same glowing language with which he describes nature, Cayce recalls childhood encounters with invisible playmates who showed him around the family's tobacco-curing barn, as well as conversations with his deceased grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Cayce.(7) In life, the sir and father had seemed to possess psychic abilities:
On a number of occasions I saw him do some very unusual things that I have since learned many people attribute to the working of discarnate spirits. In conversation from time to time I heard people ask him to be present at some sort of meeting. The purposes of these meetings I did not know. I saw him move tables and other articles, apparently without any contact with the objects themselves. On such occasions he would say, "I don't know what the power is, but don't fool with it."(8)
Thomas Jefferson Cayce drowned in 1881 (when Edgar was four years old) after being thrown by a horse into the middle of a pond. where he was knocked unconscious. According to his memoirs, Edgar Cayce saw him go under.(9) Intriguingly, many years later Edgar Cayce would identify- his newborn grandchild, future ARE president Charles Thomas Cayce, as the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson Cayce.
Like most of the people he knew, Cayce looked mainly to the teachings of his church for guidance in spiritual matters. While his primary loyalty would have been to Christianity in general rather than to the Disciples of Christ in particular, the influence of his church experiences is undeniable, and few of his spiritual insights could have been entirely unmediated by this background. If we could evesdrop across time to a Sunday morning at the close of the nineteenth century. we would likely find some twenty-five to thirty souls gathered to worship at Old Liberty,. out of a total listed membership of several times that. One-third of these would consist of Cayces, while another third would consist of Majors (Edgar's mother's family). During this period ministers of the church tended to be professors at South Kentucky College in Hopkinsville, who might preach at Old Liberty twice a month. On other Sundays the pulpit would be filled by ministers from other churches. circuit-niding evangelists. or (less formally) by the church's own elders. No musical instruments of any kind were used until 1906, when a member of the congregation donated an organ over the vigorous objections of one of Cayce's grand-uncles. Church governance was congregational, with formal authority vested in a board consisting of elders. deacons. and the minister.
The service would have been typical of Protestant churches in general. with (Calvinist or Baptist) hymns. congregational prayer, a sermon, and the "Lord's Supper" celebrated every Sunday (the frequency being an important theological issue). The whole proceedings would have lasted approximately two hours. At some point a collection plate would be passed, usually on behalf of some specific cause or expense. This practice was supplemented by more direct financial appeals first to the congregation as a whole, then--if volunteers were lacking-from specific individuals, in public. After the service. people would invite one another to dinner (i.e. the midday meat), a custom of which I am pleased to have been a modem beneficiary. Some took the opportunity to discuss the sermon or other religious topics, perhaps controversial ones. Bro, who knew Cayce during 1943 and 1944, describes Cayce's recollection of this activity:
Discussing sermons was an art form of the time [the late nineteenth century], both recreational and serious. Here Edgar was not shy at all.... Not infrequently the exchanges mirrored his reading, both 'in the Bible and in the tracts and magazines which were common in the Christian Church.
Years later I found he could discuss animatedly the issues that grasped church leaders of the period: biblical authority, the status of ex-slaves, excesses of the Industrial Revolution, musical instruments in worship (when a boy, his church voted against an organ as not scriptural), the validity of missionary societies, the five-fingered "plan of salvation," immersion baptism, communion open to all believers, alchoholism, personal idealism, service to the poor, and more.(10)
In addition Old Liberty offered Sunday school for children. organized Bible study for adults. and hosted a revival perhaps once a year. Brooks Major calls the years between 1878 and 1900 "the years of growth" for Old Liberty--from 85 listed members to about 150--due to the large number of new enrollments resulting from religious revivals.(11)
Should Old Liberty be regarded as conservative? Today most Disciples of Christ churches lie toward the liberal end of the Protestant spectrum. but then these are the churches which have remained after several twentieth-century schisms in which the more conservative churches broke away. (The present-day Liberty Christian Church- which is rather conservative, is an exception.) However, in Cayce's boyhood the nowfamiliar division between religious liberals and conservatives had not yet occurred. People attended Old Liberty not necessarily because they identified with a certain theological position but because their family attended. or because it was the nearest church. If its late nineteenth century outlook appears conservative by modem standards. so would that of most other churches (and people) of the period. For example, the literal truth of the various biblical myths was not only generally believed but largely taken for granted, since scientific and scholarly information to the contrary took some time to trickle down. Another example: Prior to the 1920's, the boards of Old Liberty and other churches (especially the Baptists) would censure members for such moral lapses as dninking, swearing, or cardplaying. Particularly incorrigible sinners might be "churched" (i.e.. expelled from the congregation) until they showed signs of sincere repentance. then readmitted until they relapsed. Many years later in Bowling Green. Cayce would have such proceedings brought against him for heresy. by which was meant his psychic activities He was acquitted. but banned from all leadership positions in that congregation (e.g. Sunday school teaching).
Even taking into account the fact that the Bible and Christianity were a much more pervasive part of American culture in those days. by all accounts Edgar Cayce was fascinated with religion from an early age. At ten (in 1887) he served as sexton. the first of many volunteer church positions. At twelve, Cayce resolved to read the Bible straight-through once for every year of his life, even to the extent of catching up with the twelve years that had already passed. Sure enough, when he died at the age of sixty-seven. he had read the Bible sixtyseven times. Cavce's religious interests quickly grew into an intense spiritual search which led him far beyond his own denomination:
More and more I sought the companionship of teachers and ministers that chance brought my way, ministers of all creeds and denominations. I remember very well some discussions I had in my earlier years with a very devout Mormon. who was forced to leave the colony when there was the passage of the law that no one could have more than one wife. Also I remember very well the conversations I had with an elder in the Methodist Church. and ministers in the Baptist, the Presbyterian. the Christian. the Unitarian. and the Congregationalist churches. For some time I was with a priest of the Catholic church, seeking I knew not what. Is it any wonder I was called peculiar by my schoolmates?(12)
Following Disciples custom. Cayce was baptised by immersion at the age of thirteen (in 1890). This is lightly said. but the event could have only come after Cayce specifically requested it. having pondered the decision in his heart and felt moved by the Holy Spirit to declare himself a believer. One can only imagine what the experience must have meant to a boy with such strong spiritual inclinations. Shortly afterward, while Cayce was reading his Bible in a secluded spot near his home.
...there was a sudden humming sound out side and bright light fill the little place where eddy sat, and a figure all in white bright as the noon day light, and the figure spoke--saying your prayers have been heard. what would you ask of me, that I may give it to you,--just that I may be helpful to others, especially to children who are ill, and that I may love my fellow man,and the figure was gone.(13)
Cayce's memoirs describe this incident only vaguely. Sugrue's characterization of the visitor as a feminine angel is widely remembered in ARE circles, while Bro doubts this and remembers Cayce denying that this luminous figure or presence had any discernable gender.(14) Whatever its nature, the entity seems to have offered Cayce a wish, whereupon he asked to become a healer.
The following day there occurred his famous "spelling-book incident." Cayce, who was never much of a student to begin with, now found himself hopelessly distracted from his spelling lesson:
In school next day eddy missed his lessons as usual--and had to remain to write the word cabin 500 times on blackboard, and when he arrived at home that evening his Father was waiting for him--eddy studied his lessons in the evening but seemed not to be able to concentrate,at about llthat even he had the first experience of hearing the voice with-in--and it recalled the voice of the visitor of the evening befor-but it said"Sleep and we may help you" eddy asked his Father to let him sleep five minuets,he slept and at the end of the time eddy knew every word in that particular speller.(15)
Cayce's father made generous use of corporal punishment as a teaching aid, so that Edgar received "many a buff and rebuff" before the incident was finally resolved.(16) As a result of his newfound guidance.
Not only was I able to spell all the words in the lesson, but any word in that particular book; not only spell them, but tell on what page and what line each word could be found, and how it was marked ... they appeared before my eyes as recited.(17)
Cayce's father then proceeded to beat him again, this time for having concealed his ability to spell.
Cayce soon found that he could do the same thing with any book. For his eighth-grade graduation ceremony he showed off his ability by reciting an hour-and-a-half-long speech that their visiting congressman, James "Quinnine Jim" MacKenzie, had given against the quinnine tariff. Some details of these incidents suggest that Cayce's mysterious ability to absorb the contents of books may have simply been a photographic memory. For example, he could use his ability to memorize detailed printed information (e.g. page numbers). but not to learn subjects like grammar or mathematics. While other people with this ability do not need to leave the conscious state in order to activate it. there is no reason to think that it could not have worked this way for Cayce. At any rate such an explanation would spare us the necessity of invoking such things as angels or the akashic plane. Sugrue and Bro add that Cayce placed the speller under his head--as if learning could somehow occur by osmosis--but this is not found in any of Cayce's own accounts. On the other hand. Bro reports testing this ability of Cayce's many years later with a review copy of Hans Vincent's Lighted Passage which Bro had just received in the mail and not yet read. Cayce reportedly took the book in hand without opening it (or going into trance). and gave what Bro recalls as an excellent summary of its contents.(18)
At fifteen (in 1892) Cayce gave what many regard as his first reading. Following the urgings of his teacher, Professor Thom. Cayce (who was inexperienced at sports) attempted to join other boys in a game of "Old Sow," only to be hit on the head by a baseball:
Someone must have struck me in the middle of my spine or the back of my head, for I remembered nothing that happened the rest of the day--though it was said that I rather mechanistically went through all the activities throughout classes. It was nothing unusual for me to be peculiar to the rest of them, but in the evening my sister had to lead me home.(19)
That evening he acted more and more strangely, until at one point he called for a poultice to be applied to the back of his head. His mother did as he asked. and by the next morning he had recovered. The incident was soon forgotten by his family, only to be recalled later when his psychic abilities eventually surfaced in full force.
At sixteen. Cayce fell in love with a girl named Bessie Kenner, who unfortunately did not share his spiritual values. He tried to tell her about his visions.
... but all seemed to fall on deaf ears--for Bess laughed at him and his misterious tale, and plainly told him she liked him, but didnt care for all these unnatural things to her. she liked to play and romp go to parties go buggy riding, sit and talk, dance, go places for entertainment, this was a sad sad day for eddy, again and again he tried to tell her he loved her wanted her for his wife, home, to build for themselves a place in the world of life and activity--Oh said he I know we are just children as yet, but I can study hard, and be something--maybe the best preacher in the country, we will have a church like Old Liberty, and a lovely garden and fields of pretty crops and the like, but Bess laughed the more--she would never be a preacher's wife--and besides this foolishness of seeing things wasnt right, only crazy people talked about such things, besides Dad says you are not right in the head and can never come to any good end--even if you grow up to be a man-I want a real man a man of the world, that will go out and be something-, not a dreamer of dreams, not one that likes the Bible better than a good love story, one that would make me love him by force, take me in his arms and make love to me, kiss me and make me love him and you, you think all such is foolishness, that is life that is what ever girl hopes for.
Later Cayce confronted Bess's father. a local doctor- about his feelings for Bess:
Eddy--said he, you are a good boy, but you are just a kid not 16 vet are you Oh yes--was sixteen last Mar, said eddy, well any way says the Dr you are too young to think of getting married--while it is the wish of every Father that his daughters marry a fine upstanding man, one well thought of in every sense of the word--but he must be a man eddy... you should be like other boys--be with other boys, you never played marbel--spun a top--threw a ball, or did any of the things other boys do--dont you feel the difference when you are with other boys, but you do nt go with other boys do you, do that and after four five years come talk with me again.(20)
Determined to follow the doctor's advice, Cayce fell in with Tom Andrews, a macho former cowboy who boarded in his house and seemed to enjoy some familiarity with worldly vices. For example, Cayce recalls catching a stray bullet in the collarbone in the aftermath of a craps game which the two of them attended.(21) After Andrews left for the West in the company of another man's fiancee. Cayce attempted to attend the circus in Hopkinsville. even after his God-fearing neighbor had warned him that the circus was "a weapon of the Devil." Fortunately, divine intervention temporarily immobilized Cayce's pony in the manner of Balaam's ass, forcing Cayce to return safely home, whereupon he solemnly resolved not to be such a hell-raiser.(22) As for his relationship with Bess, we hear nothing more on the subject.
Cayce's formal education came to an end after his eighth-grade year, since Beverly Academy did not teach the higher grades and his family could not afford to send him elsewhere. Cayce, not wanting his sisters to be similarly deprived of a high school education. urged his parents to move to Hopkinsville. which they did in 1893. From that time on the family finances would be perpetually problematic. Meanwhile, Cayce went to work on his grandmother's farm under the management of his uncle, Edgar T. Cayce, partly in order to help support his sisters' education. (In order to distinguish between them people took to referring to Cayce as "Edgar Cayce, Jr.") In August of 1893 Cayce's angel (if that is what it was) appeared to him again, urging him to leave the farm to be with his mother.(23) Cayce immediately quit and began walking the thirteen or fourteen miles into town. That very evening Cayce joined his family in Hopkinsville.
Although he had been to "Hoptown" before, it is instructive to reflect on the impression it must have made on the sixteen-year-old Beverly native. Hopkinsville, a regional agnicultural hub and Christian County seat, boasted a census population of 5.833) in 1890, 7.280 in 1900, and 9.419 in 1910.(24) In Beverly everybody knew each other. Not so in Hopkinsville, although most people probably had at least one friend in common with most others within their racial community (Hopkinsville being approximately two-thirds white and one-third black at the time). Beverly had only a handful of non-residential buildings. Hopkinsville boasted a regular downtown area with three- or four-story buildings. tobacco warehouses, mills, brokerage offices. newspapers, stables. stores. hotels and boarding houses. restaurants and bars, a theater. a courthouse. a jail, a sprawling mental hospital. a civic auditorium (Union Tabernacle, where Cayce heard such notables as Theodore Roosevelt. John Philip Sousa. Booker T. Washington. and William Jennings Bryan), a railroad station. at least half a dozen fraternal orders, several colleges (South Kentucky College, Bethel Female College, Hopkinsville Male & Female College after 1899) and more than a dozen churches. The Ninth Street Christian Church, which the Cayces attended, had everything that Old Liberty did not: gothic architecture, a choir, an organ (installed in 1887. over the protests of some forty members), a baptistry, stained glass windows, a full-time minister (J.W. IMitcheil until 1896, then Harry D. Smith until 1914), and a full range of Sunday School and prayer group activities for adults. I propose that Edgar's experience of Ninth Street Christian. which must have impressed him with its many seeming improvements over Old Liberty, opened him up to a corresponding expansion of his understanding of the Bible and theology.
Given Cayce's ability (whatever its nature) to effortlessly absorb the contents of books, it seems inevitable that Cayce would have attempted to acquire religious knowledge in this way. While Cayce lacked the education or funds to pursue his hoped-for career as a Disciples of Christ minister, less formal resources were available to him. The day after his arrival 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.(25) His biographers add that he initially offered to work without pay, and did such a good job that the owners were essentially embarrassed into paying him a salary. Cayce himself records that his Bible had come from the Hopper store.(26) 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."(27) without explaining why. For him, farming represented
the expression of materiel things for sustaining of the physical man-and these here in the store for sustaining the mental man.but was there not beauty in both-were they for the same persons. or is there one thought for the city or town man and another for the toiler of the soil.no the basic truth are the same they are different phases of mans experience.and must be treated as one.or so eddy reasoned...(28)
Years later, while entranced, Cayce would often envision the akashic records as shelves of books.
Those Cayce writers who argue that the pre-Dayton Cayce could not have been influenced by occult books since none were spotted on his own bookshelves, miss an obvious and crucial possibility--namely that Cayce read such books while working as a bookstore clerk. Here it is important to realize that while Cayce was certainly able to read (and possibly gifted with perfect recall), he would probably not have been capable of discerning whether a particular book was sober and realistic or highly speculative in its argument. In that sense he was uneducated.
The Hopper store served as something of a social center for young people attending the local academies and colleges:
... to be sure many were the friendships made that ripened into love, eddy became the post office for may a note between girls and boys from either school, and he was invited to the social hours quite often.(29)
1. Beverly's relative isolation is illustrated by the fact that Rural Free Delivery of mail became available only in 190 1. and that gravel turnpikes (many of them freed after 190 1) were the main arteries which connected Beverly with Hopkinsville and other points. Christian County would not have its first paved road until 1932.
2. Brooks Major, History of Liberty Christian Church. p. 16.
3. Stephan Schwartz, "Edgar Cayce: A Revisionist Perspective," in A. Robert Smith et al., Griffin report.
4. For example, in 1923 the sleeping Cayce was asked, "Why is It not possible to take a reading on a negro?" (Over the years Cayce knowingly gave only a handful of readings for black people, although others may have received theirs through the mail without alerting Cayce to their race.) The answer: "For the same reason that it would be impossible to teach a dog to talk" (3744-1). Cayce went on to describe negroes as being lower in vibration or soul-evolution. In a 1938 reading in answer to an -inquirer who wanted to know whether to hire a white housekeeper or a black one, Cayce replied that "White. of course. is preferable to the colored: if this is in keeping with the purposes and desires" (257-277). Gladys Davis speculates in a note attached to the first reading that Cayce may have been influenced by racist ideas in the mind of the conductor of the reading, in this case his father.
5. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs, p. 4.
6. Two works on the Bell Witch are Bell, The Bell Witch: and Brent Monahan. The Bell Witch: An American Haunting. So far as I am aware, none of these people are related to me.
7. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs, p. I.
8. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs. p. I
9. Ibid., p. 1)
10. Harmon Bro, A Seer Our of Season, p. 271. The " five- fingered plan of salvation" derives its name from evangelist Walter Scott's habit of enumerating on his fingers five steps on the way to salvation: faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The first three items constitute the believer's responsibilities: the last two represent God's half of the agreement, i.e. the benefits which God promises to provide those who meet the first three conditions. Where other revivalists sometimes suggested that the moment of salvation would be accompanied by an emotional spiritual experience. for those who did not have such an experience Scott's rationalist formulation eliminated much spiritual uncertainty.
11. Brooks Major, The History of Liberty Christian Church, p.18.
12. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs. p. 3.
13. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs. p. 3.
14. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 277,
15. Edgar Cayc,. 47-pp. memoirs. p. 3.
16, Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs. p. 6.
17. Ibid.. pp. 6-7.
18. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.
19. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs, p. 7.
20. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs: pp. 6-7.
21. Ibid.. pp. 8-9.
22. Ibid.. pp. 9-10.
23. Ibid., p. 12.
24. William T. Turner. Gatewav From the Past, vol. II, p. 5.
25. Ibid.. p. 10.
26. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs, p. 13.
27. Edgar Cayce. 95-pp. memoirs, p. 10.
28. Edgar Cayce. 47-pp. memoirs, p. 13.
29. Ibid., p. 23.
Cayce gradually overcame his self-image as "this clodhopper"(30) and grew more comfortable with his social surroundings. It was as a clerk in the Hopper store that Cayce met college student Gertrude Evans ( 1880-1945), who became his fiancee in 1897 and his wife in 1903. Gertrude's family was one of the wealthiest and most socially prominent in town, while Cayce struggled financially both before and after the marriage--a contrast which leads Schwartz to interpret Cayce's courtship of Gertrude as a sign of healthy ambition. At the time of their engagement Cayce was nearly twenty and Gertrude sixteen: when they married they were twentysix and twenty-two, respectively. The extraordinary length of their engagement is a good indication of Cayce's limited finances as well as of his in-laws' reservations. The couple's first home was a boarding house in Bowling Green.
Cayce heard a number of evangelists preach in Hopkinsville, among them Sam Jones, George Pentecost, George Stewart, and Dwight L. Moody. A chance meeting with Moody in 1895 led to multiple mornings of prayer and private spiritual discussion with him.(31) Moody seemed open to the possibility that God might really have spoken to Cayce, and even shared an anecdote from his own experience telling how he had once received divine guidance through a dream. He convinced Cayce that even if he could never become a minister, he could nevertheless find ways to serve God. After that,
I sought more and more to be associated now with the people of the church. A Sunday School class was given to me. I sought to aid some of the Methodist circuit riders, accompanying them on some of their trips, several times filling appointments for them when they were unable to go. In one of the classes I had there were thirty-eight students: I was nineteen years old. There seemed to be something that called for a special study of missionary work. More than half of that class are missionaries in foreign fields today.(32)
Years later Cayce would look back on his talks with Moody as a formative experience, and throughout his life he would remain deeply involved in such traditional church-type activities as teaching Sunday school. visiting prisoners. participating in intercessory prayer groups, and supporting overseas missions. Bro relates that these were mainly medical missionaries and the like, so Cayce may have been motivated by a desire to help the less fortunate rather than necessarily to convert the heathen.(33)
Cayce lost his Job in 1898, when the Hopper store took on another partner. At first he worked briefly in a neighboring store that sold wallpaper, then became a shoe salesman for a dry goods store. Between 1898 to 1900 Cayce worked at the John P. Morton Bookstore in Louisville, a job which he obtained through the ingenius tactic of asking everyone he knew (especially customers of the Morton store) to send letters of recommendation in waves until the management finally relented. Cayce prepared himself for the job by memorizing the company catalogue in the same way that he had memorized his speller. Louisville was "a metropolis to him"(34) and Cayce experienced some difficulty adjusting to his new surroundings. Fortunately, acquaintances from his boarding house and church eased the transition for this "already lonesome, lonesome boy."(35)
Cayce's move first to the Hopper store and then to the Morton store (a wholesaler) would have given him progressively greater access to books in an era when public libraries were as yet generally unavailable. In 1902 he worked briefly for yet another bookstore. Lucian D. Potter's Bookstore in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Unfortunately none of these bookstores exist any longer, and I have not yet been able to come by any definite information as to what titles would have been sold during Cayce's tenure. Also. until historians are able to travel back in time and photograph Cayce with an open book in front of his face. any evidence that Cayce actually read any of the volumes in his charge can only be circumstantial. On the other hand- those who accept that Cayce had an extraordinary ability to absorb the contents of books without reading them cannot logically demand such evidence.
In Louisville Cayce met a woman named Margaret while working at the Morton store. Margaret came from a wealthy family whose business the owners had been seeking for some time. Despite the fact that Cayce was already engaged,
then came conclusion in some quarters there was to one day be a union between Margret and eddy--this didn't fit eddy's idea of being true to his promise at all,but was circumstances to so shape his life that there was little he could do but drift along with same,for the investing of considerable monies in the firm seem then to hinge on that fact.(36)
The situation was finally resolved in 1900 when Cayce's father offered him a job as a traveling insurance salesman for Woodmen of the World, a fraternal benefit society. This allowed Cayce to leave Louisville (and Margaret) for Hopkinsville (and Gertrude).
In 1900 Cayce began experiencing violent headaches. He had just been given a sedative by a doctor when he lost his voice and failed to regain it--a serious career obstacle for a traveling salesman if ever there was one. Forced to find alternative employment. Cayce took a summer business course at Bryant & Stratton Business College in Louisville. then returned to Hopkinsville to work as a portrait photographer. a trade he was to practice for several decades. (Bro points out that Cayce won awards for his studio portraits. and likes to compare the impulse behind them with that underiving his "portraits" of people in the readings.)(37) As for his voice. a succession of physicians found themselves unable to cure him. and church groups began praying for him. Cayce's weight plummeted to "less than an hundred pounds," down from 165.(38) At this point hypnotists began offering their services. Cayce had been hypnotized before, by stage entertainers like Stanley Hart "the Laugh King" in Hopkinsville, or "Herman the Great" in Louisville.(39) Cayce's biographers add that Hart was one of those who attempted to cure Cayce, and succeeded in getting him to speak under hypnosis (though the effect lasted only while he was entranced).
Eventually a New York psychiatrist with the unfortunate name of Quackenbush attempted to cure Cayce trough hypnosis. Observing the proceedings was Al Layne, a Hopkinsville-based bookkeeper who studied osteopathy and "suggestive therapeutics" as a hobby. (Layne's wife Ada employed him along- with Cayce's sister Annie in her hat shop.)
Quackenbush failed but, after reflecting on Cayce's personal history, wrote to Layne encouraging him to have Cayce put himself into the same kind of trance that he had used to memorize his speller. Cayce did so, then Layne asked the "sleeping" Cayce to diagnose himself Cayce compiled:
Yes--see the body here there is partial paralysis of the inferior muscles of the vocal cords,caused from poisons and is both a psyclogical and pathological condition,but sugestion that circulation will increase to the affected area of the vocal cords and remove the congestion.should enable the body to speak normal when physicaly awake.(40)
Layne followed Cayce's recommendation. Amazingly, the procedure worked. Cayce was cured-at least temporarily, for he would periodically lose his voice again and have to be hypnotized again in order to restore it.
Some time later, Layne asked Cayce to put himself in a trance again, this time for the purpose of diagnosing Layne's own ailment:
Now there came a series of experiemnts--eddy felt he owed Mr Layne real consideration for what had come about,yet didnt care to becomea guinea pig for just every sort of experiment into the field of hypnotism,but Layne said now eddy of you can do that for your self there is no reason you cant do it for others,now lets see what you will say about me. I have had a bad stomach trouble for years,lets see what you say may be done for it. This proved to be a very confusing experience for eddy, while Mr L. improved and was a well man in a few months,the sugestions were to take certain compounds,use certain diets,and exercise.all of this was new to eddy,he had never studies physiology,he knew nothing about.anatomy,and most of all giving or sugesting compounds of things he knew nothing about.must be all wrong,where did such information come Crom.what did it all mean,did it or not have any thing to do with the experiences he had as a child...(41)
Layne then persuaded Cayce to give "readings" (as they came to be called) for other sick people. These, too, were successful, but Cayce began to gall at the resulting notoriety. In 1902 Cayce moved to Bowling Green. Kentucky, and the following year married Gertrude. He continued to give readings for Layne's patients, however.
While in Bowling Green, Cayce received a plea from an acquaintance from Hopkinsville on behalf of his sixyear-old daughter, Aime Dietrich, whose four-year-old history of convulsions had resisted all conventional medical treatment. The drama of the Dietrich case had already caught the attention of the local press, so when Atme recovered completely following Cayce's trance-diagnosis (he prescribed osteopathic adjustments, which Layne administered), the story spread all over Kentucky and Tennessee. After this Layne was warned to cease practicing medicine until he obtained a medical degree, and so could no longer serve in his former capacity with respect to Cayce. His role was soon taken over by others. Cayce's father and a number of other people "conducted" the readings in the sense of giving the suggestion for Cayce to enter a trance, and then asking the questions. Layne's medical role was taken over by Wesley Ketchum, a homeopath who took to delivering papers on Cayce to learned medical societies (without Cayce's knowledge). Ketchum's papers eventually caught the attention of the New York Times, which carried the story under the inaccurate headline. "Illiterate Man Becomes a Doctor When Hypnotized" (October 9. 1910). As a result of the increased media attention.,Cayce soon received thousands of requests for psychic readings from all over the country.
Cayce did not have to see. know. or examine the subjects of his readings--all he needed was a name and address. How was this possible? The conscious Cayce pleaded ignorance. and drew a strong distinction between himself and the source of his readings. Not only did he claim not to remember what was said duringhis trance sessions. he often could not understand much of what he had dictated even after waking up. due to the preponderance of technical medical terminology. The same question put to the sleeping Cayce elicited the following explanation:
Edgar Cayce's mind is amenable to suggestion. the same as all other subjective minds. but in addition thereto it has the power to interpret to the objective mind of others what it requires from the subconscious mind of other 'Individuals of the same kind. The subconscious forgets nothing. The conscious mind receives the impression from without and transfers all thought to the subconscious. where it remains even though the conscious be destroyed. The subconscious mind of Edgar Cayce is in direct contact with all other subconscious minds. and is capable of interpreting through his objective mind and imparting impressions received to other objective minds. gathering in this way all knowledge possessed by millions of other subconscious minds.
Cayce's description assumes a model of the mind common among nineteenth-century authorities on hypnosis, particularly Thomson Jay Hudson, and subsequently taken up by New Thought writers such as Thomas Troward. Years later. in the context of another type of reading (the life readings) the sleeping Cayce would explain his ability in terms of his access to the "akashic plane," an invisible realm where all human activity is recorded for eternity.
Cayce describes the procedure itself in this portion of a 1933) talk entitled "What is a Reading":
The first step in giving a reading is this: I loosen my clothes--my shoelaces, my necktie, my shirtcuffs, and my belt--in order to have a perfectly free- flowingcirculation.
Then I lie down on the couch in my office. If the reading is to be a physical one, I lie with my head to the south and my feet to the north. If it to be a life reading, it is just the opposite: my feet are to the south, my head to the north. The reason for this difference in "polarization," as the readings themselves call it. I do not know.
Once lying comfortably, I put both hands up to my forehead, on the spot where observers have told me the third eye is located. and pray. Interestingly enough, I have unconsciously and instinctively, from the very beginning, adopted the practices used by initiates in meditation. This instinctive putting of my hands to the point midway between my two eyes on my forehead is a case of what I mean.
Then I wait for a few minutes, until I receive what might be called the "go signal"--a flash of brilliant white light, sometimes tendingtoward the golden in color. This light is to me the sign I have made contact. When I do not see it, I know I cannot give the reading.
After seeing the light, I move my hands down to the solar plexus, and-they tell me--my breathing now becomes very deep and rhythmic. from the diaphragm. This goes on for several minutes. When my eyes begin to flutter closed (up till now they have been open. but glazed) the conductor knows I am ready to receive the suggestion, which he proceeds to give to me, slowly and distinctly. If it is a physical reading, for example, the name of the individual to receive the reading is given me, together with the address where he will be located during that period of time.
There is a pause--sometimes so long a pause (they tell me) that it seems I haven't heard the directions, so they give them to me again--after which I repeat the name and address very slowly, until the body is located, and a description of its condition is begun.
This, then, is how I give a reading. I am entirely unconscious throughout the whole procedure. When I wake up I feel as if I had slept a little bit too long. And frequently I feet slightly hungry--just hungry enough for a cracker and a glass of milk, perhaps...(42)
Note however that this is a relatively late account. given after Cayce had been exposed to practitioners of yoga and similar spiritual paths. K. Paul Johnson's case for a Radhasoami connection (Cayce apparently did know at least one Radhasoami teacher during this period) points to that religion's emphasis on the divine sound and light which may be experienced during meditation.(43)
A parade of researchers, including Hugo Muensterberg, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison if Cayce's memoirs are to be believed), challenged Cayce to demonstrate his abilities in various ways, often by performing stunts such as describing the activities of someone in another city. Cayce is said to have been immensely successful at this, and ARE files testify to countless instances of incidental clairvoyance in the course of his readings.(44) Of course, the basic phenomenon of Cayce diagnosing patients at a distance would, if genuine, also qualify as clairvoyance. 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, but to 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.
Cayce's First child, Hugh Lynn Cayce, was bom in 1907 (and died in 1982). In all, the Cayces would have two more children--Milton Porter Cayce (b. 1911. died in infancy) and Edgar Evans Cayce (b. 1918). None of Cayce's descendants seem to have inherited his psychic gifts, although Hugh Lynn is sometimes posthumously credited with a degree of clairvoyance. Until recently,. leadership of the ARE was kept within the Cayce family, passing first to Hugh Lynn and then to Hugh Lynn's eldest son. Charles Thomas Taylor Cayce (b. 1942). Following ARE custom, I will generally refer to Hugh Lynn Cayce as "Huerh Lynn." Eduar Evans Cayce as "Edgar Evans," and Charles Thomas Cayce as "Charles Thomas." But all this is to anticipate.
In 1910, Cayce entered into a partnership in hopes of making, money from his ability through medical consulting. Dr. Ketchum served as physician of record. Cayce's father conducted the readings, and a financier named Albert Noe provided money for a spanking new photography studio for Edgar in return for a share of the fees for his readings. In 1912. the arrangement dissolved when Cayce discovered that some of the transcripts of his readings had been faked. It surfaced that his three partners- including his father--had conspired to ask the sleeping Cayce questions for which the waking Cayce had not given permission, especially inquiries relating to horse racing and the commodities markets. Cayce learned of the matter when. contrary to his usual experience, he began to feel physically ill after giving readings. After this discovery, Cayce left Kentucky altogether and opened a photographic studio in Selma, Alabama, where he resided until 1920 (and his family until 1923). Despite his alleged moral reservations about using his abilities in the pursuit of riches, he gave in to the temptation himself on more than one occasion,(45) and continued to advise stock and commodities speculators at least until the Great Depression. Bro points out that Cayce did not typically name specific financial instruments to be bought or sold. but merely encouraged his inquirers to apply any dream information that they might have received on such subjects.(46)
In 1915, Cayce experienced his final episode of "ophonia." For ten days he found himself unable to speak above a whisper. Then he fell unconscious, and had the following vision:
Apparently, there was spread before me all the graveyards in the world. I saw nothing save the abode of what we call the dead, in all portions of the world. Then, as the scene shifted, the graves seemed to be centered around India, and I was told by a voice from somewhere. "Here you will know a man's religion by the manner in which his body has been disposed of."
The scene changed to France, and I saw the soldiers' graves, and among them the graves of three boys who had been in my Sunday School class. Then I saw the boys, not dead but alive. Each of them told me how they met their death: one in machine gun fire- another in the bursting, of a shell, the other in heavy artillery fire. Two gave me messages to tell their loved ones at home. They appeared in much the same way and manner as they did the day they came to bid me goodbye.
As the scene changed again, I apparently reasoned with myself "This is what men call spiritualism. Can it be true? Are all these we call dead yet alive in some other plane of experience or existence? Could I see my own baby boy?" As if a canopy was raised. tier on tier of babies appeared. In the third or fourth row from the top, to the side, I recognized my own child [Milton Porter Cayce, who had died in infancy]. He knew me, even as I knew him. He smiled at his recognition, but no word of any kind passed.(47)
Several more spirits of the dead appeared before him with information for relatives left behind. which Cayce claims was later verified. When he awoke. he could talk normally. The vision left a lasting impression: "I do not know that I yet understand its whole import."(48)
Bro reports the testimony of Cayce's close friend David Kahn (a sometime furniture salesman from Lexington, Kentucky) to the effect that, around 1918. Cayce was secretly summoned to the White House to give psychic readings for President and Mrs. Wilson on the subject of the Fourteen Points.(49) Cayce alludes to two trips to Washington at the request of "one high in authority" who is otherwise unnamed.(50) A. Robert Smith relates that if Cayce did meet President Wilson. Hugh Lynn was never told of it, and suggests that Kahn had confused Wilson with a cousin of the president's for whom Cayce did in fact give readings.(51) Incidentally, the ARE is one of several spiritual movements (along with the Baha'i religion and the Agni Yoga Society) whose members have sought to take credit for the Fourteen Points on behalf of the central figures of their faiths. One wonders what these groups make of less exalted aspects of Wilson's career, such as his multiple invasions of Latin America on behalf of U.S. multinationals, establishment of official racial segregation in the federal government, angry rejection of women's suffrage, or curtailment of civil liberties.
In 1919, Cayce was asked to use his abilities to locate oil in Texas. The idea of making, money through psychic wildcatting inspired Cayce and Kahn to leave for Texas themselves the following year, where they would continue to reside until 1923. Robert Krajenke says that, contrary to the usual Caycean understanding, the initiative in this venture was Cayce's rather than Kahn's.(52) Kahn attributes the failure of the oil venture to sabotage by rival oil companies, which prevented them from striking oil before their leases expired. He points out that another company did discover oil on one of the sites identified by Cayce.(53) Cayce's sons blame the failure instead on the participants' drifting out of touch with the lofty spiritual purposes which Cayce's abilities were intended to serve.(54) How so? Althoueh many Cayce books are coy about describing Cayce's specific moral lapses, one might be Cayce's use of his purported psychic ability as the "hook" with which to secure investors ("speculators" would be more accurate). Several of Cayce's partners and associates in the several oil ventures were clearly promoters of dubious character. and 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.,"(55) as well as Columbus. Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and New York City. Another morally problematic aspect of Cayce's Texas period was his virtual abandonment of his family, whose finances grew accordingly precarious. Hugh Lynn grew up resenting his father for this, although he did briefly join him in Texas.(56) Cayce had at least one lover in Texas, and Bro (citing Hugh Lynn) adds the unpublished detail that the reason why Cayce remained in Texas for so long was some combination of the lover in Texas and an angry wife back home.(57)
Cayce's biographers portray the whole quixotic quest as a humanitarian effort, tragically unsuccessful, to raise money for a Cayce hospital. It Is true that at some point Cayce had conceived of the idea of founding a hospital where his psychic readings could be used to treat patients whose conditions were considered hopeless. Since doctors were often reluctant to follow Cayce's psychic recommendations, control of a hospital staffed with representatives of various medical traditions would ensure that this chronic problem could be overcome. However, it is not always clear whether Cayce sought the money for the sake of the hospital, or the hospital for the sake of the money. 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.
Krajenke entities his article on the Texas period and its aftermath. "Edgar Cayce and the Crucial Years" since It was during this time that Cayce formulated the spiritual teachings for which he is most widely remembered as well as the approximate institutional arrangements through which it would be promoted. During his absence from Selma, Cayce allowed his studio photography business to wither away. and for the rest of his life he would earn his living exclusively as a psychic. A key moment occurred in 1923 when Arthur Lammers, a photographic supplies dealer from Dayton, Ohio, overcame his well-founded distrust of Cayce's associates to become an enthusiastic supporter of Cayce. Krajenke points out that it was Lammers who first suggested that Cayce establish a psychic research institute, on the reasoning that it would be easier to raise money for that kind of venture than for a hospital. Monies thus raised could then be used to finance a hospital, on the ingenius grounds that a hospital would be a necessary part of the "research" (into Cayce) supported by the institute.(58)
In 1923, Cayce reunited with his wife and sons in Hopkinsville, then returned with them to Selma, where they remained for only a few months. This period is noteworthy chiefly for the addition of Selma native Gladys Davis (later Gladys Davis Turner) as the Cayces' secretary. Records of the readings were not consistently kept until the arrival of Davis, who instituted the practice of keeping carbon copies of the readings (i.e. the typewritten transcripts transcribed from stenographic notes, the originals of which were usually sent to the person for whom the reading was given) for Cayce's files. To convey an idea of her influence, out of some 14.306 extant readings only about 500 date before her arrival, although thousands more must have been given.(59) Over the years, Davis became a close friend of the Cayce family. Rumors to the effect that Davis and Cayce had an affair should be treated with caution since there is no clear evidence for the assertion. and it is just the sort of detail that gossiping tongues would be likely to invent.(60)
From Selma the Cayces (with Davis) moved to Dayton. Ohio at the invitation of Lammers, who agreed to support them. Lammers had an interest in esoteric literature (especially Theosophy, AMORC Rosicrucianism, and the astrology of Evangeline Adams), and encouraged Cayce to begin giving readings on spiritual subjects. Cayce writers usually point to Dayton. 1923 as the occasion of Cayce's first readings on metaphysical or religious subjects. These became known as "life readings" (in contrast to "physical readings", "world affairs readings", etc.) since they, generally describe several of the subject's past lives. Sugrue's biography portrays Cayce as engaging in a profound struggle over the question of whether the application of his psychic abilities to such questions would be compatible with biblical principles. Ultimately, relates Sugrue, Cayce agreed with considerable trepidation to be asked for a horoscope. The results of the reading supposedly left him stunned and horrified: while asleep. he had explained that astrological configurations on a natal horoscope are meaningful because they represent karmic influences carried over from previous lives. As for Lammers, this was his "Third appearance on this plane. He was once a monk" (5717-1). After much soul-searching, however, Cayce concluded that miraculous healings would not have occurred if his gift were demonic in nature- and gave in to requests for follow-up readings. Cayce eventually came to believe in the spiritual worldview suggested by the readings, which he decided were compatible with the teachings of the Bible after all.
While Sugrue's account possesses considerable charm and dramatic potential. the truth is more complicated. Cayce could not have been altogether surprised at the content of these readings since had been interested in astrology for several years before that. and recalls first having heard of it in 1919. Newspaper editor J-P. Thrash of Cleburne. Texas had asked for Cayce's birth information. then sent back twenty-one astrologers' reports. All of these agreed on a particular date (March 19. one day after Cayce's birthday) when Cayce would be able to answer "questions on any subject." The subject chosen was astrology, and Cayce adds that the resulting reading "has been described by many students of psychic phenomena to be the most phenomenal they have ever seen."(61) As for reincarnation, the first reference to this concept 'In the readings came as early as 1911 (4841-2 refers to the soul being "transmigrated"), although it was not immediately recognized for what it was. Bro recalls Cayce saying that he initially heard of reincarnation by way of Rosicrucianism.(62) Prior to Dayton, Cayce had encountered a number of people interested in esoteric spirituality or psychic phenomena, undoubtedly as a natural outgrowth of his psychic career. He remembers initially giving-talks on psychic phenomena to various civic groups while still in Birmingham. Alabama. Among those named were the Theosophical Society and Unity church .(63) Johnson has managed to pinpoint the time of Cayce's lecture to the Birmingham Theosophical Society to October 1922 (i.e. a year before Cayce went to Dayton), based on an article in the Birmingham Age-Herald. Bro writes that Cayce referred
...to contacts with occultists in his Southern speaking engagements as having prepared him somewhat for the expanded universe of his Dayton experience, despite the general framework of Sunday School Protestantism which constituted his chief thinking along philosophical lines. In periods of my questions to him, my notes show that he granted the preparation of these early experiences in at least having raised his curiosity.(64)
In later years Cayce would have many more such contacts, and admit to reading at least some of the occult books whose influence on him is doubted by Sugrue and his successors. In any event, rather than Lammers persuading a passive, reluctant Cayce to delve into esoteric spirituality, it would appear that Cayce made a conscious decision to expand the subject matter of the readings, and only consequently agreed to Lammers' request for him to relocate to Dayton.
The Cayces remained in Dayton for eighteen months. By 1925 it had become clear that Lammers's financial problems would prevent him from continuing to support them. At this point the Cayces (and Davis) followed the readings' advice and moved to Virginia Beach. where they would reside for the rest of their lives. Funding for the move was provided by New York stockbroker Morton Blumenthal and his brother Edwin. acquaintances of Kahn's who went on to finance a number of other Cayce-related ventures. Virginia Beach has remained the hub of Caycean activity ever since, and the man whose business card once called him a "psychic diagnostician" would forever after take on the air of a prophet.
30. Edgar Cayce. 47-pp. memoirs, p. 13.
31. Ibid.. pp. 14-22: cf. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs. p. 11.
32. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs, p. 13.
33. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.
34. Ed2ar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs. p. 26.
35. Ibid.. p. 27.
36. Ibid.. p. 3 1.
37. Harmon Bro, Why Edgar Cayce Was Not a Psychic, p. 35
38. Edgar Cayce, 47-pp. memoirs. p. 33.
39 Ibid., p. 30 1/2.
40. Ibid., p. 33.
41. Ibid., p. 34.
42. In Jeffrey Furst. Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus. p. 15.
43. In the 1930's Radhasoami teacher Bhagat Singh attended readings and lectured at ARE conferences. Later, Cayce writer and conference speaker I.C. Sharma was a minor Radhasoan-lineage-holder, and his guru Faqir Chand was an ARE life member.
44. For examples of incidental clairvoyance see Hugh Lynn Cayce. Venture Inward, pp. 36-75-, or Gladys Davis Turner and Mae Gimbert St. Clair. Individual Reference File, pp. 80-83.
45. For example in Edgar Cayce, 47-pp.memoirs, p. 46.
46. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.
47. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs, p. 59.
48. Ibid., p. 58.
49. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 331.
50. Edgar Cayce, 95-page memoirs, pp. 65, 77.
51. A. Robert Smith, Introduction, p. 4, in A. Robert Smith et al., Griffin report.
52. Robert Krajenke. "Edgar Cayce and the Crucial Years," in A. Robert Smith et al., Griffen report, p. 9.
53. David Kahn, My Life With Edgar Cayce, pp. 66-68.
54. Hugh Lynn Cayce and Edgar Evans Cayce, The Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce's Power, pp. 49-70. 139-141.
55. Edgar Cayce. 95-pp. memoirs, p. 74.
56. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 47.
57. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.
58. Robert Krajenke, "Edgar Cayce and the Critical Years." p. 12. In A. Robert Smith et al.,Griffen report.
59. Mary Ellen Carter, My Years With Edgar Cayce, p. 11.
60. For the prosecution. Bro recollects that Gertrude Cayce clearly recognized the potential for an affair as a very real factor in the relationship between her husband and Davis (Bro 1989: 361-362), and recalls Hugh Lynn's private complaints about several of his father's affairs. including this one. Others challenge Bro's recollection of events and reliability as a witness. For the defense. Davis's friend and colleague Jeanette Thomas points out the ubiquity of back-biting among Cayce's circle of admirers as well as the sheer logistic difficulty of any such affair being conducted in the midst of such intense scrutiny, and describes Davis's patient but weary denials when asked point-blank about the rumors. It would not be an exaggeration to say that my inquiries to various ARE people on this subject have aroused stronger feelings than anything to do with the source question. or for that matter any other topic.
61. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. Memoirs, p. 66.
62. Harmon Bro, telephone conversation, 1997.
63. Edgar Cayce, 95-pp. memoirs:, pp. 8 1-83.
64. Harmon Bro, Charisma of the Seer, p. 98.
Cayce's Secret, Part 3
Here it becomes pointless to continue with Cayce's story without assuming a basic knowledge of his spiritual teachings. This chapter attempts to provide this background: later sections will provide more detail on specific subjects. The reader should realize that the numbers in parentheses after Cayce quotes refer to a standard ARE citation system in which the number appearing before the hyphen replaces the name of the person receiving the reading (for privacy reasons, it also replaces the name of the person wherever it appears in the reading), while the number appearing after the hyphen gives a sequential count of all the readings for that person. For example, 3744-5 (quoted in the next paragraph) was the fifth reading-given for inquirer number 3744. Outside of Virginia Beach the only effective way to look up these readings is to use the Cayce CD-ROM.
One way to understand the sleeping Cayce's teachings is as an esoteric elaboration of the Christian Bible. "All souls," we are told, "were created in the beginning, and are finding their way back to whence they came" (3744-5). When asked to recount inquirers' past lives, Cayce would first describe their most recent incarnations (along with natal planetary influences during each life) and work backwards to increasingly remote ages--in some cases, all the way back to the beginning:
In the days before this we find the entity was among those in the day when the forces of the Universe came together, when there was upon the waters the sound of the coming together of the Sons of God, the morning stars sang together, and over the face of the waters there was voice of the glory of the coming of the plane for man's dwelling. [34 1 - 1. cf. Genesis 1:2. Job 38:7]
Where others, notably Jung, have attempted answers to Job. Cayce addresses the voice from the whirlwind: Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? According to the readings, we were there.
We were meant to be "co-creators" with God (3003-1). who called us into being out of his desire for "companionship and expression" (5749-14). As children of God. we share in many of his qualities. Like God. we are spiritual beings. possessing free will as well as the ability to create with our thoughts. While today we encounter limits to our exercise of these abilities, in the beginning- this was not so. Our primordial souls were purely spiritual beings, without physical bodies. We could transport ourselves around the universe without hindrance. shaping it in accordance with our everv whim. As yet there was no death. The earth (including plant and animal life) had been created separately. Being of a lower "vibration" than human souls. it was not designed to receive us:
The earth and its manifestations were only the expression of God and not necessarily as a place of tenancy for the souls of men, until man was created--to meet the needs of existing conditions. [5749-14]
The "fall" (into materiality) occurred when some souls chose to manifest themselves in the earth plane anyway, in spite of God's instructions to the contrary. Inhabiting the bodies of animals for the purpose of sensual pleasure, these errant souls allowed their God-given creativity to run rampant, destroying the natural order which God had established. Physical death was inconsequential to them. since they were able to dive in and out of matter at will, commandeering new bodies whenever they desired. They went so far as to alter the bodies of existing animals to create strange new hybrids. Our legends of mermaids, centaurs and the like are said to be dim racial memories of this epoch:
As has been indicated. in that particular experience there still were those who were physically entangled in the animal kingdom with appendages. with cloven-hooves. with four legs. with portions of trees. with tails. with scales, with those various things that thought forms (or evil) had so indulged in as to separate the purpose of God's creation of man. as man-not as animal but as man. [2072-8]
With time, these souls gradually forgot their divine heritage, effectively becoming trapped in the earth plane.
But God in his mercy prepared a way for these souls to reclaim their birthright. A more appropriate physical form for them--the human body--was designed. whose blend of body, mind, and spirit mirrors the macrocosmic universe in microcosm. Death was introduced along with reincarnation and the laws of karma, in order to enable us to face the consequences of our actions, and thereby encourage soul growth. The position of the planets at birth indicates or determines what karmic influences we bring with us into each life, although these are never sufficient to override free will. The planets also constitute realms in which souls may dwell between earthly incarnations, partaking of the unique influences of each particular planet.
After creating this elaborate system, God sought volunteers from among those souls which had not fallen. These were to enter the earth plane on a sort of rescue mission and show by example the way of return which he had prepared. In order to do this they would have to allow themselves to become trapped like their wayward brethren, and the process of leading the way out would of necessity be prolonged and painful, lasting- many lifetimes. The leader of this group of souls was the entity known to us as Adam--and also as Jesus, since that was his final incarnation.
Cayce interprets the entire Bible in light of this central theme of the Jesus soul returning to his birthright. Certain Old Testament characters (Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Joshua, and Asaph) are described as previous incarnations of Jesus, so that their stories may be viewed as building up to his to some extent. To the biblical epic Cayce adds his own account of otherwise unknown events in Atlantis, predynastic Egypt, pre-Columbian America, and prehistoric Persia, Cayce and the Jesus soul knew each other during at least two incarnations(65) and many of the people receiving readings were assigned past lives as contemporaries with Cayce. Jesus. or both. Events in the Bible often carry an additional level of symbolic meaning applicable to the lives of spiritual seekers generally. For example. the progress of the ancient Israelites represents the path taken by every spiritual seeker (262-28 says. "Those that seek are Israel"), while the various groups of sevens in the Book of Revelation refer to the activity of the seven spiritual centers during spiritual awakening (e.g. 281-29).
Jesus' ultimate accomplishment lay in manifesting through all his actions a spirit of selfsacrifice and submission to the will of God. In attaining Christhood, he managed not only to become aware of his own divinity. but also to demonstrate how we too may return to our rightful heritage. In this view, Christhood is not something unique to Jesus, but a goal or consciousness which all of us should strive to attain. Nevertheless. Jesus deserves our veneration as a "pattern" or exemplar for all humanity.
In this man called Jesus we find an at-one-ness with the Father, the Creator, passing through all the various stapes of development. In mental perfect, in wrath perfect in flesh made perfect, in love become perfect- in death become perfect, in psychic become perfect, in mystic become perfect, in consciousness become perfect. in the greater ruling forces becoming perfect, and is as the model, and through the compliance with such laws made perfect, destiny, the pre-destined, the fore-thought, the will- made perfect. The condition made perfect, and is an ensample for man. and only as a man, for He lived only as man. He died as man. [900-10]
Note that the "stages" named in the above reading make use of language drawn from Cayce's astrological characterization of the planets: "mind" (Mercury), "wrath" (Mars), "flesh" (Earth), "love" Venus), "death" (Saturn), "Psychic" (Uranus), "mystic" (Neptune), and "consciousness" ("Septimus" or Pluto). Cayce also names Arcturus as "that center from which there may be the entrance into other realms of consciousness" than those of the solar system (282' )- 1). "For, the earth is only an atom in the universe of worlds" (5749-3).
Q. The ninth problem concerns the proper symbols, or similes. for the Master, the Christ. Should Jesus be described as the soul who first went through the cycle of earthly lives to attain perfection. including perfection in the planetary lives also?
A. He should be. This is as the man, see?
Q. Should this be described as a voluntary mission [of] One who was already perfected and returned to God, having accomplished His Oneness in other planes and systems?
Q. Should the Christ-Consciousness be described as the awareness within each soul. imprinted in the pattern on the mind and waiting to be awakened by the will. of the soul's oneness with God?
A. Correct. That's the idea exactly! [5749-14]
Assuming that we wish to partake of the Christ consciousness. what should we do" According to Cayce, the most important step on the spiritual path is the choice of an ideal: "Then. the more important. the most important experience of this or any individual entity is to first know what IS the ideal--spiritually" (357-133). Ideals such as love, compassion, and so on constitute points of contact with God. By contemplating them, applying them in our lives, and revising our conception of them from time to time in accordance with our spiritual growth, we open ourselves up to divine forces and become co-creators with God. This is the central message of the Old Testament as well as of the teachings of Jesus--that humans at any time may choose to attune themselves with God. and thereby initiate the process of returning into his presence.
Cayce habitually divides the universe (and by extension. human nature) into physical. mental. and spiritual levels. Ideals exist at the spiritual level, but are chosen at the mental level. and made manifest at the physical level. As one of Cayce's most often-cited but seldom-referenced dicta puts it. "Spirit is the life. Mind is the builder. Physical is the result." (in fact Cayce seems never to have actually said this together, but did repeat its three components many times each--for example in 1579-1, 1991-1, and 5642-3, respectively.) Using a common New thought analogy, Cayce explained the relationship between these three levels using the analogy of a movie projector. in which the light source would represent spirit, the film frames mind, and the projected image the physical world (900-156). Spirit is unitary, so at this level we are one with God, as well as with one another, while simultaneously retaining our individuality. To cling to materiality or negative mental attitudes is to mask our true nature as luminous spiritual beings.
Christhood is described as the highest possible ideal, although Cayce is careful to distinguish between the "idea" of Christ which is the object of Christian worship: and the "ideal" of the Christ spirit. which is the inspiration behind all religions (364-9). Even so. which particular ideal we choose is less important than our sincere efforts to call forth the best that is within us and manifest it in our lives:
And O that all would realize, come to the consciousness that what we are--in any given experience, or time-is the combined results of what we have done about the ideals we have set! [1549-1]
As we apply what we know, more will be given. Divine guidance is especially likely to come to us during prayer, meditation. or in dreams. These constitute safe applications of psychic phenomena, since they are oriented toward spiritual growth. In this view, psychic phenomena are in fact the natural abilities of the soul (as the very name "psychic" suggests), which may be expected to flower under spiritual influences. They are means to a greater goal, not ends in themselves. To seek them out for their own sake is to stop well short of our birthright as sons and daughters of God.
So far my summary of Cayce's teachings has followed the pattern set by the majority of Cayce writers, and Cayceans should find it familiar enough. Now I would like to introduce some criticisms of the standard. "naive" reading, since on inspection some of its underlying assumptions turn out to be quite hazardous. To begin with, an obvious sort of question to ask is that of whether the readings are accurately recorded. In fact, they find their way to modem readers through a chain of transmission that usually includes Gladys Davis (who may or may not have "corrected" Cayce's language as she took dictation for him), then whatever writers and publishers were involved in reproducing them. Without getting into tired hermeneutic controversies over the location of the "text," suffice it to say that I have checked all of my quotations from the readings against the CD-ROM version. which seems to follow the language and orthography of the typewritten readings transcripts more or less reliably.(66) Whether this in turn accurately reflects Cayce's spoken words must be judged on the basis of the one surviving sound recording of a reading, which is unfortunately of abysmal quality and full of gaps. to boot. Certainly the published books about Cayce cannot be trusted to accurately reproduce material from the readings, although the ubiquitous lapses in this area are attributable to incompetence or unadvertised attempts to "clean up" Cayce's language rather than any intent to deceive. As to whether ARE leaders have suppressed or altered material from the readings. the answer is yes-but only on a very limited scale. For example. Hugh Lynn kept several readings out of the general collection including his own life readings. which said that he had been the apostle Andrew in a previous life. Hugh Lynn apparently did not want to make this claim public, but changed his mind and restored the readings on being confronted about the missing files by young people at the A RE Camp.(67) Another of the "lost readings" which remains unpublished is one for Gladys Davis which was removed from the files after her death after legal pressure from relatives who ojected to its perceived suggestiveness. To convey some idea of its nature, another reading about Cayce and Davis which was left in the collection promises that "though their bodies may burn with their physical desires the soul of each is and will be knit ... when presented before the throne of Him, who gave and said. 'Be fruitful. and multiply'" (294-9). Charles Thomas adds that five medical readings whose content is not particularly interesting have also been left out of the general files at the request of their recipients. Some Cayceans have claimed the number of purged readiges to be much higher, but I do not see any reason to treat such assertions as anything other than hearsay.
Beyond establishing the text of the readings, there is the question of their context. Cayce writers commonly treat passages from the readings as if they were equally authoritative and geenerally applicable. despite the fact that most readings are addressed to individuals rather than humanity as a whole. and were delivered in response to a particular situation which is typically ignored by the exegete. (Mark Thurston is a noteworthy exception.) Yet Cayce clearly tailored his message to the person receiving the reading. While Cayceans have acknowledged this to be a problem with respect to the physical readings (indeed, much of the research into them consists of ARE people trying to pinpoint the commonalities across all readings on a given disease, as opposed to details peculiar to individual patients), similar issues with respect to Cayce's spiritual teachings are seldom considered. For example, many of Cayce's listeners asked him about certain books, movements, and ideas they were attracted to: and Cayce's advice to them vanes considerably even when the topic is the same. It may well be the case that the sleeping, Cayce was less interested in ensuring the doctrinal correctness of his followers than in guiding them to apply values appropriate to them as individuals. Worse yet, Cayceans generally acknowledge that Cayce's reliability varied with the quality of the inquirer's motivation, among many other variables-- factors which are rarely taken into account by modem commentators except in cases where Cayce appears to have spectacularly messed up. For example the notorious 1933 "Hitler reading," (3976-13), in which Hitler and the Nazis are praised,(68) was given for an inquirer with pro-Nazi sympathies who eventually emigrated to Nazi Germany in an expression of solidarity with its policies. To their credit. the ARE has published this reading in several places without distorting the magnitude of Cayce's blunder. Two of these imbed the reading within a commentary by Yonassan Gershom, a Hassidic rabbi from Minnasota.(69) To my mind, the fact that such embarrassing material exists is our best guarantee that large-scale expurgations of the Cayce corpus have not occurred. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine, even in principle, more embarrassing readings than the ones which have actually survived and been distributed.
More generally, many familiar elements entered into ARE theology only after inquirers asked Cayce a string of long theory-laden questions, to which he replied with a mere "correct" or "yes." Most of the details of the link between the Lord's Prayer and the seven chakras would fit this description. as would much of Cayce's commentary on the Book of Revelation. Even the ARE emphasis on "meditation" (considered as something distinct from prayer) is arguably extraneous to Cayce's preferred form of spirituality, especially as the waking Cayce was never observed "meditating" in anything like the fashion typically practiced in Caycean circles. This need not imply that such elements are illegitimate, only that Cayce was not their true author, and that the readings should be regarded as collaborative works in which Cayce's was not always the primary voice.
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 indiscriminately. Besides the basic shift from physical readings to life readings in the 1920's. Cayce in the 1930's and 1940's added such flourishes as a visionary account of the Last Supper. predictions of massive earth changes followed by starvation and economic collapse. and trance-channeled messages from such mysterious entities as "Hallaliel" and "Michael. Lord of the Way." It may also be relevant that during this period the waking Cayce began to experience psychic experiences of his own telepathy. the ability to read auras). as he had in his childhood. and that the sleeping Cayce gradually developed a much more active persona. even to the point of resorting to the first person singular on occasion.
A 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, and in any case reflect Cayce's own perspective only imperfectly. For example, it is no accident that the ARE has chosen not to emphasize Cayce's racist readings or the Hitler reading: his lack of concern for the effects of cigarette smoking (which 1981-2 holds to be harmless in moderation); his qualified warnings against masturbation (268-2): his observation that only twenty-three male babies were born in the United States on June 23, 1913 (5725- 1: this would be a much easier claim to research than, say, the effects of castor oil): or his explanation that the akashic records of dogs "may not be understood unless you learn dog language" (406- 1). On the other side of the equation. it so happens that many of the exotic flourishes for which Cayce is most frequently remembered the sinking of coastal California), are found in only one or two readings. More fundamental distortions are also likely to occur through the ARE's selectivity Cayce dissident Harmon Bro challenges researchers to approach the readings using the methodology of content analysis. which would require us not only to note the presence of a particular idea but also to assess its frequency and centrality within the total system of the readings. Such a revision would have the immediate effect of obliging us to weigh the medical material about three times more heavily than life readings. and traditional Christian or biblical parallels far more heavily than occult or esoteric ones. While conceding the presence of various Spiritualist and Theosophical elements within the readings. Bro sees these as statistically minor departures from Cayce's normal ideology and praxis. Beyond that. Bro (a Disciples of Christ minister) considers that the picture of Cayce that would emerge would be one of a person devoted to serving God and his fellow man--not by revealing the secrets of the universe, but by helping individual people with concrete needs through whatever means were called for. This assistance was imparted "using that person's own values and stretching them towards a new relationship with God."(70) In this light. Cayce's Bible teaching, prison ministry, and support for medical missionaries were no less important than his psychic readings. Cayce, Bro argues, took those who came to him and gave them specific guidance tailored to their concrete situations. He did not market himself to the masses as the ARE does, but warned against broadcasting "the Work" to those who did not seek it out. Instead, interest was to grow naturally as people turned to information in the readings for aid--first as individuals, then classes, then the masses. In terms of method. Cayce approached spirituality using the same empirical. Bibiebased perspective which he knew from his church work, a perspective which the ARE wrongly treats as incidental coloring to the readings ("like Southern twang").(71)
In that spirit, Bro laments that the Cayce whom he knew becomes lost amidst several distorted versions which have been promoted by the ARE over the years. First there is Cayce the "psychic whiz" (Bro names Henry Reed as the chief exponent of this Cayce) who "invites you to love God for the benefits you can get," such as health, wealth, or marvelous psychic experiences.
The whole ARE emphasis on hypnosis and parapsychology, says Bro, serves to obscure Cayce's own biblically-inspired perspective which held such "techniques" to be incidental to higher spiritual purposes. Then there is Cayce as "esoteric revealer" (championed by Mark Thurston) who, Gurdjieff-like, offers his initiates some sort of elite gnosis. Bro complains that this approach wrongly conflates the fact of a particular bit of knowledge or visionary experience with the question of its application--as ethicists are wont to say, you can't derive an "ought" from an "is," however numinous that "is" may be. Without a wider context of social and religious commitments, says Bro, self-exploration can all too easily become escapist and narcisistic. Another ARE-sponsored image is that of Cayce the "all-purpose health guru" (exemplified by William McGarey). Where Cayce spoke to individual inquirers, taking their whole lives into account rather than only particular health complaints, ARE researchers have approached the medical readings as an engineering problem and attempted to distill from them cures which would promise universal results. Cayce himself dissuaded Bro from using the readings to search for cures for diseases as a class. or trying to persuade a reluctant medical community of their efficacy. Instead. he urged Bro to follow the example of Christ who "took them as they came" (254-114), tending to each individual's physical or spiritual needs as called for. Finally there are those (such as John Van Auken) who revere Cayce as something like a "religious founder." This wing of the ARE emphasizes the miraculous or revelatory aspects of Cayce, especially those relating to ancient civilizations or prophecies of the future: and habitually quotes the Cayce readings in much the same spirit that fundamentalist Christians quote the Bible. i.e. as a proof-text. Bro points out that Cayce did his work in the context of an active church life. Other people. he says. were encouraged to do the same rather than form a new church or spiritual grouping centered around Cayce.(72) Without this traditional religious foundation, the other, more popular aspects of Cayce lack a certain depth and richness. Bro quips that he did not "think much of Cayce--and neither did Cayce."
One who did take up Bro's challenge to engage in content analysis is J. Gordon Melton. In an article describing Cayce's assignment of past lives to his inquirers (based on the sequence of life readings running from 1400 through 1599). Melton identifies certain patterns which. if accurate, would seriously undermine what literal plausibility the readings ever possessed:
The great majority of Cayce's [reincarnation] readings were for individuals and included (besides an astrological reading) the delineation of (usually) four past lives. each of which was having some karmic effect on the present. As one begins to read a sample of the life readings it is soon evident that the number of different settings of the past lives presented in Cayce is rather small. That is. in giving readings to his clients. Cayce chose from a limited number of points in time and places on the world--what I have termed a time-culture slot. Further reading reveals not only a repetition of particular time-culture slots. but of actual content. so that after a cursory reading of several past life accounts. one could begin to predict the content. When a person is told that s/he once lived in, for example, ancient Rome, the reader would know immediately what effect that life will have on the person presently. The time-culture slot functions as basic symbols to carry the message of the readings....(73)
Most Cayceans will recognize the "time-culture slots" which Melton identifies: Atlantis: prehistoric Peru and the Yucatan: Egypt circa 10.000 B.C.: Persia just before the time of Zoroaster: the Trojan War: classical Greece and Rome: biblical settings associated with Nebuchadnezzar, Ezra, and Christ. the Crusades: Scandanavia at the time of Eric the Red and Lief Erickson. England. France. and Germany of the post-medieval period: and finally America during the colonial period. the Salem witch trials, the Revolution, and the Gold Rush. All told, "a mere fifteen time-culture slots account for approximately 90% of all the incarnations which Cayce recounted."(74) Furthermore, where the life immediately previous to the present one was listed, it was nearly always as an American. The exceptions were equally revealing, since "Where there was a deviation in the time-culture slot pattern, it was often related to the place of birth of the individual."(75) For example, people with past lives in Poland or Scandanavia often turned out to have been born there in this life. Since place of birth is one of the few types of biographical facts noted of Cayce's inquirers, Melton speculates that many similar patterns might be revealed if not for the anonymity of the readings' recipients. I would add that the names of Cayce's main companions can be matched with their reading numbers easily enough, and biographical information supplied. (The ARE Library keeps a file of the names and reading numbers of those inquirers whose identities are considered fair game.)
Cayceans will explain Cayce's disproportionate assignment of past lives to certain periods by pointing to his belief that souls reincarnate in groups due to their shared karma. Yet it cannot be coincidence that "the fifteen time-culture slots concentrated on ones relatively well-known to the average American in the early twentieth century."(76) Nor can group karma explain the remarkably skewed occupational categories of these previous eras. Judging from the readings, people in predynastic Egypt found employment mainly as royalty and their retainers. priests and priestesses, workers in the great temples of healing, or managers of granaries (cf. Genesis 41). The composition of the Atlantean workforce was similar except that technicians and engineers also formed a significant occupational sector owing to that continent's reliance on high technology. Melton suggests that instead of providing information about literal past lives. Cayce's reincarnation readings serve as symbolic evaluations of an inquirer's present situation. For example. those who had been priests in ancient Egypt were encouraged to become teachers in this life.(77) Melton's account has the additional virtue of explaining how Cayce could have assigned the same past life to more than one person.(78)
Melton's account captures much of the peculiar flavor of Cayce's reincarnation reading's which more general treatments cannot convey. The names which Cayce produces for these past lives are another distinctive element. and are more consistent with the imperfect understanding, of world history which we must assume him to have possessed while awake. than with history as it could have actually occurred. A list of ancient Greek names from the Cayce readings yields six Xenias, four Xercias, two Xelias, and one each of Xeonna, Xerpia Xenxoi, Xelio, Xentia, Xerten, Xeria, Xerxon, and Xenobian. Similar names are sometimes assigned to Persians and Egyptians as well: perhaps Cayce was thinking of Xerces or Xerxes, who appears in the readings under both spellings. Other names from the ancient Near East include Perlyanne, Eleiza, and Matilda. Palestinian Semites at the time of Christ have names like Edithia, Josie, Jodie, Judy, Esdrela, Sodaphe, Josada, Roael, Mihaieol, Zioul, and Durey. A single "Caucasian" dynasty included Ararat, Aarat, Arart, and Araaraart, which must have caused some confusion. The "Persian" readings give us Uhjldt (Cayce), Eujueltd, Ujndt, Ujladi-Elei, Uljhan, Ajhujtn, Jeuen, Uhjenda, Jdjil, Ullend, Ujtd-Pti, Ujeldhto, Oujdte, and Ujxed. The first name in this list, Uhjldt, is said to be pronounced "Yoolt", perhaps Cayce's spelling is meant to transliterate the silent letters of some now-extinct Persian written language. Those with previous incarnations in Lemuria, Peru, or pre-Columbian America had names like Ummmu, Oumi, Ouelm, Om-muom, Oumu, Oeueou, Uuloou, Oum-om, and Mmuum. One can only conclude that humans at this early stage of evolution had fewer teeth than those from the Persian period. Many Caycean names seem to represent distortions of familiar ones. Besides Xerxes one could name Ajax (becomes Ax-Tel, Ax-Tenuel, Ax-Ten-Tel, or Ax-Ten-Taa), Isis (Isris, Isois, Isisis, Isis-bee, Isai), Aida (Aidia, Addia), Marcellus (Marcelleus. Marcelia), Cleopas or Cleopatra (Cleoparia. Cleopiasis), and Hatshepsut (Hept-sepht. She-hepat Sebar-t. Ispt-shept). Elsewhere we find a Lady Gondolivia of England (243), Hester Prymme (5180), Charlotte Bonte (189), Hans Anderson of Germany (955), Periclean of Persia (187), Susan Anthony (2487), Samuel Hustonson (781), and Spanish crusader Charlemeinuen (1021), Bucefulus, whose name sounds like that of Alexander's horse. Is said to have been the son-in-law of Cyrus (2284). Some names may well be symbolic, as in the case of nineteenth-century Americans John L. Self (877) or Boob of Atlantis (2917).
A fair number of famous people also appear to have been reborn as Cayce's inquirers. In no particular order we find Mary Tudor (130-1), the Shulamite (1499), Charles II of England (1915,. Charles III of Sweden (2824), Jude (137), James V of Scotland (1378), Lazarus (1924). Eli Whitney (2012), Cyrus the Great (2795), Eric the Red (2157), Marie Antoinette (760), Jared (3063), Elizabeth I of England (2156). Semiramis (1101), Haman ( 1273). Cato (2162), Franz Liszt (2584). Jethro (1266), Edward Bulwer-Lytton (3657), Oliver Cromwell (2903). Leonardo da Vinci (2897), and Augustus Caesar (1266). Noah's family turns out in full force with Noah
(2547), Shem (2772), Japheth (2627), and several wives in attendance. Characters from the Iliad include Achilles (900: Blumenthal) and Hector (5717: Lammers), among others. Several of Jesus's apostles are represented: Mark (452), Andrew (341: Hugh Lynn), Luke (2824: Charles Thomas): and Matthias (2181), with a new incarnation for Judas having been identified but never given a life reading (5770). American historical figures present include William Penn (980), John Hancock (760), John Quincy Adams (2167), and Benjamin Franklin (165). Even more numerous than the famous historical figures themselves are their otherwise unknown relatives and acquaintances, such as Myra the sister of the Virgin Mary (509), or Normalene the daughter of Socrates (538: Gertrude).
One of the biggest issues facing Cayce research is the question of through what fields or genres he ought to be approached. For example, should Cayce be placed alongside Barth, Tillich, Bultmann, and the Niebulir brothers as an influential twentieth-century Protestant theologian (albeit one whose views have not found their way into seminary curricula)? Does he belong together with William James, Jung, and the Rhines as an apologist for certain extraordinary psychic or spiritual aspects of the human mind? Is he to be grouped with Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, and Gurdjieff as an esotenicist: or with Shirley MacLaine, Marianne Williamson, and Jose Arguelles as a New Ager? Should we look to the world's great mystical traditions for Cayce's peers, taking up various Taoist, Vedantin, and Sufi writers in addition to the gnostics and medieval mystics of his own religion? Perhaps he is a great institutional organizer like Saint Benedict or George Williams.
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. while 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. However, even if I am right, there is no reason to suppose that this would exhaust the possible categories into which Cayce might fall. While any number of perspectives may be worthwhile, the approach followed should be appropriate to the information sought. The literature relevant to reconstructing Cayce's teachings will be different from that appropriate for evaluating Cayce's teachings (or those of his predecessors), or for gauging their influence. In addition, some approaches (especially the broader comparative ones) ought to presume detailed knowledge of Cayce through other approaches as a preliminary.
In the case of many of the genre labels proposed for Cayce, it is difficult to decide whether such a categorization would be accurate absent agreement as to the proper scope of the various terms which have been proposed. To complicate matters. several of these carry evaluative as well as descriptive meanings. Some terms are used as pejoratives, as when conservative Protestants condemn "mysticism" or Cayceans take offense at the word "occultism" as applied to them. Sometimes they become honorifics, as in the New Agers' use of "mystical" to include only those religious which meet with their approval. or conservative Protestant denials that Cayce is really a "Christian." Evaluative uses presuppose knowledge of the ultimate truth about religion. a claim which is inevitably contentious. While I do not propose to set forth a standardized lexicon. I would point out that the fact that today "mysticism", "esotericism", "occultism", "metaphysics" and "New Age" are so easily conflated indicates the extent to which the various spiritual perspectives which they represent have been successfully incorporated into a common subculture by syncretizers like Cayce. At the same time. the fact that all of these names imply some sort of distinction from forms of those Abrahamic traditions perceived as mainstream. obscures the fact that Cayce was also involved in and influenced by versions of Christianity which this alternative milieu rejects or attempts to modify.
65. For the record, Cayce's past lives included periods as Ra Ta, a high priest in predynastic Egypt. Uhjldt, a warrior in prehistoric Persia. an unnamed messenger sent to warn Lot of the destruction of Sodom; Xenon, a Trojan warrior who fought alongside Hector; Armitidides, a Greek chemist who studied under Aristotle; Lucius, a Cyrenian soldier of mixed Jewish/Roman ancestory who became bishop of Laodicea and compiled the Book of Luke; Dale or Dahl, illegitimate grandson of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa and associated with the French court; and John Bainbridge ("Bainbridge" being the name of a district within Christian County, Kentucky), a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century English adventurer (or two adventurers?) who landed in Virginia Beach and proceeded to live a life of debauchery. Of these, Jesus (as Zend, the father of Zoroaster) was Cayce's son in their Persian incarnation, and (as Jesus) converted Lucius to Christianity. Glenn Sandurfur (Lives of the Master, p. 70 ff) argues that Jesus was also Hermes, architect of the Great Pyramid under Ra Ta.
66. The typists who prepared the database for the CD-ROM version sometimes made typos or intentional alterations to the ori2inal sentence structure. and in one case fabricated an entire Cayce reading in a humorous vein. The use of multiple checkers ensured that most of the gross changes were short-lived: however, new typos continue to be brought to the attention of Jeanette Thomas. organizer of the CD-ROM project after the death of Gladys Davis. Updates with corrections are released periodically.
67. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business. p. 231.
68. In this reading Cayce describes Hitler as spiritually led. hails Nazism as "a new ideal in the hearts, in the minds of the people" of Germany: approves of the one-party system as "the best for Germany at present": dismisses fears that Hitler would invade other countries as "propaganda", and, in answer to a question about the Jews, hints darkly that "their rebelliousness and their seeking into the affairs of others has rather brought them into their present situation." Elsewhere the Cayce readings are favorable toward Jews and critical of fascism, so perhaps his comments here truly are anomalous.
69. Yonassan Gershom, "Edgar Cayce and the Holocaust. " Venture Inward 13 no 2 (March/April 1997), p. 37ffThe article is exerpted from Gershom's second ARE Press book on reincarnation from the Holocaust. From Ashes To Healing. The "Hitler reading" is also reprinted in the circulating file on "Books" owing to its relevance to Mein Kampf.
70. Harmon Bro, A Seer Out of Season, p. 9.
71. My citations of Bro in this and the following paragraph are based on a mixture of written notes, taped comments, and personal memories of points to which he was wont to return over and over again. His identification of "four false Cayces" was to have been the topic of a lecture at Asilomar in 1997, which he was ultimately unable to attend due to medical problems.
72. One inquirer asked for help in creating a pamphlet on the life of Jesus, to which the sleeping Cayce cautioned: "AGAIN, what is the purpose? What is to be gained from this that has not been accomplished in other data of similar nature? Is it for the propagation of propaganda for a group that is attempting to make a cult, or is it to supply the needed stimuli to A for service in the channels in which they Find themselves drawn, for one or another cause?" (2067-7) It is amusing to note that this has not prevented the ARE from publishing any number of such books.
73. J. Gordon Melton, "Edgar Cayce and Reincarnation," p. 42.
74. Ibid, p. 44.
75. Ibid, p. 47.
76. Ibid, p. 48.
77. Ibid, p. 45.
78. Melton points out that Cayce identified two inquirers as the woman caught in adultery (295 and 1436), and another two as the rich young ruler from Mark 10 (2677 and 1416). When asked about the former duplication, Cayce affirmed that there were two women caught in adultery (295-8). When similar inconsistencies were pointed out in Cayce's account of the composition of the Magi, Cayce explained that there were "more than one visit of the Wise Men" (2067- 1). On the subject of Cayce's inconsistencies, the readings variously give the date of Jesus's birth as December 24 or 25 (5749-7), January 6 (5749-15), or March 19 (2067- 1). His explanation seems to allude to the use of multiple calendrical systems (2067- 1), although I do not see how that could possibly explain the dates which he gives.
To understand why so little has been published on the source question, one must first understand the nature of the Cayce movement and particularly that of its driving force, the ARE. Unfortunately, such an understanding is not easy to come by. The only book-length history of the Cayce movement yet written is A. Robert Smith's biography of Hugh Lynn Cayce, About My Father's Business (1988). His edited book The Lost Memoirs of Edgar Cayce (1997) also contains many primary sources for the early years of the Cayce movement. Other historical material may be culled from ARE periodicals such as Venture Inward,or made the object of original research at Virginia Beach. A Search For God (1942, 1950: my page citations follow the two-volume edition) is an indispensible part of Cayce's legacy, as are the study groups centered around it. Other important printed sources used in this chapter are the Handbook for ARE Study Groups (1957, revised 1971, hereinafter referred to as the ARE Handbook), and assorted ephemera.
The Cayce movement is not quite identical with the ARE. To begin with, Cayce's followers were meeting well before that organization's formation. Moreover, many consumers of ARE-sponsored products and participants in ARE-sponsored activities are nonmembers. Finally, several organizations besides the ARE are devoted to Caycean or partially Caycean perspectives. The Edgar Cayce Foundation is legally separate from the ARE. but has an identical board of trustees. Atlantic University has a separate board and until recently was closely allied with the ARE. Cayce study groups and the Glad Helpers healing prayer group receive support from the ARE but operate independently of any institutional control (by Cayce's design, I am told). The ARE Clinic in Phoenix and Home Health Products in Virginia Beach are linked with the ARE mainly on the basis of franchising or licensing agreements. The Logos Center of Scottsdale, Arizona (Anne and Herbert Puryear) and the Pilgrim Institute of Cape Cod, Massachussets (June and Harmon Bro) were founded by prominent dissidents within the Cayce movement. The Heritage Store in Virginia Beach branched out from providing Cayce products to become a general New Age center. Somewhat farther a field we find the Gathering, a UFO-oriented intentional community in Schuyler, Virginia whose leader--Tom Ringrose--hails the devil (actually a reptilian alien) as a liberator. Although most Cayceans would probably be aghast to learn of the Gathering's evolution from a Search For God group in the 1960's, many of its practices and mores do stem from the Cayce movement. The ranks of those who have been loosely influenced by the Cayce readings would probably include much of the New Age and holistic health movements in general, as illustrated by the vast number of Americans who have heard rumors to the effect that California is doomed to sink 'into the ocean without realizing this to be a distorted form of a Cayce prophecy.
A. Evolution of the ARE
In Chapter One we left Cayce after his 1925 arrival in Virginia Beach. In 1927 Cayce, Kahn, the Blumenthals, and several others formed a nonprofit corporation called the Association of National Investigators (AND for the purpose of supporting psychic research. To that end the ANI raised money for the establishment of a small (thirty-bed) hospital in Virginia Beach known as the Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment, which opened the following year, Cayce filled many of the available positions with his relatives. In 1930 another ANI-sponsored project opened its doors, this time a small liberal arts college dedicated to Cayce's teachings. Also based in Virginia Beach. Atlantic University attracted more than two hundred students in its first semester. Unfortunately, both projects suffered from fundamentally unsound finances exacerbated by a lack of planning or accountability, graft, nepotism, personal conflicts between trustees (Kahn and the Cayces versus the Blumenthals), and the onset of the Great Depression. The Association of National Investigators was disbanded in 1931, the hospital closed that same year, and Atlantic University shut down in 1932.
After the collapse of the ANI, Cayce contacted a number of people who had received readings and asked them whether they thought he should continue his work. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A meeting was quickly held with sixty-one persons in attendance.
Friends, I have nothing to sell. I am not attempting to spread propaganda. Each one here has had personal experience with the information. or phenomena, as manifested through me: some of you know of my own shortcomings. as well as shortcomings of others. It isn't a question as to whether I want to go on. but the question is. do you. as a group. as individuals. want to see a study of the phenomena. or the information. continue? Is it worth while? My own position is this: Some years ago, when through the information my wife's life was spared. a little later my boy's eyes received their sight [Hugh Lynn was said to have been temporarily blinded in an accident involving photographic flash powder] and the younger boy was healed also. I could only say. 'God. I don't understand. but for the good that has come to me, may I be able to help others when they ask.' You all know from your own experiences whether this is worth while. Do not consider my experience, but your experience.(79)
A round of testimonials followed. interspersed with pleas urging Cayce to continue his work- A new organization, the ARE, was formed by those present. In accordance with a suggestion by the sleeping Cayce, the ARE adopted as its purpose or ideal, "that we may make manifest the love of God and man" (254-42. cf. Luke 10:27), a desideratum which is now inscribed above the doors of the ARE Library Building. Cayce's son Hugh Lynn, who had recently graduated from Washington and Lee with a bachelors degree in psychology, was named its first director (later president). Unlike its predecessor, the ARE drew its strength primarily from Cayce's grassroots supporters rather than a few major donors. It deserves noting that during Cayce's lifetime, the bulk of the ARE's membership--like that of the ANI before it--consisted of those who had enrolled because membership (which costed ten dollars) was required of those who sought a reading from Cayce. The idea was to prevent Cayce from being charged with fortune-telling or practicing medicine without a license, since technically Cayce himself was not receiving any money for his readings. In those years the ARE operated out of the Cayces' house on Arctic Crescent.
The same year that the ARE was founded (1931), the first Cayce study group began meeting (and would continue in some form until 1970). Under the inspiration of study groups organized by Hitler supporter and occultist William Dudley Pelley, who offered to teach people how to become psychic, several people who frequented Cayce's weekly lectures asked him whether he could do the same. Cayce agreed, resulting in the formation of Study Group 41. Its dozen or so members included Gertrude, Les Cayce. Hugh Lynn. Gladys Davis. Mildred Davis (Gladys's cousin). and Esther Wynne (a Norfolk English teacher). The sleeping Cayce steered the group toward spiritual deepening through meditation, prayer, dream analysis, Bible study, and most especially the transformation of attitudes. Cayce also asked group members to summarize in writing the lessons learned. resulting in the two (or three) slender volumes of. A Search For God. Theoretically a collective work by the members of Study Group #1 A Search For God was actually compiled by Esther Wynne and edited by Hugh Lynn. The whole effort took place under Cayce's psychic direction between 1931 and 1942. Much of its unwieldy languageis taken directly from readings given by Cayce especially for this purpose (262-1 through 262-1-30). Each chapter focuses on a topic relevant to the spiritual path, such as "Cooperation", "Know Thyself'" and "What Is My Ideal?" These were suggested by Cayce himself who asked members of the group not to leave a topic until they felt (and the readings concurred) they were successfully applying, that principle in their dally lives. Other groups quickly formed in the wake of Study Group #1. Cayce himself urged the formation of the Glad Helpers intercessory healing prayer group, whose original membership largely overlapped with the first study group. Most new groups, however, arose by themselves and chose to follow a format centered around. A Search For God. That is, rather than create their own texts and follow the discipline of the first group. subsequent groups would simply study the text which was already written and which had received Cayce's imprimatur. New formats were developed for later groups which, unlike Study Group #1, could not center their activities around Cayce's personal psychic guidance. Over the years the ARE has made support for study groups one of its main tasks, providing materials and referring inquirers to local groups.
The first annual ARE Congress was held in the summer of 1932 at the instigation of Hugh Lynn. Sixteen people attended. Like every ARE Congress ever since, the week-long event took place at Virginia Beach: and like future conferences it featured speakers from diverse fields who lectured on the relevance of Cayce for their areas of expertise. In those early years Cayce himself would give lectures as well, both while awake and while entranced. which must have been the high point of the Congresses. In 1948 additional conferences came to be offered during the summer tourist season, and today the role of organizing conferences has become another of the ARE's most basic functions. Incidentally, ARE Congresses have no legal authority although they often forward recommendations to the ARE board. which may or may not deem them feasible. In recent years Congresses have been treated essentially as a peculiar sort of conference.
Cayce died of a stroke on January 3, 1945, and Gertrude died three months later. Both Hugh Lynn and Edgar Evans Cayce were serving overseas at the time, leaving Gladys Davis, graduate student Harmon Bro, and a few others to rally the shrinking number of people (from several hundred down to several dozen) involved with the ARE. There was a real question as to whether the ARE could survive the death of the psychic whose teachings it had been founded to study. For six months a certain Dr. Bidwell gave readings in Cayce's place (Cayce having left a huge backlog of undelivered readings). Controversy arose over what to do with the 145.000 carbon pages of the Cayce readings. with some trustees urging that they be donated to Harvard or Duke University (the latter owing to the fame of its parapsychological program). Davis responded by securing the readings in their vault (which had been built into the Cayces' home). and the vault key on her person, until such time as Hugh Lynn could return from the army to take charge of the ARE.(80)
On his eagerly-awaited return in the fall of 1945, Hugh Lynn had to decide whether to steer the ARE to become (as Smith puts it) "a research foundation, an adult education fellowship, a quasi-religious lay order, a healing center, [or] a publishing firm."(81) Hugh Lynn ultimately decided to concentrate the ARE's dwindling energies on bringing the philosophy of the Cayce readings to the attention of the world. To that end he fired Dr. Bidwell. As for the fate of the readings, some members proposed that a separate entity--the Edgar Cayce Foundation--be created that would have both physical custody and legal ownership of them. and sponsor research into them as well. This proposal inspired vigorous objections from others who preferred that the ARE retain them. but the arrangement offered Hugh Lynn the irresistable opportunity to control how the readings would be used through his appointments to the new board. Throwing his support behind the proposal- Hugh Lynn won the agreement of the ARE board of trustees in 1947, and the Edgar Cayce Foundation (ECF) was chartered the following year.(82) Today the ECF board of trustees is identical to that of the ARE.
In the 1950's and early 1960's, the ARF could easily have been taken for a local religious cult. Most of the members lived in Virginia Beach, with core participants living on the premises of the ARE headquarters (the former Cayce Hospital, which Hugh Lynn had managed to buy back in 1956). Hugh Lynn practiced an authoritarian, tempermental leadership style made possible by his status as Cayce's son, augmented by his effective control over appointments to the APLE board of trustees. He made policy decisions unilaterally, and did his best to control the content of any Cayce books published. Conference lecturer Jessica Madigan found herself summarily stripped of AR-E sponsorship after Hugh Lynn tired of her infatuation with him.(83) An "image committee" led by former reporter Mary Ellen Carter was formed to dispel the public impression of the ARE as (in Carter's words) "the nuts on the hill."(84) Free public lectures began to be offered--first weekly, then daily--in order to provide an opportunity for local people to acquaint themselves with the ARE. These lectures continue today. The 1960's counterculture brought a wave of interested seekers to Virginia Beach- resulting in a serious culture clash between the newcomers and a more conservative old guard. After some initial consternation. Hugh Lynn eventually decided to reach out to the hippy camp and encourage their assimilation.
Although Hugh Lynn explored the idea of recruiting some new psychic to replace Cayce, ultimately the ARE never expanded its purview beyond the Cayce readings. Betty McCain and Ray Stanford gave Cavce-like readings at the APLE in the 1950's, but Hugh Lynn evidently lost interest in them.(85) In later years many more psychic claimants offered their services, and periodically ARE members would become enchanted with one or another of them. More than one medium claimed to have received posthumous messages from Cayce himself, to no discernable effect on the ARE or the Cayce family. Smith cites a 1970's-era wisecrack attributing to the APLE an eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt have no other psychics before me."(86) More recently a number of professional psychics have spoken or taught at ARE conferences. and psychic readings are even provided as career counseling aids to students in the ARE-affiliated Atlantic University class. "Finding Your Mission In Life." While the ARE has never officially endorsed any psychic-- including Cayce--in practice psychic claimants are somehow being evaluated in the process of considering their suitability for these roles.(87) Aron Abrahamson, Kevin Ryerson, Al Miner, Paul Solomon, and Carol Ann Liaros are well-known psychics with ARE ties.
Prior to the late 1960's. the main route whereby information on the Cayce readings saw print was through newsletters and pamphlets, whose 'influence was primarily limited to ARE circles. During Cayce's lifetime, a few popular accounts of his work had appeared. In 1943 positive articles by Margueritte Bro (Harmon's mother) had appeared in Christian Century ("Explain It As You Will") and Coronet ("Miracle Man of Virginia Beach") resulted in a flurry of interest: and the same thing occurred on a larger scale with the release that year of the first full-fledged Cayce biography, Thomas Sugrue's There is a River. After Cayce's death in 1945, popular interest declined: flared briefly with the publication of Gina Cerminara's Many Mansions in 1950 and Morey Bernstein's The Search for Bridey Murphey (which contains two chapters on Cayce) in 1956; then continued to fall until 1967, the year Jess Steam's The Sleeping Prophet was published. This book drove demand for more Cayce titles. Soon the number of Cayce books skyrocketed, including not one but two independent series on him (namely the "Edgar Cayce's Story of..." series by Berkeley, and the "Edgar Cayce On..." series by Paperback Library and Warner). The bulk of these feature an introduction by Hugh Lynn. Between 1969 and 1970 Hugh Lynn hired onto the ARF staff four psychology Ph.D's with parapsychological or Jungian orientations (Herbert Puryear, Mark Thurston, Henry Reed, and Charles Thomas Cayce), all of whom went on to become well-known ARE writers and lecturers. In the 1980's. the ARE, which had self-published an ever-increasing number of volumes beginning with A Search For God,established the ARE Press. In recent years the ARE Press has published an average of perhaps a dozen trade paperbacks per year, but has not vet succeeded in effectively marketing and distributing its books to people outside of the Cayce movement. In 1996, its editors announced a distribution agreement with Putnam-Berkley. which they hoped would result in Cayce books being sold from supermarket bookracks. The following year they admitted that the agreement had in fact fallen through, but pointed to progress with several bookstore chains.
The popular availability of Cayce books is an important consideration in the health of the Cayce movement. since readers of Cayce books constitute the main source of new Cayceans. With that in mind, the ARE makes every effort to present information about the organization either at the beginning or end of every new book. along with its postal address. Starting in the 1970's. business-reply cards offering to send information on ARE membership and/or study group participation have often been included as well. and recently the ARE has even experimented with free three-month trial memberships. Advertisements in non-Caycean publications have not been emphasized. owing to Cayce's discomfort with the idea of commercializing his teachings. However, conferences were advertised in several New Age magazines during the 1970's, and advertisements for the ARE Press may be seen in similar publications to this day.
Before the 1970's. few Cayce readings were generally available outside of popular books-and even the authors of these required the cooperation of Gladys Davis. who alone knew how to locate information on a given subject in the voluminous and unsystematic material. Following Cayce's death, Davis supervised the ARE's efforts to preserve and index the Cayce material until her own death in 1986. The initial task of noting all the topics mentioned in each reading took approximately twenty years. The readings were microfilmed by Remington Rand during 1959-1960. The process of indexing these topics took another decade, until 1971.(88) The ECF claimed copyright to the readings at this point, although the legal basis for this is questionable.(89) Beginning in the 1970's, "circulating files" compiling Cayce's teachings on a growing number of medical and religious subjects were prepared, which members could borrow through the mail. Between 1973 and 1988 the ARE gradually published twenty-four volumes of The Edgar Cayce Library Series, which served a similar purpose. In 1994, nearly all the extant Cayce readings were made available on CD-ROM, along with many supporting documents and convenient search features.
With the rise of the modem New Age movement in the 1970's and 1980's. Cayce's teachings enjoyed their widest audience. Phillip Lucas entitled his article on the ARE "Saved by the New Age"(90) to indicate that organization's probable fate had Hugh Lynn not managed to market Cayce to New Agers. At the same time, the ARE lost its cutting-edge quality as new spiritual movements succeeded in establishing themselves. Those who sought deeper interpretations of Christianity now had other trance-channeled material to choose from.(91) Those uncomfortable with Christianity altogether had access to a wide variety of Eastern religions and Western esoteric organizations. Those seeking an intimate gathering dedicated changing its members' lives with the aid of a higher power could join a twelve-step group. In short, the ARE lost much of its market share to upstarts: fortunately for them, the market itself was booming, giving the ARE a thinner slice of a considerably larger pie. Here is a chart showing, ARE membership rates between 1945 and 1995:
1945 300 (average, estimated)
1955 1.000 (average, estimated)
1960 2.000 (average, estimated)
1965 3.000 (average, estimated)
1970 12.000 (average. estimated)
1985 43.762 (as of JuIy 1), of which 29.319 were regular paid members
1990 (92) 70.202 (as of July 1), of which 39.114 were regular paid members
1995 31.939 (as of July 1), of which
28.934 were regular paid members
Since then, the membership levels have fluctuated around 30.000 (give or take a few thousand), with almost all members residing In the United States or Canada.
Estimating the number of study groups or study group participants is vastly more difficult. While the ARE asks study groups to register with the study group department at headquarters. it is clear that many groups neglect to enroll, perhaps in order to avoid the inevitable fund-raising letters from the ARE. At present there are approximately 800 study groups which are formally affiliated with the ARE, and perhaps 100 unaffiliated ones. No reliable historical statistics are available, since Hugh Lynn tended to Live an optimistic "parson's count" which he apparently calculated by dividing the number of ARE members by the ideal number of study group participants. Study group coordinator Jim Dixon thinks the number peaked in the late 1980's, while membership director Kevin Todeschi thinks the study group numbers have remained relatively steady for several decades, independent of fluctuations in the number of ARE members. In 1997 the ARE appointed a task force to determine how to halt what is apparently a trend toward a shrinking, number of study groups.
As the ARE achieved a certain critical mass. it was able to expand services and programs as well as membership. The number of Cayce-oriented retreats and conferences multiplied. In 1969 the Heritage Store opened in Virginia Beach for the purpose of selling, health products recommended in the Cayce readings (as well as New Age books. A competing store with the unlikely name of "PNIS" opened in 1974.(93) In 1970 the ARE Clinic opened in Scottsdale. Arizona for the purpose of treating patients using Cayce's medical and health recommendations. An ARE children's camp which had been held at Virginia Beach since 1958 was moved to its
present site in western Virginiain 1974. In 1975 the ARE completed the Library Building, the building most frequently pictured in ARE literature and the main reception center for visitors or tourists. The ARE magazine Venture Inward, a glossy bimonthly, began publication in 1984, although it had several predecessors extending sporadically back to the 1930’s. In 1985 Atlantic University (whose charter had been kept active despite the institution's collapse) was resurrected from the dead. this time as an unaccredited(94) institution offering masters-level courses in "Transpersonal Studies," mostly by correspondence. Thus the ARE has managed to restore Cayce's failed hospital and university. or reasonable equivalents thereof.
Hugh Lynn officially stepped down as ARE president in 1976- at the age of seventy, in favor of his son Charles Thomas Cayce, Charles Thomas, whose doctoral training was in child psychology had previously served as ARE youth coordinator. The combination of his qualifications, ancestry, and personal connections were easily sufficient to elevate him to the ARE presidency over his nearest rival. Herbert Puryear.(95) Despite his official resignation, Hugh Lynn continued to exercise considerable informal authority for several years more. He died in 1982. In marked contrast to his father, Charles Thomas does not seem to have been gifted with either a forceful personality or natural managerial abilities, and, as a result, his formal authority has declined considerably over the years. The board of trustees lessened his responsibilities to "president" in name only--first by creating a new office of CEO (filled by Edwin N. Johnson from 1992 to 1995) with full administrative responsibilities, then in 1995 by appointing an "executive council" consisting of Nancy Eubel, Mark Thurston, and John Van Auken.(96) Charles Thomas remains sole president of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, however, and exercises considerable clout behind the scenes at the ARE as well. In the early 1990's a decentralization strategy resulted in the devolution of a number of ARE functions to (so far) ten multi-state regions and several metropolitan areas. This process is likely to continue. with progressively greater authority and responsibilities given to the regional directors. Cayce Centers have opened in New York. Los Angeles, Tokyo, Stockholm, Madras, and Costa Rica, among other places.
The ARE's membership levels already place it on a level comparable with the total world followings of Theosophy or Anthroposophy(97) --both of which. I cannot resist pointing out. have received far more sustained academic attention than the Cayce movement. Furthermore, the number of people for whom the Cayce readings represent an important component of their spiritual path is much larger than the number of people who pay dues to the ARE. For example, formal membership is not required in order to participate in study groups, order books from the ARE Bookstore, or attend conferences. Cayceans would probably rather gauge Cayce's influence in terms of the number of people w ho have been led to "venture inward" or conduct their own search for God" as a result of his teachings. Unfortunately, I see no good way of counting these people, let alone assessing the degree to which their lives have been transformed. In any event. ARE membership levels are significant in that it is primarily through the efforts of the ARE that the Cayce material is promoted and these various opportunities to be influenced by it sustained.
What prospects are there for the future of the Cayce movement'? Cayce himself indicated that his study groups might still be meeting a hundred years later, or 2034 (262-71), and this seems likely enough. As for how many people we can expect to be involved in them. this would depend on certain critical assumptions: Will there be future surges of interest in subjects relevant to Cayce? Will the ARE be effectively managed and marketed? How will its competitors fare? Will the oft-rumored Cayce movie ever actually be produced, and if so will it be successful? My own sense of the matter is that the natural course of evolution is for the Cayceans to slowly dwindle in number. After all, new Cayceans are neither born (ARE membership does not tend to be multigenerational, despite the ARE's best efforts to encourage youth participation) nor made (the ARE does not actively seek converts as the Mormons do), but must volunteer. Such volunteers will be forthcoming only when the ARE is an obvious choice for people seeking to meet a felt spiritual need. As the Cayce movement ages. However, its theology is likely to appear increasingly quaint and its organizations hidebound. Many aspects of the ARE which make it unique are also those which are most likely to age poorly. I do not mean to write their obituary-after all, the number of Swedenborgians has dwindled, but visitors to their churches will discover a movement which is very much alive despite its declining numbers. Perhaps the ARLE should be compared to the various New Thought churches, whose fortunes have varied mainly depending on to what extent they have succeeded in shedding traditional Protestant trappings in favor of New Age ones. Some observers (e.g. J. Gordon Melton) conclude that the New Age movement is presently on the wane, in which case both the ARE and the New Thought churches could soon face a choice between transforming a second time. or competing in an environment for which they are not very well-adapted. The AR-E has published a long-range planning document called the "2020 Vision" report which anticipates substantial membership and study group growth and the creation of several new programs.(98) Unfortunately. the document only covers the year 2020 and not any of the intervening years, during which the planners apparently rely on the Holy Spirit to arrange the projected growth, K. Paul Johnson also has an optimistic view of the ARE's future, arising out of his observations of that organization's adaptability as well as the possibility of membership growth through international outreach (one of the goals mentioned in the "2020 Vision" report). I see the ARE's "adaptability" rather as a lack of any clear purpose or defining characteristics. and am dubious of its ability to attract many members from outside the United States and Canada.(99)
79. Edgar Cayce, "My Life and Work", in Jeffrey Furst, Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus, p. 394.
80. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business,p. 159.
81. Ibid., p. 159.
82. Ibid., pp. 160-161.
83. Ibid., p. 176.
84. Ibid., p. 196.
85. Ibid., p. 253.
86. Ibid., p. 257.
87. Former conference manager Rebecca Ghittino explains that psychics offering to use their ability to guide others at ARE conferences are evaluated by several staff members. The evaluation consists of the psychic giving readings for the staff members, whereupon the staff members decide if their readings seem helpful.
88. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 165: cf. Mary Ellen Carter, My Years With Edgar Cayce, pp. 135-137.
89. Harmon Bro on p. 29 of Why Edgar Cayce Was Not a Psychic writes: "The act of copyrighting work by a person who did not seek that status in his lifetime, and gave away copies of much of his work without restriction, is illegal, as a firm of copyright attorneys has pointed out in an expensive brief."
90. Phillip Lucas. "The Association for Research and Enlightenment: Saved By the New Age" in Timothy Miller (ed.). America's Alternative Religions.
91. Of these, A Course in Miracles (1975), channeled by New York psychiatrist Helen Cohn Shucman, seems to have made the most inroads into the Cayceans' natural market. The Course boasts several significant marketing advantages over the Cayce material. To begin with, its author is said to be Jesus Christ. Its language is usually prettier and more comprehensible than that of the Cayce material, and its New Thought-oriented teachings are designed for general application (as opposed to the Cayce readings, which are usually addressed to individuals). The three volumes of the Course are far more managable than the 14.306 extant Cayce readings. Finally, in some cities students of the Course have established full-fledged churches complete with Sunday morning services. A number of Cayceans are also students of the Course, and Course speakers have been featured at ARE conferences. At the same time, differences between the two systems have not escaped the notice of their respective supporters-- from the Caycean side, Harmon Bro and Ed Birchhaus attacked the Course at the 1992 ARE Congress, leading to furious debate in the wake.
92. Startingr in 1979 and 1980 the ARE experimented with free three-month trial memberships, $ 15 nine-month trial memberships, and direct mail solicitations through American Family Publishers (Ed McMahon). As a result, ARE membership rolls swelled to more than 100.000, although few of the new recruits renewed their membership. (Core, paid membership levels remained constant at about 25.000 to 30,000.) The costs and administrative burden for these programs were considerable, leading new CEO Edwin Johnson to end the practice over the objections of most of the board, especially by Gerald C. Madin (cf. his essay, "What is our membership strategy?" in Venture Inward, Jan/Feb 1994, p. 49) and Charles Thomas.
93. A. Robert Smith on p. 222 of About My Father's Business reports that PMS ran into financial trouble when the ARE board refused to agressively promote its products, fearing an FDA crackdown. In 1982, the company was bought by Samuel Knoll, who renamed it Home Health Products. Knoll reached an agreement with the ARE under which the ARE certified that the products sold did indeed follow Cayce's recommendations (several different types of product integrity were distinguished), sent catalogues to everyone on the ARE mailing list, and received royalties. In 1996 Home Health Products was purchased by the Darby Group, which has indicated that it will renew the ARE agreement when it expires in 1998. but only with respect to direct sales to consumers.
94. In 1992 AU received accreditation from something called the Distance Education and Training Council, which is not one of the regional accrediting bodies. AU literature points to the fact that the DETC's accrediting commission is "listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally-recognized accrediting agency" and "a recognized member of the Council on Postsecondary Education." Former AU administrative director Kieth VonderOhe explained to me that the AU board had seized on DETC accreditation as a means of satisfying the requirements for a state charter, and insisted that this was not an attempt to deceive prospective students who might have lacked expert knowledge of the accreditation system. However, this would not explain why fundraising letters trumpeted that AU had achieved "accreditation" without specifying what kind, or why Venture Inward (Sept/Oct 1994, p. 5) similarly called AU "accredited" without qualification.
95. A. Robert Smith, About My Father's Business, p. 266.
96. Mark Thurston is a longtime ARE writer and administrator with a psychology Ph.D. from Saybrook. Nancy Eubel was brought on board as the chief financial officer. John Van Auken, a popular conference speaker on such subjects as kundalini or the end times, is the main executive in charge of the ARE Press.
97. Geoffrey Ahem on p. 100 of Sun At Midnight reports an estimated total world membership of all Theosophical societies as 34,421 (of which some 10.000 are Indians born into the tradition), compared with approximately 23,000 Anthroposophists.
98. The three programs are a "health and rejuvenation center" (translation: a Virginia Beach version of the ARE Clinic in Phoenix), perhaps as an expansion of the Reilly school: a Life Purpose Institute where people can learn their mission in life much as Cayce's inquirers did: and a School of Intuitive Sciences devoted to training people how to be psychic ("Visionary Long-range plan proposed." in Venture Inward 13no. 3. May/June 1997). The last two programs are apparently 'intended to replace elements of the Atlantic University curriculum now that the ARE and AU have had a falling-out. Harmon Bro notes that each of the three is a pet program of one of the planners.
99. In theory, the ARE could dramatically expand its membership by claiming even a tiny fraction of spiritual seekers 'in Latin America or Eurasia. However. the obstacles are formidable. ARE membership is too pricy for many of these markets. Headquarters is ill--equipped to handle inquiries in languages other than English, while local groups in foreign countries must either organize spontaneously or be developed through resource- intensive missionary programs. The ARE has little experience organizing under conditions of serious governmental or church hostility. In many countries. the ARE's natural niche is already occupied by other organizations such as the Steiner groups in Western Europe, the Roerich groups in Russia. or the Kardec groups in Latin America. Most basically, almost everything that the ARE does is oriented toward the interests of middle-class white Americans. While medical remedies could be marketed easily enough. ARE culture as a whole (Including the Cayce myth itself) Is as American as Caodaism is Vietnamese, and simply lacks a compelling basis for non-Americans to adopt it.