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Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), dubbed the "Sleeping Prophet" by biographer Jess Stern , was a precursor of "New Age" trance channeling, giving well over 14,000 "psychic readings" between 1910 and his death. A poorly educated photographer and Sunday-school teacher with no medical training whatsoever, Cayce gained nationwide renown for diagnosing illnesses and prescribing dietary and other remedies while in a self-induced hypnotic state. His current promoters claim:
He could see into the future and the past . . . describe present far-off events as they were happening; and . . . astound doctors with his x-ray vision of the human body. His readings-his words while in this state-were carefully transcribed while they were spoken. He is undoubtedly the most documented psychic who ever lived. And the accuracy of his predictions has been put at well over ninety percent! At his death, he left a legacy of thousands of case histories that science is still at a loss to explain completely.
Cayce's career as a clairvoyant began in 1901 after a hypnotic session with a "magnetic healer." In a trance, Cayce supposedly diagnosed the source of -- and prescribed a cure for -- his own persistent case of laryngitis. According to Mysteries of Mind, Space & Time -- The Unexplained (1992), Cayce similarly helped the hypnotist, who proposed that they use this method to cure others. When Cayce refused, his laryngitis recurred. Interpreting the recurrence as a divine gesture, he formed a partnership with the hypnotist. Mysteries states that whenever Cayce decided to quit giving "readings," he lost his voice or developed a severe headache. As news of the "healings" spread, thousands sought his help. Cayce offered guidance both to persons in attendance and to distant correspondents; he supposedly needed only the person's name and address. Allegedly drawing upon a "cosmic hall of records," Cayce revealed "facts" about mythical civilizations, astrological influences, "past lives," and future events. In The Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce's Power (1971), Cayce's sons stated that the transcripts of the readings comprise over fifty thousand single-spaced typewritten pages and more than ten million words.
Five organizations have grown up around Cayce's work. The headquarters of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), which occupies an entire city block in Virginia Beach, is home to Atlantic University, the Cayce/Reilly School of Massotherapy, the Edgar Cayce Foundation, the Health and Rejuvenation Center, and A.R.E., Inc.
According to its 1993-94 catalog, Atlantic University opened in 1930, closed two years later, and reopened in 1985. Although not accredited, it awards a master of arts degree in "transpersonal studies"-a term described in the catalog as "an interdisciplinary field which includes psychology, philosophy, sociology, literature, religion, and science." The courses cover astrology, dream work, I Ching, Jungian psychology, palmistry, psychometry, tarot, and processes to "balance and transform" human "energies." Students may pursue the master's degree largely by correspondence.
The Reilly School, which operates under the auspices of the university, was founded in 1931 and reopened in 1986. Certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the school offers a 600-hour diploma program in massage therapy. The program includes instruction in shiatsu, foot reflexology, hydrotherapy, diet, and preventive healthcare based on the Cayce readings. The school also offers workshops on biofeedback and Cayce home remedies.
The Edgar Cayce Foundation, chartered in 1948, was formed to preserve the Cayce readings and supporting documentation.
The A.R.E., which Cayce's son Hugh Lynn Cayce co-founded in 1931, functions as an eclectic "New Age" nerve center, from which emanates a steady flow of seminars and publications. A 1991 brochure describes it as "a living network of people who are finding a deeper meaning in life through the psychic work of Edgar Cayce." In 1976, Hugh Lynn became board chairman and his son, Charles Thomas Cayce, became president. The A.R.E. headquarters, a modern three-story building in Virginia Beach, includes a visitor/conference center, a library, and the A.R.E. bookstore. It receives more than forty thousand visitors and conference attendees annually. With more than fifty thousand volumes, the library has one of the world's largest collections of parapsychological and metaphysical literature.
Standard A.R.E. membership costs $30 per year, but nine-month "introductory" memberships are available for $15 or $20. Members receive the bimonthly magazine Venture Inward and can borrow books from the A.R.E. Library, join a study group, and attend or send their children to A.R.E.'s summer camp in the Appalachian foothills. They are also entitled to referrals to over four hundred practitioners who use the Cayce approach. In September 1992, an A.R.E. representative informed me that membership was approximately 39,000, plus about a thousand subscribers.
Members are also invited to participate in "home research projects," in which they perform activities pertaining to such matters as astrology and numerology and report the results. Participation is free for some projects, but others cost from $17 to about $30 per person. A 1991 issue of the Home Research Project bulletin states: "The main commitment of A.R.E. as a research organization is to encourage you to test concepts in the Cayce readings and to look for-and expect-results." Study groups center on such concerns as diet, the laws of reincarnation (karma), metaphysical dream interpretation, and the spiritual legacies of ancient Egypt and Atlantis. According to an A.R.E. letter, "Thousands gather together in small groups all over the country to study and apply spiritual principles in daily living." A.R.E. mailings to prospective members state: "There is no human problem for which the Cayce predictions do not offer hope." A.R.E. "research reports," based on the Cayce readings, are available on a wide variety of topics, including scar removal, warts, arthritis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
Each year, A.R.E. holds dozens of conferences in Virginia Beach and various other cities. They have covered such subjects as angels, astrology ("the key to self-discovery"), chakra healing, "intuitive healing," reincarnation, UFOs, weight control, and "holistic" financial management. A flyer for a 1992 "psychic training" seminar states: "You are already psychic. . . . You only need to become aware of it!"
Many of Cayce's remedies are sold through the mail by Home Health Products, Inc., also in Virginia Beach. Home Health specializes in "natural products for a holistic approach to health care" and bills itself as an "official supplier of Edgar Cayce products for health, beauty, and wellness." Its own products include skin conditioners, laxatives, and a few supplements, but its catalog also offers supplements ma