ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH AND ENLIGHTENMENT TIMELINE
1877: Edgar Cayce was born near Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
1890: Edgar Cayce reported the appearance of an angel and the beginning of psychic abilities.
1901: Edgar Cayce gave his first psychic reading in which he diagnosed and prescribed a cure for his own voice loss. Cayce began giving readings to others.
1903: Edgar Cayce married Gertrude Evans in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
1907: Hugh Lynn Cayce, the eldest son of Edgar and Gertrude Cayce, was born.
1910: Edgar Cayce formed the Psychic Reading Corporation with three others and began giving daily medical readings.
1911: Edgar Cayce’s second son, Milton Porter, was born but died in infancy.
1911: Gertrude Cayce nearly died from tuberculosis but was cured through Edgar Cayce’s readings.
1914: Edgar Cayce gave a reading that cured his son Hugh Lynn’s lost eyesight.
1918: Edgar Evans, Edgar and Gertrude’s youngest son, was born.
1923: Edgar Cayce hired a secretary, Gladys Davis, who would record his readings henceforth.
1923: Edgar Cayce gave his first non-medical reading, which addressed astrology and the concept of reincarnation.
1925: Edgar Cayce moved his family to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
1928: The Cayce Hospital was built in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
1930: Atlantic University opened in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
1931: The hospital closed due to the Great Depression.
1931: The Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc. (A.R.E.) was incorporated.
1931: Hugh Lynn Cayce assumed management of the A.R.E.
1931: The first Search for God study group was held.
1932: The First Annual Congress of the Association for Research and Enlightenment was held.
1944: Edgar Cayce gave his last reading focused on his own declining health.
1945: Edgar Cayce died in his home at the age of sixty-seven.
1948: The Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the Edgar Cayce Foundation.
1959: Hugh Lynn Cayce lead the first A.R.E. Camp session in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
1962: Mary McCroskey LaPrelle agreed to lease fifty acres of land in Cedar Springs, Virginia, to the A.R.E. for continuation of the summer camp.
1965: The A.R.E. Camp held its first session in Cedar Springs, Virginia.
1975: The A.R.E. Virginia Beach Visitors Center was built next to the Hospital and became the new home of the A.R.E. Library.
1987: The Cayce/Reilly School of Massage opened behind the A.R.E. Visitors Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
2010: The A.R.E. launched its virtual library, which provides online access to Cayce’s readings.
The Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) was founded by Edgar Cayce. [Image at right] It is at once a product of his particular experiences and teachings and a means of tapping into a worldview, way of living, and ultimate truth that is meant to transcend any individual or any particular historical moment. Later known as the “Sleeping Prophet,” Edgar Cayce was born in rural Kentucky in 1877. Raised a devout Christian, Cayce was described as a young boy with an interest in the spirit world and with unique psychic abilities. These abilities were thought to be hereditary as Cayce’s grandfather was said to have had the power to make objects move without touching them and plants to grow at a command. Stories of the young Cayce describe a boy who could absorb the contents of his textbooks by merely sleeping on them. Though he reported psychic abilities and encounters with heavenly beings as early as adolescence, it would be a health crisis in 1901 that initiated his trademark practice of spiritual discernment. After inexplicably losing his voice, he entered a trance-like sleep state in which he delivered a cure for his own malady.
From then on, he continued to enter these states of lucid sleep out of which he would deliver medical cures for family, friends, and strangers alike. Often focused on curing imbalances and blockages in the body through diet adjustment or holistic practices such as castor oil compresses, reports suggest great success in applying the suggested cures. As these so called “readings” began to gain notoriety, people travelled from around the country to receive a reading from Cayce and many requested readings from afar. With this success also came increased attention from the press and skeptical medical experts. Biographers describe the investigation of Cayce’s practices by skeptics and suggest many were convinced. For example, Gina Cerminara points to the medical records of cures brought about by Cayce’s readings as “impressive documentary evidence for the validity of the phenomenon in question” (Ceminara 1967:13).
1923 marked a turning point in Cayce’s work. It was in this year that he hired a secretary, Gladys Davis, who would faithfully and comprehensively record each reading. It is these records that are now amassed in the A.R.E. Library and available in digital form online for A.R.E. members. It was also in 1923 that Cayce’s readings took a spiritual turn. Moving from simply physical maladies and imbalances, he began to speak to spiritual imbalances. Many of these he thought could also be positively influenced by lifestyle changes involving food and exercise in addition to dream exploration, astrology, attention to past lives and healing prayer. Freely blending Christian terminology with eastern and occult philosophy, medical and spiritual concerns, Cayce provided holistic remedies and spiritual insights for the whole person.
As the readings began to grow in number and a blueprint for better living began to emerge from the readings, Cayce and his closest family, friends, and devotees, began to explore ways to provide access to the readings and services that supported the reading suggestions. Following a suggestion from a reading, Cayce moved his family to Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1925, believing it to be one of the healthiest places on the planet. In 1928, he directed construction of the Cayce Hospital, a center in which various spiritual and medical practitioners could offer the services recommended in Cayce’s readings. [Image at right] Battling the realities of the Great Depression, which caused the temporary closing of the hospital, Cayce worked tirelessly to continue his work. With the support of small donations and volunteers, Cayce incorporated the Association for Research and Enlightenment in 1931. Edgar Cayce’s son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, assumed leadership of the A.R.E. soon thereafter and developed a strategy for future growth that would eventually lead to expansion and greater financial security. The first Annual Congress of the A.R.E. was held in 1932, an event which broadened the A.R.E. community and allowed for Hugh Lynn Cayce’s new vision to take root. Edgar Cayce continued to give readings and support the growth of the A.R.E. until his health began to suffer. He died in his home in January of 1945, and his wife followed three months later. By 1948, the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the Edgar Cayce Foundation as a way of centralizing ownership and stewardship of the Cayce Readings.
Under the leadership of Hugh Lynn Cayce, the A.R.E. expanded its offerings to include retreats, conferences, mail order services, and a summer camp in the 1960s. What Hugh Lynn Cayce began as a residential camp at the A.R.E. headquarters in 1959 is now a fully staffed and multi-faceted summer camp in the rural Southwestern Virginia mountains. In 1975, the current Visitor’s Center was built and, together with the original hospital building and adjacent structures, created a campus continuing a library, archive, holistic health center, conference center, and educational institution. In 1987, the Cayce Reilly School of Massage opened, with certification programs available in a style of Swedish massage influenced by Cayce’s readings. In 2010, the A.R.E. launched its virtual library, an online resource of thousands of Cayce’s readings, available virtually to all members.
The A.R.E. describes its Vision/Ideal as “Global Manifestation of Oneness and the Love of God and All People.” Its accompanying mission is “to create opportunities for profound personal change in body, mind, and spirit through the wisdom found in the Edgar Cayce material.” Rather than envisioning itself as a religious or spiritual movement, the A.R.E. describes itself as a source for resources and activities that might lead to those physical, mental and spiritual changes described by Cayce. Because it does not consider itself to be a religious tradition, the A.R.E. does not espouse a particular doctrine necessary for membership or clear lines that delineate it from other religious traditions. This universality has roots in Cayce’s own advice that members should not leave their church but use these teachings to deepen and amplify their faith. Biographer Thomas Sugrue described Cayce’s advice to a new member exploring the readings: “If it makes you a better member of your church, then it’s good; if it takes you away from your church it’s bad” (Sugrue 1977:297). Many current members also attend churches or other houses of workshop on a regular basis.
Edgar Cayce’s Christian roots clearly emerge in his readings through his use of particular terminology and frameworks. In particular, his later readings describe a Christ Consciousness available to all who seek it. To Cayce, the divine source of the wisdom he accessed through readings was inextricably tied to the historical figure of Jesus. The abilities of Cayce are not understood to be exclusively his alone. He is not a divine figure, and all have the opportunity to reach the Christ Consciousness Cayce describes. Cayce spoke to the source of his insights in 1933:
Apparently, I am one of the few who can lay aside their own personalities sufficiently to allow their souls to make this attunement to this universal source of knowledge – but I say this without any desire to brag about it. In fact, I do not claim to possess anything that other individuals do not inherently possess (Furst 1969:15).
To bring about realization of this Christ Consciousness, Cayce prescribes attention to the three-fold dimensions of the human self – the body, mind, and spirit:
The body is made up of the physical, the mental, the spiritual. Each have their laws, which work one with another, and the whole is the physical man; yet do not treat physical conditions wholly through spiritual or mental laws and expect same to respond as one. Neither treat spiritual or mental conditions as material; for Mind is the builder, and through the mind application of the laws pertaining to physical, mental, and spiritual, one is made One with the whole (Reading 4580-1).
All of the practical guidance of the readings on food, meditation, prayer, exercise are meant to lead the practitioner to balance mind, body, and spirit, achievement of Christ Consciousness, and union “with the whole.” Cayce operated within a distinctly Christian worldview but understood these principles and advisements to be supplemental to religious faith, aids in the difficult path through personhood to wholeness.
In a marked divergence from a Christian worldview, Cayce also offered readings that focus on topics such as reincarnation, the wisdom to be found in astrology, and exploration of ancient mysteries and sources of knowledge. In Cayce’s readings and continuing in contemporary workshops and publications, the A.R.E. points to deep exploration of dreams and past lives as a way to uncover blockages and stumbling blocks in one’s subconscious mind and subconscious history. Past Life Regression is offered at the A.R.E. headquarters and reincarnation is understood as a means by which one’s soul is cleansed, thus enabling them to work through psychological and interpersonal challenges.
Thomas Sugrue, family friend and author of the classic biography of Edgar Cayce, There is a River (1997), describes Cayce’s philosophy thus: “a Christianized version of the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia, India and Greece. It fits the figure of Christ into the tradition of one God for all people, and places Him in His proper place, at the apex of the philosophical structure; He is the capstone of the pyramid” (Sugrue 1997:305).
To achieve balance and health in one’s mind, body, and spirit, the A.R.E. advocates a number of practices. Many of Cayce’s readings prescribe particular dietary rules to deal with imbalances within the body. Thus, he provides prescriptions for the use of whole foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoidance of red meat, and, most importantly, balancing the acidic and alkaline foods. Cayce also recommended a number of holistic medical practices such as the use of castor oil packs to the body, poultices, massage, regular exercise and stretching. Borrowing from Eastern traditions, he seemed to integrate the idea that the spirit and the body are intertwined systems and imbalances in one could lead to imbalances in the other.
In addition to these general practices encouraged by Cayce’s readings, the A.R.E. as an organization offers and organizes a number of activities and opportunities. In addition to holistic health treatments at the Virginia Beach Health Center and Spa, visitors can visit the library to see the thousands of documented readings or browse the book store with many of the offerings of the A.R.E. Press. The A.R.E. offers international trips to visit sites considered sacred in the readings as well as domestic lectures and events in Virginia Beach and throughout the country.
For many practitioners, the key to regular practice is through participation in Search for God and other study groups. Begun by Cayce himself, these groups bring together people of varied religious perspectives and backgrounds to illuminate a common spirituality. The A.R.E. currently lists well over 100 active groups in the United States.
Though the A.R.E. does not operate with local regular meeting communities in the model of traditional religious organizations, it has created other unique communities. The A.R.E. Camp in Southwestern Virginia [Image at right] provides a unique opportunity for members to live out Cayce’s values and teachings in an intentional community. This rustic summer camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains hosts children’s sessions, family sessions, and adult retreats. With a daily schedule integrating teachings of Cayce such as exercise at the beginning and end of the day, times for silent meditation and prayer, time for dream analysis, all with garden-grown food devoid of sugar, processed ingredients and, in most cases, meat, and with plenty of time immersed in nature. This camp has been an effective way of reaching a younger audience than the regular retreats and classes offered through the A.R.E. Headquarters in Virginia Beach.
For many members, regular practice entails reading of the Cayce material, participation in workshops, international trips, online study courses, mail order services such as astrological readings, and retreats. Members can volunteer at the A.R.E. offices or participate in the Prison Outreach Program through which the A.R.E. provides books on spiritual topics and the Cayce readings to prison libraries, as well as individual inmates and chaplains.
As many of Cayce’s readings had a particular focus on medical concerns and holistic health, one of his first means of organizing the A.R.E. was to build a Hospital in Virginia Beach, a site his readings had pointed to as one of the healthiest on earth. The 1928 building boasted thirty private treatment rooms, dining facility and the library. The facility also offered facilities for exercise and health services, such as tennis courts and bath houses on the nearby oceanfront. As the A.R.E. expanded and sought ways to extend the reach of its services and philosophy, the Cayce/Reilly School of Massage opened in 1987 at the Hospital in Virginia Beach. Combining the massage techniques of physiotherapist Harold J. Reilly with the Edgar Cayce material on bodily harmony and optimal health, the school continues to offer certification programs for massage therapists as well as massage services for visitors. On site is also Atlantic University, a fully accredited institute of higher education that is affiliated with the A.R.E. It offers both continuing education classes and Masters programs in Transpersonal Psychology and Leadership Studies. Currently, these various components of the A.R.E.’s work are located on the same plot of land [Image at right] and under the title “Don and Nancy deLaski Education Center.” The adjacent Visitor’s Center is home to the Library, bookstore and gift shop as well as the offices of the A.R.E. staff and spaces for meeting and regular meditation.
Hugh Lynn Cayce directed the A.R.E. until his death in 1982. His son, Charles Thomas Cayce took this role until his retirement in 2006. Since 2006, the A.R.E. has been led by C.E.O. and Executive Director, Kevin Todeschi, an author and longtime A.R.E. employee. The A.R.E.’s administration consists of a Board of Trustees as well as a C.E.O. and small staff with focus on fundraising, activities, and education. The A.R.E. also operates a secondary headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Membership in the A.R.E. requires annual payment but also includes copies of the A.R.E.’s magazine Venture Inward, access to the Cayce readings online and other internet resources, and discounts on the various programing of the A.R.E. Lifetime membership and reductions in fees are available.
The A.R.E. enjoys an active web presence and physical presence in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Virginia Headquarters houses the archives of Cayce’s readings, a large bookstore offering titles from A.R.E. Presses, a library including numerous A.R.E. and related sources, administrative offices, the Cayce Reilly School of Massage, Atlantic University, and other resources. With so few physical meeting spaces throughout the world, the internet has been a primary means of reaching members and potential members across the globe. And the A.R.E. has been remarkably successful at maintaining its activities and a sense of community with a disparate membership. The A.R.E. reports that in 2016 it received donations from approximately 3,000 members and that its revenue for 2016 was over seven million dollars. Of this, $2,700,000 came from fees and tuitions, $2,400,000 from contributions, $900,000 from memberships and $600,000 from sales. Yet, this lack of a physical presence in small communities also creates some challenges as the A.R.E. works to maintain membership numbers. The membership is also relatively white and older in age. Through the A.R.E. Camp in Rural Retreat, Virginia and a number of retreats focused on youth, the A.R.E. is working to build that younger demographic.
Another challenge is the status of the group as a religion, spiritual group, self-help or health organization. From his first readings, Edgar Cayce faced the challenge of offering medical advice outside the realm of traditional medicine. The A.R.E. as an organization and its individual members continue to face this tension between the established medical community and the Cayce lifestyle. As American society has increasingly embraced natural remedies to medical ailments, some of these tensions have decreased. As an organization that directly addresses spiritual and religious topics, the A.R.E. and its members struggle with the question of definition. Cayce was clear that engagement with A.R.E. programs and resources did not preclude someone from participation in institutional religion. Yet, many members do not feel comfortable sharing their additional identities in the other sphere. More and more members are religious “nones,” and this is their only religious or spiritual outlet. As a result, questions arise as to the nature of this community in terms of official designations as religion.
Often classified as a “new religious movement,” the A.R.E. avoids classification. Carrying on Cayce’s belief that people could and should be involved in addition to other affiliations, the A.R.E. sees itself as carrying for a universalistic message and offering very practical resources. In a country where disaffiliation and spiritual exploration is increasingly the norm, the challenge for the A.R.E. will be to make a case for the usefulness of its resources for spiritual seekers of the twenty-first century.
Image #1: Photograph of Edgar Cayce.
Image #2: Photograph of the early Cayce Hospital.
Image #3: Photograph of a gathering at the A.R.E. Camp in Southwestern Virginia.
Image #4: Photograph of the A.R.E. campus.
Bro, Harmon Hartzell. 1989. Edgar Cayce: A Seer out of Season. New York: NAL Books.
Cayce, Hugh Lynn, Editor. 1968. The Edgar Cayce Collection. New York: Random House.
Cerminara, Gina. 1967. Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation. New York: Signet Books.
Duncan, Ann. 2015. “Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment: ‘Nones’ and Religious Experience in the Twenty-first Century.” Nova Religio 19:45-64.
Frejer, B. Ernest. 1969. The Edgar Cayce Companion. Virginia Beach, VA: The A.R.E. Press.
Furst, Jeffrey. 1969. Edgar Cayce’s Story of Jesus. New York: Coward McCann.
Johnson, K. Paul. 1998. Edgar Cayce in Context: The Readings: Truth and Fiction. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Kirkpatrick, Sidney. 2000. Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet. New York: Riverhead Books.
Lucas, Phillip. 1995. “The Association for Research and Enlightenment: Saved by the New Age,” Pp. 353-61 in America’s Alternative Religdions, edited by Timothy Miller. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Stearn, Jess. 1967. Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet. New York: Doubleday.
Sugrue, Thomas. 1997. .“There is a River…”: The Story of Edgar Cayce. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.
25 January 2018