Grandson of ‘Sleeping Prophet’ Lectures : New Age Ventures Into Cayce’s Realm

Times Religion Writer

Charles Thomas Cayce, 46, a scholarly man dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and conservative tie, seemed a bit out of place at the Whole Life Expo, a freewheeling New Age “psychic fair” that drew nearly 30,000 seekers of cosmic attunement and self-fulfillment to Los Angeles last weekend.

“This Expo-type thing makes me nervous,” admitted the grandson of Edgar Cayce, the late psychic known as the “sleeping prophet.”

But mild-mannered Charles Cayce is a frequent lecturer at such gatherings these days. And his organization, the Assn. for Research and Enlightenment, founded by his grandfather in Virginia Beach, Va., in 1931, is appealing to the conservative edge of the multifacted and multifocused New Age movement.

The association is cautiously venturing into the far reaches of trance “readings,” dream analysis and psychic phenomena. At the same time, it is introducing notions of reincarnation, natural health remedies and meditation to Christians and Jews who do not want to sever their ties with mainline religion.

‘Foot in Both Camps’

“The people who are most interested are trying to keep a foot in both camps,” said Cayce, who holds a doctorate in child psychology from the University of Mississippi.


“There are churches that see all this as a threat,” Cayce continued during an interview between his well-attended lecture and a workshop on “Healing Through the Mind.”

“While we try to avoid that sense of competition or threat, we realize that many who are attracted to the A.R.E. are searching for deeper spiritual meaning they may not have found in their church.”

The heightened popularity of his organization, which has quadrupled its dues-paying membership to 100,000 over the last five years, is in turn drawing new attention to the life and work of the elder Cayce, who died in 1945 at age 67.

A humble Southerner with a grade-school education and a simple Bible-reading faith, Edgar Cayce was a Presbyterian elder and Sunday school teacher. Said to possess telepathic, clairvoyant and precognitive abilities, he appeared to tap a universal “mind pool” while in a trance state.

About 9,500 of his 14,145 transcribed “readings” on file at the association’s headquarters pertain to “psychic diagnoses” of physical ailments.

Twice a day for more than 40 years, Cayce would lie down, enter a self-induced hypnotic state and, given only the name and location of his subject, describe in detail the functionings and malfunctionings of the individual’s body. A prescription for treatment and a question-and-answer period followed.

Catastrophes Predicted

Other paranormal data left by Cayce includes readings on the origin and destiny of the soul, detailed explanations of past lives and the law of karma, prophecies of such catastrophic events as massive earthquakes and the predicted rising of the supposed lost continent of Atlantis. Most of these predictions--to occur between 1958 and the end of this century--have not happened.

“I think the A.R.E. aspires to be a bridge” between New Age and mainstream religion, said Harmon H. Bro, a visiting lecturer at Harvard Divinity School who spent a year with Edgar Cayce researching his methods.

“His trance state was an extension of his prayer life. . . . That whole capacity of the mind and the spirit to work creatively with the body points to a new understanding of matter that hasn’t been philosophically popular until now,” Bro added in a telephone interview.

Bro, who is writing a biography, “A Seer out of Season; the Life of Edgar Cayce” (New American Library), said the book is “an attempt to re-embed him (Cayce) in church life and biblical faith without ignoring the fact that he took a reincarnation position as part of his material.”

The Rev. Richard H. Drummond, a Presbyterian theologian and former seminary professor who teaches at the association’s Atlantic University, said that in the spectrum of current biblical studies, the Cayce readings are “on the conservative side” and that in the context of “the wide and amorphous New Age movement, the A.R.E. is very conservative.”

Association Critics

The latter perception was reflected by several people at Charles Cayce’s Whole Life Expo workshop on Monday. Association group meetings “need to be livened up,” said one New Ager who said he found “more exciting stuff” in messages from “channels,” or trance psychics. No one on the 150-member association staff gives psychic readings.

The association has other critics: Skeptical scientists, debunking extrasensory perception and the paranormal, point to Cayce’s “missed” predictions and diagnoses.

And its most conspicuous religious neighbor at Virginia Beach, the Rev. Pat Robertson, head of the Christian Broadcasting Network and University, thinks Edgar Cayce’s readings are “the work of the devil,” Charles Cayce said with a smile.

Other evangelical Christians have faulted the Cayces for belief in reincarnation; orthodox theologians say it is not taught in the Bible.

Further, the Cayce understanding of the “Universal Christ Consciousness--the awareness of the oneness, the God within"--has been attacked as a non-Christian, Eastern religious notion incompatible with the theistic perception of God as a separate, personal being.

Charles Thomas Cayce, a churchgoing Methodist who says he questioned it all himself when he was in graduate school, takes such barbs in stride:

“In his readings, my grandfather said, ‘If this material takes you away from your church, give it up and go back to your church.’ We struggle with that in the A.R.E. today.”

Yet Cayce makes it clear that there is no turning back from a kind of last frontier: “The dimensions of mind and consciousness are one of the few areas left for exploration.”