When Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) died at the age of 67, he had given nearly 9,000 medical readings while in a state of clairvoyant trance. In addition, the "sleeping prophet" also gave life readings dealing with the vocational, psychological, and human-relations problems of individuals. It was through these life readings that the concepts of reincarnation and the possibility of past lives were introduced. All together, more than 14,000 Cayce readings have been recorded on 200,000 permanent file cards and cross-referenced into 10,000 major subjects.
In 1931, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) was chartered in the state of Virginia as a nonprofit organization to conduct scientific and psychical research. In 1947, two years after Cayce's death, the Edgar Cayce Foundation was established. The original ARE has become the membership arm of the Cayce programs. The foundation is the custodian of the original Cayce readings, and the memorabilia of the great contemporary seer's life and career. Both are headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and there are more than 1,500 ARE study groups around the world.
Since the establishment of the ARE, thousands of people from every corner of the
Cayce's son, Hugh Lynn Cayce (1907–1982), once commented that his father had said that everyone was psychic, "but for many people manifestation of this ability can be very disturbing, very upsetting, and in fact, it can even destroy the personality if it runs rampant in the person's life. This can be very damaging if the individual does not use these abilities constructively. If he takes ego trips with it, or begins to fake it, the result can be very destructive to the personality, particularly that of young children."
With these concerns in mind, before he died Edgar told Hugh Lynn that the Association for Research and Enlightenment had better make certain that they were doing the research before they did too much enlightening. To fulfill Edgar's wish, the ARE maintains an extensive library of information concerning the entire field of psychical research and metaphysics, as well as the Cayce materials. It also sponsors regular seminars, publishes a journal, and established Atlantic University as an environment in which various psychic attributes can be examined and developed.
Cayce believed that in an earlier incarnation, he had been wounded in battle and left in the field for dead. However, he had managed to live for several days, conscious and in extreme pain. He was not able to help himself in any way, having only his mind as a weapon against pain. Just prior to his physical death, he had been able to elevate his mind beyond the reach of his body and its suffering. Since no achievement, good or bad, is ever lost, the ability to subdue the body and its feelings became part of the pattern of his individuality—and he was able to use this ability in his physical incarnation as Edgar Cayce.
In a trance state, Cayce was able to give complete medical diagnoses, prescribe remedies, and review the past lives of his clients. Cayce learned that each existence on Earth is a purposeful experience, and the place in which people find themselves provides them with the opportunities to use their presentlife abilities, weaknesses, or virtues in fulfilling the purpose for which their souls decided to manifest in the three-dimensional plane of Earth. In Cayce's opinion, no soul is placed here accidentally. Humans are all where they are today because they have "chosen" to be there in an effort to work out their soul development.
"My father's unconscious mind was able to tap the unconscious minds of other people and draw information from them," Hugh Lynn Cayce said. "He insisted that there is a river of thought forms and intelligence at another level of consciousness, and that this was the source of his information. This procedure apparently had nothing to do with mediumship as we understand it. He had no guides or anything like that. He had to do his own legwork, so to speak."
Hugh Lynn Cayce died on July 4, 1982, in Virginia Beach. Posthumously, a collection of his speeches concerning Edgar Cayce's teachings on Jesus and Christianity was published under the title The Jesus I Knew (1982). Hugh Lynn's son Charles Thomas Cayce (1942– ) became the president of the ARE in 1976 after his father suffered a heart attack, and he still serves the organization in that position.
Dr. Gina Cerminara, a trained psychologist with a specialty in semantics, conducted an extensive study of the Edgar Cayce past-life readings while she was residing in Virginia Beach. In Chapter XXIV, "A Philosophy to Live By," in her book Many Mansions (1950), Cerminara presented the ethics of karma as delineated in the Cayce readings. In outline form, the pattern that she discovered is as follows:
In accordance with the above postulates, humankind is enjoined as follows:
Dr. Gladys McGarey is a medical doctor who employs various concepts from the Edgar Cayce material in her practice at the Association for Research and Enlightenment Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. McGarey gave new life to the Temple Beautiful program as it was described in Cayce's readings of the lost continent of Atlantis. The daughter of Christian missionaries, McGarey has said that her work with the Cayce readings had not changed her basic attitude toward life and death, religion and immortality. "It is still Christ-centered with a basic Christian foundation. The part that has changed is the addition of reincarnation and the concept that comes from the Cayce material that gives impact and reality to the importance of us as ongoing beings. We are as rays of light and love that are involved in this three-dimensional world."
Rather than taking her away from the church, McGarey stated that the concepts of reincarnation had actually given her a deeper understanding of Christian ritual and the belief structures of the Christian faith. She also said that the concept of past lives had helped her to be a better physician, because they had enabled her to share responsibility with her patients, "rather than take responsibility from them."