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research library containing both the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce and a fairly good science and pseudoscience collection (though they do not classify their holdings this way); a bookstore selling a full array of writings on the paranormal, including books on spiritual living, self-discovery, inner help, past lives, health, longevity, healing, native wisdom, and the future. A.R.E. describes itself as "a research organization" that "continues to index and catalogue information, to initiate investigation and experiments, and to promote conferences, seminars, and lectures."

The corpus of accepted beliefs reads like an A-to-Z who's who and what's what of the paranormal. The circulating files index of the library includes the following psychic readings from Cayce: angels and archangels, astrological influences on Earth experiences, economic healing, evaluating psychic talent, intuition, visions and dreams, Karma and the law of grace, magnetic healing, the missing years of Jesus, the oneness of life and death, planetary sojourns and astrology, principles of psychic science, reincarnation, soul retrogression, and vibrations, to name just a few. A "reading" consisted of Cayce reclining in a chair, closing his eyes, going into an "altered state," and dictating hours of material. During his lifetime, Cayce dictated no less than fourteen thousand psychic readings on over ten thousand subjects! A separate medical library has its own circulating files index listing Cayce's psychic readings on every imaginable disease and its cure. One is "Edgar Cayce's famous 'Black Book,'" which will give you a "simple scar removal formula," explain "the best hours of sleep," tell you "the best exercise," clarify what "will help the memory," and, on page 209, solve that most mysterious of medical conundrums, "how to get rid of bad breath."

A.R.E. also has its own press—the A.R.E. Publishing Company—and incorporates the Atlantic University of Transpersonal Studies. The latter offers an "independent studies program" that includes the following courses: "TS 501—Introduction to Transpersonal Studies" (the works of Cayce, Abraham Maslow, Victor Frankl, and Buddhism); "TS 503—The Origin and Development of Human Consciousness" (on ancient magicians and the great mother goddess), "TS 504—Spiritual Philosophies and the Nature of Humanity" (on spiritual creation and evolution), "TS 506—The Inner Life: Dream, Meditation, and Imaging" (dreams as problem-solving tools), "TS 508—Religious Traditions" (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), and "TS 518—Divination as a Way to Measure All" (astrology, tarot, I Ching, handwriting analysis, palmistry, and psychic readings).

A potpourri of lectures and seminars encourages followers' beliefs and provides opportunities for the uninitiated to get involved. A lecture on "Egypt, Myth, and Legend," by Ahmed Fayed, articulates a not-so-hidden agenda: Cayce's life in ancient Egypt. "Naming the Name: Choosing Jesus the Christ as Your Living Master" demonstrates A.R.E.'s openness to more traditional religions and its lack of discrimination between any and all belief systems. A "Sounding and Overtone Chanting" seminar promises to equip you with "tools for empowerment and transformation." A three-day seminar called "The Healing Power of Past-Life Memories" features, among others, Raymond Moody, who claims that the near-death experience is a bridge to the other side.

Who was Edgar Cayce? According to A.R.E. literature, Cayce was born in 1877 on a farm near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. As a youth, he "displayed powers of perception which extended beyond the five senses. Eventually, he would become the most documented psychic of all times." Purportedly, when he was twenty-one, Cayce's doctors were unable to find a cause or cure for a "gradual paralysis which threatened the loss of his voice." Cayce responded by going into a "hypnotic sleep" and recommended a cure for himself, which he claims worked. The discovery of his ability to diagnose illnesses and recommend solutions while in an altered state led him to do this on a regular basis for others with medical problems. This, in turn, expanded into general psychic readings on thousands of different topics covering every conceivable aspect of the universe, the world, and humanity.

Numerous books have been written on Edgar Cayce, some by uncritical followers (Cerminara 1967; Stearn 1967) and others by skeptics (Baker and Nickell 1992; Gardner 1952; Randi 1982). Skeptic Martin Gardner demonstrates that Cayce was fantasy-prone from his youth, often talking with angels and receiving visions of his dead grandfather. Uneducated beyond the ninth grade, Cayce acquired his broad knowledge through voracious reading, and from this he wove elaborate tales and gave detailed diagnoses while in his trances. His early psychic readings were done in the presence of an osteopath, from whom he borrowed much of his terminology. When his wife got tuberculosis, Cayce offered this diagnosis: "The condition in the body is quite different from what we have had before ... from the head, pains along through the body from the second, fifth and sixth dorsals, and from the first and second lumbar... tie-ups here, and floating lesions, or lateral lesions, in the muscular and nerve fibers." As Gardner explains, "This is talk which makes sense to an osteopath, and to almost no one else" (1952, p. 217).

In Cayce, James Randi sees all the familiar tricks of the psychic trade: "Cayce was fond of expressions like 'I feel that...' and 'perhaps'—qualifying words used to avoid positive declarations" (1982, p. 189). Cayce's remedies read like prescriptions from a medieval herbalist: for a leg sore, use oil of

Figure 4:

ESP machine at the Association for Research and Enlightenment. [Photograph by Michael Shermer.]

Figure 4:

ESP machine at the Association for Research and Enlightenment. [Photograph by Michael Shermer.]

smoke; for a baby with convulsions, a peach-tree poultice; for dropsy, bedbug juice; for arthritis, peanut oil massage; and for his wife's tuberculosis, ash from the wood of a bamboo tree. Were Cayce's readings and diagnoses correct? Did his remedies work? It is hard to say. Testimony from a few patients does not represent a controlled experiment, and among his more obvious failures are several patients who died between the time of writing to Cayce and Cayce's reading. In one such instance, Cayce did a reading on a small girl in which he recommended a complex nutritional program to cure the disease but admonished, "And this depends upon whether one of the things as intended to be done today is done or isn't done, see?" The girl had died the day before, however (Randi 1982, pp. 189-195).

It was, then, with considerable anticipation that we passed under the words "That we may make manifest the love of God and man" and entered into the halls of Edgar Cayce's legacy. Inside there were no laboratory rooms and no scientific equipment save an ESP machine proudly displayed against a wall in the entrance hall (see figure 4). A large sign next to the machine announced that shortly there would be an ESP experiment in an adjacent room. We saw our opportunity.

The ESP machine featured the standard Zener cards (created by K. E. Zener, they display easily distinguished shapes to be interpreted in Psi experiments), with a button to push for each of the five symbols—plus sign, square, star, circle, and wavy lines. One of the directors of A.R.E. began with a lecture on ESP, Edgar Cayce, and the development of psychic powers. He explained that some people are born with a psychic gift while others need practice, but we all have the power to some degree. When he asked for participants, I volunteered to be a receiver. I was given no instruction on how to receive psychic messages, so I asked. The instructor explained that I should concentrate on the sender's forehead. The thirty-four other people in the room were told to do the same thing. We were all given an ESP Testing Score Sheet (see figure 5), with paired columns for our psychic choices and the correct answers, given after the experiment. We ran two trials of 25 cards each. I got 7 right in the first set, for which I honestly tried to receive the message, and 3 right in the second set, for which I marked the plus sign for every card.

The instructor explained that "5 right is average, chance is between 3 and 7, and anything above 7 is evidence of ESP." I asked, "If 3 to 7 is chance, and anything above 7 is evidence of ESP, what about someone who scores below a 3?" The instructor responded, "That's a sign of negative ESP." (He didn't say what that was.) I then surveyed the group. In the first set, three people got 2 right, while another three got 8 right; in the second set, one even got 9 right. So, while I apparently did not have psychic power, at least four other people did. Or did they?

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