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Healthy Developments for A.R.E.

Dec 18, 1996 09:06 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

The current (January/February) issue of Venture Inward, the
magazine of the Association for Research and Enlightenment,
contains a very pleasant surprise for me.  Since the issue of
A.R.E.'s receptivity to potentially controversial scholarship has
been discussed here before, it may be of interest to some on
the list.  The surprise is a column by Charles Thomas Cayce,
Ph.D., President of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, with the title "Healthy
Developments for A.R.E."  It opens, "Those of us on the staff
of the A.R.E. who are working with and talking about the
readings on a day-to-day basis sometimes have difficulty seeing
the forest for the trees.  Three recent events helped put this
in perspective for me."  He then devotes one paragraph each to
describing a young graduate student doing a dissertation on
Edgar Cayce (which will be a very fine book one day-- I've read
it) and a biographer with a contract from a large publisher to
do another Cayce bio.  Neither of these writers is affiliated
with A.R.E., but Dr. Cayce welcomes their investigations and
looks forward to their works' completion.

The remaining 4 paragraphs open with these words: "My most
interesting discussion along these lines, however, was with
Paul Johnson, a scholar under contract with the State
University of New York Press (SUNY) for a volume on the work of
Edgar Cayce for their series on Western Esoteric Traditions.
His last volume on Theosophy and Madame Blavatsky received a
very positive review in *Newsweek* [sic] but not by many
Theosophists. [Actually it was the one before last, and the
*NYT Book Review*-- but I was the one taking notes, not he]
Nonetheless, I think the project is a tremendously healthy
development for the A.R.E. and will be viewed in the future as
a milestone in the history of this work."  The column concludes
"Johnson will raise important questions about the readings,
including sources of the information and aspects of the
past-life information.  His long study of the Cayce material
promises a balanced approach that will ultimately benefit ths
work and its helpfulness to a struggling world."

Sorry to post something so flattering, but there's a point
here that has nothing to do with me personally, and a lot to do
with different organizational mindsets.  My manuscript, which
Dr. Cayce has read, will be the most skeptical and critical
book ever written about his grandfather, as best I can tell--
and there have been almost 600.  Why can the A.R.E. embrace
such an approach, regard it as healthy and helpful, whereas
most Theosophical officials' reactions to a similar stimulus were so
negative?  Some hypotheses:

1.  A.R.E. is generally a more optimistic organization, as a
result of its various successes of the last 30 years, and
therefore more inclined to assume something will be helpful
rather than harmful to its interests.
2.  Cayce hasn't had nearly the bad press HPB has, so A.R.E.
attitudes are much less paranoid and defensive than
Theosophical ones tend to be.
3.  At an earlier point in its life cycle than the TS, the
A.R.E. hasn't had time to evolve the rigidity of Theosophy.
4.  Cayce is not idolized or idealized by his followers to the
extent that HPB and the Masters are by Theosophists, so there's
less reactivity to criticism.
5.  Since there are still Cayces around in the organization,
people have a more grounded appreciation of Edgar, less need to
mythologize him.  (Thanks to JRC for suggesting 3-5 in
private email.)
6.  There are individual differences between the leaders of the
organizations that might be more important that the differences
between the organizations themselves.
7.  The emphasis in A.R.E. is strongly pragmatic and eclectic,
with none of the demands for true belief and avoidance of the
"wrong" ideas that we find in Theosophical circles.

I'll close with a quote in the same issue from Stan Khury,
Chairman of the A.R.E. Board of Trustees: "If it were true to
the teachings in the readings, A.R.E. would have no doctrine,
no belief system, and would encourage taking personal
responsibility for one's own seeking-- all things to which I
resonate at a deep level."

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