VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., May 19, 2013 – During a recent trip to Norfolk where we took in the Virginia Opera’s current production of “Carousel” last weekend, we used a bit of our spare time to travel over to Virginia Beach. Adjacent to and directly to the east of Norfolk, Virginia Beach is, of course, well-known for its vast, generous Atlantic beaches, its lengthy oceanfront boardwalk, and its nearby Oceana Naval Air Base, just part of the substantial U.S. military presence throughout the Tidewater area located at the southeastern-most edge of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Although we sampled the beachfront on a warmish Sunday—already surprisingly well-occupied by pre-Memorial Day beachgoers and tourists who’d come to take in an oceanside steel pan band festival—we were really in Virginia Beach to visit one of its lesser-known, less touristy establishments: the campus of Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.).
Located just up Atlantic Avenue on the corner of 67th Street, perhaps a mile or two north of the beach and hotel area of the city, the A.R.E. campus houses the historic hospital and institute founded by “the sleeping prophet,” Edgar Cayce (1877-1945). A mild-mannered, deeply Christian Kentucky native, Cayce, who strove to become one of the pioneers of holistic medicine, evolved almost unwittingly to become the effective, if unacknowledged founding father of what’s now known as the New Age Movement.
Cayce felt he had been called upon to envision newer, better, more innovative, and above all, more holistic ways of treating human illness. His calling eventually led to his establishment in 1928 of the 60-bed Edgar Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment on what was then inexpensive land located not far from the Atlantic beachfront of Virginia Beach, at that time a much smaller town than the substantial city of nearly 500,000 residents that it is today.
But what seemed to attract the most attention to the work of Edgar Cayce were his psychic powers. Famously, upon serious request, he would lie down on a couch, go into a trancelike sleep, and issue predictions, advice, or prophecies for petitioners who felt that conventional medicine, advice, or religion could not address their problems. Often, his unorthodox treatment advice would prove correct, and his advice and methods are still in use today by many holistic healers.
Cayce also issued other, more mysterious readings involving prophecies of future events along with a series of readings that purportedly went back to methods discussed or established by residents of the lost city of Atlantis, a land Cayce felt had sunk beneath the waves not in Europe but off our own shores somewhere in the Caribbean.
Whether they involved interpretations of history, medicine, religion, or visions of the world to come, Cayce reportedly offered his readings without charge, which later led to financial difficulties for his establishment. Cayce had feared that he would eventually became so famous for his prophecies, or “readings” as they were called, that they would overshadow his work as a healer, which in many respects they have.
Some regard (and still regard) both Cayce’s readings and his New Age-y approach to medicine as outright quackery, but in his own time, many well-known individuals regarded his work highly. Cayce’s clients included movers and shakers as varied as Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin. He continues to be regarded as a seminal figure in the development of holistic healing in this country.
Devotees and followers of Edgar Cayce eventually managed to get the A.R.E. in better financial order. Today, the old hospital, once in bankruptcy is now restored to function as a multi-use facility whose services include massage therapy. The campus itself has expanded to include contemplative gardens and a main building to house offices, meeting rooms, a meditation room, and a library that serves as a repository for Cayce’s thousands of readings along with numerous volumes dealing with psychic powers and information. It remains open to the public.
In addition, the A.R.E. campus serves as home to Atlantic University, a largely online educational institution that offers an accredited Masters Degree in healing. Opened initially in 1930 as an institute for the study of Cayce’s readings, it closed after only two years due to Cayce’s financial troubles. It was reopened in 1985.
Visiting the A.R.E.
While not strictly a museum, the A.R.E. offers courses, tours, and other events involving Cayce’s readings as well as holistic healing topics, ESP manifestations and meditation. Its facilities and bookstore are open to the public. Extensive information on the A.R.E. as well as what to do appears on the A.R.E. website, portions of which are excerpted below:
“Each year, the A.R.E. Headquarters in Virginia Beach attracts tens of thousands of individuals from around the. These individuals come to investigate the information that Cayce brought forth in his psychic “readings” and discover for themselves how that material is being used today in the fields of health, personal spirituality, intuition, education, and research, and to promote spiritual development at both individual and global levels.
“The A.R.E. Library, houses not only the transcripts of the more than 14,000 Cayce readings that were preserved during his lifetime, but also one of the largest, most respected metaphysical libraries in the world. Whether you’re a serious scholar doing research or just stopping in to visit, the library’s extensive collection of often-hard-to-find books on holistic health, psychic experience, psychology, and comparative religions is at the top of your must-see list.
“The Edgar Cayce Foundation is the home of the historical archives of A.R.E. and of Edgar Cayce’s life. Its vault houses original copies of the readings, correspondence, papers, manuscripts, historical photos, and many unique artifacts of the Edgar Cayce legacy.
“The Bookstore and Gift Shop located in the Visitors Center offers a wide variety of books and other products for those interested in topics from the Cayce readings.
“The A.R.E. Health Center & Spa, with appointments daily for therapies to enhance your health - body, mind, and spirit.
“The A.R.E. campus also houses the unique Cayce/Reilly® Massage School, offering professional training in holistic massage therapy, advanced post-graduate bodywork courses, and hands-on Continuing Education weekend workshops at the professional and introductory levels.
“A.R.E. Conferences touch on the full range of subjects Cayce addressed, and beyond, with world-renowned speakers.
“Explore the treasures of Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. with an experiential, interactive Group Tour. Customize an experience to meet the needs and desires of your group.”
Individual or small group tours, often conducted by enthusiastic volunteers, are regularly scheduled as well.
We took our own unguided outdoor tour of A.R.E.’s stone labyrinth. The video below tells you about the labyrinth and what it means.
In our opinion, books, visuals, tours and events at A.R.E. are best suited to visitors who are into psychic healing, religion, mysticism, and holistic nontraditional medicine. Those who are skeptical of these areas may not find a visit useful.
That said, we’re skeptics ourselves on most things. Yet we found a number of things while there that kept our interest, including the bookstore/gift shop and a brief, fun quiz that probed visitors’ abilities—or non-abilities—to employ ESP.
In other words, even for people like us, there are still many things both here and throughout the universe that are difficult to explain in any rational or scientific sense. So we retain relatively open minds in this area. After all, if we could explain everything that goes on, we wouldn’t be having the kinds of problems we’re having now. Ergo, if you visit A.R.E., visit with an open mind. The tendency these days is to get snarky when it comes to people, places, or events that we don’t know much about. In the A.R.E.’s tranquil environment that kind of behavior simply isn’t merited.
Additionally, in our recent experience, the staff wasn’t aggressive at all in promoting their institute, their services, or their books or products, nor did they proselytize in any way, even though A.R.E.’s continued existence depends on donations. We weren’t ever asked for money during our visit. As for you, if you believe in their work, what you do is strictly up to you.
If you plan to take A.R.E. in as part of a Virginia Beach excursion, for more information, check out the A.R.E. website. Or, during your visit to Virginia Beach, call 757-428-3588, ex. 7265.
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