Top positive review
7 of 7 people found this helpful
Beautiful Portrait of an Extraordinary Life
on June 18, 2012
What, I wonder, so touched me about this biography of Edgar Cayce? Was it the genuineness of Cayce's enduring covenant of service to God, remembered faithfully and fulfilled as best he was able throughout his life? Was it the way he gave himself to administer so selflessly to so many of his fellow human beings, taking so little for himself in return? Was it in the portrayal of an ordinary, modestly educated man, beset with personal challenges and a fair share of failings but whose heart was opened and who remained obedient to a higher authority, receptive in actual practice to a divine intelligence, a glowing reminder of what is possible for us all? Harmon Hartzel Bro has given us a beautiful portrait of an extraordinary human life, passed in most unusual circumstances. I found the author's thorough, factual rendering of the history of Edgar Cayce to be fascinating, insightful, sensitive and written with an uncommon depth of understanding.
Though Cayce was denied the ability to recollect in his ordinary state of consciousness the unusual trance sessions he channeled, he was nevertheless convinced that the `information' that came through the trances was from God. Harmon Bro is understandably cautious in arguing conclusions about the more mystical aspects of Cayce's reported experiences, though he must have been tempted. A reader can, perhaps, sense that Harmon Bro, an insider of long tenure with Cayce, had learned over time to believe to a great degree in the validity of Cayce's revelations, not only matters of diagnosis and cure which were usually subject to corroboration, but even the furthest reaching, difficult if not impossible to corroborate of Edgar's visions. Bro does not impose his personal beliefs on the reader, however. Writing with a certain objectivity, he leaves open the question of who or what, precisely, Cayce was channeling.
It may be of interest to some readers, as it was to me, to consider the facts Harmon Bro documents about Cayce's work in light of other lines of work that had been developing in the Western hemisphere around the same time frame. Morton Blumenthal, a Manhattan stockbroker, for instance, had come to Edgar Cayce in 1924 to get a reading in hopes of curing a health problem only to learn from a "life reading" that he had known Cayce in prior lives. After being informed he had previously lived as a sage in ancient Egypt, Blumenthal began providing financial support for Cayce, including the purchase of a house in Virginia Beach, ostensibly as a gift to Cayce, and was inspired to begin reading books of an esoteric nature, including one by Ouspensky and some "training exercises" of Gurdjieff that he had evidently acquired. Blumenthal would ask questions about these and other written materials, whereupon Cayce's entranced unconscious reacted as though it knew them all and recommended the same materials for others to read. (I'm told the Cayce Library in Virginia includes a fairly large collection of Gurdjieff material.)
Further, In 1931, a Norfolk housewife, Mrs. Barrett, brought together a group of friends in her home for a reading with Cayce to seek information on how to develop psychic powers. Instead, they got instruction on spiritual practice, bringing a new phase to Cayce's readings, now directing the formation of study groups, That first Cayce group, which became known as the No. 1 Study Group, was given the task of writing a spiritual manual, eventually published anonymously in two volumes under the title, A Search For God, (a copy of which I found, coincidentally, among the personal belongings of my father's estate.) This spiritual manual would be based on themes that came from Cayce's readings. The fundamental idea was to `live" the precepts, not just know them.
More study groups were to follow the initial activities of the No. 1 Group, in which study group members would explore for themselves the precepts in A Search for God and share their experiential findings at the weekly group meetings, a practical form for spiritual development. In Harmon Bro's words, "With these readings . . . supplemented by an entire series on healing with prayer and meditation . . . Cayce's work entered the mainstream of serious mysticism. It joined the efforts of devout men and women across centuries of Western faith that had gathered in small groups and prepared manuals for growth as they steeped themselves in prayer, study and service . . . [work] grounded in daily activity."
By Harmon Bro's accounts, Cayce was essentially a good man who cared deeply for other human beings, entities he believed, from the information he received from on High, all came into existence together at the beginning of creation and are in the process of moving through stages of existence in their journey back to the creator. In connection with a covenant between himself and God formed in childhood, Cayce prayed daily for guidance in properly serving his "Master." As for the rest of us, "I don't do anything you can't do," He said, "if you are willing to pay the price."
He appears to have lived what he preached. Cayce once indicated, "Man's pageant must pass and fade, but God works in slower and more secret ways, His wondrous works to perform. He blows no trumpet, He rings no bell. He begins from within, seeking His ends by quiet growth. There is a strange power that men call weakness, a wisdom mistaken for folly. Man has one answer to every problem - power; but that is not God's way... Humanity is doomed to failure when it trusts in its own weak self, and most of us have that failing."
Harmon Bro writes with increasing sensitivity of feeling as his book unfolds, the best material carefully saved for the final third of the book which weighs heavily on Cayce's personal life and struggles. Surely I will remember, if nothing else, the many moving stories, such as Casey's experience in a jail cell after being arrested on a charge of healing without a license.
For my friends, people who share the similar interest, I've sent out notices on this labor of love, saying, "Must Read."