2016-05-01 / ReBooted

New Age Girl

Jill Gleeson

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I was a bit unusual as a child. I don’t just mean that I flunked out of Brownies, or believed in Santa Claus until I hit puberty, or that I had an unrelenting crush on Art Garfunkle when I was 10. I’ve always had an affinity for the mysterious. I was the only girl at school watching Twilight Zone instead of Little House on the Prairie, and before I graduated sixth grade, I’d successfully badgered my parents into taking me to Massachusetts so I could investigate the Salem witch trials.

So when I was in Virginia Beach recently I skipped the sand and surf and headed straight to Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment. I actually didn’t know that much about Cayce, except that in the first half of the 20th century he was celebrated as a powerful clairvoyant. He gave thousands of readings to people like Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Edison, uttering prophecies and providing holistic health advice, talking about Atlantis and aliens and how to grow spiritually.

Of course, despite a certain childlike enthusiasm for things like fireworks and multi-colored sprinkles on ice cream cones, I’m not a kid anymore. As stoked as I was to visit the joint, on the way there I was joking about Moonies and cults and whether or not I’d have to be deprogrammed. Would Cayce’s devotees be vacant-eyed and slack-jawed beneath tin foil hats? Would they try to sell me a tin foil hat?

I was met in the lobby by Peter, a sweet-faced fellow with a low, soothing voice. Peter was going to give me a psychic test, something A.R.E. offers for free. But first he showed me around the building, which was big and quiet and decidedly uncreepy. Upstairs there was a serene meditation room and a huge library holding one of the world’s largest collections of metaphysical books.

I planned on visiting them later, along with A.R.E.’s on-campus spa. Cayce was an early proponent of massage and also colon hydrotherapy. I was looking forward to the former and getting nowhere near the latter, which involves someone shooting warm water into your nether regions with the goal of voiding your large intestine. I mean, if I want to achieve that result, I can just eat a bad taco and skip involving the third party.

The thing I noticed right away during my tour was how nice everyone was — and nice in a genuinely friendly way, not in a we-want-to-steal-your-soul-followed-shortly-by-all-your-money kind of way. There was a definite vibe to the place I liked, peaceful but energized. After just 15 minutes in the building, I realized I was feeling almost blissful.

In fact, the only thing that disappointed me about the visit was the ESP assessment: I flunked. I worked hard at the test — concentrating intently as Peter peered at cards with circles and stars and other shapes on them, trying to “send” the images to me via telepathy. I drew the figures my mind’s eye conjured on a sheet of paper until we’d gone through 20. I got six correct, basically the statistical success ratio assumed for someone with no clairvoyant ability at all.

I was a psychic simpleton.

I worked hard at the test — concentrating intently as Peter peered at cards with circles and stars and other shapes on them, trying to ‘send’ the images to me via telepathy.”

Peter, seeing my dismay, offered me what he called a “spiritual fortune cookie” — an excerpt from one of Cayce’s readings. They were kept rolled scroll-like in bowls all over the building for people to pick up, a tip of the hat to Cayce’s belief in synchronicity, that we are drawn to things that are purposeful. I read it aloud: “…let thy own light shine so that others, seeing thy patience, knowing thy understanding, comprehending thy peace, may take hope.”

Peter asked me what I thought. “It sounds like it’s about leading by example, maybe?” I answered. “Huh. That’s funny. I write a column about trying new things…I encourage people to get out of their comfort zone, like I do, even though I’m really bad at almost everything I try. I tell them it’ll change their lives.”
And Peter just smiled. •SCM

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