The Prison Outreach Program—
40 Years of Service
By Karen Boldt
Do you remember 1972? Richard Nixon was in the White House, American Pie was at the top of the charts, Pong was the hot new arcade game, and as it just so happens, A.R.E. staff member Judith Stevens began the little Prison Outreach program she called "Over the Wall." She began by answering letters from inmates who wanted more information on the man called the "Sleeping Prophet." Ten years later, using her own money and tithes from other A.R.E. staff members combined with donations from her study group, Judith and other volunteers were sending out nearly 8,000 books a year. In 2012, the Prison Outreach Program's 40th anniversary, we are scheduled to send out more than 12,000 packages!
When I began working with the Prison Outreach Program, the number of letters received was overwhelming: typically more mail than all the other A.R.E. departments combined. I once counted 200 letters in one day. In 2008, we added an e-mail form to our Web page, and it generates about 50 requests per month with 90% being new inquiries. Each day, I found myself drawn to the box of unanswered letters. The bold red block letters – "INMATE MAIL" or "MAILED FROM STATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY," made me wonder: What if I were to lose my physical freedom—regardless of the circumstances—would I "venture inward" or rage against the machine?
Day after day, letter after letter, I have been inspired and moved by the level of courage and devotion shown by these men and women who are seeking a spiritual path in the most unlikely of places. People like Charles, who writes:
"The changes already have been dramatic, even in the surrounding I'm in. As one who has been incarcerated for nearly 12 years, I know that my location is not a prison, but an ideal location for soul development. Daily, even hourly, I am given the opportunity to learn patience and tolerance. Not on every occasion do I react accordingly, but on most occasions I do. And one day, I will live with only love and respect for God's children.")
There are many reasons why the Cayce material deeply touches and transforms so many within the confines of our nation's prisons. At the core of the Cayce readings is the emphasis on personal responsibility—your present circumstance is a culmination of the choices you have made. Every thought and action led you directly to where you are today. With this law in place, there is always a choice to change course. This message is being received loud and clear by the prisoners. As Terrence in Michigan so eloquently puts it:
"Times have been very difficult for me. It seems as though people have been going out of their way to aggravate or irritate me. I ask that you pray with me, for continued strength to overlook, avoid, and withstand these events. To learn from them and find out what I am doing to cause them or have done."
This transformation extends beyond the prison walls effecting the transition back into society—studies show that if inmates participate in a faith- and/or value-based program, they are 50% less likely to be rearrested when released. William in Florida shares his experience:
"Thank you for the love you send behind the fence to inmates. I was released 4/23/12 and am forever changed toward the light of love by my prison experience."
When I give a presentation about the Prison Outreach Program, this quote always catches in my throat. It is the essence of why we do what we do. It's from Alfred in Texas:
"Prayers are truly answered, as I am writing this letter from my kitchen table at home! I can't express the thankfulness I feel in my heart for the support you all at A.R.E. have shown me and when I return to work, I will be joining the membership program. I don't feel paying a membership fee even begins to show how thankful I feel for everything the A.R.E. has done to help me grow spiritually and to comfort me and bring peace of mind."
In many institutions, the Prison Outreach Program is the only contact these men and women have with the outside world. Over the 40 years, the Prison Outreach Program has reached hundreds of thousands of inmates, but we can do even more. Even with prisons bursting at the seams—the U.S. has 5% of the world's population but has 25% of the world's prisoners—state and federal governments continue to cut inmate programs.
As our program begins to plan for the next 40 years, our efforts will focus on reaching as many new inmates as possible by getting our core books into as many libraries and chaplains' carts as we can. Each inmate's package contains a return "order form," and we have been collecting data on existing libraries. If and when possible, we will send electronic versions of the books— more cost effective and potentially reaching even more of the prison population.
We will also deepen the relationship with existing participants. A self-study program incorporating the A Search for God material along with courses on dreams, meditation, and past lives will be available in the fall of 2013. Keeping in touch with these men and women as they re-enter society is crucial. We need to build relationships with groups and institutions who service parolees just as we have within the prison system. Plans are also in place to create a scholarship fund for those recently released who would like to continue their studies through A.R.E. membership.
When I make a presentation about our Prison Outreach Program, at least one person comes up to me afterwards and says, "I never knew the A.R.E. had a program like this." I have begun to refer to it as the "A.R.E.'s Best kept secret!" Psst! Pass it along!
Karen Boldt began working at Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. in November, 2004. She worked in the Health Spa as well as the Cayce/Reilly® School of Massotherapy. She is presently responsible for A.R.E.'s Outreach Department including Prayer & Meditation Services which manages prayer requests from around the globe. She also oversees the A Search for God study group program, Prison Outreach, and the Glad Helpers Prayer Healing Group, of which she is a member. To learn more about A.R.E.'s Prison Outreach program or read the Reaching Over the Wall article, visit EdgarCayce.org/prison.
The Law of One from Ancient Egypt
An Egypt Study Group meets at A.R.E. Headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., every Tuesday to discuss the Cayce readings on Egypt circa 10,500 B.C. Recently, the group studied the "Law of One" based on the rich information found in the readings. According to the readings, this became a time of enlightenment which influenced the entire world and ages that followed, including the present. The readings refer to it as, "one of the most momentous occasions or periods in the world's history." (900-275)
"...in the succeeding generations, as thought is turned into those channels, the same will be as that in the beginning; for, as seen, none are being drawn into that purpose of the establishing of this more close relation of God's truth in earth...other than those that first established same in that land now known as Egypt...in that momentous period in man's understanding." (Edgar Cayce reading 254-42)
The readings weave an intricate story of Edgar Cayce as the high priest RaTa who established temples in Egypt based on the Law of One. The Temple of Sacrifice was similar to a hospital and spa that cleansed and transformed the physical body using surgery, changing thought patterns and activities, and through diet. The Temple Beautiful is comparable to a university or center for the arts, and used vocational guidance for training based on what was best for each individual. Education was for service to God and country. Spiritual truths and cosmic laws were part of the curriculum along with meditation and prayer; always relating to the thesis upon which everything was based: to know more of one's relationship to the Creative Forces or God and the manner in which this could be expressed in relationships with others for the creation of a harmonious and peaceful world.
Here began the preparation for that later called the Great Pyramid to preserve the understandings from this time for future generations. It was designed in relation to the position of the stars and contained prophecies of humanity's spiritual evolution. Hermes was the construction architect and Isis served as the advisor.
"Then began what may be truly termed the first national or nation Spirit of a peoples; for with the divisions, rather than this causing a dispersing of ideals or a dividing up of interests, it centralized the interests; [RaTa] was…preparing for this very spirit to manifest itself in the way of the national emblems, the national ideas, that stood for the varied activities of not only individuals or groups, but for the general masses." (294-151)
The great teachers of the world were called into Egypt to correlate their understandings of the Law of One God. They unified the teachings for the creation of a harmonious and peaceful world. This period became the foundation of the Master's teachings. Emissaries were sent to distant lands to spread the truths and establish Temples.
The Law of One is based on living the Fruits of the Spirit; not just understanding but gaining wisdom through daily practice and application of the laws. This ideal is synthesized in the phrase "That we may make manifest the love of God and Man." (254-42)
That single ideal of that period and the Law of One was expressed repeatedly:
"Let's don't forget the thesis, or the key for which all of this understanding had come: that there might be a closer relationship of man to the Creator, and of man to man." (294-149) "...there was the absorbing of the ideals and ideas of the Priest [Ra Ta], or the turning of the ideas into ideals, through the seeking to comprehend, to understand, and then to practically apply the tenets of "The Lord thy God is One." 2062-1
Daily living of the Law of One was the ideal:
... the highest service an entity may render to the Creative Energy, and the answer of the divine from within, comes in being mindful of the sons and daughters of men. That...man may become One with the Creative Energy, yet know self to be self..." (5673-1)
"...as was given by the law of One during that sojourn, and as is the experience in the present, God is within—and the manifestations of His love and His mercy in and among his fellow man may be best known by the acts, the deeds—yea, even the very thoughts of man as in relationships to his fellow man." (509-1)
"To know more of man's relationship to the creative influences, or God, and the manner in which he may manifest same in his relationships to his fellow man." (254-111)
"…when the peoples were first seeking the rule of spirit and of the knowledge of the inner self. The entity…gained much…through service and sacrifice...this as a living example rather than as rule or regulation." (2728-2)
"And holding to those tenets of the Law of One, as to the fruits of the spirit...that is: As ye would have another be, that be thyself.
Do not ask another to do that ye would not do thyself.
Make concessions only to the weak.
Defy the strong if they are in the wrong…
"For God is not mocked, and whatsoever a person soweth, that must he reap!
"Only in the fruits of the spirit—as of longsuffering and patience and mercy and brotherly love and kindness and gentleness—may the true meaning of life's experience and the purposes of life, and in the associations with others, be understood… (1336-1)
Edgar Cayce on the Oneness of Spirituality
By Kevin J. Todeschi
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as a human family is balancing our differing religious ideologies with the connectedness we share as children of ONE God. This challenge is not only evident between various faiths but it is evident within individual faiths as well. The premise of "oneness" contained in the Edgar Cayce material provides an approach to spirituality that can bring humankind together rather separating us because of our differences.
One of the most surprising experiences of religious contention that I ever witnessed occurred on a trip to Jerusalem. It was there that I saw firsthand how various religions were at odds with one another within their own faith! Some Jews didn't consider other Jews religious because of their approach to diet, to clothing, or to the Sabbath. Some Muslims were appalled by the apparent apathy (or the emotional intensity) of their brothers to Islam itself, to what they saw as the place of women, or to their overall relationship with the Jews. But for me the most disturbing event was occurring right within some of the Christian churches. At a number of revered sites, disputes had arisen as to which Christian denomination "owned" which portion of the church. In response, each denomination had built its own altar – so that one church might have three or four or even five specially designated altars. Those portions of the church which remained still in dispute were often unkempt, so much so that the disputed floor remained dirty, the dust on the walls grew thick from disregard, and even burnt-out light bulbs were not replaced.
On one occasion when asked what to do about individuals who became interested in a religion that was different than one's own, Cayce replied:
"… what is the difference? As He has given, it will ever be found that Truth—whether in this or that schism or ism or cult—is of the One source. Are there not trees of oak, of ash, of pine? There are the needs of these for meeting this or that experience … Find not fault with ANY, but rather show forth as to just how good a pine, or ash, or oak, or VINE, thou art!" (Edgar Cayce reading 254-87)
What this suggests is that the various religions (and the differing opinions within religions) are not in existence because of God but instead because of so many differing personalities trying to understand their individual relationship with God. From Cayce's perspective, religion is the form in which individuals attempt to understand the manifestation of this Spirit. God can (and does!) work through every soul in the earth.
On another occasion while discussing religious differences, Cayce stated that regardless of the religion, it was important to keep in mind that there was only one God—each individual was essentially attempting to understand that one God to the best of her/his ability. In the language of the readings: "For whether they be Greek, Parthenian, [Parthian] Jew or Gentile—whether they be of Mohammed, Confucius, or even Shinto or On or Mu—the Lord, the God, is ONE!" (1494-1)
Regardless of the name we call God or the religion on earth that we feel drawn to, there is but one Creator, one Source, one Law. In fact, perhaps more than anything else, this concept of "oneness" is the underlying philosophy of the Edgar Cayce readings: "The first lesson for six months should be One-One-One-One; Oneness of God, oneness of man's relation, oneness of force, oneness of time, oneness of purpose, Oneness in every effort-Oneness-Oneness!" (900-429)
This notion of oneness in a world so filled with variety may, at first, seem a difficult concept to comprehend. After all, we are surrounded by a myriad of plants, trees, animals, experiences, and people. Rather than attempting to make all things the same, however, oneness suggests instead that we have the opportunity to view this rich diversity as an example of the multiple ways in which the One Spirit tries to find expression in our lives. Since there is only one God—the source of all that exists—ultimately, the universe must be composed of only one Force.
Oneness as a force implies that all things are interrelated. Every one of us has a connection to one another, the earth, the universe, and to God. This one force is a force for good which is attempting to bring the spirituality of the Creator into the earth. Unfortunately, because of our limited awareness of the power of free will, individuals are able to direct that force into selfish purposes and desires, creating "evil" in the process.
One of our confusions associated with religion is that we often mistake the form for the Spirit. For example, individuals may have a particular moving religious experience while attending a certain church or a service in a specific religious denomination. These experiences may include being overwhelmed by the spirit, having a very moving (or even a "Kundalini") experience, awakening to the awareness of God's presence, even speaking in tongues. Rather than seeing these experiences within the context of form, however, individuals often assume that because their experience was valid, everything else associated with that religious form contains the same degree of value. They are forgetting that throughout the history of humankind, individuals have had similar transformational experiences in every religion.
The good news is that, in spite of how things may appear in the world today, the readings assert that all of Creation will eventually be brought into an awareness of this oneness and of the Law of Love that it implies. One of our challenges as individuals is to make the world a better place because we have lived in it. Perhaps the best approach to this consciousness is reflected in the Bible when it states that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.
Why do we have so many religious sects if the principle of oneness is an undergirding force in the universe? In part, the answer lies in our own diversity and in the fact that we are all drawn to what we need at a given time for our own personal growth and development. In addition, we also possess the very human trait of wanting to "pin down" our truth, putting parameters around our understanding so that we can deal with it. But truth is a growing thing, and the Cayce readings affirm that no one has all the answers to the marvelous question of who we really are as God's spiritual children. But even in the midst of our diversity, we share a common spiritual heritage. We are all children of the same God. We are all part of the one spiritual Source, our Creator, our Mother/Father, our God.
Kevin J. Todesch is A.R.E.'s Executive Director and CEO. As both student and teacher of the Edgar Cayce material for more than 30 years, he is the author of over 20 books, including the bestselling Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records and Edgar Cayce on Vibrations. His latest book, Edgar Cayce on Auras & Colorswas written with professional psychic Carol Ann Liaros. Known for his ability to explain complex subjects in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner, he is popular for his insight and his sense of humor. A nationally recognized resource on dream interpretation, he wrote the definitive dictionary Dreams, Images and Symbols. The full and free 'lite' Dream Dictionary App can be downloaded for Apple or Android devices.
COOPERATION! "Shaped Life on Earth"
—Scientific American, July 2012
—Edgar Cayce, October 1931
It's true, America's premier science magazine has confirmed Edgar Cayce's psychic pronouncement: "The first lesson is cooperation."
(Edgar Cayce reading 262-3)
It's taken 81 years but, as Cayce also stated, there is no time but one time, so let's enjoy the support whenever it comes our way.
Scientific American© (July 2012, p. 38): "The mechanisms governing the emergence of cooperation apply to all manner of organisms, from amoebas to zebras (and even, in some cases, to genes and other components of cells). This universality suggests that cooperation has been a driving force in the evolution of life on Earth from the beginning."
Now consider what Edgar Cayce said in a reading in 1931:
Edgar Cayce: "The cooperation in a body … was from the beginning, when the cooperation brought into being those forces as manifest themselves in this material world. They each, then, keeping that creative force within themselves in that direction as makes for the continuity of life, hope, peace, understanding, so may it be built in the lives of themselves first, then in others—as they, in their way, seek to bring a better understanding in this material world." (262-3)
It is continually amazing how well the content of the vast majority of Edgar Cayce's readings eventually matches science's ongoing discoveries. But let's consider the value and influence of cooperation as Scientific American reveals it in their latest issue:
"There is one group in which the effects of cooperation have proved especially profound: humans. Millions of years of evolution transformed a slow, defenseless ape into the most influential creature on the planet, a species capable of inventing a mind-boggling array of technologies that have allowed our kind to plumb the depths of the ocean, explore outer space and broadcast our achievements to the world in an instant. We have accomplished these monumental feats by working together. Indeed, humans are the most cooperative species—supercooperators, if you will."
(Scientific American, July 2012 p. 38)
The article is written by Harvard Professor Martin A. Nowark. Professor Nowark states that "people tend to think of evolution as a strictly dog-eat-dog struggle for survival. In fact, cooperation has been a driving force in evolution." He identifies five mechanisms by which cooperation may arise in organisms ranging from bacteria to human beings. These are:
- DIRECT RECIPROCITY – Among individuals who encounter one another repeatedly and are of a specific group, there becomes a tit-for-tat cooperation. Professor Nowark uses bat colonies as the example here, revealing that if a bat did not succeed in getting food that evening, then another bat among the colony would share what it had gotten. Amazingly, bats remember who gave them food, and will give back to that bat when in need.
- SPATIAL SELECTION – This type of cooperation is the good neighbor concept. Nowark explains that when the "cooperators" and "defectors" are not uniformly distributed in a population, then the cooperators tend to form clusters that can grow and prevail in competition with defectors (a defector being an individual who seeks only to take from, or use the benefits of, those giving). When the cooperators get a foothold in the communal area, then the benefits of living cooperatively become so apparent that defectors decline. Surprisingly, Nowark uses yeast as an example here, revealing how among yeast cells cooperators produce an enzyme used to digest sugar, and at a cost to themselves. If there is no spatial clustering then defector cells mooch off the sacrificing cells, but when there are clusters of cooperators among the defectors, then the cooperators always win.
- KIN SELECTION – This is the "Blood is thicker than water" theory. Among genetically related individuals, there is a greater propensity for selfless sacrifice for their relatives. Nowark uses historical quotes from 20th-century biologist J.B.S. Haldane who first mentioned the idea of kin selection.
- INDIRECT RECIPROCITY – Nowark explains that in this form of cooperation, one decides to assist another based solely on the other's reputation for helping individuals. Thus, instead of direct tit-for-tat, the giver is motivated by the idea that goodwill going around will eventually come around, even if not directly from the one being helped. This is "good karma breeds good karma."
- GROUP SELECTION – Lastly, individuals may perform selfless acts for the greater good of the group. Nowark points out that this type of cooperation "dates back to Darwin himself, who observed in his 1871 book The Descent of Man that 'a tribe including many members who...were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.'"
In conclusion, Professor Nowark writes, "What makes humans, in particular, the most helpful of all? As I see it, humans, more than any other creature, offer assistance based on indirect reciprocity or reputation. Why? Because only humans have full-blown language, and, by extension, names for one another—which allows us to share information about everyone from our immediate family members to complete strangers on the other side of the globe. We are obsessed with who does what to whom and why—we have to be, to best position ourselves in the social network around us. The interplay between language and indirect reciprocity leads to rapid cultural evolution, which is central to our adaptability as a species."
Cayce's readings take us to cooperation with the Divine Forces surrounding us:
"For, as there is self, there are the powers and influences without you. Get together! Know that in cooperation with the DIVINE that is CONSTRUCTIVE you may be a blessing in ANY channel that is pointed out to you, that becomes a consciousness, an awareness in you." (317-7)
John Van Auken is an international speaker and author on a variety of topics from mystical spirituality and ancient civilizations to modern life. Popular with A.R.E. audiences throughout the country, he has written many books, including From Karma to Grace: The Power of the Fruits of the Spirit; Edgar Cayce's Tales of Ancient Egypt; and Ancient Egyptian Mysticism. John's extensive knowledge of the Edgar Cayce readings, the Bible ancient Egypt, and other world religions is combined with years of practical application of these truths in his own life. His exciting presentations are packed with useful information combined with insightful and revealing stories. His clear step-by-step techniques give practical tools for ongoing development, self-training, and spiritual enlightenment. He travels extensively, conducting seminars and retreats throughout the U.S. and abroad including A.R.E.'s annual Tour of Egypt.
Hugh Lynn Cayce Explains "The Forces"
Excerpt from Venture Inward Magazine,
Jan-Mar, 2012 Issue
At Tuesday morning Work Readings discussion group in Virginia Beach on January 7, 1978, Hugh Lynn Cayce was asked to describe what he thought was meant throughout the Edgar Cayce readings by "The Forces," such as referred to in Reading 254-25:
"First, locate the residence, getting in place as given. Then will come the means necessary for making the proper location. The Forces will provide same—indirectly." (Edgar Cayce reading 254-25)
As I understand "The Forces," I think we have to go back to the beginning, really. The original plan, the original purpose in the mind and heart of God for the creation of the soul that was set forth in the creation, in the original plan, as is indicated in one place in the readings, "stamped on every soul," is the image of the Christ Consciousness which was given by God and only needs to be awakened by our wills, in application. The will was given to Man as part of God's original creation: The Divine Mind, the Divine Spirit and the Divine Will. That's a part of God that makes up the soul as it was created.
Ancient of Days - William Blake
As man, as the souls began to express themselves in different planes of consciousness by creating thought forms. This is clearly defined in the readings as "thought patterns" that were created like what God had created. Man saw what God had created and man, with his creative mind, created a form like that. As he created it, he became involved in it. As a [metaphor], we might say that man reaches into a tar barrel, trying to shape an image with his hand. He gets caught; trapped there by what he has created. He won't turn loose of it and he can't pull it out. It's almost like the old symbol of the monkey that wants the piece of fruit that is in the jar, and as long as he holds the piece of fruit in his hand he can't pull his hand out of the jar. The thought forms that man became hardened and trapped a part of the soul energy in the earth.
These thought forms gradually hardened into bodies in three-dimensional expression. Then man's mind began to create thought forms at the flesh level where the body becomes an energy pattern and a thought form. On other levels of consciousness, man built a finer physical body which is the one we use when we die. That doppelganger is also a thought form and it relates to matter. The readings say we're free of the flesh when we move in that body, but we're not free of matter. It still is made up of finer, faster moving, material thought processes.
Every plane has thought forms created by man; energy patterns that had withdrawn from one shell and were moving in consciousness. These thought forms are "the forces" that are spoken of in the readings; these thought form forces combined with the original forces and pattern of God's purpose for the souls in the earth and in all creation. So, when man builds patterns that are opposed to God's will, he creates negative, rebellious forces to which he attunes. He also builds cooperative forces in patience and love and long-suffering. The readings reiterate these over and over again; so, these forces that he builds become good.
As groups of people, groups of souls, come into the earth in cycles, they develop agreement in trying to move the constructive forces and to return to the same consciousness that God had for man: the Christ Consciousness, in other words, in a broad universal sense. So, in one incarnation, they developed a plan, a pattern to express love and service and they began to carry on a work that is in accord with God's love. Those thought forms become forces. Those patterns of thought, those purposes, become forces in the earth for man to draw on.
We draw on these forces of thought forms, these purposes and ideals and goals that have been set. When they're in accord with God's purposes, they create help and the patterns of healing, and good is accomplished. But when we tune into the rebellious parts that we have created, we become rebellious and are in tune with the negative forces. They are of our creation, but they were also of God's creation in the beginning. In our slowed-down state of consciousness, we lost track of the forces for good that God created. We don't see angelic forces as often, apparently, as the Bible people used to see them.
Hugh Lynn Cayce(1907-1982) was the eldest son of Edgar Cayce. He turned the A.R.E. into an organization of international renown and developed widespread recognition and acceptance of subjects such as psychical research, dream analysis, meditation, and spiritual development. He received critical praise for his first book, Venture Inward, for which A.R.E.'s Member magazine is named. Members can read the full article and the companion piece, What are the Creative Forces by Robert H. Schor in the online Member Section.
Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. blog offers opinion pieces from contributors with a wide variety of backgrounds. These opinions are valued and create points of discussion. Opinions expressed in our blog may not necessarily represent the opinion of A.R.E.