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history of the Edgar Cayce hospital

The Hospital of Enlightenment

That was the idealistic name Edgar Cayce and a group of financial backers initially gave the unique healing facility they built in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1928. Three-quarters of a century later, after numerous changes in ownership, the old building still stands tall, serving today as the headquarters of the Cayce organization’s continuing worldwide work. And in many respects the original name still fits.

When it was constructed, Edgar Cayce considered the hospital a dream come true. As early as 1910, while working as a studio photographer who gave psychic readings in his spare time, he was notified in a reading that he was destined to operate a hospital. The death of a boy whose family was unable to find the unique treatments Cayce had recommended for the child made a searing impression he wanted to provide the needed treatments. But how?

He was still years away from making a career exclusively of giving psychic readings. Furthermore, his readings suggested that a hospital could best be located in a tiny Virginia seaside resort he had never heard of, Virginia Beach. Cayce’s work took him instead from his native Kentucky to Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, and New York but he never forgot what his Source had recommended. He even spent several years wildcatting for oil in hopes of financing such a healing institution.

When several offers came from other parts of the country to finance a treatment center for him in their communities. One man even began construction. Cayce maintained his faith that Virginia Beach was the proper place for it.

The last of these benefactors, Morton Blumenthal, a New York stockbroker, was enthusiastic about the choice of Virginia. “You must go there,” he told Edgar, ” and I’ll provide the money.” So, in 1925 Cayce moved his family to Virginia Beach from Dayton, Ohio in order to get started.

“My whole thought and idea had been to be able to serve those better who ask for the readings,” Cayce said. “It was not an idea to have the hospital a money-making proposition at all. If we were able to even meet expenses, we would feel that we would be doing wonderfully well, and while the institution would be built around the work I am able to do, still it would be separate and apart from the regular readings we give but there are so many (and the number is increasing) that are asking if there is not a place where they could have the suggestions as are given in the readings carried out to the letter by a regular physician, and we know this is not possible in any institution in the country at the present time.”

With the support of several businessmen who had been helped by the Cayce readings, in 1927 he formed an organization known as the Association of National Investigators. Its motto was: ‘That we might make manifest our love of God and man.’ For years I had dreamed of being surrounded by just such an understanding group as now were about me,” Cayce said.

Blumenthal, the principal patron, reminded the group that, “About 11,000 years ago [in a past life], we had met together to accomplish this same task. Since then there has come into the world the Prince of Peace, who gave to the world, at the sacrifice of His life, an actual living demonstration of the purpose of material life, that the material world or its human inhabitants might better understand the spiritual or real creative side of life. In His teaching He drew from those precepts and from those principles that we gave to the World some 11,000 years ago. So again,” Morton added, “we were chosen by the cosmic forces, by the Lord Almighty, as being responsible to Him and to mankind to use our knowledge to demonstrate to the world that side of life for which He gave His life.”

In its fundraising effort, the association explained, “The Hospital of Enlightenment has two great aims: to benefit sufferers who apply for aid, and to keep scientific records of Mr. Cayce’s endeavors as basis for future research.” In fact, the term “Research” was added to the hospital’s name, although by the time it was up and running it was simply called the Cayce hospital.

Edgar Cayce Historic Photo Hospital Being Built

Virginia Beach, with long stretches of undeveloped oceanfront property, was relatively desolate in those days, and few people lived there in the winter. But construction of the Cavalier Hotel during the late 1920s would turn it into a popular summer resort that attracted trainloads of vacationers and celebrity entertainers to its smart supper club. The timing of Edgar’s endeavor seemed advantageous.

Blumenthal bought a beautiful five acre parcel on a knoll that backed up against a pine forest and overlooked the sea. Architects designed a handsome four-story building with a wrap around porch and dormer windows that gave it the inviting look of a Virginia planter’s mansion rather than a hospital.

The site was graded in 1927 and construction began in the summer of 1928. Edgar and his wife Gertrude were so excited that they frequently came up the beach from their rented house in town to watch the carpenters. The workmen were surprised when Edgar picked up a hammer and joined them, but they soon could tell that he had done some carpentering. “I was raised on a farm,” he told them. “We did our own work.” Many of his mornings that summer were devoted to working side-by-side with the builders, putting his muscle where his heart was. Later he would return home to give his regular afternoon readings.

Although the association had only about 200 members, the project was completed because the founders were as generous as they were idealistic. One Chicago businessman gave the paint, another from New York supplied furniture. Blumenthal and his brother Edwin pledged $3,000 a month to cover operating expenses. These were the “Roaring Twenties,” and the country had never been so prosperous.

By November the building, finished with stucco and shingles, was ready for occupancy. It had room for 30 hospital beds, treatment rooms, offices with a vault to house the readings, a library, and a lecture hall. Its initial cost estimate of $52,000 had been much too low: by the time it and a two-story 12 car garage were finished and recreation facilities: tennis courts, croquet and shuffleboard grounds, bath houses on the beach (but not the nine-hole golf course Blumenthal wanted) were added, the cost had multiplied. A local newspaper reported it was $100,000. Edgar’s authorized biographer Tom Sugrue put it at $200,000. Blumenthal wanted only the best building materials, and he got them.

When people questioned the cost, Mr. Cayce said, “I told them I have nothing to sell. I am not a doctor, nor a professor. I do not treat in any way, manner, or form. I have little or nothing of this world’s goods, yet I believe that if it be the Lord’s work, it will succeed. If it is not, it has no right to succeed, nor any place in man’s life. Those, however, who seek assistance through these forces surely know that the physical man must be supplied with the physical needs. Therefore, we depend upon those for whom readings are given for contributions sufficient to take care of the needs of the hour, and for the propagation of the truths that do mean, and have meant, so much in the lives of so many. Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Not everyone who came had supportive intentions. William Mosely Brown, who had been Hugh Lynn Cayce’s college psychology professor had boasted that he could expose any medium. Hugh Lynn invited him to the Beach to expose his father. Brown came, questioned Edgar, reviewed some readings, listened to several others, and ended up joining the association.

The hospital was dedicated on November 11, Armistice Day. In planning the ceremony, the founders asked for a reading on whether Edgar should demonstrate his psychic gift by giving a reading on that occasion. Definitely not, came the response – “do not parade that [which] is holy.”

Professor Brown, who had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Virginia’s powerful Senator Harry F. Byrd gave the dedication address. Edgar spoke first, but briefly: “When your prayers are answered, you find out that prayers are about the only thing that words are good for, so there’s nothing to say, except to give thanks …then it’s time to start praying again that we will succeed in what we are trying to do here.”

Brown, no longer a skeptic, saw the awesome potential of Cayce’s holistic approach to healing, through mind, body, and soul. He said: “Religion and science, philosophy and psychology , the truths discovered by the ancients as well as by the moderns will be equally welcome here. Nothing is banned except trickery, sham, falsehood. All truths will be used so far as it may be applicable to the betterment of human life, no matter who was its discoverer or in what country or age it was found.”

Brown, who would become the first president of Atlantic University, another idealistic venture at the Beach financed by the Blumenthals, was captivated by Cayce’s dream. He said: “Here, then we have a pioneer institution in the field of human endeavor. As human life itself is a most complex process involving all kinds of experience, so we find here a kind of laboratory in which human life will go forward but under observable and controlled conditions, so far as possible. This is not merely a physical or a psychological or even a theological laboratory as such. Much more than that, it is a center in which the rather unusual attempt is made to bring every kind of truth together as needed in the solution of the particular problem under investigation. Always, however, the motif is the betterment of human life and all other endeavors are to be subsidiary to this chief aim. So far as I am aware, such an undertaking has never been attempted before in this country, and probably in the entire world.”

Three months later, in February 1929, the hospital opened with Thomas B. House, M.D., who had been head of a state mental hospital in Hopkinsville, as chief of staff. “Our first man came down from Philadelphia and was here only 10 days,” Edgar recalled. “He had been told that he was in pretty bad condition, and he was but to see the man steadily each day getting better and better …he went home feeling entirely a different man. I wish we could do as much good for everyone as we seemingly did for him.”

This patient came to the hospital for treatments but stayed at a local hotel. “He did a good deal of work around the hospital after the first few days,” Edgar noted. “Helped us set up beds, rubbed off furniture, moving it about, etc.” His hospital bill was $35.

“We had an average of 10 patients after a few months, and about 60 patients were treated in the first 10 months or so, with invariably pleasing results,” said Edgar Cayce.

The new healing center was a major curiosity in the community. Some 3,000 visitors came for a tour the first year. Many later applied for more information and some for membership in the association.

“Eventhough I had to work much harder with readings that year than I ever have done in my life, and while it was unexpected even by me to be able to hold up under it, somehow, somewhere, the strength came to keep going, and I believe that it is true we will not be required to do more than we are given the strength to do, if we will use the strength and know that it is not of ourselves but of Him in whom we live and move and have our being.” In addition to managing the hospital’s operations and giving readings for patients, Mr. Cayce gave public lectures at the hospital on Sunday afternoons. In his talks, he recalled, “I made no attempt to found a new sect, or ism, or a body of thought, or to have a following of any kind. What I wanted to give was a better understanding of the Great physician, that one who was able to heal by the touch of His hand. I wanted people to look at the mind as it relates to healing. I tried to help them to understand the information that was coming through the readings.”

The death of Dr. House, in October 1929, was a momentary setback. No ordinary physician could be found who would consider working at this unique facility “they either laughed at the readings or condemned them as quackery” wrote Sugrue. Dr. Lyman A. Lydic, an osteopath from Dayton who had met Cayce there, took the job. His records showed patients receiving treatment for congenital in-coordination of mental and physical faculties, stomach ulcers, acute gastritis, general pruritus, colitis, spastic paraplegia, tabes dorsalis, optic neuritis with partial blindness, shell shock, hysteria, acute osteomyelitis, and several types of gynecological trouble. All his patients responded in an “encouraging manner” wrote Dr. Lydic.

Had it not been for the stock market crash in October 1929, there is no telling what the hospital’s ultimate destiny might have been. Differences between Cayce and the Blumenthal brothers precipitated the stockbrokers’ decision to discontinue the necessary subsidies to keep it afloat. The hospital closed two years after it opened, the property was sold, and the Association of National Investigators disbanded.

The collapse of the venture hit Cayce hard. “His dream had been shot and he just wanted to die literally,” said his son, Hugh Lynn Cayce. His spirits were soon revived, however, in February 1931, by a gathering of supporters who appealed to him to carry on because all of them had been helped by him. They formed a new organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, to support him and his work. Some 25 years later, a decade after Cayce’s death in 1945, the A.R.E. regained ownership of the old hospital and turned it into its headquarters. The grand old building had been used successively as a beach club, a hotel, a Shriners clubhouse, and a summer stock theater.

Returned to Cayce’s organization, the building was like their Rock of Gibraltar, a proud symbol of a noble mission -“That we might make manifest our love of God and man.” And its fundamental purpose would not change, but find new forms of expression. Edgar Cayce’s dream is still coming true in his Hospital of Enlightenment.

Reprinted from Venture Inward Magazine – a benefit for A.R.E. members world wide. A. Robert Smith served as the founding editor of Venture Inward Magazine.


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