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Edgar Cayce My Life as a Seer: The Lost Memoirs – Review

by: Cayce, Edgar (A. Robert Smith, Editor)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Copyright: 1997

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/25/2005

Summary: Read it if you have questions about Cayce, the “American Seer”.

This reviewer was introduced to Edgar Cayce by Thomas Sugrue’s 1943 biography, THERE IS A RIVER. Having read it in the late 1960s, it remained the definitive work about “the sleeping prophet” until this book. EDGAR CAYCE – MY LIFE AS A SEER:THE LOST MEMOIRS answers the one question none of the others were able to address.

It is a given that Cayce, while in a state of sleep or unconsciousness, was able to diagnose and recommend treatment for people suffering various illnesses. The testimonials regarding his effectiveness in this are substantial. A scientific explanation for the ability does not exist. Speculation, some of which verges on “scientific speculation” suggests that people are endowed with the capability to communicate through the mind along-psychically. To explain the cures Cayce was able to effect, scientific speculation has long recognized the effect mind has over the body. So, as difficult as it is to believe, Cayce’s remote diagnosis of “clients” has a rational, though unexplainable, basis in reality. Bu the “seer” or prophet tag usually found after or before his name has always been somewhat of a mystery. Coupled with the extensive number of works on his “past life” readings (and the Atlantis connection) and prophecies for the 21st century, Edgar Cayce is more easily dismissed than read. EDGAR CAYCE – MY LIFE AS A SEER drops Cayce from the rarified atmosphere of hype to where he started and left off with THERE IS A RIVER.

The memoirs, as explained by editor A. Robert Smith, are not a contiguous autobiography Cayce wrote for publication. It is a compilation of autobiographical material Cayce wrote at various times for various audiences. His style, especially in discussing early events in his life, can be verbose and convoluted. The famous incident in which he lost his voice and went into a trance to prescribe a remedy is recounted. The incident happened more than once. He also recounts an incident in which he was mistakenly assumed to be dead. Before reviving, he was administered some rather brutal life-saving procedures which left him with a chipped tooth.

Cayce covers many incidents in his life, some in detail. Perhaps the most detailed is the partnership he had to drill oil in the southwest, followed by the rocky road that lead to the eventual establishment of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E). But of most interest are his attitudes toward the “readings” he gave while in a trance state.

It comes across very clearly that for a long time he doubted the benefit of the remote diagnosis he provided. His only reference for understanding what was going on was the old and new testaments of the bible. By the time he was introduced to mysticism, the biblical foundation for explaining his ability was firmly rooted. He did not deviate from that foundation and in so doing may have truly gone back to the roots of Christianity. Not only is there only one God, the expression of God is within all things. People have only to open themselves up and allow that expression for it to become manifest in everyday affairs. Thus, remote diagnosis of illnesses, illnesses which Cayce says comes about as a result of “sin”, is simply a manifestation of God’s presence in the lives of he who diagnose and patient. Both must be in tune with this commonality of God in life. It is a simple, uncomplicated, inoffensive philosophy based upon faith. It can not be argued with.

But we come to the central question of understanding and accepting Edgar Cayce as a somewhat out of the ordinary individual. It is the one issue none of the second-hand books could effectively address. Cayce did make predictions about the future in the twenty-first century. And of course, there were all those “life readings” he did for people describing their past lives. How much credence are we to put into these aspects of Cayce’s “life work”. If we accept that his remote diagnosis of illnesses was accurate and beneficial for those receiving them, what are we to make of the predictions and past life readings. Not a totally legitimate question but one we can raise is whether Cayce was infallible.

Actually, fallibility is not an issue-or perhaps is an issue only to those seeking absolutes in life. When it comes to words coming out of the mouth of any person, the only real issue is credibility. In reading EDGAR CAYCE – MY LIFE AS A SEER, the strong point is credibility. In his own mind, Cayce apparently resolved that the juncture between his “life’s work” and infallibility was one of faith. Consequently, when we arrive at the “life readings” and predictions of the future, there is no reason to place any more credence in his words than the words of anyone else. So it should come as no surprise that as a seer in the traditional sense of the word, he was more wrong than right.

The past life readings are likewise regulated to the realm of faith. In an excellent study conducted by J. Gordon Melton in the 1994 edition of SYZYGY: JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE RELIGION AND CULTURE, he demonstrates rather convincingly that the past life readings were symbolic or allegories for the person for whom the reading was given. It is an excellent study. Does this mean that there is no such thing as reincarnation? Not at all. What it does suggest however is that, like the remote diagnosis of illnesses, past life reader and the person for whom the past life is read enter into a commonality of perspective that allows for a mutual construct of reality. Again, faith rules reality.

EDGAR CAYCE – MY LIFE AS A SEER is a book which should be read by anyone who has an uneasy feeling about America’s “Greatest Prophet”. It can be tough reading, but is well worth the journey.

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Denial and Deception – Review

by: Mahle, Melissa Boyle

Publisher: Nation Books: Avalon Publishing

Copyright: 2004

Cover: Tom McKeveny

Type: Hardcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/16/2005

Summary: Not must reading. Old ideas. Old package. But contains great material on events leading up to 9-11.

The phrase, “ripped from today’s headlines” is not exactly appropriate for the first part of this book. It is more a job of “pasted” from today’s and yesterday’s headlines, augmented by material from reputable sources. Well researched, one might say. Still, DENIAL AND DECEPTION is a floater.

There are some rewarding tidbits in DENIAL AND DECEPTION, though they come at a very high price. How much did the CIA know of significant pre-9/11 events? For instance, author Melissa Boyle Mahle discusses the events leading up to the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center terrorist act perpetrated in 1993. She starts the five paragraphs covering the subject with a soft curve-ball; to wit, “While CIA Headquarters was in total disarray, others were focused on terrorizing the West.” There then follows a discussion of the discovery of Ramzi Yousef’s bomb making factory and laptop computer by Aida Bantay Fariscal, an officer of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation [whom Mahle identifies as “a police officer”] in Manila in 1995. The author ends the discussion by saying that she “read the cable traffic as the operation against Murad, Shah, [Yousef accomplices] and Yousef unfolded”, revealing the link to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. The discussion ends with the familiar refrain that the information was complicated and confusing. The last we hear of events related to this episode leading up to 9/11 is when Mahle reports that Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the key Asian financier for al Qaeda andYousef ‘s Manila bomb factory, is that Muhammad is left free to roam because the FBI muffed a chance to arrest him in Doha, Qatar. The turf battle thing. The Manila bomb plot was the most significant “dot” in pre-9/11 events. In DENIAL AND DECEPTION the plot that was a dot is merely another fork in the road in which fingers are pointed.

Mahle makes a very strong case of the CIA being a bureaucracy-a bureaucracy she contends hit its stride under former Director John Deutch. “We in the Directorate of Operations knew that our new director had caved in to power-hungry congressional leaders before even setting foot down in Langley”, she states. In other words, Deutch vowed cooperation with Congress. It was the tipoff that the CIA as an instrument of U. S. foreign policy was pretty much at an end. If it was not a bureaucracy before Deutch arrived on the scene, it certainly was by the time he left. This is the strongest thread running through the book. A Clinton appointee, Deutch put the “old boys network” of the CIA in a state of impotency. Operations officers, the spies in the spy agency, developed an aversion to risk taking and honed the skills necessary to survive in a bureaucracy rather than pursue objectives. According to Mahle this was a bad thing.

Reading between the lines, you get the sense that Mahle believes congressional oversight of clandestine operations by the CIA is a bad thing. It is not a belief to be easily discounted. The CIA started existence as an arm of the executive branch. Mahle does not make the argument, but there really is no reason for the congress to have minute oversight of CIA operations, nor those of the military for that matter. That’s the President’s job. Congress has the authority to grant or deny budgets. Nothing moves without money. If, as Mahle contends, President Clinton had no use for the CIA and Congress was dissatisfied with the agency, one of the two should have did a front-and-center and simply pronounced an end to the mission. (A couple of members of congress did just that, but there were no followers). Instead the CIA was left to drift slowly in the wind of political expediencies. Along comes author and former CIA agent Melissa Boyle Mahle to inform us of the ills of the patient and the malignant atmosphere in which it tries to breathe. Coupled with the constant refrain of CIA personnel “low morale”, turf battles with the FBI, and the ever encroaching and prying eyes of congressional sub-committees, this book reads like a very long petition to save the CIA. Too late. This goose is cooked. The only hope is a Sphinx job in which a shadow of what once was rises to something resembling bureaucratic efficiency. The current CIA Director appointed in August 2004, Peter Goss, seems very intent on bringing that condition about. But that’s another story.

The major problem with DENIAL AND DECEPTION is not that it makes excuses for the failures of the CIA. There are very legitimate reasons for an institution to stumble at the onslaught of challenges. The U. S. military prepared to fight World War I at the onset of World War II for instance. The key consideration however is to stumble and recover, to get back on mission. Could it be, as former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested in 1994, that the CIA has simply outlived its purpose? If so then the plethora of excuses for failure, from too much congressional oversight to too little interest by the President, are simply rhetorical flourishes stating the same conclusion but in a different way. If you intend to write a book about the failures of an institution, then at least identify the issue. Mahle treats the bureaucratization of the CIA as an issue. It is not an issue. It is not the issue. We do not need another treatise on the failure of an institution which simply perpetuates amorphous views of responsibility like Richard Gid Powers’ BROKEN: THE TROUBLED PAST AND UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF THE FBI in which he essentially blames the American people for the failure of the FBI to prevent 9/11. Mahle, perhaps because she is not an academician, does not go that far. But blaming “the bureaucracy” for the shortcoming of the CIA is an exercise in redundancy.

DENIAL AND DECEPTION can be read, but it adds nothing to discussions about the CIA-especially that most needed of ingredients, a perspective.

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Mapping Human History: Genes, Race & Our Common Origins – Review

by: Olson, Steve

Publisher: Houghton Miffin Company

Copyright: 2002

Cover: Martha Kennedy

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/15/2005

Summary: Excellent science and social study.  Mitochondrial DNA groupings of humans.

Here is a conundrum:

You are twenty years of age with two parents or progenitors. Each of your parents have two parents. Each of your parent’s parents have two parents. Assuming that at age twenty each parent-group produced the parent-group offspring that are now your parents, we are now some sixty-years in the past. More significantly, we are talking about sixteen people who lead up to your birth-roughly from the year 1945. Let’s go back farther. Let’s say your “ancestors” came to America on the Mayflower twenty generations ago in 1620. At this point, we must consider slightly more than a million individual genealogical lines of men and women who went into your genealogy. Go back thirty generations, around 1400, we must consider over a billion people-more people than there were people on the planet. Or do we?

The point Steve Olson makes in MAPPING HUMAN HISTORY is that we are all related. It is a point he mentions over and over again. Somewhere back in the relatively recent past of your genealogical line is someone who is also part of my genealogical line. Everyone is related to everyone else. The reason for Steve Olson’s redundancy is perhaps twofold. First, the physical differences between people and groups of people are seemingly so stark and apparent that it is a mental stretch to see “relatedness” between a Daryl Hannah and a Halley Berry for instance. The second reason for stressing the relatedness of people is the science, though Olson does not delve deeply into what is left of the controversy. The science of using mitochondrial DNA to arrive at a common origin for humankind is rather straightforward and ironclad.

MAPPING HUMAN HISTORY does such a good job of explaining the consequences of the science that the science itself remains a backdrop. Except the logic of the science. Getting past the logic, the “relatedness” of all people, is where the mind wants to place a semi-colon. Here Olson helps by walking through the detail. He ends the walkthrough during the time of the “Mitochondrial Eve”, and introduces the “Mitochondrial Adam” of the Y-chromosome. Cutting from the chase, the synopsis is that modern humans descended from a woman in Africa about 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. It was at this time that the physical potentialities of a Daryl Hannah and a Halley Berry were set. The physical potentialities found expression in an original population of “perhaps 20,000″ people “when the first anatomically modern humans” reached a “genetic bottleneck”-a condition in which a few people are ancestors of a large number of the total population. (Elsewhere he presents the calculation that a total of 7 billion modern humans have lived on earth since their first appearance-6 billion of whom are alive {more or less} today).

While Olson does an excellent job of explaining all this, you kind of wish he would have stuck with it. Instead, we go on a sort of genetic travelog-more aptly called a Population Genomics study-in which he relates what genetics tells us about the migration of people out of Africa. It is well worth reading, but he does leave a few things hanging from the logic of the science of “relatedness”. For instance, he makes the statement that “[G]eneticists do not yet know for sure why human mitochondrial DNA coalesces about 150,000 years ago.” Could this statement mean that modern humans were around before 150,000 to 200,000 year ago? Not a critical question. He does answer some critical questions on the journey to “relatedness”. For instance, the Neandertals of Europe mating with modern humans to produce Europeans? A mating or two may have happened, but no genetic material from Neandertals in Europeans or anyone else has been found. So while it could have happened, it did not happen.

The fact that Olson spends a couple of pages, in various points in the book, discussing the possible mating of modern humans with what he terms “archaic humans”, highlights the divide between the science of genetics and perceptions. That discussion, as well as others in the book, addresses the problem each of us have in recognizing the commonality of our physical and cultural existence versus perceived differences which, in the larger scheme of biological life-forms, are not differences at all. Olson provides plenty of material in his travelog to document how the superficialities came about. In the world of genetics, there is no such classification as race, but rather people grouped in haplotypes, which are distinct mitochondrial sequences which have undergone mutation and are carried forward within a sub-population-a haplogroup. For instance, Olson states that a “substantial portion of the people who made their way out of Africa onto the Arabian Peninsula carried mitochondrial DNA from haplogroup M”. Not all the people in haplogroup M are on the Arabian Peninsula nor is the Arabian Peninsula the exclusive domain of people in haplogroup M. In fact, unless you look at the mitochondrial DNA of an individual, it is impossible to determine whether they belong in haplogroup M or not. Therein lies the conundrum of mitochondrial DNA “relatedness”. We know there are differences among people. The science tells us there are differences. But unless we walk around with a microscope glued to our eye, we just can not make distinctions. In the proverbial grind of day to day life, it is much easier to use skin color, hair texture or eye color to distinguish one group of people from another. But why do we need to make those distinctions in the first place?

The value of MAPPING HUMAN HISTORY is that it contains fertile material for speculating on how we as a species divided ourselves into tribes and cultures. It is a science book for the non-scientist and it well worth reading.

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Hunting Evil – Book Review

HuntingEvilby: Carlton Smith

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Copyright: 2000 , ISBN: [0312975724]

Cover: Gregory Urquiaga

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, May 5, 2005

Summary: Good reporting of a crime committed by two very un-interesting people. Whats the point?   Why a book?

 

HUNTING EVIL is the first book this reviewer has read by Carlton Smith. If you have read reviews in TGBRJ you know we do not dwell on the history or qualification of authors because, quite frankly, authors are not relevant to the subject matter of a book unless the subject is the author. Of course the publishing industry takes exactly the opposite view. That’s okay. The publishing industry sells “expertness”, not ideas–whether fiction or current events. Authors on the other hand generally want to sell ideas. Publishers and authors are from two different worlds. The authors published by publishers may be “experts”, but they do not have a monopoly on ideas or the last word in “expertness” on the idea they are trumpeting. Thus, in TGBRJ, authors are secondary considerations in book reviews. Why is this relevant now?

 

Carlton Smith mentions his qualifications for writing HUNTING EVIL a number of times in the book (and also in another of his books, SHADOWS OF EVIL, to be reviewed here at a future date). He was a journalist for “The Los Angeles Times” and “The Seattle Times” in the 1970s and 1980s. He mentions his history to explain the steps he took to unravel the crime spree of James A. “Froggie” Daveggio and Michelle Michaud. Cutting to the chase, HUNTING EVIL is excellent reporting. But this reviewer has a problem with the book.

 

Daveggio and Michaud were arrested in December of 1997 for the abduction and rape of a woman in Las Vegas. The pair was eventually charged with the abduction, rape and murder of Vanessa Lei Samson which was their last act of depravity before being apprehended. In reporting the facts, Smith presents us with a sketch of the early lives of Daveggio and Michaud (as revealed by family and friends as well as a confession by Michaud) and draws conclusions regarding their personalities and character. Daveggio was an angry teenager who grew into an angry man; Michaud a suppliant young teenager trying to gain the favor of and please a non-existent father. She grew into a submissive and fantasy prone woman who was perfect in her own eyes and lived life vicariously through others–Daveggio in particular. Two more un-interesting people you are not likely to find anywhere except in the pages of a true-crime book. Which raises a question. It is a question Carlton Smith raises and provides an answer to in his description of the life of James Daveggio.

 

On his way to describing Daveggio, Smith devotes three chapters to one Marvin Lee Mutch. According to Smith, Mutch was charged and convicted of the murder of thirteen year old Cassie Riley in September, 1974. Sometime before (in the spring or summer of that year), Riley had been the girlfriend of the then fourteen year old James Daveggio. Smith draws the conclusion that Daveggio should have been a suspect in that murder. Daveggio knew the victim, he had new tennis shoes, the soles of which would have matched the shoe prints found at the murder scene, and his sister believes he was capable of the murder. Smith thus lays the foundation for this theme that Daveggio tip-toed through the cracks of the justice system from an early age without really being hammered. As Daveggio grew older, married, produced and abandoned one family and started another, he spent three months in the army before being given a medical discharged for starring “into the sun until he couldn’t see”:  All this before reaching the age of twenty-one.

 

Daveggio’s run-ins with the law started shortly after the murder of Cassie Riley. He spent time in juvenile corrections, used an assortment of drugs and added to his reputation as a bullying, angry young man. After his encounter with the army, he would be arrested and charged with a number of “personal assault” crimes. On two occasions he was arrested for assaulting women–kidnaping and sexual assault being the specifics.

 

According to Smith, by the time Daveggio met Michelle Michaud, he had developed a taste for reading true-crime books about serial killers. Smith portrays the relationship of Daveggio and Michaud as one in which Daveggio would fly off into his demented “the-world-owes-me” mode and Michaud, ever desirous of winning “father’s” approval, would scamper along to catch up–even to the point of participating in a sexual assault on her daughter. Daveggio had already sexually assaulted his own daughter. By the time they murdered Vanessa Samson, the Daveggio-Michaud relationship had become horridly predictable and infinitely boring. Carlton Smith uses the right epithets: Angry man. . . woman of no self-esteem.

 

Does this book serve any worthwhile purpose? Smith covers the lives of these two damaged people and their damaging ways in some detail. One could say that the book introduces us to people we might otherwise not know exists. That’s a stretch. People like Daveggio and Michaud often popup in a news headlines. That may be where they belong, not in a book. But Carlton Smith has another answer to the question.

 

People like James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud do not randomly drop out of the sky nor are they born totally wrapped-up in themselves, ready to mushroom into full blown monsters at a particular time. These people are created. Meticulously created. They are created by other people.

 

In HUNTING EVIL, as a prelude to the insipid lives of Daveggio and Michaud, Smith presents us with numbers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Science Unit study of serial killers. Presumably, armed with information such as “half of [future serial] killers experienced physical abuse as children”, we are able to appreciate why people like Daveggio and Michaud go through life inflicting the pain and destruction they do. It is a valid argument for explaining why we should know about these two particular miscreants, but it does not address questions of the relevancy or value of the book. The only glimmer of insight gained from reading HUNTING EVIL is that evil gets perpetuated. But we know that already.

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