By Judith Stevens
Special to the New Journal and Guide
Dr. Nicole Charles became Chief Executive Director of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc. (A.R.E.) in June, 2022, after a nationwide search was conducted; out of 176 applicants she was chosen to lead the organization into its next phase of growth.
A.R.E., a nonprofit organization chartered in 1931 in Virginia Beach, is based on the work of the late Edgar Cayce and hones in on spirituality and holistic health practices. Its new leader was recently chosen as the organization goes through a time of transformative change in its 91–year history. The new leadership upholds this and brings with it a fresh perspective and skillset.
Dr. Charles holds a doctorate in Interfaith Theology, specializing in spirituality and health, and a master’s in Integrative Health. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses specializing in Community Health, Integrative Nutrition, and Behavioral Health, and was led to graduate studies at Georgian Court University, gaining additional certifications at Maryland University of Integrative Health, the College of New Rochelle, and the Center for Mind Body Medicine.
Her deep interest and work in integrative healthcare was sparked by her grandmother, a natural medicine woman, who, she says “had huge mason jars with ‘stuff’ in them–bark, roots, herbs, twigs, sticks and leaves. The stove always had some tea or another brewing. I was never sick as a child. I grew up learning to make tinctures and tonics. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning old Southern techniques for the laying on of hands–what is now known as energy medicine and Reiki. I understood that there was nothing that could not be cured with nature.”
As part of her education, Dr. Charles has travelled extensively through various countries in Africa and the Caribbean Isles, studying faith practices and indigenous herbal medicine.
Her extensive professional working experience within the non-profit sector and institutions of higher education has been within the United Nations, The Rockefeller Foundation–LEAD International, the National Urban League, Columbia University, Social Science Research Council, The New School for Social Research, and the City University of New York, to name a few.
“My theology education stands on the theological perspective of Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman, the theologian who was Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teacher. Thurman was the mind; King brought his work into action. Dr. Thurman’s work focused on the principle of helping the disinherited of the world change from within so they would be empowered to survive in the face of oppression,” Dr. Charles said.
“For me, ‘the disinherited’ is not solely about race, class, or status, but simply humanity. Mr. Cayce was clear about each of us being our brother’s keeper. How are we showing up for others? Am I doing what I can do to improve the lives of others whom I contact?”
Dr. Charles’ life has brought her full circle; her search for God began early. Her life has afforded her opportunities, where she has become a holder of the torch towards a fuller understanding of society. Her enmeshment into Judaic culture and customs and experience with Quakerism, Buddhism, Islam, Unity, Religious Science, Christian Science,” and other acts of faith and worship has given her a broad perspective. She upholds the belief that Oneness is when we step aside and let our truth be the focus; it creates bridges “with others in faith because faith will always find a way to bring out the Higher Self and have us remember who we are, what we are, and most importantly, whose we are.”
Dr. Charles brings the DEI principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to her new position to help the A.R.E. and its members around the world “create opportunities for profound personal change in body, mind, and spirit through application of the wisdom found in the life-changing Edgar Cayce material.”
By acknowledging the Biblical mandate that we are our brother’s keeper, and by aligning with A.R.E.’s Ideal, emblazoned in bronze over the front door of A.R.E.’s Conference Center, – “To make manifest the love of God and man,” – we can create a world where all people are equally connected and valued, a world of justice for all.
Not only is Dr. Charles an agent of change, she seeks to inspire community members to become agents of change in their communities. She has spoken locally at a church in Norfolk, and at Virginia Wesleyan College in Virginia Beach. She spoke at an annual conference at the historical Hillside International Faith Center Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and will serve as keynote speaker at a university in Vietnam.
Dr. Charles extends an invitation to all members of the community to explore and learn about the Edgar Cayce material and how it may support them in their personal growth and development, as there is something for everyone. A.R.E. is located at 215 67th Street, between 67th and 68th Streets. The one-block campus includes an 80,000-book library, also housing rare book reference collections and the more than 14,000 documented psychic readings given by Mr. Cayce over a period of 43 years. Online and in-person conferences and lectures are offered year-round on topics such as the study of dreams, ESP, meditation and prayer, holistic health, the Bible, universal laws, and cause and effect.
There is also a health spa in the original Cayce “Hospital of Enlightenment” that operated for two years, aiding patients from around the world whose medical doctors had given up on them. Many of those early patients after their holistic treatments, went on to live productive lives, confounding their physicians.
Also on campus is the Cayce-Reilly Massage School, Atlantic University and a meditation room, open to all, that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. You may bring your concerns, questions, or prayers and walk the labyrinth, visit the meditation garden for a quiet respite in nature, explore the bookstore, and sample a delicious healthy lunch in the Graze Kitchen with a view of the ocean. Take part in small discussion groups, in-person and online, using the “A Search for God,” material, studied by thousands of students around the world who call those texts a “blueprint for change.”
Open daily. Come in person or visit online at EdgarCayce.org.
Telephone: 757-428-3588. All are welcome.
(Excerpts of this article previously appeared in A.R.E.’s Fall 2022 issue of Venture Inward)