Circa October 1910
March 18, 1877
|Died||January 3, 1945
Virginia Beach, Virginia
|Resting place||Riverside Cemetery, Hopkinsville, Kentucky|
|Known for||Founder of Association for Research and Enlightenment|
|Children||Hugh Lynn (b. 1907)
Milton Porter (b. 1911)
Edgar Evans (b. 1918)
|Parent(s)||Leslie B. Cayce
Edgar Cayce (//; March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American mystic who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance. A biographer gave him the nickname, "The Sleeping Prophet." A nonprofit organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, was founded to facilitate the study of Cayce's work. A hospital and a university were also established.
Cayce is a well-documented psychic of the 20th century. Hundreds of books have been written about him. Cayce's practice of reading through the entire Bible each year was thought to give him the insight to reconcile his Christian beliefs with the metaphysical information provided while in trance, and some consider him the true founder and a principal source of the most characteristic beliefs of the New Age Movement.
Cayce became a celebrity toward the end of his life, and he believed the publicity given to his prophecies overshadowed the more important parts of his work, such as healing the sick and studying religion. Skeptics challenge Cayce's alleged psychic abilities, and traditional Christians also question his unorthodox answers on religious matters such as reincarnation, and the Akashic records.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Reputation for psychic abilities
- 3 Supporters
- 4 Controversy and criticism
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Edgar Cayce was born on March 18, 1877, near Beverly, south of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He was one of six children of farmers Leslie B. Cayce and Carrie Cayce. A very spiritual child, he played with the 'little folk' and sometimes 'saw' his deceased grandfather. He regarded them all as incorporeal because he could see through them if he looked hard enough. However, he found it very difficult to keep his mind on his lessons at school.
He was taken to church when he was 10, and from then on he read the Bible, becoming engrossed, and completing a dozen readings by the time he was 12. In May 1889, while reading the Bible in his hut in the woods, he 'saw' a woman with wings who told him that his prayers were answered, and asked him what he wanted most of all. He was frightened, but he said that most of all he wanted to be helpful to others, especially sick children. He decided he would like to be a missionary.
The next night, after a complaint from the school teacher, his father ruthlessly tested him for spelling, eventually knocking him out of his chair with exasperation. At that point, Edgar 'heard' the voice of the lady who had appeared yesterday. She told him that if he could sleep a little 'they' could help him. He begged for a rest and put his head on the spelling book. When his father came back into the room and woke him up, he knew all the answers. In fact, he could repeat anything in the book. His father thought he had been fooling before and knocked him out of the chair again. Eventually, Edgar used all his school books that way.
By 1892, the teacher regarded Edgar as his best student. On being questioned, Edgar told the teacher that he saw pictures of the pages in the books. His father became proud of this accomplishment and spread it around, resulting in Edgar becoming "different" from his peers.
Shortly after this, Edgar exhibited an ability to diagnose in his sleep. He got struck on the base of the spine by a ball in a school game, after which he began to act very strangely, and eventually was put to bed. He went to sleep and diagnosed the cure, which his family prepared and which cured him as he slept. His father boasted that his son was, "the greatest fellow in the world when he's asleep." However, this ability was not demonstrated again for several years.
Edgar's uncommon personality is also shown by an unusual incident in which he rode a certain mule back to the farmhouse at the end of a work day. This stunned everyone there, as the mule could not be ridden. The owner, thinking it may be time to break the animal in again, attempted to mount it but was immediately thrown off. Cayce left for his family in the city that evening.
Marriage and family
Cayce became engaged to Gertrude Evans on March 14, 1897, and they married on June 17, 1903. They had three children: Hugh Lynn Cayce (March 16, 1907 – July 4, 1982), Milton Porter Cayce (March 28, 1911 – May 17, 1911), and Edgar Evans Cayce (February 9, 1918 – February 15, 2013).
1877 to 1912: Kentucky period
In December 1893, the Cayce family moved to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and occupied 705 West Seventh on the southeast corner of Seventh and Young Streets. During this time, Cayce received an eighth-grade education, is said by the Association for Research and Enlightenment to have developed psychic abilities, and left the family farm to pursue various forms of employment.
Cayce's education stopped in the ninth grade because his family could not afford the costs involved. A ninth-grade education was often considered more than sufficient for working-class children. Much of the remainder of Cayce's younger years would be characterized by a search for both employment and money.
Throughout his life, Cayce was drawn to church as a member of the Disciples of Christ. He read the Bible once a year every year, taught at Sunday school, and recruited missionaries. He said he could see auras around people, spoke to angels, and heard voices of departed relatives. In his early years, he agonized over whether these psychic abilities were spiritually delivered from the highest source.
In 1900, Cayce formed a business partnership with his father to sell Woodmen of the World Insurance; however, in March he was struck by severe laryngitis that resulted in a complete loss of speech. Unable to work, he lived at home with his parents for almost a year. He then decided to take up the trade of photography, an occupation that would exert less strain on his voice. He began an apprenticeship at the photography studio of W.R. Bowles in Hopkinsville, and eventually became quite talented in his trade.
In 1901, a traveling stage hypnotist and entertainer named Hart, who referred to himself as "The Laugh Man," was performing at the Hopkinsville Opera House. Hart heard about Cayce's condition and offered to attempt a cure. Cayce accepted his offer, and the experiment was conducted in the office of Dr. Manning Brown, the local throat specialist. Cayce's voice allegedly returned while in a hypnotic trance but disappeared on awakening. Hart tried a posthypnotic suggestion that the voice would continue to function after the trance, but this proved unsuccessful.
Hart had appointments at other cities, but admitted he had failed because Cayce would not go into the third stage of hypnosis to take a suggestion. A New York hypnotist, Dr Quackenboss, found the same impediment but, after returning to New York, suggested that Cayce should be prompted to take over his own case while in the second stage of hypnosis. The only local hypnotist, Al Layne, offered to help Cayce restore his voice. Layne suggested that Cayce describe the nature of his condition and cure while in a hypnotic trance. Cayce described his own ailment from a first-person plural point of view: "we" instead of the singular "I." In subsequent sessions, when Cayce wanted to indicate that the connection was made to the "entity" of the person that was requesting the reading, he would generally start off with, "We have the body." According to the reading for the "entity" of Cayce, his voice loss was due to psychological paralysis, and could be corrected by increasing the blood flow to the voice box. Layne suggested that the blood flow be increased and Cayce's face supposedly became flushed with blood, and both his chest and throat turned bright red. After 20 minutes, Cayce, still in a trance, declared the treatment over. On awakening, his voice was alleged to have remained normal. Apparently, relapses occurred, but were said to have been corrected by Layne in the same way, and eventually the cure was said to be permanent.
Layne had read of similar hypnotic cures by the Marquis de Puységur, a follower of Franz Mesmer, and was keen to explore the limits of the healing knowledge involved with the trance voice. He asked Cayce to describe Layne's own ailments and suggest cures, and reportedly found the results both accurate and effective. Layne suggested that Cayce offer his trance healing to the public. Cayce was reluctant, but he finally agreed, on the condition that readings would be free. He began, with Layne's help, to offer free treatments to the townspeople. Reports of Cayce's work appeared in the newspapers, which inspired many postal inquiries. Cayce stated he could work just as effectively using a letter from the individual as with the person being present in the room. Given only the person's name and location, Cayce said he could diagnose the physical and mental conditions of what he termed "the entity," and then provide a remedy. Cayce soon became famous, and people from around the world sought his advice through correspondence.
1912 to 1925: Selma, Alabama period
Cayce's work grew in volume as his fame grew. He asked for voluntary donations to support himself and his family so that he could practice full-time. To help raise money he invented "Pit", a card game based on the commodities trading at the Chicago Board of Trade, and the game is still sold today. He continued to work in an apparent trance state with a hypnotist all his life. His wife and eldest son later replaced Layne in this role. A secretary, Gladys Davis, recorded his readings in shorthand.
The growing fame of Cayce along with the popularity he received from newspapers attracted several eager commercially minded men who wanted to seek a fortune by using Cayce's clairvoyant abilities. Even though Cayce was reluctant to help them, he was persuaded to give his readings, which left him dissatisfied with himself and unsuccessful. A cotton merchant offered Cayce a hundred dollars a day for his readings about the daily outcomes in the cotton market; however, despite his poor finances, Cayce refused the merchant's offer. Some wanted to know where to hunt for treasures while others wanted to know the outcome of horse races. Several times he was persuaded to give such readings as an experiment. However, when he used his ability for such purposes, he did no better than chance alone would dictate. These experiments allegedly left him depleted of energy, distraught, and unsatisfied with himself. Finally, he decided to use his gift only to help the distressed and sick.
In 1923, Arthur Lammers, a wealthy printer and student of metaphysics, persuaded Cayce to give readings on philosophical subjects. Cayce was told by Lammers that, while in his trance state, he spoke of Lammers' past lives and of reincarnation, something Lammers believed in. Reincarnation was a popular subject of the day but not an accepted part of Christian doctrine. Because of this, Cayce questioned his stenographer about what he said in his trance state and remained unconvinced. He challenged Lammers' charge that he had validated astrology and reincarnation in the following dialogue:
- Cayce: I said all that?... I couldn't have said all that in one reading.
- Lammers: No. But you confirmed it. You see, I have been studying metaphysics for years, and I was able by a few questions, by the facts you gave, to check what is right and what is wrong with a whole lot of the stuff I've been reading. The important thing is that the basic system which runs through all the mystery religions, whether they come from Tibet or the pyramids of Egypt, is backed up by you. It's actually the right system.
Cayce's stenographer recorded the following:
- In this we see the plan of development of those individuals set upon this plane, meaning the ability to enter again into the presence of the Creator and become a full part of that creation.
- Insofar as this entity is concerned, this is the third appearance on this plane, and before this one, as the monk. We see glimpses in the life of the entity now as were shown in the monk, in this mode of living. The body is only the vehicle ever of that spirit and soul that waft through all times and ever remain the same.
Cayce was quite unconvinced that he had been referring to the doctrine of reincarnation, and the best Lammers could offer was that the reading "opens up the door" and to go on to share his beliefs and knowledge with Cayce. Lammers had come to him with quite a bit of information of his own to share with Cayce and seemed intent upon convincing Cayce now that he felt the reading had confirmed his strongly-held beliefs. It should be noted, however, that 12 years earlier Cayce had briefly alluded to reincarnation. In reading 4841-1, given April 22, 1911, Cayce referred to the soul being "transmigrated". Because Cayce's readings were not systematically recorded until 1923, it is possible that he may have mentioned reincarnation in other earlier readings.
Cayce reported that his conscience bothered him severely over this conflict. His readings of reincarnations were going against his biblical teachings and at one point he wanted to cease his channeling sessions. Once again Cayce lost his voice and in a reading for himself he was informed if Cayce was no longer going to be a channel, his mission in this life was complete. Ultimately his trance voice, the "we" of the readings, dialogued with Cayce and finally persuaded him to continue with these kinds of readings. It was at this time Cayce directed his activities to provide readings centred around health. The remedies that were channeled often involved the use of unusual electrotherapy, ultraviolet light, diet, massage, gemstones, less mental work and more relaxation in sand on the beach. His remedies were coming under the scrutiny of the American Medical Association and Cayce felt that it was time to legitimize the operations with the aid of licensed medical practitioners. In 1925 Cayce reported while in a trance, "the voice" had instructed him to move to Virginia Beach, Virginia across the street from the beach. He was informed that the sand's crystals would have curative properties to promote rapid healing.
1925 to 1945: Virginia Beach period
Cayce's mature period, in which he created the several institutions that would survive him, can be considered to have started in 1925. By this time he was a professional psychic with a small staff of employees and volunteers. The readings increasingly came to involve occult or esoteric themes.
In 1929 the Cayce hospital was established in Virginia Beach, sponsored by a Morton Blumenthall, a recipient of the trance readings. Blumenthall was a wealthy New York stockbroker who had the most extensive readings with Cayce, some 468. He is said to have made considerable gains through insights into the stock market's futures until it crashed that year. This event caused Blumenthall to withdraw his funding and the hospital eventually closed its doors shortly after.
The depression years saw Cayce turn his attention to spiritual teachings. In 1931, Edgar Cayce's friends and family asked him how they could become psychic like him. Out of this seemingly simple question came an eleven-year discourse that led to the creation of "Study Groups". From his altered state, Cayce relayed to this group that the purpose of life is not to become psychic, but to become a more spiritually aware and loving person. Study Group #1 was told that they could "bring light to a waiting world" and that these lessons would still be studied a hundred years into the future. The readings were now about dreams, coincidence (synchronicity), developing intuition, karma, the akashic records, astrology, past-life relationships, soul mates and other esoteric subjects. Hundreds of books have been published about these readings.
Cayce gained national prominence in 1943 after the publication of a high-profile article in the magazine Coronet titled "Miracle Man of Virginia Beach". World War II was taking its toll on American soldiers and he felt he could not refuse the families who requested help for their loved ones that were missing in action. He increased the frequency of his readings to eight per day to try to make an impression on the ever-growing pile of requests. He said this took a toll on his health as it was emotionally draining and often fatigued him. The readings themselves scolded him for attempting too much and that he should limit his workload to just two life readings a day or else these good efforts would eventually kill him.
Reputation for psychic abilities
Cayce has variously been referred to as a "prophet" (cf. Jess Stearn's book, The Sleeping Prophet), a "mystic" and a "seer". While giving a reading for a seeker, he at times referred to consulting the Akashic Record (the etheric imprint) of that soul's experience. The only biography written during Cayce's lifetime was There is a River by Thomas Joseph Sugrue.
Cayce's methods involved lying down and entering into a sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other personal problems. Subjects would not normally be present, and their questions would be given to Cayce, who would then proceed with a reading. Initial readings dealt primarily with the physical health of the individual; later readings might be given on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health.
Until September 1923, his readings were not systematically recorded or preserved. However, an article published in the Birmingham Post-Herald on October 10, 1922, quotes Cayce as saying that he had given 8,056 readings as of that date and it is known that he gave approximately 13,000–14,000 readings after that date. Today, a total of 14,306 are available at A.R.E. Cayce headquarters in Va. Beach and an online member-only section along with background information, correspondence, and follow-up documentation.
When out of the trance, Cayce would not remember what he had said during the reading. The unconscious mind, according to Cayce, has access to information that the conscious mind does not—a common assumption about hypnosis in Cayce's time. After Gladys Davis became Cayce's secretary on September 10, 1923, all readings were preserved and his wife, Gertrude Evans Cayce, generally guided the readings.
Cayce said that his trance statements should be taken into account only to the extent that they led to a better life for the recipient. Moreover, he invited his subjects to test his suggestions rather than accept them on faith.
Other abilities that have been attributed to Cayce include astral projection, prophesying, mediumship, viewing the Akashic Records or "Book of Life", and seeing auras. Cayce said he became interested in learning more about these subjects after he was informed about the content of his readings, which he reported that he never actually heard himself.
Gina Cerminara published books such as Many Mansions and The World Within. Brian Weiss published a bestseller regarding clinical recollection of past lives, Many Lives, Many Masters. These books provide broad support for spiritualism and reincarnation. Many Mansions elaborates on Cayce's work and supports his stated abilities with real life examples.
Cayce once gave a reading on a blind man, a musician by profession, who regained part of his vision in one eye through following the physical suggestions given by Cayce. This man happened to have a passion for railroads and a tremendous interest in the Civil War. In the life reading Cayce gave, he said that the man had been a soldier in the South, in the army of Lee, and that he had been a railroad man by profession in that incarnation. Then he proceeded to tell him that his name in that life was Barnett Seay, and that the records of Seay could still be found in the state of Virginia. The man took the trouble to hunt for the records and found them in the state capitol at Richmond: that is to say he found the record of one Barnett Seay, standard-bearer in Lee's army who had entered and been discharged from the service in such and such a year.
The Dictionary of American Religious Biography writes about Cayce:
As a humble individual full of self-doubts, Cayce never profited from his mystic gift. He read the Bible every day, taught Sunday School, and helped others only when asked. Many did ask, and over the years he produced readings that diagnosed health problems, prescribed dietary regimens, dealt with psychic disorders, and predicted future events such as wars, earthquakes, and changes in governments. He spoke, moreover, of reincarnations, the early history of Israel, and the lost civilization of Atlantis. Enough of his diagnoses and predictions proved true to silence many skeptics and to develop a wide following.
Controversy and criticism
Cayce advocated some controversial and eccentric ideas from his trance readings. In many trance sessions, he reinterpreted the history of life on Earth. One of Cayce's controversial claims was that of polygenism. According to Cayce, five human races (white, black, red, brown, and yellow) had been created separately but simultaneously on different parts of the Earth. Cayce also accepted the existence of aliens and Atlantis, and claimed that "the red race developed in Atlantis and its development was rapid." Another claim by Cayce was that "soul-entities" on Earth intermingled with animals to produce "things": giants that were as much as twelve feet tall.
Historian Olav Hammer wrote that many of Cayce's readings discussed race and skin color and that the explanation for this is that Cayce was not a racist but was influenced by the occult ideas of Madame Blavatsky. Cayce declared the Piltdown man to be genuine, claiming he was an Atlantean colonizer who had travelled to Britain. However, the Piltdown man was exposed as a hoax in 1953.
Philosopher and skeptic Robert Todd Carroll, in his book The Skeptic's Dictionary, wrote, "Cayce is one of the main people responsible for some of the sillier notions about Atlantis." Carroll mentioned some of Cayce's notions, including his belief in a giant solar crystal, activated by the sun, and used to harness energy and provide power on Atlantis, and his prediction that in 1958, the United States would rediscover a death ray that had been used on Atlantis.
Skeptics say that the evidence for Cayce's powers comes from contemporaneous newspaper articles, affidavits, anecdotes, testimonials, and books. Martin Gardner, for example, wrote that while Cayce's trances did happen, most of the information from his trances was derived from books that Cayce had been reading by authors such as Carl Jung, P. D. Ouspensky, and Helena Blavatsky. Gardner's hypothesis was that the trance readings of Cayce contain, "little bits of information gleaned from here and there in the occult literature, spiced with occasional novelties from Cayce's unconscious."
Skeptics are also critical of Cayce's support for various forms of alternative medicine, which they regard as quackery. Michael Shermer writes in Why People Believe Weird Things, "Uneducated beyond the ninth grade, Cayce acquired his broad knowledge through voracious reading and from this he wove elaborate tales." Shermer wrote that, "Cayce was fantasy-prone from his youth, often talking with angels and receiving visions of his dead grandfather." James Randi has said that "Cayce was fond of expressions like 'I feel that' and 'perhaps'—qualifying words used to avoid positive declarations." Examination of the readings do not show qualifying terms.
Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell has noted:
Although Cayce was never subjected to proper testing, ESP pioneer Dr. Joseph B. Rhine of Duke University — who should have been sympathetic to Cayce's claims — was unimpressed. A reading that Cayce gave for Rhine's daughter was notably inaccurate. Frequently, Cayce was even wider off the mark, as when he provided diagnoses of subjects who had died since the letters requesting the readings were sent.
Science writer Karen Stollznow has written:
The reality is that his cures were hearsay and his treatments were folk remedies that were useless at best and dangerous at worse... Cayce wasn't able to cure his own cousin, or his own son who died as a baby. Many of Cayce's readings took place after the patient had already died.
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