Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) (pronounced /ˈkeɪsiː/) was an American who claimed to be a psychic with the ability to channel answers to questions on subjects such as health or Atlantis while in a self-induced trance. Though Cayce considered himself a devout Christian and lived before the emergence of the New Age Movement, some believe he was the founder of the movement and influenced its teachings.
Cayce became a celebrity toward the end of his life and the publicity given to his prophecies has overshadowed what to him were usually considered the more important parts of his work, such as healing (the vast majority of his readings were given for people who were sick) and theology (Cayce was a lifelong, devout member of the Disciples of Christ). Skeptics challenge the statement that Cayce demonstrated psychic abilities, and traditional Christians also question his unorthodox answers on religious matters (such as reincarnation and Akashic records).
Today there are thousands of Cayce students and more than 300 books written about Edgar Cayce. Members of Cayce’s organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) exist worldwide and Edgar Cayce Centers are found in more than 35 countries.
Claimed psychic abilities
Cayce’s methods involved lying down and entering into what appeared to be a trance or sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other personal problems (subjects were not usually present). The subject’s questions would then be given to Cayce, and Cayce would proceed with a reading. At first these readings dealt primarily with the physical health of the individual (physical readings); later readings on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health were also given.
Until September 1923, they were not systematically preserved. However, an October 10, 1922, Birmingham (Alabama) Age-Herald article 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, only about 14,000 are available at Cayce headquarters and on-line. Thus, it appears that about 7,000-8,000 Cayce readings are missing.
When out of the trance he entered to perform a reading, Cayce said he generally did not remember what he had said during the reading. The unconscious mind, according to Cayce, has access to information which 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 conducted (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 audience 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.
The health readings are most numerous, and they involve many alternative health concepts and practices. Cayce described his work in terms of Christian service. People with esoteric interests have focused on a somewhat different set of topics.
- Origin and destiny of humanity: “All souls were created in the beginning, and are finding their way back to whence they came.” [Reading 3744-5] The Cayce readings could be interpreted as saying that human souls were created with a consciousness of their oneness with God. Some “fell” from this state; others—led by the Jesus soul—volunteered to save them. The Earth, with all its limitations, was created as a suitable arena for spiritual growth. It could also be interpreted as saying that all beings are born and all will eventually die.
- Reincarnation: Cayce’s work teaches the reality of reincarnation and karma, but as instruments of a loving God rather than blind natural laws. Its purpose is to teach us certain spiritual lessons. Animals have undifferentiated “group” souls rather than individuality and consciousness. Humans have never been incarnated as animals. He describes a very complex design arranged between souls and God to “meet the needs of existing conditions”, which was a reference to the souls who became entrapped in the Earth’s physical materiality, which was not intended for a habitat of the soul. In There Is A River, a biography about Cayce by Thomas Sugrue, we are told by Sugrue that spirit “thought-forms” stayed near and guided the anthropoid ape which was chosen to be the most ideal vehicle for the human physical race to be created from, and psychically guided their separate evolution into a Homo sapiens species. This contradicts Cayce’s view. In reading (3744-5), Cayce states “Man DID NOT descend from the monkey, but man has evolved, resuscitation, you see, from time to time, time to time, here a little, there a little, line upon line and line and line upon line.” Cayce’s view arguably incorporates and parallels Theosophical teachings on spiritual evolution.
- Astrology: Cayce accepts astrology on the basis that our souls spend time on other planets (or perhaps their spiritual counterparts) in between incarnations. The position of the planets at our birth records these influences.
- Universal laws: Souls incarnated on the Earth are subject to certain spiritual laws such as, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap” (karma) or “As ye judge (others), so shall ye be judged.” In Cayce’s belief system, such “laws” represent an aspect of “God’s mercy”, whereby no matter what our circumstances, “He” has promised to guide us in our spiritual path.. Cayce said that when you view it from the highest dimension, there is no time and no space, nor any future or past, and that it is all happening in one fascinating expression and that time is an illusion that has purpose.
- Unknown Life of Jesus: Cayce presented narratives of Jesus‘ previous incarnations, including a mysterious Atlantean figure called “Amilius” as well as the more familiar biblical figures of Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Joshua, Asaph, and Jeshua. Cayce describes Jesus as an Essene who traveled to India in his youth in order to study Eastern religions, more specifically astrology.
- Jesus and Christ: Following New Thought precedent, Cayce distinguishes between Jesus and Christhood. Briefly, Jesus was a soul like us who reincarnated through many lifetimes. “Christhood” is something he was the first to allow to be “manifest” through his material life, and it is something which we also ought to aspire towards. Cayce accordingly calls Jesus our “elder brother” and frequently makes reference to the way of the “lowly Nazarene.”
- Ideals: Cayce repeatedly stresses the choice of an ideal as the foundation of the spiritual path. “And O that all would realize… that what we are… is the result of what we have done about the ideals we have set” (1549-1). We may choose any ideal we feel drawn to. As we attempt to apply it in our lives, God will guide us further, perhaps inspiring us to revise our choice of ideal. The highest ideal, says Cayce, is Christ; however, the readings recognize “the Christ spirit” in some form as the basis for religions other than Christianity.
- Body, Mind, Spirit: Cayce often invokes these three terms, or their equivalents, to describe the human condition. “Spirit is the life. Mind is the builder. Physical is the result.” (conflation of various readings). The concept has application not only to holistic health but also to the spiritual life.
- Meditation: While Cayce sometimes described particular meditation techniques of sitting or chanting “Arrr–eee-oommm” the crucial element, he believed, is that of opening up to divine influences. The Search For God books say that “Through prayer we speak to God. In meditation, God speaks to us.” Cayce’s concept of meditation has some aspects in common with Hinduism or Buddhism (the chakras, kundalini) but is most similar to Christian versions of New Thought. The symbolism of the Book of Revelation, he says, is based on meditative experiences.
- Extra-sensory perception: Cayce accepted psychic experiences and ESP as a natural by-product of soul growth. God may speak to us through dreams (many readings consist of dream interpretation), or through intuitions similar to the pangs of conscience. However, Cayce did not endorse Spiritualism or mediumship on the grounds that supposed entities thus contacted are not necessarily particularly lofty. Instead, he encouraged seekers to focus on Christ.
- Atlantis: The Cayce readings spoke of the existence of Atlantis, a legendary continent with an advanced technology whose refugees peopled ancient Egypt as well as pre-Columbian America. Cayce’s description of Atlantis has much in common with that of Ignatius L. Donnelly. According to Cayce, Atlantean society was divided into two long-lived political factions—a “good” faction called the “Sons of the Law of One,” and an “evil” faction called the “Sons of Belial.” Many people alive today are the reincarnations of Atlantean souls, he believed, who must now face similar temptations as before. It is said Atlantis suffered three major destructions, one of which was the deluge. According to the readings, a major source of turmoil was the Sons of Belial’s desire to exploit the Things, sub-humans with animal appendages and low intelligence, and the movements to protect and evolve them by the Sons of the Law of One. The final destruction was the overcharging of the crystal which caused a massive explosion.
- Egypt: Next to biblical times, the most significant era for the “life readings” was a pre-dynastic Egyptian civilization consisting of Atlantean refugees. Cayce purported to have been an Egyptian priest named “Ra Ta” who built a spiritually based healing center (the “Temple of Sacrifice”) and educational institution (the “Temple Beautiful”). His diagnostic readings and narratives about the past and future were supposed to be a continuation of his ancient work. This civilization also built monuments on the Giza plateau, including the Great Pyramid, and left records of Atlantis in a “hall of records” located under the right paw of the Great Sphinx of Giza. These readings bear a close resemblance to books by AMORC founder H. Spencer Lewis.
- Earth Changes: Cayce coined the term Earth Changes (later widely used in New Age writings), a reference to a series of cataclysm events which he prophesied would take place in future decades — notably including the Earth shifting on its axis, and most of California dropping into the Pacific Ocean following a catastrophic earthquake.
- Cayce “cures”: Cayce’s medical readings typically prescribe poultices (often of castor oil), osteopathic adjustments, colonic irrigation, massage (often with peanut oil), prayer, folk remedies (e.g. charcoal tablets), various forms of electric medicine and patent medicines (such as Atomidine), and specific recommendations concerning diet and exercise. Cayce is often seen as a practitioner of holistic medicine, and has particularly strong philosophical ties with naturopathy.
- “Cayce diet”: Major dietary recommendations include the avoidance of red meat, alcohol (except red wine), white bread, and fried foods; a preference for fruits and above-ground, leafy vegetables over starches; and a high ratio (80:20%) of alkaline foods over acidic. One meal per day should consist entirely of raw vegetables. Under strict circumstances, Cayce advocated both coffee and pure tobacco cigarettes to be non-harmful to health. “Food combining” was also a central idea in the Cayce diet. According to Cayce, several food combinations that are contraindicated are coffee with milk or sugar, citrus fruit with starchy foods, and high protein foods with starches. Cayce himself followed very few of the dietary recommendations that were suggested by the readings. According to Cayce, two or three almonds (see Amygdalin) a day keep cancer away.
- Dream interpretation: Cayce was one of the early dream interpreters who contradicted Freudian views by saying that dreams can be of many different kinds (including sexual) with many levels of meaning; that lack of interest is the reason for poor dream recall; that only the dreamer knows the meaning of his dream; and that a dream is correctly interpreted when it makes sense to the dreamer, when it checks out with his other dreams, and when it moves him forward in his life.
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