Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Edgar Cayce, (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945)
(The name is pronounced Kay-see but is commonly mispronounced as Case). He was also known in the press by the title: The Sleeping Prophet and America’s Greatest Mystic
Edgar Cayce is known as one of America's most famous psychics, although he himself would probably have preferred to be viewed as a healer, rather than a psychic. He worked in what appeared to be a trance or sleeping state, and would answer questions of various kinds usually related to a particular individual. The information thus given came to be called "readings". 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. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) currently house all of his readings and follow-ups to the readings. His work has been very influential in New Age theories.
Edgar Cayce was born into a farming family on March 18,1877 near Beverly, seven miles south of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. From the age of 10 he would read the Bible from cover to cover once each year and his stated ambition was to be a preacher and healer.
In December 1893 the family moved to Hopkinsville and occupied 705 West Seventh, on the south-east corner of Seventh and Young Street. Edgar’s first jobs 1894 – 1898 were at Richard’s Dry Goods Store, then in Hopper's Bookstore both located on Main Street. During this time he became engaged to Gertrude Evans his future wife who he married in 1903.
In 1900 he formed a business partnership with his father to sell Woodmen of the World Insurance but was struck by severe laryngitis in March that resulted in a complete loss of voice on April 18. Unable to work he lived at home with his parents for almost a year. He then decided to take up photography as he hoped this work would make little demand on his voice. He began an apprenticeship in the photograph studio of W. R. Bowles at corner of Ninth and Virginia in Hopkinsville.
A travelling stage hypnotist and entertainer called "Hart-The Laugh Man," was performing at the Hopkinsville Opera House in 1901. He heard about Cayce’s condition and offered to attempt a cure. Cayce accepted and the experiment took place on stage in front of an audience. Cayce’s voice returned while in a hypnotic trance but disappeared on awakening. Hart tried a post-hypnotic suggestion that the voice would continue to function after the trance but this proved unsuccessful.
Hart moved on to another town but a local amateur hypnotist called Al Layne offered to work with Cayce on the restoration of his voice. Layne had the idea of suggesting that Cayce describe the nature of his condition and its cure while in hypnotic trance. While in a trance Cayce described as though from a detached position and using the pronoun "we" that 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 became flushed with blood. After 20 minutes Cayce's trance voice declared the treatment over. On awakening the voice remained normal. Relapses occurred but were corrected by Layne in the same way and eventually the cure was permanent.
Layne had read of similar hypnotic cures effected by De Puysegur, a follower of Franz Mesmer, and was keen to explore the limits of the healing knowledge of the trance voice. He asked Cayce to describe Layne’s own ailments and cure and found the results both accurate and effective. Layne suggested that Cayce offer his trance healing to the public but Cayce was reluctant and was concerned he may do more harm that good. He finally agreed on the condition no payment was made. He began with Layne’s help to offer free treatments to the townspeople with great success and his fame spread. He was soon getting mention in the newspapers and many postal enquiries. Layne and Cayce discovered that they could work just as effectively using a letter from the individual as with having the person present and this began Cayce’s large correspondence with people all over the world.
Cayce’s work grew in volume as his fame grew. He reluctantly asked for voluntary donations to support himself and his family so that he could practise the healing work full time. He continued to work in a trance state with a hypnotist all his life, the part of Layne was later taken by his wife or eldest son. A secretary, Gladys Davis, took notes.
The trance reading produced a visible strain on Cayce’s health, and he attributed the occasional failure to working under too great a pressure to give a clear reading. He was scrupulous in giving refunds to unsatisfied subjects.
He was persuaded to begin giving readings on philosophical subjects in 1923 by a wealthy client, a well to do printer called Arthur Lammers. The trance state answers, which spoke unequivocally of past lives caused Cayce to have a further struggle with his conscience as they conflicted with his avowed Christianity. Lammers and the trance voice itself reassured and argued with Cayce and he was persuaded to continue with these kinds of readings. In 1925 the trance voice instructed him to move to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In 1929 the Cayce hospital was established in Virginia Beach sponsored by a wealthy beneficiary of the trance readings, Morton Blumenthal.
Cayce gained USA wide prominence in 1943 through a high profile magazine article in the Coronet . He increased the frequency of his readings to 8 per day to try to keep up with the level of interest but this took a strain on his health.
Edgar Cayce is primarily known for the thousands of "readings" that were given in an unconscious guided hypnotic state. He gave over 14,000 readings in a period of 43 years. Gladys Davis, his assistant, recorded the readings and his wife, Gertrude Evans Cayce, guided the readings.
Physical Readings: 9,603 readings given
In the beginning his readings were known as "physical readings" (health readings). Their intentions were to increase the quality of the body (the organism). Cayce would put himself under self-hypnosis. A person's name would be given to Cayce, and he was then asked to perform the reading. While asleep he would find the subject, sometimes naming the streets along the way. After the subject was located, he examined the body, describing how the organ, circulatory, and nervous systems were working. Cayce would point out aspects that were not functioning properly and provide reasons for these malfunctions. A personalized message would then be given to the subject that would include anything helpful to relieve the pain and/or cure the ailment. The readings were so specialized that treatments were often altered, or not even given, if the person would not follow his advice. Seekers often sought Cayce's health readings when the established medical community could do nothing more for the patient.
At the time, c. early 1900's, the information provided by Cayce was highly controversial. Cayce was making claims that such things as diet, emotional state, and thought contributed to or even caused illness (holistic health). The idea that emotion or stress could cause an illness seemed absurd. Cayce's treatment was often just as absurd. Certain diets were recommended to cure chronic ailments, plus he would describe how the individual's particular thought pattern lead to their illness. Sometimes Cayce recommended rare medications that doctors had overlooked, or gave instructions on how to formulate and administer unknown medications. Emphasis was placed on a person’s mental state assisting their recovery, which sometimes was their only hope for a cure. Cayce also claimed that colours could help people with their physical problems— his own form of color therapy. Some people were referred to chiropractors and osteopaths, professions that were fairly new at the time. He also encouraged people to take advantage of massage, stretching, hydrotherapy, colonics, and many other therapies that science knew little or nothing about. Although science has since confirmed many of Cayce's health ideas, their efficacy is often scrutinized by the established medical community or blatantly labeled as ridiculous.
After health readings had been given for a while, Cayce started to give reading on subjects that did not include physical health. Some general categories that the readings could fit into are as follows:
Life Readings: 1,920 readings given
When a Life reading was given, it would describe the "past lives" of the individual. Only past experiences that could help the person in the present was given. Often the readings would explain tendencies and inclinations of a person, and how they related to past lives. The reading would often describe the outcome or the effect that the tendencies on a past life. Cayce would leave it up to the person receiving the reading as to if he/she wanted to change the tendency and stop the same experience from happening again. The readings would often describe incarnations where the individual was at its spiritual highest, and of recent incarnations. Cayce suggested that these were the incarnations that would help the person most. Such places as the colonized west, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Atlantis were often given as significant past incarnations.
Business Readings: 747 readings given
For those people whose intentions were "pure", Cayce would give business readings. He would also often criticize heavily when intentions were not pure. Cayce would give advice on business partners, the stock market, business models and many other business related topics. Cayce would also guide the A.R.E.(A group Cayce advised to be formed) in just about every move they made.
Dream Readings: 630 readings given
Edgar Cayce encouraged everyone to interpret and use his or her own dreams in day-to-day life. In many of the dream readings, Cayce would give an interpretation of a submitted dream. Cayce would often interrupt the person reading the dream and give an interpretation before the dream had been completely read. Cayce would also interrupt information being read to him in subject areas other than dream. Cayce would sometimes fill in parts of dreams that the dreamer had forgotten. Unlike modern dream interpretation, Cayce did not emphasize highly the importance of symbols. He said that every symbol is unique to the individual dreaming, and henceforth, is hard to create an accurate dream interpretation based solely on symbols. Cayce claimed that in dreams people could, receive valuable insight into their own lives, and that the insight was always of use to the dreamer. Besides regular daily insight into ones life, he claimed people could communicate with loved ones (dead or alive), remember past life experiences, see a possible future and experience many other psychic abilities so long as the individual was ready to hear such knowledge and it could be helpful to the individual. Cayce claimed that everyone could experience this.
Mental and Spiritual Readings: 450 readings given
These readings were often short and were one of the awake Cayce's favorite readings. They focused on what a individual could do to achieve a better mental/spiritual life.
Other Readings: 954 readings given
Other Readings are miscellaneous subject matter that does not fit into an above category. The subject matter differs from missing persons, buried treasure, readings given to a spiritual development group, psychic abilities, auras, prophecy, structure of reality, geology and many other topics.
For many thousands, the readings had a powerful impact on attitudes, beliefs, health practices, outlook on life, matters of faith and many other areas.
In 1910 Dr. Wesley Ketchum submitted an article to the American Society of Clinical Research mentioning Cayce's abilities. With the publication of an October 9, 1910 New York Times article entitled "Illiterate Man Becomes A Doctor When Hypnotized," Cayce's career as a psychic and healer began in earnest. People began to visit him at his house in Kentucky.
The story about Cayce's illiteracy happens to be an urban legend — while having no formal schooling much past grammar school, he claimed he could read any book in a matter of a five minutes by "sleeping on it", after which he could recite each page number and quote anything out of the book. He also worked at a bookstore in 1897 which specialized in texts on osteopathy and natural medicine. He had also read the Bible once for each year of his life, without "sleeping on it".
Cayce was also never a doctor, nor could he treat his subjects. He gave instructions to create "medical machinery" that had never been made before.
His presumed abilities
Here is a list of abilities people believed he had although Cayce did not claim to have them all:
- diagnosing and healing people at a distance (under hypnosis)
- making diagnoses through astral projection
- communicating with the dead
- providing advice on healing diets
- accessing the Akashic Records or Book of Life(under hypnosis)
Former Lives and Conflict with Christian Doctrine
Cayce had difficulty adjusting to and believing some of the views that he was reported to have expressed during trance. For example, having been raised a devout Christian (who read the Bible from start to finish each year of his life), for a long time he was reluctant to accept the views (expressed in trance) that reincarnation was a reality. He expressed the view (again in trance) that the Essenes (an early Christian group) had believed in reincarnation but that that view was expunged from the Bible following a papal council decision in around 500 AD.
During a hypnosis session, Cayce mentioned a former life as Ra Ta, an Egyptian healer-priest. As Ra Ta, he worked with Hermes-Thoth, who was reincarnated as Jesus. Cayce's readings also mentions some of the former incarnations of Jesus in the following:
- Amilius in Atlantis
- Melchizedek, priest of Salem who blessed Abraham.
- Joseph, who was sold by his brothers as a slave.
- Joshua Son of Nun, right hand man of Moses.
- Job, the man who was tested.(According to E.C., Job was a metaphorical story created by Melchizedek)
- Zen, the father of Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism
A Reading About the Readings Themselves and Religion
One of Cayce's trance statements implies that knowledge about all Cayce readings is not needed if a person is well grounded in one's faith: "Does it make one a better husband, a better businessman, a better neighbor, a better artist, a better churchman, if so cleave to it, if not reject it." Despite teachings of one's faith, people still engage in revenge, bitterness, violence, etc.. "Karmiclly, wonderful things can happen if one follows the teaching 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'". The Inquisition, the Inca genocide, etc. were executed in the name of religion, but are incompatible with the concept of a God of infinite love or brotherhood and, according to the readings, these incidents incurred severe Karmic retributions. The readings also warn against the misuse of religion for personal gain. 'God is not mocked' is an often quoted verse in the readings.
Skepticism and Criticism
Skeptics do not believe Cayce had any paranormal powers whatsoever. Cayce himself said that not all the information was correct and should be analyzed. He even criticized his organization, the A.R.E , on a number of occasions for not doing enough research on the validity of the readings.
When making predictions (prophesizing) Cayce said, that any future prediction was only an educated guess based on the present tendencies and inclinations of people. Tendencies, he said, could change at any moment. One example of a prediction that went terribly wrong is that 1933 would be a “good year”, when in fact it was one of the worst in the Great Depression. He predicted that China convert to Christianity by 1968. He and a dowser once went searching buried treasure on the seashore, finding nothing. Psychic believers defended him, saying treasure had been buried there before and dug up, or it would be buried there in the future. Critics often cite Cayce giving himself a “way out” by saying that the future could change as a common trick among psychics.
... from the head, pains along through the body from the second, fifth and sixth dorsals, and from the first and second lumbar...tie-ups here, floating lesions, or lateral lesions, in the muscular and nerve fibers which supply the lower end of the lung and the diaphragm...in conjunction with the sympathetic nerve of the solar plexus, coming in conjunction with the solar plexus at the end of the stomach....
Cayce used the word lung, and this his followers take as a correct diagnosis; i.e., a psychic "hit." This technique is called shotgunning.
When making accounts of history, Cayce would often say he was reading from a particular historical text. Many times, Cayce said the text did not exist any more. The texts not being available for study is generally agreed upon but the missing texts make it hard or even impossible to judge the soundness of the information.
Many of his health readings included ingredients that weren’t known to exist. Others were folk remedies, some well known to today's herbalists and naturopaths, but there were still other ingredients that science nor herbalists knew or used. Some would protest that the “remedies” have no value at all, for example Cayce once said to use fumes of apple brandy from a charred keg for tuberculosis. Some consider this outrageous and useless.
Cayce would sometimes use cryptic and vague language that sounded strange. For example he said US scientists would discover a “death ray” from Atlantis in 1958. No working “death ray” was found. Even to Cayce followers there are still many questions surrounding this statement.
There are also times when the information Cayce gave contradicts modern science. For example, he was one of the first to recommend laetrile as a possible cure for cancer. Science has proven Laetrile ineffective as a cancer cure.
Although the Cayce material is generally self supporting, on a rare occasion, information would be given that would appear to be self contradicting.
There are also a number of people who are enraged, rather than skeptical, by what Cayce said. Often time’s people would be interested in the Cayce information until they found out that reincarnation was one of the readings basic fundamental principles. Cayce would also give information that blatantly contradicted many professionals who had devoted their life to a subject matter. Some people hold that it is simply impossible for an individual to give information on something they have never learnt about.
Regardless of the accuracy of the information Cayce provided, among those who accept as fact that Cayce was unconscious during his "trance" state, it is generally agreed that Cayce was thus not likely a conscious fraud.
The subject matter of many Cayce readings would later become commonly known practices of some elements of the New Age movement.
In 1931 Edgar Cayce founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc. (A.R.E.) headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Today there are Edgar Cayce Centers in 18 other countries thoughout the world.
While some skeptics consider him self-deluded, there are many thousands of people who have found Cayce's predictions, prognostications, and experiences valid in their lives.
- Association for Research and Enlightenment
- Detailed Chronology of Life and Work of Edgar Cayce
- Cayce's list of incarnations of Jesus Christ
- The Straight Dope: What's the scoop on Edgar Cayce?
- James Randi: Cayce Flimflam
- The Skeptic's Dictionary on Cayce
- An American Prophet: Yeah, Right - ABCNews column on Cayce
- Cayce, Edgar Evans. Edgar Cayce on Atlantis. New York: Hawthorn, 1968, ISBN 0-312-96153-7
- Cerminara, Gina. Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation. orig. 1950; Signet Book, Reissue edition 1990, ISBN 0451168178
- Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. An American Prophet. Riverhead Books, 2000, ISBN 157322-1392
- Sugrue, Thomas. There Is a River. A.R.E. Press, 1997, ISBN 0876043759
- Kittler, Glenn D. Edgar Cayce on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Warner Books, 1970, ISBN 0-446-90035-4
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