Edgar Cayce

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Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877January 3, 1945) was known in the press by the titles "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 houses all of his readings and follow-ups to the readings. His work has been very influential in New Age theories.

The name "Cayce" is pronounced Casey but is commonly mispronounced as Case.


Life History

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 18941898 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, whom 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 photography studio of W. R. Bowles at the corner of Ninth and Virginia streets 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 out town but another hypnotist, Al Layne offered to continue to work with Cayce to 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 readings he would generally start off with "We have the body." According to the reading, 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 and his chest area turned bright red. After 20 minutes Cayce, still in trance, declared the treatment over. On awakening his 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 suggest cures, and reportedly found the results both accurate and effective. Layne suggested that Cayce offer his trance healing to the public but Cayce was reluctant. He finally agreed on the condition that readings would be free. He began with Layne’s help to offer free treatments to the townspeople. Reportedly he had great success and his fame spread. Reports of Cayce's work appeared in the newspapers, inspiring many postal inquiries. Supposedly, Cayce was able to work just as effectively using a letter from the individual as with having the person present. This began Cayce’s 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 practice full time. 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, took notes. According to some accounts, Cayce had an affair with Ms. Davis later in life.

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 clients.

He was persuaded to give readings on philosophical subjects in 1923 by Arthur Lammers, a wealthy printer. Reincarnation was a popular subject of the day, but was not an accepted part of Christian doctrine. While in his supposed trance state, Cayce spoke unequivocally of past lives. Reincarnation was a popular subject of the day, but was not an accepted part of Christian doctrine. Cayce reported that his conscience bothered him severely over this conflict. Lammers reassured and argued with Cayce. His "trance voice", the "we" of the readings, also supposedly dialogued with Cayce and finally persuaded him to continue with these kinds of readings. In 1925 Cayce reported his "voice" had 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 national prominence in 1943 through a high profile article in 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 died on January 3, 1945.


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). Cayce often called the body "the organism". Cayce would put himself under self-hypnosis. While supposedly asleep he would report locating the subject, sometimes naming the streets along the way. He would then say "Yes, we see the body", and describe the client's organ, circulatory, and nervous systems, providing reasons for illness or malfunction. A personalized message would then be given to the subject, recommending supposed methods of relief or cure. 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 find nothing wrong or had given up on a client.

At the time, c. early 1900's, the information provided by Cayce was somewhat 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 would have been familiar to believers in the New Thought or Spiritualist faiths (Cayce also recommended color therapy), but may have seemed absurd to most people who were unfamiliar with these ideas. Cayce's treatment was often just as absurd. While his recommendations of changes in diet and emotional attitude seem reasonable today, he was just as likely to prescribe medications that didn't exist, or suggest curing cancer by placing a freshly killed rabbit over the cancerous area.

Sometimes what seemed to be nonexistent medications were actually folk remedies which had fallen out of general use, or Cayce would give an older name for a known remedy ("oil of smoke" turned out to be beechwood creosote, a popular remedy for psoriasis). 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, the efficacy of others is often disputed by the medical community or (justifiably or unjustifiably)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
In a life reading, Cayce described the supposed "past lives" of the client. These readings described the client's present physical, emotional and mental condition in terms of past life experience. Cayce was not above flattering his clients by describing past incarnations as royalty, famous personages, or people at their "spiritual highest".

Business Readings: 747 readings given
For those people whose intentions Cayce judged to be "pure", Cayce would give business readings, including advice on business partners, the stock market, business models, etc. Cayce also founded and guided the A.R.E. (http://edgarcayce.org).

Dream Readings: 630 readings given
Edgar Cayce encouraged everyone to interpret and use his or her own dreams in day-to-day life. A dream reading involved Cayce interpreting the dreams of clients. As he did with readings on many subjects, Cayce would often interrupt the person reading the dream and give an interpretation before the dream had been completely read. He would sometimes fill in parts of dreams that the dreamer had supposedly forgotten. Unlike Jungian or Freudian dream interpretation, Cayce did not emphasize highly the importance of symbols. He said that every individual has his or her own unique 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 one's 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 phenomena. He stated that these paranormal abilities were something anyone could learn.

Mental and Spiritual Readings: 450 readings given
These readings were often short and were Cayce's favorite type of reading when not in his supposed trance state. 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 people, 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 is an urban legend, as is Cayce's claim that he could read any book in a matter of a five minutes by "sleeping on it". He seems to have invented a number of unsubstantiated legends about himself and his childhood over the years. Cayce had a grammar-school education -- roughly the equivalent of high school today. An inveterate bookworm, Cayce had worked at a bookstore starting 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." However, he often did not remember anything from his trance state readings, and thus, although, if his claims were to be taken as truth, he could "sleep on" a book, this information would not be fully accessible in his waking state. It would also appear that he was working out of his subconscious and superconscious minds when he was in a trance state. Some have speculated that in his "readings," Cayce was merely repeating what he had retained from his voluminous reading, enhanced by whatever he was fed by his handlers.

Cayce was never a doctor. He gave instructions on how to prepare and administer various so-called remedies, and invented some "medical machinery," but there is no documentation on whether or not his formulas or devices worked.

His claimed abilities

Abilities that have been claimed for Cayce include:

  • diagnosing and healing people at a distance
  • making diagnoses through astral projection
  • prophesying
  • communicating with the dead
  • providing advice on healing diets
  • accessing the Akashic Records or Book of Life

Cayce himself did not claim to be able to do all these things.

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, for a long time he was reluctant to accept the view he had expressed while in a supposed trance that reincarnation was a reality. (Books such as Frederick Oliver's A Dweller On Two Planets (http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/dtp/) and Marie Corelli's novels were probably easily accessible to Cayce at his bookstore.)

Cayce also claimed while in a supposed trance that the Essenes had believed in reincarnation but that that view was expunged from the Bible following a papal council decision in around 500 AD. [1] (http://www.spiritual-wholeness.org/faqs/reincgen/essrein.htm) Essene belief in reincarnation is debatable, as with ancient Egyptian religion.

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:

A Reading About the Readings in Terms of Religion

One of Cayce's trance statements implies that knowledge gained through his readings is not necessary 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 the teachings of numerous faiths regarding charity and love toward others, people still engage in revenge, bitterness, violence, etc.. "Karmically, wonderful things can happen if one follows the teaching 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'." According to Cayce, 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 and brotherhood. 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.

Disbelief and Criticism

Many skeptics deny that Cayce could have had paranormal abilities. Cayce himself said that not all the information given during "readings" was correct and should be analyzed. He criticized his own organization, the A.R.E [2] (http://edgarcayce.org), on a number of occasions for not doing enough research on the validity of the readings.

When making predictions, Cayce said that any prediction he made was only an educated guess based on the present tendencies and inclinations of people. 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 would convert to Christianity by 1968. His monumental failure to locate the kidnapped son of Charles Lindbergh was well-known to New York police. He and a dowser once went searching buried treasure on the seashore but found 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 point out that Cayce gave himself a "back door" with his statements that not all his information was correct, and by saying that the future was changeable. These are, in fact, common tricks employed by fraudulent psychics.

In addition, although Cayce's secretary Miss Davis allegedly took down what Cayce said, the records of the readings are jumbled and chaotic. There is nothing to distinguish what Cayce himself independently said, what was the information provided in the letters, and what his handlers — physicians, osteopaths and hypnotists — told him. Thus, researchers cannot say that Cayce ever made an accurate diagnosis without knowing anything about the person at the other end. What is known is that by the time he got some of the letters, the client had already died. Yet Cayce went on with his reading for the individual as though still alive.

Critics also cite the vagueness of his language while in his supposed trance state. Martin Gardner gives several examples of this, including a reading Cayce did for his own wife, who had tuberculosis:

[F]rom 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. Mrs. Cayce subsequently died of her illness.

When telling stories of past lives, Cayce would often say he was reading from a particular historical text. Many times, Cayce said the text did not exist any more, which obviously makes it impossible to judge the soundness of the information, or even whether the text ever existed.

Many of his health readings prescribed cures with ingredients that did not exist. Others were folk remedies, some well known to today's herbalists and naturopaths, but Cayce would sometimes describe them using terms that had fallen out of general use. Still other ingredients were completely unknown to either physicians or herbalists. Some were completely worthless; for example, Cayce once recommended breathing the fumes of apple brandy from a charred keg to cure tuberculosis.

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 Cayce followers have had 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. Additionally, on 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, those who accept that Cayce was unconscious during his "trance" state generally agree that Cayce was not likely an intentional fraud.

Final words

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 throughout the world.

See also

External links



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