Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877 - 1945) was born near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, raised on a farm, and as a young man became a photographer in Selma, Alabama. He is best known for his claimed psychic abilities. He would tell people that, as a young boy, he stunned his parents by being able to sleep on any book and then know the complete contents. This story has no evidence.

Cayce was called "the sleeping prophet" as he closed his eyes, seemingly in a trance as he did his "readings."

Table of contents
1 Illiterate?
2 His presumed abilities
3 His readings
4 Skeptics respond
5 Final words
6 External Links
7 References

Illiterate?

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 was quite well read, and was a smart man; the Skeptic's Dictionary (references) calls him a "voracious reader," though much of what he read was "occult and osteopathic literature."

His presumed abilities

Some of the abilities Cayce is reported to have had include:

His readings

To achieve what he said was the proper state of mind for his abilities, Cayce rested daily on a couch with his eyes closed, where he would sleep, as if in a trance. Once in that state he could reply calmly to questions asked by those present in the room. This daily sleep session was called a "reading". Over a period of 43 years 14,000 of his readings were recorded on paper by an assistant (at first his wife).

Whilst the great bulk of the early readings concerned medical diagnoses and associated treatments (where his approach was holistic), it was soon realised that Cayce apparently had wide and deep abilities (during trance) and later readings range through many issues including the structure of reality, reincarnation e.t.c.. 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 opinion (expressed in trance) that reincarnation was a reality. To some extent the circle was squared for him when 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.

Skeptics respond

Many doubt Cayce's claims, noting times when his predictions proved inaccurate. He predicted that 1933 would be a good year, when it was one of the worst of the Great Depression, and 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.

Skeptics also cite the supposed vagueness in his language while using his psychic abilities. Martin Gardner cites an example of a Cayce reading from when Cayce's wife had tuberculosis:

.... 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." But what of all the words he used that were not "hits?"

Cayce was also the first medical "authority" to recommend laetrile as a cure for cancer. Laetrile contains highly toxic cyanide and has been proven inffective as a cancer cure.

In fairness to Cayce, he was likely not a conscious fraud such as Uri Geller, and honestly believed he had a gift, but he is considered a fraud, if a well-meaning one.

Final words

The subject matter of many Cayce readings would later become commonly known practices 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.

External Links

References

  • There is a River, Thomas Sugrue, A.R.E Press, 1997, 382 pages ISBN 0876043759;
  • An American Prophet, Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, Riverhead Books, 2000, ISBN 1-57322-139-2