The Early Years
In this essay we will examine the life and work of Edgar Cayce, often called "the sleeping prophet." He was a demonically inspired prophet and healer very popular in the sixties and seventies. Today his influence is stronger than ever as he helped pave the way for the popularity of "channeling."
Edgar Cayce was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1877. His family was ordinary in most ways, except for a current of demonic dabbling and occultism among the males. His grandfather was a water witch and unerringly accurate in dousing for water with the forked limbs of a witch hazel tree. Many of his acquaintances held that he was also able to make tables and brooms "dance." Edgar's father was an unwitting Pied Piper of snakes. Apparently snakes loved him and followed him around and even wrapped their bodies around his hat brim if he put his hat down while working in the fields. It unnerved him so much that he moved from the farm into the city and eventually became a justice of the peace.(1)
Edgar Cayce's childhood was very unique. As a boy he exhibited an occultic tendency to see and hear things that others didn't see. For example, he had "little playmates" who disappeared when others came around. They always grew with him and stayed his size, but after the death of a neighbor girl who could also see them, they seemed smaller. He realized that he was growing up and would soon lose their companionship.(2)
As a young boy Edgar attended the Christian church and wanted to be a minister. He resolved to read the Bible through once for each year of his life. By age 13 he was working on his thirteenth reading in his favorite place, a playhouse by a creek in the woods, when he heard a humming sound. He looked up to see a woman in brilliant white clothing with wings on her back standing in front of him.(3) She said, "Your prayers have been answered, little boy. Tell me what it is you want most of all, so that I may give it to you." Though very frightened, he told her, "most of all I would like to be helpful to other people, especially children." Upon that the woman vanished.(4)
The next day in school Edgar couldn't master his spelling words. His brother Lucian, the school teacher, felt that the boy needed more drilling, so he tutored him that evening at home. Still Edgar couldn't spell the words. When boy said he was tired and laid his head on the spelling book, Lucian went into the kitchen to get a drink of water.(5) Edgar fell asleep and heard the voice from the day before saying, "Sleep and we will help you."(6) When Lucian returned, the boy had slept several minutes. He then woke Edgar up and immediately tested him on the words. To Lucian's surprise Edgar knew those words perfectly as well as any words anywhere in the book. Edgar then began to tell Lucian which words were on which pages and even what pictures corresponded to what page numbers.(7) Apparently the female "angel" (unheard of in the Bible) was a deceiver from the evil realm and had given him the occultic ability called "remote viewing."
These events and the things that followed them clearly suggest that Edgar Cayce had inherited through his family demonic spiritual powers and occultic tendencies. Now we will focus on the young man's development into a psychic, or more accurately, a spiritualistic healer.
The Development of a Spiritualistic Healer
Edgar Cayce's involvement in healing was just as strange as the other events in his life. It began at school when he was struck from behind with a baseball. He acted unusual the rest of the school day and in the evening when he returned home. When he went to bed he asked his parents to make a poultice of corn meal, onions, and herbs. They thought it extraordinary but did as he asked and applied the poultice to the back of his head as per his instructions. When he woke the next morning he was back to normal but remembered nothing that had happened since being struck by the baseball. His family was amazed. This was the beginning of his cures--the first one on himself!
The second stage in his healing journey also included self diagnosis. It happened after he developed a throat problem which prevented his speaking above a whisper. The condition persisted for some months and nothing was able to help. Finally, "Dr." Al Layne, a local correspondence-school trained hypnotist and osteopath, convinced Cayce to let him try to help. Cayce stretched out and put himself to sleep. Then Layne suggested to the unconscious Cayce that he look into his own body and discover the source of the problem. He did and soon replied that the throat muscles were paralyzed and recommended increasing the circulation of blood into the area by mental suggestion. Layne took the cue and made the hypnotic suggestion. Soon afterward Cayce's throat turned bright red. After about 15 minutes, the throat area returned to the normal pink color. He then woke up and spoke clearly for the first time in months.
The next day Cayce put himself to sleep and analyzed Dr. Layne's stomach problems. Cayce's diagnosis corresponded exactly with what various doctors had told Layne, but his recommended treatments were quite different. Once awake Cayce was as amazed as Layne because he had never heard of the medicines he had prescribed in his sleep nor could he even pronounce some of the medical terms he had rattled off in his trance. This is all the more amazing since Cayce had only an elementary school education. None of this mattered to Layne who said that if these recommendations worked, their fortunes were made!
They did work, but Cayce never made his fortune. He started giving these "health readings" regularly in 1901. In the beginning he worked as the healer for Dr. Layne. Layne would look into a medical need, get the facts on a case, and give these details to Cayce. Then he would put himself under and speak the diagnosis to Layne who recorded it. Layne would then present the "prescription" or recommended treatment to the patient as his own. But word got out as to what was going on, and Cayce's fame spread. As it did, the people and the questions came in from further and further away. Cayce was "well packaged," to use a modern concept. Many who would ordinarily never have considered visiting a psychic and would have labeled such powers "of the Devil" were lulled into a false sense of complacency by Cayce's gentle demeanor, lifelong church involvement, and daily Bible reading. In truth, he was ultimately far more dangerous than he appeared.
The Healer's Fame Spreads
Cayce began his readings in 1901. Two years later, after a six- year courtship, he married his sweetheart, Gertrude Evans. She was very supportive of the "work," as they called the readings. They were usually not paid for the readings and were often on the verge of poverty. Living that way wasn't easy, but because they both believed that the readings were God's special calling for Edgar-- his life's work--they persisted. They were gratified by the fact that people were clearly being healed physically--usually people that other methods and medical authorities had been unable to help. Though Cayce held several different jobs to provide for his family, photography served as his principal financial resource. He returned to it again and again.
At this point we need to examine more closely Cayce's health readings. His usual method was to put himself to sleep and have someone read to him the name and address of the person needing a reading. He did not need to have the person present; even if he or she were hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away, he could "find" the person. Shortly after putting himself "under" and being told the name and address of the person needing the reading, the sleeping Cayce would say, "We have the entity" as if looking directly at the person in question. Notice the word we; it hints at the presence of a spirit or spirits. His inner sight was apparently better than scopes, x-rays, or cat scans because not only did he visually observe the problem, but he also "received" the desired course of treatment. While still "sleeping," he then described the medical or psychological problem to whoever was assisting him and gave recommendations for healing.
Cayce was able to help eye problems, injuries that led to complications, cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, gall stones, kidney stones, hay fever, mental and psychological problems, digestive problems, epilepsy, hemorrhoids, ulcers, psoriasis, and countless other conditions. His remedies usually involved one or more of the following: natural foods, physical massage, various oil rubs, chiropractic adjustments, ointments of various kinds, medicines that were common, or those that were rare, in disuse, or forgotten. Sometimes the treatments were very messy, inconvenient, and time consuming, but Cayce's followers maintained that his healing average was close to 90% for those who persisted in following his advice.
He frequently described how to make certain medicines and poultices and once was even able to "find" in his mind's eye a certain medicine high on a drugstore shelf behind other bottles. This was in another state! He could "see it" and was able to explain to others how to find it. This practice is sometimes called "remote viewing" and is related to astral projection or soul travel. Though such "viewing" episodes occasionally occur naturally (because of stress or sickness), they are usually associated with occultism. This ability gives even more concreteness to the term seer than we usually think of. It also reveals a definite linkage with his ability to see and read (with covers closed) whole pages in his school books following his vision of the shining lady with wings at age thirteen.
From 1901 to 1922 Edgar Cayce's readings were aimed almost exclusively at finding medical answers for hurting people. Though his motives were admirable, his methods were suspect biblically. There is an uncomfortable similarity here to what mediums and channelers do--practices expressly forbidden in Scripture (Lev. 19:31). In spite of his biblical knowledge, he was not sensitive enough to the parallels between what he was doing and occultic practices. Perhaps he was so enamored by the healings and so thrilled by the attention and admiration that he was unwilling to question seriously the source of his power early in his career. This failing, seemingly innocuous at the beginning of his health readings, became very critical when he began the "life readings" a much more blatant and dangerous spiritual threat.
The Life Readings
Cayce's biographers generally attribute his healing powers to an ability to tap into what they called the "Universal Mind" or "Universal Consciousness." However, the alert Christian who knows the Bible, and something of the spiritual realm, can easily pick up from Edgar Cayce's biographies another explanation of his powers-- evidences of demonic activity in his life. It was probably more difficult for Cayce himself to see these clues. Nevertheless, Cayce was aware enough to be concerned at times about the spiritual source of all of these powers and strange events, and he occasionally expressed these concerns. Usually, however, he expressed these concerns within his family and was always assured that everything was okay.
Up until 1923 there were two sides to Cayce. There was the Cayce who was orthodox: a church going, Bible reading, Sunday school teaching man who would have steadfastly defended Christ as the unique Son of God, the Bible as the Word of God, the reality of heaven and hell, and so on. Then there was the Cayce who had a family heritage of psychic abilities, a person who saw visions, heard voices, and who performed trance- style medical readings that looked suspiciously like what mediums do.
Somehow all these disparate beliefs were held together in one person until Cayce did his first "life reading" in 1923. For 22 years his readings had been almost exclusively devoted to medical or health issues. But after Arthur Lammers asked Cayce to do a reading for him in 1923 things changed. What Lammers did was probe the sleeping Cayce about astrology, mysticism, reincarnation, yoga, alchemy, theosophy, the cabala, the mystery religions, previous lives, and many other things related to the occult. When the reading was over and Cayce was able to read the answers he had given to the questions put to him by Lammers, he was amazed and frightened. These new readings supported all sorts of occultic beliefs. Cayce said to Lammers:
But what you've been telling me today, and what the readings have been saying, is foreign to all I've believed and been taught, and all I've taught others, all of my life. If ever the Devil was going to play a trick on me, this would be it.(8)
Cayce was deeply concerned about all this and especially about reincarnation. His instincts, trained by years of reading the Bible through, resisted. "But instead of following this intuition, Cayce accepted Lammer's explanations on reincarnation and other matters and turned away from a literal interpretation of the Bible. Cayce's faith in the readings completed the transition."(9) He believed so strongly in the truth of the health readings, that he reasoned (falsely) the new information from what he called "life readings" must also be true.
Lammers was able to convince Cayce that reincarnation was compatible with the Bible, and soon Cayce had swallowed it all. Once Cayce embraced reincarnation, he accepted many other occultic beliefs. In fact, reincarnation became so central to what Cayce came to hold that his whole belief system would totally crumble if reincarnation were proven to be false. Like most cultists and occultists, Cayce came to believe that Jesus was not the unique Son of God. He also claimed that Jesus was reincarnated 30 times before He became "the Christ."
An Evaluation of Edgar Cayce and His Legacy
Cayce did over 16,000 readings between 1901 and his death in 1945. The first 22 years were almost exclusively given over to health readings. After 1923 he added life readings, or perhaps more accurately, "past lives readings," and came to accept reincarnation and many occultic beliefs.
Evaluation: Cayce was a very effective healer and helped many people physically. We must ask, however, how many Christians and non-Christians paid a price spiritually for their spiritualistic healing and how many non-Christians never came to saving faith because of Cayce's influence.
There is not been enough time in this essay to deal with Cayce's prophecies such as California falling in the sea, New York sinking beneath the waves, and the lost continent of Atlantis rising out of the ocean, and so on.
Evaluation: That is just as well; Cayce was an abysmal failure as a prophet and a false prophet by biblical standards.
Personal: Deceived and Deceiving
Reading Cayce's biographies reveals that no one could have set a better trap for a sincere, but naive, young man. Satan gave Cayce enough rope to hang himself. In a statement intended to explain his dilemma, Cayce said: "The power was given to me without explanation. I've tried to discover what to do with it. It's been hit and miss, trial and error....it was just an odd trait that was useful in medicine.... That's what I always thought, and against this I put the idea that the Devil might be tempting me to do his work by operating through me when I was conceited enough to think God had given me special power" (emphasis added).(10)
Evaluation: But Cayce chose not to pursue this line of thought. Satan had to wait 22 years to turn Cayce into a unabashed promoter of the doctrines of demons and a rejector of Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God, but it was worth the wait. Fascination with Cayce has pulled many naive dabblers deep into occultism.
Association for Research and Enlightenment
The organization Cayce founded, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, or A.R.E., to house his readings and research medical cures, has become a hotbed for practically every occultic idea imaginable.
Evaluation: The A.R.E. and Cayce's life readings offer a theology that is basically a revised version of the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia, India, and Greece with a hint of Christian flavoring for palatability.(11) There is no way to estimate the spiritual darkness spread through the influence of the A.R.E.
Books and Biographies
Most people "get into" Cayce through reading books on the occult or prophecy or through reading biographies on Cayce.
Evaluation: We advise people not to read these works unless there is a real need to do so because they are very deceptive, dangerous, and have been spiritually harmful to many curiosity- seekers.
A passage from Those Curious New Cults captures the tragic legacy of this well-meaning but misguided man:
For a good portion of his life, Cayce was a commercial photographer. He understood very well the mechanics of his trade. A blank film is inserted, the shutter is snapped, and then the film is developed in the dark. The nature of a photograph, whether it is a formal family picture or pornography, depends not on the film but on the photographer who uses the camera. During his trances, Cayce's mind was like a blank film that would be developed in the dark. I believe that Cayce allowed his camera to get into the wrong hands.(12)
1. Thomas Sugrue, There Is A River: The Story of Edgar Cayce (New York: Dell, a new Dell edition, 1961), 14.
2. Ibid., 38-39.
3. Jess Stern, Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 26-27.
4. Sugrue, 27.
5. Ibid., 23.
6. Stern, 27.
7. Sugrue, 23-24.
9. Gruss, 181.
10. Sugrue, 210.
11. Ibid., 305.
12. William J. Petersen, Those Curious New Cults, 46.