The Early Years
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.
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
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. 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.
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. Edgar fell
asleep and heard the voice from the day before saying, "Sleep and we
will help you." 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. 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
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
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.
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
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.
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." 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.
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
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.
That is just as well; Cayce was an abysmal failure as a prophet and a
false prophet by biblical standards.
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".
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.
Research and Enlightenment
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.
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. There is no way to estimate the spiritual darkness
spread through the influence of the A.R.E.
Most people "get
into" Cayce through reading books on the occult or prophecy or through
reading biographies on Cayce.
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.
What are your thoughts on this article?
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.
8. Edmond Gruss, Ouija Board, Doorway to
the Occult, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 1994.
9. Gruss, 181.
10. Sugrue, 210.
11. Ibid., 305.
12. William J. Peterson, Those Curious New
Cults,Keats Publishing, 1982, p. 46.
©1996 Probe Ministries.
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