The “Sleeping Prophet” and Founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment
In May of 1889, when Edgar Cayce was just 12 years old, while he was alone reading the Bible in the woods, he was visited by what he perceived to be an angel who told him that his prayers were being answered. Then, she asked him what he wanted most of all. Although young Edgar was frightened, he told the being that he wanted to help others, especially sick children. Right then and there, Edgar Cayce vowed to become a Christain missionary, spreading the word of the Lord to help save the world.
The very next day, Edgar’s father received a complaint from the boy’s school teacher. So, the frustrated man ruthlessly tested his son for spelling, but Edgar just wasn’t getting it. His dad eventually even knocked him out of his chair because of it. At that point, Cayce heard the voice of the aethereal winged-woman yet again. She told him that if he would just sleep a little that the otherworldly beings could help him. As such, young Edgar pleaded to his father for just a moment’s rest and put his head down on the spelling book.
After his father woke him up minutes later, Edgar miraculously knew all of the answers. In fact, he could repeat anything in the book. Eventually, he learned to use all books that way. By the time he was 15, he was the best student in the class. On being questioned about it, Cayce told his teacher that he saw pictures of the pages from the books in his mind’s eye. Not long after this, he was struck on the base of the spine by a ball at school, after which he began to act very strangely, and eventually was put on bed rest.
It was soon discovered that Cayce somehow exhibited an ability to diagnose injuries and illnesses while in a kind of trance. Moreover, based on what he instructed his family to do Edgar was healed. Then, with only an eighth-grade education and his profound intuition, Edgar left the family farm to try and master his psychic talents and earn a living in whatever way he could. Cayce soon developed the ability to see auras, speak to the dead, and hear the voices of angels. In line with this, he agonized over whether these psychic powers were in fact spiritually delivered from the highest source or not.
In 1900, Cayce was struck by a case of severe laryngitis that resulted in a total loss of speech. Then, a hypnotist named Mr. Hart heard about Edgar Cayce’s condition and offered to attempt a cure. The experiment was conducted in the office of Manning Brown, a local throat specialist. Cayce’s voice returned while in a hypnotic trance but disappeared again upon awakening. So, Hart tried a posthypnotic suggestion that his voice would continue to function after the trance, but this proved unsuccessful. In the end, Hart gave up because Cayce would not go into the third stage of hypnosis.
Later, a visiting New York hypnotist found the same impediment but, suggested that Cayce should be prompted to take over his own case while in the second stage of hypnosis. Eventually, a hypnotist there in Kentucky named Al Layne offered to help Cayce restore his voice. Layne suggested that Cayce describe the nature of his condition and the cure for it while in a hypnotic trance. Cayce described his own ailment from a first-person plural point of view, using “we” instead of the singular “I” because the otherworldly entities were helping him.
According to the reading, his voice loss could easily be corrected by increasing the blood flow to his voice box. The odd thing was that these were medical terms with which Cayce was not familiar. Regardless, Layne suggested that the blood flow should be increased and as a result of this, Cayce’s face became flushed with blood, and both his chest and throat turned bright red. After about twenty minutes, Cayce, still in a trance, declared that the treatment was over. On awakening, his voice remained normal, but he couldn’t remember anything that had happened.
Although subsequent relapses did occur, they were treated by Layne in the same way, and eventually, Edgar Cayce was cured. Layne had read of similar hypnotic cures by the Marquis de Puysegur, a follower of Franz Mesmer, and he was keen to explore the limits of the healing knowledge that was involved with these trance states. He asked Edgar Cayce to describe Layne’s own ailments and suggest cures, and found the results to be both accurate and effective. Thus, Layne regarded the ability as authentic clairvoyance.
At that point, Layne suggested that Cayce offer his psychic healing to the general public. However, Cayce was rather reluctant since he had no idea what he prescribed while in a trance, and whether the remedies were actually safe or not. Still, he finally agreed, but only on the condition that the readings would be free. Edgar Cayce also told Layne that he didn’t want to know anything personal about the patients because it was irrelevant. So, together, they began to offer free treatments to the townspeople.
Edgar Cayce’s method consisted of a self-imposed hypnotic trance that induced clairvoyance, and word spread fast about what he could do while “asleep” on the couch. Reports of Cayce’s abilities even appeared in the newspapers, which inspired postal inquiries. The way his powers worked, Cayce could be just as effective using a letter from an individual as with the person being present in the room with him. He could diagnose the physical and mental conditions of anyone and then provide a remedy, given only the person’s name and present location.
In 1907, a reporter contacted Cayce, and he explained that he somehow had the ability to easily go into an intuitive trance whenever he wanted to. Cayce told the reporter that this was different from how he went to sleep normally like everyone else and that it happened through his subconscious mind. Since he still didn’t understand the source of his psychic powers, Cayce was very worried about the ethical ramifications of what he was doing. For all that he knew the angel that he was listening to could be a demon in disguise.
There was obviously a lot for him to consider. After all, he never even finished high school, let alone learned how to be a doctor. Thus, Edgar Cayce, and especially his wife Gertrude, still didn’t give enough therapeutic priority to the readings, so they lost a child due to this reticence. However, when Gertrude became fatally ill with tuberculosis, they used the readings after the doctor had given up. Their faith had been restored, and miraculously the treatment cured her.
Shortly after this, in 1912, Cayce, whose everyday conscious mind was not aware during the psychic readings, discovered that his business partner, a homeopath named Mr. Ketchum, had not been honest about them. That is to say, Ketchum had used the readings to gamble for personal financial gain. As a consequence of this, Cayce immediately quit the company. Then, he moved his family to Selma, Alabama.
Cayce’s spiritual work grew in volume as his fame grew, but he found it hard to support his family. So, he asked for voluntary donations so that he could practice full-time. He continued to work in a trance state with a hypnotist all his life. His wife and eldest son had replaced Layne in this role. Along with this, his stenographer, Gladys Davis, recorded all of his readings in shorthand. At one point, a cotton merchant offered Cayce a whopping hundred dollars a day for his readings about the daily outcomes in the cotton market.
Being the kind of man that he was, despite his poor finances, Cayce refused the merchant’s offer. Cayce was beginning to understand that his mind became clouded when his powers were exploited by corrupt businessmen. These tainted readings left him depleted of energy, distraught, and unsatisfied. The bottom line was that whenever clients profited from Cayce’s predictions, he would get a migraine or some other form of illness. So, he decided to only use his gift to heal people. He vowed to only ever be a conscientious clairvoyant in the service of the forces of good.
In 1923, a man named Arthur Lammers persuaded Edgar Cayce to give readings on philosophical subjects. He was told by the man that while in his trance state, Cayce spoke of Lammers’ past lives. This was interesting because reincarnation was something that Lammers believed in. However, Cayce questioned his stenographer about what he had said in his trance state and was unconvinced. Still, Lammers was certain of the truth of what he had heard. So, he persisted.
Nonetheless, Edgar Cayce remained unconvinced that he had been referring to the doctrine of reincarnation. He was not persuaded by Lammers’ argument one bit. The thing is that Cayce didn’t recall it at the time, but twelve years earlier he had actually alluded to reincarnation. Technically speaking, in reading 4841–1, which was given on April 22nd of 1911, Cayce referred to the soul as being “transmigrated”.
Ultimately, though, Lammers kept asking Cayce to come to Ohio to pursue metaphysical truth via the readings until he finally agreed. His wife Gertrude was dubious but interested in the idea of going to Dayton, and Edgar sort of feared what he might discover there, but they still went. Sure enough, Edgar Cayce’s subconscious mind turned out to be just as fluent in the language of metaphysics as it was with the language of anatomy and medicine.
Unfortunately for him, Cayce produced a great deal of information, which he was forced to try and reconcile with Christianity. Cayce’s conscience bothered him severely over this conflict. He almost completely ended his channeling sessions as a result of this, and then once again Edgar Cayce lost his voice. The thing was that during a reading for himself, Cayce was informed that if he was no longer going to be a medium, then his mission in this life was complete.
So, in 1923, Cayce used his knowledge of the Bible to convince his family that it agreed with reincarnation and other mystical teachings. Thus, he was able to remain a clairvoyant. The remedies that were channeled often involved the use of alternative forms of medicine including electrotherapy, ultraviolet light, and gemstone magic. This was foundational for the New Age movement that would emerge in the coming generations. As such, his strange new remedies were coming under the scrutiny of the American Medical Association.
In response to this, Cayce felt that it was time to legitimize the operations with the aid of licensed medical practitioners. During a reading, in 1925, Cayce was instructed to move to Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was informed that the sand’s crystals there would have curative properties to promote rapid healing. This is when his career really took off. At this point in his life, Cayce began the institutions that survived him. By this time Edgar was a well-respected full-time professional psychic with a small number of employees and volunteers working with him.
This was the period of his life when the readings began to involve far more esoteric themes. As such, Morton Blumenthal, a young man who worked in the stock exchange in New York with his trader brother, became very interested in the readings. He even offered to finance the operation. Following this, in 1927, the Association of National Investigations was incorporated in the state of Virginia. The year after that, Dr. Moseley Brown, head of the psychology department at Washington and Lee University, became convinced of the validity of the readings and joined the Association.
On October the 11th of 1928, the dedication ceremonies for a new psychic hospital were held. The first patient was admitted the very next day. Cayce had even hoped to produce a compendium that could be used by the medical profession. A chemist named Dr. Bisley used psychic knowledge to produce medicines. He collaborated with Cayce to produce an absorbable form of iodine. As part of all of this, the substances used at the hospital included oils, salts, herbs, minerals, and even gold solution.
The aim of the readings was to produce a healthy body, by removing the cause of the specific ailment. Subsequently, readings would indicate if the patient was properly recovering. Unfortunately, on February 26th of 1931, during the Great Depression, they closed down the Association. Then, Edgar Cayce removed the files of the readings from the hospital and took them home. After that, Cayce turned his attention to more spiritual teachings. His friends and family asked him how they could become psychic, and out of this came an eleven-year discourse.
Cayce relayed to them that the purpose of life is not to become psychic but to simply become a more spiritually aware and loving person. The readings became about the nature of synchronicity, the purpose of dreams, developing intuition, the Akashic record, soul mates, and many other esoteric subjects. In June of 1931, sixty-one people attended a meeting to carry on the work and form a new organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment. By the following month, it was incorporated. Then, Edgar’s son Hugh proposed that they develop a stock in trade. They even built a library of research into psychic phenomena.
The agreement was that Edgar Cayce would do two readings a day. The Association accepted this, and Hugh Cayce soon started a monthly bulletin for Association members. The first annual congress was then held in June of 1932. Meticulous records were kept of everything that went on in the readings including the attitudes and routines of Edgar Cayce. Everything was then checked with the subjects of the readings, most of whom were not present during the reading, and the data was published in a study entitled “100 Cases of Clairvoyance”.
Of course, the response from the academic community was that none of the experiments were performed under test conditions. So, Hugh continued to build files of case histories, parallel studies in psychic phenomena, and research readings for the study groups. Members even raised a building fund for an office, library, and vault, which they erected between 1940 and 1941 as a single unit added on to the Cayce residence. This is how the philosophy of Cayce was compiled. In line with this, A.R.E. was not to function in opposition to any religious institution.
In 1943 Edgar Cayce coped with the growing demand for his readings by increasing them from two to four and then six per day. The problem was that he was only sanctioned by the spirits to perform one in the morning and one in the evening. Being unable to say “no” to anyone, he increased the frequency of his readings to eight per day to try to make an impression on the endless pile of requests. This took a toll on his health as it was emotionally draining and often fatigued him. His efforts to do too much good were killing him.
Once again, his gift turned from a blessing to a curse. In just one year, from June of 1943 to June of 1944, there were 1,385 readings taken, and by August of 1944 Cayce had collapsed from the strain. When he gave a reading on this situation, the instructions were to rest until he was well or dead. He and Gertrude tried, but it was too little too late. They quickly went away to the mountains of Virginia, but Cayce suffered a stroke in September of 1944. In the end, the world’s greatest clairvoyant died on January 3rd of 1945, leaving behind a legacy like no other.