The sleeping prophet.
As I laid on my bed my mind raced wildly. How incredible it was that I had found the secrets of life before I even turned twenty! I knew that in my hands was a book that provided answers to theological and philosophical questions that no one, including my parents, had been able to explain.
I had been reading the classic new age book, There is a River, which tells the life story and religious philosophy of America's most prominent psychic, Edgar Cayce. The teachings of Cayce incorporated Christianity, eastern religion, evolution, and reincarnation in a most attractive package, and even spoke glowingly of Jesus, the Master and Pattern for humankind. My agnosticism melted into belief and I knew I had somehow discovered a vein of truth that explained all my previous questions and doubts, and made sense of a universe that had before seemed inexplicable. I was elated!
Six years later I would drop my large collection of Cayce books in a fifty-five gallon drum and set them ablaze.
As we look into Cayce's unusual life it is necessary to deal with some of the bizarre and unlikely experiences that made him the man he was. Of these experiences we are faced with four different perspectives:
- Cayce was deluded, hallucinatory, and the entire phenomenon sprang from a psychologically unbalanced individual.
- Cayce was a fraud who lied about his past and gave his "prophecies" out of his own imagination for his own gain.
- Cayce was a genuinely gifted psychic, who tapped into the great unconscious mind (or Mind) for the benefit of mankind.
- Cayce was a vessel for malicious demonic spirits, who used him to foist the same insidious lie upon humanity that their master had first used: "You shall not surely die."
Regarding the first alternative, Cayce's record at providing healing remedies was so good, I doubt that this was a mere psychological phenomena.
Having read most of Cayce's writings, I have concluded that Cayce was no fraud. I don't think he was cunning enough, and I think he exhibited a degree of sincerity incompatible with a deliberate fraud. Furthermore, he had come from such a fundamental Christian heritage it is doubtful that he would have subconsciously manufactured the philosophical teachings which so exactly corresponded with eastern religion.
As an evangelical Christian I cannot accept the notion that Cayce was somehow tapping into a "universal consciousness." He certainly was not in touch with the mind of God, for his teachings are diametrically opposed to the cardinal Christian doctrines of justification by faith, the deity of Christ, heaven, hell, and the reality that "it is given unto man once to die, and after that the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
This leaves me with the last perspective. I am convinced that Cayce was indeed a vehicle through whom lying demonic spirits spoke, a simple man deceived by the father of lies, who led tens of thousands of gullible people down the garden path. For this reason I do not doubt some of his incredible experiences and the apparent miracles that accompanied his life. The phenomenon, to my mind, is not suspect; the origins most definitely are.
The Makings of a Psychic
Edgar Cayce was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1877 into a solid Methodist family. The one feature that made the Cayce's a little different was that both his father and grandfather exhibited certain psychic tendencies. His grandfather was known as a "water witch" who used a forked branch to divine for water. His dad seemed to possess a remarkable attractiveness to snakes that would be drawn to him or even to his hats. If he put his hat down in a field, he would often find a snake curled around the brim.
Although attending a perfectly respectable Methodist church, young Edgar seemed destined to be different, almost from the start. As a child he would see "the little people" who would dance about him freely, but disappear when others came around. He met an angelic female creature in the woods one day who asked him what he would most like to do. After telling her that he would like to help children and others, she promised that he would, one day. Up to that point Cayce had been an indifferent student, but he found afterwards that he could sleep on a book and would instantly know everything in the book, even to being able to quote exact paragraphs and page numbers.
As a young man Cayce developed a sore throat that worsened to the point where he could hardly speak. After months of this, Al Layne, a local osteopath and hypnotist convinced Cayce to allow him to try to help. During hypnosis, Layne asked Cayce to look into his own body and tell him what the problem was. Cayce replied that the throat muscles were paralyzed, but went on to recommend a cure: he stated that an increase of blood to the area would do the trick. Layne gave the hypnotic command, and soon Cayce's throat turned bright red. After about fifteen minutes like this, the throat turned back to its normal color, Cayce woke up out of hypnosis, and was completely cured.
Thus began Cayce's strange ministry to the sick. Before long he was diagnosing and curing others as he had himself. As time went by his fame spread and people came from near and far in hope of a cure. And indeed, many were cured. Cayce would often prescribe unorthodox remedies, and unheard of combinations of medicines and herbs, but the results were amazingly good. At times Cayce would not only tell the inquirers what medicine to take, but would tell them where they could find such a medicine, even describing the store, the particular shelf, and the specific spot on the shelf!
Today such an individual would not last a week, as the medical authorities would shut him down in a New York minute, but in those simpler times, and with his excellent record, Cayce was able to operate pretty much without restraint. His method never varied. He would have a light snack, lay down and will himself to sleep while someone conducting the "reading" would give him the name and address of the person needing assistance. After a brief time, he would announce, "We have the entity," and he would begin to describe their physical condition, along with the cause and cure of their particular malady. Sometimes the person would be in the room with him, at other times the individual might be hundreds of miles away. Even at long distances Cayce would somehow locate them, evaluate their condition, and prescribe a cure while they went about their business.
From Healer to Mystic
For a little over twenty years, from 1901 to 1922, Cayce's readings were limited to the realm of physical healing and general moral advice. Little he said would have been at variance with the Bible. Only his strange method, and his previous occultic experiences might have given one pause. On the surface Cayce was a fine Christian man. He read the Bible through every year, taught Sunday School, lived a respectable life, and stayed true to his wife.
Things changed dramatically in 1923. At one of his readings a man named Arthur Lammers wanted to know more than just health matters. Lammers had an interest in philosophy and eastern religion, and posed questions to the sleeping Cayce about astrology, reincarnation, theosophy, and all sorts of mystical themes. The sleeping prophet gave answers that were totally at odds with orthodox Christian beliefs, stating the reality of reincarnation and affirming many other occult practices and beliefs.
When Cayce woke from his sleep, he was shocked. The answers he had given were foreign to everything he had believed since boyhood. To his credit he began to wonder if he were not being used by a malicious spirit to disseminate falsehoods. He told 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."
Over the next few days Cayce was torn between a desire to help others and a fear that he might be an instrument in the hands of Satan. One night he stood alone on a bridge and contemplated his dilemma. The thought of how much good he had done and how many people he had helped finally persuaded him. He decided that this gift he had must be from God or it wouldn't have been so helpful to so many. He determined to carry on with his readings.
Over the next 22 years Cayce became more known for his mystical "life readings" and prophecies than for his health readings. This simple Kentucky photographer grew in stature to become America's foremost psychic of his day. He often attributed people's problems to issues that had arisen in a previous life, and wove reincarnation into nearly everything he told people. He spoke freely about God, but framed God in New Age terms as being "the collective mind," making Him an impersonal sum of all things, a great energy force to be tapped into, rather than a personal God to be loved and cherished.
Cayce redefined Christ's atonement as the "at-one-ment" by which he meant that Jesus came to teach us how to attune ourselves to the higher power. Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross was thrown out; Jesus simply became our pattern — a highly evolved soul who came to show us how to tap into "the great universal mind." The new birth became meaningless. Why would you need to be born again when you have hundreds if not thousands of lives to get it right?
Cayce's legacy is a sad one indeed. Coming from Christian roots Cayce at times worried over the origin of his gift and the effect his philosophy might have on others. He once said:
"The power was given to me without explanation 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..."
His waking mind was that of a simple, decent man who had never heard of the New Age or studied the religions of the east. But in a trance he became transformed, describing people he had never met, prescribing medicines he had no knowledge of, and espousing philosophies utterly alien to his experience. As the years went by, the waking Cayce began to conform more and more to the sleeping one. By the time he died, he had left his Christian roots far behind, and had become, unwittingly, a forerunner for the New Age gurus that started infecting our nation in the Sixties.
On a personal note, I found my way out of Cayce's deceptive philosophy through the simple reading of the Bible. Cayce had couched much of his mystical views in Christian terms, attempting to prove his points by stretching and twisting Bible verses. As I read Cayce, I decided to read the Bible for myself to see what it had to say.
As I read through the Scriptures I fell in love with the Person of Jesus Christ. The more I read, the more impressed I was with Jesus. For a season I tried to hold Cayce's views and Jesus' and Paul's together. But the more I read the more I realized that there was an enormous chasm that no rationalizing could bridge between Cayce's "universal mind" and Jesus' Heavenly Father.
Thus the fifty-five gallon drum. Decades later I have no doubt that I made the right choice.