The story of Edgar Cayce properly belongs in the history of hypnosis. Cayce had the uncanny ability of putting himself asleep at will and speaking in an authoritative voice on subjects far beyond the range of his normal knowledge. He was not even an avid reader of books. All he needed was the subject to be discussed, or the inquiring person's name, address, and whereabouts, a conductor to make suggestions and ask the questions, and a stenographer to take it all down. Almost evey day for forty-two years he went to sleep and answered questions covering an immense range of subject matter. He could do this at any time, any place. There were no darkened rooms, turbans, incense, crystal balls, or paying audiences.
Persons from all walks of life came to him for help or advise. Among them were a movie producer, an actress, a top steel magnate, a U.S. Senator, a Vice-President of the United States; parents, the sick, the lame, the disturbed. His strange gift of clairvoyance has never been duplicated in modern times, although a few other psychics have proved a measure of ability beyond any doubt.
The Cayce records are unique. Twenty million words from an unconscious mind is not a commonplace. If they can be believed, new frontiers wait to be explored. Clairvoyance, clairaudience, dreams, hypnotism, point the way to a better understanding of the history and depth of the human mind and soul. A challenging field lies before man in his search for truth and the meaning of human existence in earth.
Cayce was born on a farm near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1877. A poor student, he received no more than a grammar school education, and eventually took up photography as a trade. His psychic powers were accidentally discovered in 1901, when he was twenty-four. He caught a cold and suddenly lost his voice. After a year of numerous and unsuccessful medical treatments, he became resigned to a life of rasping whispers.
About this time hypnotism was enjoying a fad throughout the country, and a friend suggested that he try it as a means of helping his condition. Cayce was willing to try anything that might cure his throat. A local hypnotist offered his services, and Edgar readily accepted. He insisted, however, that he put himself to sleep, with the friend making the suggestions after he was "under".
The experiment proved to be more than successful. Cayce went into a deep trance and described the condition in his vocal cords, advising, strangely enough, what to do for it. The advice was followed by the hypnotist - that of suggesting the blood circulation increase to the affected area - and when Cayce awakened he had regained his normal speaking voice. After a number of follow-up sessions, the cure turned out to be a permanent one.
Cayce, his family and his friend were astounded. When word got around of this unusual occurrence, he was beseiged with requests by the sick to try his diagnoses and curative methods on them. He was reluctant to attempt anything of the kind. In the first place, he was uneducated and knew nothing of medicine or anatomy in his waking state. After all, he had no idea what went on while he was asleep. In the end, however, he gave his consent, and his misgivings proved unfounded.
In most of the cases that were presented to him, the celebrated psychic never met the persons making the requests. They were received through the mail; the recipients of the readings were usually hundreds of miles away. All Cayce needed was the full name of the person, his address, and where he would be at the appointed time of the reading. Lying on the couch with his necktie and shoelaces loosened - for better circulation, the readings said - he could answer any question put to him. His wife, Gertrude, usually made the suggestions and asked the questions, while his lifelong secretary, Gladys Davis, took everything down in shorthand. After a while, the sleeping Cayce would start to mumble, as though searching for something. Then he would clear his throat and speak in a firm, authoritative voice. "Yes, we have the body," he would begin, and then go into a half-hour discussion of the physical condition of the person who was ill.
But in 1923 a startling new kind of reading was discovered. Cayce was operating a photographic studio in Selma, Alabama, when one day he met Arthur Lammers, a well-to-do printer. His hobby was metaphysical philosophy, and what he wanted to know was far beyond the range of Edgar's normal thinking.
"What is the meaning of life?" he asked. "What is the real nature of man? What is the meaning of birth and death? Why are we here? Cayce accepted Mr. Lammers offer to explain these mysteries through his powers of hypnosis. What followed was the beginning of the metaphysical thought that emerged from 2,500 "Life" readings, as distinguished from the "Physical" readings he had previously been giving.
For Cayce, this was the beginning of another period of tortuous self-doubt. Brought up in an atmosphere of strict, orthodox, Protestant Christianity, he was uninformed on the other great religions of the world and their similarities with his own. What the readings now said seemed foreign to everything he had been taught and had been teaching in his Sunday school classes for many years. The essential principles of the great religions, said the readings, were nevertheless all the same - they were only clothed in different garments.
Cayce withheld judgment on the point for a long time. In the end he and those close to the work came to accept reincarnation. It was unprovable of course, but in provable instances the readings had shown themselves to be honest if not infallible. The answers were consistent.
Eventually, somebody thought to ask the sleeping Cayce where he was getting his information. He gave two sources his mind apparently succeeded in tapping. One was the unconscious or subconscious mind of the subject himself; the other was what was called the universal memory of nature, Jung's Collective Unconscious, or the Akashic Records. This is the "Recording Angel", or the "Book of Life".
Say the Cayce records: "Edgar Cayce's mind is amendable to suggestion, the same as all other subconscious minds; but in addition thereto, it has the power to interpret to the objective mind of others what it acquires from the subconscious minds of other individuals of the same kind. The subconscious forgets nothing. The conscious mind receives the impressions from without and transfers all thought to the subconscious, where it remains even though the conscious be destroyed" as in death.
The readings also say, "The information as obtained and given by this body (Edgar Cayce) is gathered from the sources from which the suggestion may derive its information. In this state the conscious mind becomes subjugated to the subconscious, the superconscious, or soul mind, and may and does communicate with like minds, and the subconscious or soul force becomes universal. From any subconscious mind information may be obtained either from this plane or from the impression as left by the individuals that have gone before. As we see a mirror directly reflecting that which is before it - it is not the object itself, but that reflected."
This is a new idea. If it is true, then Cayce's mind was able to tap the mass of knowledge possessed by millions of other subconscious minds, including those who have passed over to the spiritual, cosmic realms in death. This would be an almost unlimited source of wisdom, since it was universal and Cayce was unhindered by time and space. Upon this "Akashic record" is supposedly registered every sound, every thought, every vibration since the beginning of time. Cayce, then was no "medium". When this idea first appeared in a reading, few, including Cayce, could believe it. Science knew nothing of any such etheric substance.
Newspaper headlines did not affect him as offers of fame and large sums of money came. Although he never earned more than a modest living at best, he turned down all efforts by others to commercialize on the readings. Desperately poor at times, he once flatly refused an offer of $1,000 a day to go on the stage. Simple in his tastes, he was an expert fisherman and a horrible golfer. He loved to talk about the Bible and would preach a sermon at the drop of a word.
A national magazine ran an article titled, "Miracle Man of Virginia Beach", and Edgar was swamped with an avalanch of 25,000 requests for readings. By 1944 he was a year behind in appointments and suffering from over-exertion and edema of the lungs.
A stroke confined him to bed. Now 67, he never recovered. His last reading, given for himself, was not followed by the doctors in charge. On January 3rd, 1945, Edgar Cayce passed over to the other side. No man ever left the world a stranger legacy.