Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) was an American who became famous in his lifetime as
a psychic healer and prophet. From humble beginnings as the son of a farmer
and with only an eighth grade education, Cayce (pronounced Casey)
produced a large body of work documenting hundreds of cures and predictions
made under hypnosis. While Cayces work predated the New Age
movement by several decades, many of his ideas and philosophies remain a clear
influence upon it to this day.
Cayce was born in Kentucky to a farming family, and left school after the eighth
grade to find work. He worked as a retail clerk, an insurance salesman, and
a photographer at various points; the struggle for finances was a defining feature
of his entire life.
In 1900, while selling insurance, Cayce developed a severe case of laryngitis,
which rendered him unable to work for over a year. In 1901, a traveling hypnotist
heard about Cayces condition and offered to try and cure him through hypnotic
suggestion. During the trance, Cayces voice returned to normal, but once
he was brought out of the trance, the condition returned. Since the hypnotist
was continuing on tour, a local hypnotist named Al Layne offered to continue
During one of these trances, Cayce began to speak as if another person was
in control of his voice. In this early example of what we now call channeling,
Cayce was able to describe the cause of the condition and prescribe a cure;
the condition was eventually cured, and the stage had been set for Cayce to
make a radical change in his career.
Cayce was a deeply religious man who remained conflicted all his life about
the nature of the ability he seemed to have developed. When news of his own
cure spread, others began to ask for cures of their own; Cayce hesitated, but
then agreed to do so as long as all his readings were done for no fee. He never
charged for a reading, but subsisted on free-will donations for the rest of
The pattern for the readings remained the same throughout his career: he would
go into a light trance assisted by a hypnotist (first Layne, later his wife
and son), and then either talk to the patient or hear a letter read from them.
Cayce would then speak of what was causing the persons illness and offer
ideas for a cure; many of these ideas fell into the category of what is now
called alternative medicine, such as herbal and massage therapy.
In 1925, the voices that Cayce had begun to refer to as his spirit guides
told him to move to Virginia Beach, VA. It was here that he remained for the
rest of his life.
As Cayce continued to read, he began to branch out from his healing work and
offer insights on topics such as reincarnation and theological concepts, some
of which made him very uncomfortable when they conflicted with his overt and
devout Christian faith. He also spoke of the lost continent of Atlantis, and
made prophecies about future world events.
Cayce himself believed that his cures and his theological concepts were more
important than the prophecies that made him a household name as the sleeping
prophet during his lifetime; it appears that this prediction was indeed
correct. While Cayces prophecies are not notably accurate, many of his
medical ideas have been incorporated into current practices of alternative medicine.
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