Edgar Cayce was an American psychic. He is said to have demonstrated an ability to channel answers to questions on subjects such as health or Atlantis, while in a self induced trance. Though Cayce considered himself a devout Christian and lived before the emergence of the New Age Movement, some believe he was the founder of the movement and had influence on its teachings.
Cayce became a celebrity toward the end of his life, and the publicity given to his prophecies has overshadowed what to him were usually considered the more important parts of his work, such as healing and theology. Skeptics challenge the statement that Cayce demonstrated psychic abilities, and conventional Christians also question his unorthodox answers on religious matters such as reincarnation.
Throughout his life, Cayce was drawn to church as a member of the Disciples of Christ. He read the Bible once for every year of his life, taught at Sunday school, recruited missionaries, and is said to have agonized over the issue of whether his supposed psychic abilities and the teachings which resulted were spiritually legitimate.
Cayce’s methods involved lying down and entering into what appeared to be a trance or sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other personal problems. The subject’s questions would then be given to Cayce, and he would proceed with a reading. At first these readings dealt with the physical health of the individual. Later readings on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health were also given.
When out of the trance he entered to perform a reading, Cayce did not remember what he had said during the reading. The unconscious mind, according to Cayce, has access to information which the conscious mind does not. After Gladys Davis became his secretary in 1923, all readings were transcribed and his wife Gertrude Evans Cayce conducted the readings while Cayce was in a trance.
Cayce was one of the early dream interpreters who contradicted Freudian views by saying that dreams can be of many different kinds with many levels of meaning, and that lack of interest is the reason for poor dream recall. He stated that only the dreamer knows the meaning of his dream, and that a dream is correctly interpreted when it makes sense to the dreamer and moves him forward in his life.
His mature period, in which he created the several institutions which would survive him in some form, can be considered to have started in 1925. By this time he was a professional psychic with a small staff of employees and volunteers. The readings increasingly involved occultic or esoteric themes.
Cayce said that his trance statements should be taken into account only to the extent that they led to a better life for the recipient. Moreover, he invited his audience to test his suggestions rather than accept them on faith.