Part 2 of 4
Nobody exists in a vacuum. Everybody is influenced by the society they grow up in.
Edgar Cayce can be thought of as a Western version of an Eastern yogi.
As a Westerner, it’s natural some wanted to objectively and subjectively study his talents.
Once, while he was in a trance, a doctor jabbed long needles into his hands and feet to see if he was faking.
Cayce stayed in the trance.
Concerned about his personal safety, many of the studies ended with that episode. It wasn’t his job to convince anyone, Cayce said. Some people will never be convinced. His job was to use his talents for all the good he could.
The ways of someone like Cayce can’t be easily replicated or studied.
That was back in the 1930s and 40s.
Why does he still matter today?
Why is he something of an icon whose life may foreshadow the next 40-or-s0 years?
- He influenced and modeled a trend of religious liberalism by mixing doctrines. Doing that takes it out of the realm of “experts”. Cayce is a model of researching and seeking your truth on your own. A personal religious truth is just one example of this. Christians, traditionally, don’t believe in reincarnation. When Cayce said he started finding references to reincarnation in his readings, he reconsidered and researched, determining the Bible didn’t specifically rule reincarnation out. He came away with stating it made sense that early churchmen dropped it from their teachings. It was hard to explain, for one thing. It also was scary because it made virtue even more necessary. “A man has to be pretty brave to face the fact that one lifetime of suffering is only a step toward heaven.” He also noticed how people become fascinated and obsessed with the fact that they had been one thing or another in a previous life. Who they had been, previously, didn’t matter to the extent they wanted it to. Other odd references in his readings like the Akashic Records — a kind of universal supercomputer that records every soul’s thought and deeds — were hinted at in belief but not precisely named. This trend of mixing and matching ideas from different areas influenced things like addiction treatment and counseling. The 12-step program for addiction and Cayce’s hospital were contemporaries.
- Some consider him the true founder and principal source of the most characteristic beliefs of the New Age movement, especially much of the vocabulary.
- He mixed-and-matched alternative medicine approaches. This approach has taken hold and expanded. Because his information purportedly came from a “universal mind” unlike a traditional practitioner, his treatments were a mix of homeopathic, naturopathic, osteopathic, and allopathic schools. Commenting on this, one contemporary doctor said, “Edgar seems to use them all and it doesn’t make sense.” With the Internet, future alternative practitioners will undoubtedly use a mix of different schools.
- He wasn’t the first in history to use psychic diagnosing. Why would he be the last? In 1784 a hypnotist named Armand Marie-Jacques de Chastenet (the Marquis de Puysegur) hypnotized a young shepherd. The boy started diagnosing another person nearby. He found others with this ability in Germany, throughout France and in England as well. The diagnoses were of varying quality, apparently, and fell out of favor. Cayce started the Association for Research and Enlightenment as a way to continue the study of abilities such as these. His group continues today.
- As far as individual psychology, on one hand, you have Sigmund Freud and his model of experts treating others. His work laid many of the cornerstones of clinical psychology. On the other hand, you have Carl Jung and his use of dreams to approach clinical therapy. Others, like Ann Faraday, built on insights by Jung and Cayce and popularized individual dream interpretation. Cayce wrote and expounded upon this individual approach.
- People believe they have psychic gifts to varying degrees. If someone is seeking to use them, Cayce is a potential role model though certainly not a perfect one. He’s prominent enough so he stands out with just some basic research.
- A New York newspaper once ran an article on Cayce with the blaring headline “Illiterate Man Becomes Doctor When Hypnotized!” Cayce was far from illiterate. He actually worked in a bookstore, liked books, and read the Bible again and again. Slanted sensationalistic coverage obscures the truth, whatever it is. The trouble is truth can be long, drawn out, somewhat boring, and full of caveats. By studying Cayce you see, in a microcosm, how that’s repeated in other instances again and again. Innate critics tend to respond to these parodies. That’s what sensationalistic coverage becomes. You see this pattern again and again. When they do that, the criticisms come off base and don’t convince anyone.
- Cayce also is notable for many of his beliefs about nutrition in areas such as food combining, acid/alkaline diet, and the therapeutic use of food. None of that started with him, being a foundation of the physical culture movement, but his ideas form a significant body of work within the approach.