Edgar Cayce (1877-1944) Torn Between Psychic Ability and Christian Faith
HONORABLE MENTION CATEGORY WINNER
#.Edgar Cayce (1877-1944) Torn Between Psychic Ability and Christian Faith by Jeff Wieder firstname.lastname@example.org
People interested in psychic phenomena often consider Edgar Cayce to be one of the great heroes of their faith. He was called "The Sleeping Prophet" -- a man who put himself into a sleep-like trance and successfully diagnosed people's illnesses and prescribed cures in over 30,000 recorded cases during his lifetime. While asleep, a member of his staff or family would read the name or address of a person suffering with an ailment and Edgar would psychically "find the body" and begin diagnosing all that was wrong, offering a remedy for the problem as well. Even though he had no medical training (he was raised a simple farm boy who never even graduated from high school) his medical, physiological and pharmaceutical knowledge was unsurpassed while in a trance. Many medical doctors agreed with Edgar's "readings" (as he called them) and carried out his prescriptions with the deepest respect.
As time progressed Edgar's readings branched out into many different fields in addition to his main activity of diagnosing and curing illnesses. Edgar could be asked anything on any subject and offer profound answers with incredible results.
All of the time that Edgar was operating as "The Sleeping Prophet", he also deeply loved Jesus, prayed and searched through his Bible daily, taught a very successful Sunday School class and headed a missions group at the Christian church he attended. He often worried that his psychic abilities might be a trick from the devil, and spoke often about feeling called by God to be a preacher.
In this study I will attempt to show that Edgar Cayce was a man who felt a tension between two strong callings on his life-the call of his Christian faith and the call of his psychic abilities. I think it is proper to scrutinize Edgar Cayce from a Christian perspective since he claimed to be an evangelical Christian. My purpose is not to advocate either of Edgar's two callings... I just want to point out the tension he felt between the two, and how this tension contributed to the formation of his unique belief system.
As Edgar progressed over the years, the philosophy being received in his psychic readings continued to push him further away from the Christianity of his upbringing. In an attempt to resolve the inner conflict he felt between his readings and his Christian faith, he eventually merged them into a Christianized psychic belief system which is still carried on today by the Edgar Cayce Foundation (headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va.) which boasts a membership of over 65,000 members and 1500 prayer/study groups. His biography describes his beliefs this way... "The system of metaphysical thought which emerges from the readings of Edgar Cayce is a Christianized version of the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia, India, and Greece. It fits the figure of Christ into the tradition of one God for all people, and places Him in His proper place, at the apex of the philosophical structure; He is the capstone of the pyramid."
INHERITED PSYCHIC TENDENCIES
I think it is important to point out that Edgar Cayce never sought to have psychic abilities-in my opinion, he was born with them. Psychic powers were evident in his family line, and they were an inherited part of his psychological disposition. If our ancestors showed evidence of psychic powers, we may find that we are not only attracted to these same powers, but may actually have inherited psychic abilities and sensitivities as well. This appears to be the case with Edgar Cayce. His grandfather was known as a "water witch" who would... "walk around with a forked hazel twig in his hand and tell the farmers where to dig their wells. They always found water there..." 
Edgar's grandfather could also... "make tables and chairs move, and brooms dance, without even touching them."
Often Edgar would see the ghostly form of his grandfather in his barn years after his grandfather had died. Needless to say, paranormal phenomena was evident in his grandfather's life and this made Edgar Cayce a prime candidate for the same kind of experiences.
One day, Edgar Cayce had a supernatural visitation right in the middle of one of his daily Bible studies which unleashed the psychic powers already in his family line. This is how he described it..."One spring day when I was reading the story of Manoah for the thirteenth time, I looked up and saw a woman standing before me. I thought it was my mother, come to fetch me home for the chores. Then I saw that she was not my mother, and that she had wings on her back. She said to me, 'Your prayers have been answered, little boy. Tell me what it is you want most of all, so that I may give it to you.' I was very frightened, but after a minute I managed to say, 'most of all I would like to be helpful to other people, especially children.' Then she disappeared."
After this experience Edgar could sleep with any book under his head- no matter how long or complicated-and somehow retain every detail within it from cover to cover. It was at this time that he discovered his ability to diagnose illnesses and offer cures while in a sleep-like condition. Though he worried the rest of his life that his supernatural ability might be the working of the devil, he stayed with it because of his mother's words... "Good men," she said, "always worry about that. You'll find it in here"-she tapped the Bible-"everywhere you look. You know that. It's the people who are actually the tools of the Devil who never worry about whether they are wrong or right. The Devil cannot speak through a righteous man." "God has given you something He hasn't given to everyone... Be faithful to the trust... Never forget to pray. Never give a reading when you can't take Jesus with you..."
He reassured himself often with the following rationalizations as well.. . "If I remained incorruptible in my own life, and prayed for guidance and help while giving readings, surely God would not let me be duped [by the devil or others]. That is the best I can do-and it is my duty to do it, for all those who need help." "If it's a thing of God, it will do only good. If it's a thing of the Devil, it won't succeed."
As I read his biography, I felt the same frustration that Edgar felt throughout his life. How could he know for sure whether his supernatural visitation and subsequent abilities were inspired by his Christian God or not? This is a very important question for people of Christian faith. Certainly the God of Christianity moved upon the prophets in the Bible in very unusual (sometimes even bizzare) ways! And his "gift" was being used for good up to this point. Is there a way to discern it's source?
From a Christian point of view, the first way to test the source of any spiritual experience is to find out if it contradicts the Bible in any way. The Bible does not address EVERY issue we face today according to absolute standards, but it is at least a start to make sure any absolutes that may be within the Bible are not being contradicted.
As the years went by, it became obvious that the Christian God of the Bible was not always the source of Edgar's readings. It was at this time that Edgar's readings took on a whole new emphasis. He began promoting schools of thought that were clearly in opposition to the Bible...the "big one", of course, being a belief in reincarnation. Edgar even claimed to have lived nineteen hundred years before the days of the Bible, and was also the nephew of Luke, the physician, who wrote the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. I know there are some people who believe the Bible DOES support a belief in reincarnation, but these people are in a very small minority, and it certainly was not an acceptable inclusion to the Christianity under which Edgar was raised. A vast majority of evangelical Christians generally accept the written statement in the Bible... their "holy book"... which reads: "It is appointed for all men ONCE to die, and after that, the certain judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Edgar's astrological emphases also conflicted with Christian holy book warnings like: "Beware lest you lift your eyes to the heavens, and when you see the sun, moon, and stars, even all the host of heavens, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them..." (Deuteronomy 4:19).
The fact that Edgar received extra-biblical revelations of any kind is enough to send alarms throughout the evangelical Christian community (of which Edgar was a part)... a community that predominantly believes, "If it isn't in the Bible, it must not be true!"
It should be clear by now why Edgar experienced so much tension between his brand of Christianity and his developing psychic revelations!
Anyway, Edgar began giving "Life Readings" for people who wanted to learn who they were in past lives. I'm not saying the Akashic histories of the now deceased cannot be read/experienced under hypnosis, etc., I just think it was a big jump, in light of Edgar's Christianity, to assume what he was reading was actually his (or another living person's) own past life. I might also add that Edgar strongly resisted adding these new emphases to his thinking at first. They just didn't seem to harmonize with his Christian worldview. This decision period marked one of the highest points of tension between his readings and his Christian faith.
The second way to test the source of any spiritual message (from a Christian viewpoint) is stated in Jeremiah 28:9... "When a prophet's words come to pass, only then will it be known that the Lord has truly sent him."
If Edgar Cayce was being inspired by Christianity's God during his readings, whatever he said would have to prove true. This apparently was not always the case. Edgar's followers have assessed that only 85% of his cases proved to be accurate. The Time-Life series on "Psychic Powers" adds... "...not all of Cayce's psychic healing went so well, and some cases were demonstrable failures. For instance, he once gave a long diagnosis for a little girl suffering from leukemia and recommended a complicated dietary treatment. Unfortunately, the child had died the day before the reading was given-a fact Cayce somehow failed to divine."
If the God of Christianity was speaking through Edgar, surely he would have known these people had already died! Nobody's perfect... and an 85% accuracy rate is an amazing record... but Edgar's prophetic failures prove that at least SOME of the time he was channeling information from sources other than the Christian God under whom he had been raised.
THE GOD OF CHRISTIANITY SENT OBSTACLES?
There are numerous examples in the life of Edgar Cayce where it could appear that the God of Christianity tried to discourage him from merging his Christian faith with some of the philosophies being promoted in his readings, which, as we have seen, potentially contradicted some of the basic truths of the Bible.
Immediately following his discovery of psychic powers and throughout the rest of his life, Edgar Cayce had the gnawing fear that his "gift" might be a trick from the devil. Was this the voice of his Christian God, alerting him to the fact that SOME of his readings were slowly distancing him from the truth of his Christian faith? Whatever the case , this voice was overpowered by the advice and encouragement of his family and friends.
No sooner had Edgar begun using his psychic abilities, when he just happened to run into the great Christian evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who was in town for a revival. They met in the woods where Edgar was in the habit of reading his Bible and they talked for hours. As we mentioned in the beginning of this study, Edgar felt a call on his life to be a preacher. Did the God of Christianity arrange this meeting so that the great evangelist could have a lasting impact on Edgar's spiritual direction (which had not really been completely decided yet)? Edgar only came close to telling the evangelist about his experience with the angel and his new-found psychic abilities, so Moody went on his way never knowing the deeper struggles of faith Edgar was experiencing.
Edgar mysteriously lost the use of his voice for almost a full year of his life. Medical specialists from all over the world could not find a cause or a cure for Edgar's problem. Since he had been using his voice to channel messages which were sometimes in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible, did the God of Christianity take his voice away for a while? Whatever the case, Edgar didn't seem to ask himself that question.
Disasters always prevented him from accumulating sufficient finances to do anything significant with his "gift". Twice his photography business was destroyed by fire, the hospital he built to combine his psychic readings with trained doctors who could carry out his prescriptions was forced to close due to a lack of money, and everyone who tried to invest in his gift seemed to experience major financial setbacks as well. He actually began expecting calamity to overtake the finances of anyone who tried to back his readings! Edgar never did wonder whether his Christian God might be responsible for creating all of these obstacles-he just kept expecting things to get better.
Time after time roadblocks were placed in Edgar's way, but he could not be distracted.
CAYCE'S SPIRIT CONTINUES
The Edgar Cayce Foundation and it's organization called "The Association for Research and Enlightenment" still carry on the Christian/Psychic belief system that began with Edgar Cayce over 100 years ago. Included in their bi-monthly magazine "Venture Inward" are articles describing the importance of Christ's Resurrection, making Jesus the center of all spirituality, and incorporating Christ's forgiveness in our lives. In the remaining pages you will also find articles promoting reincarnation and channeling spirit guides. True to their founder's ideology, they have maintained the tension caused by attempting to merge Christianity with philosophies that sometimes contradict the teachings of the Bible.
After studying the life of Edgar Cayce, on the one hand, I felt very sorry for him. His Christian faith was a very significant part of his life... he always wanted to do what was right in the sight of his Christian God, and at the same time seemed hauntingly aware that other forces, sometimes in contradiction to his Christian faith, were undeniably at work within him as well. So, he lived his life in the middle of this spiritual tug-of-war.
Yet, on the other hand, I have to respect Edgar Cayce for not denying truth, no matter what side of his spiritual life it may have come from. He did not minimize the truth of his Christianity saying, "It is all less evolved!", and he did not demonize the truth within his psychic experiences saying, "It is all from the devil!" The tension he lived with represents a commitment to embrace all truth no matter where it may be found. Edgar's attempts to harmonize his christian faith with his psychic abilities resulted in a unique belief system that offers greater common ground from which Christians and paranormalists can be more relatable to each other. As it was in Edgar's own life, the tension between these two groups of people will probably never disappear altogether. This is because evangelical Christianity tends to be an exclusive system, believing it is the only path to truth. This exclusivity often provokes intolerance from those who feel they are being excluded.
Many Christians cannot accept some of the paranormal concepts espoused in Edgar's readings, and many paranormalists do not accept some of the Christian ideals Edgar embraced... but wouldn't it be nice if all people came together with the common purpose of seeking truth, and like Edgar Cayce, were willing to accept as much of it as possible, no matter WHERE it was found? We could all learn from Edgar's example.
1,2,3,4,5,6 -- Thomas Sugrue, "There is a River," (Virginia Beach, VA: A .R.E. Press, 1973)
7 -- Time-Life Books, Inc., "Psychic Powers," (Richmond, VA, 1987)
All Bible References are taken from The Amplified Bible (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI)
This page was last updated on: 1/15/2011
Website designed and created by TJ Elias - Houston, Texas
Copyright© 1996-2011 - TJ Elias