Cayce, Edgar

views updated May 18 2018


CAYCE, EDGAR . Edgar Cayce (18771945) was an American spiritual healer and teacher. Celebrated for trance readings, diagnosing illnesses, and for prescribing unorthodox but reputedly effective treatments, Cayce (pronounced "Casey") was a seminal figure for the mid- to late twentieth-century revival of interest in psychic phenomena and the New Age movement. In addition to Cayce's healing work, the New Age movement was inspired particularly by trance teachings offered by the "sleeping prophet," as Cayce was called. These included "life readings," interpreting the lives of individuals in light of previous incarnations, and discourses involving future history and "earth changes." Cayce was relatively little known until the appearance late in his life of a best-selling biography by Thomas Sugrue, There Is a River (1942); Cayce's life and work thereafter became the subject of many publications.

Cayce was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in modest circumstances, the son of a farmer and sometime small shopkeeper. Edgar Cayce's formal education did not extend beyond grammar school. He and his family were faithful members of the (Campbellite) Christian Church. Deeply religious, Edgar read the Bible regularly and taught Sunday school for many years. He married Gertrude Evans in 1903 and was the father of three sons: Hugh Lynn, Milton Porter (who died in infancy), and Edgar Evans. As a young adult, Cayce was employed as a salesman in a bookstore and in other enterprises. After moving to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1903, he worked as a photographer. He lived in Alabama, chiefly in Selma, from 1909 to 1923, then moved to Dayton, Ohio, and finally in 1925 to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he spent the remainder of his life engaged in his psychic work.

The trances began around 1901, when Cayce was hypnotized in Hopkinsville by Al C. Layne, an osteopath and amateur hypnotist, in connection with treatment for a throat disorder. Reportedly, the entranced patient diagnosed his own condition and prescribed an effective cure by suggestion. As news of this occurrence spread, Cayce was persuaded by Layne to work with him in treating other patients in a similar way. Layne would put Cayce into a hypnotic state, during which the latter would characteristically say, "We have the body," and proceed to describe the ailment in specific anatomical terms. The healing methods he recommended varied greatly from individual to individual and included unique combinations of osteopathy, chiropractic, electrotherapy, vibrations, massage, foods and diets, and herbal treatments. Experience showed that the work was equally effective whether the patient was in the same room with Cayce, in an adjoining room, or miles away. For some years, however, Cayce's trance readings were only occasional. During his years in Alabama, he also attempted to use his psychic powers to find oil in Texas, but without success.

In 1923 Cayce met Arthur Lammers of Dayton, Ohio, a prosperous printer and student of theosophy. Deeply impressed by his conversations with Lammers, Cayce moved to Dayton, and soon afterwards his readings began to include references to reincarnation, Atlantis, Gnostic Christianity, and other features of the theosophical and occult worldview. He began to give "life readings," relating physical and other problems of clients to their past lives.

In 1925, following what he believed were psychic leadings, Cayce moved to Virginia Beach where, with the support of wealthy backers, he was able to devote himself exclusively to his spiritual calling and to establish complementary works. Chief among his supporters was Morton Harry Blumenthal, a young Jewish stockbroker from New York. They founded a Cayce Hospital in 1928 and Atlantic University in 1930, but both failed during the Great Depression. On the other hand, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), a membership organization incorporated in 1932, has remained a major pillar of Cayce's work and legacy. It provided for continuing stenographic recordings of Cayce's readings (begun in 1923), for the dissemination of a newsletter and other literature, and, in time, for the establishment of Cayce study groups around the nation and the world. Some fifteen thousand transcripts of readings are kept in the ARE library in Virginia Beach, a collection available to researchers and unique in the annals of mediumship. A study by Edgar Cayce's sons based on this material, The Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce's Power (1971), presents a remarkably candid assessment of their father's successes and failures.

Edgar Cayce's older son, Hugh Lynn Cayce (19071982), a gifted organizer, did much to develop the ARE, heading it in the postwar years following his father's death. It was largely through Hugh Lynn's books, lectures, and energetic promotional activities that Cayce and the ARE acquired a central position in the new spiritual consciousness of the 1960s and the New Age movement. The association regained control of the hospital building in 1956 and converted it into office spaces for the ARE. Atlantic University was reopened in 1985 as a distance learning institution, offering courses and degree programs in New Age topics. By 2004 the extensive headquarters campus of the movement in Virginia Beach included a library, a bookstore, a conference center, alternative healing facilities, and a day spa. Hugh Lynn Cayce was succeeded in the leadership of the movement by his son, Charles Cayce (b. 1942).

Edgar Cayce is a figure unique in American spirituality. He represents a link between the biblical and folk Christianity of the middle South out of which he came and which was always a part of his world, and the theosophical ideas he also espoused. Reincarnation and other such concepts seemed much less alien to many Americans when expressed by a seer of Cayce's background and earthy character. Cayce also was a living link between the Spiritualism of the nineteenth century, with its trance mediumship, and the New Age era of the late twentieth century. Because of him, ideas from all these quarters came together to form the groundwork of a distinctive American esotericism.

See Also

Association for Research and Enlightenment.


Bro, Harmon Hartzell. A Seer out of Season: The Life of Edgar Cayce. New York, 1989.

Cayce, Charles Thomas, and Jeanette M. Thomas, eds. The Works of Edgar Cayce as Seen through His Letters. Virginia Beach, Va., 2000.

Cayce, Edgar. My Life As a Seer: The Lost Memoirs. Compiled and edited by A. Robert Smith. New York, 1971.

Cayce, Edgar Evans, and Hugh Lynn Cayce. The Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce's Power. New York, 1971.

Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Venture Inward. New York, 1964.

Cayce, Hugh Lynn, ed. The Edgar Cayce Reader. New York, 1969.

Johnson, K. Paul. Edgar Cayce in Context: The Readings, Truth and Fiction. Albany, N.Y., 1998.

Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet. New York, 2000.

Sugrue, Thomas. There Is a River: The Story of Edgar Cayce. New York, 1942; rev. ed., 1945.

Robert S. Ellwood (2005)

Cayce, Edgar (1877-1945)

views updated May 09 2018

Cayce, Edgar (1877-1945)

Outstanding American psychic and founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE). Cayce was born on March 18, 1877, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the son of businessman. He grew up in rural Kentucky and received only a limited formal education. He was a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As an adult he began a career as a photographer.

Cayce's life took a radically different direction in 1898, after he developed a case of laryngitis. He was hypnotized by a friend and while in the trance state prescribed a cure that worked. Neighbors heard of the event and asked Cayce to do similar "readings" for them. In 1909 he did a reading in which he diagnosed and cured a homeopathic physician, Dr. Wesley Ketchum. Ketchum arranged for periodic sittings in which Cayce, who had learned by this time to go into trance without the assistance of a hypnotist, offered his medical advice for the ill. During the next years Cayce gave occasional sittings, but primarily worked in photography.

Then in 1923 Theosophist Arthur Lammers invited Cayce to Dayton, Ohio, to do a set of private readings. These readings were noteworthy because they involved Cayce's initial exploration of individual past lives and because of the imposition upon his readings of Lammers's theosophical opinions, especially concerning reincarnation. These readings encouraged Cayce to become a professional. He soon closed his photography shop and moved to Dayton, and then in 1925 to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Among his early supporters was businessman Morton Blumenthal, who gave financial backing for Cayce Hospital (1928) and a school, Atlantic University (1930). Unfortunately, Blumenthal was financially destroyed by the Great Depression and both enterprises failed.

In 1932 Cayce organized his following as the Association for Research and Enlightenment. With the resources generated by the association, complete records of all the readings for the next 12 years were made. These formed a huge body of material for future consideration, and more than any other characteristic make Cayce's career stand out above that of his contemporaries. Cayce's readings were later indexed, cross-referenced, and used as the basis of numerous books.

Cayce died in 1945, and his son Hugh Lynn Cayce continued the work of the association and promoted the abilities of his father, though he did not claim to possess any special psychic abilities himself. Cayce's work became known by a large audience outside the psychic community in 1967 through a biographical book by Jess Stern, Edgar Cayce, The Sleeping Prophet.

Cayce continues to fascinate a generation after his passing, and a steady stream of material created from his readings come from the Association for Research and Enlightenment. David Bell, whose doctoral dissertation was on Cayce, has launched an Internet journal of Cayce studies at, and several new studies of his life and work were published in the 1990s.


Bro, Harmon Hartzell. A Seer Out of Season: The Life of Edgar Cayce. New York: New American Library, 1989.

Cayce, Edgar. The Edgar Cayce Reader. 2 vols. New York: Paperback Library, 1969.

Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Venture Inward. New York: Paperback Library, 1966.

Johnson, K. Paul. Edgar Cayce in Context. The Readings: Truth and Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Millard, Joseph. Edgar Cayce. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1967.

Neimark, Anne E. With This Gift. New York: William Morrow, 1978.

Puryear, Herbert. The Edgar Cayce Primer. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

. A Prophet in His Own Country. New York: William Morrow, 1974.

Cayce, Edgar

views updated May 23 2018

Cayce, Edgar (1877–1945). The ‘Sleeping Prophet’, an American psychic healer and clairvoyant. For the last thirty or so years of his life, Cayce gave some 14,000 ‘readings’ throughout the USA. He saw his gifts as spiritual in origin, and used them to aid those ‘who seek to know better their relationship to their Maker’.