He was called "the sleeping prophet," and even the man's critics must admit that this was for good reason.
His name was Edgar Cayce. He was a humble, unassuming man who came from a region many would deride as "nowhere"; the coalfields of eastern Kentucky. His mission in life, though, was grand as can be encompassed: to improve the human condition by elevating it to a point of comprehensive understanding about health, history, and spirituality.
Cayce was, beyond anything else, a man of purpose. His search for answers to complex questions helped others find their place in a world where many are taught to shy away from difficult queries -- if for no other reason than to maintain social cohesion. Cayce was all about the individual and helping him or her become the best he or she could be.
Cayce's work was done through meditation, during which time he appeared to be asleep. When he woke, he would share information with those around him, and his words often proved clairvoyant. Those who placed their trust in Cayce frequently found his predictions to be word-for-word in alignment with what wound up taking place.
Of course, his track record was not perfect, and it declined in accordance with his physical health. Nonetheless, even for the devoutly skeptical fellow such as myself, his work is too substantive to dismiss as sheer coincidence.
Doing so, in and of itself, is a leap of faith.
Alison Ray is the head of public information at Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment. She spoke to me about Cayce's life and legacy. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: Edgar Cayce was a very complicated man, about whom much has been written and said. Above all else, what did he devote his life's work to?
Alison Ray: He truly had one ideal or guiding mission in this lifetime: He wanted to help people. Many people are surprised to learn that Edgar Cayce was a devoted churchgoer and Sunday school teacher. At a young age, Cayce vowed to read the Bible for every year of his life, and at the time of his death in 1945, he had accomplished this task. He believed that a spiritual connection exists between every individual and God; and that the same spiritual connection exists between all people. By bringing the experience of oneness into our own consciousness (thru prayer, meditation, and service), it can profoundly help someone else experience oneness, attunement, and healing.
Cotto: People often use the word 'psychic' when referring to those who claim visions of the future or past. Do you believe this term correctly describes what Cayce did?
Ray: Edgar Cayce had the ability to put himself into a sleep-like trance state by lying down on a couch, closing his eyes, and folding his hands over his stomach. In this state of relaxation and meditation, he was able to place his mind in contact with all time and space—the universal consciousness, also known as the super-conscious mind and respond to questions. A stenographer would take down his every word and the responses came to be called “readings.” When the readings were transcribed and typed, a copy was given to the individual and a copy was saved for the file. When the readings were released to the public (A.R.E. Members have access to a searchable database on EdgarCayce.org), a number was used rather than name to protect the privacy of the individual receiving the reading.
According to Wikipedia, “a psychic is a person who claims to use extrasensory perception (ESP) to identify information hidden from the normal senses. The word is also used as an adjective to describe such abilities.” The word which comes from the Greek word “psychikos” meaning “of the mind, mental, or soul.” It is similar to the words seer, prophet, and clairvoyant. Edgar Cayce considered himself psychic based on the definition provided in the readings: that “psychic is of the soul.” Rather than something unusual, the reading suggested that “in EVERY individual…psychic forces…lie dormant…and await only that awakening…or the developing…” (Reading 5752-1) Perhaps the readings said it best, when asked how to become psychic, the answer was to become more spiritual.