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Typically, sleeping on the job isn’t seen as a good thing, but for Edgar Cayce (d. 1945), it resulted in more than 14,000 prophecies — about the present, the past, and the future — all currently catalogued in bound books at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach. Known as The Sleeping Prophet, Cayce gained fame in the early- to mid-1900s because of his uncanny ability to fall asleep into a self-induced hypnotic state and offer medical advice for sick people he hadn’t ever met. He could allegedly draw medical conclusions about peoples’ illnesses armed only with their name, location, and his hypnotic trance. He even made headlines in the New York Times because of his gift of clairvoyance — “Illiterate Man Becomes Doctor When Hypnotized”1 (he wasn’t illiterate). So vast is the list of people he allegedly healed through his medical advice, he has been called “the father of holistic medicine.”2 Cayce’s impact has even been seen recently in the History Channel’s popular series, Ancient Aliens.3 This article will do a semi-deep dive into the life and mind of Cayce, as well as help Christians understand more about how the New Age continues to influence our culture and how to respond.
A Meager (and Christian) Beginning
Edgar Cayce was born on March 18, 1877, in Christian County, Kentucky. The county was aptly named because most of its residents were indeed Christ followers (today, more than 50 percent claim to be Christians). Cayce’s parents were farmers, but Cayce seemed to decide early on in life that he wouldn’t follow in their footsteps. He was interested in the Bible from an early age, and by age 10, he committed to reading it from cover-to-cover each year. In fact, it was while he was sitting by the creek reading his Bible that he claimed he was visited by a woman with wings on her back who asked him what he wanted most. He said he wanted to help people, especially children.4 The woman disappeared, but Cayce would hear from her again.
Cayce wasn’t particularly interested in school and seemed to struggle with his coursework. His father, Leslie, even went as far as to call him “dull.”5 One evening when he was 12, he was studying spelling with his father and couldn’t seem to grasp the words. When his frustrated father left the room for a moment, Cayce said he heard the voice of the woman from the creek tell him to fall asleep. He fell asleep on the book, and when he woke up a few minutes later, and to his father’s great astonishment, not only could Cayce spell the words he’d been practicing that evening, but he also apparently knew the rest of the lessons, too. This was a turning point in Cayce’s education as he started to be quite successful in the classroom. This was also the first moment that Cayce determined sleep was going to be an instrumental part of his life.
Easing into His “Dark” Gifts
Aside from his visit from the angelic being at the creek, Cayce also claimed to have seen his dead grandfather walking around the house. In fact, many of his friends growing up were incorporeal beings; that is, his friends were non-material. Cayce’s first foray into healing happened when he was hit by a ball on the school playground and injured his back. While he was sleeping that night, his family heard him muttering about the cure to his ailment, and they did as he said. He was apparently healed by the morning. Cayce had no memory of his sleep talking.6
Cayce quit school after eighth grade, taking various jobs to help his family financially. One such job was door-to-door insurance salesman. Unfortunately, he developed laryngitis and lost his voice. Despite his doctors’ best efforts, the condition continued for months. He didn’t give up working during this time, and he began a career as a photographer. Yet he didn’t lose hope that some sort of miracle might happen, and his voice would return. He would not have imagined, though, that hypnosis would have been the key.
A hypnotist was visiting his town and told Cayce he could heal him for a mere $200 (equivalent to about $7,000 today!). If the hypnosis didn’t work, he wouldn’t have to pay, so there was nothing to lose, at least according to Cayce’s doctor and father. During the hypnotic state, Cayce was able to speak clearly, but once he awoke, the voice was gone again. The hypnotist kept trying, but Cayce’s voice continued to resist, and the hypnotist left in defeat. However, Cayce was convinced this was the way, and he put himself into a hypnotic state (what he called “autohypnosis”). While asleep, Cayce dictated what was causing his laryngitis and how to heal it — it all apparently had to do with circulation in his vocal cords, which he was able to repair while in his trance. When he woke up, he could speak, and this caused him to wonder if this was how he would help people, healing them while he slept.
Edgar Cayce was committed to his Christian worldview, but he also saw a potential contradiction in his hypnotic practices. In fact, according to his biographer, Thomas Sugrue, Cayce didn’t want the gift: “He wanted a normal, simple, ordinary Christian life, married to the girl he loved, living in a town he liked, with the friend he had chosen. He didn’t want to be ‘queer’ or ‘different.’ He didn’t want to be a psychic medium, or a somnambulist [someone who performs acts while asleep], or a ‘mystic healer.’”7 He often asked if what he was doing was from dark spirits, once asking his mother why he would have the gift “unless it’s the work of the devil?”8 In that moment, his mother told him, “So long as you are right, son, they will be right. The devil cannot speak through a righteous man.”9
This, of course, contradicts Scripture, which says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11–12). Satan uses his schemes to throw people off the righteous path, and certainly, evil words have been spoken through people who, despite their desires for righteousness, opened themselves up to darkness and evil spirits. Although Cayce had qualms about his use of psychic powers, he continued to use them for the next forty-three years because he felt like he was helping people.
The Occult Takes Over
While Cayce seemed to once struggle with his psychic actions, he eventually embraced them and took his New Age beliefs to the next level, subscribing to the notions of reincarnation, karma, astrology, and the universal consciousness. Cayce offered thousands of psychic readings during his lifetime, and often, those readings would begin with a look at the stars. Cayce believed that the stars held significance, particularly about someone’s past lives. He said this of planetary alignment:
So, all of those realms — as in Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus — have their realms of consciousness also. As to how great the influence is depends upon the individual, for none surpass the will of the individual entity — the birthright of each soul. For, the soul is that child of the universal consciousness ye call God, and is made aware of same by the application of laws pertaining to same in the own self. Thus the knowledge, the understanding, the interpretation of life, lies within thine own self, as ye apply same in thy activity.10 (emphasis added)
Universal consciousness is a New Age buzz phrase that’s often used in place of God, as Cayce did above. The universal consciousness idea comes from the Vedanta, a school of Hindu philosophy. It is not a Christian idea, nor does it align with Christian beliefs despite some Christians trying to equate it with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, not our ticket to higher vibrations. Higher vibrations, of course, is another buzzy New Age phrase — the higher our vibrations (good energy), the easier it will be for us to ascend. Ascension is the key to reaching our highest true selves.
If this sounds familiar, perhaps you read my previous article about Ancient Aliens frequent guest star, David Wilcock, “Humanity’s Ascension: Assessing the History Channel’s New Age, Time Travel Guru David Wilcock.”11 Wilcock gives us a good segue into the next New Age issue relevant to Cayce — reincarnation — especially because Wilcock claims to be reincarnated from Cayce himself.12 Reincarnation is the rebirth of the soul in a new body, and it has its roots in Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. For Cayce, reincarnation was simply a way of life — a way to redeem yourself for your past wrongs. During one reading, he said, “In the studies, then, know where ye are going…to find that ye only lived, died and were buried under the cherry tree in Grandmother’s garden does not make thee one whit better neighbor, citizen, mother or father! But to know that ye spoke unkindly and suffered for it and in the present may correct it by being righteous — that is worthwhile!”13 Karma played a key role in one’s reincarnation — if you were good, you’d reap those rewards in future lives, and if you weren’t good, well, your next life would see those consequences play out. Cayce claimed that his knowledge about the topic came from what he called “The Book of Life.” “Upon time and space is written the thoughts, the deeds, the activities of an entity — as in relationships to its environs, its hereditary influence; as directed — or judgment drawn by or according to what the entity’s ideal is,” he explained. “Hence, as it has been oft called, the record is God’s book of remembrance; and each entity, each soul — as the activities of a single day of an entity in the material world — either makes same good or bad or indifferent, depending upon the entity’s application of self.”14 Cayce went so far as to reinterpret Scripture to support his views of karma and reincarnation and help him keep his connection with Christianity. In John 9, the disciples ask Jesus if the man’s sin or his parents’ sin caused his blindness. Jesus said that none of them sinned — rather, this was the work of God revealed in him. Cayce said that the man’s “disability must be karmic baggage from a previous incarnation.”15 As for Cayce’s past lives? He claimed to be reincarnated from the Egyptian high priest, Ra-Ta, who built temples in Egypt dedicated to the Law of One.16
Our path to salvation, at least according to those who subscribe to karma and reincarnation, is based on our behavior in this life, in our previous lives, and in our future lives. At its most basic level, reincarnation contradicts Scripture, which says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We’re not God. Our consciousness will not ascend to become God. Instead, we will ascend and reunite with the Father because of the work the Son did for us — He is our path to salvation. Jesus was fully God, fully human. He came to Earth, lived, died, and was physically resurrected three days after His death. Because of His stripes, we are healed, and because of His wounds, we are forgiven (Isaiah 53:5). There is no other way to the Father, except through Jesus (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12).
Prophecies for Present, Past, and Future
Considering all of Cayce’s belief on life, it’s no wonder that he willingly went full steam ahead toward healing others with his psychic powers and offering predictions for the world at large. In fact, more than 8,000 of his 14,000 readings were dedicated to healing others, even people he had never met.17 Not everyone in his family believed him at first, including his wife, Gertrude. One reason for her skepticism may have been that their second son, Milton, died. Shortly after his death, Gertrude got tuberculosis. She asked Edgar for a reading; he obliged, and she got better. It was then that Gertrude began supporting her husband’s healings whole-heartedly, even committing to being the scribe at many of the readings.
Edgar would lay down, get into a self-induced hypnotic state, and Gertrude would suggest something to him. For healings, all he needed was the person’s name and location. He was said to be able to see into the person’s body and not only tell their malady but the cure for it. Many of his medical suggestions for people were unorthodox, what we now term holistic. He often veered away from traditional medicine; he’d recommend changes in diet, more exercise, and rest.18 Some scholars and researchers have spoken out against the methodology used to support the alleged healings, saying that many patients probably would have recovered whether they followed Cayce’s suggestions or not.19 Further, evidence shows that Cayce gave readings for people “who were dead by the time their letters reached him.”20
With the apparent success of his readings, Cayce decided to make it a business, after all. He, along with a friend, opened a holistic hospital in 1928 in Virginia Beach. One observer said, “Religion and science, philosophy and psychology, the truths discovered by the ancients as well as by the moderns will be equally welcome here. Nothing is banned except trickery, sham, falsehood.”21 The problem is, after the first chief of staff died shortly after the hospital opened, no “ordinary medical doctor” would work at the hospital — “they either laughed at the readings or condemned them as quackery.”22 Eventually, the money ran out, and the hospital closed. It would ultimately become the Association for Research and Enlightenment, which still exists and carries out Cayce’s work today.
In addition to readings that were dedicated to healing others, Cayce’s readings often included references to past and future world events. For example, he claimed to have predicted the Stock Market Crash of 1929, World War II, and the La Niña and El Niño weather patterns.23 He also made predictions about things that have yet to come to pass, such as the discovery of the Atlantis hall of records and the existence of the fifth root race, also known as Indigo children or star children.24 At least two of Cayce’s predictions did not happen — he predicted that Jesus would return in 1998, and he said that by 1968, China would be predominantly Christian. Unfortunately, neither prediction occurred.
Cayce not only gave readings about present and future events, but his repertoire included past events, too. One of the key past events that Cayce spoke about a lot through his readings was the legendary and lost city of Atlantis mentioned above. Much was said about the preservation of its history, including that one location used to hide the records was in the right paw of the Sphinx in Egypt. This is a testable claim, and as of today, nothing has been found in the right paw.25 This issue was discussed on Ancient Aliens, which lent credibility to Cayce’s claim by highlighting the research of geologist, Robert Schoch.26 The problem is that his research revealed a potential gap in the left paw of the Sphinx. No hall of records containing the history of Atlantis has been found in any location suggested by Cayce, not to mention that no evidence has ever been found that Atlantis actually existed at one time.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Cayce enthusiasts continue to believe in him and his 14,000 readings. The danger is that a new generation of believers is coming up under the direction of conspiracy theorists like David Wilcock and others featured on shows like Ancient Aliens. One student asked me recently if I thought Cayce actually had memorized books by sleeping on them. I told her no because there’s no evidence that his claim was true. If it were, he likely would have become a medical doctor or some other great thinker of the age. Instead, his record shows that he was a failed psychic who probably really wanted to help people but fell prey to his own desires to be spiritually in tune. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in tune with the truths found in the Scriptures he claimed to love so dearly. Christians must know the Word of God so that they can spot issues of Scripture twisting, even by well-meaning people. We must speak truth when confronted with lies. Conspiracy theories are widespread and becoming a bit of an epidemic in today’s culture. Don’t fall prey to the lies that captured Cayce. Instead, take hold of truth and cling to it as though your life depends on it because, dear reader, it does.
Lindsey Medenwaldt is Director of Ministry Operations at Mama Bear Apologetics and serves as a consulting editor for the Christian Research Journal. She holds a Master’s in Apologetics and Ethics from Denver Seminary, a JD from St. Mary’s School of Law, and a Master’s in Public Administration from Midwestern State University.
- New York Times, October 9, 1910, section M, page 11, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1910/10/09/102048830.pdf.
- Even the tourist website for Virginia Beach, Virginia, gives Cayce this title. See https://www.visitvirginiabeach.com/listing/edgar-cayces-association-for-research-%26-enlightenment/1605/. Virginia Beach is the home of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, which houses Cayce’s life’s work.
- See “Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet,” Ancient Aliens, History, season 19, ep. 15, aired August 4, 2023.
- Thomas Sugrue, There Is a River: The Story of Edgar Cayce (New York: Penguin, 2015), 59–60.
- Sugrue, There Is a River, 36.
- Sugrue, There Is a River, 65–66.
- Sugrue, There Is a River, 134.
- Sugrue, There Is a River, 41.
- Sugrue, There Is a River, 41.
- Edgar Cayce, reading 2823-1, September 26, 1942, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/astrology/.
- Lindsey Medenwaldt, “Humanity’s Ascension: Assessing the History Channel’s New Age, Time Travel Guru David Wilcock,” Christian Research Journal 43, no. 3 (2021), https://www.equip.org/articles/humanitys-ascension-assessing-the-history-channels-new-age-time-travel-guru-david-wilcock/. It should be noted here that the A.R.E. does not accept the reincarnation connection between Cayce and Wilcock. See Wynn Free, The Reincarnation of Edgar Cayce?: Interdimensional Communication & Global Transformation (Berkeley, CA: Frog, 2004), 136–40.
See Free, The Reincarnation of Edgar Cayce?.
Cayce, reading 5753-2, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/reincarnation/.
Cayce, reading 1650-1, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/akashic-records/.
Sugrue, There Is a River, 12–13.
See “The Law of One from Ancient Egypt,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, August 24, 2012, https://www.edgarcayce.org/about-us/blog/blog-posts/the-law-of-one-from-ancient-egypt/.
“Edgar Cayce Holistic Health Database,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/health-and-wellness/holistic-health-database/.
Sugrue, There Is a River, 358.
Dale Beyerstein, “Edgar Cayce: The ‘Prophet’ Who ‘Slept’ His Way to the Top,” Skeptical Inquirer 20, no. 1 (January/February 1996):32–37, 34, https://cdn.centerforinquiry.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/1996/01/22165048/p32.pdf.
Beyerstein, “The ‘Prophet’ Who ‘Slept’ His Way to the Top,” 34.
William Mosely Brown, quoted in “History of the Edgar Cayce Hospital,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, https://www.edgarcayce.org/about-us/virginia-beach-hq/historic-cayce-hospital/.
Sugrue, There Is a River, 292.
“Edgar Cayce’s Seven Prophecies That Came True,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/ancient-mysteries/seven-prophecies-that-came-true/.
“Edgar Cayce’s Seven Prophecies Yet to Come,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, https://www.edgarcayce.org/the-readings/ancient-mysteries/seven-prophecies-yet-to-come/. For more about Cayce’s theory about the fifth root race, see PMH Atwater, “The Fifth Root Race — In Ascendancy,” Association of Research and Enlightenment, February 1, 2013, https://www.edgarcayce.org/about-us/blog/blog-posts/the-fifth-root-race-in-ascendancy/.
See John Bunker and Karen Pressler, “Our Research into Cayce’s ‘Hall of Records,’” Association of Research and Enlightenment, July 24, 2014, https://www.edgarcayce.org/12362/.
“Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet,” Ancient Aliens, season 19, ep. 15, aired August 4, 2023.