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Edgar Cayce (1877-1945)

Edgar Cayce was an allegedly psychic medical diagnostician and psychic reader of past lives. He was known as "the sleeping prophet" because he would close his eyes and appear to go into a trance when he did his readings. At his death, he left thousands of accounts of past life and medical readings. His followers maintain that Cayce was psychic and was able to tap into some sort of higher consciousness to get his knowledge. They also believe that he was usually accurate in his diagnoses and successful in his cures. Skeptics do not think so highly of Mr. Cayce.

One of the most common reasons given for believing in people such as Cayce is the claim that "there's no way he could have known this stuff by ordinary means; he must have been told this by spirits or been astrally projected back or forth in space or time, etc." Yet, as with Virginia Tighe being Bridey Murphy was easily explained by quite ordinary ways of knowing things, so too can Cayce's knowledge.

Even though Cayce didn't have a formal education much beyond grammar school, he was a voracious reader, especially of occult literature and of osteopathy (which, in his day, was primitive and akin to chiropractic, naturopathy and folk medicine). He was in contact with many people with various backgrounds which could serve as sources of information. Many of his readings would probably only make sense to an osteopath of his day. Martin Gardner cites Cayce's reading of Cayce's own wife as an example. The woman was suffering from tuberculosis:

....from the head, pains along through the body from the second, fifth and sixth dorsal, and from the first and second lumbar...tie-ups here, floating lesions, or lateral lesions, in the muscular and nerve fibers which supply the lower end of the lung and the conjunction with the sympathetic nerve of the solar plexus, coming in conjunction with the solar plexus at the end of the stomach....
The fact that Cayce mentions the lung is taken by his followers as evidence of a correct diagnostic; it counts as a psychic hit. But what about the incorrect diagnoses: dorsals, lumbar, floating lesions, solar plexus, and stomach? Why aren't those counted as diagnostic misses? And why did Cayce recommend osteopathic treatment for people with tuberculosis, epilepsy and cancer?

In addition to osteopathy, Cayce was knowledgeable of homeopathy and naturopathy. Here are a few of the remedies for ailments recommended by Cayce: "Oil of smoke" for a leg sore; "peach-tree poultice" for convulsions; "bedbug juice" for dropsy; and fumes of apple brandy from a charred keg for tuberculosis.

I wonder if any of Cayce's followers have tried his remedy for hemorrhoids.

The fact is that thousands of people consider themselves cured by Cayce and that's enough evidence for true believers. It works! The fact that thousands don't consider themselves cured or can't rationalize an erroneous diagnosis, won't deter the true believer.

Gardner notes that Dr. J.B. Rhine, famous for his ESP experiments at Duke University, was not impressed with Cayce. Rhine felt that a psychic reading done for his daughter didn't fit the facts. Defenders of Cayce claim that if a patient has any doubts about Cayce, the diagnosis won't be a good one. Yet, what reasonable person wouldn't have doubts about such a man, no matter how kind or sincere he was?

Cayce's defenders provide some classic ad hoc hypotheses to explain away their hero's failures. For example, when Cayce and a famous dowser named Henry Gross set out together to discover buried treasure along the seashore and found nothing, the rationalizers suggested that their psychic powers were accurate because either there once was a buried treasure where they looked but it had been dug up earlier [one wonders why their psychic powers kept this secret from themselves!] or there would be a treasure buried there sometime in the future. The seers were just ahead of their time. [Again, if the seers are so psychic why couldn't they see that the treasure wouldn't be there until their next lifetime??!! It must be very confusing not knowing whether your visions refer to the past, the present or the future!]

Cayce also claimed to be able to see and read auras. In 1945, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc., published a Cayce booklet, Auras. Cayce also claimed to be in contact with ancient Atlantis while off on many of his mind trips. Cayce is one of the main people responsible for some of the sillier notions about Atlantis, including the idea that the Atlanteans had some sort of Great Crystal. Cayce called the stone the Tuaoi Stone and said it was a huge cylindrical prism which was used to gather and focus energy, allowing the Atlanteans to do all kinds of fantastic things. But they got greedy and stupid, tuned up their Crystal to too high frequency and set off volcanic disturbances that led to the destruction of that ancient world.

One thing seems certain, a trip to see "doctor" Cayce would not have been boring. He might even have let you have a puff of whatever he was smoking.

See entries for auras, alternative health practices and Bridey Murphy

further reading

Edcar Cayce Resource Center

Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New-York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1957), chs. 16, 17. Cayce's diagnosis of his wife, quoted above, is on page 217. $6.36

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! (Buffalo, New-York: Prometheus Books,1982), ch. 9. $15.16

The Skeptic's Dictionary
Robert Todd Carroll