Cayce, Edgar

Cayce, Edgar

Cayce, Edgar (kās), 1877–1945, American folk healer, b. Hopkinsville, Ky. A popularizer of the idea of reincarnation, he was active as a “psychic diagnostician” between 1901 and 1944, performing thousands of “life readings.” He wandered across the United States, spreading his ideas, before settling in Virginia Beach, Va. in 1925, where he established the Cayce Hospital (1928) and the Association for Research and Enlightenment (1931). His works have enjoyed a renewal among adherents of New Age spirituality.


See W. H. Church, Many Happy Returns: The Lives of Edgar Cayce (1984); H. L. Cayce, ed., The Edgar Cayce Collection (1986); H. H. Bro, A Seer Out of Season (1989).

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Cayce, Edgar (1877–1945)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

More than half a century after his death, psychic Edgar Cayce continues to fascinate people due in large part to the efforts made to preserve the texts of all the readings that he gave the last two decades of his life and the support given to studies Beach, Virginia, and the associated Edgar Cayce of those materials. The Association for Research Foundation now maintain the source materials and Enlightenment (ARE), based in Virginia concerning Cayce and his work.

Cayce was born March 18, 1877, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He had rather mundane beginnings and as a young adult chose photography as a career. He attended the local congregation of the Disciples of Christ, a conservative Protestant group. His gradual rise from obscurity began in 1898, when Cayce came down with laryngitis. Absent the wide range of medicines available today, he allowed a friend to hypnotize him. Surprisingly, in the trance state, Cayce began to speak and prescribed a cure for his problem. The cure worked, and as word of what happened circulated through the community, others asked him to go to sleep and prescribe for them.

A decade after the original event, in 1909, he did a reading for Dr. Wesley Ketchum, a homeopathic physician, who subsequently arranged for Cayce to do similar readings for people on a regular basis. Cayce thus operated as an amateur psychic specializing in the problems of his neighbors for the next twenty years. He would probably have been forgotten had it not been for a man named Arthur Lammers, a theosophist who paid Cayce’s expenses to come to Dayton, Ohio, in 1923 for a set of private readings. These readings significantly expanded Cayce’s range; most importantly, Lammers, who believed in reincarnation, asked Cayce about the possible previous earthly lives he might have lived.

The Lammers readings became the origin of a whole new format for Cayce’s activity, which came to be called “life readings.” In future readings, he would commonly describe three or four past lives for those who came to him for a psychic session. The Lammers sessions also launched his career as a full-time psychic. Shortly after he returned to Hopkinsville, he closed his photography shop and moved first to Dayton, then in 1925 to Virginia Beach, where he lived the rest of his life.

With the financial assistance supplied by one of his followers, he was able to open a hospital and a school, although both had to be closed with the onset of the Depression, due to a loss of financial support. However, he rebounded in 1932 and founded the ARE. Those around Cayce kept detailed stenographic records of all his readings.

In the years following his death, Cayce’s son, Hugh Lynn, and Cayce’s closest supporters preserved the transcripts of the many readings and began to encourage their use to perpetuate the worldview that permeated them. A breakthrough in calling attention to Cayce came with the publication of a new biographical volume, Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, by popular writer Jess Stern in 1967. Subsequently, a set of paperback books focusing on the material in the readings was published by the Paperback Library. In the wake of these publications, a new generation was drawn to Cayce, and ARE became a noted organization perpetuating the spirituality, medical views, and other ideas (Atlantis, prophecy, reincarnation, etc.) drawn from the Cayce texts.

The ARE has encouraged detailed studies of the Cayce texts that seek to expound upon the ideas and themes found there, or seek to verify various claims, such as the existence of remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis in the Bahamas. Critical scholarly studies of the materials have been less supported, especially those that have suggested more mundane sources for the material. For example, many of the remedies Cayce prescribed over the years come from nineteenth-century folk medicine. Remaining virtually ignored is the mass of astrological material in the readings.


Bro, Harmon H. A Seer Out of Season: The Life of Edgar Cayce. New York: St Martins Press, 1996.
Cayce, Edgar Evans, and Hugh Lynn Cayce, The Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce’s Power. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Venture Inward. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Johnson, K. Paul. Edgar Cayce in Context: The Readings; Truth and Fiction. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1998.
Melton, J. Gordon. “Edgar Cayce and Reincarnation: Past Life Readings as Religious Symbology.” Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture 3, 1–2 (1994). Posted at Accessed April 1, 2007.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

Cayce, Edgar (1877–1945)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Known as “The Sleeping Prophet” from the fact that he delivered his predictions while in trance, Edgar Cayce is one of America’s most famous psychics and seers. He was actually a photographer by profession, though when his psychic abilities developed fully they left him with little time to pursue that career.

Cayce was born on March 18, 1877, near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. With four sisters, he grew up surrounded by uncles, aunts, and other relatives, all of whom lived close by. From the family background and atmosphere, Cayce developed an early interest in the Bible which remained with him throughout his life. At the age of six, he told his parents that he was able to see visions and even talk with the spirits of dead relatives. His parents didn’t believe him. At thirteen he had a vision of being visited by a goddesstype figure who asked him what he most wanted in life. He replied that he wanted to help others, and in particular he wanted to help sick children.

For a short period, Cayce demonstrated a special talent of being able to absorb knowledge by sleeping on books, papers, etc. He would sleep with his head on a book. On waking, he could relate everything about the material in the book, even repeating whole passages word for word.

When the family moved from their farm into the city of Hopkinsville, Cayce found employment in a bookstore. There he met and fell in love with Gertrude Evans. The two became engaged in March, 1897. For a short while he lived in Louisville, but returned to Hopkinsville by the end of 1899. He formed a business partnership with his father, an insurance agent. Cayce started traveling and selling insurance, supplementing this income with the sale of books and stationery. The salesman job ended when Cayce developed a severe case of laryngitis that lasted for months, despite attention from a number of doctors. Having to give up the insurance salesman job, he took a position as assistant to a photographer, where he wouldn’t have to speak to anyone.

A traveling entertainer named Hart hypnotized Cayce and found that under hypnosis, the young man’s voice could be normal. But when out of a trance, Cayce’s laryngitis returned. Hart moved on but a local hypnotist named Al Layne took over. Cayce put himself into trance and had Layne give him suggestions. Layne asked Cayce what was wrong with his throat and Cayce responded with a full and detailed diagnosis. He further urged Layne to give the suggestion that the throat return to normal. When Cayce woke up, everyone was amazed to find that he spoke normally for the first time in almost a year. The date was March 31, 1901. This was Cayce’s first diagnosis whilst in trance.

Al Layne, the hypnotist, had himself long been bothered with a stomach problem. Inspired by Cayce’s recovery, he prevailed upon the young man to go into trance and diagnose for him. Reluctantly Cayce did so, and prescribed a dietary and exercise regimen to solve Layne’s problem. Within a week it had worked; again after a number of doctors had been unsuccessful.

Although Cayce wanted to be left alone to be a photographer and raise a family, he reluctantly gave in to pressure from his father and others, and continued to give trance readings for people in need. He cured a five-year-old girl named Aime Dietrich who had been seriously ill for three years. Cayce did not understand how his abilities worked. He had no medical knowledge and frequently, on waking, did not remember what he had said while asleep. But the cures continued.

On June 17, 1903, he and Gertrude got married and moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he opened a photographic studio. Later a disastrous fire wiped out everything and he, his wife and his son returned to Hopkinsville. Cayce began an association with Dr. Wesley Ketchum, a homeopath. This led to Dr. Ketchum reading a paper about Cayce’s abilities to the American Society of Clinical Research. The New York Times picked up on this and featured an article titled, “Illiterate man becomes doctor when hypnotized.” Soon Cayce was swamped with readings.

He had earlier found that the person for whom he was reading did not have to be physically present. All that was needed was the name and location of the person and Cayce could perform an accurate reading.

In the late summer of 1911, Gertrude contracted tuberculosis and nearly died. Cayce’s diagnosis and recommendation of revolutionary treatment brought about her complete recovery by the end of the year. He was able to perform a similar service for his son Hugh Lynn some time later. By this time, the family had moved to Selma and Cayce had a new photographic studio. Hugh was playing with flash powder when it exploded in his face. Doctors said that he had severely burned his eyes and recommended removing one of them. Cayce thought otherwise and prescribed from trance for his son. Two weeks later Hugh could see again.

As Cayce’s reputation grew, so did a problem with treating people. Doctors were reluctant to follow the diagnoses that the “Sleeping Prophet” recommended. Cayce began to dream of having a hospital fully staffed with doctors and nurses working solely on the cases he prescribed. He attempted to use his psychic talents to make the money to establish such a hospital, but very quickly realized that he could not use his gift for making money.

In 1923, he hired Gladys Davis as his secretary. She wrote down all the information he produced in his readings. His wife Gertrude was by this time conducting the readings and asking him the necessary questions. About this time a man who had received successful readings for two of his nieces asked Cayce for a “horoscope reading.” In the course of it, Cayce made mention of a past life that the man had once had. This opened the door to a whole new field of psychic investigation, however Cayce’s personal attachment to Christianity (he read the Bible and taught Sunday school) made him uneasy. Re-reading the Bible in its entirety, he finally realized that the concept of reincarnation was not incompatible with any religion and actually followed his own ideas of what it meant to be a good Christian. So began what became known as the “Life Readings;” trance readings that looked at a person’s past lives and the relationship to the present life. In time this further expanded into mental and spiritual counseling, philosophy, dream interpretation, and so on.

Finally, and very reluctantly, Cayce had to give up his photographic career for lack of time. He began to accept donations toward the hospital he still wanted to build. Readings that he gave indicated that it needed to be established at Virginia Beach, Virginia. In September of 1925, the Cayce family moved with Gladys Davis to that location. Two years later, the Association of National Investigators was formed to research the information from Cayce’s readings, now rapidly growing in volume.

The Edgar Cayce Hospital opened on November 11, 1928. Patients came from all over the country and were diagnosed and prescribed for by Cayce. They were then treated by the staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists.

The Depression forced the hospital to close in 1931 when financial backing was lost, but later that same year the Association for Research and Enlightenment was formed as a research body for all the information in the readings.

Cayce continued to develop psychically, picking up information in the waking state as well as when in trance, seeing auras around people and even diagnosing from these. With the onset of World War II, Cayce was inundated with requests for readings and despite warnings about his own health (given from his own readings), he began to grow weak from overwork. His readings continuously told him to rest, but he felt obliged to keep going. He finally collapsed in 1944. His last reading was for himself, in September of that year, when he was told that he must rest until either he got better or he died. Shorty after, he had a stroke and became partially paralyzed. He died on January 3, 1945. Within three months, Gertrude also died.

Copies of more than 14,000 case histories of Cayce’s readings, including all follow-up reports received from the individuals concerned, are available for reference at the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc. (ARE), in Virginia Beach. This material represents the most massive collection of psychic information ever obtained from a single source. The ARE organization has grown from a few hundred supporters in 1945 to one which today is worldwide.

Countless individuals have been touched by the life work of this man who was raised a simple farm boy and yet became one of the most versatile and credible psychics the world has ever known. He has been called “the father of holistic medicine.” In history, the Cayce readings gave insights into Judaism that were verified a decade after his death. In world affairs, he saw the collapse of communism nearly fifty years before it happened. Even in the field of physics, a professor and fellow of the American Physical Society theorized a connection between the elementary particle theory and the way in which Edgar Cayce received his information. Repeatedly, science and history have validated concepts and ideas explored in Edgar Cayce’s psychic information.


Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune–Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004
Cayce, Hugh Lynn: Venture Inward. New York: Paperback Library, 1969
Edgar Cayce Homepage:
Langley, Noel: Edgar Cayce on Reincarnation. New York: Paperback Library, 1967
Stearn, Jess: Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet. New York: Doubleday, 1967
Sugrue, Thomas: There Is a River: The Story of Edgar Cayce. New York: Dell, 1970
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

Cayce, Edgar

(1877–1945) psychic medium; born near Hopkinsville, Ky. He had little education and went into photography. He had a nervous collapse at age 19 and began to experience visions and "receive" messages prescribing ways to heal other people. Over a period of 40 years, he performed "life readings" for and diagnosed over 30,000 people; essential to his therapy was his belief that everyone has had previous existences, some going back thousands of years to Atlantis. Many of his reports were transcribed and preserved by the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Va.; these and Cayce were largely forgotten until publicized by best-selling books in the 1960s.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
On page 58, Frohock (referring to Cayce) writes, "His grandfather was the county dowser, his father an acknowledged psychic." Thomas Cayce, Edgar's grandfather, definitely had what was known then as "the gift of the second sight," although exactly what this meant is unclear.