One of the most interesting examples of this sort of “truth mixed with bloviation” can be seen in the example of the seer, Edgar Cayce (pronounced Casey). Cayce was born in 1877 and died in 1945. He was probably the most well documented psychic of the 20th century. While hundreds of books have been written about him, the best one was written in 1942 by Thomas Sugrue titled There Is a River. It is the only biography that was written during Cayce’s lifetime by someone who actually knew him.
Cayce was called the “sleeping prophet” because he would allow himself to be hypnotized several times a day, and during these sessions, he would enter into a trance state in which he appeared to be sleeping. He would then begin to channel the spirits of various dead doctors. The spirit, speaking through Cayce, would diagnose and prescribe treatment for a patient that might be located thousands of miles away. Most often, Cayce’s father would act as hypnotist. After the death of his father, Cayce’s son performed this function.
Cayce’s spirits were not those of modern doctors, but were an older, more ancient sort. They were “natural healers” who believed in natural remedies and manipulating bones, like an osteopath or chiropractor. Cayce would learn about his patients through letters written by the patient, or by relatives requesting help for a loved one. In most cases, it was a last-ditch effort by these patients because their doctors had given up on curing them. The patients were totally unknown to Cayce, and many of the letters were written by people who were barely literate. Often, the only information that was given to him in the letters was a plea for help and the location where the patient resided. The reading would always begin with a spirit doctor speaking through Cayce; “We have the body.”
The remedies that were channeled often involved the use of unusual therapies. Examples included electrotherapy, ultraviolet light, watermelon seed tea, gemstones, castor oil/Epsom salt packs, internal and external use of an iodine product called Atomidine, osteopathic manipulation and relaxation in the “radioactive sand” that the spirits said could be found on beaches like Virginia Beach where Cayce was living.
In modern medical terms, most of these treatments would be considered useless, but a majority of his patients recovered and went on to live normal lives, even though many were given up as incurable by the physicians of the day. The success of this sort of treatment helped sow the seeds of the modern industry of alternative medicine which in the early 1940’s had lost most of its ancient cachet because of the enormous strides in scientific medicine that had taken place during and after the First World War. In Cayce’s hands, however, the high success rate seems to have had more to do with the spirits behind the treatments than to the treatments themselves.
I was not impressed with the medical advice. Although his success rate was quite impressive, I personally consider remedies such as these to be “quack” medicine, and the miraculous healings themselves likely had more to do with the spiritual aspects of the cures than the medicines themselves.
I was, however, immensely impressed with the veridical information that the spirits conveyed about the patients themselves. Even if a small percentage of this psychically received information about the patients was true, then the existence of psychics and the paranormal HAD to have a basis in fact.
Cayce did not know any of these people but was still able to give an accurate description of the patient’s physical appearance and medical condition even if the patient was located thousands of miles away. If a wrong location was given, which happened upon occasion, then the wrong information would be forthcoming from the spirits. The location had to be exact, and in at least one instance, the correct information on the wrong patient came through because the wrong room in the house had been specified in the letter. Only after the location was corrected could the spirits pick up on the correct patient.
After properly identifying a patient, Cayce’s “spirit doctors” then proposed a series of treatments which, if carried out exactly as prescribed, generally led to the cure of the patient’s illness. Wacky or not, the treatments were reported by the patients’ families to have worked, or at least to have relieved symptoms and prolonged the lives of patients.
Cayce was probably the most “prolific” psychic in American history. Although he had been giving readings since about 1912, his readings were only documented starting in 1923. Since that time until his death in 1945, between 13,000 and 14,000 readings were documented and are still on file at Cayce’s official foundation, The Association for Research and Enlightenment (the A.R.E.) located at Virginia Beach, Virginia. It should be noted that Case never charged any of his thousands of patients for his services and supported himself and his family exclusively on donations, mostly from a few wealthy benefactors. Most of his funding dried up after the 1929 stock market crash, but he was able to survive through smaller donations, though he lived constantly on a financial knife-edge.
I have to admit that this was the first book that I ever read about the paranormal, and it stoked a lifelong interest that has been with me for over 40 years. Prior to this time, I had been an agnostic and a “scientist” in all of my beliefs. Since then, I have retained a complete belief in all things scientific, but have modified my views on reality and “eternity.”
(Note: Personally, I still rely exclusively on modern medicine. I am a medical professional myself, and I would never recommend the type of treatments prescribed by Cayce’s spirits for my own patients.)