Edgar Cayce was born in 1877, the son of a farming couple residing in Kentucky. As was common during that era, Cayce's formal education ended after the eighth grade. He was a lifelong Christian, taught Sunday school classes and reportedly read the Bible in its entirety every year. To many, it seems incongruous that this devoutly religious man of humble beginnings and possessing only a rudimentary education would become famous as the best-documented psychic of the 20th century.
Purportedly, signs of Edgar Cayce's psychic abilities began to appear during his childhood. He conversed with the spirit of his deceased grandfather, and he had several “friends” he claimed were spirits.
He was also reported to be able to memorize a book merely by placing his head on it while he slept. However, as a devout Christian, he struggled with whether his psychic powers were a gift from God, which may explain his emphasis on spiritual growth in the readings he would give later in his life.
In 1901, Cayce's ability to give readings while in a trance began to emerge. After being placed in a hypnotic state, Cayce would answer questions posed by those seeking his help. Many questions were health-related, and Cayce would offer diagnoses, treatment options and prognoses. Other questions related to spiritual matters, including queries about the purpose of life.
Cayce gave past life readings, predicted natural disasters and discussed at length the lost continent of Atlantis. He also fielded questions about ancient mysteries, such as the building methods used to construct Egypt's pyramids.
Cayce occasionally answered test questions about stock futures, sporting event outcomes and elections, but he disliked answering any questions that could be used for monetary gain.
Because Cayce gave all of his readings while in a trance, he received the nickname “The Sleeping Prophet.” When awakened, he could recall nothing that he had said during the reading. It was therefore necessary for a secretary, friend or family member to make notes or record his readings. More than 14,300 readings are known to have survived, but as many as 8,000 readings given prior to 1923 are presumed lost.
It was not necessary for the person receiving the reading to be in Cayce's presence. Many people wrote him for help, and with minimal information, such as the person's name and location, Cayce would provide a reading. He would relate the health problems the person had and suggest corrective measures. Cayce earned a reputation for uncanny accuracy in these types of readings, which is even more remarkable when his lack of medical training is considered.
Cayce's record for predicting future events was less consistent. He attributed his “misses” to the fact that the future was in flux, and that actions taken by individuals or nations could alter future events. However, Cayce has been credited with predicting several significant events.
Cayce predicted the stock market crash of 1929 on at least two separate occasions. In 1925, Cayce did a reading for a physician. Cayce warned the physician to be cautious with his wealth, particularly in 1929. Six months prior to the crash, Cayce warned a stockbroker of an impending massive financial disturbance.
In the field of natural science, Cayce predicted in 1936 that the Earth's poles would experience a magnetic shift early in the 21st century. Geologists hypothesize that polar shift has occurred several times during the planet's history. However, the concept was virtually unknown in 1936. In 2001, some scientists speculated that the shift had already begun in certain areas in the southern Atlantic.
Many people today have heard of weather patterns known as El Nino and La Nina. These patterns are caused by temperature fluctuations in deep ocean currents. They can contribute to droughts or floods, heat waves or blizzards. Cayce connected these weather patterns to changes happening in the oceans — in 1926.
Cayce's predictions also touched on archaeological discoveries. In multiple readings conducted between 1934 and 1942, Cayce gave detailed information on a religious sect known as the Essenes. At the time, historians knew little about the Essenes. In 1947, the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and salvaging and translating these scrolls is still underway. The scrolls contain some of the earliest texts found in the region, and they were written by the Essenes.
Many of Cayce's readings deal with the lost continent of Atlantis. The earliest written accounts of Atlantis date to the works of Plato in ancient Greece. Over the approximately 2,500 years that followed Plato's account, the Atlantis legend continued to grow and undergo additional interpretation. The people of Atlantis were alleged to possess extremely advanced technology, which contributed to its destruction.
Cayce predicted that Atlantis would be rediscovered in the 1960s, and although that did not happen, a 1968 discovery has been linked by some to the legend of Atlantis. That was the year that divers found a submerged stretch that has the appearance of a manmade stone road or wall. Although the theory is controversial, some believe that the Bimini Road is part of an artificial harbor, dock or road built by the people of Atlantis.
As early as 1935, Cayce's readings warned of the possibility of a looming war involving virtually all nations. He specifically mentioned Germany, Japan and Austria as key players. During World War II, Cayce received numerous requests for assistance from the families of American soldiers reported as missing in action.
In an effort to offer his help to everyone who asked, he began performing more readings than ever, typically eight each day. As a result, he suffered from both physical and emotional fatigue. He died in January 1945 after suffering a stroke. He was 67 years old at the time of his death.
Unlike many psychics of his day, Cayce did not insist that those to whom he gave readings accept his information on faith or in full. He invited them to analyze the suggestions he offered and to take his advice only if the suggestions would improve the quality of their lives.
He also emphasized spiritual growth over the accumulation of wealth. In a display of practicing what he preached, Cayce never charged for a reading although he did accept donations to help support his family and his work.
Cayce's work has continued in the decades since his death through an organization he founded in 1931, the Association for Research and Enlightenment. The organization is headquartered in Virginia Beach, and the public can access the group's entire collection of Cayce's readings.
The A.R.E. continues to evaluate current events in connection with prophecies Cayce made, but the organization is also involved in helping members achieve spiritual growth and holistic health.