What causes birth defects? Why do some people suffer miserable, incurable diseases? One theory claims that the outcome of actions performed in past lives are to blame. And who does this theory belong to? The 20th century prophet and famous hypnotist Edgar Cayce.
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), the “Sleeping Prophet,” was one of America’s most famous possessors of seemingly supernatural abilities. He would induce a trance in his patients in order to assess their ailments, scrutinizing the details of their previous lives, and even made predictions about the future. Cayce claimed that a great number of the illnesses and injuries that we humans have to endure in our lifetimes are not, as we often believe, unjust. Instead, they were predestined. And the origins lie in our past lives.
Hypnosis for self-healing
Cayce first learned how to use hypnosis to diagnose an ailment of his own on March 11, 1901. Cayce suffered from severe laryngitis, impeding his speech: he was only able to produce weak sounds, barely intelligible, from his throat. Cayce visited numerous hospitals, but no medical professional could provide a satisfactory cure.
He suffered from the disease for an entire year, before one day encountering a hypnotist specializing in comedy performance. The hypnotist promised to use his technique to help Cayce cure his own debilitating, chronic malady.
Without any prior knowledge of medicine, the hypnotist proceeded and performed nothing short of a miracle. Cayce was guided into a trance. Within the trance, Cayce was able to use his voice to its fullest capacity, but upon waking, the laryngitis mysteriously returned.
Cayce was fascinated.
He soon made the acquaintance of yet another “supernatural man” named Rennes, who performed an additional experiment. After inducing a trance, Rennes questioned Cayce about his disease. Again, inexplicably, Cayce used his full, healthy voice and spoke to Rennes from a previously untapped well of apparent insight: diseases, according to Cayce, had psychological origins. And they were curable.
What followed was an extraordinary dialogue between the two men. Cayce, in his hypnotic trance, instructed Rennes in how to cure his laryngitis. And Rennes, in turn, delivered the instructions and oversaw the miraculous healing that followed.
Following Cayce’s explicit instructions, Rennes guided Cayce in visualizing healthy blood circulating to the disease-ridden areas of his body. Cayce complied, and the skin on his chest and throat turned a hot, deep red.
Rennes then instructed Cayce to recirculate the pooled, healing blood in order to dispel the illness. And miraculously, as Cayce regained consciousness, he discovered that the chronic pain was gone and his voice had returned to a completely normal state.
This was the first time that Cayce cured himself during hypnosis.
The patients come knocking
Cayce, by now overwhelmed and thoroughly convinced of the self-healing power of the hypnotic state, took the skill further afield. He was commissioned to assess a young girl with intellectual disabilities, and accepted. During her hypnosis, Cayce discovered that the cause of her disease was, in fact, an external injury sustained during a previous lifetime. Doctors following Cayce’s recommendations regarding the suggestibility of the trance state gradually helped the girl to restore her health.
By October 9, 1910, news of Cayce’s special ability had reached the New York Times. Sick patients flocked to Cayce’s office for medical assessment. As the numbers grew to unmanageable amounts, Cayce made a proposal: a hospital, specializing in hypnosis.
Cayce understood that his ability could and should not be used for personal profit. He received funding, but never refused to serve underprivileged patients who lacked the finances to pay him for his service.
By 1923, Cayce’s work was progressing beyond the field of medicine.
Welcoming strange cases
Cayce received a visit from a man from Ohio, asking him to explain the origins of a curious illness. Cayce, after examining the man, revealed that the man had been a monk in a previous life. The process of hypnosis, on this occasion, induced a deep suffering in Cayce. His patient’s past life suggested reincarnation: to Cayce, who was a practising Christian, this was a difficult and complicated concept to grasp.
Cayce began to pray, seeking guidance. Upon reading the Bible from beginning to end in a fervent search for answers, Cayce found what he was looking for. The Bible’s profound message inspired him to lay his original concern to rest and instead focus on the meaning of life. In doing so, he was able to reconcile with the concept of reincarnation: it had nothing to do with any religion, Cayce decided. It was completely consistent with Christian ethics and the duty to live a good life.
Delving into ancient history
Numerous books have been written about Cayce, including “Gina Cerminara” and “Many Mansions”, which exemplify Cayce’s method of hypnosis and diagnosis. Certain case studies even indicate that Cayce journeyed back as far as ancient Roman times with his patients.
Some of Cayce’s patients, having ailments that originated in past lives from the Roman area, he alleged, were either directly or indirectly involved in the sin of the persecution of Christians.
One case details a 45-year-old woman. At the age of 36 years old the woman suffered from polio, which paralyzed her body and confined her to a wheelchair. All treatments failed, and so she came to beg Cayce for answers. After inducing a trance state, Cayce revealed the root cause of her paralysis: a terrible crime that she had committed during a past life in ancient Roman times.
Cayce went on to explain that she had been a member of the royal family between the years 37-68 A.D., when Roman tyrant Nero imposed the persecution of Christians. The woman was present in the arena, witnessed the pain of the persecuted, and yet showed no sympathy. The price she had to pay for her sin, Cayce insinuated, was her sickness.
Another case study detailed a boy who had endured a spinal injury after a car accident at the age of 16. He was, likewise, paralyzed. Seven years later, he was taken by his devastated mother to meet Cayce, and the pair were curious to experience Cayce’s controversial diagnosis.
Cayce proceeded to induce a trance. In his past life, the boy was a soldier in the Roman army, Cayce began. At the beginning of the persecution of Christians the boy had revelled in the massacre, and his penance was to endure a similar torment in the life he led now: a paralysis caused by the sin of his past life.
Cayce had great faith in the validity of his work. He maintained that there were indeed understandable root causes for the disabilities and incurable diseases endured by his patients: sins committed in previous lives suffused the next life with sickness and misery. Also known as “karma,” past life actions are, he maintained, causally related to the suffering of the life that follows.
Cayce’s legacy of thought
For thousands of years, Eastern philosophies have taught that “good meets with good; evil meets with evil.” Thee simplicity of this aphorism belies its depth. What if our lives are, in fact, arranged according to the karma accrued in the lives that came before?
In the spring of 1944, Cayce’s health declined. He had already predicted his own death, and told his relatives: “When the new year comes, everything will be fine with me.”
It wasn’t until after his passing that relatives and friends understood the true meaning of this prophecy. On January 1, 1945, Cayce predicted that he would be buried within the next four days. He died from a stroke on January 3, and was buried in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the town where he was born.
Cayce was a broad thinker, a prophet, and a medical maverick. He left behind a legacy that has intrigued and inspired moral thinking for decades.