As mystifying to their possessor as to those who read his story, are the strange psychic powers of Edgar Cayce.
It started when a friend told a friend who told me. My friend is a young lieutenant named Steve, home from overseas and going back. He is quick on the uptake and not generally gullible. Also he is in love. Her name is Betty. One of those fragile-looking blondes who is really as tough-fibered as a young sapling. But suddenly she developed arthritis, the devastating sort that ties one in agony. Bridal showers and gay young friends gave place to a darkened room and nurses. Doctors tried everything, but when Steve came home he found her thus.
It was then that his friend told him about a psychic named Edgar Cayce living at Virginia Beach. A psychic who, in a state of trance, diagnoses any kind of illness and reports his findings in technical language which he himself can not understand when awake; prescribing all sorts of treatment -medical, surgical, osteopathic.
Once, Steve related to me, when a doctor in Kentucky took a reading for a patient with obstinate leg sores, Mr. Cayce prescribed Smoke Oil. The doctor had never heard of such a thing nor had any of the physicians and druggists he consulted. A second reading named the drug store in Louisville where the Smoke Oil could be found, but when the doctor wired for it the druggist wired back, “Never heard of it.” A third reading explained that Smoke Oil was on a certain shelf in a back room behind bottles marked so-and-so. This time the manager wired, “Found it.” The bottle was old and the company which made it was out of business, but the label said, “Oil of Smoke” and it worked its cure.
“For Betty I’d give anything a try – champagne baths, poultice of bumble bees or psychics,” Steve said. And packed off to Virginia Beach. When he came home he told me his tale:
Mrs. Cayce met him at the door of a simple house and took him into the living room where Mr. Cayce rose and shook hands. He was tall, lean, a little on the shy side and didn’t look like Steve’s idea of a psychic.
“Betty is a very special person,” he heard his voice explaining.
“They all are,” Mr. Cayce said. “That’s why people come.”
“She’s very ill,” Steve began.
“Usually they don’t come except as a last resort,” Mr. Cayce returned. Then the clock struck half past ten, and he started for the door. “It’s time now for the reading,” he told Steve. “Shall we see what it says about her?”
So Steve followed him through the dining room into an office where he met Miss Gladys Davis, the secretary. Miss Gladys, tall, blond and forthright, had been in the office for 17 years. Steve followed her into the study and must have looked surprised at the simplicity of the surroundings because Mr. Cayce said, “This is all there is to it.”
Mr. Cayce walked over to the couch, took off his coat, loosened his collar, and lay down. His wife spread an afghan over him. No shades were drawn, no incense lighted. In no more than two or three minutes Mr. Cayce appeared to be sleeping quietly and his wife gave him Betty’s name and address.
Then Mr. Cayce began to talk. His southern accent was gone and he spoke precisely as he repeated Betty’s name and address. “Yes, we have the body,” he said: “The young woman is in bed in a large room with windows facing west and south.” That was Betty’s room all right and Steve couldn’t help being a little excited. Mr. Cayce went on, “This body is suffering from arthritis caused by a combination of several factors.” Then he gave a technical discussion whose medical terms didn’t mean a thing to Steve. Miss Gladys’ pencil flew. After 15 minutes of diagnosis Mr. Cayce began to talk of treatment. “We would be very mindful of the diet…” One medicine was indicated; a certain kind of bath. Finally he said, “We are ready for questions.”
Mrs. Cayce turned to Steve and he asked several questions which she repeated and Mr. Cayce answered fully. Then he said, “We are finished.” The room was still while he slept on for perhaps a minute until his wife gave him directions for waking.
Steve said he couldn’t think of a thing to say. The whole affair was incredible and at the same time it did not seem mysterious while it was happening. When he was about to leave he said he wished he knew more about the whole proposition.
Mr. Cayce said he wished he did too. He said quite a few psychologists had been down there, beginning with Hugo Munsterberg from Harvard. They talked about the superconscious and the subconscious and told Cayce that when he was in a state of trance he dipped into a free-flowing stream of thought. Mr. Cayce said maybe they were right but personally he felt like the old lady who read Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ with Explanatory Notes by Scott; at the end she declared it was all perfectly clear except the explanatory notes. As a matter of fact, Mr. Cayce said, he didn’t trust his own power for years. He was afraid he might prescribe something that would kill someone. But finally he came to have faith that it would work for good as long as he tried to help people honestly.
WELL, THAT was Steve’s story. And he wanted me to help persuade Betty’s doctors to try Mr. Cayce’s advice. But being a woman on the stubborn side of 40, I had to be convinced first hand. That’s how I happened to go to Virginia Beach myself.
Mr. Cayce seemed neither pleased nor displeased to see another person bent on investigation. He gave me a brief biography which began when he was a small boy in Kentucky finding out he could learn his lessons by sleeping on a textbook and waking with a photographic memory of its entire contents. At 10, he discovered the Bible and decided to read it through once for every year of his life. With those 10 years to make up, he did a lot of Bible reading and a lot of thinking about God. Which may account for a vision he had at 12, in which an angel who resembled his mother asked what he wanted most in life. When he said his greatest desire was to be able to help people, the vision promised him that he could.
Once he became very ill after being hit by a baseball and he diagnosed his own trouble in his sleep. Later, when a member of the family was ill, his father thought Edgar might be able to diagnose that difficulty also. So Edgar went to sleep and prescribed. The local doctor began to rely on him. The boy struggled to keep people from knowing about the “gift,” not wanting to be considered queer. He took up photography as a business; he married and moved away, but he was followed by hometown doctors who knew his power. His own wife was given up to die of tuberculosis and as a last extremity, he turned to a “reading” and received specific directions which, over a period of time, worked her complete recovery. After that his psychic ability became his major interest.
Physical ailments are not the only problems Mr. Cayce diagnoses. Take Miss B, for instance. Fifteen years ago she was in charge of the telegraph desk in one of the busiest spots in New York City. One day two men pushed through the crowd at the counter and each handed her a message. She looked at the one in her left hand and then at the one in her right. “Look here!” she said, “Do you two know each other?” They did not. “But you’re both wiring Mr. Cayce. Who is he? So they told her about him. In time she sent for a reading. It told her to give up her present occupation and get into commercial art. Some of it was very apt, she wrote, thanking Mr. Cayce, but at 36 she could not give up a good salary for an unknown venture. But eventually she talked things over with her family and decided to go to art school. Her teacher says she has one stroke which not an artist in a thousand is able to get. Her last letter reports that from the day she took her first job in the new field, 10 years ago, she has never made less in a month than she formerly made in a year.
Over the mantelpiece in the Virginia Beach home is a portrait of Mr. Cayce, and back of that picture another reading. One day a New York business man, who had worked out his problems through the readings for two decades, invited 500 persons to hear about Mr. Cayce’s work. He told the story of a friend who had been committed to Bellevue hospital as incurably insane, but who had been restored to complete well being by following the readings.
After the meeting a young woman tremblingly approached Mr. Cayce and said, “My sister is in a strait jacket at a state hospital. She was an artist and went suddenly insane.” Mr. Cayce gave a reading. After some months the girl was much improved and later recovered completely. Then she came to thank Mr. Cayce and the first picture she painted was his.
Sometimes the readings have a definite sense of humor and what sounds like a fund of common sense. A recent reading for a woman in Maine opens, “Why do you ask us to comment on your doctor’s diet sheet when you have not yet read it yourself?” But the shortest reading on record is for Mr. Cayce himself, given one day when he was feeling miserable. “You haven’t done what we told you to the last time. We are through.”
Mr. Cayce carries on much of his own correspondence. A typical day brings an assortment of letters. A woman in Kansas City reports that she read a story about Mr. Cayce “with some anxiety. I was afraid you were going to be dead at the end of it.” Another woman berates him for making a charge for his services; why should she pay her good money to a man who had a special gift from God? A man with a huge war contract thanks him for locating a particular kind of crystal in Brazil.
But most letters come from persons who need help for illness, or for vocational and family problems. A good many are thank-you’s warm with gratitude. One of the best letters comes from an 81 year old lady who wants a reading: “I have just one question. How am I doing?”
With such a following, why isn’t Mr. Cayce one of the richest men alive? Probably one reason is because he charges only a nominal fee for readings and will have nothing to do with get-rich-quick schemes. His neighbors attest that he has had plenty of offers. A cotton merchant offered him a hundred dollars a day for two weeks if he would give daily readings on the cotton market. Although he needed the money sorely, he refused. Whenever someone tries to use his gift for unsocial gain, Mr. Cayce says that he immediately detects the fact because he wakens from his trance with a violent headache.
Each year along toward the end of June, there is a gathering at Virginia Beach to which everyone who has ever had a reading is welcome. Called the Association for Research and Enlightenment, the group represents all parts of the country. This year the assembly was small, perhaps 60 in all. Members were well dressed and above average in education. Probably one fifth were professional men and women.
Open readings are a part of the Association’s program. At one open reading on current affairs, grave concern was expressed for equality of opportunity among divergent races in this country if we want peace abroad. Sometimes these open readings are definite prophecies, as when the war was foretold five years before it happened – including the names of our enemies. But more often they were filled with admonitions. “When labor becomes united, capital may fear.”
For a week I listened to these readings, which come twice a day. Nobody likes to have his favorite ruts disturbed. I like to have my conclusions arranged in neat patterns. Hence when I cannot explain a thing I’ve seen, I attempt to explain it away. But in this instance, I am tempted to tell Steve to tell Betty’s doctor about a man who drove up to Mr. Cayce’s door and said, “You don’t know me, Mr. Cayce, and I don’t know you, but I’m a telegraph operator at Norfolk and for 15 years I’ve been handling wires to you. Now I’m in trouble and last night I said to my wife: “That many people can’t be crazy.”
Bro, Margueritte H. “Miracle Man of Virginia Beach.” Coronet Magazine. Sept. 1943. Print.