In the parlance of metaphysics, some terms are often used interchangeably whether accurately or not. Edgar Cayce, the so-called Sleeping Prophet, is almost always referred to as a psychic but we can fairly debate if that is the most appropriate term for him. He was called the Sleeping Prophet because of his ability to go into a trance state and gather information for various purposes.
The debate may seem frivolous, but there are distinctions: a person with genuine psychic ability (i.e. the ability to glean otherwise unknowable information in a consciously aware state) may not necessarily be a trance channel, and while a trance channel may have the remarkable ability to access information in an altered state of awareness, they may not necessarily be particularly psychically gifted. For all intents and purposes, I think Cayce is best referred to as a trance channel; either way, there is no debating the fact that he has left an indelible mark in the world of metaphysics.
The Gift Unfolding
Born in 1877 to a farming family in Kentucky, Cayce would receive no more than a ninth grade level education. Not surprisingly Cayce was a devout Christian, adhering to the Disciples of Christ, one of two denominations which share the name and one having its roots in 19th century rural Kentucky. In 1901 after taking a job as an insurance salesman in his early 20’s, Cayce developed a severe case of chronic laryngitis that lasted over a year, forcing him to find a new career in photography which would require less use of his voice.
In his search for a cure (which mainstream medicine failed to provide), Cayce experimented with hypnotism. Remarkably, during the first session his voice was restored but upon awakening the laryngitis returned. In subsequent attempts with a different hypnotist, Al Layne, who had knowledge of hypnosis as a means for curing illness, directed Cayce in the hypnotic trance to describe his ailment and also prescribe the cure. After several sessions his vocal cords were permanently healed.
Trance sessions for Layne would uncover accurate and effective treatments for his own conditions. As word spread about Cayce’s amazing ability requests for sessions (which became known as readings) came from far and wide. Even questions that came in the form of letters proved to be no obstacle as he could just as effectively diagnose and prescribe treatments (despite his lack of formal education or any training in medicine) whether or not a person was present, and in fact most of his work was done from a distance. In 1923 new kinds of questions were being posed to Cayce related to the meaning of life, the nature of reality and other more philosophical and metaphysical topics, and these became known as the “life readings” as opposed to the previous “physical readings.”
There was seemingly no question Cayce could not answer. Over a period of four and a half decades Cayce gave over 14,000 readings, most of which were documented and have been archived along with responses to the readings from patients. It was astounding enough that the physical readings could elicit accurate medical advice, but the life readings would reveal new kinds of information completely out of context with Cayce’s religious background. Topics such as reincarnation emerged, juxtaposed to his orthodox Christian belief system and information about the lost continent of Atlantis.
When asked during a reading where the information came from Cayce said that it came from the subconscious or unconscious of the client, or the Akashic Records (sometimes referred to as the Book of Life), which is akin to Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. It is a sort of etheric database upon which every thought, every emotion, every experience of every person who has ever lived has been recorded and is thus accessible.
What do we name this ability of Cayce to access this information? When Cayce gave real psychic readings they came through in his normal voice but narrated in the “we” form, and he would not remember the readings upon waking, like most trance channels. There was not an outside entity that claimed control of his consciousness as also happens with most trance channels. Yet he had a direct line to records otherwise unknowable in ordinary consciousness. It’s possible that he was simply the clearest psychic that ever lived, but given the fact that he had to go into trance to retrieve the information makes me lean more the direction that he was actually a channel.