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The Readings' Approach to ESP and Psychic Phenomena

The story of Edgar Cayce's life is filled with examples of what this extra sense of communication is like. His ability to give readings in the sleep state could be labeled ESP because he somehow knew information that he had never studied, and he could see people and places and events without using his physical sight. While asleep, he could answer questions on any topic or he could give descriptions of the individual and his or her surroundings, even though Cayce was in Virginia Beach and the person receiving the reading might be in New York City. Because there are so many different types of extrasensory communication, researchers have broken down the term ESP into further categories to help explain what is taking place.

Telepathy is the ability to obtain information psychically by reading the mind of another person. For example, while Cayce was in Kentucky, he gave a reading for a man in New York (740-1). He saw the man smoking a cigar, heard him whistling a particular song, saw him meet with another man about a piece of property, and saw him look over three letters. Finally, the sleeping Cayce heard the man telephone another gentleman and knew the gentleman's name. All of these events were later verified. Cayce was able to see with this extra sense everything the man in New York had experienced firsthand with his normal senses. In our own lives, one example of telepathy is when we suddenly start thinking about someone we haven't heard from in a long time and a short while later the phone rings and that person is on the line.

Another category of ESP is clairvoyance, the ability to "see" information that no one else has. For example, suppose you shuffled a deck of cards and placed them face down, then went through the deck and tried to name each card (or at least to tell its color). If your percentage of correct guesses was far beyond what would be expected by random chance, it would be an example of clairvoyance. You would not need to be 100 percent accurate to demonstrate clairvoyance, just statistically (and consistently) greater than random chance. On the other hand, if you tried the same experiment but had a friend look at each card and concentrate on it before you guessed, this would be an example of telepathy.

Looking at one instance from the Cayce readings (2826-1), we find the case of a person who was in Ohio while Cayce was in Virginia Beach. During the reading, Cayce correctly gave the person's body temperature. Now, if the attending doctor in Ohio had known the patient's temperature before Cayce's reading was given, then this would be an example of telepathy, since Cayce could have read the doctor's mind. But if the doctor hadn't known the temperature until after Cayce's psychic reading, it would be an example of clairvoyance.

A third category of ESP is precognition, the ability to view events before they happen. Many of us have had the experience called déjà vu; for example: you might be having a conversation with a friend and, all at once, be absolutely positive that you've had the exact conversation before. You may even know what your friend is going to say next. The Cayce readings suggest that one explanation for this phenomenon is that our dreams often foreshadow future events. Such precognitive dreams may be forgotten and onlydimly felt at those times as déjà vu experiences. There are countless examples of precognition in the files of the Cayce material. In many readings for children, Cayce foresaw what they would be like as adults, even going so far as to describe hidden talents and occupational decisions. There are also other examples of this precognitive ability. When completing a reading for one woman in New York, Cayce suddenly started giving a reading for a woman in Missouri, although no one had solicited it. Her request for help, dated the day after he had volunteered the information (5700-6), did not arrive until after his response had already been mailed. Cayce also predicted the stock market crash (900-425) more than six months before it occurred and foresaw the outbreak of World War II. He knew that he would die before his two sons returned home from overseas.

Although some have called Cayce a "prophet," he himself made no such claims. In fact, in one reading, he described himself as a "lowly, weak, unworthy channel" (254-76). He rarely made any predictions about worldwide events, mostly because these kinds of predictions are subject to countless outside influences. For example, when psychics try to predict the future, all they can actually do is foretell a possible future based on current happenings. If events continue to occur the same course-if people's attitudes, lifestyles, and world conditions remain the same-then psychics can "see" what the result will be. However, the readings make it quite clear that each of us has the gift of free will. If enough people use their free will and change what they are currently doing, this in turn will have dramatic effects on the future.

In the Bible, Jonah went to the evil city of Nineveh to tell the people about the destruction that was about to come upon them. However, the people of the city repented of their evil ways. With their free will, they changed their lives and, as a result, their city was saved. The ability of precognition, then, is subject to many more influences than either telepathy or clairvoyance.

The fourth major category of ESP shown in the Cayce readings is retrocognition, the ability to see past events. For example, in the life readings (those readings which dealt with the soul) Cayce would often repeat aloud significant happenings in a person's life while going back over the years until the date of the person's birth. In one reading, he said, "1935-'32-disturbing periods-'31-'36-'26-not any too peaceful!" etc. (1650-1). In another life reading (1462-1), Cayce was given the incorrect date and location of birth for a young girl. In going back over the years he responded with, "We don't find it here". (He had been incorrectly told that the child was born on January 24, 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio). Then, after a short pause, he finally said, "Yes, we have the record here (looks like it's the wrong place and date)." It was later discovered that the girl had been born on January 23 (a day earlier) in New York City and not in Cleveland.

Past Prest FutureMore than eleven years before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, Cayce's readings described a sect of Judaism about which scholars knew little. This group was the Essenes. Cayce gave a great deal of information about their work and their life in the community. For example, he claimed that in the Essene society men and women worked and lived together. At the time of the reading, scholars believed that the Essenes were a monastic society composed exclusively of men. However, in 1951, more than six years after Cayce's death, archaeologists made further excavations at Qumran near the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. They discovered evidence that both men and women lived together in the Essene society.

These are just a few of the many examples of ESP in the Cayce readings. Because "psychic is of the soul," the Cayce information suggests that it is relatively easy to induce personal psychic experiences. However, the phenomenon that manifests itself through psychic channels can oftentimes get us off the track. The readings suggest that instead of seeking psychic experiences for the sake of having them, we should seek only those within the context of spiritual growth, of learning about ourselves, or of being of service to others.

People often have the tendency to make psychic experiences seem unusual, out of the ordinary, special, somehow set apart, or perhaps even frightening. However in the Cayce approach, psychic information is as natural as an "intuition" or a "hunch." In addition, just because something is "psychic" does not mean it's 100 percent accurate. We may wish to work with psychic information to the same degree that we would listen to the advice of a trusted friend: it can be utilized as an additional tool for gathering insights and for making decisions - it shouldn't necessarily be given any more credence than information from any of our other friends (or senses); however, it shouldn't be given any less either. In time, individuals may work with their own intuition in such a way that it becomes as natural as using any of their other senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing, or sight.