Empathy is the ability to share and understand someone else’s feelings and experiences as if they were your own. Ultimately, it can be akin to the energy of Oneness in that it entails having a connectedness with someone outside of self. From the perspective of the Edgar Cayce readings, it is actually this same level of connectedness that is central to psychic ability. It is when we can set ourselves aside and be concerned with the well-being of someone else that true connection occurs, and a true connection is what empathy is all about.
We have all heard the expression of the importance of “walking in someone’s shoes.” The idea being that if we could more completely empathize with another individual there would be no place for judgment or condemnation. We would understand that person because we would have experienced being that person. That’s connectedness. That’s empathy.
It was establishing a connectedness with other individuals that remained at the heart of Edgar Cayce ability to give readings. Cayce said the value of the information that came through his readings was dependent on various factors. Obviously, his physical health was one. Another was the intent of the individual seeking help and that person’s level of desire for help. For example, a woman seeking help for her sick child would probably have a higher caliber of a reading than someone wondering about investments in the stock market. Cayce also stated that the thoughts of the individuals in the room affected his reading. It was for that reason that Cayce’s wife, Gertrude, and his secretary, Gladys, were most often in attendance, because each sought to maintain “an attitude of empathy” with those seeking help.
While preparing for a lecture for what would become the first annual Membership Congress meeting in 1932 (an annual event that continues to this day), Edgar Cayce asked for additional information from a reading on the topic he hoped to present: “How to Develop Your Psychic Powers.” The readings’ response looked at the question from several different angles. First, it suggested that development of the “psychic forces” and the development of spiritual self was interlinked. It then asked a rhetorical question and stated that some might find the question “blasphemy” but that in terms of the development of psychic ability you might as well ask:
SHOULD one train their children – in such directions? SHOULD one have their children become acquainted with their Maker, or their selves? Would one have themselves be on speaking terms with the cosmic forces, with those influences that magnify the spiritual life?
-- Edgar Cayce reading 5752-2
From the readings’ perspective, the answer was obvious: that developing one’s psychic self would enable all individuals to become more in touch with who and what they are, as well as their connection to the Divine. Later, the reading suggested that some individuals interested in pursuing their psychic development might recommend such things as prayer, or purification, special exercises, diet, breathing, or rest, and although each of these might be helpful, the ultimate tool was learning to set self aside:
How develop the psychic forces? So live in body, in mind, that self may be a channel through which the Creative Forces MAY run … so make the body, the mind, the spiritual influences, a channel – and the NATURAL consequence will be the manifestations.
How best, then, to develop those latent forces … Let that mind be in you as was in Him who thought it not robbery to make Himself equal with God, yet took on Himself the burden of all … Not self, but others. He, or she, that may lose self, then, for others, may DEVELOP those faculties that will give the greater expression of psychic forces in their experience.
This same idea of focusing on the needs of others over the needs of self is discussed in the “Work readings” – those readings given on the structure, mission and purpose of the Cayce Work. In one reading given in 1936 to attendees at the annual Membership Congress, Cayce suggested that for the coming year members of the organization should try to focus on the “standard” [ideal] of “OTHERS, Lord, not myself but others, that the glory of the Father may be manifested in the earth.” (254-91) That focus would somehow create an energetic vortex for the Work that would enable it to be even more helpful for anyone seeking assistance. That’s empathy! The same reading added: “‘I AM my brother’s keeper!’ That should be the cry that should be in the heart of every member, every individual, ‘I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER!’” Members were encouraged to begin living in such a manner that their lives could become an example to others and to become of service to any who were in need.
The importance of service and the attitude of putting another’s needs before one’s own was highlighted in a reading given to a member of Cayce’s office staff when she was counseled:
Be kind, gentle, affectionate, one toward another, in love preferring one another, as He gave, and that peace that comes even from His own hand will be thine own lot. In service for others His strength may flow through thine own body, for others … KEEPING, then, in the light, is that way, that manner, that greater spiritual, greater insight, greater knowledge, greater patience, greater love, may be shown day by day … Make thine self GLAD in HIM, and that joy as comes from others, ‘Lord, Others - May I lose myself in service for others …’
-- Edgar Cayce reading 295-6
Many, many others received the very same advice and were encouraged to pray: “Others, Lord. Others,” and on one occasion this longer affirmation was suggested:
HERE AM I, O LORD, USE ME, SEND ME! AND MAY I SEEK ONLY TO DO, TO BE A CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH THY BLESSINGS, THY PROMISES, MAY BE FULFILLED TO MY FRIENDS, MY NEIGHBORS, THOSE ABOUT ME. OTHERS, LORD, OTHERS!
-- Edgar Cayce reading 5276-1
Four years later, at the eighth annual Membership Congress, the readings suggested that some global problems could be remedied by drawing upon the very same premise:
“Others, Lord! Others!”
-- Edgar Cayce reading 3976-22
He reminded those present that each of us is “our brother’s [sister’s] keeper.” Regardless of where an individual may be on the earth – whether next door or on the other side of the world – we have some small responsibility for that individual. That’s empathy! He reminded those present that it wasn’t enough just to prayer for global peace, instead we needed to begin living the admonition “thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s empathy!
When we can truly begin living as much for others as we do for ourselves, we will come to understand not only what empathy is all about but we will have achieved that point of Oneness that the readings suggest is our collective destiny.