I have studied the Edgar Cayce Readings hungrily for over 50 years. I learned about Edgar Cayce in high school in the late 1960s. Like many adolescents, I found myself at the time questioning the meaning and purpose of life, the call and challenge of religion, and the arc of human history. I had taken these questions to all my adult caretakers—parents, pastors, Scout leaders, and the like. They were all supportive and caring, but satisfactory answers were slow in coming. The philosophy found in the readings offered me a worldview that resolved my thorniest questions concerning justice and mercy with an elegance and grace that felt to me then like a drink of cold water. I said to myself at the time, “This works for me. Until it doesn’t, or until something better comes my way, I’m sticking with this.”
In the late ‘60s, the “Edgar Cayce On…” book series was prominently featured on bookstore shelves, and I consumed them eagerly. As I read these books on subjects ranging from physical health to ESP to geopolitical prophecy, I came to realize what a vast corpus these readings comprised. It was dazzling and bewildering. These books generally excerpted small passages from the readings themselves and added a great deal of commentary. This was helpful because—as anyone knows who has tried to read them—the language of the readings is very peculiar and hard to understand.
Nevertheless, I felt something deeply honest in this material, like someone was trying to teach me something that was difficult but important to fathom. Throughout our years together, my relationship with these readings has felt personal. I have tried to get to know the spirit that lives behind the words on the page, because through all the words and all the pages, I feel a sense of urgency and intentionality as if a message is trying to be delivered—to the person receiving the reading, and to all of us who have come since then in search of strength and guidance in this precarious existence we call life.
But is that true? Is there an intentionality—a central purpose behind all the stunningly diverse subjects found in these readings? On the surface, it would not seem so. The mechanics of giving a reading was decidedly passive. Edgar would slip unconscious and then simply answer questions. If the receiver of the reading was concerned about one’s physical health, then a means to that health was forthcoming. If one was concerned about one’s business, then business advice was given. If one wanted counsel on a marriage or love affair, then one was counseled. But when the individual readings are studied more carefully, the counsel found in them invariably includes physical, mental, and even spiritual components. Statements like this one are ubiquitous throughout the 14,000 readings:
…healing of the physical without the change in the mental and spiritual aspects brings little real help to the individuals in the end.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 4016-1
It seems self-evident that the physical health readings were given out of a desire to provide healing, to be an ameliorating influence on the health of the individual getting the information. But from the high and clear perspective that is the source of these discourses, physical healing alone is not enough. What is needed is a complete restoration of the human being—body, mind, and soul.
This takes us to the second largest category of the readings: the Life readings. These readings deal not with the physical health of the individual, but with their mental and spiritual health. It is in these readings that we find the subjects of astrology, past lives, the power of gems and stones, Atlantis, and other mythologies. But what is the thread that ties this myriad of subjects together? What is the organizing principle? The thread is wound around the same purpose that is the energy behind the physical readings. In other words, they want to provide healing. However, the life readings address other dimensions of human existence beyond the physical. They address the mental and spiritual dimensions of human life. In other words, they address the human soul. In the Cayce readings, physical, mental, and emotional health is all one. Healing must include all dimensions of human existence, but all these dimensions of healing are predicated on the ultimate aim of the Cayce readings, which is nothing less than to contribute to the restoration of the human soul.
In my 23 years of parish ministry, I was asked repeatedly, “Please explain what is the human soul.” And I always felt stumped for a quick answer. But from the perspective of the Cayce readings, the entire universe within you—both in front of and behind the curtains—is your soul. That tangle of relationships both current and past; those hopes and dreams and fears and regrets all live there. But before we can address this interior world, we must first answer the question, “Where did this interior life come from?”
There is a long-standing debate concerning “mind.” Is mind just a function of material life and therefore dies at physical death? Or does “mind” exist on its own, independent of physical existence? The readings, of course, sum up their position on this question with the formula, “Spirit is the life, mind is the builder, the physical is the result.” In other words, mind pre-exists matter. This formula stands in a vast company that includes virtually all religious thought from the beginning of recorded history, as well as what might be called the Platonic philosophical tradition.
So, this takes us back to the original question, “As a mind, where do I come from?” And again, the readings follow this ancient tradition in affirming that mind is an aspect of the human soul, and is born from a single creative force that is known by many names and forms yet stands beyond them all. Each soul individually, and all of us collectively, are somewhere along a story of estrangement from and return to this creative, birthing force that has brought us all into being. Furthermore, each of us and all of us have access to this ground of being through a living and vital relationship. We experience it as love, light, healing, reconciliation, peace, and the list goes on. Showing the way to cultivate this relationship and grow toward our desired destiny, which is the ecstatic union with the very force of life itself, is the ultimate goal of the Cayce readings.