[Presented to the Second Annual Symposium of the Medical Research Division of the Edgar Cayce Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, January 13, 1969.]
It is a pleasure for me to have this opportunity to share with you some of the ideas expressed in the Edgar Cayce readings on mental illness.
My paper is in no sense final, but is rather a report of research in progress with some indications of the trends we have found thus far. It is based on a study of 365 cases directly related to the subject, and numerous other cases to which I was led for supplementary information.
As a psychologist, it was rather disconcerting to note that Edgar Cayce did not recommend the services of a psychologist or psychiatrist in a single case.
In one case (1428-1, M.30) Edgar Cayce was asked, "Should the advice of any of the previous physicians be followed?" He replied, "As we find, rather these suggestions that have been made here ..."
Another question was "Would he be benefited by weekly visits to Dr. Stewart of the Meadowbrook Hospital?" Cayce answered, "As we find, if these are applied in the manner indicated, it will be better than hospitalization, better than weekly visits. Dr. Stewart was a psychiatrist.
It was interesting to note also that Cayce saw a person as a whole, with mind, body and spirit as a single unit, all so closely tied that it was not possible for one aspect to be diseased, either physically or mentally, without the whole person suffering the consequences. Hence, I have entitled my paper, "A Holistic Theory of Mental Illness." This point of view is expressed in the following statement from one of the readings:
For, the body-physical becomes that which it assimilates from material nature. The body-mental becomes that which it assimilates from both the physical-mental and the spiritual-mental. The soul is all of that the entity is, has been, or may be. (2475-1)
In one case (5210-1, F.22) the patient asked, "Am I slightly mentally ill?" Edgar Cayce's answer was, "No, save as to who would be the judge. Every individual is slightly mentally ill to someone else."
With this general perspective in mind, let us now turn to his diagnoses.
The symptoms of the patients I will describe were the typical symptoms of the psychoses: disorganization of thought, disorientation in time and space, withdrawal and autistic behavior, depersonalization, extremes of mood, hallucinations, delusions, etc. Most of the cases were diagnosed, in the language of the day, as dementia praecox or insanity. Using a more current system of classification they would be labeled schizophrenic, manic-depressive, or paranoid.
Most of these patients were brought to the attention of Mr. Cayce as a last resort. They were grossly disturbed, and some had been in institutions for many years.
In diagnosing a condition, Mr. Cayce seemed to be able to tune in to the autonomic and central nervous systems of the person. He believed that each cell in the body had an awareness of its own, and that the totality of this awareness constituted mind, with which he was in communication.
It was apparent at times that he had a form of visual perception which extended over the miles. Not only did he perceive the conditions of internal organs but also external environmental features.
In one case (5167-1, M.30) in which there were lesions in the brain caused by accidents, Cayce remarked, "My! What a mess!" In another case (2248-1, F.24), he said, "Yes, the big house is here, too!"; and in another, (5228-1, M.3 1), "That's where the railroad crosses." With this description of the physical, mental, and spiritual health of his patients.
In order to share with you as broad a perspective as possible in a short period of time, I thought that instead of discussing a few cases in detail, it might be more productive to survey the highlights of many cases and then summarize at the end.
I have abstracted 32 diagnoses which are representative and contain examples of different aspects of Edgar Cayce's view of mental illness. They will orient you to his point of view.
- Prenatal condition which affected glands - especially pineal and pituitary. Improper coordination between autonomic and cerebrospinal systems. (4853-1, F. Adult)
- Growth which causes pressure on pineal gland, thus affecting several organs. (4849-1, F. Adult)
- ". . the seat of the trouble [is] where the entrance of the sympathetic with cerebrospinal and pineal nerves enter the brain. . ." Brain impressions do not coordinate with sympathetic impressions from the sensory system. (4800-1)
- Lacerations to womb; also adhesions which affect the nerve system and bring on hallucinations. (4624-1, F. 45)
- Blood deficient in its rebuilding force, thus hallucinations. (4519-1, M. Adult)
- Overtaxing caused incoordination of the sympathetic and cerebrospinal systems. Engorgement in the 1st and 2nd cervical areas of the spine and at pineal gland. (4432-1, M. Adult)
- Birth injury to lumbar and sacral regions of spine - breech birth. "In later years ... an accident to the end of the spine (four years ago [on the] sixteenth of September . . . )" which damaged coccyx. (4342-1, F. Adult)
- Incoordination in the glands of reproduction because of the fall she had at six years of age which injured the spinal center and produced reflexes in the pineal gland. (4433-1, F. Adult)
- Poisons have entered the system from infected tonsils. (4290-1, F. 58) (Cayce said of this patient's nerve system: "This we find, as would be slangily said, 'all shot,' see?")
- Injury to spine to coccyx area which destroyed the connections between systems. (Patient's problem began right after an accident on bicycle 10 years before.) (3223-1, M. 31)
- "The conditions here, as we find, have been so aggravated by animosities, and by hates, that we have a deterioration in the nerve force along the spinal system; so that this is dementia-and now possession, such that this may appear near to hopeless in this experience." (Edgar Cayce suggests that emotional stress may destroy nerve tissue, and also that the patient will have another incarnation in which to improve the situation.) (3315-1, F.40)
- "Extreme nervous tension that overtaxed the system as received through the sensory forces, until the cells broke here at the 1st cervical." (4097-1, M. Adult)
- Illness of mind, not so much of body. He cannot respond to kindness because of experiences. Study and strain. (Patient age 22, completed one year of college.) (5405-1, M. 22)
- Pressures left in the coccyx, lumbar, and dorsal areas after infection in the genitive system. Not true dementia, but incoordination. "Also those surroundings, the environs, those activities have brought about much of that which is a relative condition." (1428-1, M. 30)
- "These are the result of chemical and glandular reactions in the body; producing a deteriorating reaction in nerve impulses." (2614- 1, F. 3 7)
- Accident impinged the centers about the 3rd lumbar. This affected the kidneys and caused uremic poisoning. (4186- 1, M. Adult)
- "An injury to the coccyx from a fall when only about three and a half to four years old." This caused glandular dysfunction. (Patient was age 18 at time of reading.) (2721-1, F. 19)
- Disconnection or disassociation of sympathetic and cerebrospinal systems which caused lesions in the brain. Those on whom he is dependent must bear the burden. There is no hope. (Patient was a 20-year-old male.) (4991-1)
- Coordination has been severed. There is no hope. (586-1, F. Adult)
- Overtaxation of the system, physically and mentally, caused eruptions in blood cells. Pressures are "functional, rather than organic in their nature." (2359-1, M. Adult)
- A lesion in the lacteal duct and that as coordinating with the organs of the pelvis. "The reaction to the pineal becomes so severe as to short-circuit the nerve impulse; carrying or producing a fluttering, or an engorgement in static waves to the base of the brain." (2465- 1, F. 28)
- Pressures on spine from childbirth of her first child.
- "The body-mind lost control of itself through overtaxing of the body-mind, combined with a type of fever that was part of the experience when the body so taxed itself, reducing the body forces to such an extent that in many centers along the spinal column there came to be less and less ability for the centers to coordinate between sympathetic and cerebrospinal nervous systems." (2865-1, F. 31, M. D.)
- Causes both psychological and pathological." Psychologically, these have to do with the karma of this body, and those responsible for the physical body." (3075-1, M. 24)
- Patient at age 13 joined the Missionary Baptist Church." When he was baptized he was stricken with a headache which lasted for years." A physician said that the headaches were caused by masturbation. Edgar Cayce said that a lesion in the brain centers caused a loss of control. "The voluntary and involuntary reaction or impulse, as carried in the white and gray matter of the nervous systems tends in certain centers to run together and become confusing to the body." (3158-1, M. 37)
- "It is purely a physical condition, from a pressure existent in the coccyx end of the spine, affecting directly the organs of the pelvis." (3415-1, F. 22)
- Injury to coccyx area and pressure on the brush end of the cerebrospinal system affects glandular forces. Glands of assimilation not functioning well. This causes undue development of breasts and other areas. (3609-1, F. 35)
- Cellular waste materials not being carried out of the brain.
- ". . adhesions in the pelvic organs, as directly connected or associated with the lyden (Leydig) and the pineal glands." (4002-1, F. 28)
- "With the mental exhaustion of body, through taxation physically and mentally, there came that almost complete disassociation between sympathetic and cerebrospinal nervous systems. (5467-1, M. 45)
- Hereditary tendencies to physical defects in the cerebrospinal nerve system, so incoordination of systems. (Parents were first cousins.) (5690-1, M. 27)
- "There has already been departure of the soul ... no physical help ... may be administered. . ." (5344-1, F. 35)
To summarize the diagnostic material, the following points seem pertinent:
1. Cayce spoke of mental illness as basically a physical problem once it is manifested. It could be caused by injury, glandular dysfunction, or emotional stress; but the result was incoordination or a lack of balance in the system.
The most frequently mentioned incoordination was between the autonomic and central nervous systems. (Cayce used the term sympathetic for autonomic.) This was physical, or perhaps chemical, in nature and occurred most often along the spinal cord in those centers where the two systems join. The readings are not specific about the details, but they imply a separation or dysfunction of the synaptic connections.
Cayce mentioned spinal injuries as the cause in many cases. In several instances, these injuries were confirmed by letters from the patient or a relative. But he also stated very clearly that emotional stress could produce the same effect. "This produces, through these pressures, those spasmodic conditions to the reaction between the sympathetic and the cerebrospinal system-which has been termed a mental disorder. The reaction is not mental, but a physical-that acts to, or on, the mental - so that the reflexes that come through the sympathetic system are those that prevent a normal impulse from their reaction, causing that pressure, that condition. . ." (2200-1)
In another reading he was even more specific: "And thus the nerve forces for the body, this body as any body, any individual, who makes destructive thought in the body, condemning self for this or that, will bring, unless there are proper reactions, dissociation or lack of coordination between [the] sympathetic and cerebrospinal system, and it may develop any condition which may be purely physical by deterioration of mental processes and their effect upon organs of the body." (5380-1, M. 54)
One could not wish for a clearer statement of the basic premise of psychosomatic medicine, and it was spoken long before the recent rapid growth of this discipline.
In a few cases, Cayce was asked about the cause of hallucinations. He described synaptic dysfunctions which resulted in the reception of messages by the central nervous system which were not sent by the sensory system. "We have just described how that the supersensitiveness of the nerve forces opens the body to such influences; or the body becomes what might be termed a human radio, but in giving expression to what is heard may often deflect what is actually said, felt or thought. For, thoughts are things! and they have their effect upon individuals, especially those that become supersensitive to outside influences! These are just as physical as sticking a pin in the hand!" (386-2)
When we discuss, in a moment, the treatment programs Cayce prescribed, we will see even more clearly what he meant by incoordination between the autonomic and central nervous systems.
2. Another frequently mentioned condition was glandular dysfunctions. These were caused by prenatal developmental problems, infections, injuries, incoordination in the autonomic nervous system, etc. The pineal gland, in particular, was mentioned numerous times.
Cayce implied that this gland included both autonomic and central nervous system pathways and served a coordinating function.
3. Functional disorders, such as emotional stress, nervous tension, or "overtaxing" were suggested as common causes of mental illness, but they were manifested in a physical disorder.
Mental illness then, according to Edgar Cayce, is caused by either physical, mental, or spiritual imbalance. But regardless of the precipitating factor, all aspects are affected adversely. The person is a complete unit which can only function as a whole.
Let us look now at his treatment program.
In order to provide a broad perspective, I have, as above, abstracted several examples of treatment procedures. Each was specifically formulated for the particular case. But before I present these examples, I want to mention that Cayce suggested, in the majority of cases, that the patients use either a wet cell appliance or a radio-active appliance as a part of therapy. (These were instruments which he described in several readings.) It is sufficient for our purposes here to point out that these appliances provided a low-voltage electrotherapy. In the wet cell appliance the current passed through a solution which was usually chloride of gold. Specific areas on the body were designated for the attachments.
Now, a few examples of prescribed treatments:
- Wet cell appliance carrying vibration of the chloride of gold solution. (Formula was given and attachments described.) Appliance to be used three times per week for 30 minutes.
Massage with equal combination of witch hazel and peanut oil. (Specific areas of massage were indicated.) (1513-1, M. 47)
- Wet cell appliance with chloride of gold and also radio-active appliance. Massage whole body and suggest "quiet," "peace," etc., when the patient is almost asleep. Follow a body-building diet. Almonds, in small quantities, are good for the body. (271-1, M. 34)
- Correct adhesions as related to the organs of the pelvis by an osteopathic gynecologist or the condition may cause deterioration of nerve plasm. (3475-1, F. 22)
- Wet cell appliance with nickel plate, massage with olive oil and tincture of myrrh. One drop of Atomidine two days per week to purify and cleanse the glandular system. (5014-1, M. I 1)
- Take the patient to a place near sun, sand and sea, with pine woods, and wear as few clothes as possible. (386-1, F.20)
During massage the following suggestion was to be repeated to the patient. I want to share this statement because it explains, in part, the function of the appliance.
Now there is being created in the impulses from the ganglia in the system the normal reaction to the sensory and sympathetic systems of the body. And this is being normally acted upon by the vibrations, and the reactions will be a perfectly normal balancing in the mental, physical and spiritual being of the body...
... It is glands' reaction, and we are changing these through the vibrations that have been set up; as indicated in nerve impulses from the ganglia along the cerebrospinal system to functioning of organs throughout the body. (386-3)
- There is complete disassociation of sympathetic and cerebrospinal systems. This has caused lesions in the brain and there is little hope. (Cayce advised those on whom the patient was dependent to bear the burden.) (4991-1, M. 20)
- Castor oil packs over the liver and umbilicus plexus. This will relax the system. Deep massage in sacral and lower lumbar areas. Take Codiron tablets daily until several hundred have been taken. Radio-active appliance each day for 30 minutes. Use period of appliance for meditation. Read John 14, 15, 16, 17. (A follow-up letter said that Codiron tablets had been taken off the market. Edgar Cayce suggested White's Codliver Oil Tablets.) (1614-1, F. 38)
- Osteopathic adjustments were prescribed regularly. A typical case was that of a female patient, 27 years old, who had suffered an injury to the area of the 4th lumbar which caused pressure on the pineal gland. This was Cayce's diagnosis. The patient was in St.
Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Cayce prescribed osteopathic adjustments to relieve pressure in the lumbar area of the spine.
Numerous cases were similar to this one. Some received results they considered "miraculous." Many others never tried the treatment.
- Animated ash internally. Also ultraviolet ray and massage.
- "Or the gold may be taken internally in very minute doses, for the stimulation of those gland secretions that make for creative energies and forces through the activity of all the glands in the body..." (915-2, M. 62)
- Other treatments prescribed were:
- Extract of the passion flower to quiet the body
- Colonics to aid eliminations
- Injection of liver abstract
- Submerge in hot water 15-20 minutes, then massage
- Mayblossom bitters
- Turpentine packs over kidneys and pubic area to drain bladder
- Concentrated beef juice
- Jerusalem artichoke - to provide insulin
- Milk and grape diet for three days in. Colors purple and lavender about the body; also provide music on strings or organ.
I have not exhausted the examples of the various treatments suggested by Edgar Cayce, but I have mentioned enough of the most common ones to give you some orientation to his method. Now let me summarize and comment briefly on the section on treatment.
First of all, let me point out that although there were frequently many common elements in the treatment programs, they were very specific for that individual. The exact location of the castor oil pack was described. The precise amount of medicine was prescribed. These varied from patient to patient.
Cayce emphasized the importance of carrying out his instructions to the letter. In subsequent readings on a patient he would frequently reprimand those in charge for not following instructions precisely. He knew when they had not, and those who responded acknowledged that he was right.
Cayce also suggested particular doctors to his patients. Some of these doctors had never heard of Edgar Cayce, and he, in his waking state, had never heard of them.
You will remember that Cayce came to believe that all of us live many lives. He was convinced by the data from his own readings. In a few cases in which he suggested that the suffering of the person was karmic - that is, related to other lives and for the benefit of the person - he seemed to reluctant to prescribe a cure. (3700-1, M. 28)
He also said that we must pay the price necessary for our soul development.
Let me summarize the specific treatments Cayce recommended:
- The wet cell appliance. This was suggested in almost all cases of mental illness.
- Osteopathic adjustments to the spine. This was very frequently recommended.
- The radio-active appliance. This was recommended primarily for patients who were agitated or aggressively acting out.
- Massage. Both deep massage and gentle massage with specific areas designated and the appropriate oils prescribed. Usually these were olive oil, peanut oil, and lanolin.
- Cayce strongly emphasized that those who treated the patient must be sympathetic. He said, ". . the greatest thought that comes to the mind of man [is] 'somebody cares.' " (3365-1, F. 17)
- Then finally, he recommended numerous specific medicines to suit the particular needs of each individual patient.
The most important treatment seemed to be the wet cell appliance, so let me comment briefly on its theory.
This appliance provides low-voltage electrotherapy. The current passes through a wire immersed in a solution of chloride of gold. On rare occasions, the readings suggested chloride of silver or some other solution. Typically, the patient was told to use the appliance for 30 minutes, three times per week.
Since most all cases included a condition of incoordination between the central and autonomic nervous systems, the appliance was recommended to deal with this problem primarily. Edgar Cayce explained its purpose in the following paragraph from the reading of a 30-year-old woman:
As we may see in a functioning physical organism, electricity in its incipiency or lowest form is the nearest vibration in a physical sense to Life itself, for it is the nucleus about each atom of active force or principle set by the atomic activity of blood pulsation itself, that begins from the very union of the plasm that creates life itself in a physical organism. (3950-1)
In another reading he said that the appliance was the instrument "that would build, as it were, nerve ends so as to form, in those areas as indicated, connections in nerve plasm." (5088-1, F. 67)
The effect is to create better connections at the synaptic centers, especially where the central nervous system and the autonomic system join. The electricity apparently creates nerve plasm or tissue which enlarges the synaptic knobs and thus improves the connection.
Perhaps this is what happens on a more temporary basis in electroshock therapy.
This theory makes perfect sense and does not contradict current thinking relative to neural and synaptic transmission.
It is particularly interesting in light of Cayce's explanation of hallucinations which I mentioned above. You remember that he suggested that a misfiring, or spontaneous firing, of a nerve impulse delivered a message to the central nervous system which was not sent by the sensory system. Most doctors are familiar with the phantom limb phenomenon in which a person "feels" pain in a foot that has been amputated. Apparently this is also a case of a spontaneous firing of a nerve impulse or a bad connection somewhere higher in the system.
Space does not permit us to look more closely at some of the other aspects of the treatment program, each of which must be thoroughly researched. I believe, however, that the wet cell appliance is the most important.
Please note once again that Cayce's treatments involved the whole person. He provided for the building of nerve tissue, the cleansing of the system, the stimulation of glands and blood circulation, proper diet, sympathetic attendants, and also a time for meditation and prayer.
What about the outcome of these cases? Was treatment successful?
Edgar Cayce, after 33 years of readings, said the following in a letter to one of his patients: "Wherever there has been the wholehearted cooperation of everyone concerned, we have not found a single instance where a definite change for the better hasn't been wrought as promised."
This is a remarkable statement, but it appears to be true. The first part of the sentence, however, is very important. "Wherever there has been the wholehearted cooperation of everyone concerned. . ." This was the problem.
Those who precisely followed Cayce's instructions got immediate results. Some of these patients and their doctors wrote and used the term "miracle" to describe the patient's progress or cure. Other patients who followed the instructions half way got half-way results. Many patients, or their relatives, for a variety of reasons, did not even attempt to follow Cayce's suggestions. Some were unable, some had no faith in his prescriptions, and many were advised not to by skeptical physicians with whom they consulted.
Over the years, when the Association has tried to follow up with letters and questionnaires, the response has been very poor. In most of the cases, we do not know whether or not the reading was followed, or whether or not the desired results were obtained. This is most unfortunate, because many of the patients for whom the readings were given have died or are getting old. The number grows smaller each year.
Despite this lack of "wholehearted cooperation," enough patients did report their experiences to enable us to make some tentative judgment relative to the success of the treatments. Cayce's statement holds up very well. Where there was cooperation, "changes for the better were wrought as promised."
If Edgar Cayce had been right about nothing, we could dismiss him easily; but the more his readings are researched and tried in the clinic, the more impressive this data becomes. There is a lifetime of exciting inquiry for all of us if we will but accept the challenge of the tremendously productive life of this man.
He said, "To be sure, these interpretations would not be accepted by some as an explanation. And yet there will come those days when many will understand and interpret properly." (3075-1, M. 24)
Mental illness is our number one health problem. It may well be that Edgar Cayce has provided us with the basic information which is essential to the understanding that we need and do not have. In any event, he was a man who set an example worthy of being followed, for he was dedicated to relieving the suffering of his brothers. He said, "Communicate then, in prayer, in meditation, in thoughtfulness - not as to how ye may be this or that but as to how ye may do this or that for thy Maker, for thy fellow man." (3691-1)
Cayce also said, "So does it behoove every soul to so live and so act, in its contacts with its fellow man in its business and commercial life, that it will not be afraid to stand on the corner and watch self pass by - in relationship to its activities with its fellow man." (531-1)
These quotes sum up Edgar Cayce's formula for good mental health. He puts it into a single sentence with which I will close. "Keep the eye single to a Service for spiritual understanding, and a mental aberration ... may not touch thee!" (1442-1, M. 14)
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[Note: The preceding overview was written by James C. Windsor, Ph.D. and is excerpted from the Physician's Reference Notebook, Copyright © 1968 by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, Virginia Beach, VA.]