Edgar Cayce (/ˈkeɪsiː/; March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American psychic who allegedly had the ability to give answers to questions on subjects such as healing or Atlantis while in a hypnotic trance. Though Cayce himself was a devout Christian and lived before the emergence of the New Age Movement, some believe he was the founder of the movement and influenced its teachings.
Cayce became a celebrity toward the end of his life and the publicity given to his prophecies has overshadowed what to him were usually considered the more important parts of his work, such as healing (the vast majority of his readings were given for people who were sick) and theology (Cayce was a lifelong, devout member of the Disciples of Christ). Skeptics challenge the statement that Cayce demonstrated psychic abilities, and traditional Christians also question his unorthodox answers on religious matters (such as reincarnation and Akashic records, although others accept his abilities as "God-given").
Cayce founded a nonprofit organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment.
In December 1893, the Cayce family moved to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and occupied 705 West Seventh, on the south-east corner of Seventh and Young Street. During this time Cayce received an eighth-grade education, discovered his spiritual vocation and left the family farm to pursue various forms of employment (at Richard's Dry Goods Store and then in Hopper's Bookstore, both located on Main Street).
Cayce's education stopped with the ninth grade because his family could not afford the costs involved. A ninth-grade education was often considered more than sufficient for working-class children. Much of the remainder of Cayce's younger years would be characterized by a search for both employment and money.
Throughout his life, Cayce was drawn to church as a member of the Disciples of Christ. He read the Bible once for every year of his life, taught at Sunday school, and recruited missionaries. He is said[who?] to have agonized over the issue of whether his psychic abilities, and the teachings which resulted, were spiritually legitimate.
In 1900, he formed a business partnership with his father to sell Woodmen of the World Insurance but was struck by severe laryngitis in March that resulted in a complete loss of speech. Unable to work, he lived at home with his parents for almost a year. He then decided to take up the trade of photography, an occupation that would exert less strain on his voice. He began an apprenticeship at the photography studio of W.R. Bowles in Hopkinsville.
A traveling stage hypnotist and entertainer called "The Laugh Man" was performing at the Hopkinsville Opera House in 1901. He heard about Cayce's condition and offered to attempt a cure. Cayce accepted, and the experiment took place on stage in front of an audience. Remarkably, Cayce's voice apparently returned while in a hypnotic trance but allegedly disappeared on awakening. Hart tried a posthypnotic suggestion that the voice would continue to function after the trance, but this proved unsuccessful.
Since Hart had appointments at other cities, he could not continue his hypnotic treatment of Cayce. However, a local hypnotist, Al Layne, offered to help Cayce in restoring his voice. Layne suggested that Cayce describe the nature of his condition and cure while in a hypnotic trance. Cayce described his own ailment from a first person plural point of view ("we") instead of the singular ("I"). In subsequent readings he would generally start off with "We have the body." According to the reading, his voice loss was due to psychological paralysis and could be corrected by increasing the blood flow to the voice box. Layne suggested that the blood flow be increased, and Cayce's face supposedly became flushed with blood and his chest area and the throat turned bright red. After 20 minutes Cayce, still in trance, declared the treatment over. On awakening, his voice was alleged to have remained normal. Relapses were said to have occurred but were said to have been corrected by Layne in the same way, and eventually the cure was said to be permanent.
Layne had read of similar hypnotic cures effected by the Marquis de Puységur, a follower of Franz Mesmer, and was keen to explore the limits of the healing knowledge of the trance voice. He asked Cayce to describe Layne's own ailments and suggest cures and reportedly found the results both accurate and effective. Layne suggested that Cayce offer his trance healing to the public, but Cayce was reluctant. He finally agreed on the condition that readings would be free. He began with Layne's help to offer free treatments to the townspeople. Reports of Cayce's work appeared in the newspapers, inspiring many postal inquiries. Cayce was able to work just as effectively using a letter from the individual as with having the person present. Given the person's name and location, he said he could diagnose the physical and/or mental conditions and provide a remedy. He became popular and soon people from around the world sought his advice through correspondence.
Cayce's work grew in volume as his fame grew. He asked for voluntary donations to support himself and his family so that he could practice full-time. He continued to work in an apparent trance state with a hypnotist all his life. His wife and eldest son later replaced Layne in this role. A secretary, Gladys Davis, recorded his readings in shorthand.
The growing fame of Cayce coupled with the popularity he received from newspapers attracted several eager commercially-minded men who wanted to seek a fortune by using Cayce's clairvoyant abilities. Even though Cayce was reluctant to help them, he was persuaded to give the readings, which left him dissatisfied with himself and unsuccessful. A cotton merchant offered Cayce a hundred dollars a day for his readings about the daily outcomes in the cotton market. However, despite his poor finances, Cayce refused the merchant's offer. Others wanted to know where to hunt for treasures, while some wanted to know the outcome of horse races. Several times he was persuaded to give the readings as an experiment. However, he was not successful when he used his ability for such purposes, doing no better than chance alone would dictate. These experiments allegedly left him depleted of energy, distraught, and unsatisfied with himself. Finally, he came to the conclusion that he would use his gift only to help the distressed and sick.
He was persuaded to give readings on philosophical subjects in 1923 by Arthur Lammers, a wealthy printer who, by his own admission, had been "studying metaphysics for years". Cayce was told by Lammers that, while in his supposed trance state, he spoke of Lammers' past lives and of reincarnation, something Lammers believed in. Reincarnation was a popular subject of the day but not an accepted part of Christian doctrine. Cayce questioned his stenographer as to what he had said in his trance state and remained unconvinced. Cayce himself challenged Lammers's charge that he had validated astrology and reincarnation in the following dialogue:
Cayce: "I said all that?...I couldn't have said all that in one reading."
"No," Lammers said, "but you confirmed it. You see, I have been studying metaphysics for years, and I was able by a few questions, by the facts you gave, to check what is right and what is wrong with a whole lot of the stuff I've been reading. The important thing is that the basic system which runs through all the mystery religions, whether they come from Tibet or the pyramids of Egypt, is backed up by you. It's actually the right system." 
Cayce's stenographer recorded the following:
"In this we see the plan of development of those individuals set upon this plane, meaning the ability to enter again into the presence of the Creator and become a full part of that creation.
Insofar as this entity is concerned, this is the third appearance on this plane, and before this one, as the monk. We see glimpses in the life of the entity now as were shown in the monk, in this mode of living.
The body is only the vehicle ever of that spirit and soul that waft through all times and ever remain the same."
Cayce was quite unconvinced that he had been referring to and, as such, had validated the doctrine of reincarnation, and the best Lammers could offer was that the reading "opens up the door" and went on to share his beliefs and knowledge of the "truth" with Cayce. It appeared Cayce's instincts were telling him this was no ordinary reading. This client who came for a reading came with quite a bit of information of his own to share with Cayce and seemed intent upon convincing Cayce, now that he felt the reading had confirmed his strongly-held beliefs. It should be noted, however, that 12 years earlier Cayce had briefly alluded to reincarnation. In reading 4841-1, given April 22, 1911, Cayce referred to the soul being "transmigrated". Because nobody systematically recorded Cayce’s readings up until 1923, it is possible that he may have mentioned reincarnation in other earlier readings.
Cayce reported that his conscience bothered him severely over this conflict. Lammers overwhelmed, manipulated, confused, reassured and argued with Cayce. Ultimately his "trance voice", the "we" of the readings, also supposedly dialogued with Cayce and finally persuaded him to continue with these kinds of readings. In 1925 Cayce reported that his "voice" had instructed him to move to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In 1929, the Cayce hospital was established in Virginia Beach, sponsored by a wealthy recipient of the trance readings, Morton Blumenthal.
Cayce gained national prominence in 1943 through a high-profile article in Coronet titled "Miracle Man of Virginia Beach". He said he couldn't refuse people who felt they needed his help, and he increased the frequency of his readings to eight per day to try to make an impression on the ever-growing pile of requests. He said this took a toll on his health as it was emotionally draining and often fatigued him. He even went so far as to say that the readings themselves scolded him for attempting too much and that he should limit his workload to just two readings a day or else they would kill him.
Edgar Cayce suffered a stroke and died on January 3, 1945. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Cayce's methods involved lying down and entering into a sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other personal problems (subjects were not usually present). The subject's questions would then be given to Cayce, and Cayce would proceed with a reading. At first these readings dealt primarily with the physical health of the individual (physical readings); later, readings on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health were also given.
Until September 1923, his readings were not systematically preserved. However, an October 10, 1922, Birmingham Post-Herald article quotes Cayce as saying that he had given 8,056 readings as of that date, and it is known that he gave approximately 13,000-14,000 readings after that date. Today, only about 14,000 are available at Cayce headquarters and online. Thus, it appears that about 7,000-8,000 Cayce readings are missing.
When out of the trance he entered to perform a reading, Cayce said he generally did not remember what he had said during the reading. The unconscious mind, according to Cayce, has access to information which the conscious mind does not — a common assumption about hypnosis in Cayce's time. After Gladys Davis became Cayce's secretary on September 10, 1923, all readings were preserved and his wife Gertrude Evans Cayce generally conducted (guided) the readings.
Cayce said that his trance statements should be taken into account only to the extent that they led to a better life for the recipient. Moreover, he invited his audience to test his suggestions rather than accept them on faith.
Other abilities that have been attributed to Cayce include astral projection, prophesying, mediumship, viewing the Akashic Records or "Book of Life", and seeing auras. Cayce said he became interested in learning more about these subjects after he was informed about the content of his readings, which he reported that he never actually heard himself.