The Essential Edgar Cayce

The Essential Edgar Cayce

Edited and introduced by Mark Thurston
New York; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004. Paperback, 287 pages.

More than twenty years ago, a member of my family who was otherwise quite a conventional Baptist became interested in Edgar Cayce's recommendations for holistic healing and nutrition. Through this relative, Cayce (1877-1945) became my introduction to the world of alternative spirituality, and my respect for this homespun occultist has only deepened since then. Cayce is probably the best-known esotericist in my hometown of Nashville and is often regarded with indulgence, even among church folk, as a local boy having grown up just to the northwest, near Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

I have often wondered what books are best to recommend to folks who are new to Cayce. The psychic readings themselves are notoriously difficult in light of their strange diction and biblical language and Cayce's focus on the individual at hand. Some of the secondary material has been overly focused on the more sensational aspects of Cayce's work-earth changes, psychic powers, and so on. A number of fine books which address only one or two aspects of the readings (Unto the Churches by Richard Henry Drummond; The Edgar Cayce Handbook for Health through Drugless Therapy by Harold Reilly and Ruth Hagy Bond). A Search for God (prepared from Cayce's readings for a study group) is a wonderful text, but often difficult for those who are uncomfortable with a Christian perspective. K. Paul Johnson's Edgar Cayce in Context is absolutely invaluable, but it is a scholarly book and not directed to a popular audience.

The need for a solid, balanced introduction to Cayce, aimed at the spiritual seeker, has been ably answered by Mark Thurston's new anthology. The Essential Edgar Cayce is a splendid book that will doubtless serve to introduce Cayce to a broader audience. Thurston's profound knowledge of the readings, conveyed through clear prose infused with the patient, gentle understanding that comes with long spiritual practice, will be of help to newcomer and longtime student alike.

Thurston addresses all of the major themes in the Cayce readings, from cosmic metaphysics to social vision. His commentary is accompanied by a careful selection of the original texts-many of them in their entirety-to give the reader a taste of the source material. I was pleased to see that acknowledges that some of Cayce's prophecies have not been fulfilled and that some readings appear confusing or irrelevant. How can a seeker after truth do otherwise?

Cayce (and his superconscious mind, which he claimed as the source of the readings) was practical in nature. The most important things are not the development of psychic powers or esoteric knowledge, but rather patience, tolerance, consciousness of our responsibility to others, and selfless dedication to our highest ideals. Many years ago, I was struck by Cayce pointing to the importance of such simple gestures as giving a smile to the people we encounter in our day, as a reminder that someone cares. One of the most transfigured persons I have ever met, who was dying of AIDS at the time I knew him, credited his state of inner acceptance and attunement with the Divine to his work with Cayce's suggestions about attitudes and emotions. Thurston does a fine job of presenting the power of Cayce's practical spirituality.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Cayce and in the spiritual wisdom that can be found in his readings.


July/August 2005