On the night of April 18, 1900, a young Kentucky photographer named Edgar Cayce suddenly lost his voice. His condition was diagnosed as "paralysis of the vocal organs," and it was doubtful he would ever speak again.
Unwilling to accept such a fate, Mr. Cayce turned to hypnosis for relief. At the time, hypnosis was still relatively new, and very few doctors were trained in its application. Of those trained, fewer still were willing to use it.
But Mr. Cayce finally found a physician who agreed to take the chance. After 10 months of hypnotic therapy, the 23-year-old photographer's voice finally returned. It seemed a miracle at the time, but the truly amazing thing is what happened to him during those long hours of treatment each day.
Whenever he went into a trance, this shy man who had dropped out of school in the seventh grade would talk about things far beyond his range of knowledge and expertise. In fact, he would often discuss complex medical matters, drawing upon principles, theories and terminologies unknown outside the medical and scientific community.
Experts were astounded by the backwoods photographer's strange ability to make pinpoint diagnoses and the remarkable remedies he recommended for other patients, some of them hospitalized hundreds of miles away.
Newspapers around the world hailed Mr. Cayce as "America's Most Mysterious Man."
Others called him "the Sleeping Prophet" because most of his prophecies and revelations from the past came while asleep in a hypnotic trance.All the media hoopla startled -- and embarrassed -- young Mr. Cayce, who was troubled because he couldn't remember any of the things he was credited with having said while under hypnosis."It was as if somebody else would step inside his body and speak for him, some highly trained doctor of medicine who spoke with authority and wisdom," one biographer explained.
Mr. Cayce eventually regained full use of his voice, but his unusual powers continued each time he went into a deep trance. Over the next several decades, "the Sleeping Prophet" delighted and astonished the world with his accurate and often reassuring predictions.
By 1913, Mr. Cayce's fame had become international, and he drew thousands of people each year to his office for "readings" or "spiritual healing" sessions. His phone rang constantly. So did the doorbell. He rarely accepted payment for his services.
In time, "the Sleeping Prophet" became obsessed with reincarnation, the belief that people and animals are continually reborn after death. Often, while tracking patients' previous lives, Mr. Cayce would take them hundreds or thousands of years into the past, linking their spiritual entities with ancient kingdoms and lost legendary worlds such as Atlantis.
Some of Mr. Cayce's readings about Atlantis received special attention from the press. Not since Plato had anyone spoken with so much authority about the fabled landmass that supposedly sank beneath the waves during a cataclysmic upheaval some 12,000 years ago.According to Mr. Cayce, who "visited" Atlantis hundreds of times during his trances, Atlantis sank because of runaway technology.
"Atlantis went to the bottom," he wrote in 1936, "because of the misapplication of divine laws upon those things of nature or of the earth."Before their demise, Atlanteans had developed a kind of nuclear energy superior to modern technology, he added. "Rays . . . invisible to the eye" propelled vehicles through the air and beneath the sea, he noted.
During a trance in the late 1940s, Mr. Cayce predicted that the long-submerged continent would be found in the 1960s. In 1968, a few miles from Bimini, divers found some undersea ruins that resembled collapsed buildings and some kind of ancient roadway system.
Could these be the remains of the drowned continent? Some experts think so.
A religious man who read the Bible daily, Mr. Cayce never knew what to make of his unusual powers. He was personally troubled by his own comments about reincarnation, though day after day, reading after reading, his sleeping self always came back to the subject.
In 1945, Mr. Cayce went to his grave unaware of his contributions to the field of paranormal science.
Syndicated writer Randall Floyd lives in Augusta.