Happy Deathday, Edgar Cayce! 5 Songs For Our Favorite "Seer"
On this day in 1945, a psychic named Edgar Cayce suffered a stroke that killed him. The famous sleeping prophet, who worked in Texas during the 1920s, was hailed far and wide for his abilities to heal the sick by entering a trance. He was even reported to be able to accomplish this remotely without ever seeing the patient in question.
Cayce got started on his career when a bout of laryngitis silenced him and left him unable to work as an insurance salesman. A traveling hypnotist took interest in Cayce's plight, and applied techniques that were being developed from the work done by Franz Mesmer. Eventually, Cayce's voice was restored through hypnotic treatments, and he became interested in the subject himself.
During a session with hypnotist Al Layne, Cayce in a trancelike state was asked to describe ailments and possible cures for the hypnotist instead of Cayce, which allegedly worked. Inspired by the possibilities, Layne encouraged Cayce to attempt to help the sick and distressed in Hopkinsville, Ky. with his trance readings, and the stories of his healing powers ended up making him one of the fathers of the New Age movement.
Truth be told, even though Cayce did make some silly stuff up about Atlantis and death rays and crystal balls, for the most part his work was really nothing more than early hypnotherapy. It just wasn't very well understood because a) it was kind of new; and b) it was being done by a man with a ninth-grade education. Much of the talk about past lives and remote viewing attributed to Cayce was the work of a printer named Arthur Lammers, who prodded Cayce into metaphysics.
Still, his name remains one that comes down to us through a shadowy haze of mysticism from an earlier era, and this week's playlist is dedicated to him.
King Missile, "The Birds" Always open with King Missile if you can, that's my motto. In addition to forcing us to imagine Tom Brokaw with ketchup spread on his penis, "The Birds" walks us through the manic pattern recognition that allows paranoids to find meaning in meaninglessness in order to fuel their conspiracy theories. "Edgar Cayce, Casey Jones, Casey Stengel, KC and the Sunshine Band, 'Que Sera, Sera,' 'cause that doesn't work. It all adds up. I saw a vision last night!" For more information on this mindset, please visit Facebook at twenty past four on a Thursday.
Everclear, "Culver Palms (Or Why I Don't Believe in God)" It's easy to forget that Art Alexakis was doing cowpunk in Colorfinger before he broke into the mainstream with Everclear, but you can still that influence as he covers his own song on So Much For the Afterglow. "Culver Palms" reminisces on a childhood spent with an unstable and abusive mother who hears voices and spouts the same superstitious rhetoric King Missile was talking about when it comes to Mr. Cayce.
Taking the mentally ill's fixation on things like psychic powers as a reason to cease all belief in a higher being seems a bit of overkill, but sometimes misplaced faith will do that to a man.
R.E.M., "Daysleeper" Here's something you probably didn't know about Edgar Cayce: He invented a stock marker card game that is still in print to this day. At one point he began taking donations in order to pursue his healing work full-time, but also took some time to design Pit, which Milton Bradley still manufactures. The game pits three or more players against each other as they try to collect a full hand of nine different commodities, or eight commodities and the Bull card. You cannot win if you're holding the corresponding Bear card.
"Daysleeper" comes from '98's Up, and deals with a night worker who does business with Asian counterparts and misses his own daylight life as a result. There's a direct reference to the stock exchange in the line "The bull and the bear are marking their territories," but more than that is the connection to the trance states in which Cayce worked. R.E.M. managed to link two of the aspects of Cayce's life perfectly without even knowing it.
Shpongle, "Once Upon the Sea of Blissful Awareness" OK, let's talk the mumbo jumbo that keeps Cayce famous. At one point he began talking about Atlantis in his trances, which is probably a result of some subconscious flotsam coming loose after reading a lot of the metaphysical works of his day. There was even a prophecy that Atlantis would rise to the surface in the '60s.
Cayce said he got his information from the Akashic Records, which is a theosophic account of all kinds of mystical information stored beyond the physical plane. Ironically, that's exactly where you'll probably be while listening to Shpongle reference the records in this awesome track.. Better ambient psychedelia does not exist save for the Legendary Pink Dots.
Live, "Lightning Crashes": Cayce believed that many of his patients were reincarnations of Atlanteans. In his defense, reincarnation was real big in his time, which explains how someone so deeply Christian might have gotten into some distinctly un-Christian beliefs.
The video for Live's "Lightning Crashes" has caused the song to be wildly interpreted, with a general theory being that the song documents the transference of life energy from one person as they die into a new life.
In reality, Live singer Ed Kowalczyk says the song is merely about the way life begins and ends. You can still take comfort in the idea that it is an anthem of spiritual continuation, and that's why we close with it today.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.