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The READINGS' Approach to
Philosophy and Reincarnation

In 1901, at the age of 24, Edgar Cayce gave one of his first readings on himself, diagnosing a health condition. But it wouldn't be until 1923 that the subject of reincarnation would be explored in a reading given to a printer from Ohio. Interestingly enough, the conceptwas mentioned in a priorreading given as early as 1911, but no one among Cayce's associates was familiarwith the idea and the reference wasn't recognized as such for decades. Eventually the subject was examined in extensive detail in nearly 2,000 psychic readings, called "Life Reading," and would become the second major topic examined by the sleeping Cayce.

Just what is reincarnation? It is the belief that each of us goes through a series of lifetimes for the purpose of spiritual growth and soul development. Cayce's approach does not include the concept of transmigration, which is a related theory and states that it's possible for human beings to be born again as animals. From the standpoint of the Cayce material, souls have occupied only human bodies throughout the course of time.

In essence, the Cayce approach to reincarnation provides a philosophical setting to the past, focusing on practical ways of dealing with this life; living, growing, and being of service to one another in the present For him it wasn't nearly so important as to who individuals had once been (or even what they had been doing), as it was paramount that they focus on the present and the opportunities and challenges that faced them in this time, in this place, right now.

From the Cayce readings' perspective, the past merely provided a framework of potentials and probabilities. An individual's choices, actions, and free will in the present would determine the actual experience lived this time around. Rather than being a fatalistic approach to life, it is much more one of nearly limitless opportunities.

Cayce, however, was also familiar with the less positive aspects to this philosophy. He contended that some approaches created a misunderstanding of the real purpose behind reincarnation. In fact, an approach to reincarnation that did not take into account freedom of choice created what he called "a karmic bugaboo"-a misunderstanding that provided no arena for the real action and interconnectedness that exists among karnia, free will, destiny, and grace. In his understanding, individuals were very much active participants in their life's journey and not at all simply sometime-reluctant observers.

However, even to this day, the theory of reincarnation is often misinterpreted as a fatalistic journey through experiences and relationships that are ours because of "our kanna." In this approach, choices we have made in the past have somehow etched in stone our futures, and life is simply a process of going through the motions. This is definitely not the Cayce approach to kanna.

The word karma is a Sanskrit term that means "work, deed, or act"; it has also been interpreted to mean "cause and effect" Although the readings definitely agree with this concept, perhaps one of their most intriguing and unique philosophical contributions is the idea that korma can simply be defined as memory. It is not really a "debt" that must be paid according to some Universal Tally Sheet, nor is it necessarily a set of specific circumstances that must be experienced because of deeds or misdeeds from the past- Karma is simply memory. It is a pool of information that the subconscious mind draws upon and can utilize in the present. It has elements that arc positive as well as those which seem negative. For example, an immediate affinity toward an individual is as likely to be "karmic" as is an immediate animosity toward someone else. To be sure, this subconscious memory has an effect and influence on how we think, how we react, whatwe choose, and even how we look! But the component of free will is ever within our grasp.

In Cayce's explanation of reincarnation when an individual dies, the next lifetime does not occur immediately, for the soul is given a chance to take stock of all it has come to know. Then, it has the opportunity to decide for itself what lessons it needs to learn next in order to become a more complete individual. The soul chooses to be born again into the earth, generally among people it has known before. A soul can decide to be born into either a male or a female body in any given lifetime or, as Cayce often called it, an "incarnation." The choices made are such that the soul might best fulfill that specific purpose chosen for a particular lifetime. It selects those surroundings (parents and family, location and time period, etc.) which wi\l best allow for the learning of those lessons it needs for completeness. The goal is to express love fully in all the challenges which the physical life offers. Our experiences, however, are subject to the choices we have made with our own free will.

With our free will, we can turn the challenges life presents to us into steppingstones toward growth, or we can see them as obstacles and stumbling blocks. Either way, we reap whatwe have sown. We constantly meet the consequences of previous deeds and attitudes.

One of the interesting aspects about reincarnation is that talents and skills are never lost Someone who has developed an ability in one life will still have it to draw upon later. For example, many child prodigies with a talent, let's say for music, are born with a conscious recollection of this ability that was developed in an earlier life. If a person happens to be an excellent English teacher in this life, she or he may have been a playwright in the last lifetime, a historian before that, and perhaps a scribe even earlier. One's abilities are channeled in those directions which will best help that person fulfill the purpose for a particular lifetime.

Another major philosophical contribution the Cayce readings provide is the idea that there really isn't kamia "between" people: instead, there is onlyliarma with one's own self. The conceptual challenge, however, is that we seem to most effectively come to terms with our own karmic memory or "meet ourselves" through our interactions with others. It is this interesting dynamic of meeting ourselves through our relationships with other individuals that oftentimes causes us to perceive them as the basis of our frustrations and challenges, rather than accepting the responsibility as our own.

Yet, in spite of the fact that our karma is essentially ours, we are constantly drawn toward certain individuals and groups that will enable us to meet ourselves in probable circumstances and relationships. They, in turn, are drawn toward us in an effort to come to terms with their own karmic memory aswell. Interestingly enough, it is how each individual decides to "meet self-one choice at a time-that will essentially determine the life he or she experiences.

These karmic groups oftentimes reestablish themselves in terms of family relationships, work and cultural ties, and even associations on a national level. Cayce stated that we never meet anyone by chance, nor do we ever have an emotional connection ("positive" or "negative") with another individual for the very First time. Relationships are an ongoing learning and experiential process.

Within this framework of lessons that need to be learned as the soul strives to meet itself is the central idea that the soul is constantly experiencing the consequences of its previous choices. This concept is expressed in Biblical terminology as "What you sow, you must reap" and is generally labeled "like attracts like" by students of reincarnation.

Essentially what this means is that we get to experience for ourselves the effects our previous choices have had upon other individuals. Rather than our lives being predestined or fatalistic in nature, we continue to be in control of them (and our perceptions) through how we choose to respond to life's situations that we've drawn to us. Ultimately all experiences are for our own good and growth, and all experiences are of our own creation.

In practical terms, we may not always be able to understand why a certain situation was drawn to us, and in fact the "why" may not be of primary importance. What is important is how we choose to respond. For example, two people might face very similar circumstances-let's say, the loss of a job - yet each person might deal with the sitliation in avery different manner. One might spend a great deal of time and energy becoming bitter and angry overwhat happened, and the other might see it as a wonderful opportunity to "start all over" and do something which has always been a desire. Although the situation is the same, each person's response is quite different The way a person responds to a situation determines the next experience to he called into action.

Reincarnation is a concept that encompasses not only Eastern thought, but all of the major religions of the world. It's a concept that can allow us to have more compassion, one for another. It's a way we can begin to look at all facets of life purposefully. However, it doesn't really matter if another individual believes or doubts the theory of rebirth. For some it can be a helpful concept; for others, confusing. The reason for believingin reincarnation is not so that we can dwell upon the past or brag about the possibility of having been someone famous in the past The wisest student of reincarnation knows that we have all had incarnations in lowly and lofty circumstances. Instead, the purpose is summed up in one of the Cayce readings:

"In the studies, then, know where ye are going... to find that ye only lived, died and were buried under the cherry tree in Grandmother's garden does not make thee one whit better neighbor, citizen, mother or father! But to know that ye spoke unkindly and suffered for it, and in the present may correct it by being righteous-rtaf is worthwhile!" 5753-2

From the Readings

Recommended Reading:

  • Many Mansions by Cina Cenninara
  • The "Philosophy" chapter of There Is a River by Thomas Sugrue