Monday, June 16, 2008

Edgar Cayce on Soul Development

By Kevin Todeschi

What if the purpose of life were not simply to be born into a family, go to school, get a job, acquire material goods, create a family of one's own, grow older, and then eventually die, leaving one's descendants and family members to repeat the very same cycle? What if one's life experiences were not simply random chance; instead, some kind of divine purposefulness stood behind the possibilities of every single day for every single individual? What if we suddenly discovered that we were somehow actively responsible for cocreating the substance of our lives? What if we came to realize that our perception of ourselves is extremely limited, for we are, in truth, eternal beings possessing infinitely more than an average of seven to ten decades of life? What if the answer to the question "Who am I?" were much more than we had ever even dared to imagine?

Perhaps more than anything else, humankind is in need of an entire worldview shift - a change in our collective perception that will enable all individuals to look at themselves and one another in a completely new light. This change in perception needs to amount to nothing less than a quantum leap in our understanding of what life is all about, for humanity's previous worldview has been sorely inadequate. Life is not about acquisition. It is not about appeasing one's desires and needs. It is not about lobbying to get one's way. It is not about being victimized or bullying another. It is not about being afraid or causing fear. It is not about seeking pleasure or inflicting pain. It is not about taking control of another or being controlled oneself. It is not about proselytizing personal beliefs. It is not about problems with race or sex or war or governments or culture or territorial borders. Ultimately, it is not even about religion. Simply stated, life is a process of personal growth and development. It is a required transformational process that has been in effect since the dawn of time and will be underway until each soul has passed through every portion of the curriculum.

This change in our collective worldview is not only necessary, but also inevitable. The reason is because the truth about who we are can no longer be contained within the confines of what we once thought about ourselves. With greater and greater frequency, this single fact has repeatedly led individuals from countless backgrounds, cultures, and faiths to sense and to predict "the end of the world." Although it is true that the world as we know it is coming to a close, it is not that the world is literally ending; rather, it is that our perception of the world and ourselves is in the throes of a complete and radical transformation. When this shift arrives, we will no longer think ourselves to be what we never really were.

During this time of transition, we stand at a crossroads, both individually and collectively. We can either fight against the inevitable, becoming all the more focused on our limiting and erroneous beliefs, or we can embrace the change and allow our perception of truth to expand along with us. When this change is complete, we will look back on our previous worldview and see it simply as a step in our collective learning process - a stage that we passed through rather than the reality where we ended up.

As it is now, our limited worldview suggests one of two fundamental possibilities about the nature of humankind for much of the world. The first is that life is accidental and random, implying that there is no God and that we are nothing more than physical bodies. The second is that there is a God and He is all-loving, but for reasons we may not understand, He is conditional in that love. He is also all-forgiving, but only within a certain period of time. Nor does He play favorites, unless one refuses to do things His way. Even now, certain logical assumptions suggest that neither of these possibilities is justifiably defensible.

The structure and harmony of the universe, the cyclic nature of all of life, and the universal laws we can perceive in action tend to indicate that the cosmos follows design more so than accident. In our own lives, the fact that we possess the capacity to dream, the ability to hope, and the capability to inspire others to go beyond their perceived limitations suggests that there is much more to us than a physical body.

In terms of the conflicting nature of God, does it not seem problematic that, if the purpose of life is simply to receive the same eternal reward or punishment, for some unknown reason the Creator has visited upon us very different tests? For some, that test may be like an easy math problem that requires only the ability to add and subtract, but for others that test is like a complex algebraic equation that only the most gifted in mathematical theory and computation could even begin to decipher. One person's life may be filled with minor struggles and pain, while another's seems fraught with tragedy, misfortune, and unspeakable horror. This limited worldview would have us believe that a Creator who designed the intricacies of the galaxies could send a child to a Mahatma Gandhi or a Reverend Billy Graham and hope for the same level of success as a child He sent to a Joseph Stalin or a Reverend Jim Jones. Does this really seem godlike to anyone?

What if the apparent randomness of life weren't random at all, but instead were a purposeful unfolding of experiences, thoughts, desires, and lessons that originated at the level of the soul? What if we were active participants in the creation of every element of our lives rather than simply the recipient of them? What if the Creator were at least as equitable and fair as a loving parent who didn't play favorites with her or his children? What if God were truly all-loving, ever-merciful, and eternally supportive, providing a firm foundation for each of His children to live and grow and become all that they were meant to be?

These premises - that we stand at the brink of a new understanding of the nature of humankind and that there will be an inevitable shift in our worldview - are both explored in much of the Edgar Cayce material. Rather than seeing life as simply a precursor to an inevitable reward or punishment, the Cayce information saw every life experience as a potentially purposeful and necessary stage of development leading to an almost unfathomable realization of one's true connection to God. A reading told one 26-year-old army sergeant: "For you grow to heaven, you don't go to heaven. It is within thine own conscience that ye grow there." (3409-1) With this as his undergirding perspective, Cayce believed that it was through an individual's life experiences and relationships - accruing over a series of lifetimes - that each person was destined to undergo soul development; grow spiritually; overcome shortcomings, weaknesses, and flaws; and eventually reawaken to the true self.

In the Cayce cosmology, the destiny Iof each individual is nothing less than soul growth, transformation, and enlightenment. Essentially, the primary function of the earth is as a testing arena that enables the soul to exercise the dynamics of freedom of choice played out against the influences of cause and effect, and to experience whatever understanding and development have already taken place. Although Cayce definitely saw the prospect of soul retrogression (loss) in any given life, generally each lifetime allows for the possibility of advancement in learning. In fact, the readings contend that wherever a person finds him- or herself in the present, that very situation has the potential to be a purposeful one; whether or not the person decides to use the present as a positive learning experience, however, is always a matter of free will.

Because the nature of the soul is spiritual, not physical, it is erroneous to believe that the earth offers the only learning curriculum undertaken by each soul. Instead, Cayce's cosmology describes "sojourns in consciousness" in which the soul chooses to experience focused lessons in what might be called "awareness development." These lessons do not take place in physicality but in other dimensions of consciousness. With this in mind, Cayce informed a group of approximately 30 people who had gathered for a reading in 1933: "For, the earth is only an atom in the universe of worlds!" (5749-3) Echoing the New Testament (John 14:2), Cayce told another individual, "'... In my Father's house are many mansions' - many consciousnesses, many stages of enfoldment, of unfoldment, of blessings ..." (2879-1)

Cayce advised others that it was also a mistake to believe that our solar system is the only place in the cosmos in which souls are undergoing a developmental process. However, once a soul enters the earth, there is apparently a mandatory lesson that must be attained before the soul is free to continue its curriculum elsewhere. Essentially, that lesson was described as being one of love and service. On other occasions, the readings used biblical terminology to describe that lesson: "For the whole law is to love the Lord with all thy heart and soul and body, and thy neighbor as thyself!" (1603-1)

In Cayce's worldview, the inevitable destiny of every soul is to become cognizant of its true individuality while maintaining an awareness of its oneness with God. For all of humankind, this state of enlightenment is seemingly achievable in one of two ways: either by learning the lesson of love and then moving on to other stages of consciousness development or by literally attaining perfection in the earth. Of the thousands of individuals who received readings from Edgar Cayce, fewer than 20 were told that they had so mastered the lesson of love that another earthly incarnation would not be necessary unless they chose to return. Apparently, there are "many mansions" in which they could continue their individual growth process. In terms of manifesting perfection in the earth, the example repeatedly cited by the readings was that of Jesus.

In 1944, a 53-year-old housewife contacted Edgar Cayce and inquired as to why she had come into life with such a broken physical body. For much of her life, she had suffered from heart, back, hearing, and intestinal problems, that often caused her severe pain. In spite of these problems, she had managed to take care of a home and family and raise two sons. She obtained a life reading and was told that her soul had made tremendous strides in spiritual development for she had "advanced from a low degree to that which may not even necessitate a reincarnation in the earth." Not that she was perfect, for she wasn't; but somehow she had learned how to love.

Her present difficulties were traced to a low point in her earthly sojourns when she had been a companion of Nero and had taken part in the physical persecution of individuals associated with the early Christian church. From that experience, Cayce advised her that she was now "meeting self" in terms of her own pain and suffering. Aside from that one period of soul retrogression, however, she was told that throughout her earthly incarnations, she had generally been of service to others in her attempts to be of service to God. As a result, in spite of her physical pain, she had still managed to love, striving to hold to a high ideal, and frequently assisting others in doing the same. For that reason, when asked to comment on her abilities, Cayce told her: "Who would tell the rose how to be beautiful; who would give to the morning sun, glory; who would tell the stars how to be beautiful? Keep that faith which has prompted thee. Many will gain much from thy patience, thy consistence, thy brotherly love." (5366-1)

In spite of how her life and physical circumstances might have appeared to others, the reading assured her that she had accomplished much.

Within the vast repository of the Cayce material, those factors that lead to a person's soul growth or soul retrogression in any given lifetime are indexed by case history for ease of reference. In addition to service and love, qualities that prompt soul growth include consistent application, establishing spiritual ideals, developing the will, maintaining positive human relationships, personal attunement, selflessness, and cultivating virtuous traits such as patience, forgiveness, understanding, and tolerance. The flaws and weaknesses pointed out as leading to soul retrogression include self-gratification, self-exaltation, selfishness, intolerance, condemnation, indecision, laziness, holding grudges or seeking revenge, being too material minded, and creating contention, oppression, and strife in the lives of others. Negative traits also include such attitudes and emotions as spite, stubbornness, self-pity, and resentment.

Rather than thinking that the soul is somehow separated or disconnected by each of its earthly experiences, the Cayce readings emphasize the ongoing process of life. Because the soul is eternal, life does not begin and end with each physical incarnation. For ease of understanding, imagine for a moment that the soul is like an individual's entire lifetime and that each period of that person's life is like a different incarnation. There may be a period of childhood, of going to school, of being a parent, of having a job or a series of jobs, etc. Although the core individual does not radically change, outward identity frequently changes. It is not that each life begins anew like a blank slate, but rather that the soul takes with it talents, experiences, relationships, and weaknesses from one lifetime to the next. All weaknesses need to be overcome or transformed, while all strengths need to be further cultivated and expressed. This fact is repeatedly illustrated in the case histories of individuals who received readings.

One woman learned that she had lost spiritual ground centuries ago during a lifetime in India because she had often forced others to accept her personal beliefs and religious tenets. However, that same ability to persuade and mold others had been transformed during a Colonial American incarnation in which she had cultivated the talents of a teacher and instructor and had been instrumental in directing the lives of young people (2910-1).

A very small, thin, frail-looking shoe salesman who suffered from a number of physical problems, including anemia, learned that he had abused his physical prowess, beauty, and strength during a Roman incarnation when he had often subjugated others to his own will. Conversely, during that same incarnation, he had often found favor with the opposite sex by his desire to be of service. For that reason, in the present, women often found occasions to be kind to him. At the same time, however, he frequently attempted to be too controlling with members of his own family, including his wife (1629-1).

In another instance, a 35-year-old psychologist learned that his innate talents for counseling and diplomacy were the result of a number of past-life experiences. In a lifetime after the American Revolution, he had acted as a liaison between the United States and Britain. Although a soldier during the Crusades in another lifetime, he had come to appreciate and admire many individuals of the Moslem faith from whom he had learned brotherly love. His appreciation of various cultures and ideologies was enriched during an earlier period in ancient Egypt, when he had made a study of various teachings and tenets of the then-known world. At the same time, however, this psychologist possessed a tendency toward self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement that had arisen during a Persian incarnation, when he had been in a position of leadership. That same tendency remained with him in the present and needed to be overcome. Years later, his third ex-wife - he would eventually have five - filed a follow-up report that confirmed his propensity for self-indulgence. By her account, during their 10 years together, he had repeatedly displayed an incredibly overdeveloped sex drive and a very serious problem with alcohol (1135-1).

Cayce was adamant that the New Testament declaration, " ... for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7), was not simply a quaint saying but was, instead, a statement of fact and a universal law regarding how the universe really works. For example, an unhappy 33-year-old actress inquired about why her life had been filled with a series of broken romances, rejections, and the experience of having a broken heart. A reading suggested that in her most recent incarnation she had been a saloon entertainer and had found occasion to repeatedly toy with men's emotions, frequently making "for sorrow in the hearts and in the experience of many." (1300-1) Her present difficulties were simply a learning experience in response to her having done the same thing to others. As she learned to keep her heart, mind, and soul in alignment with spiritual ideals, learning a lesson where she had once fallen short, Cayce promised her "years of happiness and joy and peace."

In spite of the inevitability of having to meet the consequences of our previous choices, in Cayce's cosmology life is not fixed or destined. Although we constantly draw individuals and circumstances to us as a result of choices from the past, we continually cocreate the experience of our life (and our perceptions) through how we choose to respond in the present. From the readings' perspective, karma is only soul memory; it is not destiny. The way we choose to respond to that memory and our present-life experience actually determines the next probabilities and potentials drawn to the soul's learning agenda. In addition to the will being an irrefutable factor in the process of soul development, Cayce emphasized the importance of establishing spiritual ideals with which an individual could direct and evaluate the course of a life.

In 1944, he told a 51-year-old woman that one of the first priorities she needed in her life was to set an ideal. Apparently the woman had a propensity to gossip and to make slighting comments about others. Obviously that tendency was causing a strain in her personal relationships.

During the course of her reading, Cayce mentioned that the woman had exhibited this same frailty in a previous life, when her motto seemed to be "I'll forgive you but I won't forget it," prompting her to speak unkindly of those with whom she was having difficulties. He told her to remember that any fault she observed in others was actually a reflection of the same problem she possessed within herself - otherwise, she would have been unable to perceive it with such clarity in the first place. Instead, she needed to refocus her perception, learning how to minimize the faults she saw in others while magnifying their virtues. As she established an ideal against which she could measure her own actions, her life would inevitably begin to change:

" But if the entity will take self in hand and just don't say, don't do anything about or to another that you would not like to have others do about you, you will find there will be a change in the outlook, there will come to thee opportunities, possibilities that have been denied. For the law of the Lord is perfect and it converts the soul. And when the soul is converted the mind and body changes and leads in the straight and narrow way." (5255-1)

At the heart of this spiritual transformation process is the necessity for personal application. Frequently, the readings admonished people to simply begin doing what they knew to do or to apply guidance that had previously been given. While reviewing the past lives of an architect, Cayce informed the individual that he had once been a creator and a lover of all kinds of art and sculpture during a Grecian incarnation. The man had gained in that experience for his efforts at presenting ideals to others. His failure had come, however, by not applying those very ideals in his own life (2108-1).

In another instance, a 49-year-old man inquiring about his health and asking how he might be of greater assistance to humankind was told: "It is not how much one knows that counts, but how well one applies that it knows; in just being, doing, thinking, that which is pointed out to self through such constant, consistent, practical dependence upon the Creative Forces that have promised ever to meet one - every one - when sought. And there will come that which is for the greater development in the soul forces of such an one that seeks." (270-33)

The Cayce information on soul development maintains that one of the greatest lessons facing all of humankind is one the readings identified as "cooperation." Amazingly, that lesson is not simply gaining an understanding of how to agree or work with other people; instead, it is a state of being that somehow sets aside personal agendas, beliefs, motives, and desires and enables an individual to become an agent of spirituality in the lives of others. In other words, true cooperation is learning to work with God so that the Creator can work through you.

This notion that the Creator desires to become an active participant in each person's life was no more clearly described than in the case of a small group of individuals from Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, who began receiving a series of readings from Edgar Cayce starting in 1931. Coming together as a "study club" to explore psychic and personal development, the group was promised by Cayce that they could become "a light to a waiting world" (262-2) if they simply worked at practically applying spiritual principles in everyday life. The group met for years, receiving readings and discussing such topics as soul development, meditation, prayer, and service. In the end, not only had the group members learned how to cooperate with spirit in their everyday lives, but they also ended up compiling a series of essays regarding the lessons they had explored and their personal experiences. That compilation was published in 1942 as A Search for God and is still being studied by small groups around the world, making Cayce's prediction that they could become a light to the world that would be both personally and globally significant.

Rather than implying that a close connection to spirit is somehow dependent upon religion, dogma, or personal beliefs, the readings are adamant in their stance that the Creator's unconditional love is available to everyone without exception. To be sure, even in Cayce's cosmology, it is understood that the more frequently an individual attunes to spirit, the more successfully that person will be able to experience God's presence, but achieving that level of awareness exists in potential within each one. In fact, the readings suggest that every single soul will eventually complete the entire curriculum, achieving soul development and obtaining personal enlightenment in the process. With this destiny in mind, Cayce asked a 35-year-old attorney, "Can the will of man continue to defy its Maker?" (826-8) When one considers our inevitable destiny as children of a loving God, it is sadly ironic that many religious movements preaching the existence of an all-loving Creator continue to be adamantly opposed to the notion that everyone will eventually make it.

Ultimately, only one thing stands Ubetween each individual and a personal awakening: the human will. This thought becomes even more sobering when it is taken into account that in Cayce's cosmology, out of the entire cosmos, humankind stands out for a reason. In exploring how the human creature has set itself apart, the readings suggest that the acorn knows the purpose for which it was created. The oak remembers the reason it has been given expression. The angels on high are in tune with the rationale behind their existence. All the animals and plants of the earth maintain an awareness of what they are to be about - except for one. Only humankind has forgotten the purpose behind its creation. What was that purpose? It was simply to become a companion and a cocreator with God.

Kevin Todeschi is the Executive Director and CEO of Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, overseeing activities of the Cayce work worldwide. A prolific writer, he is the author of twenty books, including Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records, Edgar Cayce on Soul Mates, and Family Karma: The Hidden Ties that Bind.

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