Fortunately, no one has to worry about any truth coming out on Ancient Aliens, no matter how many UFO-believing members of the U.S. government appear on it. This episode reviews the life and times of “the sleeping prophet,” Edgar Cayce. There’s not much worth saying here. Cayce claimed psychic power, but most of what he produced was far from supernatural. At times, he openly cited the Theosophical and quasi-Theosophical sources he cribbed from, and most of his claims about ancient times are very lightly revised versions of Theosophical literature. Perhaps most obviously, reading 364-1, Cayce explicitly cites Frederick Spencer Oliver’s “channeled” book A Dweller on Two Planets in describing ancient Atlantean times in terms taken from that book. How ever did he come up with that stuff? It had to be supernatural. It’s not like people read books.
Edgar Cayce has been mentioned on Ancient Aliens many times, mostly surrounding his supposed prophecies of the “Hall of Records” under the Sphinx—a claim he borrowed from preexisting literature, by the way. Henry Spencer Lewis, the Rosicrucian, put out a book about it in 1936, for example, three years before Cayce “prophesized” it. But this is the first time an entire episode has been devoted to this fraudulent psychic. For some reason, the show opens with an 1849 discovery of a 30,000-year-old shaman’s body in what is today the Czech Republic. The show tries to connect shamans to psychics and both to Edgar Cayce, whose alleged powers its talking heads simply accept at face value. Using descriptions from Cayce’s granddaughter, the show provides a potted biography of Cayce, including his alleged supernatural visions of an angel who bestowed powers on him. As they discuss his life up to around 1920, claims fly by with no evidence—he claimed, for example, to suddenly become an A student after gaining the ability to memorize books instantly. Do his school records support this? We’ll never know by watching Ancient Aliens. (Cayce did not attend high school, so whatever this refers to must be elementary school—notoriously difficult academic work.) Did his healing prophecies really cure disease? Probably no more than any program of diet and exercise might have, and indeed many of his homeopathic and diet-based recommendations were quackery.
The second segment continues Cayce’s biography into the 1920s. Although Cayce’s predictions were not particularly accurate—we didn’t discover a death ray from Atlantis in 1958 and Christ didn’t return in 1998—but in 1929 Cayce told a friend to sell his stocks, so naturally he must have known the Great Depression was coming. Mitch Horowitz thinks Cayce predicted World War II in the mid-1930s, a date which gave him only half the predictive power of literally every other thinker on the planet, many of whom had long before forecast a conflict between fascism and democracy in the near future. Then the show discusses Cayce’s references to the Akashic Record, a Theosophical fantasy about a repository of universal knowledge, which the show mistakenly (or, more likely, intentionally) falsely identifies as a Hindu mythological concept. The show repeats claims from earlier episodes that aliens beam information into the minds of geniuses from the Akashic dimension because humans aren’t able to think for themselves. David Childress claims that Edgar Cayce was too “normal” (i.e., dim) to have sophisticated knowledge, so therefore space aliens beamed it into his head. I, on the other hand, have no doubt Cayce could read and regurgitate wacky books. He even cited them by name from time to time, not that Ancient Aliens would dare tell you that.
The third segment discusses Cayce’s claims about ancient Egypt, claims that are derived from various fringe pyramidology works that were popular in his day. For example, the date Cayce gave for the Great Pyramid (c. 10,500 BCE) was already used by Jirah Dewey Buck, a Theosophist, in 1910. Cayce’s claim that the Egyptians floated the stones into place came directly from medieval Arabic pyramid myths, specifically the History of Egypt by Murtada ibn al-‘Afif, a popular text among nineteenth and twentieth century occultists, romantics, and nonconformists, which he likely knew secondhand from Theosophical discussions. Cayce’s other claims about ancient civilizations are more of the same—summaries of popular occult books of his day, with a few rambles that sometimes overlapped with real history and sometimes branched off into complete fantasy.
The fourth segment discusses Atlantis and the Hall of Records. I wrote about Cayce’s falsehoods and appropriations of pop culture material about these topics many times before, which I linked above. Cayce cribbed the Hall of Records of Atlantean wisdom from the Rosicrucians, who literally ran advertisements about secret Egyptian wisdom in newspapers and magazines for years before Cayce discussed it and published charts showing the Hall of Records years before Cayce imagined it. Heck, newspapers even ran (fake) stories about it for decades before Cayce. They, in turn, drew on Arabic legends of a tomb or treasure chamber within the Sphinx, derived ultimately from a Greco-Roman myth recorded in Pliny (Natural History 36.17) that King Armais was buried in the Sphinx, a claim conflated with Ammianus Marcellinus’ passage describing such underground chambers as halls of wisdom filled with knowledge protected from the (or just “a”) flood (Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History 22.15.30).
The fifth segment describes the death of Cayce an then lionizing him as a hero and genius rather than a deluded grifter and recycler of other people’s occult content.
The sixth segment is explicitly about Helena Blavatsky and Theosophy and discusses her concept of Root Races. Instead of being wary of any discussion of races and the eugenicist idea of perfecting our species by selecting “advanced” genetic stock, the show instead claims that so-called psychic Indigo Children are the “Fifth Root Race” and represent the evolution of humans into psychic beings, as planned by space aliens. While Cayce might have celebrated the “Fifth Root Race,” in Theosophy the Fifth Root Race is the Aryan race. In Theosophy, the future of humanity will instead be the sixth and seventh root races. Leave it to Ancient Aliens to accidentally select the most racist-adjacent claim to end their show.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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