Edgar Cayce is one of the most respected mystic philosophers of the 20th century and his teachings are just as applicable now as they were seventy years ago when he gave these discourses on hundreds of subjects about health and personal spirituality. Cayce truly believed what he said: "Each of us is responsible for the conditions in our lives, and we have the capacity change anything about those conditions, if we commit to it." It's a promise about the power that we all have. It's a reminder that we are constantly co-creators of our life situation.
Cayce was reminding us of the power we have access to, if we will simply understand what power is really all about. That's a big "if," as the saying goes. We fail to achieve self-empowerment largely because we don't grasp the deeper meaning of power. Our lives become enslaved to worries, limitations and doubts, all in large measure because we've gotten tricked into buying into superficial explanations of power. People crave it. The world respects it. Power is that elusive commodity that everyone wants. Power is the capacity to get things done. Power means getting your way. Willpower, political power, military power, people power and, yes, even a higher, spiritual power.
All these images of power suggest that it must surely be a paradox. It has two sides which may seem to contradict each other. To have one kind of power, you must make an effort and work for it. But then, when you get it, you may find it turns on itself. Power corrupts, and, as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. In fact, you can easily become a slave to your personal power and end up truly powerless. But consider another aspect of power. To be empowered in another way, you must surrender. A higher, spiritual power can move through your life only if you don't try to grasp it. To save your life, you must be willing to lose your life.
And so we have two ingredients, related and yet seemingly at odds with each other: personal power and a Higher Power. How can any sense be made of all these contradictions? Why does Edgar Cayce's approach to authentic empowerment have to be so complicated? Why couldn't he have simply given us a set of neat, efficient tricks-of-the-metaphysical-trade that is guaranteed to give us greater self-mastery, wealth and enjoyment in life?
But these mysterious contradictions cannot be circumvented, not if we want to understand and live an authentic spiritual path. Paradox is the essence of spiritual teachings whether they come from Christ, the Buddha, or any other genuine master. And so, the key to self-empowerment is simply this: always strive to do the best you can with what you have at hand, but also be willing "at-the-drop-of-a-hat" to surrender and give up all personal effort.
Consider this point from the perspective of Cayce's philosophy about the human soul. Each soul is made up of three attributes: spirit, mind and free will. The "center of gravity" for empowerment rests within the quality of will. Questions of power boil down to issues of how we are using the will. The key to understanding how power operates in human life is to trace how choice, decision, and freedom are being expressed. Will is the spark that gives power its dynamic, living quality. But just like power itself, the human will is a paradox:
1. A productive, meaningful life is impossible without the use of free will to affirm oneself, to show individuality and to have strength. 2. A productive, meaningful life is equally impossible without a willingness to let something bigger than oneself work in and through the personality - to live with a measure of surrender to God's Will. The key, then, is to learn how to integrate those two threads of life - truly an art form, especially in the chaotic, modern world we all live in.
One activity stands out above all the rest in helping us to weave together these two paradoxical qualities about empowerment. Meditation is the key. In Cayce's philosophy, the only real empowerment comes from the regular practice of meditation, in some form (because surely there are many approaches and techniques). Meditation requires both aspects of the will - focused, individual effort, plus willing surrender to the Higher Self, a Higher Power or God. The result of a meditative life is exactly the kind of empowerment that allows us to be in the world and simultaneously connected to the invisible world of spirit and its intentions for us.
Mark Thurston, Ph.D. is an educator, psychologist and author of 18 books about personal spirituality. He serves as Director of Academic Affairs for Atlantic University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he teaches transpersonal psychology. His latest book, The Essential Edgar Cayce (Tarcher/Penguin, July, 2004) covers the eight fundamental themes in the Cayce philosophy and provides guidelines for how that material can be applicable to modern life.