At my local library I found a copy of "Many Mansions - The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation", a 1991 paperback reissue of the 1950 book. It has historical significance to my research since its the earliest mass market book on reincarnation that I've found. Unfortunately, it reads like it was written in 1900; this book has not aged well. For those not familiar, Edgar Cayce was a photographer who was cured of the loss of his voice through hypnosis. He discovered the ability to put himself into a trance state that allowed him to answer questions and give advice that brought him worldwide attention and the nickname "The Sleeping Prophet." Many cures were attributed to his advice and some of his recommendations, like osteopathic adjustments, colonics and castor oil packs were very much outside the mainstream for the time. In his later years, and in conflict with his Bible training, he started giving advice based on past lives and this is the material on which "Many Mansions" is based.
Cerminara on Reincarnation:
"The soul is like an actor who takes on different roles and wears different costumes on different nights; or like a hand, that puts on the glove of a material body for a little while, and when the glove is threadbare, slips out and later dons another glove."(Another awesome costume reference!)
Cayce did find the cause of many illnesses and impediments in previous incarnations but I was very surprised to discover that much of the advice he gives in speaking from his channeled source (and using the royal "we") sounds exactly like the man doing the channeling: a Sunday school teacher who for his entire life read the Bible once a year. The problem may be that the author, Gina Cerminara, quotes Scripture to reinforce advice given in the readings. Plus I should have recognized that the title references a Bible verse: "in my Father's house there are many mansions." But I did not realize that Cayce relied so heavily on Scripture in his readings such as :
Cayce - "Did the Master heal all people alike? Didn't he use mechanical applications with some? Didn't He tell others to pass the word along? Didn't He simply use the spoken word in others? Remember this basis, this first principle: "The Lord thy God is one.'"
The problem may be that many people approached Cayce seeking advice beyond matters of health, asking about work, romance, and family matters, including questions like "Who should I marry?" While his channeled information tells of past lives in many eras, the advice sounds more like Cayce than an enlightened Other.
This points to the issue of getting your information second hand, through someone else's filter. When you run a past life, ideally you are in the body, seeing though the eyes and hearing through the ears, and we provide our own filter. But when someone else is accessing your personal history for you, it is imperative to be conscious that your history is being filtered through a belief system. It can matter greatly when that filter is a Bible reading Sunday school teacher. *
Maybe it shouldn't have been surprising to me that when Cayce ventured into giving counsel based on past lives, his responses were so traditional. Less New Age and more old school, his advice tends to be, to use a phrase that leapt out of the book, "theologically platitudinous." (That's the part of the book that hasn't aged well, along with some ideas about women in society that sounds very 19th century.)
Cerminara- "The use of affirmations, meditation, and prayer, the study of scripture, the practice of the virtues, and the rendering of service to one's fellow men are methods often recommended by the readings for the attainment of changed consciousness."
That's good old fashioned mid-century Middle American advice; its just not as revolutionary as some of Cayce's advice on health and healing. Cayce does deliver some excellent advice very much influenced by the New Thought movement of the early 1900's and its emphasis on Mind as the Builder:
“Note that in whatever state you find yourself – of mind, body, of physical condition – that is what you have built, and is necessary for your unfoldment...Know that in whatever state you find yourself, that, at the moment, is best for you. Do not look back upon what might have been. Rather lift up, look up, now, where you are.
Know first that no urge, no influence, is greater than the will of the self to do what it determines to accomplish in any direction – whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. Know that no urge – astrologically, numerologically, symbiotically – surpasses the will of the entity in any experience."
Read this book with the warning that you may have to wade through Scripture to get to the fountain of new age wisdom.
*From my past lives perspective, if you are taking advice from a Scripture-quoting Sunday school teacher who claims contact with a higher source, ask yourself whether that person's filter needs to be cleaned.