Karma and Reincarnation: Transcending Your Past, Transforming Your Future (Pocket Guides to Practical Spirituality Series)
Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Patricia R. Spadaro

Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet
Sidney D. Kirkpatrick

Contains many examples of Edgar Cayce's analyses of the spiritual causes behind disease


I know from experience that karma has an important role in our lives and that it probably affects us more on a daily basis than we realize. It is intimately connected to our spiritual initiations. I felt that karma could also be a part of the equation of my breast cancer—not the whole equation, but a part of it. I had the definite feeling that I had been down this road before, and I used to wonder if I had had this experience in a past life.

Edgar Cayce’s teachings on illness

I have always enjoyed reading about karma and its relationship to disease. Edgar Cayce and many others have taught about karma and reincarnation and its effect on the human body in contributing to illness. Cayce founded the Association of Research and Enlightenment (ARE) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was known as the Sleeping Prophet and was one of the first well-studied medical intuitives. In a kind of trance state, he would reveal details of a patient’s illness and what could be done to treat it. He diagnosed illnesses with astonishing accuracy and prescribed medical treatments that were years ahead of his time, often curing people with life-threatening diseases. Very often he would speak of the past life experience that contributed to the illness or the lessons that needed to be learned in this life.[1]

Other physicians have a similar understanding. Dr. Gladys McGarey, a student of Edgar Cayce, is internationally known for her work in holistic and integrative medicine. In her book The Physician within You, she tells of a patient with chest pain that defied diagnosis for years. The pain was severe and distracting, but all tests had failed to reveal anything and no doctor was able to help him. Dr. McGarey knew that the pain was real and asked her patient to keep a written record of his dreams. Although skeptical, he did, and sure enough, one dream had an interesting tale to tell.

He dreamed he was in the crusades, hundreds of years ago. He and his companions were charging an enemy fortification and met resistance when a spear pierced his armor and went into his chest. Dr. McGarey described the look of pain in his eyes when recalling the experience, and she told him he would have to forgive and forget, then forgive himself for the grievance that he bore so close to his heart. The patient understood, and she knew that the physician within would take it from there.[2]

I could understand such emotional pain. When I looked at my former patient Cheryl, I had felt as if I were looking at myself. She had pain in her heart that was not physical, and I felt that I knew what it was like to be in her shoes and to walk where she walked. I did not know at the time how close to the truth this was.

Cancer in a past life

It was not until several years after I completed my treatment for breast cancer that God showed me an amazing thing. He showed me that I had had breast cancer in a past life. (Past-life recall is not something that I search for, but it happens occasionally on the spiritual path.)

I think that perhaps God did not show me before I completed my treatment because I had enough to handle simply dealing with the breast cancer itself. It would not have helped me to know in my outer mind that I had died of this condition in a previous life. He wanted me to get through it and come out on the other side before he showed me what my soul and Higher Self already knew.

So it happened that I had a gradual but vivid recall of a past life. I was shocked when it first happened, and it took me some days to come to grips with the experience.

I lived in rural England several hundred years ago. In those days, women had few options, and most of them revolved around a good marriage and children. Your station in life was your destiny, and if you were not born into the right station, you had little chance of any other type of fulfillment.

I was sad about circumstances in life that I could not control. I fell in love, but the man was of a different social class and marriage did not follow. Determined to marry only for love, I turned down all other marriage proposals. I now faced a life of loneliness and near poverty, and I wondered about having made the right choice.

I could not find an outlet for my creative talents, and the creativity that I did express was not recognized beyond a small family circle. I developed breast cancer in my forties, the same age I developed cancer in this life, and died in great sadness and with a deep sense of grief and unfulfillment. I believe that my father in that life was also my father in this life. As often happens, we return to work again with those with whom we have a common destiny or to whom we owe a debt.

As a spiritual counselor, I do not recommend that people try to contact their past lives. I believe that the veil is drawn over those experiences when we enter a new life and that we do not remember them for good reason. Firstly, it is hard enough to deal with this life without dealing with memories from past lives. In most cases, it would simply be confusing and troublesome. Secondly, once we are aware of the past-life memory, then the karma of that lifetime becomes due, and it may be too much for us to bear. Our karma normally returns to us in gradual increments to be balanced on a day-to-day basis.

Another reason why it is not recommended to seek out memories of past lives is that a recall we may have or something that is told to us about a past life may not be accurate. We may think we did some terrible thing and be burdened by it when we did not do it at all. Conversely, we may mistakenly think we achieved great things and do not have to work so hard this time around.

In the end, the past is only prologue to the present and the future. We cannot rest on the laurels of past good works or be burdened and held back by past mistakes. What matters is what we do in this life, the one we have now.

Nevertheless, when we are ready for the memory, and if it will help us make progress on our spiritual path, our Higher Self sometimes reveals past-life experience to us. In the meantime, it is best not to pry. Normally, I would not share such an experience with others, but I do so here because I think that it illustrates an important point.

More and more people are having recall of their past lives. More and more people understand the truth of karma and reincarnation because they feel the movement of the stream of life within them. These things are not unlikely. We have all been a part of the many events have happened in the history of the earth.

Spiritual origins of illness

I believe that one seed of my breast cancer was causes I may have set in motion a long time ago in a past life, and I suspect that it goes even beyond that one life of which I am aware. God did not let me see the record until I was past the initiation and had overcome it. Yet, my soul knew and was preparing for it.

Did I cause my cancer? No, I do not believe that I did. However, once I had it, I was accountable and responsible for doing the best that I could to overcome it.

Did any one thing cause my cancer? Although there may be things that contributed to my developing cancer, I am not aware of any one thing that I did or did not do that caused it.

Was God punishing me? No. God is a loving God and he does not send punishments (although he may send us lessons to help us learn). Karma is not punishment. It is a teacher. God allows our karma to descend to teach us lessons that we may not be able to learn any other way.

Could I do something about it once I had it? Yes, and I did many things to help my body overcome the cancer.

Could I have prevented it? I could certainly have done some things that would have made it less likely, but I am not sure that these things would have prevented it. I believe that it was a life experience and a life lesson that I had to go through. Having had cancer, I am now doing many things that will, by the grace of God, make the recurrence of cancer less likely.

Having seen the record of a past life, it was very easy for me to get in touch with these same feelings in myself. Many of them had surfaced in this life, in my early years and in later life. Now, here I was in this life, facing very similar tests again. This time I had the good karma to be happily married and to have found the love that had eluded me in the past. I also had a good career this time around. Yet, life was again presenting me with circumstances that I could not control, and I was not doing the things that I loved to do.

How was I going to handle it this time? Would I submit to the grief and hopelessness? Would I continue to allow circumstances to control my life? Or would I fight for my life and make the interior changes that would get me through the test this time? Would I learn to love in spite of the pain?

In many ways, breast cancer was a déjà vu experience. As I was going through my treatment, I already knew the pain and what it felt like to die of this condition. Even before I was born, I knew that this initiation would be waiting for me and that I would once again have to face it.


1. A recent biography of Edgar Cayce is Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet (New York: Riverhead Books, 2000). See pp. 402–11 for an outline of the healing methods recommended by Cayce. Stories of Cayce’s diagnoses may be found throughout the book.

2. Gladys Taylor McGarey, The Physician within You (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, 1997), p. 37–39.


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy