Cayce repeatedly stresses the choice of an ideal as the foundation of the spiritual path. "And O that all would realize; that what we are; is the result of what we have done about the ideals we have set" (1549-1). We may choose any ideal we feel drawn to. As we attempt to apply it in our lives, God will guide us further, perhaps inspiring us to revise our choice of ideal. The highest ideal, says Cayce, is Christ; however, the readings recognize "the Christ spirit" in some form as the basis for religions other than Christianity.

All of us, at different periods in our lives, struggle with what we should be doing, where we should be going, or how we might possibly fill that special niche which God has in mind for us. We often find ourselves searching for something, although we often remain unsure as to what it is. Perhaps one of the most frequently mentioned principles in the Edgar Cayce readings is the concept of "ideals," and it's that very same principle that can provide us with an approach to answering this inner call.The readings recommend writing down our physical, mental, and spiritual ideals.

Too often, we may believe this approach is one in which we complete a one-time assignment, filling in columns or jotting down notes that are never again wrestled with once set on paper. Yet, Cayce made it clear that the importance of working with ideals should become a frequent activity in our lives-one in which we're challenged, encouraged, even prodded to begin a personal masterpiece at a soul level. From this approach, the readings' insights on ideals can provide much assistance in helping us to manifest in our lives the very best we have to offer our world, our God, and ourselves.

In simplest terms, the intention of an ideal is the motivating influence that undergirds why we do what we do. It is like a North Star that guides us in the dark of night-allowing us to focus upon the direction toward which we wish to be headed. Whereas a "goal" is something attainable, in Cayce's terminology, an "ideal" is really a motivating pattern that guides our lives. It's not something we're going to pick up and fondle like a prized object; rather, it's more like the rays of the sun that can warm our face as we're pointed toward it-you can't help but know when you're looking at it head on!

What may be surprising from the readings' perspective, however, is that everyone works with ideals, even if it's unconscious. For example, in reading 1011-1, the person was told, "Each individual entity, whether aware of same or not, sets before self an ideal in the material world, in the mental world, in the spiritual world." Another individual was told that the reason he had so many problems and so much confusion in his own life was because he had never really established a conscious ideal (323-1). He often felt that he was in a state of confusion simply because the ideal he had established (to be sure, unconsciously) was that of a "wanderer." He was encouraged to make a conscious choice and to begin to work with it, because what individuals dwell upon they become.

Since ideals shape our very lives, our experiences, even who we're becoming, then, by definition, they must be extremely important. But Cayce went even one step further. Oftentimes, people were told: "Then the more important, the most important experience of this or any individual entity is to first know what is the ideal-spiritually." (357-13) Not only is it very important, it is the most important thing we can do.

The challenge of working with ideals seems to be one where we're encouraged to move beyond simply a personal intellectual exercise to one where we're able to strategically map out how our ideal will affect our interaction with others, ourselves, even our surroundings.

Many individuals have found that the key to making a spiritual ideal practical in their material lives is to work with a frequently mentioned concept in the Cayce readings: Spirit is the life, mind is the builder, and the physical is the result.

The first step is to take a sheet of paper and draw three columns. Label the first, "My Spiritual Ideal"; label the second, "My Mental Attitudes"; and label the third, "My Physical Activities." Although we're encouraged to choose a challenging spiritual ideal, it's recommended that the spiritual ideal we choose be something we can understand, work with, and see progressively manifesting in our lives.

Ultimately, a spiritual ideal is the highest "spiritual" quality or attainment that we could hope to have motivating us in our lives right now. For some, this might be the pattern set by Jesus, for others it might be a quality such as "love." In order to really begin working with ideals, however, we should choose that quality or attribute that is currently missing or lacking in our own life in our relationships with others. For example, perhaps we may find that we need to be more "patient" or more "forgiving" or more "understanding" in our interaction with other people. Ideals grow and change as we do, so it's important to pick something with which we can really begin to work.

For this exercise, let's say that our spiritual ideal is currently going to be "forgiveness," so forgiveness would be written under the first column labeled, "My Spiritual Ideal."

Under the second column, we need to begin listing "My Mental Attitudes," those attitudes which will help build that spirit of forgiveness into our relationships with others and with ourselves. Perhaps we'll decide "compassion" is an attitude we want to work toward in relation to a frustrating parent; maybe "openness" is the mental attitude we want to begin holding in mind in regard to a child with whom we've been having difficulty; and possibly "patience" best describes that attitude we need to use with ourselves. Our ideals chart should list all the people in our lives with whom we need to exercise this spiritual ideal of forgiveness plus the positive mental attitudes suggesting how we'll begin working with each one.

The third column is the most detailed. It's the place we can write out all those physical activities we'll begin doing in relationship to specific individuals. "My Physical Activities" should simply reflect the mental attitudes we're holding in relationship to our spiritual ideal. For example, in the case of ourselves and the mental attitude of "patience," perhaps each of the following would be appropriate activities to help "build" that same attitude: "stop saying (or even thinking) 'I can't'", "make a list of every instance where I have been forgiven for something," "begin praying that I will have the determined endurance to go forward," etc. Each attitude and person should have next to it a list of multiple activities with which we'll be working. Our activities can map out ways to bring this spiritual ideal into the material world.

 We'll know that progress has been made with our spiritual ideal when the mental attitude on the ideals sheet becomes our usual state of mind and the physical activity listed becomes our automatic and natural response. As we really begin to work with ideals, making them a part of who we are, we can then choose a more challenging direction, a brighter North Star toward which we can point our lives. The important thing is to work with our ideals, for by working with them we'll discover what it is we need to be doing, and we'll no longer have to concern ourselves with the timing.

Ideals Change and Grow as We Do
As we work with ideals, we'll discover that they need to be fine-tuned, becoming even more challenging with the passage of time. For example, if one of our ideals is "gentleness of speech", we would continue to work with it-even across the breakfast table-until it became a part of us. Once our conversation began to match up with "gentleness of speech", we might reword our ideal to "friendliness." Then, friendliness would be the spiritual ideal we'd attempt to manifest in our experiences with others through our mental attitudes and our physical activities. Eventually, we might find that we've successfully grappled with "gentleness of speech," "friendliness," and a dozen others, all dealing with some aspect of "service" or "improving relationships" or "unconditional love." Each one of our smaller ideals is a portion of something greater that we wish to become, but perhaps is out of our immediate reach in the very beginning.

Ultimately, There is One Ideal 
Although the readings encourage us to choose a personal ideal, they also assert that there is only one Ideal. One individual was told, "There is one way, but there are many paths." (3083-1) In essence, what this suggests is that each of us is moving toward an "ultimate ideal." Whether we want to label that ideal "perfection" or "Christ Consciousness" or "God Consciousness" or whatever term we're personally most comfortable with, the ultimate ideal is the highest spiritual attainment possible. However, each of our smaller ideals (such as "love" or "service" or "kindness") can really serve as steps or building blocks toward that highest ideal.

Ideas vs. Ideals 
Although each of us might have different ideas, plans, or goals about how things should be done, the readings advise that-in spite of all our differences-we can share a common why. Even during the turmoil and international chaos of the 1930s, the readings gave a "prescription" that could serve to bring all of humanity together-in spite of the fact that each nation had different ideas, Cayce suggested that the world could share a common ideal. That ideal was his answer to the world. The world, as a world...has lost its ideal. Man may not have the same idea. Man-all men-may have the same ideal!...that can only come with all having the one ideal; not the one idea, but "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, thy neighbor as thyself!" This [is] the whole law, this [is] the whole answer to the world, to each and every soul. That is the answer to the world conditions as they exist today. Reading 3976-8

Repeatedly, the readings encourage us to become aware of what we are building within ourselves because ultimately we'll have the chance to meet it. As we work with a conscious ideal, not only is our direction made more clear, but the ideal becomes a living, breathing portion of who we are at a soul level. An ideal is like a personal tapestry that we create one stitch at a time. It can be worked with and ironed out and toiled over until the end result is something we can proudly share in our interactions with others. Each of us has the opportunity to consciously decide who we wish to become as well as how long it's going to take us to get there.

Body, Mind, Spirit - Cayce often invokes these three terms, or their equivalents, to describe the human condition. "Spirit is the life. Mind is the builder. Physical is the result." (conflation of various readings). The concept has application not only to holistic health but also to the spiritual life.

Cayce's Death

Edgar Cayce's last reading on September 17, 1944, was for himself. He was now receiving thousands of requests for assistance. His own readings had repeatedly warned him that he should not try to undertake more than two sessions a day. But many of the letters he received were from mothers worried about their sons on the battlefields, and Cayce felt he could not refuse them his aid. His last reading told him that the time had come for him to stop working and rest.

On New Year's Day, 1945, he announced that he would be buried on the fifth of January. He was right.

Ten years earlier, Cayce had written a brief account of his work. In it, he said,

"The life of a person endowed with such powers is not easy. For more than forty years now I have been giving readings to those who came seeking help. Thirty-five years ago the jeers, scorn and laughter were even louder than today. I have faced the laughter of ignorant crowds, the withering scorn of tabloid headlines, and the cold smirk of self-satisfied intellectuals. But I have also known the wordless happiness of little children who have been helped, the gratitude of fathers and mothers and friends... I believe that the attitude of the scientific world is gradually changing towards these subjects."