Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910)
Jackson Davis is often referred to as the John the Baptist of
Modern Spiritualism; for it was he who firmly set into place and
definitively proclaimed the coming revelation of Spirit communion.
Andrew Jackson Davis grew up
in poverty. He was born at Blooming Grove, a small hamlet along the Hudson
River, in New York State. His mother was a simple, uneducated woman, and
his father, between binges of drunkenness, earned a scanty living as a
weaver and a shoemaker.
Young Davis showed signs of
clairvoyance and heard voices very early in life and, on the advice given
from Spirit, he convinced his father to move to Poughkeepsie in 1838. In
1843, a Dr. J. S. Grimes visited the city and gave a series of lectures on
mesmerism (hypnosis). With Davis's curiosity getting the better of him, he
attended one of the lectures and was tested as a subject, with no results.
Later, a local tailor named William Levingston helped induce upon Davis a
state of mesmeric trance and found that in this altered state of
consciousness, he (Davis) could accurately diagnose medical disorders. In
this condition, Davis described how the human body became transparent to
his spirit eyes; this seemed to come from the center of the forehead. Each
organ stood out clearly with a special luminosity of its own which greatly
diminished in cases of disease.
In 1844, Andrew Jackson Davis
had an experience which was to change the course of his life. On the
evening of March 6th, Davis was suddenly overcome by some power which led
him to "fly" from Poughkeepsie, where he lived, and hurry off in
a semi-trance state, upon a rapid journey. Upon gaining full consciousness
the next morning, he found himself amidst the Catskill Mountains, some 40
miles away. Here, he claims to have met two very distinguished men, whom he
later identified as the philosopher Galen and the Swedish seer Emanuel
Swedenborg, both of whom were, of course, dead. He also claimed to have
experienced a great mental illumination and revelation.
Now, it is very difficult to
ascertain exactly what happened to Davis during this evening: was the
experience a vision; was it an actual levitation and/or transportation to
the Catskill Mountains; or did he really walk 40 miles in the trance condition?
Regardless of what actually happened, the effect upon Davis was tremendous.
From that time onward, he
traveled extensively, giving public lectures and teachings. In the course
of a teaching tour, Davis met Dr. Lyons and Rev. Fishbough.
Dr. Lyons was a qualified mesmerist and often induced the trance state upon
Davis. During these episodes, a wealth of material came through, all of
which was transcribed by Rev. Fishbough. In
November, 1845, Davis began dictating his great work, The Principles
of Nature: Her Divine Revelations and A Voice To Mankind. The
dictation lasted for 15 months, with many enthusiastic people bearing
witness to these trance utterances.
Nandor Fodor, in his Encyclopedia
of Psychic Science, writes of one of these witnesses:
"Dr. George Bush,
Professor of Hebrew at the University of New York, declared that he heard
Davis correctly quote Hebrew. The seer's good faith was also established by
his answers to impromptu questions put to him as tests while he was in the
clairvoyant state. Professor Bush summed up his opinion thus: 'Taken as a
whole the work is a profound and elaborate discussion of the philosophy of
the universe, and for grandeur of conception, soundness of principle,
clearness of illustration, order of arrangement and encyclopedic range of
subjects, I know no work of any single mind that will bear away from it the
palm.' It was partly due to Bush's enthusiasm that the book, published in
1847, met with eager interest. Within a few weeks of its appearance,
however, Professor Bush published a small pamphlet, Davis's Revelations
Revealed, in which he solemnly warned the public against being misled by
the numerous errors, absurdities and falsities contained in that work. It
was clear to him, he said, that Davis, although himself apparently an
honest and single-hearted young man, had been made the mouthpiece of
uninstructed and deceiving spirits ..... The book attained 34 editions in
less than 30 years which alone proved the appeal of the style and the
qualities of this stupendous work."
The book opens with the
"In the beginning the Univercoelumm was one boundless, indefinable, and
unimaginable ocean of Liquid Fire. The most vigorous and ambitious
imagination is not capable of forming an adequate conception of the height
and depth and length and breadth thereof. There was one vast expanse of
liquid substance. It was without bounds - inconceivable - and with
qualities and essences incomprehensible. This was the original condition of
Matter. It was without forms, for it was but one Form. It had no motions,
but it was an eternity of Motion. It was without parts, for it was a Whole.
Particles did not exist, but the Whole was as one Particle. There were not
suns, but it was one eternal Sun. It had no beginning and it was without
end. It had not length, for it was a Vortex of one Eternity. It had not
circles, for it was one infinite Circle. It had not disconnected power, but
it was the very essence of all Power. Its inconceivable magnitude and
constitution were such as not to develop forces, but Omnipotent Power.
"Matter and Power were
existing as a Whole, inseparable. The Matter contained the substance to
produce all suns, all worlds, and systems of worlds, throughout the
immensity of Space. It contained the qualities to produce all things that
are existing upon each of those worlds. The Power contained Wisdom, and
Goodness, Justice, Mercy and Truth. It contained the original and essential
Principle that is displayed throughout immensity of Space, controlling
worlds and systems of worlds, and producing Motion, Life, Sensation and
Intelligence, to be impartially disseminated upon their surfaces as ultimates."
One can see clearly from this
passage that much of the teaching that was given through Andrew Jackson
Davis is similar in style and content to that of Emanuel Swedenborg; yet
Davis was not at all an educated person during his earlier years. It is
this fact, we feel, which makes the revelations of Davis so very
interesting. Here we have two seers, Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson
Davis. Each came from totally different social, economic and educational
backgrounds, yet both were channels for some of the most profound and
esoteric philosophies and teachings to come out of the eighteenth and
Davis's prediction of the
movement of Modern Spiritualism was given in his Principles of
Nature, first published in 1847. In it he wrote:
"It is a truth that
spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in
the higher spheres - and this, too, when the person in the body is
unconscious of the influx, and hence cannot be convinced of the fact; and
this truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living
demonstration. And the world will hail with delight the ushering in of that
era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion
will be established."
Finally, on March 31, 1848, in
his diary, Andrew Jackson Davis recorded the following:
"About daylight this
morning a warm breathing passed over my face and I heard a voice, tender
and strong, saying, 'Brother, the good work has begun - behold, a living
demonstration is born.' I was left wondering what could be meant by such a
At that very moment, not too
far away, in Hydesville, New York, the events
which literally shook the world into looking at the very real possibility
of communicating with those in Spirit were taking place. Indeed, the good
work had begun.
The contributions made by
Andrew Jackson Davis to the cause of Spiritualism simply cannot be enumerated.
This simple, uneducated man, through whom so very much was given, should be
noted as the prime forerunner to Modern Spiritualism. From 1845 to 1885, he
wrote over 30 books dealing on subjects from cosmological philosophy and
dissertation, to health, to a descriptive analysis of the afterlife.
In the latter years of his
life, having finally acquired a medical degree, Andrew Jackson Davis
retired to Boston, where he opened a small book shop. There he sold books
and prescribed herbal remedies to his patients.
We are very proud to say that Marcellus S. Ayer, founder of the First Spiritual
Temple, was a dear friend of Andrew Jackson Davis. As Honorary Treasurer,
Mr. Ayer served with Davis on a committee established to help promulgate
the work of Professor Joseph Rodes
Buchanan, pioneer researcher in psychometry.
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