February 19th, 2014
This week, inquiries about the lives of mediums led me to the story of Andrew Jackson Davis. Davis was born in 1826 in Blooming Grove, New York. At a very young age, Davis heard voices and had gifts of clairvoyance. Until the age of 16, Davis never received any formal education, but instead worked as an apprentice for a shoe-maker. In 1838, Davis had an inclination to move to Poughkeepsie, so he persuaded his family to do so. Five years later, Dr. Grimes, a professor of jurisprudence, visited the city to deliver a lecture on mesmerism. Davis attended the lecture and was asked to be used as a demonstration. During the on stage mesmerism, nothing appeared to happen. However, later a local tailor named William Livingston put Davis into a “magnetic sleep” and discovered that when he was in this state, Davis had the ability to accurately diagnose people of disease. The following year, Davis wandered from his house in a state of semitrance and found himself the next morning forty miles from his home in the mountains. He claimed that on this journey, he met the late physician Galen and seer Swedenborg and experienced a state of illumination.
After this experience, Davis began writing and teaching about his gift. In “The Principles of Nature”, “Her Devine Revelations”, and “A Voice to Mankind”, Davis dictated his trances and visions to assistance who wrote down his words verbatim. His dictation was met with enthusiasm and witnesses confirmed the reality of his words. His gift was also supported by his improvisational and accurate answers to questions under trance. Also they received much support, his books also had many critics, including Professor George Bush, who stated that Davis, although a decent man, was a mouthpiece for deceiving spirits. However, Davis did predict many things, including the coming age of Spiritualism, as well as the existence of Neptune and Pluto before their discovery. It is even thought that Davis met Abraham Lincoln and advised him during the Civil War. Davis died in 1910 after earning a degree in medicine and retiring to Boston to open a book store.
Obviously, there is strong evidence of mediumship existing many years ago. However, I was also interested to compare the experiences of mediums today. George Anderson is a well-known medium who claims to connect with departed souls. At the age of six, Anderson had a near-death experience after contracting encephalomyelitis. After he recovered, Anderson began to see images of St. Joan of Arc who spoke to him frequently about the afterlife. He also began to see relatives who had died. Initially, he ignored the visions, but eventually doctors got involved and worried that Anderson had permanent brain damage from his NDE. But the communication with the other side continued, which made people around uncomfortable, even suggesting that he goes to an insane asylum. It was only from one spiritual and understanding doctor who believed in Anderson’s visions and helped him realize his calling in life was to bring comfort to those grieving a loss. Some people believe Anderson was chosen, while other hypothesize that his gift comes from the rewiring of this brain after trauma. Today, Anderson continues his work with those who are suffering a loss. He is also an author and television personality.
Just by reading these two biographies, it seems like society was more open to this type of spiritual thinking and connection long ago. Although there were doubters, Davis was acclaimed for his abilities and thought of as a brilliant seer. However, more recently, Anderson was thought of as crazy when he talked about his gift. It seems like today, people look for proof, and abstract ideas or thinking are not given as much credibility as they used to be given.