John DeSalvo's worthwhile albeit regrettably brief book Andrew Jackson Davis: The First American Prophet and Clairvoyant contains some interesting material on the 19th century medium. One chapter recounts Davis's experience in a hospital when he observed two dying men. Davis reported that he saw, clairvoyantly, the entire dying process. His description matches up pretty well with accounts collected by Robert Crookall in his books on death and dying, such as Intimations of Immortality.
Observing one of the unconscious patients, Davis wrote,
There was, at first, a broad, ribbon-shaped current arising from the epigastrium. As it ascended, it separated, and expanded into a sort of fleecy steam-cloud, about three feet above the bosom, in the air where the effulgent elements assumed the form of an inverted pyramid with a turbinate envelope, which was, by a strong psychical cord, attached to the solar ganglia, a sort of linea alba tube.
The inverted pyramidal cloud gradually assumed an oval shape externally, amid, internally, a representation of the perfect ellipse, approximating to a globular form, and with a throbbing sun-bright nucleus, which seemed like the germ-cell from which, in a few moments, the miracle would be wrought of an immediate incubation, rapidly resulting in the production of a full-formed and indescribably perfect angel man!
An illustration commissioned by Davis shows a luminous oval cloud issuing from the supine patient's midsection and head. Though two cords are shown connecting the cloud to the patient, the idea seems to be that there is only one cord (the "broad, ribbon-shaped current"), which begins at the solar plexus and then gradually moves up to the head.
Once the cloud is fully formed, the patient's spirit flows through it "with lightning rapidity and vividness," forming a full-sized replica of the patient's body, starting with the head and working downward. In the illustration this body is shown still inside the now-expanded cloud, hovering vertically over the patient in a standing position.
Before the outline of the immortal head was visible, I observed that the cloud-like appearance of the emulations, as a whole, manifested several remarkable innate movements. There were vertical motions, upward and downward; lateral motions, like an anchored balloon, from side to side; then rotatory or gyrating motions, like a spinning-top immediately before losing its momentum. These various graceful motions completely subsided, and the whole became absolutely still, when the formation had advanced sufficiently to unfold the head and bust.
It was remarkable, the perfect progressiveness manifested in each succeeding stage of development. The two men patients were leaving the earth together, with only a few feet of airy space between; yet they were as absolutely without consciousness of each other's existence as though they were departing with the earth's entire diameter between them. In reality, there was no self consciousness in either during the metamorphosis. One was being born (or, in earthly words, one was dying) about an hour in advance of the other; which interesting difference gave me, as a medical student an opportunity to classify the successive stages of the marvelous process.
Davis goes on to say that the spirit, once separated from the body, enters a bright light and emerges in a heavenly environment surrounded by departed loved ones. This part of the report conforms closely to near-death experiences. The main difference is that Davis seems to think the dying person is unconscious throughout the process and awakens only when he has safely arrived on the other side. NDErs, on the other hand, often report being conscious of hovering over their own body and going into the light. Then again, most clinically dead patients who are resuscitated do not report an NDE. Is it possible that for most people the transitional part of the process is carried on while they are unconscious, and that's why only a minority of people report remembering an NDE?
The question naturally arises whether Davis is a trustworthy source of information. Was he a real clairvoyant or a fake? DeSalvo, at least, is convinced Davis was the genuine article. He reports that Davis, like Edgar Cayce, was able to accurately diagnose people's illnesses while he was entranced and to prescribe treatments that worked. He also recounts a number of predictions made by Davis that arguably have come true. For instance, in March of 1846, Davis predicted that a total of nine planets would be discovered in the solar system; at the time only seven were known, although Neptune's existence was suspected. Davis seems to have provided a reasonably accurate description of the terrain of Venus, at that time totally unknown because of the planet's thick cloud cover. He said that the solar system itself was in motion, an idea that was confirmed a few months later. His description of the earliest stage of the universe bears a resemblance to Big Bang cosmology, though one might argue that it could have been inspired by mystical teachings such as Kabbalah. In 1852 he predicted that electricity would be used to power vehicles:
The lightning, that now performs the duties of a courier [the telegraph], and which sometimes ventures to declare itself independent of man's power, will yet be the chief engine of mechanical locomotion - it will drive the engine more rapidly than ever, and bring states into the most intimate relations; because it will almost destroy the time and space which now divide the interests of the people that inhabit the different portions of the land.
The accuracy of these predictions is debatable, but Davis does seem to have had incontestable success as a clairvoyant diagnostician, and his spiritual teachings conform pretty closely to mystical traditions and the teachings of other channelers. He also seems to have been sincere in his cause. He forswore all royalties to his first book The Principles of Nature, which became a bestseller and went through 32 printings. At age 56 he entered medical school and became a doctor so that he could treat patients in hospitals. He does not appear to have made much money, lived quietly, and, says DeSalvo, "eventually retired to Boston and opened a small book shop called the Progressive Bookstore. There he saw patients and prescribed herbal remedies. He died January 13, 1910" at the age of 83.
When he passed on, did his spiritual body take shape in a cloud above his physical body - "a full-formed and indescribably perfect angel man"? That's surely what Davis himself expected, and I'm inclined to think he was not disappointed.