Levitation (paranormal)

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A representation of a person levitating.

Levitation in the paranormal context is the rising of a human body into the air by mystical means. Some parapsychology and religious believers interpret alleged instances of levitation as the result of supernatural action of psychic power or spiritual energy. The scientific community states there is no evidence that levitation exists and alleged levitation events are explainable by natural causes (such as magic trickery, illusion, and hallucination).[1][2][3][4]

Religious views[edit]

Colin Evans, who claimed spirits levitated him into the air, was exposed as a fraud.

Various religions have claimed examples of levitation amongst their followers. This is generally used either as a demonstration of the validity or power of the religion,[5] or as evidence of the holiness or adherence to the religion of the particular levitator.

Hinduism[edit]

  • In Hinduism, it is believed that some Hindu gurus who have become siddhas (those who have achieved spiritual powers) have the siddhi (power) of being able to levitate. The power of levitation is called in Sanskrit laghiman (lightness) or dardura-siddhi (the frog power).[6] It is said that Hindu Sadhus have a history of paranormal levitation and that when one progresses on the path of spiritualism levitation comes naturally. Autobiography of a Yogi has accounts of Hindu Yogis who levitated in the course of their meditation.

Levitation is said to be possible by mastering the Hindu philosophy of yoga:

  • Yogi Subbayah Pullavar was reported to have levitated into the air for four minutes in front of a crowd of 150 witnesses on June 6, 1936. He was seen suspended horizontally several feet above the ground, in a trance, lightly resting his hand on top of a cloth covered stick. Pullavar's arms and legs could not be bent from their locked position once on the ground.
  • Shirdi Sai Baba, an Indian yogi, is described in the Sri Sai Satcharitra to have mastered the art of levitation while sleeping.
  • The Transcendental Meditation movement claims that practitioners of the TM-Sidhi program of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi achieve what they call "Yogic Flying". They say that there are three stages of Yogic Flying – hopping, floating, and flying – and that they have so far achieved just the first stage. Transcendental meditation groups have held annual "Yogic Flying Contests" to see who could hop the farthest or the fastest. Proponents say the hopping occurs spontaneously with no effort while skeptics say there is no levitation and they are using their thighs to bounce in the lotus position.

Buddhism[edit]

  • It is recounted as one of the Miracles of Buddha that Gautama Buddha walked on water levitating (crossed legs) over a stream in order to convert a brahmin to Buddhism.[5]
  • From the buddhist's point of view, supernatural powers including levitation are just by product of meditation. It mean that the ways to get supernatural powers are universal. ( the strong karma from the past lives and times + practicing with strong concentration of mind and body with a teacher)
  • The ultimate aim of Buddhism is to release from all sufferings. In order to reach this goal, Buddhists have to practice the dhamma or the buddha's teaching. Meditation is also a part of dhamma. In meditation, concentration of mind and body also play a role. So, a practicing buddhist can have these abilities through meditation.
  • it also mean that non Buddhists can have supernatural abilities if he or she has strong karma from the past times and is able to concentrate his or her mind with the help of a teacher.

Hellenism[edit]

Stanisława Tomczyk (left) and the magician William Marriott (right) who duplicated by natural means her trick of a glass beaker.

Christianity[edit]

  • Jesus walks on the water to meet his disciples who are in a boat. Initially they are afraid, thinking he is a "spirit", but he quells their fears (Matthew 14:22 - 33)KJV.
  • Saint Bessarion of Egypt (d. 466) walked across the waters of a river (Nile).[8][9]
  • Saint Mary of Egypt also walked across a river, according to St. Zosimas.
  • Saint Francis of Assisi is recorded as having been "suspended above the earth, often to a height of three, and often to a height of four cubits" (about 1.3 to 1.8 meters).[10]
  • St. Alphonsus Liguori, when preaching at Foggia, was lifted before the eyes of the whole congregation several feet from the ground.[11]
  • St. Joseph of Cupertino (mystic, born 17 June 1603; died at Osimo 18 September 1663; feast, 18 September) reportedly levitated high in the air, for extended periods of more than an hour, on many occasions.[12]
  • St. Teresa of Avila (born in Avila, Spain, March 28, 1515; died in Alba, October 4, 1582) claimed to have levitated at a height of about a foot and a half for an extended period somewhat less than an hour, in a state of mystical rapture. She called the experience a "spiritual visitation".[13]
  • Saint Martín de Porres (December 9, 1579 – November 3, 1639) claimed psychic powers of bilocation, being able to pass through closed doors (teleportation), and levitation.[14]
  • Girolamo Savonarola, sentenced to death, allegedly rose off the floor of his cell into midair and remained there for some time.[15]
  • Seraphim of Sarov (1759–1833) Russian Orthodox saint had a gift to levitate over the ground for some time. This was witnessed by many educated people of his time, including the emperor Alexander I. A young paralyzed man brought into his cell saw Seraphim raised from the ground during a fervent prayer. Likewise, four Diveyevo sisters saw him walking above the grass lifted up from the air.[16]
  • Mariam Baouardy "little Arab" (1846-1878), a Carmelite nun, who died in Bethlehem in 1878, and frequently experienced ecstasies, was seen levitating more than once by others: for example, in the garden of the monastery during times of private prayer, when living in the Carmelite monastery at Pau, in France.[17]
  • Padre Pio (1887–1968), Catholic saint, who had stigmata, is said to have been able to levitate, as well as being able to bilocate.
"Demonic" levitation in Christianity
  • Clara Germana Cele, a young South African girl, in 1906 reportedly levitated in a rigid position. The effect was apparently only reversed by the application of Holy water, leading to belief that it was caused by demonic possession.[18]
  • Magdalena de la Cruz (1487–1560), a Franciscan nun of Cordova, Spain.[19]
  • Margaret Rule, a young Boston girl in the 1690s who was believed to be harassed by evil forces shortly after the Salem Witchcraft Trials, reportedly levitated from her bed in the presence of a number of witnesses.[20]

Gnosticism[edit]

Theosophy[edit]

The levitation of Daniel Dunglas Home at Ward Cheney's house interpreted in a lithograph from Louis Figuier, Les Mystères de la science 1887.
  • H.P. Blavatsky described the phenomenon of levitation or "Æthrobacy" in her 1877 book Isis Unveiled. She explained that the earth is a magnetic body, charged with what one could call "positive electricity" while all other forms of matter, including human bodies, produce what could be called "negative electricity." Weight, or gravity, she explains, is "simply the attraction of the earth." Therefore, an individual can levitate by aligning their own electricity with that of the earth, and they would be repelled from the earth in the way two negatively charged magnets repel one another. This can be achieved through human will, a nervous system disease, ecstasy, or other causes.[22]

Levitation by mediums[edit]

Many mediums have claimed to have levitated during séances, especially in the 19th century in Britain and America. Many have been shown to be frauds, using wires and stage magic tricks.[23] Daniel Dunglas Home, a prolific and well-documented levitator of himself and other objects, was said by spiritualists to levitate outside of a window. Skeptics have disputed such claims.[24] The researchers Joseph McCabe and Trevor H. Hall exposed the "levitation" of Home as nothing more than him moving across a connecting ledge between two iron balconies.[25]

The magician Joseph Rinn gave a full account of fraudulent behavior observed in a séance of Eusapia Palladino and explained how her levitation trick had been performed. Milbourne Christopher summarized the exposure:

The levitation trick of the medium Jack Webber was exposed by the magician Julien Proskauer. According to Proskauer he would use a telescopic reaching rod attached to a trumpet to levitate objects in the séance room.[27] The physicist Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe investigated the medium Kathleen Goligher at many sittings and concluded that no paranormal phenomena such as levitation had occurred with Goligher and stated he had found evidence of fraud. D'Albe had claimed the ectoplasm substance in the photographs of Goligher from her séances were made from muslin.[28][29][30][31]

Levitation in photographies[edit]

A person photographed while bouncing may appear to be levitating. This optical illusion is used by religious groups and by spiritualist mediums, claiming that their meditation techniques allow them to levitate in the air. You can usually find telltale signs in the photography indicating that the subject was in the act of bouncing, like blurry body parts, a flailing scarf, his hair being suspended in the air, etc.[32] Those who practice transcendental meditation (which claims to be able to teach people how to levitate), when quizzed, generally admit they were not actually levitating but bouncing.

Popular culture[edit]

Film
Games
  • In World of Warcraft, "Priests" have the ability to use the spell "Levitate" with the tooltip: "Allows the friendly party or raid target to levitate, floating a few feet above the ground".
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, characters and the player can craft and consume Levitation potions to gain access to normally impossible areas.
  • In Street Fighter, the Yoga fanatic Dhalsim has the ability to levitate, which was gained through his Yoga background. He also has other techniques that resemble Siddhi described by Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • In Psychonauts levitation is used by the player and several other characters, notably world famous levitator Milla Vodello.
Literature
Television
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren", the Platonians (the inhabitants of the planet Platonius) have telekinetic powers, including the ability to levitate, from consuming plants containing the fictitious mineral "kironide".[33]
  • In Charmed Phoebe Halliwell has the power to levitate. This was one of her 'active powers'.
  • In Heroes Nathan Petrelli has the ability to levitate and is capable of flying at supersonic speed.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gordon Stein. (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1573920216
  2. ^ Robert Todd Carroll. (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. Wiley. p. 198 "Levitation is the act of ascending into the air and floating in apparent defiance of gravity. Spiritual masters or fakirs are often depicted levitating. Some take the ability to levitate as a sign of blessedness. Others see levitation as a conjurer's trick. No one really levitates; they just appear to do so. Clever people can use illusion, "invisible string", and magnets to make things appear to levitate." ISBN 978-0471272427
  3. ^ Joe Nickell. (2005). Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 177 "Some claims — of levitation, for instance — may be performed either as an illusion for an audience, as a magician's stage trick, or for the camera." ISBN 978-0813191249
  4. ^ Jonathan Smith. (2009). Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405181228
  5. ^ a b Schulberg, Lucille Historic India (Great Ages of Man: A History of the World's Cultures) 1968:New York:Time-Life Books Page 69—Stone bas relief depicting the levitation of Buddha
  6. ^ Bowker, John. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. p. 259, p. 567, p. 576
  7. ^ Hornblower, Simon and Spawforth, Antony, editors The Oxford Classical Dictionary Third Edition Oxford/New York: 1996 Oxford University Press—Article on Apollonius of Tyana Page 128
  8. ^ Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. Calendar: St. Bessarion the Great, wonderworker of Egypt (466).
  9. ^ Catholic Online. Saints and Angels: St. Bessarion.
  10. ^ Montague Summers. (1946). Witchcraft and Black Magic. Grand River Books. p. 200
  11. ^ Rosemary Ellen Guiley. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Saints. Checkmark Books. p. 13
  12. ^ John F. Michell, Bob Rickard, Robert J. M. Rickard. (2000). Unexplained Phenomena: A Rough Guide Special. Rough Guides Ltd. p. 83
  13. ^ Rosemary Ellen Guiley. (1993). Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. Grange Books. p. 327
  14. ^ Rosemary Ellen Guiley. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Saints. Checkmark Books. p. 227
  15. ^ Pasquale Villari . (2005). The Life And Times Of Girolamo Savonarola. Kessinger Publishing.
  16. ^ Zander. "St. Seraphim of Sarov". Yonkers / New York: Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975, pp 79–81.
  17. ^ "Mariam, la petite Arabe", by Amédée Brunot, Paris: Salvator, 1981
  18. ^ Rosemary Ellen Guiley. (1993). Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. Grange Books. p. 328
  19. ^ Gillian T. W. Ahlgren. (1998). Teresa of Ávila and the Politics of Sanctity. Cornell University. p. 21
  20. ^ Marilynne Roach. (2004). The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege. Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 442. ISBN 978-1589791329
  21. ^ Jørgen Christiansen. (1999). The History of Mind Control: From Ancient Times Until Now. Turtledove Book Company. p. 25
  22. ^ H.P. Blavatsky Isis Unveiled: A master-key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology vol. 1, 1877, p. xxx–xxxii Accessed online on 3/5/2012 at Isis Unveiled
  23. ^ Ruth Brandon. (1984). Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0879752699
  24. ^ Gordon Stein. (1993). The Sorcerer of Kings. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0879758639
  25. ^ Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism based on Fraud?: The Evidence Given by Sir A.C. Doyle and Others Drastically Examined. London: Watts & Co. pp. 48-50. Also see the review of The Enigma of Daniel Home: Medium or Fraud? by Trevor H. Hall in F. B. Smith. (1986). Victorian Studies. Volume. 29, No. 4. pp. 613-614.
  26. ^ Milbourne Christopher. (1979). Search for the Soul. T. Y. Crowell. p. 47. ISBN 978-0690017601
  27. ^ Julien Proskauer. (1946). The Dead Do Not Talk. Harper & Brothers. p. 94
  28. ^ Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe. (1922). The Goligher Circle. J. M. Watkins. p. 37
  29. ^ Julian Franklyn (2003). A Survey of the Occult. Kessinger publishing. p. 383. ISBN 978-0766130074
  30. ^ C. E. Bechhofer Roberts. (1932). The Truth About Spiritualism. Kessinger Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-1417981281
  31. ^ Martyn Jolly. (2006). Faces of the Living dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography. Miegunyah Press. pp. 84-86. ISBN 978-0712348997
  32. ^ Joe Nickell (2005). Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation (illustrated ed.). University Press of Kentucky. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-0-8131-9124-9. 
  33. ^ Krauss, Lawrence M. Beyond Star Trek:Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 124

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]