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levitation(lĕvĭtā`shən), the raising of a human or other body in the air without mechanical aid. The idea is ancient; holy men, both pagan and Christian, were reputed to have had the power of becoming light at will and of moving through the air. It is a favorite manifestation in séances. It is also a popular conjuring trick, the illusion being produced by clever mechanical or lighting arrangements or other means.
Levitation(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Levitation is the act of ascending into the air and floating in apparent defiance of gravity. While by no means common, it was an effect attributed to many Catholic saints. In most cases, the levitation reported was of a few inches to a few feet and lasted for only a short period of time. In stark contrast were the levitation experiences of Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663), who on a number of occasions would rise while praying before the altar in his monastery or before the statue of the Virgin Mary. Cupertino was seen to rise above the heads of those witnessing it.
The levitation of objects became one of the phenomena reported to occur in Spiritualist séances, although there was always the explanation that the phenomenon was more closely related to stage magic than anything paranormal. Such explanations did not work as effectively for the occasional report of human levitation. The most spectacular incidents involved Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886), whose most memorable levitation occurred on December 13, 1868, when he was seen to rise and float out of one window on the third floor and around the wall to another, through which he reentered the house. Although frequently analyzed by skeptics, no satisfactory explanation of the event has been put forth. Moreover, it has not be duplicated in the years since.
Alexandra David-Neel visited the Tibetan masters who practiced an exercise known as lung-gom-pa, which was mastered during one of the famous three-years seclusions in which many Tibetans engage. Those who engage in this practice, it is noted, grow very light and seem to have no weight. Among the specific exercise that is done in lung-gom-pa involves sitting cross-legged on a cushion. After slowly filling the lungs with air and holding his or her breath, the practitioner jumps up using the crossed legs but not the hands, then returns to the cushion in the same position. That exercise is then repeated multiple times. Practiced Tibetans could jump quite high off the ground. After a long period of practice, the accomplished practitioner was said to be able to travel great distances using the technique, never touching the ground and seeming to float in the air. David-Neel said she observed some accomplished lumg-gom-pa practitioners who operated in a trance state with their attention focused on a distant object toward which they moved.
In the mid-1970s, something like the lumg-gom-pa technique was introduced into the West by Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, the founder of the transcendental meditation (TM) movement. He seemed to be offering those who had first mastered TM a program by which they could learn to levitate. This became one of the most controversial aspects of TM. While informally, the Sidhi program seemed to offer to teach levitation, its promotional material was much more circumspect: “During the first stage of Yogic Flying, thebody lifts up and moves forward in short hops. Subjectively one experiences exhilaration, lightness, and bliss.”
The achievement of levitation remains elusive, although the feats of stage magicians continually offer the hope that it is possible. Theaccounts of those who seem to have levitated in the past remain, but they remain in the past. No one in the present generation has demonstrated the power, a fact that calls into question even the best accounts of the past.
Levitation(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Causing people or things to float above the ground, in opposition to the laws of gravity, by magical or mystical means. The Christian Saint Joseph Mary Desu of Cupertino (1603-1663) made a habit of levitating, making at least seventy flights, according to the Acta Sanctorum. The Abbess of Cordova, Spain, Magdalena Crucia, was reported to have been "sometimes lifted up above the ground three of four cubits high," according to the report of Henry More, in Antidote Against Atheism (1635). Others who reportedly levitated include St. Dunstan (918-988), St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), St. Andrew Fournet, Francis Suarez (1548-1617), and St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). A review by Professor O. Leroy (Levitation, 1928) lists 155 cases. All these levitations of Christians are hailed as miracles, while levitations of anyone else are labeled, by the Christians, "works of the Devil." Certainly the idea of witches flying through the air was the devil's handiwork, according to the persecutors of the Middle Ages. Yet there have been hundreds of cases of levitation, both of people and objects, over the centuries, many well documented.
One of the best known and best documented cases was that of the Scottish-born spiritualist medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) who, in 1868, levitated out of one window seventy feet above the ground and in through a different window, in front of credible witnesses: Lord Adare, Captain Charles Wynne, and the honorable Master of Lindsay (later Earl of Crawford and Balcarres). Italian medium Amedee Zuccarini, of Bologne, was photographed levitating nearly two feet above the surface of a table top. Similarly, the British medium Colin Evans was photographed three feet off the ground at the Conway Hall in London during a public séance. In spiritualism, especially in its heyday, levitation of tables and other objects was not uncommon. Certainly, there were and are many cases of fraud, but there have been a sufficient number of well-observed, fully documented instances to prove that it happens.
There are many levitations recorded in Islamic records, also in Hinduism and Buddhism. Advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation have claimed to be able to levitate at will.
Levitation(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Levitation is the raising into the air of physical objects such as tables, pianos, and even human beings, without visible means and contrary to the law of gravity. In Spiritualism, this is presumably accomplished through the agencies of the spirits. It happens during the séances of a physical medium. Nandor Fodor observes that levitation was well known in ancient times, being recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. Many Christian saints are supposed to have levitated (e.g. Saints Dunstan, Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund, and Ignatius Loyola). In recent times it is a feat claimed by advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation, after special training under the supervision of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his headquarters in Switzerland. The British Spiritualist medium Colin Evans levitated before large audiences on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and was photographed doing so.
The first Spiritualist medium to levitate was Henry C. Gordon, in February 1851. The Reverend Stainton Moses levitated, as did the famous physical medium Daniel Dunglas Home, traveling out of one window and in another, seventy feet above the ground and in front of witnesses. Mrs. Agnes Nichol Guppy was also supposed to have levitated. The levitating of séance room tables has been almost commonplace, with photographs often taken of such events (e.g. the sittings of Eusapia Paladino). Stainton Moses wrote, “As I was seated in the corner of the inner room my chair was drawn back into the corner and then raised off the floor about a foot, as I judged, and then allowed to drop to the floor whilst I was carried up in the corner.” Sir William Crookes said of the phenomenon, “The evidence in favour of it is stronger than the evidence in favour of almost any natural phenomenon the British Association could investigate.”
Levitating tables, trumpets, and other objects in séances is usually accomplished with the aid of ectoplasm, which exudes from the body of the medium. It is impaired by light, hence the fact that most levitations take place in the dark. Not all demand darkness however, including levitations of Daniel Dunglas Home and Colin Evans. Sir William Crookes described an occasion with Home:
On one occasion I witnessed a chair, with a lady sitting on it, rise several inches from the ground. On another occasion, to avoid the suspicion of this being in some way performed by herself, the lady knelt on the chair in such a manner that its four feet were visible to us. It then rose about three inches, remained suspended for about ten seconds and then slowly descended. At another time two children, on separate occasions, rose from the floor with their chairs, in full daylight under (to me) most satisfactory conditions; for I was kneeling and keeping close watch upon the feet of the chair, observing distinctly that no one touched them … There are at least a hundred instances of Mr. Home’s rising from the ground, in the presence of as many persons.
Harry Boddington said, “Levitation in various forms is a frequent precursor or concomitant of materialization…. When a solid sixteen-stone man is levitated, how are the forces of terrestrial gravitation overcome? Do spirit people make him lighter by extracting ponderous matter from his body, or do they fill him with a compound lighter than air which enables him silently, and without the least disturbance of the atmosphere, to float over one’s head?” However it is accomplished, it seems that it is done.
An interesting case of levitation was demonstrated and photographed in India in 1936. An Englishman, P. Y. Plunkett, described the scene,
“The time was about 12:30 pm and the sun directly above us so that shadows played no part in the performance … Standing quietly by was Subbayah Pullavah, the performer, with long hair, a drooping moustache and a wild look in his eye. He salaamed to us and stood chatting for a while. He had been practicing this particular branch of yoga for nearly twenty years (as had past generations of his family).”
About 150 people gathered to watch. The performer went into a small tent arrangement and water was poured on the ground all around it. Anyone wearing leather-soled shoes was asked to remove them. After a few minutes helpers moved forward and took down the tent, revealing the yogi lying on his side, in a trance, but suspended in the air about three feet above the ground. He had a cloth-covered stick which stood beside him and his hand rested lightly on it but, according to Plunkett, there was no special connection between the stick and the yogi. Plunkett and friends examined all around, and underneath, the suspended figure but found nothing to explain the levitation. The tent was re-erected around him and Plunkett peeped through a crack to watch what happened. He said,
After a minute he appeared to sway and then very slowly began to descend, still in a horizontal position. He took about five minutes to move from the top of the stick to the ground, a distance of about three feet … When Subbayah was back on the ground his assistants carried him over to where we were sitting and asked if we would try to bend his limbs. Even with assistance we were unable to do so.
The yogi was rubbed and splashed with cold water for five minutes or more before he came out of his trance. Plunkett’s photographs of this event appeared in the Illustrated London News for June 6, 1936.