Wednesday, 3 October 2012


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A representation of a person levitating.
Levitation in paranormal context is the claimed rising of a human body into the air by mystical means. It is generally thought that there is no compelling evidence to suggest that paranormal levitation is a real phenomenon.[1] The scientific and empiricist communities traditionally attribute such incidents to trickery, illusion, auto-suggestion, and unseen natural causes.
The spiritualists and religious communities tend to interpret mystical levitation as the result of supernatural action of tuning in to the Holy Spirit, spiritual energy, a deity, or sometimes from the influence of a poltergeist. Levitation is an aspect of psychokinesis. Yogic masters claim that mystical levitation can occur as a siddhi during higher levels of consciousness, such as mystical rapture[citation needed], euphoria, or astral projection.



[edit] Claimed examples of levitation

Examples of some people who it is claimed have been able to levitate are listed below.

[edit] In the traditions of religions

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,[2] or as evidence of the holiness or adherence to the religion of the particular levitator. Levitation seems to be a very pervasive belief around the world, occurring in almost all major world religions as well as in shamanic religions.

[edit] Hinduism

  • 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[3] laghiman (lightness)[4] or dardura-siddhi (the frog power).[5] 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 used to levitate 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, 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 claim that practitioners of the TM-Sidhi program of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi achieve what they call "Yogic Flying". They say that there are three stages on 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 they appear to bouncing in the lotus position with the use of their thighs, and no actual levitation has occurred.

[edit] Buddhism

  • Yogi Milarepa, a Vajrayana Buddhist guru, was rumored to have possessed a range of additional abilities during levitation, such as the ability to walk, rest and sleep, however such were deemed as occult powers.

[edit] Hellenism

[edit] Christianity

  • Saint Bessarion of Egypt (d. 466) walked across the waters of a river (Nile).[7][8]
  • 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).[citation needed]
  • St. Alphonsus Liguori, when preaching at Foggia, was lifted before the eyes of the whole congregation several feet from the ground.[9] Liguori is also said to have had the power of bilocation.
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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".[citation needed]
  • Ignatius of Loyola (born in 1491 at the castle of Loyola above Azpeitia in Guipuscoa, Spain; died at Rome, 31 July 1556) is said to have not only risen several feet but become luminous in the process.[citation needed]
  • Saint Martín de Porres (December 9, 1579 – November 3, 1639) To help Martin serve the poor and needy, God blessed him with miraculous powers of bilocation, of being able to pass through closed doors (teleportation), and of levitation, according to Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints.[citation needed]
  • Blessed Mariam Thresia [1]
  • Girolamo Savonarola, sentenced to death, allegedly rose off the floor of his cell into midair and remained there for some time.[citation needed]
  • 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.[10]
  • Padre Pio (1887–1968), Catholic saint, who had stigmata, is said to have been able to levitate, as well as being able to bilocate.
So-called "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.[citation needed]
  • Magdalena de la Cruz (1487–1560), a Franciscan nun of Cordova, Spain.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]

[edit] Gnosticism

  • Simon Magus, a Gnostic who claimed to be an incarnation of God (as conceived by the Gnostics), reportedly had the ability to levitate, along with many other magical powers. As a dissenter from the orthodox Christianity of the time, this was branded by Christians as evil magic and attributed to demonic powers.[citation needed]

[edit] Theosophy

  • 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.[11]

[edit] New Age

[edit] Levitation by mediums

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.

The levitation of Daniel Dunglas Home at Ward Cheney's house interpreted in a lithograph from Louis Figuier, Les Mystères de la science 1887
Daniel Dunglas Home, the most prolific and well documented levitator of himself and other objects, was said to repeatedly defy gravity over a career of forty years. He was reputedly observed levitating out of a building through a third story window and back into the building via a different window. He could also cause tables and chairs to rise feet into the air, and was never demonstrated to be a fraud by hundreds of purportedly sceptical witnesses, except one. He remained in full consciousness throughout these feats, and attributed them to the action of some kind of magical energy.[12] Home's fame grew, fuelled by his feats of levitation. Physicist William Crookes claimed to have observed more than 50 occasions in which Home levitated, many of these at least five to seven feet above the floor, "in good light."[13] More common were feats recorded by Frank Podmore: "We all saw him rise from the ground slowly to a height of about six inches, remain there for about ten seconds, and then slowly descend."[14] One of Home's levitations occurred in 1868. In front of three witnesses (Adare, Captain Wynne, and Lord Lindsay) Home was said to have levitated out of the third story window of one room, and in at the window of the adjoining room.[15] "It was so dark I could not see clearly how he was supported" [outside of the three story window].[16]
Elliott Coues had claimed to have witnessed levitation of objects and developed a theory to try and explain the phenomenon.[17] His "telekinetic theory of levitation" claimed that luminiferous ether or a similar energy causes the moving of tables and other objects under given conditions, and that the motions which are set up in the ether are in some way connected with mental activities, which enable the mind to control the movement of objects through the hands and the spheres flowing forth through them.[18][19]
Gambier Bolton reported a levitation that he had witnessed during a seance with the medium Cecil Husk in his book Psychic Force (1904). Bolton wrote:
At one of our experimental meetings, one of the observers (a man weighing quite 12 stones) was suddenly raised from the floor, with the chair in which he was sitting; and releasing the hands of those who were holding his hands, he was levitated in his chair, greatly to his surprise, until his feet were just above the heads of the other experimenters present. He remained stationary in the air for a few seconds and then slowly descended to the floor again. Fourteen observers were present.[20]
Another early psychical researcher and engineer W. J. Crawford (1881–1920) developed the "Cantilever Theory of Levitation" due to his experiments with the medium Kathleen Goligher. His theory was that levitation of tables and objects by mediums occurred due to "psychic rods" of ectoplasm which comes out of the body of the medium to operate as an invisible cantilever.[21] Crawford later after witnessing a number of seances claimed to of obtained flashlight photographs of the substance, he later described the substance as "plasma". He claimed the substance is not visible to the naked eye but can be felt by the body.[22][23][24][25] William Fletcher Barrett had also claimed to of witnessed the levitation of a table by Goligher, he was also supportive of Crawford's theory as he believed it was evidence for "an unseen intelligence behind these manifestations".[26]
Dr. Edmund Fournier d'Albe later investigated the medium Kathleen Goligher at many sittings and arrived at the opposite conclusions to Crawford, according to D'Albe no paranormal phenomena such as levitation had occurred with Goligher and stated he had found evidence of fraud. D'Albe had claimed that the substance in the photographs of Crawford was ordinary muslin.[27][28] Another psychical researcher Hereward Carrington in his book Story of Psychic Science (1930) wrote that the photographs taken by Crawford look "dubious in appearance" and that "with rare exceptions, no other investigators had an opportunity to check-up his results, since outsiders were rarely admitted to the sittings" however Carrington also stated that some type of genuine phenomena may have been observed by Crawford.[29] A later report written by the Society for Psychical Research in 1939 concluded that the photographs obtained by Crawford were of pieces of muslin and had supported the conclusions of D'Albe.[30]

[edit] Controlled experiments into levitation

The only somewhat compelling and thorough case of controlled scientific tests performed recently were those of Nina Kulagina, a Russian "psychokinetic", in the 1960s. She demonstrated the power to levitate small objects repeatedly in conditions which satisfied Russian, Czech, and American scientists,[citation needed] although she never levitated herself. She levitated objects such as table tennis balls, wine glasses, and matches in conditions engineered to make the use of hidden magnets, wires, and similar "tricks" seem impossible. But these feats are commonly reproduced on-stage by illusionists, and scientists can be fooled by tricks of skillful illusionists — as was proven by James Randi's Project Alpha in 1979. In fact, Kulagina's use of a stick was actually photographed by parapsychologists.

[edit] Levitation in photographies

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.[31]

[edit] Possible scientific explanation

Some physicists think that levitation, if it is the case that the phenomenon could be scientifically confirmed as a real occurrence, could be the result of the mind "tapping into" the quantum vacuum zero point energy in an altered state of consciousness.[32][33]

[edit] Levitation in popular culture

  • 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.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Skeptic's Dictionary: Levitation
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Bowker, page 576 Names for levitation in Sanskrit
  4. ^ Bowker, page 567
  5. ^ Bowker, page 259
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. Calendar: St. Bessarion the Great, wonderworker of Egypt (466).
  8. ^ Catholic Online. Saints and Angels: St. Bessarion.
  9. ^ Montague Summers, Witchcraft and Black Magic, (Courier Dover, 2000), 200.
  10. ^ Zander. "St. Seraphim of Sarov". Yonkers / New York: Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975, pp 79–81.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Mishlove, Jeffrey The Roots of Consciousness: Psychic Liberation Through History, Science and Experience Co-Published by: New York:1975—Random House and Berkeley, California:1975 –The Bookworks Page 73
  13. ^ Doyle "The History of Spiritualism" volume 1, 1926 p196
  14. ^ Podmore "Mediums of the Nineteenth Century, Part 1." 2003 p254
  15. ^ Doyle "The History of Spiritualism" volume 1, 1926 pp196-197
  16. ^ Adare “Experiences in Spiritualism” 1976 p83
  17. ^ Metaphysical magazine: a monthly review of the occult sciences and metaphysical philosophy, Volume 1, The Metaphysical Publishing Company., 1895, p. 206
  18. ^ The Nation, Volumes 60–61, The Nation Company, 1895, p. 125
  19. ^ Paul Russell Cutright, Michael J. Brodhead Elliott Coues: naturalist and frontier historian 2001, p. 302
  20. ^ Gambier Bolton Psychic force: an experimental investigation of a little known power 1904
  21. ^ The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research: Volume 32 American Society for Psychical Research, 1938, p. 81
  22. ^ Bernard M. L. Ernst, Hereward Carrington Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2003, p. 67
  23. ^ Daniel Benor, Daniel J. Benor Personal Spirituality 2006, p. 110-111
  24. ^ The Green book magazine, Volume 28 The Story-press association, 1920, p. 20
  25. ^ An Interview with Dr. William J. Crawford Concerning the Mediumship of Kathleen Goligher by Michael E. Tymn
  26. ^ Edward Clodd Occultism p. 30
  27. ^ George Nugent Merle Tyrrell Science and psychical phenomena 1938, p. 331
  28. ^ Julian Franklyn Ed A Survey of the Occult 2005, p. 383
  29. ^ Hereward Carrington The Story of Psychic Science Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2003, p. 197-200
  30. ^ Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 45 Society for Psychical Research., 1939, p. 10
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Toben, Bob, in conversation with physicists Jack Sarfatti and Fred Alan Wolf Space-Time and Beyond New York:1975 E.P. Dutton Page 81 (diagram) and pages 125–159 (explanation)
  33. ^ Krauss, Lawrence M. Beyond Star Trek:Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time New York:1997 Basic Books (A Division of Harper Collins) Pages 124–132 Krauss, although stating that he himself does not believe in the reality of levitation, describes the amount of energy in watts needed to levitate various objects and the number of cubic meters of the quantum vacuum of empty space (the source of the zero point energy) that one would have to tap into the zero point energy from in order to perform these feats (assuming, which Krauss himself does not maintain since he does not posit the reality of levitation, that the zero point energy was the source energy being used for levitation).
  34. ^ Krauss, Lawrence M. Beyond Star Trek:Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 124
  • Bowker, John (editor) The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions Oxford, England, U.K.:1997 Oxford University Press Page 259

[edit] External links

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