Simon Harvey-Wilson

Levitation has evoked awe, bewilderment or disbelief throughout history, and has a surprising number of links with the UFO and alien abduction phenomenon, anti-gravity being the most obvious one. Human levitation occurs when a person hovers or moves through the air with no visible means of support, seemingly in defiance of the force of gravity. Despite its fascinating and anomalous nature levitation has seldom been the subject of serious research. Few people today claim to have seen someone levitating and science currently has no explanation for it, except to say that, if it occurs at all, it seems to be paranormal or miraculous. It is understandable, therefore, that human levitation has traditionally been regarded as a religious phenomenon with numerous saints from various religions being reported to have levitated. But a closer examination reveals that levitation reports come from a variety of settings, some of them with little religious flavour.

Most encyclopaedias of the paranormal refer to human levitation, but I have only been able to locate three complete books on the subject, one of which was written in 1928. Apart from its controversial nature, one reason for this neglect may be because it is unclear who should study human levitation. Even today most physicists would be unwilling to jeopardise their reputation by researching anything to do with the paranormal. Parapsychology would seem the most appropriate approach, but I have been unable to find a single parapsychologist who is currently researching levitation anywhere in the world, let alone in Australia. If anyone out there is studying human levitation, I would be interested to hear from them.

The headline of a recent New Scientist cover-story reads, "Anti-gravity: Can the heretics turn physics upside down?" (Cohen, 12 January 2002). The article claims that NASA intends to spend US$600,000 on investigating whether it is possible to create a device to shield physical matter from the force of gravity. Apart from turning physics upside down, such a discovery could have enormous commercial and scientific implications. But NASA does not seem to be interested in spending any money investigating human levitation, which might also involve a force that can shield or counteract gravity. Given human levitation’s traditional religious connotations, it is ironic that the New Scientist headline uses the term heretic, while the accompanying graphic shows a man with arms outstretched as if he is perhaps levitating or being crucified. It was not that long ago that religious heretics were burnt at the stake.

UFOs are often reported to use anti-gravity. I am not a physicist, but it seems to me that there is a difference between a propulsion system and a device that shields you from the force of gravity. If, for example, it was possible to put on a futuristic space-suit that shielded you from gravity, surely all that would happen is that you would become weightless, which would not be much help if you wanted to fly to the next suburb. Being weightless is not the same as having a propulsion system, although they may be connected. For example, if a jumbo jet, which weighs about three hundred tonnes, had an anti-gravity device on board that reduced its weight to fifty tonnes, imagine how much less fuel it would use. And how much faster could a jet fighter go if it only weighed one tonne? There are other aeronautical considerations such as sonic booms and wind resistance, but there is no doubt that the military and aviation industry would be very interested in any anti-gravity device, even if it were only twenty or thirty percent efficient.

However, in cases of human levitation we have people who hover in the air and cannot be moved, some who seem to float around like leaves in the breeze, and others who levitate a specific trajectory as if their intent were controlling their flight-path. This suggests that whatever facilitates human levitation may involve a sophisticated combination of weightlessness, propulsion and consciousness. How that might work is, at this stage, anyone’s guess but will obviously involve research into fields such as consciousness and parapsychology as well as physics.

Human levitation is most often reported to occur to spirit mediums at séances; to those supposedly possessed by demonic or spiritual entities or subjected to poltergeist activity; to shamans and witches; and to a few saints, mystics and spiritual adepts from all major religions. It also sometimes occurs during and after alien abductions. For example, a few people report being levitated towards a UFO during their abduction experiences, sometimes on a glittering beam of light, and, while many abductees later develop various paranormal abilities such as healing or the capacity to make street lights go out, a small percentage find that they sometimes spontaneously levitate. I will now briefly discuss the various groups in which human levitation sometimes occurs and it will become clear how closely linked they are, though they may not have initially seemed to be. It is the similarities between the beliefs and behaviour of these groups that might provide clues to how levitation works.

Perhaps the most famous levitating spirit medium was Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) who was born in Scotland, spent much of his childhood in America, and for most of the remainder of his life travelled throughout Europe holding séances during which he often levitated. In those days most séances were held in complete darkness, but Home often held his in daylight and was seen levitating on numerous occasions, sometimes by highly credible witnesses such as scientists, aristocrats or royalty who attended his séances. It is unclear why paranormal events such as the levitation of people and objects occur at séances rather than elsewhere, and there are those who assert that all such events are the result of deliberate deception on the part of the spirit mediums involved. Spiritualists claim that it is spirits of the dead who cause these phenomena, and obviously anyone who believes in spirits must also believe in an invisible spirit realm or dimension that they inhabit.

Examples of human levitation are reported in shamanism, although the documentation is not as comprehensive as in spiritualism. Mircea Eliade, whose book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy is regarded as the classic text on shamanism, writes that "the experience of height and ascent, and even of levitation … can be regarded as a typical feature of shamanic techniques in general". He also tells us that in Tungus séances, "The shaman becomes ‘light’ and can spring into the air with a costume that may weigh as much as sixty-five pounds [thirty kilograms], yet the patient scarcely feels the shaman tread on his body". It might be expected that levitation would occur during shamanic séances if it also occurs during European séances. Like spiritualism, shamanism postulates a spirit realm and, when in the appropriate trance or state of ecstasy, shamans claim to be able to contact various spirits of the dead. The séances of European spirit mediums could even be seen as perpetuating some of the beliefs and techniques of shamanism.

There apparently exists a video called Journey Into the Beyond, part of which shows a shaman or witch-doctor called Nana Owaka (or Dwaku) levitating in a remote village in Togo, West Africa. The sequence was filmed by a German documentary crew who insist that it is genuine. The video is made by Burbank International Pictures. It is directed by Frank Martin Lang (later known as Rolf Olsen) and narrated by John Carradine.

Levitation is sometimes reported in instances of poltergeist activity or possession by malevolent spiritual forces. D. Scott Rogo quotes the 1907 example of Claire-Germaine Cèle, a teenaged Bantu schoolgirl who had been raised by nuns on a mission in Natal, Africa. Her possession started after her first communion and involved convulsions, strange languages and the apparent ability to read the minds of attending priests. The local bishop acted as her main exorcist. Visitors and residents of the mission were amazed at her capacity to levitate. "On one occasion the girl levitated six feet over her bed during the reading of the rituals and then challenged the exorcist to join her!"  Sometimes she floated vertically with her feet downwards, but on the occasions when she floated with her feet higher than her head, it was noted that her clothing clung to her body rather than hanging down as would be expected. If sprinkled with holy water while levitating she would resume her position on the bed. It would have been interesting if the exorcists had tried sprinkling her with normal water to see if that also worked.

Poltergeist activity is poorly understood largely because it occurs so infrequently and at times may be hard to differentiate from spirit possession because people or objects may be levitated or flung across a room in both situations. Today, poltergeist activity æ or Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK) as it is sometimes called æ is thought to be caused by the suppressed feelings of a psychologically disturbed teenager. If this is the case, we could speculate that RSPK only occurs when the teenager also has significant, latent, psychic ability which can be fuelled by those suppressed feelings, otherwise levitating objects and people might be considerably more common. Others researchers claim that RSPK is the result of spirits playing paranormal games with some people’s suppressed feelings.

This appeared to be the case in the 1977 Enfield poltergeist outbreak in England, which is perhaps the best documented case in modern times. Colin Wilson describes the investigation in his book Poltergeist: A Study in Destructive Haunting. There were four children in the family concerned, but the activity appeared to centre around eleven-year-old Janet. All sorts of strange things happened in the house and many were witnessed by various psychical investigators who tried to assist in ending the chaos surrounding the family. "On one occasion, with a photographer in the bedroom, Janet was hurled out of bed". The resulting photo shows her in midair with a look of horror on her face as she flies across the room. Another time, before several witnesses, Janet was thrown off her chair about two and a half metres across the room. Researchers visiting the house found that they could communicate out loud with the various spirits or ghosts causing the haunting. On one occasion an investigator, called David Robertson, challenged it (or them) to levitate Janet. While standing outside the bedroom, Robertson "heard Janet being bounced up and down on the bed." When he eventually managed to get the door open, Janet "claimed that she had floated through the wall of the next house." When they asked for a repeat of this, it didn’t happen, but a book (ironically called Fun and Games for Children) that had been in Janet’s bedroom a few minutes earlier was found on the floor next door. A neighbour walking by outside testified that, when looking at Janet’s window, she had seen "books and cushions striking the window, and Janet rising into the air æ in a horizontal position æ and descending again, as if being bounced on a trampoline". To test for fraud, the researchers tried bouncing on Janet’s bed to see if they could replicate this feat but were unable to do so.

Witches have traditionally claimed that they can fly or levitate through the air (referred to as transvection), sometime with the aid of various ointments or unguents that they smeared on themselves. Stuart Gordon reports the amusing instance where "A Salem witch burned in 1692 said she was lame due to falling off her broomstick en route to a Sabbath". However, the considerable distance that they supposedly travelled, and modern research into the effect of such ointments, suggests that the witches may actually have been undergoing a form of visionary or out-of-body experience which provided the sensation of flying through the air although their bodies remained on the ground. However, it is possible that some witches were capable of levitating.

The levitation of saints, mystics and spiritual adepts is well documented although there are those who insist that all such reports are fraudulent or the result of hagiographical exaggeration. The best known levitating saint is St. Joseph of Copertino. Born in 1603 in Copertino, Italy, Joseph started having religious ecstasies at a young age and decided to become a priest. Despite being absent-minded, clumsy, erratic and inclined to practise austerities, he was eventually accepted by the Franciscans in 1628. At about this time he started experiencing levitations, some of which were so extraordinary that, were it not for numerous witnesses, they would probably not be believed. Typically he would give a familiar shriek and lapse into a trance before levitating. On some occasions in church he soared over the heads of the congregation in order to kiss a cross on the wall or get to the altar. During a visit to Rome he spontaneously levitated as he knelt to kiss the feet of Pope Urban Vlll. Although people flocked to whichever monastery Joseph attended in the hope of catching a glimpse of his miraculous abilities, the Catholic church was so embarrassed by his frequent levitations that he was eventually banned from celebrating mass in public, constantly moved from place to place, and obliged to eat his meals in private.

Indian yogis, fakirs and Tibetan lamas have also been reported to levitate, often as a result of meditation and breathing exercises (pranayama). One of the eight great supernatural powers (siddhis) associated with Hinduism is called laghima or weightlessness and supposedly enables the adept to levitate or move about at tremendous speed. Another is called garima or weightfulness, which is the power to become so heavy that one cannot be moved. The Tibetan yogi Milarepa is reputed to have been able to levitate over large distances.

Alien abductees report two types of levitation experiences. Some recall being levitated towards a UFO by a dazzling beam of light. In his book Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into Modern UFO Phenomena, Richard Thompson writes that, "Psychical phenomena that typically occur during UFO encounters include telepathic communication, levitation, passing of matter through matter, and mysterious healing". The second category of paranormal phenomena that abductees experience occurs after their initial abduction: remembering that many people eventually discover that they are repeat abductees. This generally involves something that resembles poltergeist activity, which some researchers call Electrical Sensitive Syndrome because it appears to be partially electromagnetic in nature. Professor Kenneth Ring describes this in his book The Omega Project. Apart from effects like causing street lights to go out, there may be spooky examples such as an abductee’s CD player switching itself on in the middle of the night, playing that person’s favourite song and then turning itself off. Occasionally however, abductees may experience gravitational rather than electromagnetic anomalies during which they find themselves spontaneously levitating. In his book Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, Jacques Vallee gives an example of a French doctor to whom this occurred.

There is a third levitation connection with Ufology. In an article called "The Entities" in the MUFON Journal (1994), Dan Wright, who was then the manager of the MUFON Abduction Transcription Project, tells us that forty-one percent of the project’s abduction transcripts that mention how aliens move, describe them as levitating or gliding. Is it possible that some aliens have mastered the esoteric art of levitation and use it to move themselves and abductees around when in unfamiliar gravitational conditions? If this is so, we perhaps have an additional reason for researching levitation more seriously than has been done in the past.

One way to find useful clues as to how human levitation might work is to analyse what the various groups that occasionally produce such reports have in common. Several connections are obvious. A belief in spirits and/or a spiritual realm is integral to shamanism, mysticism, spiritualism, spirit possession and poltergeist activity. Although such beliefs do not actually amount to proof that spirits and a spirit realm actually exist, they do suggest that something is going on; but what? The people who belong to these groups often enter trances or altered states of consciousness æ either voluntarily or involuntarily æ and many of them develop paranormal abilities other than levitation. This introduces the closely related and often controversial subjects of parapsychology and consciousness research, which will be discussed later. Alien abductions also have several interesting similarities with these groups. My own research has shown that many abduction experiences closely resemble shamanic initiation experiences (Harvey-Wilson, 2001, p.3). Like shamans, abductees often develop an animistic perspective in which they see aliens as a type of spiritual being from another realm or dimension. They may also develop various paranormal abilities, including healing. Like some shamans this may involve the ability to look into a person’s body and diagnose illness, almost as if they had x-ray vision. An animistic perspective also involves a deep concern for animals and the environment. Abductees may start to see Earth as if it were alive and in desperate need of better treatment than it is getting at present. This raft of feelings is perhaps best documented by Professor John Mack in Passport to the Cosmos .

Another interesting similarity between shamanism and alien abductions is that in indigenous societies it is often believed that malevolent spirits can kidnap people’s souls, thus causing them illness. It is the unenviable role of the shaman to venture into the otherworld and retrieve the soul, thus restoring the patient to health. Similarly, alien abductees can be referred to an abduction counsellor because they appear to be suffering symptoms of post-abduction stress, yet are unable to recall what has happened to them. In a sense we could say that their memories of what happened to them have also been abducted. Somewhat like a shaman, the therapist æ often using hypnosis æ ventures into the abductee’s unconscious to help retrieve those lost memories and restore the patient to health. We could speculate, therefore, that the difference between a person’s unconscious and the shamanic otherworld might simply be a matter of cultural terminology æ they may actually be largely the same thing, which again brings us back to consciousness research.

There are a few religious groups who claim that aliens are actually demonic entities intent on corrupting or subverting the human race. In other words, they believe that alien abductions are a form of spirit possession. This is a delicate subject, but there is no doubt that many abductees report that initially they are completely unable to prevent or resist their abduction experiences. It is as if their body and/or consciousness has been taken over by a force greater than themselves. Repeat abductees may become more relaxed about their experiences and may even look forward to further encounters, while others report becoming familiar with various aliens and being able to negotiate the circumstances of future encounters.

If we think about this, we can see that there is not that much difference between, firstly, a shaman learning to interact with or be temporarily possessed by beings from the spirit realm, and, secondly, a spirit medium allowing the spirit of a dead person to temporarily inhabit his or her body during a séance. In some cases both these are similar to someone being abducted or interacting with an alien who has paranormal or spiritual qualities from some seemingly spiritual or inter-dimensional realm. The difference may be largely a matter of cultural definition and can perhaps be measured by how much control the shaman, spirit medium, or abductee has, or learns to have, over the initial and subsequent encounters. In indigenous societies a person who cannot get rid of a spiritual entity that has possessed him or her is regarded as mad rather than as a shaman. Likewise, in Christianity for example, a person who becomes involuntarily possessed and starts to display paranormal abilities and/or levitates is definitely not regarded as a saint, although some saints claim to have encounters with spiritual beings and may also levitate. The historical accounts suggest that some mystics were most reluctant to reveal instances of spontaneous levitation in case they were thought to be possessed. The Catholic researcher Olivier Leroy in his book Levitation: An Examination of the Evidence and Explanations  makes it quite plain that he believes that saints that levitate are divinely blessed, while spirit mediums are just being duped by demonic entities. Leroy is clearly biased, but one wonders what he would have thought about alien abductions if he were still alive.

The Catholic church’s apparent ambivalence about miraculous phenomena makes human levitation harder to investigate because it reduces the number of witnesses and subsequent documentation of such events. For example, the Croatian stigmatist Father Zlatko Sudac, who visited America early in 2002, claims to have "the gifts of levitation, bilocation, illumination, and the knowledge of upcoming events". However, when asked about them during a recent interview, he declined to elaborate until the Catholic hierarchy had made a pronouncement about the matter. A variation on religious ambivalence is the poor documentation of miraculous events in cultures where paranormal abilities are taken for granted. Such a blasé attitude is illustrated by a story about the Tibetan yogi Milarepa (1052-1135) who is reported to have once levitated over the heads of some distant relatives who were ploughing a field. "The man’s son … spotted the levitating monk and called to his father to stop work and observe the miracle. Milarepa’s relative looked up, saw the levitating holy man, and firmly instructed his son to ignore that ‘good-for-nothing’ and get back to work".

Religion and science have always had an uneasy relationship, as for example in the still ongoing debate about evolution and creationism. While not so important perhaps, research into levitation is also hampered by centuries of prejudice about witches, possession, and spiritual taboos about paranormal abilities. In his book The Hindu World (1968), Benjamin Walker writes that, "Patanjali speaks of siddhis as ‘impediments to the attainment of true perception’, and other great thinkers of India also deprecate the pursuit of siddhis, since they are frequently rooted in desire and involve one in material things. The magician or wonder-worker is not regarded as a true adept and his performances are frowned upon by enlightened minds". In my opinion, such taboos, and sceptical claims that levitation does not even exist, should not be permitted to obstruct open-minded research into human levitation, especially in the light of evidence that aliens may be using a mastery of this and other paranormal talents to abduct people, sometimes against their will.

Some researchers see teleportation as a "higher form" of levitation. John Hasted, who has a chapter on levitation in his book The Metal Benders, writes that levitation could perhaps be seen as "a continual rapid series of teleportation events, each to a position very slightly removed from its predecessor; this would produce the appearance of continuous movement or suspension." While not exactly illustrating Hasted’s suggestion, the 1970s case of the seemingly possessed Italian nun, ‘Sister Rosa’, appears to illustrate a link between levitation and teleportation. On one occasion the terrified sisters who were attending to her saw Sister Rosa "rise up in the air, float slowly up to the ceiling æ and pass right through it." She was later found "standing on the floor above" (Gordon, 1996, p.162). This is interesting because it closely resembles reports of some alien abductees being floated or levitated through their bedroom walls, windows or ceilings during their abduction experiences.

As if being levitated wasn’t bizarre enough, one might wonder how a person or solid object could move through a wall or ceiling without breaking it. We do not currently know the answer to this question, but at least someone appears to be doing some research into it. In his book Psychic Wars: Parapsychology in Espionage and Beyond (1999), the German parapsychologist Dr Elmar Gruber reports that during experiments by the Chinese government into the extraordinary abilities of one of their star psychics, Zhang Baosheng, scientists used a four hundred shots-per-second high-speed camera to film while he transported or teleported a pill from inside a sealed glass container. "On one exposure the pill can be seen as it is penetrating the glass wall, on the next it is half inside and half out, and on the third it is completely outside the container" (p.120). During these experiments, most of the pills and glass containers were undamaged. This appears to suggest that, under the right conditions, solid materials can interpenetrate each other. This may not seem quite so amazing if we recall that physicists tell us that, down at the atomic level, so-called solid matter is largely made of empty space. If human science has demonstrated that such things are possible here on Earth, then it seems quite feasible that an advanced extraterrestrial species might be using such a technology in their space program æ if that is what we could call alien abductions. What I would like to know is; how does it work?

In The Metal Benders, John Hasted also reports that: "In 1977 a young Soviet physicist, August Stern, defected to the West and related some of his experiences in parapsychology. He had worked in the Siberian science city of Novosibirsk" with about fifty scientists who induced levitation by enclosing a subject "within a cube of mirrors. The multiple images, apparently stretching in all directions to infinity, have the effect of disorienting the subject, who then levitates if he has the ability." Hasted tried the same experiment using Stern as the subject but was unsuccessful. I am not aware of any reports of experiments into human levitation appearing in popular science magazines, so we might speculate that, if they are taking place, such research is classified for reasons of national security.

There are a few reports that some people who have been seen levitating were also surrounded by a brilliant light, sometimes in the form of a beam and sometimes as a general illumination. For example, Scott Rogo reports that in 1608 the mystic St Bernardino Realino was seen to be levitating nearly a metre off the ground in the kneeling position while praying in his room at his monastery in Lecce, in southern Italy. The saint was radiating light so brightly that the witness, Tobias de Ponte, had initially thought that the room was on fire in. It is unclear whether this radiance is connected to human levitation or whether these are different paranormal phenomena that sometimes occur together. Nevertheless, here we have another possible connection to UFOs, who themselves appear to levitate, perhaps using the same force as in human levitation, and are often surrounded with a brilliant light æ thought to be plasma æ and may shine what resemble searchlights or laser beams at the ground or abductees. Abductees also frequently report that the interiors of UFOs are lit by a seemingly sourceless illumination.

Consciousness research, or neuroscience, and perhaps psychiatry, appear to be relevant to human levitation because trances and altered states of consciousness are so often mentioned. However, it is difficult to define altered states satisfactorily given that consciousness researchers are so sharply divided as to how normal consciousness works. The confusion surrounding such issues is partially illustrated by the furore that resulted from the publication of psychiatrist Dr John Mack’s book Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens. There seem to be as many reports of paranormal events in Ufology as there are in religious history, and Mack nearly lost his job at Harvard for having the audacity to research such a controversial subject. One could write an entire article on the possible links between consciousness and paranormal phenomena, but what seems to be at the heart of the controversy is one provocative question. Can consciousness in some way transcend the physical limits of the human body and, if so, how? This might sound like a simple issue but it certainly is not. Other ways of putting it are to ask whether there exists a ‘ghost in the machine’, whether the mind has a transpersonal component, or, to use religious terminology, whether humans have a soul or spirit? There is not space here to discuss the numerous ramifications of these questions except to say that some researchers answer them with a resounding and dogmatic "No!". If that is the case, other scientists respond, how do we explain things like paranormal phenomena, remote viewing, out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, and the fact that shamanism, spiritualism, and every religion in human history assert that spirits, life-after-death, and some sort of spirit realm do exist? We can see then how further research into consciousness is central to a possible explanation for human levitation.

Some Transcendental Meditation practitioners claim that it is possible for advanced meditators to learn to levitate, and many people have seen pictures showing them appearing to hop around while sitting cross-legged. Although hopping is clearly not the same as levitating, this practice is based on various Eastern esoteric traditions which can supposedly lead to some adepts being able to levitate. For example, in her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel describes jumping exercises done by various Tibetan ascetics while sitting cross-legged on thick cushions. She writes that, "Some lamas succeed in jumping very high in that way" and that "the body of those who drill themselves for years, by that method, become exceedingly light; nearly without weight. These men, they say, are able to sit on an ear of barley without bending its stalk or to stand on the top of a heap of grain without displacing any of it. In fact the aim is levitation".

Many people have heard of the party game in which four people stand on either side of someone sitting on a chair and, by putting their fingers under the person’s armpits and knees, they discover that they are able to lift the person into the air with considerable ease. The impression gained is that the subject has somehow become lighter. There are several variations to this exercise. Sometimes the lifters first put their hands on the person’s head and push down before lifting, while others believe that the four lifters must be standing at the correct points of the compass for the exercise to work. Unfortunately, this does not count as true levitation unless the lifters can actually remove their fingers leaving the subject suspended in mid-air. John Hasted  has suggested that the subject’s apparent loss of weight could be investigated by putting all five people onto a large weighing device during this exercise.

Explanations for human levitation seem to depend on the spiritual beliefs of those concerned. As mentioned above, shamans, mystics, spirit mediums, those who are possessed or subject to poltergeist activity, and many alien abductees believe in some form of otherworld or divine realm inhabited by various gods and spirits. With minor variations, their explanation for human levitation is that these spiritual forces are responsible. Unfortunately, this explanation could simply be seen as replacing one mystery with another, because the existence of invisible spiritual beings is at present not particularly amenable to scientific investigation.

On the other hand, some people claim that they alone are responsible for their levitation. Seenath Chatterjee describes meeting "a Lama from Tibet" who was not only happy to demonstrate his capacity to levitate at will but pointed out that, "this sort of ‘commonplace Siddhi’ could be performed by even Lama-pupils in his Guru’s monastery who were not very far advanced". Paul Dong describes two doctors of Chinese medicine who are able to levitate as a result of their mastery of ching gong (lightweight gong), which is a specialised aspect of the traditional Chinese breathing technique called qi gong. While both these examples do have some spiritual connotations, they appear to illustrate that, after sufficient practice, a few people can learn to levitate at will and are then less inclined to blame invisible spiritual entities. This suggests that an analysis of the similarities in behaviour and beliefs of people who are reported to have levitated, and the various cultural and religious settings in which it is reported to occur, may lead to a clearer understanding of how human levitation works. It may be particularly relevant to discuss the training and beliefs of those who have claimed to be able to levitate at will.

Unlike many other paranormal, spiritual or religious experiences, the phenomenon of human levitation if and when it does occur is at least a clearly visible act. In several ways we could regard human levitation as a liminal phenomenon; one which straddles the visible and invisible, the physical and the spiritual, the earthly and the heavenly, the divine and the demonic, the alien and the human. It could be seen as a phenomenon where, for a brief while, the invisible actually reveals itself, or at least its power. Such opportunities should not be ignored. Researchers of all persuasions have for too long concentrated on things that they can easily measure, dissect, weigh, describe, or replicate while avoiding, or even denying the existence of, things that are invisible, intangible, spiritual, paranormal, or alien. It seems to me, therefore, that researching human levitation might be an ideal way to start making inroads into these hypothesised invisible dimensions. There are numerous possible outcomes. It may eventually be discovered that human levitation is a load of nonsense, but I doubt that this will turn out to be the case. There have been too many surprisingly similar reports throughout history from all over the world. I suspect that where there’s smoke there is probably fire. Any scientist who asserts that levitation is impossible because science cannot currently explain it is, frankly, just an idiot and should hand his lab coat over to someone who understands that research is about exploring the unknown, not ignoring it. As the bumper sticker says, "Science should be the investigation of the unexplained, not the explanation of the uninvestigated"

It may be discovered that genuine instances of levitation, from for example spiritualism and Chinese qi gong, have different explanations. Perhaps aliens and invisible spirits do exist and can levitate people, but, with the right training, a person may learn to levitate at will without the help of spirits. The energy involved in human levitation æ if that is what it is æ might, like electricity, be accessible to anyone who has the appropriate motivation, resources and expertise to use it. We might discover that blaming levitation on invisible entities (saints blame god; the possessed blame demons; shamans and spiritualists blame spirits; and abductees tend to blame aliens) is just a natural but misguided human tendency when faced with anomalies that appear to derive from unknown dimensions of consciousness. We might even discover that some sort of anti-gravity force does actually exist and that writing about it, in addition to the popularity of movies like Harry Potter, helps remove the current taboos and psychological barriers about levitation, with the result that eventually a few people in the community might start to levitate as a means of getting about or climbing over things.


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Tibetan and Indian Levitation


Legends say that ancient levitators were able to rise above the ground up to 90 cm


Gods in Oriental Mythology had a special ability. They could fly. However, ordinary mortals could master the unique art of flying too. For example, Indian Brahmans, yogis, hermits and fakirs could rise and float in the air. Levitation


There is a chapter in the Vedas on levitation, a sort of guidelines on how to reach a state required for taking off the ground. Unfortunately, the meaning of many ancient Indic words and concepts has been irretrievably lost over the last few centuries and therefore the invaluable instructions can not be translated into modern languages.


As regards the ancient levitators, records at hand say that they were able to rise above the ground up to 90 cm. They did not lift off to impress the onlookers; they simply wanted to assume the most suitable position for performing religious rites.


The art of levitation still exists both in India and Tibet. Many scholars engaged in oriental studies also mention the phenomenon of "flying lamas." Alexandra David-Neel, a British explorer, one day witnessed the flight of a Buddhist monk. The monk flew a few dozen meters over the alpine plateau Cnang Tang. He was bouncing off the ground like a tennis ball to rise in the air again and again. He kept his eyes on some guiding star hanging somewhere in the distance, the monk was the only person who could see the star in broad daylight.


Europeans have long been aware of levitation too. There was one big difference between Eastern and Western medieval levitators. Unlike the Brahmans, yogis and lams, the monks in Europe never took any special training for levitational purposes. They would normally rise in the air after reaching a state of ultimate religious ecstasy.


According to trustworthy records, Saint Theresa, a Carmelite nun, was one of the first levitator of the Middle Ages. Her flight was seen by 230 catholic priests. The nun wrote about her unusual "gift" in the autobiography dated 1565. It is quite noteworthy that Saint Theresa herself did not want to fly. She spent long hours praying desperately in an attempt to get rid of her special power. She was asking Lord to relieve her of that grace. One night the Almighty finally heard the nun"s praying. She did not fly ever since that night.


Josef Desa used to be the most famous "flying man." He was born into a devout family in South Italy. Since he was a boy, Josef was a very religious person prone to inflicting all kinds of torture upon himself in order to experience a state of religious ecstasy. Later he joined the Franciscans. He would get really ecstatic at times and rise in the air. One day he floated right before the Pope's very eyes. Josef arrived in Rome. The Pope Urban VIII granted him an audience. Josef got as excited as one could be. He could not help rising in the air. The head of the Order of St. Francis eventually brought Josef back to earth. Men of science observed more than a hundred cases of levitation of Josef. They put down their comments in the official records. However, the Christians were thought to be embarrassed by Josef's flights. As a result, Josef was sent to a out-of-the-way monastery in 1653. He was transferred to another monastery three months later, then to another one. The list can go on. Wherever he appeared, the news about the "miracle man" spread like wild fire. People from the neighboring towns and villages stood outside the monastery walls waiting for a miracle. Finally, Josef was transferred to a monastery in Osimo where he died in the fall of 1663. He was canonized four year later.


Daniel Douglas Home was the most famous levitator of the 19th century. Below is the description of his first flight penned by an editor of an American newspaper:

All of a sudden Home began lifting off and all the people in the room got completely surprised. I could see his legs floating about a foot about the ground. Home apparently could not speak as he had a twinge going from top to toe after the clash of fear and rapture in his mind. He went down some time later, and rose up again. He went up to the ceiling during a third ascent.



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Home learned to levitate of his own free will later on. He showed his outstanding ability to thousands of spectators including such celebrities as William Makepeace Thackeray and Mark Twain, Napoleon III, other politicians, doctors and scientists of note. Home has never been accused of hoaxing an audience.


There is a lot of controversy regarding a physical nature of levitation. Some researchers say that it is a product of the biogravitational field created by a special kind of mental energy emitted by the human brain. Doctor of Biological Sciences Alexander Dubrov is a supporter of this hypothesis. Dr. Dubnov points out that the biogravitational field is deliberately created by a levitator and therefore the latter can control the field and change the direction of a flight.


Source: Pravda