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There seems to be several general characteristics about levitation. The duration of the phenomenon may last from a few minutes to hours. Generally it requires a great amount of concentration or being in a state of trance. Physical mediums who have been touched during levitation usually fall back to a surface. Levitations of saints usually are accompanied by a luminous glow around the body.
Numerous incidents of levitation have been recorded in Christianity and Islam. Among the first was Simon Magus in the first century. Other incidents reported among the Roman Catholic saints include the incident of Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663), the most famous, who is said to have often levitated through the air. It is reported he often gave a little shriek just before levitating, and on one occasion levitated for as long as two hours.
Saint Teresa of Avila was another well known saint who reported levitating. She told of experiencing it during states of rapture. One eyewitness, Sister Anne of the Incarnation, said Saint Teresa levitated a foot and a half off the ground for about a half hour.
Saint Teresa wrote of one of her experiences: "It seemed to me, when I tried to make some resistance, as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up. I know of nothing with which to compare it; but it was much more violent than other spiritual visitations, and I was therefore as one ground to pieces." (Evelyn Underhill "Mysticism," 1955)
Also Saint Teresa observed these levitations frightened her but there was nothing she could do to control them. She did not become unconscious, but saw herself being lifted up.
And, at the beginning of the twentieth century Gemma Galgani, a Passionist nun, reported levitating during rapture.
Incidents also have been reported in the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Milarepa, the great thirteenth century yogi of Tibet, is said to have possessed many occult powers such as the ability to walk, rest and sleep during levitating.
Such feats were said to be duplicated by the Brahmins and fakirs of India. Similar abilities were reportedly shared by the Ninja of Japan.
Within the Eastern traditions levitation is reportedly accomplished through such secret techniques of breathing and visualization. The techniques involve the employment of an universal life force and are called by various names such as: 'prana,''ch'i' and 'ki.'
Louis Jacolliot, a nineteenth-century French judge, traveled the East and wrote of his occult experiences. In "Occult Sciences in India and Among the Ancients" (1884, 1971) he describes the levitation of a fakir:
Taking an ironwood cane which I had brought from Ceylon, he leaned heavily upon it, resting his right hand upon the handle with his eyes fixed upon the ground. He the proceeded to utter the appropriate incantations...[and] rose gradually about two feet from the ground. His legs were crossed beneath him, and he made no change in his position, which was very like that of those bronze statues of Buddha...For more than twenty minutes I tried to see how (he) could thus fly in the face and eyes of all known laws of gravity...the stick gave him no visible support, and there was no apparent contact between that and his body, except through his right hand."
Jacolliot was further told by the Brahmins that the "supreme cause" of all phenomena was the 'agasa' ('akasha'), the vital fluid, "the moving thought of the universal soul, directing all souls," the force that the adepts learn to control.(See Akashic Records)
Throughout history the determining factor for judging whether the practice of levitation is caused by good or evil influenced seems to depend on the one doing the levitating. Simon Magus was judged evil while Saint Teresa was said to do it in states of rapture. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance levitation was thought to be a manifestation of evil. It was said to be an unusual phenomena generated by witchcraft, fairies, ghosts, or demons.
Even to the present levitation is often thought to be involved in cases of demonic possession. Many times beds, tables, chairs and other objects have been witnessed flying up into the air apparently by themselves. They frequently aimed themselves at the exorcist or his assistants.
In 1906 Clara Germana Cele, a sixteen year-old school girl from South Africa, was said to be demonic possessed. She raised up five feet in the air, sometimes vertically and sometimes horizontally. When sprinkled with holy water she came out of these states of possession. This was taken as proof of demonic possession.
Likewise, incidents of poltergeists and haunting often involve the levitation of objects.
Some physical mediums claimed to have experienced levitations. The most famous is Daniel Douglas Home, who reportedly did it over a forty-year period. In 1868 he was witnessed levitating out of a third-story window, and he floated back into the building through another window. When levitating Home was not always in a trance, but conscious and later described his feelings during the experiences.
Once he described "an electrical fulness (sic)" sensation in his feet. His arms became rigid and were drawn over his head, as though he was grasping an unseen power which was lifting him. He also levitated furniture and other objects.
The Catholic Church excommunicated Home as a sorcerer. Although he was never discovered to be a fraud like other mediums who used wires and other contraptions to levitate objects.
Italian medium Amedee Zuccarini was photographed levitating with his feet twenty feet off of a table.
Controlled experiments involving levitation are rare. During the 1960s and 1970s researchers reported some success in levitating tables under controlled conditions. The Soviet PK medium Nina Kulagina has been photographed levitating a small object between her hands.
Skeptics of levitation have came up with several theories as to its cause including hallucination, hypnosis, or fraud. These theories are not applicable to all incidents, however. The most likely and acceptable explanation is the Eastern theory of an existence of a force (simply, an universal force) which belongs to another, nonmaterial reality, and manifests itself in the material world.
The technique of "yogic flying" which consists of low hops while seated in the lotus meditating position has been achieved by advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM). This has received worldwide publicity. The technique is claimed to be accomplished by maximizing coherence (orderliness) in brain-wave activity, which enables the brain to tap into the "unified field" of cosmic energy. However, skeptic say yogic flying is accomplished through muscular action. A.G.H.