It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Mar 17, 2012

Human levitation: truth or fiction?

In Oriental mythology gods have one distinguishing feature – they could fly. But ancient legends, and even the records, left by respectable historians and scientists of the past, mentioned that some people were able to fly, not far, not high, but still were able. For example, some Indian Brahmans, yogis, saint hermits, magicians, and fakirs were reported as being able to master the art of levitation, contrary to the known laws of gravitation and without any visible agency.

Historical Records

The Indian Vedas (translates as knowledge from Sanskrit) contain even practical guidelines to levitation. However, most ancient Indic words and concepts lost their meanings through the years, which make it impossible to translate the priceless ancient texts into modern languages, and get useful advice on how to be able to beat the Earth gravity. As to ancient levitators, they could raise themselves up to 90 centimeters above the ground because the position with feet above the ground was more comfortable for them to perform spiritual rituals.

In ancient times levitation was practiced in India and Tibet. Buddhist texts say that in 527 A.D. Hindu founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma, visited the Tibetan Shaolin Monastery and taught the monks to control the body energy, which is a mandatory condition for levitation. Buddha himself practiced levitation too, as well as his mentor Sammat who could stay in the air for hours.

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Levitation was observed in Europe as well. Medieval European levitators also possessed their own peculiar feature. They could fly above the ground in religious ecstasy without even being aware of it. St. Theresa, a Carmelite nun, is one of the first officially documented levitators. 230 Catholic priests witnessed her flight. She described her unusual gift in her autobiography dated from 1565. “Levitation comes like a blow, sudden and sharp,” she wrote “and before you collect your thoughts and come to your senses, you feel taken away by a cloud and a grand eagle…I was aware of myself hanging in the air… I must say that when the levitation ended, I felt unusual lightness in my body as if I was weightless.”

One of the most famous European levitators of the past was Joseph Desa (1603-1663), named Saint Joseph of Cupertino after his native village in South Italy. He had been fanatically religious since his childhood and tortured himself to reach spiritual ecstasy. He started to experience levitation capabilities after joining the Order of St. Francis. Once, he soared in the air in the presents of Pope Urban VIII in Rome. Once flew up into a tree and perched on a branch which quivered no more than if he had been a bird. There were multiple records, describing his journeys, but his flights were not well accepted by official Church, and he was sent to a remote monastery in 1653.

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Fr. K. A. Schmöger recounted the statement of stigmatist Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824): "When I was doing my work as vestry-nun, I was often lifted up suddenly into the air, and I climbed up and stood on the higher parts of the church, such as windows, sculptured ornaments, jutting stones; I would clean and arrange everything in places where it was humanly impossible. I felt myself lifted and supported in the air, and I was not afraid in the least, for I had been accustomed from a child to being assisted by my guardian angel."

The most prominent levitator of the 19-th century was Daniel Douglas Hewm. The editor of an American newspaper described his first well-known flight as follows: “Hewm suddenly began taking off the ground, which came as a surprise to all the people around. I took his hand and saw his legs. He was lifting a foot away from the ground. It was a confounding variety of feelings – alternate fear and rapture made Hewm quake and he seemed speechless at that moment. Sometime later he got down and then up again. For the third time he reached the ceiling and touched it with his hands and feet.”

Later on Hewm learned to levitate at will. For forty years he showed his gift to thousands of spectators, among whom there were such famous people as William M. Thackeray, Mark Twain, Napoleon III, well-known politicians, doctors and scientists. In spite of the multiple attempts of the skeptics, he was never accused of swindling.

Daniel Douglas Hewm was not the only one to confuse the scientists with his capabilities. In 1934, Maurice Wilson of England, who adopted yogis’ approach and trained levitation for years, flew away in great leaps to reach Everest. Next year, it was reported that his frozen body was found in the mountains.

Current Records

There are modern claims that the state of levitation can be practically achieved through transcendental meditation approach, developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 1971 the new Messiah founded his university in Fairfield, Iowa, then the European research centre in Switzerland and training centers in Germany, England, India and other countries. Multiple experts were invited there – physicists, connoisseurs of the Indic philosophy, mathematicians, doctors, engineers and psychologists - united by the goal to make man happy. One of the tasks of the transcendental meditation was to teach people levitation.

The London Evening News (May 16, 1977) stated that 12 individuals had just graduated from the first six-month course in levitation. One of them, Mrs. Albertine Haupt, stated: "I suddenly found myself six feet above the floor and thought, 'Heavens, I've done it.' “Although the floor was covered with foam rubber, she landed precipitately, and other students, equally successful in levitating, sustained bruises. Haupt stated: "It is just a matter of learning to control the power."

Theories of Levitation

Anti-Gravity Phenomena

Scientific interest in anti-gravity phenomena goes back many years. Documenting variations of the gravitational field of the Earth was performed as early as 1672 by Jean Richer, and the first practical gravity meter was invented in 1833 by Sir John Herschel.

The repulsion effect of aluminum to electromagnetism is well known, and in 1914 the French inventor M. Bachelet demonstrated a working model of his Levitated Railway system. A Bachelet Levitated Railway Syndicate was formed to promote a full-scale layout, but the development was abandoned at the outbreak of World War I.

Scientists in various countries have conducted secret researches in "electro-gravities," the science of anti-gravity effects, and some devices have been constructed in which levitation of disk-like forms has been achieved in laboratory tests. Little has so far been published on such work, and conjecture exists that some UFO reports may concern such levitated devices. The Gravity Research Foundation of New Boston, New Hampshire, which was founded by Roger W. Babson, investigated various aspects of scientific inquiry into gravity and its anomalies. Recently the principle of magnetic levitation has been revived in novelty advertising displays. In Germany and Japan, researchers have investigated the feasibility of creating high-speed magnetic levitation railroads, while in Britain, a section of magnetic levitation railroad is operating at Birmingham International Airport.

Some researchers consider that levitation is the result of the biogravitational field that is created by special mental energy radiated by the human brain. Doctor of Biological Sciences, Alexander Dubrov, supports this hypothesis. He points out that a levitator deliberately creates the bio-gravitational field, he is able to control it and change the direction of his flight.

Until recently, many respectable scientists did not take levitation and antigravitation seriously and harshly criticized it. Now they have to reconsider their position. In March of 1991, Nature magazine published a sensational picture: the director of the Superconductivity Research Laboratory in Tokyo was sitting on the dish of superconducting ceramic material. There was a gap of air between him and the floor. The total weight of the director and the dish was 120 kilograms, which did not prevent him from levitation.

Later this phenomenon was dubbed as the Meissner effect. It is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor. Walther Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld discovered the phenomenon in 1933 by measuring the flux distribution outside of tin and lead specimens as they were cooled below their transition temperature in the presence of a magnetic field.

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The Cantilever Theory of Levitation

Some investigators have attempted to explain human levitation on the same basis as movement of objects by psychic force (telekinesis or psychokinesis ). Between 1917 and 1920, Dr. W. J. Crawford of Belfast, Ireland, investigated the phenomena of the Goligher Circle. He studied alteration in weight of the medium Kathleen Goligher during levitation of a table, and claimed that the levitation was effected by "psychic rods" of ectoplasm emanating from the medium, which found leverage in the medium's body, acting as cantilevers. He obtained flashlight photographs of these psychic structures.

The parapsychologist René Sudre believed that Crawford's cantilever theory accounted for the movement of distant objects by the extrusion of elastic and resisting pseudopods from the body of the medium and thus sufficiently explained levitation: "From a theoretical point of view, the levitation of a person is as easy to understand as that of an object. The teleplastic levers have naturally their fulcrum on the floor. Their shape is not definite; it may be that of a simple stay, of a cloudy cushion, or even a complete human materialization. The force of gravity is not eluded, but simply opposed by a contrary upward power. The spent amount of energy is not above that required for the production of the phenomenon of telekinesis."

According to Crawford, however, the sphere of action of pseudopods was limited to about 7 feet, the extreme mobility of the levitated body had to be accounted for, and the cantilever structure was very sensitive to light. Therefore such ectoplasm hardly lent itself as a mechanism for daylight levitation as in the case of Home or saints and stigmatics. (Later Crawford's observations were called into question due to fraud in the Goligher Circle.)

The Effect of Willpower

The possibility of the effect of willpower on levitation was suggested by Capt. J. Alleyne Bartlett in a lecture before the London Spiritualist Alliance on May 3, 1931. He often had the feeling that he could lighten his weight at will. He stepped on a scale and willed that his weight should be reduced, and the scale indicated, in fact, a loss of several pounds. To make such observations unobjectionable, the possible pressure of cantilever structures on the floor around the weighing machine ought to be made a matter of control.

The loss of weight in the levitated body may be an appearance due to the effect of a force which lifts or, if internally applied, makes the body buoyant. The best evidence as to the alleged extraordinary lightness of the bodies of saints and ecstatics is furnished in a case quoted by Col. Rochas of an ecstatic who lived in a convent near Grenoble. Three eyewitnesses, a parish priest, a university professor, and a student of the polytechnic school, stated that "her body would sometimes become stiff and so light that it was possible to lift her up like a feather by holding her by the elbow." According to some hypnotists, the phenomenon could be accomplished by simple hypnotic suggestion. During the early 1980s the question of possible paranormal changes of weight was the subject of experiments by parapsychologists John B. Hasted, David Robertson, and Ernesto Spinelli.

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Special Breathing Techniques

Breathing exercises that form an important part in Eastern psychic development are believed by some practitioners to have a curious effect on the weight of the human body. According to Hindu yoga teachings, they generate a force that partially counteracts gravitation. They say that he who awakens the Anahata Chakra (a psychic and spiritual center situated in the region of the heart) "can walk in the air."

The psychic researcher Camille Flammarion believed that by breathing, even the ordinary sitters of a circle release a motor energy comparable to that which they release when repeatedly moving their arms. Hereward Carrington 's experiments with the "lifting game" seemed to show that, for some mysterious reason, rhythmical breathing may considerably reduce the weight of the human body. At the third International Psychical Congress in Paris in 1927, Baron Schrenck-Notzing described the case of a young man who claimed that by breathing exercises he had levitated his own body 27 times.

In Alexandra David-Neel 's With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet (1931 etc.), there is a description of a practice that especially enabled its adepts to take extraordinary long hikes with amazing rapidity. It is called lung-gom and it combines mental concentration with various breathing gymnastics. Meeting a lung-gom-pa in Northern Tibet, she noticed: "The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It looked as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum."

The breathing exercises of the lung-gom-pa had to be practiced for three years and three months during strict seclusion in complete darkness. It was claimed that the body of those who trained themselves for years became 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." One of these exercises was described as follows: "The student sits cross-legged on a large and thick cushion. He inhales slowly and for a long time, just as if he wanted to fill his body with air. Then, holding his breath he jumps up with legs crossed, without using his hands and falls back on his cushion, still remaining in the same position. He repeats that exercise a number of times during each period of practice. Some lamas succeed in jumping very high in that way."

Some initiates asserted that "as a result of long years of practice, after he has traveled over a certain distance the feet of the lung-gom-pa no longer touch the ground and that he glides on the air with an extreme celerity." Some lung-gom-pas wore iron chains around their body for "they are always in danger of floating in the air."

David-Neel discovered that during their walk the lung-gompas were in a state of trance. They concentrated on the cadenced mental recitation of a mystic formula with which, during the walk, the in and out breathing must be in rhythm, the steps keeping time with the breath and the syllables of the formula. The walker must neither speak, nor look from side to side. He must keep his eyes fixed on a single distant object and never allow his attention to be attracted by anything else. The use of a mystical formula, or mantra, as an adjunct to levitation recalls the legends of sacred words in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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Mirrors Theory

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.


As you noticed, all the provided materials are presented for levitation support. However, as of today, I was not able to find any respectable confirmation records, that human levitation is possible. There is nothing people saw which cannot be reproduced by modern illusionists. Review the video clip of the modern levitation between two buildings in Las Vegas. Performed by American illusionist Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos (stage name Criss Angel).

If and when the levitation existence will be proven by future researchers, I will happily change my personal point of view, that it is a pure fiction. If that will be the case, it definitely would not be the first time science could be forced to accept something it had previously rejected.

Sources and Additional Information:

1 comment:

Chandravimalaa said...

I have been to India at an ashram in South India. Paramahamsa Nithyananda explains about levitation and has many people levitating. Seen it numerous times. Swamiji does two way conferencing around the world and through my travels have seen the levitation through this means as well.

Science of Levitation by Nithyananda

Scientific Research on Levitation

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