A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

Critical Thinker's Dictionary

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levitation

Levitation is the act of ascending into the air and floating in apparent defiance of gravity. Spiritual masters and fakirs are often depicted as levitating. Some take the ability to levitate as a sign of blessedness. Others see levitation as a conjurer's trick. No one really levitates; they just appear to do so. Clever people can use illusion, "invisible" string, magnets, and other trickery to make things or people appear to levitate.

There are people in Transcendental Meditation who will sit cross-legged and hop up and down on their butts, claiming that they are flying. Perhaps they are: for a fraction of a second, a few inches off the ground, until gravity brings them back to earth.

Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) allegedly levitated several times, according to eyewitnesses. It is more likely that the witnesses were deceived than that Home actually floated through space unassisted. Magician and debunker of mediums Milbourne Christopher (1970: 174-187) duplicated some of Home's feats, though there is no way to know for certain exactly how Home accomplished his performance. Christopher writes:

How could Home levitate himself in a room with the lights out? One method used then, and later, by mediums is most convincing. In the dark the psychic slips off his shoes as he tells the sitters his body is becoming weightless. The sitter to the medium's left grasps his left hand, the one to the right puts a hand on the mystic's shoes, near the toes. Holding his shoes together with his right hand pressing the inner sides, the medium slowly raises them in the air as he first squats then stands on his chair. The man holding his hand reports the medium is ascending; so does the sitter who touches the shoes. Until I tried this myself, it was hard to believe that spectators in the dark room could be convinced an ascension was being made. (p. 185)

See also faith and Indian rope trick.

A magnet levitated by the powerful magnetic field of opposite polarity generated by a copper-oxide superconductor cooled by liquid nitrogen. Wikimedia Commons - Mai-Linh Doan

photo by Mai-Linh Doan

further reading

books

Christopher, Milbourne. ESP, Seers & Psychics (Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 1970).

Keene, M. Lamar. The Psychic Mafia (Prometheus, 1997).

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books,1982), chapter 5, "The Giggling Guru: A Matter of Levity."

Rawcliffe, Donovan Hilton. Occult and Supernatural Phenomena (New York: Dover Publications, 1988).

websites

Yogic flying

Wikipedia on the Indian Rope Trick

Seeing is believing!

Last updated 19-Dec-2013

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