|Levitation Themes in Literature
Edited by Peter Y. Chou WisdomPortal.com
Enoch, father of Methuselah|
Genesis 5.21-24 (3679 B.C.)
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
Unknown artist: Enoch taken by God
Enoch was the son of Jared, a great-grandfather of Noah, and father of Methuselah (Genesis 5:1-18). It is stated in numerous Jewish, early Christian, and mediaeval Muslim sources, that he was taken away by God because he was obedient to God and a just man, thus avoiding death at the age of 365, and according to a few Kabbalistic sources, became known as the angel Metatron.
Enoch, father of Methuselah|
Book of Enoch XIV.8-10 (circa 150 B.C.)
translated by R.H. Charles, S.P.C.K., London, 1962, p. 41
And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its portals blazed with fire.
Unknown artist: Enoch raised to heaven
William C. House, Hidden Significance of Enoch
Chang O Flying to the Moon
Story from Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols
Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1986, p. 60
The Moon Goddess Chang-e or Chang-O is supposed to have been the wife of the archer Hou Yi during Xia Dynasty (2100 BC-1600 BC). He had received the herb of immortality from Xi wang-mu. When Hou Yi was away, his wife ate the herb, achieved immortality and ascended to the moon, where she lives to this day in the "Palace of the Far-reaching Cold" (guang han gong). Hou Yi tried in vain to follow here, and thereafter took up residence in the sun. Chang-e is often represented as a fine lady who is looking at herself in a mirror held for her by a lady's-maid, while another maid brings tea. Beside her are two children who are admiring a hare: this is the "hare in the moon" using a pestle and mortar to grind down the bark of the cinnamon tree which confers immortality. Republic of China issued a $4 multicolored postage stamp (Scott #1484) on September 29, 1966 for the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival showing "Lady Chang-O Flying to the Moon".
Psalms 90.10 & 12 (1048 B.C.)|
A Prayer of Moses: The days of our years are three scores and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labours and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away... So teach us to number of days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
William Blake (1757-1827):
Descent of Man into the Valley of Death (1805)
"In one of the oldest (alchemical) texts, the manuscript of Comarius to Cleopatra, the metals are described as 'corpses' which lie around in Hades, confined and fettered in darkness and fog. The elixir of life, the 'blessed waters', penetrate down to them and rouse them from their sleep." (M. L. von Franz, Aurora consurgens in C. G. Jung, Mysterium conjunctions, Zurich, 1957) (Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism, Taschen, 1997, p. 182)
Elijah swept up into heaven|
II. Kings 2.11 (896 B.C.)
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
Unknown artist: Elijah carried to heaven
Fresco of Elijah, Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Elijah (Elisha) was a prophet in Israel in the 9th century B.C. No other Israeli prophet is reported to have performed as many miracles as Elijah. In the Books of Kings, Elijah divided the waters of Jordan River, resurrected a child, healed a Syrian captain of leprosy, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven by a whirlwind. In the New Testament, both Jesus and John the Baptist are on some occasions thought to be Elijah. He is also one of two Old Testament figures (along with Moses) who appears and converses with Jesus during the Transfiguration. Like Moses going up to Mount Sinai, Elijah travels, for forty days and forty nights, to Mount Horeb and seeks shelter in a cave. God again speaks to Elijah (I Kings 19:9). Based on a prophecy in Malachi, many Jews await his return as precursor to the coming of the Messiah. In Eastern Europe, he is known as "Elijah the Thunderer" and is blamed in folklore for poor weather. "Elijah goes to heaven" has been depicted in two postage stamps Vatican City airmail #C3 (1938) and Sweden #640 (1964).
Chuang Tzu (369 BC-286 BC)
Chuang Tzu (4th century B.C.),
Chapter 1: Transcendental Bliss
translated by Herbert A. Giles,
George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1961, p. 29
There was Lieh Tzu who could ride upon the wind, and travel whithersoever he wished, staying away as long as fifteen days. Among mortals who attain happiness, such a man is rare. Yet although Lieh Tzu was able to dispense with walking, he was still dependent upon something (the wind). But had he been charioted upon the eternal fitness of Heaven and Earth, driving before him the elements as his team while roaming through the realms of Forever upon what, then, would he have had to depend? Thus it has been said, 'The perfect man ignores self; the divine man ignores action; the true Sage ignores reputation.
Zen Painting: Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a Butterfly (Zen and Zenga, Worcester Art Museum, 1977)
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (circa 200 B.C.) is the foundation text of yoga. The book opens with "Yoga is the cessation of flow of thoughts in the mind." Books I & II deal with concentration and yogic practice. Book III covers the fruits of yoga and supernormal powers (siddhis) that come to those who master yoga. Levitation is mentioned in III.39: Through mastery of the up-breath [udana], the yogi gains the power of non-adhesion to water, mud or thorns, and the power of rising [The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, translated by Georg Feuerstein, Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT, 1989, p. 114]. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda, III.39: When the anti-gravitational vital force that has an ascending flow is directly understood there follow powers of levitation, and passage over water, mud, thorny bush, etc., without coming into contact with them. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda, III.42: When the threefold inner discipline is directed towards the relationship between the body and the space in which it moves, and when there is contemplation of the weightlessness of cotton, the body acquires the quality of weightlessness and moves in space with ease. (Image: Yogi meditating in Zen circle)
Matthew, XIV.23-32 (32 A.D.)|
Romano Antoniazzo (1430-1508)
Christ Walking on Water (1485)
Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon, France
after Giotto di Bondone's Navicella (1298)
First public display (1675) (More images)
Matthew, XIV.23-29 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
New Testament Gospels (65-100 A.D.)|
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337):
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
I saw Giotto's frescoes on the "Life of Christ" at Padua's Scrovegni Chapel during my first trip to Europe (August 1972) and was awed by Giotto's vibrant artworks. I bought all the Giotto postcards and have scanned his Ascension at the left. I also bought Roberto Salvini's Giotto: Cappella Degli Scrovegni (Arnaud, Firenze, 1970). On page 98 is Bernard Berenson's commentary on Giotto's Ascension: Still another exemplification of his sense for the significant is furnished by his treatment of action and movement. The grouping, the gesture never fail to be just such as will most rapidly convey the meaning. So with the significant line, the significant light and shade, the significant look up or down, and the significant gesture, with means technically of the simplest, and, be it remembered, with no knowledge of anatomy, Giotto conveys a complete sense of motion. The Christian doctrine of Ascension holds that Jesus' body ascended to heaven in the presence of his apostles, forty days following his resurrection. It is narrated in Mark 16:19 "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." Luke 24:51 "And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." and Acts 1:1-12 "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight."
Milarepa (1052-1135), Jetsun-Kahbum
W. Y. Evans-Wentz:
Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa (1928)
(2nd Ed., Oxford University Press, NY, 1951, reprint 1971)
Jetsun Milarepa is considered one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets. He studied under Marpa for 12 years before attaining the state of Vajradhana (complete enlightenment). Evan-Wentz translates from Milarepa's biography Jetsun-Kahbum: Having acquired full power over the mental states and faculties within, he overcame all dangers from the elements without, and directed them to his own profit and use. Having obtained transcendental knowledge in the control of ethereal and spiritual nature of the mind, he was enabled to furnish demonstration therof by flying through the sky, by walking, resting, and sleeping (upheld by levitation) in the air. Likewise he was able to produce flames of fire and springs of water from his body, and to transform his body at will into any object desired, thereby convincing unbelievers and turning them towards religious pursuits. (pp. 35-36) Glenn H. Mullin & Amelia Arenas cover more Tibetan levitation in The Flying Mystics of Tibetan Buddhism (2006) citing Nagarjuna, Padma Sambhava, and Yogini Yeshey Tsogyal as well as Milarepa. The thangka image shows Milarepa surrounded by four of his disciples; above his head sits Marpa, showering blessings; above left and right are the Indian tantric sages Tilopa and Naropa. Above them all is Vajradhara, a personification of the primordial Buddha-principle. Milarepa is usually shown iconographically with his hand to his ear. This symbolizes both his reception of the secret tantra teachings/practices from the lineage via Marpa, and also his own inner connection to the Source of all inspirational and liberating wisdom, which, in turn, Milarepa expressed to his followers in his spontaneous songs of enlightenment.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321),
Commedia: Purgatorio, IX.21-30 (1300 A.D.)
Gustave Doré (1832-1883):
Dante's Dream of Flight (1867)
Doré's engraving of Purgatorio IX used in postage stamp of
San Marino #624 (130 lire, red brown) issued November 20, 1965
to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri's birth.
Dante dreamt of being carried by a golden eagle to heaven's Sphere of Fire (9.19-33) as Zeus in the form of an eagle has snatched up Ganymede up to Mount Olympus to be his cupbearer. Upon waking, Virgil informs him that Saint Lucia carried the sleeping Dante up the mountain to Purgatory's Golden Gate (9.49-57). In his Dante commentary, John Ciardi notes that allegorically Lucia represents Divine Light. Her name in Italian suggest luce (light) and she is the patron saint of eyesight. Also Lucia is an anagram for acuila "eagle."
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321),
Commedia: Purgatorio, IX.55-57 (1300 A.D.)
a lady came; she said: 'I am Lucia;
let me take hold of him who is asleep,
that I may help to speed him on his way.'
William Blake (1757-1827):
Lucia Carrying Dante (1825)
Watercolor and ink, 14.7 x 20.6 inches
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University,
Blake paints Saint Lucia carrying Dante up Mount Purgatory while he's sleeping and dreaming of being snatched up by a golden eagle to the Sphere of Fire. Dante places Lucia at Purgatorio 9.55 because of the importance of his spiritual ascent in this canto. The symbolism of 9 as the square of the Trinity as well as Beatrice's number (La Vita Nuova XXIX) and 55 as Plato's Cosmic Soul number are perfectly fitting for Lucia "the eagle of light" carrying Dante upward toward paradise. (Dante's 55 & Platonic Lambda)
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321),|
Commedia: Paradiso, I.91-105 (1300 A.D.)
Beatrice tells Dante about lightness of being:
You are not on the earth as you believe;
but lightning, flying from its own abode,
is less swift than you are, returning home.
With these words and her smile, Dante began
to levitate and fly with Beatrice through the celestial spheres until they reached paradise. Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510):
Dante's Paradiso I: Ascent to Heaven (1495)
Little Flowers of St. Francis (late 1300 A.D.)
Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652):
Levitation of Saint Francis (circa 1640)
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Durham, U.K.
My first encounter of levitation in literature was in The Little Flowers of St. Francis (Mentor-Omega Book, NY, 1964, p. 157): From that hour on, Brother Leo, with great purity and good intention, began earnestly to study the life of St. Francis. And because of his purity, he many times earned the grace to see St. Francis swept up to God and raised bodily from the earth at times to the height of three arm-lengths, at times four, on occasion as high as the tip of the beech tree, and once so high in the sky and so surrounded by radiance that he could barely see him. (More)
Zhao Qi (Ming Dynasty 1368-1644):|
The Immortal Zhong-li Quan (late 1400s)
Cleveland Museum of Art
Hanging Scroll, Ink and colors on silk
Taoism and the Arts of China
Zhongli Quan (鐘离權) is the leader of the eight Taoist Immortals. These Adepts had achieved unity with the Tao through cultivation of virtue and understanding. He can be recognized by the fan he carries which has the magical ability of reviving the dead. He's often portrayed with his stomach bare. According to legend, Zhong-li lived at the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) where he served as a general. He discovered "the great magic of gold-cinnabar" (philosopher's stone). He could melt mercury and burn lead and turn them into yellow and white silver. And he could fly through the air. (Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols, Routledge, London, 1986, p. 326) In the painting at left, Zhongli Quan holds a double gourd which he uses in his alchemical transformations. He is walking on waves since he can levitate and fly.
Unknown artist (Ostasiatisches Museum, Köln, Germany)|
The Immortal He Xian-gu with magic lotus flower
from Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols
Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1986, p. 146
He Xian-gu (ivory sculpture)
He Xian-gu (何仙姑) lived during the 7th century A.D. and was the daughter of a shopkeeper of LingLing, Hunan province. She is one of the eight Taoist Immortals, and the only woman among them. She is symbolized by the lotus, and sometimes by the peach. Once she was attacked by a demon and rescued by Lü Dong-bin (呂洞賓), another of the eight Immortals, who brought her into the group. Richard Wilhelm tells this legend: "She had sworn never to marry, and her stepmother didn't know what to do with her. One day when she was cooking rice, grandfather Lü came and released her. As she rose up into the air, she was still holding the ladle in her hand." He Xian-gu can float and jumped from one cliff to another gathering medicinal herbs to help the sick.
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680))|
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1652)
Coranro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation. She writes in her Autobiography (1567), about the ascent of the soul in four stages (Chapters 10-22): 1) "heart's devotion", 2) "devotion of peace", 3) "devotion of union", 4) "devotion of ecstasy or rapture". This fourth stage is a passive state, in which the consciousness of being in the body disappears (II Corinthians 12:2-3). Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, intermitted sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. From this the subject awakens in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, productive of the trance. (Indeed, St. Theresa herself was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.) Cathleen Medwick's Teresa of Avila: The Progress of a Soul (1999) cites her levitation: Teresa's rapture became so frequent as to be almost commonplace... The occasional visitor, like Bishop Alvaro de Mendoza, might be astonished to see the prioress, her hands pressed forward in prayer and her eyes rolled up to heaven, rise a foot or more off the ground. Teresa ordered that any sister who happened to be present during one of these levitations was to grab hold of her habit and try to hold her down. This, of course, was impossible, obedience being no match for celestial magnetism. (p. 93)
Wu Cheng'en (1500-1582):
Hsi Yü Chi (Journey to the West) (1590)
Illustration from 1890s showing
"Female Samurai Sends Monkey Flying"
Part of the novel's enduring popularity comes from the fact that it works on multiple levels: it is an adventure story, a dispenser of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India stands for the individual journeying toward enlightenment. Hsi Yü Chi (Journey to the West) is one of the most popular fiction tale in China. The hero in this drama is Monkey (Sun Wu-long) who accompanies the Buddhist pilgrim Xuan-Cang to India in search for the original books of the Buddha. In their travels they encounter many obstacles including ghosts and demons. However Monkey is an advanced yogic practioner having mastered many of the siddhis (supernormal powers). He can clone himself into an army of thousand to fight the enemies. Monkey can levitate and leap across mountains in a single bound like Superman. Here is one of my favorite episodes from Adventures of the Monkey God translated by Arthur Waley, Graham Brash, Singapore, 1973 (pp. 65-66): "What magics have you got that would enable you to seize the blessed realms of Heaven?" asked the Buddha. "Many," replied Monkey, "I can somersault throught the clouds a hundred and eight thousands leagues at a bound. Aren't I fit to sit on the throne of Heaven?" "I'll have a wager with you," said Buddha. "If you are really so clever, jump off the palm of my right hand. If you succeed, you can have his throne; if you fail, you shall go back to earth and do penance for many centuries." Monkey thought, "This Buddha is a perfect fool. How could I fail to jump clear off the palm of his hand!" Buddha stretched out his right hand, which looked about the size of a lotus leaf. Monkey put his cudgel behind his ear and leapt with all his might. "That's all right," he said to himself. "I'm right off it now." He was whizzing so fast that he was almost invisible, and Buddha, watching him with the eye of wisdom, saw a mere whirlgig shoot along. Monkey came at last to five pink pillars, sticking up into the air. "This must be the end of the World," said Monkey to himself. "All I have got to do is to go back to Buddha and claim my forfeit. The throne is mine. But I'd better leave some proof." Plucking a hair he changed it into a writing brush with heavy ink and at the base of the central pillar he wrote: "The Great Sage Equal to Heaven Reached This Place." Then, to mark his disrespect, he urinated at the bottom of the first pillar, and somersaulted back to where he had come from. Standing on Buddhas's palm, he said: "Well, I've gone and come back. You can go and tell the Jade Emperor to hand over." "You stinking ape," said Buddha, "you've been on the palm of my hand all the time." "You're quite mistaken," said Monkey. "I got to the end of the World. I saw five flesh-coloured pillars sticking up into the sky. I wrote something on one of them. If you like I'll take you and show you." "No need," said Buddha, "just look down." Monkey peered down with his fiery, steely eyes, and there at the base of the middle finger of Buddha's hand he saw written the words, "the Great Sage Equal to Heaven reached this place", and from the fork between the thumb and first finger came a smell of Monkey's urine.
Michael Maier (1568-1622):
Atalanta Fugiens (1617)
Emblema XII: The Stone of Saturn
Illustration from Gardening: Maitreya 3,
Shambala, Berkeley, 1972, p. 64
The Stone that Saturn vomitted up after having devourd
it in place of his son Jupiter, has been placed
on the Helicon as a souvenir for the mortals.
You want to know the reason why so many poets sing of the Helicon,
And say that everybody must try to reach the top of it?
At its summit a Stone has been placed as a souvenir,
The Stone that was devoured and spit out
by Jupiter's father in his stead.
If you take these words at their face value,
you are out of your senses,
For this Stone of Saturn is Chemical.
Michael Maier (1568-1622):
Atalanta Fugiens (1617)
Emblema XXXVI: The Stone Living in Air
Illustration from Gardening: Maitreya 3,
Shambala, Berkeley, 1972, p. 88
The Stone has been thrown onto the earth & lifted onto the mountains,
it lives in the air & feeds in the rivers, that is Mercury.
It is said that the Stone is refuse of little value,
And lies accidentally on the roads, so that
rich and poor have it ready to hand.
Others allege that it is to be found on tops of the mountains,
through the heights of the air,
But others in their turn think that it feeds in the rivers.
This is all true, in its own meaning,
But I advise you to look for such great gifts in mountainous places.
Have you ever seen a rock levitating in the air? No? Just look at the Moon and wonder!
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):
Guilliver's Travels (1726)
First Edition (London, 1726)
Illustration from Leipzig Edition (1910)
The word, which I interpret the flying or floating island, is in the original Laputa, whereof I could never learn the true etymology. Lap, in the old obsolete language signifies high; and untuh, a governor; from which they say, by corruption, was derived Laputa, from Lapuntuh. But I do not approve of this derivation, which seems to be a little strained. I ventured to offer to the learned among them a conjecture of my own, that Laputa was quasi lap outed; lap, signifying properly, the dancing of the sunbeams in the sea, and outed, a wing; which, however, I shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader. (Online Book, p. 65)
William Blake (1757-1827):
Song of Innocence "Introduction (1789)
Library of Congress copy (London, 1794)
The Child is flying above the head of the shepherd since Christ has proclaimed the child as "the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18.4). Lao Tzu tells us that "one who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn babe" (Tao Te Ching 55). And Mencius says "the sage is one who has a childlike heart" (Mencius, 4B.12). Remember that the Child before you is the Inner Child within you. Wordsworth says "The Child is the father of the Man" (The Rainbow). Rumi calls this Child "the Friend". Remember our gratitude to this Child. Give reverence and honor It always. (See Freeman Dyson's Dream of God)
Edmond Rostand (1868-1918):
Cyrano de Bergerac (1897)
Historical Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) (Wikipedia)
Cyrano wrote a book Voyage to the Moon. It took his hero several attempts to get there. And what means he used! He surrounded his body with glasses of morning dew. When the sun drew the water up, it drew him with it. A group of soldiers tied their ordinance to his flying machine and, like a modern rocket, it rose into the sky.
Online Text: Scene 3.11
First, with body naked as your hand,
Festooned about with crystal flacons, full
O' th' tears the early morning dew distils;
My body to the sun's fierce rays exposed
To let it suck me up, as 't sucks the dew!...
Or (since fumes have property to mount)
To charge a globe with fumes, sufficiently
To carry me aloft!
J. M. Barrie (1860-1937):
Peter and Wendy (1911)
Peter Pan play (1904),
Disney film (1953),
Broadway musical (1954)
J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan debuted in London on December 27, 1904. The novel Peter and Wendy was published in 1911 by Hodder & Stoughton in England and by Charles Scribner's Sons in New York. This is the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous boy who can fly. He comes to the Darling family in 14 Kensington Gardens, London with his fairy pixie Tinker Bell. After blowing some fairy dust on Wendy and her brothers John and Michael, they began to fly around the room (p. 55). Chapter IV titled "The Flight" tells about their flight to Neverland 'Second to the right, and straight on till morning.' That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to Neverland... (p. 58) Peter Pan could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on his back and floating, but this was, partly at least, because he was so light that if you got behind him and blew he went faster... (p. 60) When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water and touch each shark's tail in passing... (p. 61) They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. (p. 66) (Quotes from 1911 edition, Stanford Green Library: PR4074.P3.1911)
The Dayspring of Youth by M ("Thurston")
(Subtitle: Yoga Practice Adapted for Western Bodies)
Putnam, London & NY (May 1933) (Google Books)
William Blake (1757-1827), Glad Day (1794),
British Museum, London, Blake's Notebook
Glorified Body; Seeing Angels: William Blake;
Blake's Glad Day & Andrew Leicester's Tin Man
There are no illustrations in The Dayspring of Youth by M (1933). If I were to design a cover for this book, I'd use William Blake's Glad Day (1794) for it suits the subtitle of the book: "Yoga Practice Adapted for Western Bodies". Also Blake is one of the enlightened Westerners whose visionary art and poetry is in harmony with those Oriental sages. Blake's painting liberates Leonardo's Vitruvian Man from his rigid circular cage: Here is "The Dayspring of Youth" basking in radiating sunlight with his glorified body. He's free because he knows the truth that he is one with the Light. Quotes from Chapter 5 "Elemental Nature" The mind must be vigorous and alert in order to gain entrance into Nature's higher counterpart. Through Yoga it is possible to reach these realms if we possess courage... We analyse things from a different angle when in these realms: that is, we study the cause of things instead of the effects, and a process of levitation: the power to pass from a dense state of mind-matter into a finer state. In a certain book a student relates such experiences (The White Brother by Michael Juste) (pp. 71-72)... There comes a time when the student is taken out of his body in full consciousness by his teach, and he learns to journey to other spheres. This is part of his education, when like Paul of Tarsus, he will say: "I met such a man, whither in the body or out of the body I could not tell." (p. 72)... These elemental beings are called angels in sacred literature, and are important in man's future evolution; as they were once in his past. There is magnitude in their expression and they give man a sense of majesty and power when he is immersed in their atmosphere. They teach us how to develop our minds so that we can magnify a thing till it can embrace the whole world. (p. 73) It is sometimes difficult for a teacher to get his pupil to travel to his own plane; for when he arrives at an inner sphere he finds it so interesting that it is difficult for the teacher to levitate him further. The pupil is like a small boy at a circus who will persist in lingering at the cages. (p. 172) (Quotes from Stanford Green Library: B132.Y6.D33.1933)
Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) & Joe Shuster (1914-1992):
Superman (1938), D.C. Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
(Canadian stamp, 1996), Television, Film
"Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman!" That's the lead to the TV show Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves which I saw as a kid growing up in Queens, New York in the 1950s. We didn't have a television back then, and our neighbor invited my brother and I to his apartment to watch the weekly episodes. He had horn-rimmed glasses and a Samurai sword mounted on his wall. My brother and I would fantasize that he was Clark Kent, and no bully would attack us because we would be protected by "Superman". I enjoyed Superman: The Movie (1978) starring Christopher Reeve. My favorite scene of this film is when Superman takes Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) for a flight over the city to the music of John William "Can you read my mind?" (lyrics) with the line "You can fly you belong to the sky". Telepathy and flying are both siddhis attained during advanced yogic practices. It is interesting that Christopher Reeve reads an abridged audiobook (1989) of Paul Brunton's The Secret Path (1935).
Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007):
A Wrinkle in Time (1962) (Cover)
( TV Film, 2003), Painting by Melidee:
"Mrs. Whatsit flying Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace on her back"
"Do you know what's a tesseract?" my 8-year old niece Elisa asked me when I moved to Palo Alto from Boston (1985). When I claimed ignorance, she showed me her favorite book Madeleine L'Engle's children's science fiction book A Wrinkle in Time. Therein I learned that the tesseract is a fifth dimension concept beyond our 3-dimensional world and Einstein's fourth dimension of time. Elisa gave me an extra copy of the book as gift. After reading it, I wrote a booklet Warriors of Light for her, tracing all the quotes of Earth heroes mentioned in the book (Plato, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Goethe, Beethoven, Madame Curie, Gandhi, Einstein) who are engaged in fighting the forces of evil. The book tells about a teenage girl Meg Murry whose astrophysicist Dad is missing. Meg's 5-year old brother Charles Wallace Murry encounters an old woman Mrs Whatsit in the woods. She introduces him to her eccentric friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. These three Mrs. W turn out to be transcendental beings who transport Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe through the galaxy by means of tesseract, a fifth dimensional concept which is explained as being similar to folding the fabric of space and time. They reveal to the children that the galaxy is under attack from a dark cloud, which is the visible manifestation of evil. While working on a secret government project to achieve faster-than-light travel by tesseract, Meg's father was accidentally trapped on Camazotz, an alien planet inside the "Black Thing". Mrs. Whatsit tells the children about the tesseract: Well, the fifth dimension's a tesseract. You add that to the other four dimensions and you can travel through space without having to go the long way around. In other words, to put it into Euclid, or old-fashioned plane geometry, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points." (p. 75). Soon afterwards, she transforms herself into a winged horse and takes them on a flight to space to rescue Meg's Dad. Dali knew this concept well when he painted Corpus Hypercubus (1954) with Christ on the Cross levitating.
Gabriel García Márquez (born March 6, 1927):
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
...until one afternoon in March, when Fernanda wanted to fold her Brabant sheets in the garden and asked the women in the house for help. She had just begun when Amaranta noticed that Remedios the Beauty was covered all over by an intense paleness. 'Don't you feel well?' she asked her. Remedios the Beauty, who was clutching the sheet by the other end, gave a pitying smile. 'Quite the opposite,' she said. 'I never felt better.' She had just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of her hands and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace on her petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet so that she would not fall down at the instant in which Remedios the Beauty began to rise. Ursula, almost blind at the time, was the only person who was sufficiently calm to identify the nature of that determined wind and she left the sheets to the mercy of the light as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving good-bye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o'clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her.
The outsiders, of course, thought that Remedios the Beauty had finally succumbed to her irrevocable fate of a queen bee and that her family was trying to save her honor with that tale of levitation. Fernanda, burning with envy, finally accepted the miracle, and for a long time she kept on praying to God to send her back her sheets.
Marquez's Remedios the Beauty character in One Hundred Years of Solitude may be modelled after the Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter Remedios Varo (1908-1963). Varo delved into the mystic and hermetic traditions. She read C. G. Jung as well as G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Helena Blavatsky, Meister Eckhart, and the Sufis. She was fascinated with the legend of the Holy Grail as with sacred geometry, alchemy and the I-Ching. She saw in each of these an avenue to self-knowledge and the transformation of consciousness. I've used Remedios Varo's painting Ascension to Mt. Analog (1960) to illustrate Márquez's episode of Remedios the Beauty ascending to heaven. The name Remedios can be broken down into the Latin root reme, meaning "to return", and the Spanish word Dios, which means "God." Hence, "to remedy someone" is to help them return to God.
Cynthia Ozick (born April 17, 1928):
Levitation: Five Fictions (1995)
"Levitation" is the first of five short stories in Ozick's Levitation: Five Fictions. In this story (pp. 3-20), a married couple Feingold the Jew and Lucy the Gentile, both second-rate novelists give a second-rate party which culminates in an inability to square the two's separate inherited visions. Quotes from "Levitation" Then Lucy saw the fingers of the listeners all their fingers were stretched out. The room began to lift. It ascended. It rose like an ark on waters. Lucy said inside her mind, 'This chamber of Jews.' It seemed to her that the room was levitating on the little grains of the refugee's whisper. She felt herself alone at the bottom, below the floorboards, while the room floated upward, carrying Jews. Why did it not take her too? Only Jesus could take her. They were being kidnapped, these Jews, by a messenger from the land of the dead. The man had a power. Already he was in the shadow of another tale: she promised herself she would not listen, only Jesus could make her listen. The room was ascending. Above her head it grew smaller and smaller, more and more remote, it fled deeper and deeper into upwardness... (p. 15) Overhead Feingold and the refugee are riding the living room. Their words are specks. All the Jews are in the air. (p. 20)
Laynie Browne (born 1966):
Acts of Levitation (2002)
Amelia has the ability to levitate. During her wanderings through dream galleries, costumed performances, and future libraries, she meets Clara (an elusive photographer), Sebastion (part human, part lion) and a chorus of cynics who exist only in partial bodies. (Back cover of book)
She Graces the Ceiling: The first time it occurred she was seen kneeling as a child. Kneeling for what reason? Her mother supposed her to be devout. But there was no religion in the house. She walked into the room to find her daughter kneeling several feet above the floor. Her head tucked into her chest as a swan't. (p. 16)
Levitate: to rise in defiance to gravity. To float. Against the laws of nature. To hover. Opposed to gravitate, or gravity. With reference to spiritualism. In virtue of lightness. A woman levitated to the ceiling, floated, and glided out the window into the garden. To make less weight. The scientific to cause something denser than fluid surrounding to suspend using magnetic forces. The field is anti-gravitational, akin to the dormitive quality of opium. Birds have atmospheric and levitational information which millions of years will not render accessible to us. Apium graveolens, seeds of celery eater before flight to avoid dizziness. Brassica, seed of mustard, used to travel through air. Populus tremuloides, Poplar, added to flying ointments and placed upon the body. (p. 227)
J. K. Rowling (born July 31, 1965):
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999), Harry got a rusty old car. Instead of taking it apart to see how it worked, "he was enchanting it to make it fly." (p. 39)
Wingardium Leviosa (Levitation Charm): First seen in Philosopher's Stone (1997), when Flitwick's first-year class practice the spell on feathers. Later in that book, Ron performs the spell on the club of a mountain troll.[PS Ch. 10] In Order of the Phoenix (2003) this is the answer to the first question on Harry's Charms OWL; Harry also used to get rid of a brain that was about to grapple with him in the battle at the Department of Mysteries. The spell is also used in Deathly Hallows (2007) by Harry to levitate the sidecar of a flying motorbike, and by Ron to levitate a branch, to prod the knot which freezes the Whomping Willow. However, it is shown during the same attempt to levitate the sidecar that the spell can deteriorate. Suggested Etymology: English wing meaning "fly", Latin arduus meaning "high" and Latin levis meaning "light".
Flying Charm: Cast on broomsticks, and (presumably) magic carpets to make them fly. Draco mentioned this spell when tauntingly asking Ron why would anyone cast a Flying Charm on Ron's broomstick in Order of the Phoenix during Ron's first Quidditch practice. It is also mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages.
The popularity of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books no doubt stems from the adventurous tales at the magic school Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic where Harry and his friends learn how to cast spells of flying and levitation. These are ancient siddhis (supernormal powers) attained through yogic meditation. However, true gurus will teach their students to forego these psychic powers because they are side shows to the path to spiritual enlightenment.
Allan Bennett (1872-1923)
(Bhikku Ananda Metteya) "Bliss of loving kindness"
George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive
Gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn (Notes)
I first learned about Allan Bennett at the home of Paul Brunton in Corseaux sur Vevey, Switzerland (September 2, 1979). PB had a framed photo of him (left) in his living room. When I asked about it, PB said Allan Bennett was his first spiritual mentor when he was 19. Bennett was a mystic and chemist and later became a Buddhist monk in Burma, taking the name of Bhikku Ananda Metteya ("bliss of loving kindness"). Bennett learned yoga, pranayama, and meditation from Shri Paranada when he went to Ceylon in 1900. PB considered Bennett "the most advanced Western Yogi of the first two decades of this country (England)". He witnessed Bennett's extraordinary yogic powers (siddhis), but was forbidden to talk about it (Ceylon Daily News, May 1941) Bennett founded the International Buddhist Society in 1903. His publications include The Wisdom of the Aryes (London, 1923) and The Religion of Burma (1911). Bennett was one time teacher of Aleister Crowley when they both were members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley said he witnessed Bennett levitate. In Chapter 29 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (pp. 245-246): "Pranayama produced, firstly, a peculiar kind of perspiration; secondly, an automatic rigidity of the muscles; and thirdly, the very curious phenomenon of causing the body, while still absolutely rigid, to take little hops in various directions. It seems as if one were somehow raised, possibly an inch fro the ground, and deposited very gently a short distance away. I saw a very striking case of this at Kandy. When Allan was meditating, it was my duty to bring his food very quietly (from time to time) into the room adjoining that where he was working. One day he missed two successive meals and I thought I ought to look into his room to see if all was well. I must explain that I have known only two European women and three European men who could sit in the attitude called Padmasana, which is that usually seen in seated images of the Buddha. Of these men, Allan was one. He could knot his legs so well that, putting his hands on the ground, he could swing his body to and fro in the air between them. When I looked into his room I found him, not seated on his meditation mat, which was in the centre of the room at the end farthest from the window, but in a distant corner ten or twelve feet off, still in his knotted position, resting on his head and right shoulder, exactly like an image overturned. I set him right way up and he came out of this trance. He was quite unconscious that anything unusual had happened. But he had evidently been thrown there by the mysterious forces generated by Pranayama. There is no doubt whatever about this phenomenon; it is quite common. But the yogis claim that the lateral motion is due to lack of balance and that if one were in perfect equilibrium one would rise directly in the air. I have never seen any case of levitation and hesitate to say that it has happened to me, though I have actually been seen by others on several occasions apparently poised in the air. For the first three phenomena I have found no difficulty in devising quite simple physiological explanations. But I can form no theory as to how the practice could counteract the force of gravitation, and I am unregenerate enough to allow this to make me sceptical about the occurrence of levitation. Yet, after all, the stars are suspended in space. There is no a priori reason why the forces which prevent them rushing together should not come into operation in respect of the earth and the body. Again, you can prevent things from biting you by certain breathing exercises. Hold the breath in such a way that the body becomes spasmodically rigid, and insects cannot pierce the skin. Near my bungalow at Kandy was a waterfall with a pool. Allan Bennett used to feed the leeches every morning. At any moment he could stop the leech, though already fastened to his wrist, by this breathing trick. We would put our hands together into the water; his would come out free, mine with a dozen leeches on it. At such moments I would bitterly remark that a coyote will not eat a dead Mexican; but it failed to annoy him.
Levitating while in a trance
in South India (June 6, 1936)
Yogi Pullavar (also known as Subbayah Pullavar) was a Hindu who on June 6, 1936 was reported to have levitated into the air for 4 minutes in front of a crowd of 150 witnesses. Yogi's feat was publicly observed and photographed in an exhibition that occurred in South India. The feat was executed around noon on a sunny, cloudless day and in an area where visibility was not obscured. The Illustrated London News printed the story and photos which were taken from various angles by P. Y. Plunkett who was a witness present that day and scrutinized the entire event. Pullavar began by ritualistically pouring a circle of water around the perimeter of the tent. Shoes were not permitted within the area marked by the circle. Yogi Pullavar then entered the tent where he remained hidden from view for a few minutes, after which the attendants then removed the tent. Once revealed, Yogi Pullavar was seen suspended horizontally several feet above the ground. He was in a trance, lightly resting his hand on top of a cloth covered stick. It was asserted by witnesses present that Yogi did not exert pressure on the stick for support, but instead used it as a point of reference. Many photographs were taken from various angles of this exhibition and witnesses present were permitted to thoroughly examine the levitation. They meticulously searched for strings, props and any means of possible support above, below and around the levitating Pullavar, however nothing was found. After four minutes the attendants erected the tent around Yogi Pullavar to shield him as he made his descent. P.Y. Plunkett positioned himself so that the sunlight enabled him to discern Pullavar through the thin cloth tent walls. He reported noticing Yogi Pullavar gently swaying for a short time while still in mid-air. Finally, he slowly sank in a horizontal position to the ground. The entire process took an estimated five minutes to complete. When the tent was again removed, Yogi Pullavar was lying on the ground, still in a deep trance. Volunteers were asked to try to bend Pullavar's limbs. His arms and legs could not be bent from their locked position. Attendants had to splash water on Yogi Pullavar and rub him down for five minutes before he finally came out of his trance and was once again able to use his limbs. (Secret revealed)
Dutch magician Ramana levitating
in Times Square, New York (2007)
(Metro.co.uk, October 22, 2007)
Man levitates outside the White House
News.com.au, October 23, 2007
(You Tube (March 18, 2007):
Ramana hovers in front of a building)
"A Master Illusionist" By Sangeeth Kurian
(The Hindu, Kerala, May 4, 2008)
Wouter Bijdendijk is a 30-year old Dutch Cultural Antropologist who became a magician four years ago to "make people wonder". In Holland, he is known by the name "Ramana" after the Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi. One of his forthcoming stunts will feature him buried alive in a coffin placed under water for 30 minutes.
Paul Brunton (1898-1981)
Notebooks of Paul Brunton: Volume 15: Advanced Contemplation,
In the section on Superman, I've noted that Christopher Reeve made an audio recording of Paul Brunton's The Secret Path (1935). PB knew about siddhis as his first spiritual mentor, Allan Bennett, could perform them, but had forsaken these occult powers for spiritual enlightenment. PB writes in his Notebooks: Volume 15: Advanced Contemplation, Ch. 7: This feeling of extreme lightness, of entire independence from the body, may grow to such an extreme point of intensity that the idea of being actually levitated into the air may take hold of his mind. He is in such a state that inner reality is confused with physical reality. (para #70) In that deeper state when the body is held still with concentration, the mind paradoxically feels most liberated. (#72) There will be no sensation of weight in his physical body and a light airy feeling will replace it. It will also seem as though a heavy inner body has fallen away from him, leaving an ethereal detachment, a delightful liberation, as a result. (#75) You will experience the sensation of rising, of hovering over your body. (#88) He will feel that he has become an air-being, bodiless and weightless. (#91) We enter into paradise when, in contemplation, we enter into awareness of the Overself. (#96)
Articles on Levitation:
Wikipedia: Physics & Further Reading
Wikipedia: Mystical levitation, Levitation Experiments, Religion & Popular Culture
Peace, and Kucinich, Gets a Chance
[Through yogic flying, a kind of seated hopping levitation
that practitioners believe can lead to enlightenment]
(By JENNIFER 8. LEE, New York Times, Jan. 18, 2004)
Levitation in Miniature
(By Hannah Welham, Null Hyposthesis, August 10, 2007)
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