Levitation Themes in Art

Edited by Peter Y. Chou


Preface: After an inspiring visit to San Jose's Tech Museum for their exhibit "Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future" on November 1, 2008, I composed a web page with photos and haikus. Since photos were not permitted on the two paintings on loan from the Uffizi Gallery, I substituted Leonardo's Virgin & Child with St. Anne from the Louvre instead of Gian Giacomo Caprotti's copy as the Tech Museum's thumbnail was too small. My copy of Museums of the World: Uffizi Florence (Hamlyn, London, 1970) does not have Caprotti listed in the index, because the Uffizi is replete with greater artists and masterpieces. While in Stanford's Art Library (Nov. 16, 2008), I requested four books on the Uffizi Gallery retrieved from the stacks. None of them had Caprotti's paintings, however in P.G. Konody's The Uffizi Gallery, Piero di Cosimo's The Liberation of Andromeda (1515) caught my attention. This one-canvas painting in time sequence showed Perseus slaying the sea monster to rescue Andromeda. In the upper right corner, the artist depicted Perseus with winged sandals flying in the air! This inspired the web page "Levitation in Paintings". The next day (November 17, 10:15-10:29 am) while listening to KDFC 102.1 FM, they played music with gold themes— Vivaldi's Flute Concerto in D "Goldfinch" (1729) and Erik Satie's Poudre d'or "Gold Dust" (1901). It brought back memories of Tiepolo's Madonna of the Goldfinch (1760) and Jan Gossaert's Danaë (1527). Only after reading that Zeus took the form of gold dust and impregnated the locked up Princess Danaë who bore him Perseus, did I realize that Perseus was the son of a god. No wonder he could fly! Suddenly I recalled other paintings depicting levitation on postcards which I collected during my museum visits in Europe. I have scanned these art postcards, artworks from museum catalogues, as well as downloading others showing levitation for this web page. I've included a few alchemical images since alchemy is a sacred discipline for centering and spiritual uplifting. A meditation on levitation may not induce us to fly physically off the ground, but it will inspire our mind to the flight of imagination where we soar like Dante to Paradise. (Levitation Themes in Literature)

Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337):
St. John the Evangelist Ascends to Heaven (1320)
Peruzzi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

According to Lorenzo Ghiberti, in 1318 Giotto began to paint chapels for four different Florentine families in the church of Santa Croce. In the Peruzzi Chapel, Giotto painted the Life of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. In depicting St. John the Evangelist's ascension to heaven, Giotto wraps St. John in rays of light as if he's caught in the web of God who assists him upward. One of the monks at the left stares at John's feet that levitate above the ground. The group at the right are startled at John's ascension in a cone of light (cf. Bosch's tunnel of light to Paradise).
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337):
St. Francis appears to the monks at Arles (1325)
Chappella Bardi, Santa Croce Church, Florence

During my first trip to Europe (1972), I visited the Chappella Bardi in Santa Croce, Florence. Here Giotto painted 25 frescoes on Legend of Saint Francis of Assisi (1325). I bought a booklet of 12 postcards showing some of the scenes including close-ups of "Death of St. Francis". In Giotto's painting "St. Francis appears to the monks at Arles" (left), the monks looks up and see Saint Francis hovering in the air. His arms are raised halfway as if they're wings propelling him upward. In Little Flowers of Saint Francis, there is a story of St. Francis in levitation (See web page)
Artist unknown (early 14th century):
Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze on a Reed
Colophon by I-shan I-ning (1247-1317)
Hanging scroll, light colors on silk (101.6 x 40.8 cm)
Jodoji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

I went to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and saw the exhibit Zen Painting & Calligraphy (November 5-December 20, 1970). The catalogue by Jan Fontein & Money L. Hickman showed a hanging scroll with details (left) of Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze on a Reed (pp. 53-56). Bodhidharma (early 5th century A.D.) was the Buddhist monk who came to China from India, and credited as the founder of Ch'an (Zen). Bodhidharma was the First Zen Patriarch, this painting shows him crossing the Yangtze River on a reed (echoes of Jesus walking on water). The painting is undated but has a colophon written by I-shan I-ning who arrived in Japan in 1299 and died there in 1317, dates which would indicate that the painting was done around this time at the Nanzenji where another piece of the same theme bears the date 1303. In this painting, Bodhidharma stands lightly in spite of his massive, brawny torso, on two thin sections of reed. He looks back over his left shoulder, perhaps reflecting on the religious myopia of the Emperor of Liang. The entire composition conveys a dynamic feeling of horizontal progress, of the patriarch's smooth, continuous movement over the waves, as his robes stream out to the right. The impressive originality with which Bodhidharma's countenance is rendered and the flowing, spirited treatment of the robes, confident and inspired, are clear evidence of a painter of great talent.
Lorenzo Ghiberti (1430-1508)
Christ in the Storm (1424) (Matthew, XIV.23-32)
The Florence Baptistry, North Door, Florence
Individual bronze reliefs (20.5" x 17.75") (Enlarged)

The Florence Baptistry was built between 1059 and 1128. Dante was baptisted here as well as members of th Medici family. Lorenzo Ghiberti won the 1401 competition for the first set of bronze doors for the Baptistery. It took the 21-year old Ghiberti 21 years to complete the 28 panels depicting scenes from the New Testament. One of the reliefs shows Christ walking on the sea. Peter got out of the ship and began walking on water, but when the wind got boisterous, he began to sink. Christ rescued him and said "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Here, Christ was teaching Peter an important lesson— not seeing is believing but believing is seeing. When we believe in something so strongly in our mind, we can manifest it in the world. The next line in Matthew, XIV.32 is illuminating: "And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased." The turbulent sea symbolizes a mind in doubt, thus when Peter was safe back on the ship, the wind ceased. His doubt vanished and he could walk on water.
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510):
Dante's Paradiso I: Ascent to Heaven (1495)
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin

Beatrice tells Dante (Paradiso I.91-105):
"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.
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528):
Nemesis (The Great Fortune) (1502)
Engraving (333 x 229 mm.) (Auction)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1951 Purchase Fund 54.577

I went to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and saw the exhibit Albrecht Dürer: Master Printmaker (November 17, 1971-January 16, 1972). The catalogue by the Department of Prints & Drawings has an engraving of a winged figure levitating on a sphere over a town titled Nemesis (The Great Fortune) (pp. 80 & 82). Quoting from the catalogue: “Dürer referred to this print by the title Nemesis in his Netherlands diary. Panofsky identified the literary source for the imagery (vol. I, p. 81) as a Latin poem of Politian which synthesizes the classical goddess of retribution with fickle Fortune: clad in a white mantle, she hovers in the void, tearing the air with strident wings, driven hither and thither by the gales, and always wielding the goblet and the bridle— symbols of favor and castigation— with a contemptuous smile. The landscape, which can be identified as a view of the Tyrolese town of Chiuso, has been naturalistically treated by Dürer, whereas the figure has been constructed according to ideals of artificial beauty. Her forms are in part based on the sphere. The solidity of her body makes one skeptical of its ability to fly.”

Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521):
The Liberation of Andromeda (1515)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Cosimo's Liberation of Andromeda

Perseus was the hero who killed Medusa and claimed Andromeda as his bride, having rescued her from a sea monster. Perseus was the son of Danaë the only daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos. Zeus came to her in the form of a shower of gold, and got her pregnant. Soon after their child Perseus was born. Cosimo's painting shows Perseus flying in the air (upper left corner).

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520):
Transfiguration (1520)
Pinacoteca Apostolica, Vatican City, Rome

"After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them." (Mark IX.1-10) Raphael's Transfiguration painting was his last before he died. The upper part of the painting shows the Transfiguration itself on Mount Tabor, with the transfigured Christ floating in front of softly illuminated clouds, between the prophets Moses and Elijah with whom he is discoursing. In the lower part, Raphael depicts the Apostles attempting, unsuccessfully, to free the possessed boy of his demonic possession. They are unable to cure the sick child until the arrival of the recently-transfigured Christ, who performs a miracle. (Gordon Bendersky medical analysis of painting, New York Times, Dec. 16, 1995)

Chinese painting "The Scholar Immortal" (16th century)
This painting appears in Alasdair Clayre's 1984 book The Heart of the Dragon (p. 47)— "In a 16th-century painting illustrating a Daoist poem, a scholar asleep in his thatched cottage dreams he is an immortal, floating over the mountains." I recalled seeing a slide of this painting during an Oriental art lecture many years ago. The professor pointed out to the tiny figure at the left of this landscape painting and said: "Look— he's levitating!". I forgot the name of the Chinese Art book where I located this painting, but was fortunate to find it on the web after some exhaustive search. I've pieced together two halves of this image in Adobe Photoshop. It is a breathtaking painting— the Taoist scholar asleep in his mountainside hut dreaming that he's flying like an Immortal floating freely in space (see Chuang Tzu in Levitation in Literature).
    Lu Chi in Wen Fu: The Art of Writing (261 A.D.) describes the poet in Chapter II: “Eyes closed, he hears an inner music; he is lost in thoughts and questions— His spirit rides to the eight corners of the universe, his mind a thousand miles away. And then the inner voice grows clearer as objects becomes defined. and he pours forth the essence of words, savouring their sweetness. He drifts in a heavenly lake, he dives to the depths of seas. And he brings up living words like fishes hooked in their gills, leaping from the deep; And beauty is brought down like a bird on an arrowstring shot from passing clouds... He sees past and present commingle; he sees the whole Four Seas in the single blink of an eye.“ (translated by Sam Hamill, p. 11)

Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
Apparition of St. John of Capistrano to St Peter of Alcantara (1692)
Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562)

Saint Peter of Alcantara was a Spanish Franciscan who preferred to preach to the poor. After two years in solitude (1553), he journeyed barefoot to Rome and obtained permission of Pope Julius III to found some poor convents in Spain. Saint Teresa of Avila's success in the reform of Carmel was in great measure due to his counsel, encouragement and defence. It was a letter from St Peter (dated April 14, 1562) that encouraged her to found her first monastery at Avila, August 24th of that year. St Teresa's autobiography is the source of much of our information regarding Peter's life, work, the gift of miracles and prophecy. Peter of Alcantara often went into ecstasy. He is purported to have slept for only one and a half hours each day, inside his room which had a floor area of only four and a half square feet. While in prayer and contemplation, he was often seen in ecstasies and levitation.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663):
Drawing of Joseph Levitating
Image from Paul Guerrin,
Les Petites Bollandistes: Vies de Saints (1882)

On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession
on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joseph was
assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into
the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd.
When he descended and realized what had happened,
he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother's
house and hid. This was the first of many flights, which
soon earned him the nickname "The Flying Saint."

Abraham Eleazar (circa 1735):
Uraltes Chymisches Werke (Leipzig, 1760) (color engraving)
(Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism, Taschen, 1997, p. 205)

In 1357 a mysterious parchment fell into the hands of the Parisian notary Nicolas Flamel. It contained hieroglyph figures, whose interpretation by a Jewish scholar finally enabled Flamel to perform several successful transmutations. In Eleazar's interpretation, the dragon is prepared from the philosopher's vitriol and represents the dry path, while Saturn-Antimon represents the wet path. Finally, by achieving links to Mercurius, both lead to its fixing.
    Caption of Plate IV— With this cut off the feet of Phyton or burn them off by Fire prepared from the Green Dragon.
    Saturn (Cronus) represents Father Time with winged hourglass on his head ("time flies"). The youthful Mercury wears a winged helmet but without his winged sandals. He seems immobile, fixated on the ground. He holds a winged caduceus weakly in his right hand, oblivious to the dragon and that Saturn is about to chop off his legs. Compare with image below— "Mercurius volatile" in action.
    Dante has written about the four levels of interpretation: literal, moral, allegorical, anagogical. I've given a literal level interpretation of the engraving. Here's a more insightful passage from Fulcanelli's The Dwellings of the Philosophers (1964): “Saturn easily enters into solution and coagulates similarly. It lends itself readily to the extraction of its Mercury. It can easily sublimated, to such an extent that it becomes the mercury of the sun. For Saturn contains within itself the gold which the Mercury needs, and its mercury is as pure as that of gold. For these reasons, I say that Saturn is, for our Work, by far perferable to gold; for if you want to extract mercury from gold, you will need more than a year to extract this body out of the sun, while you can extract mercury from Saturn in 27 days. Both metals are good, but you can assert with more certainty yet, that Saturn is the stone that the philosophers do not want to name and whose name until today has been hidden.” (translated 1999, page 484) An examination of the Periodic Table of Elements shows that gold (Au-79) is contained within mercury (Hg-80) as well as lead (Pb-82). Since the Planetary god Saturn is associated with lead, we can visualize its transformation to mercury and gold by stripping off a few extra electrons and protons. While such transformations are accomplished in high-energy cyclotrons and particle accelerators, we still don't know how the alchemists manage such feats during medieval times.

Alchimie de Flamel
MS. Français 14765 (1772-1773)
Bibliothèque Nationale, France
Mercurius halts the stroke of time (color engraving)
(C.A. Burland, Arts of the Alchemists, Macmillan, NY, 1968, p. 61)

While searching through alchemical books in my library to gain more insight on the engraving of Saturn floating with his scythe about to cut off the legs of Mercury, I found a similar image but with Saturn seemingly grounded and Mercury floating on a magic cloud-carpet in C.A. Burland's Arts of the Alchemists (1968). Saturn is depicted with wings with an hourglass on his head. He's bearded representing Father Time (Chronos). Mercury is portrayed as a vibrant youth with winged helmet, winged sandals, and wielding his winged caduceus. The drawing's title Mercurius halts the stroke of time hints that Mercury has escaped the scythe of death by transcending time to eternity. Compared to the previous engraving where Saturn is leading forward, here he's recoiling back to Mercury's flying onslaught— "Mercurius of the philosophers".

J.C. von Vanderbeeg,
Manuductio Hermitico-Philosophia (Hof, 1739)
Frontispiece: Saturnine Night (color engraving)
(Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism, 1997, p. 204)

"The whole process of the philosophical Work is nothing but that of dissolving and making hard again. Namely dissovlving the body and making hard the spirit." (J. d'Espagnet, Das Geheime Werk, Nuremberg Edition, 1730).
    Saturn(e) whose name Fulcanelli reads as an anagram of "natures", is the fleshly principle, the root of the Work. He is pregnant with the golden fruit, but the "craftsman of this child is Mercurius." (Jacob Boehme, De signatura rerum).
    Saturn (sigil at tree's root) is resting under a fruit tree holding a rope tied to the winged foot of Mercury in the sky as if he's flying a kite. To the right is a procession of Luna (crescent moon on head & wand), Mars (sigil on head & sword in hand), Venus (sigil on head, next to Mars), and Jupiter (sigil on head & lightning bolts in hand). With caduceus in his right hand, Mercury's wand is directed to the Sun (sigil on head & wand). In alchemy, each planetary god is associated with a metal: Sun (gold), Moon (silver), Mercury (mercury), Venus (copper), Mars (iron), Jupiter (tin), Saturn (lead). The meaning of the astrological sigils: The circle in each symbol represents spirit, the semi-circle or crescent represents mind and the cross or arrow represents the physical, material nature. Hence the Sun is pure spirit, Moon is pure mind, and Earth is matter. Mercury () is mind above spirit over matter; the intellectual inter-actions and conveyances of abstractions and ideals over the objects of being. Thus, Mercurius is flying higher than all the planetary gods in this engraving.

Karl Von Eckhartshausen (1752-1803):
Zahlen-lehre der Natur (Leipzig, 1794) (color engraving)
(Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism, Taschen, 1997, p. 267)

From the sun of unity the ten primal numbers (Sephiroth) fall into
the space of creation, forming the measure of all things. "To the
side is a genius with a child; the genius is stretching his right arm
towards the sun— emblematic of the necessity of approaching unity;
with the compass in his left hand he is measuring the child's heart—
a symbol suggesting that simplicity and power must unite to ascend
to the unity, which is the source of all things."
    In Roman mythology, every man had a genius and every woman a juno.
Juno is also Jupiter's wife and queen of the gods. Originally, the genii and junones were ancestors who guarded over their descendants. Over time, they turned into personal guardian spirits, granting intellectual prowess.
    The allegorical Genius figure and the child are both levitating. Genius points to the sun with a "teaching mudra" pose (vitarka). The engraving reflects the book title— Number Teaching of Nature. The sun's light (spiritual knowledge) descend in a triangle of ten rays (Pythagorean decad) parting the dark clouds (ignorance) toward the earth (matter). The compass across the child's heart is reminiscent of William Blake's The Ancient of Days (1794), and the passage in the Book of Wisdom, XI.21: thou has ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight."

Francisco Goya (1746-1828)
Los Caprichos: Volaverunt #61
"They Have Flown" (1797)
Aquatint etching (8.5 x 6 inches)
Wake Forest University Print Collection

Before 1792, Francisco Goya was a prolific Spanish artist working as a court painter to the king in Madrid, surrounded by intellectual friends and living a fairly comfortable life. In 1792, however, Goya's life and in consequence, his art, changed. He was struck with an illness that made him extremely ill. After a temporary paralysis and long recovery, he was left deaf. Many believe it was this tragic event that left Goya with a strong sense of human suffering. The Spain that Goya saw was one of poverty and corruption, and it was this Spain that led him to create his first large series of prints, Los Caprichos (1796). Goya described the series as depicting "the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual". Volaverunt was #61 in the original Los Caprichos. Goya himself described the print: “The group of witches who serve as a pedestal to this stylish fool is more of an ornament than a need. There are heads so swollen with inflammable gas that they can fly without being helped by a balloon or by witches." The "stylish fool" as many have recognized is the Duchess of Alba. A female companion to Goya earlier in his life, she ends their relationship on a less than cordial note. Goya has focused on her image, therefore, in order to represent the idea of women as inconstant and fickle. In flight with a horde of witches under her, she seems oblivious to the desires or needs of others, and also perhaps even unaware of her own.” Spain issued a set of 14 airmail stamps (June 15, 1930) to commemorate the centenary death of Goya. Volaverunt "Fantasy of Flight" is shown on three of the stamps— C28, 1 peseta (violet brown & violet), C29, 4 peseta (blue black & slate green), C30, 10 peseta (black brown & bistre brown).

School of Hokusai (1760-1849) (Japanese print):
Scholar Gazing at the Moon (19th century)

The moon symbolizes enlightenment in Oriental art and poetry. Its monthly procession from darkness to fullness (New Moon to Full Moon) represents the spiritual aspirant's progress from ignorance to knowledge. Here are two Western poets writing on the Moon.
William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" (1798): ... let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies...

Robert Bly, "Solitude Late at Night in the Woods" (1978):
The body is like a November birch facing the full moon
And reaching into the cold heavens.
In these trees there is no ambition, no sodden body, no leaves,
Nothing but bare trunks climbing like cold fire!

Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886):
Drawing of Home Levitating (1852)
D.D. Home: The Man Who Could Fly? (1859)

Daniel Dunglas Home was a Scottish Spiritualist, famous as a physical medium, with the reported ability to levitate to a variety of heights, speak with the dead, and to produce rapping and knocks in houses at will. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stated that Home was unusual in that he had four different types of mediumship. Home's breakthrough came in August 1852, in South Manchester, Connecticut, at the house of Ward Cheney, a successful silk manufacturer. Home was seen to levitate twice and then rise to up to the ceiling, with louder rappings and knocking than ever before. William Crookes claimed to know of more than 50 occasions in which Home levitated "in good light" (gas light) at least five to seven feet above the floor.

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918):
Frauenstudie zum "Der Auserwählte"
"Women's Study for The Chosen One" (1894)
Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland

When I visited the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland (August 1976) and saw Ferdinand Hodler's 1899 painting Der Tag ("The Day"), I loved the allegorical artwork on awakening from sleep. However, I was amazed by another painting— Frauenstudie zum "Der Auserwählte" ("The Chosen One") (1894). I had to look at the woman's feet more closely— she's clearly off the ground suspended in the air in levitation! I recall getting the museum's director's permission to take a photograph without flash with my Cannon camera. She asked me whether I'm an art history professor. I told her that I'm a biochemist but am studying meditation. I told her that in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (circa 200 B.C.), the yogi who has mastered breathing can levitate. I can't find my photo but scanned the B&W postcard which I've added a duotone (50% blue 50% cyan) in Photoshop to express her transcendance.

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918):
Der Auserwählte (1894)
Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland
"Ferdinand Hodler: A symbolist vision" Exhibit

Ferdinand Hodler's Der Auserwählte ("The Chosen One") (1894) is an imposing painting (21 x 296 cm = 7.2 x 9.7 ft) at Bern's Kunstmuseum. Surrounding the naked child are six angels levitating in the air. The Woman levitating in Hodler's "Women's Study for The Chosen One is second to the left. She's now shown in similar pose with longer hair but with wings of an angel. The child looks up at the angels in the midst of some sacred ritual ceremony.

Marc Chagall (1853-1918):
Music (1963), Oil on canvas
Private Collection

Marc Chagall's Music shows a figure with Mozart's composition in his hands floating above a crowd of musicians and cheering fans. Beside him is a dove as they soar into a realm of golden light. There is a truncated triangle at the top of the painting hinting at the transcendental nature of music and Pythagoras— “There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacings of the spheres.” For Beethoven, the mission of music is "to approach the Divinity". For Robert Schumann, music is the language "to converse with the Beyond". Chagall's painting Music expresses these sentiments well as the composer is levitating and soaring with the dove to heaven. The theme of levitation appears in many of Chagall's paintings. In The Birthday (1915), a woman receives a flower bouquet from her lover and is startled when he floats above her and gives her a kiss. In Bride & Groom at the Eiffel Tower (1939), the groom is about to kiss his bride and his feet is off the ground— true love is transcendent! And Chagall understands love well. In The Painter to the Moon (1917), the artist is shown with feet leaving the orb of earth as he levitates to the blue spheres of heaven, showing that art yearns to express the transcendent. In Three Candles (1940), a woman is pointing up to the young loving couple levitating skyward. In Bouquet with Flying Lovers (1947), a couple with flowers are soaring skyward over the city to the realm of birds, the sun and moon. Chagall has captured the love theme well in levitation of hearts in love.

René Magritte (1898-1967):
Golconda (1953)
The Menil Collection, Houston, TX

Google's Logo honoring Magritte's 110th birthday (November 21, 1898) reminded me of Magritte's Golconda (1953). This painting shows a plethora of identical men dressed in dark overcoats and bowler hats floating like helium balloons. However they don't seem to go anywhere against the backdrop of buildings and blue sky. In fact, they look more like zombies fixated in purgatory space. Charly Herscovici, who was bequeathed copyright on the Magritte's works, commented on Golconda: “Magritte was fascinated by the seductiveness of images. Ordinarily, you see a picture of something and you believe in it, you are seduced by it; you take its honesty for granted. But Magritte knew that representations of things can lie. These images of men aren't men, just pictures of them, so they don't have to follow any rules. This painting is fun, but it also makes us aware of the falsity of representation.”

Salvador Dali (1904-1989):
Corpus Hypercubus (1954)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dali's Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) portrays Christ's crucifixion on a hypercube. Dali's wife Gala is the figure at bottom left contemplating on the crucified Jesus. The scene is depicted in front of the bay of Port Lligat, a small village on the Mediterranean Sea, near Catalonia, Spain. If one moves the cube one unit length into the fourth dimension, it generates a 4-dimensional unit hypercube (a unit tesseract). Hence, the hypercube represents the fourth dimension beyond our 3-D world. Dali's portrayal of the crucified Christ levitating shows transcendance beyond the earth. This Dali painting is in Jeff Brittin's Ayn Rand book with the picture caption: "Salvador Dali, Corpus Hypercubus, oil on canvas, 29" by 23", 1954. Rand's favorite painting— she spent hours contemplating it at the Metropolitan Musuem of art. She even felt a kinship between her personal view of John Galt's defiance over his torture in Atlas Shrugged and Dali's depiction of the suffering of Jesus."

René Magritte (1898-1967):
Clear Ideas (1958)
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels

The Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte is a consummate technician whose work displays a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. Magritte described his paintings by saying: “My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?'. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” When I first saw Magritte's Clear Ideas at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (August 1979), I bought several postcards of this painting. It evoked a sense of wonder because the rock is floating in the air between the cloud and the sea. If the rock represents our ordinary earthly mind, when clear ideas come, our whole being is uplifted. Such is the eureka experience of transcendence expressed in Leonardo's art, Beethoven's music, and poetry of Rilke and Rumi.

Alex Grey (born Nov. 29, 1953):
Wonder: Zena Gazing at the Moon (1996)
Acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches

When I was living in Boston 1970-77), I went folk dancing every Sunday at MIT. One night after the dance, a Swedish girl was giving me a ride home. I asked her whether she believes that a rock could levitate and be suspended in mid-air. She said "Definitely not!" It was a full moon that night, so I pointed up to the sky "Isn't that a big rock floating in space?" She gasped "My gosh! What's holding it up?" I tell her "It's gravity— but the force is still a mystery."
    Alex Grey is an American visionary artist who draws the world of energy and spiritual unfoldment. In his book The Mission of Art (1998), he promotes the process of artistic creation in the role of enlightenment for both artist and the viewer. Wonder is a portrait of Grey's daughter Zena gazing at the moon in awe and wonder.

Articles on Levitation:

Wikipedia: Physics & Further Reading
Levitation (paranormal)
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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