To find out first-hand may take a life-time and be in vain
He who does evil to others, has done it to himself. (Turkish proverb)
First, there is a pervasive belief in levitation around the world. Merely to deny that some have levitated, or blindly explain it all away, is neither wise nor considerate.
Second, in the Catholic Church there are many records of levitating saints. And there are also other persons than believers who have eye-witnessed their levitations and have left attestations.
Third, there are many explanations of how rising into the air without wings may possibly come about.
Fourth, levitation can be brought about by good meditation, tells Patanjali. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi also included Patanjali's recipe for levitation (most often "butt hopping") in his enlarged TM program, under the title Yogic Flying. We are told that Milarepa, the famous patron-saint of Tibet, could fly about in Tibet while sitting in a cross-legged posture. Milarepa discovered he could actually fly without wings of any kind, and at times flew to a special castle to meditate. (Evans-Wenz 1969)
Once when he was out flying, he passed over a small village. A remote relative there was ploughing a field. The son said: "See, a man is flying!"
His father said among other things: "What is there to marvel at or be amused about in the sight?" (Ibid 1969:212, 212n) [More].
Fifth, Daniel Goleman has written a book on meditative experiences - mainly based on how Buddhism has mapped the strides or victories - a scheme to compare with and possibly unify good teachings. He recounts how, during rapture, waves shower through the body as the sensation of levitation, or as immersion in thrilling happiness (Goleman 1975:14, 27).
Cases of levitation are hotly disputed and attributed by many to trickery, illusion, auto-suggestion, unseen natural causes, or are denied. But religious communities tend to interpret levitation as the result of some supernatural action, maybe psychokinesis. Spiritualists or yogis tell that levitation happens in some altered state of mind.
Carefully controlled testing of the phenomenon is limited, but for some single cases, such as that of Daniel Dunglas Home, eye-witnesses told he levitated.
In Hinduism, it is believed that some who have got paranormal powers have the siddhi (power) of being able to levitate. For example, Yogi Subbayah Pullavar was reported to have levitated into the air for four minutes in front of a crowd of 150 witnesses, June 6th, 1936.
It was claimed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that those who assiduously practiced transcendental meditation could gain the ability to levitate by a technique called yogic flying. However, practitioners report that the supposed "levitation" is actually a kind of bouncing while meditating on rubbery cushions. Here is the theory: In the first stage of Yogic Flying the body lifts off the ground through a subtle intention and then comes back down. As more and more coordination is established between mind and body, the time spent in the air becomes longer and longer until the second state is attained - hovering, and then the third - flying. So the TM way of yogic flying actually is of three stages:
(1) Bouncing on cushions, feeling happy. (2) Hovering; and (3) Flying, as Milarepa (Evans-Wentz 1969) is said to have done.
At the Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, students are trained in so-called yogic flying. "Yogic butt-hopping on elastic mattresses" could be the better description in almost all cases (video), for at present there seem to be few who have soared past the first stage, the bouncer stage.
A book on Yogic Flying tells from the Maharishi way of training that the hopping practice is aimed at many forms of success - such as bubbling biss, optimised brain functioning and mind-body coordination, creating peace and harmony in the world (Pearson 2002).
Yogic flying on YouTube:
Hopping, hovering and flying
Jack Forem (2012) tells that Maharishi began teaching Yogic Flying in the autumn of 1976. The practice is anchored in the text of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yogic Flying, more aptly called Yogic Hopping in most cases, is an addition to the simple Transcendental Meditation method.
It is explained that those who meditate deeply the TM way, gain the ability to think and act with greater awareness from deep within, from a field of huge potential. It is by meditative samyama ["unified inward-focused and steadied awareness in great bliss along with a little turn of thoughs"] that mind-attuned hopping or flying comes about, teaches Patanjali. That is, by first going deep within, and in that state apply subtle, inward, focused awareness on some things to attain to through such practice.
In Yogic Hopping, the meditator first sits motionless and usually with legs tucked up in the lotus position, and next gets up in the air. The Yoga tradition states that there are three stages: hopping, hovering, and then actually flying through the air, and "as far as I know, almost everyone practicing the technique is in the first stage, with the body lifting straight up and then coming down, or moving forward in a series of hops," writes Forem.
People practicing Yogi Hopping report expanded awareness and bliss that pervades the body and mind. Researchers into the phenomenon suggest that at the moment of "lift-off," brain-wave coherence becomes pronounced. (Forem 2012:291-92).
Geese Fly. Who Else and When?
"A journey of 500 kilometres begins with the first step," says the Tao Te Ching, ch 64. With flyers it may be different. Can bats fly? Yes, and almost all extant birds too. And certain squirrels and snakes can glide through the air one way or another. Men and women fairly often dream of flying, in sexually tinged dreams.
Scottish Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-86) was once observed levitating out of a building through a third story window and back into the building via a different window, in front of three witnesses. He was never found out to be a fraud by hundreds of witnesses and tests. Physicist William Crookes claimed to have observed more than fifty occasions in which Home levitated, many of these at least five to seven feet above the floor, "in good light." (Compare Yoga Sutras 3:39 and 3:42) [Wikipedia, s.v. "Daniel Dunglas Home"]
Among Catholic saints, Joseph of Cupertino (1603-63) reportedly levitated high in the air, for extended periods of more than an hour, on many occasions. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) claimed to have levitated, and many others. Many mediums are said to have levitated during séances, although some were proven to be frauds using wires and stage magic tricks.
Here are highlights from the deeds of a patron saint of pilots and air passengers: Joseph of Copertino (1603-63). This son of a poor carpenter was made a friar that became famed for prolonged suspensions in the air and high flights, often reaching the ceilings of cathedrals and the tops of trees. Seventy of his flights or levitations are officially recorded in the acts of his beatification. One of his biographers adds that this number does not count those which occurred daily at Holy Mass and generally lasted two hours. 
In general it helps to inspect competently and well. In not a few cases it involves inspecting first-hand, in other cases by set-up experiments and the like. But note what happens to eye-witnesses of UFOs: many get scoffed, not believed, no matter how eye-witnessing they are. "Forewarned is forearmed (British)." This does not rule out possible gains from a successful endeavour to inspect or try out claims of Patanjali nicely.
Is levitation in meditation worth working for? For some, I think. General principle: If it is true, it may be tested. Further, it may pay to be pragmatic in some settings, but not in all others. Here it is well to dispense, to our ability, with grave risks and dangers. Also, it might pay to elevate the art of living - by clarifying some things and finding time for lots of good living too.
Also, foresight is a good thing. I once knew a student. He and his wife had furnished their bedroom with mattresses so as not to hurt themselves when they landed during Yogic Flying (Hopping). One day they were killed in a car accident, and their little child too. If the parents had been blessed with ample foresight, or had trained much and adequately for it, with notable progress, the car killing might not have happened (Cf. Prof. Jessica Utts; and Dr. Radin 2013).
There is more to goose living than flying.
Carroll, Robert Todd. The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ Its levitation article: www.skepdic.com/levitat.html
Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
Forem, Jack. Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Rev. ed. London: Hay House, 2012.
Goleman, David. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. London: Rider, 1975.
Pearson, Craig. The Complete Book of Yogic Flying: Enjoy Bubbling Bliss, Optimize Brain Functioning and Mind-Body Coordination, Create Peace and Harmony in the World. Fairfield IA: Maharishi University of Management Press, 2002.
Radin, Dean. Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities. New York: Deepak Chopra Books / Random House, 2013.
Richards, Steve. Levitation: What It Is - How It Works - How To Do It. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1980.
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