Gods in Oriental Mythology had a special ability. They could fly. However, ordinary mortals could master the unique art of flying too. For example, Indian Brahmans, yogis, hermits, and fakirs could rise and float in the air.
There is a chapter in the Vedas on levitation, a sort of guidelines on how to reach a state required for taking off the ground. Unfortunately, the meaning of many ancient Indic words and concepts has been irretrievably lost over the last few centuries and therefore the invaluable instructions cannot be translated into modern languages.
As regards the ancient levitators, records at hand say that they were able to rise above the ground up to 90 cm. They did not lift off to impress the onlookers, they simply wanted to assume the most suitable position for performing religious rites.
The art of levitation still exists both in India and Tibet. Many scholars engaged in oriental studies also mention the phenomenon of “flying lamas.” Alexandra David-Neel, a British explorer, one day witnessed the flight of a Buddhist monk. The monk flew a few dozen meters over the alpine plateau, Cnang Tang. He was bouncing off the ground like a tennis ball to rise in the air again and again. He kept his eyes on some guiding star hanging somewhere in the distance, the monk was the only person who could see the star in broad daylight.
Europeans have long been aware of levitation too. There was one big difference between Eastern and Western medieval levitators. Unlike the Brahmans, yogis, and lams, the monks in Europe never took any special training for levitational purposes. They would normally rise in the air after reaching a state of ultimate religious ecstasy.
According to trustworthy records, Saint Theresa, a Carmelite nun, was one of the first levitators of the Middle Ages. Her flight was seen by 230 Catholic priests. The nun wrote about her unusual “gift” in the autobiography dated 1565. It is quite noteworthy that Saint Theresa herself did not want to fly. She spent long hours praying desperately in an attempt to get rid of her special power. She was asking Lord to relieve her of that grace. One night the Almighty finally heard the nun’s praying. She did not fly ever since that night.
Josef Desa used to be the most famous “flying man.” He was born into a devout family in South Italy. Since he was a boy, Josef was a very religious person prone to inflicting all kinds of torture upon himself in order to experience a state of religious ecstasy. Later he joined the Franciscans. He would get really ecstatic at times and rise in the air. One day he floated right before the Pope’s very eyes. Josef arrived in Rome. Pope Urban VIII granted him an audience. Josef got as excited as one could be. He could not help rising in the air. The head of the Order of St. Francis eventually brought Josef back to earth. Men of science observed more than a hundred cases of levitation of Josef. They put down their comments in the official records. However, the Christians were thought to be embarrassed by Josef’s flights. As a result, Josef was sent to an out-of-the-way monastery in 1653. He was transferred to another monastery three months later, then to another one. The list can go on. Wherever he appeared, the news about the “miracle man” spread like wildfire. People from the neighboring towns and villages stood outside the monastery walls waiting for a miracle. Finally, Josef was transferred to a monastery in Osimo where he died in the fall of 1663. He was canonized four years later.
Daniel Douglas Hewm was the most famous levitator of the 19th century.
Below is the description of his first flight penned by an editor of an American newspaper. “All of a sudden Hewm began lifting off and all the people in the room got completely surprised. I could see his legs floating about a foot about the ground. Hewm apparently could not speak as he had a twinge going from top to toe after the clash of fear and rapture in his mind. He went down sometime later and rose up again. He went up to the ceiling during a third ascent.”
Hewm learned to levitate of his own free will later on. He showed his outstanding ability to thousands of spectators including such celebrities as William Makepeace Thackeray and Mark Twain, Napoleon III, other politicians, doctors and scientists of note. Hewm has never been accused of hoaxing an audience.
There is a lot of controversy regarding the physical nature of levitation. Some researchers say that it is a product of the biogravitational field created by a special kind of mental energy emitted by the human brain. Doctor of Biological Sciences Alexander Dubrov is a supporter of this hypothesis. Dr. Dubnov points out that the biogravitational field is deliberately created by a levitator and therefore the latter can control the field and change the direction of a flight.