Levitation grows out of a peculiar mental state best described as complete ecstatic self-oblivion. The mystery of the phenomenon is twofold: the physics, where the body temporarily escapes gravity and the psychology, where the self seems to desert the body.
A good theory connects diverse phenomena, as Newton’s theory of gravity connected an apple falling from a tree and the earth’s orbit around the sun. In trying to understand levitation, I look for related phenomena to connect it with. One connection turns out to be a topic recently in the news. Active changes in the laws of some states of the U.S.A. are underway that legalize marijuana for medical as well as for recreational purposes.
The word recreation is interesting. It stems from late Middle English, meaning “mental or spiritual consolation” and from the Latin root, recreare, “create again, renew”. These old connotations of the word should be revived.
Progressive legislation opens the door to intelligent discussion. Why have people been using this plant since the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung described it in his herbal compendium in 2737 BC?
And what about soma of the Hindu Rig-Veda? Gordon Wasson thought it was the toadstool fly-agaric. (See his book, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality.) Soma is a psychedelic agent from an extended family including cannabis.
The Rig-Veda has powerful images of being lifted up in space:
Like wild winds the draughts have raised me up.
Have I been drinking soma?
In my glory I have passed beyond the sky and the great earth.
Have I been drinking soma?
Elsewhere in the same text, soma is said to take you to “the space of the five regions of the sky.” Soma is an agent of upward spiritual mobility. Cannabis and related psychoactive agents produce sensations of ascent, joy, and freedom.
This suggests a way to experiment with levitation by exploring states of consciousness similar to mystical ecstasy. This is not a new idea. The ancient Indians, Iranians, and Greeks used hemp to induce ecstatic uplift. Among the Thracians, Scythians, and Getae were dancers and magicians known as Kapnobatae – “those who walk in smoke”.
It seems that greater numbers of Americans will be able to “walk in smoke” without risk of ending up in the prison-industrial complex.
What’s the link between cannabis-mediated consciousness and gravity-suspending levitation?
Our brains keeps us riveted to the task of personal survival. Perversely, the yogi, the mystic, the shaman like to mess with the routine mechanics of the brain. They use techniques that lower the rational guards against subliminal uprush.. For example, psychedelics, which alter normal brain function. Our ancestors devised ways of removing barriers to expanded mental life: meditation, fasting, solitude, breathing techniques, and psychoactive plants galore.
How do marijuana and levitation connect? The effect of cannabis is to “lighten up” – mentally, of course. The drift of this friendly plant is toward general detachment, interest and curiosity. Partakers of the weed’s good graces know this.
Decriminalization might make it easier to appreciate the spiritual value of something the state ignores and instinctively fears.
Joseph (our archetypal levitator) got rid of anything that kept him attached to mundane life. He pushed the experiment as far as he could. His big goal was to preempt a place in “heaven” while still reluctantly chained to his body, which Bernini liked to say often looked like a cadaver.
The name of the ecstasy-conducive weed is marijuana –Mary Jane. Mary the Madonna was the feminine archetype that launched Joseph’s first levitation. It occurred in the church at Grotella while he was contemplating a painting of the Madonna and Child.
Art is uplifting, but Joseph took that idea to new heights – and yes, the pun was intended. So intense was his longing for heaven that he began to ascend upward in space, proving, some might say, a more intimate connection between mind and matter than we might suspect in our sober hours.
One more take on connecting marijuana and levitation. The buds of the female hemp plant are what make cannabis psychically potent. Remove the female, and you have a highly useful material resource that George Washington cultivated, great for making paper, clothing, fuel, and plastics.
The female buds have been ordained a higher task: to turn us on, to energize and elevate human consciousness. I like to imagine those female buds of the cannabis plant as holding the promise of a second American Revolution. This time it would be a revolution of soul and mind.
Marijuana and levitation are in different senses illegal. Both seem at odds with established law. People talk of levitation as an anomaly; not accounted for by any known law. In effect, the idea is proscribed; placed under house arrest; kept under surveillance. It remains outside the bounds of acceptable discourse. I have proof of that in the case of my book on levitation. I was at first under contract with Oxford University Press; when I presented the book for publication a single philosopher on the Board insisted I tone down the factual claims for levitation. I refused (it would entail that I lie) so Oxford nullified my contract.
In the case of marijuana, demonized as a menace since 1937 in America, it literally became illegal. The illegality of Mary-Jane -- potential goddess of a new consciousness -- has cost incalculable pain, loss, and destruction of life, especially in North and South America. The authentic lure of higher states of awareness is violently exploited, and greed trashes the nascent ecstasy.
But things may be changing with Colorado as a new model. Legalization of weed reduces crime and increases state revenue. Could this be the beginning of a shift from tobacco and alcohol toward marijuana as the national soul medicine? It would be a step toward peaceful revolution, a way to “renew” and “recreate” ourselves.