The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation
By Michael Grosso, Ph.D.
(Rowman &; Littlefield: Dec 14, 2015)
Why did you choose to chronicle St. Joseph of Copertino?
St. Joseph of Copertino was known as a great mystic with an array of supernormal powers. His case is well documented and I chose him because his story is a challenge to the dominant materialist worldview, which I think isn’t just false but pernicious, the foundation of all that is problematic today.
Can you explain his levitations scientifically?
I can describe the psychological and psychosocial background of Joseph’s levitations, which have some explanatory power. But the physics of levitation is a great mystery. However, modern physics may hold the answer. By pondering the mystery of levitation, science is forced to acknowledge the central role of mind in nature. This would imply breaking the paradigm that prevails in modern technological society.
What lessons are you hoping the reader will take away from the book?
First of all, to remind the reader of all the challenges to the mainstream reductive worldview. So there’s a critical leitmotif that runs throughout the book. On the positive side, I hope that readers gain a more vivid sense of the range and wonder of their own inner potential. Science keeps opening us to the wonders of physical nature; it should be equally open to the wonders of our internal environment: the infinite spaces of vision and imagination, and the various powers, mental and physical, latent in us all. Joseph is a striking example of how by regulating one’s internal environment, and simplifying one’s life style, it’s possible to experience the higher forms of conscious life.
What do you mean by “materialism as ideology”?
Materialism is the academic theory that only physical things exist. But as an ideology it becomes a way of life, a policy or practice that privileges material values. The ideology of materialism undergirds militarism (force over diplomacy), capitalism (profit over justice and compassion), consumerism (sick excess over sane sustainability). The ideology of materialism is not an appeal to our better angels but tends to pander our lower emotions such as fear and greed.
Why is consciousness so important?
What else is there? We live in and through our consciousness 24/7. And yet it’s intangible, invisible, nonphysical, a complete mystery to science. Through it we feel the world and each other, remember the past, imagine and plan on possible futures, muster our wills to fight the wrong, sense the colors, tones, smells, textures, and tastes of the world. Through consciousness we dream big dreams and glimpse the future and talk with shades of the dead. Through consciousness we demonstrate the paranormal reach of the mind to other minds and to the external world. Through consciousness we dance around time, recognizing the past and precognizing the future. Through consciousness are expressed all the forms of psychokinesis, from mind influencing falling dice to ecstatic levitations of saints, sufis, and yogis. Through consciousness the creative force of evolution is expressing itself. In history, through art, science and technology. It’s up to each of us – to use our consciousness to choose -- whether to impede or expand the scope of our conscious life.
Can we learn to expand our consciousness? How?
All the great salvation systems have found ways of lowering the mental barriers to the influx of higher forms of consciousness. Breakthroughs may arise by chance, heroic virtue, illness, near-death, intoxication, inspiration. And there are classic spiritual technologies: the various yogas, shamanic and mystical practices, all involving the art of concentrating the mind. Since infancy we have all been expanding our consciousness. Why stop now? The maps have been drawn by explorers like Lao-tzu, the Buddha, and Joseph of Copertino.
What can you tell us about near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences,
Levitation? Ghosts and apparitions, and reincarnation?
Near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, ghosts, apparitions, and reincarnation phenomena, are all about different ways we obtain evidence suggestive of life after death. Near-death and out-of-body experiences are glimpses of what seems like the "next" world to people who are still alive.
Near-death experiences are supposed to be impossible and strongly suggest survival. Ghosts and apparitions seem to arise from people already passed over, and I can describe what criteria help us decide on whether a case suggests survival or not.
I myself have had a number of experiences I could not explain in current material terms. For example, I conducted a very successful levitation experiment in public. I was physically attacked by a ghost in a haunted house. I had three precognitive dreams of the near-assassination of President Reagan in 1981. And so on and so forth. So I can talk about this unconventional material from the inside, so to speak. In my opinion, there is evidence highly suggestive that consciousness survives death.
My view of a miracle would be any unexplained event that occurs in a religious context. It’s a minimalist definition of miracle. More important than explanation, I think, is describing the phenomena, not just one case but the whole pattern. If it is a miracle, even in my sense, it can’t be explained – at least not yet. What interests me in this book is showing the reality of these phenomena that constantly remind us how little we really understand about our own minds.