Encyclopedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology by Richard Cavendish

An excerpt from the book Encyclopedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology by Richard Cavendish on physical powers.


About the book: Concise, interesting, and well-illustrated articles on a wide range of subjects, including ESP, witchcraft, alchemy, drugs, dreams, the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman, numerology, the I Ching, UFOs, Flat Earthers and Hollow Earthers, astrology and Yoga.

From the book: [On PHYSICAL POWERS:] It would appear that it is possible for the law of gravitation to be suspended, as in the case of levitation, where a person is seen to rise in the air and float above the level of the ground. ... The case of St. Joseph of Copertino (d. 1663) is the best authenticated in Christian literature. Like many others to whom extraordinary powers suddenly descended, he lived a life of rigid austerity, eating food which he 1st used to sprinkle with a bitter powder in order to render it unpalatable, so much so that when a brother monk once tasted it he was ill for 3 days. He scourged himself with a barbed whip till the blood flowed down his back. One day while he was praying, his body left the ground and remained floating in the air. From then on his levitations increased. Once, when moved to ecstasy, he rose to the high altar and then to the pulpit ledge 15' above the ground. If restrained, he would bear the others up with him. In the open air he would float to the level of the treetops, and if he alighted on one of the thinner branches at the top, it did not even bend under his weight. His levitations were witnessed by a host of eminent persons, kings, prelates, and professors, including the philosopher Leibniz. The Protestant Duke of Brunswick was so overwhelmed by the miracle he witnessed that he became a convert to Roman Catholicism.

[Here is a sample biography:] Joseph-Antoine Boullan (1824-1893). A French magician and defrocked Roman Catholic priest who in 1875 announced that he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist and appointed himself head of the Work of Mercy, which had been founded by the Norman wonder-worker Pierre Vintras. Boullan believed that the path to salvation lay through sexual intercourse with archangels and other celestial beings. He was attacked by a group of rival magicians who, it was claimed, eventually murdered him by magic.

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