Levitation by collective 'spiritual effort' - attempted by audience and actors as The Roundhouse (Camden, London) in 1967

(See also The Dialectics of Liberation Conference at that venue in June 1967)

In 1967, not long after the Dialectics of Liberation had been held at the Roundhouse in the Camden area of London, a theatre performance was arranged at that venue (the Roundhouse being a circular brick building in which steam engines had formerly been able to swivel around to change direction). The Living Theatre - on tour from their home city of New York, put on an unusual 'progressive' performance called 'Antigone' there in which a large complex cage structure featured, with persons imprisoned in it and clawing to get out. This was supposedly 'revolutionary' theatre which would contribute to changing society. The main feature of Antogone was the struggle between State authority and patriarchy and the suppressed individual, a woman Antigone. (Not much of Sophocles there). After the production, the audience were asked to remain seated and help in the next highlight, a spiritual experiment in which a young woman would sit in meditation pose on stage and the audience were to concentrate on the mystic syllable 'Aum' (maybe chanting it aloud, I do not recall), whereupon the meditator was (hopefully) going to levitate before our very eyes. A risky proposition, no doubt. After about 5 minutes of the ritual the levitation failed to occur, the audience were thanked and given (unlikely) reassurances from the organiser that it was probably due to not enough spiritual power, vibrations or whatever and might well occur at a later date under more favourable circumstances. Of course, this was at the height of the London hippie, flower power, spiritual and sexual revolution... the Beatles' St. Pepper album had come out a few weeks earlier.

The background for this 'happening' and spreading belief among 1960s youth interested in 'spirituality' was the hope that miraculous phenomena could be caused (and proved) by concerted 'spiritual power', breaking the bounds of mundane physical limits. Since no person with such powers could be found, a collective spiritual effort was indicated. The audience at the Roundhouse were asked to stay in their seats for five minutes to partake in a spiritual experiment. This was before the charlatan guru (and later widely accused sexual abuser), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, introduced his absurd programme for his heavily paying clients to learn 'yogic flying', which amounted to people sitting in the lotus posture and developing the appropriate muscles to hop around and believe that they had thereby achieved a higher level of spirituality or 'siddhi power'.

The origins of the belief in levitation go a long way back, especially in India, but also in Roman Catholicism from the Middle Ages until present times. The following images from the work of Basava Premanand, India's first major skeptic and rationalist who worked to dispel superstitions and false religious beliefs. A video in which he demonstrates how levitation was often faked in India (though removed from YoutUbe) features in a BBC documentary (also on YouTube) called 'The Secrets of Levitation' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw8BV4VFOwM scroll through to the middle of the documentary)
The following images are from Premanand's original video:-

Levitation fraud demonstrated

Levitation trickery in India