Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Little Levity

Originally uploaded by antimethod.

Here’s another old entry from my journal. I was 27 years old and teaching TM. Maharishi had begun teaching a collection of practices called sidhis, or “perfections.” They are techniques for cultivating consciousness found in Patanjalai’s Yoga Sutras. Included in the sidhis are happiness, compassion, invisibility, and flashiest of all: levitation.

May 27, 1977:
“These are historic times. On the 24th and 25th we publicly announced the sidhis. I sat in on the press conference. I have never been so close to history, and yet each day is still so ordinary. A wave of new knowledge has been slowly approaching and now it’s here. A new age is being ushered in and we are playing our part. Somehow, I must swallow that.

“First the rumors, then the little details. Pop called from Connecticut. I know his den. I know the carpet in there. I know the bookshelves. And Pop says Peter shook the entire place. It’s no longer some story in a book, or even friends of friends. House guests are levitating in Pop's house. A new age has arrived. Man’s mind can be in such unity with the laws nature that he can manipulate them and fly.”

.... Of course, May 27, 1977 turned out to be an historical non-event. Nothing developed as I had expected. I never learned to “fly.” But, all my TM buddies did, as did my brother, Andy, his wife, Carolyn and Mom, by then a grandmother. Of course, Mom did it in her own style. Apparently, she misunderstood just when and where she was to practice. So, one evening as she presumably lay “napping” on the bed and Pop sat reading in a nearby chair, a supine Mom flew up into the air, straight up over a foot, then slammed back down, only to take off again repeatedly.

“Whop, whop, whop! Your mother is a big woman and flying up like that startled me!” Pop was rattled even at the thought- misguided wife practicing levitation unannounced in bed. Everyone else sat in the lotus position upon a cushion. Mom didn’t like that. She said it hurt her back. Like the others, Mom had an adequate enough take off, but the landing came down hard… so hard that eventually she gave up the practice.

Carolyn, also a mother, practiced yet another variation with her little girl, Evie. She’d place Evie in her lap. She loved the hop, hop, hopping around. But, when I asked a twenty-four year old Eve about her early flying, she was amazed.

Had that really happened? She never even knew. For by the time Evie was seven, Andy and Carolyn had three children to raise and a business that needing building. They never had enough time and practicing the sidhis required two hours a day of meditation. Eventually, they stopped meditating and in time Andy developed a somewhat dismissive chuckle for friends who suddenly “discovered” spiritual interests. Grounded in the daily do, raising capitol and raising children, cultivating spirituality seemed a youthful, Utopian adventure in which he could no longer indulge.

Still in 1977, I assumed that levitation once accessible would become acceptable. With hundreds of Westerners able to demonstrate the feat in public and be guinea pigs for science- our understanding of life’s potential would change over night. Then, comes the revolution, or so I thought.

In 1977, Andy - a newly minted PhD neuroscientist, assumed that oscillating neural activity must generate a field of antigravity. He began assembling an electronics workbench hoping to duplicate biology by building the world’s first anti-gravity machine. He spoke of a new economy based upon clean, cheap nuclear energy since all the waste could be loaded onto rockets propelled by antigravity right into the sun. No more pollution. No more problems with the Middle East.

We were so naive. Through the years the TM’ers held many public demonstrations all to no avail. In 1977, reporters decided that lift off was a gymnastic trick: meditators were slapping down their folded legs in a manner that flipped them into the air. It was just a trick, a contraction of the gluteus maximus. So gymnasts were brought out to duplicate the feat. They quickly grew exhausted. By contrast, the meditators continued rising up, often over two feet before falling back to earth having progressed forward by a yard. Still, people were not convinced and the story hasn’t changed in a quarter century.

Seeing is not believing. We live in a world of special effects and cynicism. While in New York a street magician grows famous performing a levitation trick and those who didn’t succeed in lifting off sued Maharishi for their money back. It would make fascinating social commentary, if it weren’t so disappointing.

Revolution was reduced to carnival.

And I think the real lesson from these intervening years is that "We are in this together." In past millenia, it was enough for individuals hidden in some cave or forrest to quietly become enlightened. This time round, we have to do it as a species. If we are to make the quatum leap, we're going to have to do it in great numbers. The planet's future, not just ours depends upon it. And before we take that leap (of faith and heart), we will have to first conceive of it.

To date, the experience with levitation demonstrates one thing: seeing is not believing.

We live in an age of science. Today, many people use their heads before their hearts. And if they don't think something is possible, then by god, it's not.

Here-in lies a role for science. We need an explanation, some intellectual framing, of how man's consciousness might become one with the law of gravity, with all the laws of nature, and with all the archetypes of psyche. Perhaps then, our hearts will lift us high.

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