Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Pat Baines

Second Advisor

Anne Harris

Third Advisor

Alan Tapper


Human levitation occurs when the physical body rises into the air and then hovers or moves around, seemingly in defiance of the force of gravity. Traditionally most levitation reports have originated from seven groups: shamanism, people supposedly possessed by demonic spiritual entities, those subjected to poltergeist activity, Spiritualism, people who believe they have been abducted by aliens, martial arts such as qigong and mysticism. These anecdotal reports generally describe levitation as rare, spontaneous and involuntary, although some people seem able to levitate at will. So far almost no scientific research appears to have been conducted into this phenomenon. In order to persuade empirical sciences such as parapsychology that human levitation warrants further investigation, this qualitative study contains two components. Firstly, there is a thematic comparison of historical and modern levitation reports from the seven groups to see what physical, cultural and phenomenological circumstances they may have in common. Three kinds of evidence have been examined in this comparison: general features of the groups that produce levitation reports; interviews about paranormal phenomena such as levitation with a sample of Christian priests and pastors, Spiritualists and qigong instructors; and six people who claim to have levitated have also been interviewed. Secondly, to assist future researchers in their investigations, the thesis includes a hypothesis generating exercise which seeks clues from the thematic comparison and interviews as to how human levitation might work. The conclusions reached in the thematic comparison are that most members of the seven groups believe in one or more spiritual realms that contain entities and/or energies that can facilitate paranormal phenomena such as human levitation. Members of some groups (eg: shamans, Spiritualists, qigong practitioners and mystics) may deliberately seek to interact with or access these entities or powers, while others (eg: poltergeist activity and spirit possession) may encounter them involuntarily. It also appears that, regardless of which group they belong to, all those who levitate, whether deliberately or involuntarily, do so while in an altered state of consciousness (ASC). The hypothesis-generating exercise, therefore, postulates that certain ASCs facilitate human levitation, and that further research into the capacity of consciousness to access what appears to be transcendent or transpersonal powers is recommended.