for The Bulwark:
…On the first page of Yale history professor Carlos Eire’s puckish new study of levitating and bilocating saints, frauds, and witches in the early modern era, which has the perfectly provocative title They Flew, he writes that it’s “absolutely impossible” for people to fly without the aid of technology, “and everyone can agree on this, for certain. Or at least everyone nowadays who doesn’t want to be taken for a fool or an unhinged eccentric.” Reading this line, I thought, What are you talking about? I doubt you could stand in any major urban center in this country and be more than a mile from somebody who believes that some people fly. Catholics believe that St. Teresa of Ávila floated; some Buddhists make similar claims for the Buddha; I’m in California right now and I guarantee somebody within a mile of me thinks you can fly if you line up your crystals just right and flap your arms.
Eire’s book is about the specific lives of, and wild claims made about, people in the early modern period, roughly spanning the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. But it’s also about a hidden culture within modernity and postmodernity: Contemporary thought and experience is riddled with premodern belief.
Yes it’s that Bernini statue of St Teresa in ecstasy again. I like it but, more importantly, it’s available under a Creative Commons license, in this case photographed by Welleschik and via Wikimedia Commons.