I’ll Fly Away Oh Glory…

Not long ago the news reported the first steps being taken towards teleportation. Can we be so credulous as to really accept that Jesus floated up into the air and disappeared from their sight? Why not? Levitation is well documented in the annals of mysticism. In fact, it is one of the more common and most reliably witnessed of the supernatural phenomena. Lots of people saw Saint Teresa of Avila levitate, and Saint Joseph Cupertino was so adept at levitation that he was eventually named patron saint of pilots and airline hostesses. Levitation is not even that impressive amongst those who believe. When Saint Thomas Aquinas was summoned to witness the remarkable case of a nun floating he simply remarked, “I didn’t know nuns wore such big boots.” Mystics of other religions have also been observed to defy the normal laws of gravity, fakirs float, poltergeists make heavy objects fly through the air, and the demon possessed are known to both roar and soar.

I point this out, not to say that the Ascension was simply a case of teleportation or levitation, but to embarrass the empiricists among us. The empiricist says he will only believe something that can be seen with his own eyes or verified by credible eyewitnesses. Then when credible eyewitnesses report that a saint has levitated or that they have seen a demon possessed person thrown across the room by some malevolent force, the empiricist denies that it happened. So he doesn’t believe eyewitnesses after all. He believes his prejudices. When Saint Thomas Aquinas saw the levitating nun he also saw the joke, and that’s one of the delightful things about levitation stories. The Ascension is much more important than a simple case of levitation, but the same sense of joie de vivre is there, and the Ascension, like levitation, reminds us that the law of gravity is sometimes broken by levity.

So if gravity is sometimes defied in a supernatural way, how might this make us reconsider the Ascension of Jesus Christ from the earth? The account given in the New Testament says he floated up into the clouds, and eventually faded from sight. This is more than levitation. He didn’t just go up and come down. He went up, then he disappeared. This sounds unbelievable, but isn’t this what we would expect if someone were to be taken physically from the material realm into the spiritual realm? Even if we think this is where Jesus went, the whole story sounds like “going to the spiritual realm” meant that he became less physical. Most of us have this annoying tendency to spiritualize such stories and make them ghostly, ethereal and weird.  But what if it is the other way around? What if Jesus did not become less physical but more physical? What if he disappeared because he eventually went into another realm which is not less real, but more real?

To learn more about Quest for the Creed go here.