August 17, 2013

Supernormal Powers in Western Culture.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Supernormal abilities, such as the siddhis (Sanskrit for perfection, or attainment), which are said to arise through advanced yoga practice, are often associated with Eastern culture. But the West has its own stories and taxonomies of special abilities. Among them, the Catholic charisms are among the better known.

They include familiar abilities such as clairvoyance and precognition, the latter exemplified by the prophesies of St. Gertrude, St. Hildegard, St. Birgitta of Sweden, St. Catharine of Siena, and St. Teresa. Then there is supernormal healing, as told in copious stories of miracle cures, and dominion over nature and creatures, such as the remarkable case of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who, when ordered by a Major General of the Redemptorists to eat a plate of veal, he refused and instead converted it – so the story goes – by the holy sign into a cod cutlet.

Perhaps the most mind-boggling charism is levitation, of which there are between two and three hundred historical cases in the descriptions of the saints, including Saint Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663). St. Joseph was observed to levitate by thousands of witnesses, usually in broad daylight, over a period of 35 years. Reports can be found in witnesses’ private diaries and in depositions provided under oath, including 150 eyewitness reports from popes, kings and princesses. Purely secular cases of levitation are also in the historical record, including most famously that of the Scottish medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886). Like St. Joseph, Home was observed to levitate in daylight by dozens of prominent witnesses. Not a single case of fraud was ever discovered.

Other charisms include biolocation, in which the mystic is observed to appear in two distant places at the same time; fragrances, or the “odor of sanctity,” issuing from the mystic’s body or clothes; inedia, or complete abstinence from food or drink for long periods of time, without harm; infused knowledge, or the supernormal ability to gain wisdom without studying; incorruption, the absence of the normal decay of the body after death; discernment of spirits, in the Catholic context this means interacting and knowing the difference between angels and demons; and luminous irradiance, a glowing light surrounding the heads, faces, and sometimes the whole bodies of mystics.

Finally, we have a charism with a distinctly Catholic spin that sounds like a Johnny Cash tune: incendium amoris, or the Burning Fire of Love. As described by Montague Summers, St. Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, who was transformed by sudden overwhelmings of love, “for her face, losing in a moment the extreme pallor which had been produced by her severe penances and her austere cloistral life, became glowing, beaming with delight, and full; her eyes shone like twin stars, and she exclaimed aloud, crying out “0 love! O Divine Love! O God of Love!” Moreover, such was the excess and abundance of this celestial flame which consumed her, that “in the midst of winter she could not bear woolen garments, because of that fire of love which burned in her bosom, but perforce she cut through and loosened her habit.” She was even compelled to run to a well and not only to drink a quantity of icy cold water, but to bathe her hands and her breast, if haply she might assuage the flame.

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  1. Ron Greenstein

    Perhaps this would prove interesting on this theme. It is quoted from "Lord Meher" 20 volume biography: In Raipur, on July 11th, Baba gave an explanation on the powers of yogis (siddhis) compared to spiritual powers: Through different yogas, one can attain strange, occult powers such as walking on water, talking with persons who are at a distance, becoming immune to snake venom through chanting mantras, et cetera. These powers, attained through yoga, control different vibrations, which have different effects. Each yogi controls one particular vibration through which he is able to perform certain feats impossible for an ordinary human being. But the peculiarity of this yogic power is that it can control only one particular vibration. So that a yogi who, through his control of a certain vibration, can walk on water, can do nothing else. Likewise, one who can nullify the effects of the poison of a snake bite, can do nothing other than that. All these different powers attained through yoga practices are phenomenal, and hence transient and unreal. These have nothing to do with spirituality or spiritual powers, which are already latent in all, but manifest only in a few select ones who have realized the Self. All life depends on certain subtle vibrations [pran]; their connection is more universal through the ether [finest gas]. For instance, a yogi wants to obtain a certain connection to something which he desires. Just as there are infinite varieties of things in the gross world, so there are an infinite variety of things in the subtle realm. A yogi gets hold of one of these things [powers] and gains control over the vibration pertaining to that particular thing. The spiritualists – true spiritual aspirants, saints and masters – do not indulge in these petty playthings, because once Realization of God is attained, all powers come to him and emanate from him. It is all bliss which he himself experiences, and that bliss permeates everything and flows from none other than himself.

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