This was an interesting well-researched article on cross-cultural, throughout time, testimonies of miraculous signs like levitation and bilocation.
This leaves the historian or anyone with a critical mind in a tight spot. If wild facts are “paradoxical absurdities,” are there any facts whatsoever left to study? The answer is yes. The fact we can explore is not the act of levitation itself, the wild fact that is inaccessible to us. The fact we can deal with is the testimony. This issue is as brutally simple as it is brutally circumscribed: since we have no films or photographs to analyze for authenticity with the latest cutting-edge technology, all we have is the fact that thousands of testimonies exist in which human beings swore they saw another human being hover or fly, or suddenly materialize in some other location. Consequently, a history of the impossible is a history of testimonies about impossible events. Our dominant culture dismisses these testimonies as unbelievable and merely “anecdotal”—that is, as accounts that have no point of reference beyond themselves, no wider context, and little or no credibility. So why not call it a history of lying, a history of hallucinations, or a history of the ridiculous? Because the testimonies themselves self-consciously accept the impossible event as impossible, as well as bafflingly and utterly real—even terrifying—and of great significance. Moreover, the sheer number of such testimonies is so relatively large, so widespread across time and geographical boundaries, and so closely linked to civil and ecclesiastical institutions that they most certainly do have a broader context into which they fit. And that is a very rare and credible kind of evidence, as unique as the events confirmed by it.
Accepting these phenomena as possible requires a certain way of thinking about the fabric of reality. It requires accepting as fact that the cosmos consists of two dimensions, the natural and the supernatural, and that these two dimensions, though distinct, are nevertheless intertwined in such a way that the natural is always subordinate to the supernatural. In this mentality or worldview, which was reinforced culturally by social custom and the political forces of church and state, the natural order could be constantly interrupted and overpowered by the supernatural. Any such irruption of the supernatural was a miracle (miraculum or prodigium ), and the natural world constantly pulsated with the possibility of the miraculous.
The advent of the Protestant Reformation brought about a sudden redefinition of concepts such as religion, magic, superstition, and idolatry, as well as of assumptions about the relation between the natural and supernatural realms. Distinctions that had reigned largely uncontested in the Catholic Church of the West and the Orthodox Churches of the East since the first century suddenly began to be challenged in the early 1520s when an earth-shaking paradigm shift took place. The change in thinking resulting from this new Protestant take on reality was similar in scope and significance to the one caused by Copernicus in astronomy, but its impact was much more immediate and widespread. It gave rise to a disparate mentality that still saw reality in binary terms but drew the line between religion and magic differently, rejecting the intense intermingling of the natural and supernatural as well as of the material and the spiritual, thus placing much of Catholic ritual and piety in the realm of magic.