In the modern era, the most determined and enthusiastic public attempts to demonstrate levitation were promoted by the Transcendental Meditation (TM) organization. In 1976, it launched the TM-Sidhi program, which promised to train people to perform various siddhis, including “yogic trying.” For years TM heavily promoted yogic Olympiads as public relations efforts. In a six-hundred-page coffee-table-style book published in 2008, entitled The Complete Book of Yogic Flying, this history is recounted in exquisite detail, accompanied by hundreds of exciting color photos of yogic fliers.

What we see in those photos is not flying. Instead we see people in various stages of hopping, usually with the camera shot frozen at the height of the hop to give the impression that the meditators sitting in lotus positions are hovering in midair. Some historical cases of reported levitation are presented in the book, but what is conspicuously missing is any evidence that levitation was definitively achieved by anyone engaged in the TM-Sidhi practice, or by anyone else in modern times under scientifically controlled conditions.

Yogic flying is described as a process with three stages of development, the first of which is hopping. An explanation for the lack of evidence for the latter two stages— hovering and flying—is offered in a short sidebar near the back of the book. The sidebar title asks, “What will it take for Yogic Flyers to float in the air?” The answer:

In one of his Global Press Conferences, a reporter asked Maharishi, “What will it take for the Yogic Fliers to float in the air, the second stage, and fly through the air, the third stage?” Maharishi replied: “Coherence in the world consciousness. It is the lack of coherence in the world consciousness that doesn’t allow the flight to be higher. But as the world consciousness is more and more coherent, flights will be any height, any height. Any height means any height. The only limitation comes from the dirty atmosphere around in the collective world consciousness. But it’s completely within our reach today. Soon we will have established a reserve fund, the interest from which will be enough to engage suffcient Yogic Flying Vedic Pandits to permanently maintain coherence in world consciousness.”

Perhaps this is so, but that reply was provided in 2003 and we are still waiting. In the meantime, the TM program’s emphasis on this particular siddhi was, in hindsight, questionable. As Philip Goldberg writes in American Veda,

in terms of public perception … TM sacrificed much of the respectability it had worked to acquire. Prominent supporters were so embarrassed that they severed their ties. Then came another controversial claim. TM scientists predicted that if the square root of one percent of a population engaged in yogic flying, peace and harmony would reign.