Join psychologist Richard Wiseman and Science Festival director Simon Gage as they separate fact from fiction, and invite you to put your faith in science.
Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world for over 3000 years! It has been documented throughout history as a rite of passage, a test of one’s strength or a testament to the power of one’s religious beliefs. Historically people prepared themselves for the walk by chanting prayers or mantras to their God or Gods who they believed would protect them from the perceived danger of the undertaking.
In the 1930's the University of London Council for Psychical Research organized a study to explore the phenomena whereby a number of people of different cultures and religions completed a firewalk successfully without injury and without prayer. Pursuant to this the council issued reports stating that neither religious faith, nor supernatural powers had anything to do with the performance of the feat.
In the 1980s firewalking experienced resurgence in popularity becoming a lucrative business as a confidence building, self-empowering exercise. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins presented firewalking as an activity which proved to individuals that they could achieve the impossible and overcome whatever obstacles they faced. If you could walk over hot coals you could be successful at whatever you put your mind to! Most of those making money from these ventures portrayed it simply as "mind over matter". There is some truth to this. As people approach a bed of glowing amber coals on which they’re about to walk instincts yell “don't do it, it’s crazy” so some amount of mind over matter is undoubtedly required merely to take that first step.
But this most certainly isn’t all there is to it. Mind over matter is required to jump out of a plane but you still need a parachute on your back to ensure you don’t go splat. The same is true of firewalking. Physics is your parachute, science; your safety net. Muttering a mantra will not make you indestructible and mind over matter won’t protect your feet. Find out for yourself the truth about firewalking and how it really works at this year’s Science Festival. Join Festival director Simon Gage and Professor Richard Wiseman in Princess Street Garden and discover the scientific secrets of this ancient practice.