In 1984, I learned how to firewalk. This involves burning a large wood fire down into a path of glowing, red, hot embers and then walking on the coals: barefooted, for several steps, and for the most part without burning or experiencing pain. I eventually led two hundred firewalks around the world with over four thousand participants.
I began as a skeptic. Even as I motivated others to walk on fire, with encouraging speculations about the human condition and the nature of reality, I wrestled with persistent doubts. I was put off by the pop-sensationalism that many brought to the firewalk. I worried that it was all an ego-trip, an unhealthy fascination with "special powers," and a distraction from the truly important work before us.
And I questioned the presumed significance of firewalking. Watching groups of people simply and joyously crossing paths of glowing embers, I wondered if we were in fact doing anything extraordinary. Maybe the coals just looked hot enough to burn; maybe there was no real danger to the walkers; maybe the powerful lessons of the firewalk all rested on essentially faulty evidence.
Gradually, my doubts were burned away. For at times the experience of firewalking is not so simple, nor joyous, and can in fact hurt a lot. The coals are hot enough to burn. All that I have witnessed around so many fires has led me to conclude that the deciding factor — Will I burn or will I not burn? — is in some way a function of my individual consciousness. Sometimes I am burned, and sometimes not, and the difference lies somewhere and somehow within me. To some extent, I can consciously affect the outcome.
This is a radical conclusion for Western culture and an abrupt departure from classical scientific thought, with profound implications. My purpose in writing is to explore these implications in depth, with the firewalk serving as a central sounding board, a data-rich example of humans interacting with their environment in non-ordinary ways.
Firewalking is quite special in that it is a somewhat controllable physical demonstration that sheds light across a wide spectrum of human studies. The act of walking on fire imparts lessons in walking through all of life — lessons in biology and psychology, lessons in ecology and theology, lessons in taking risks, lessons in group dynamics, lessons in singing, dancing and breathing, lessons in the conscious co-creation of reality. Most urgently, firewalking is a model for the positive experience and expression of the energies of fear; Dancing with the Fire is a metaphor for living with spontaneity, joy and creative excitement during these troubled, fearsome times.
Through the special medium of human consciousness I can alter a primary relationship between fire and flesh.
I would like to see the firewalk become a common ritual — a community celebration — accessible to all who are drawn to its special possibilities. This is not, however, intended as a "how-to" for the would-be firewalker. Firewalking is potentially dangerous, and should only be approached w