Leonard Feinberg PhD was a visiting Fulbright Professor to the University of Ceylon in 1956. While he was there he witnessed a major annual religious ceremony.
For three months, 24 hours a day, 80 people were strictly vegetarian and performed ritual worship and meditation on the god Kataragama. Their aim was to become so identified with the god that he would occupy their bodies, and enable them to walk a twenty foot fire pit without harm.
When the moment of truth came, Dr. Feinberg found it difficult to breathe within ten feet of the incandescent pit. He couldn’t stand near it either. To the beat of ritual drums the 80 people emerged from their preparation and walked the pit.
Twelve failed to finish. Eleven of them required long stays in hospital, and one was burned to death at the ritual. Sixty-eight were completely unharmed. You can read Dr. Feinberg’s account in the files of the Atlantic Monthly of May 1959. This ritual happens every year.
Gilbert Grosvenor was the Senior Assistant Editor to National Geographic. He was in Ceylon with his wife and crew when he heard about a fire walk about to be held in a nearby village and took the crew and cameras along.
Before the walk took place, Ed Lark, a team member, measured the heat with a pyrometer that he borrowed from the Ceylon Industrial Research Institute. It registered 1328° F. Nobody was hurt, and the main dancer crossed four times; twice with his small son on his shoulders. The crew got some good shots. They are in the April 1966 issue.
When I bring up this sort of incident in a discussion of how we make our own universe with our mind, and then live in it, my listener often tends to drop into a pseudo-scientific skeptical mode, and sneers at me for my gullibility.
They do the pseudo-science thing and point out, as if I was an ignoramus, this sort of thing: "Our bodies are over 80% water which boils at less than 250°F. Fat burns fiercely in an oven at way below 400°F. Therefore, fire walking is impossible."
This generates some heat in my usually placid persona and I reply that as a proud graduate of a school that specialized in turning out scientists, I knew that the FIRST thing a scientist does is OBSERVE a phenomenon. Then he or she works out a testable hypothesis to explain the phenomenon in accordance with known laws. Then experiments are done to test the hypothesis. That is science, and the method of science.
If the experiments show that the hypothesis cannot explain the facts then it is the hypothesis that must be changed, NOT the facts. The facts are primary. The fire-walking was a fact. It has happened every year for generations. The hypothesis that people cannot ever walk on fire without burning is incomplete and needs to be modified to accommodate the fact that people do this every year in some places, and can even take courses in fire walking in this country, run by people like Tony Robbins.
What usually happens after my minor eruption about the purity of the scientific method is that the listener says that the fire walking was not a scientific experiment so it doesn’t count as science. I have to mention then that apples fell off trees forever, and it wasn’t Newton’s work that made the falling of apples a fact of science.
As far as I’m concerned the fact that such rituals are held every year, and have been for centuries in some places, is sufficient to fulfill the repeatable experiment condition for experiments to count as science.
Actually the question of whether such things occur is closed. Only the ignorant and uncomfortable still debate ‘whether they happen’ as a matter of conjecture. In 1935 when I was young and Britain still had an Empire, the Society for Psychic Research in Britain imported a couple of ascetics from India, to test the whole matter scientifically.
These gentlemen were always in the required mental and spiritual state, and needed no special preparations. For several WEEKS the Indians walked fire pits according to whatever conditions the scientists proposed. The tests were observed and monitored by the physicians, chemists, physicists and psychologists of Oxford University. At all times the top surfaces were 450°-500°C, that is, in the region of 900°F, and the subsurface was 1400°C, which is above the melting point of some metals.
The most significant part of the tests occurred when one of the ascetics sensed the longing and intense interest of one of the professors of psychology. The ascetic stepped into the pit, held out his hand, and told the professor that he could do it too, if he took off his shoes and socks, and held onto the hand.
The professor immediately did so, and walked the pit in ecstasy, holding the hand of the real authority on fire walking … someone who could do it, and demonstrated that as a fact. He also demonstrated that it was his attitude of mind that altered the way the universe reacted to him. Skeptics telling him that fire walking was fake wouldn’t get very far. He could go directly into their psychological mechanism of denial.
Now the objector who says that the body is 80% water and raises other objections, speaks true of the usual way things work because of our mental conditioning, and learned agreements about reality.
But similar objections were made by scientists who were not witnesses, when children all over Britain watched Uri Geller, on TV, bend a spoon by stroking it. Hundreds and hundreds of British children rushed to the cutlery drawer, took out spoons and did just that. Some of the younger children at the school where I taught did that.
At the University of Manchester many were tested under laboratory conditions. Some could twist spoons enclosed in plastic, into spirals. Others effortlessly folded the bowl of the spoons and creased them with their seven year old hands. It is a, fact that these things occured, and all the reasons why they can’t happen are given by people like the Great Randi who cannot bear to change their hypothesis. Facts are primary.
But how can such off-the-wall things occur? One clue came from the world authority on child development, Joseph Chilton Pearce. He pointed out that the people who walked fires where he was a regular visitor in India, often took their children along too, to watch.
Those children had role models that showed them in ACTION what was possible, whereas our children are taught by WORDS that such things are impossible, or too dangerous to attempt. Young children can swim almost at once after birth. I know personally some children who could swim before they could walk. Years later, before they can learn to swim, the average child often has to unlearn the programming put into them by the anxious parents who kept them away from deep water.
What the conscious mind accepts, the subconscious causes to become a law in the life that contains the belief.
Use an orthodox Tarot deck and lay out the Magician, High Priestess and Empress in a triangle. That is a visual illustration of this law of life to those who can see.
Pearce has done some amazing work all over the world. Yes, he can bend spoons and walk fires. He has come to the disturbing conclusion that we implant in our children, by age seven, our world and all its limitations and comfort zones. It’s called "bringing up children."
Children who are not thus limited by being raised to the limitations of their parents can do things that the parents can’t do, and couldn’t dream of being able to do. Read Pearce’s Magical Child, Magical Child Matures, Evolution’s End, and anything else by this master investigator.
One of the more powerful affirmations that I give some consultees who are word people is this… I am willing to grow beyond the limitations of my parents. Some miracles have occurred in their lives.
Just imagine for a moment what the world could be like if nobody in a child’s world was a nay-sayer, before the age of seven. What amazing mental and spiritual talents our unlimited children might have. Do what you can to avoid limiting the young with your own tendencies and inhibitions, and see what happens.