In 1988 I attended a seminar given by Anthony Robbins in Virginia Beach. The first night we walked on fire. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. It was also a turning point for me in understanding that there could be times when the known, traditional laws of physics did not apply.

212 People attended. I was the last person to try it. It was Friday night. Four lanes of mesquite wood were burning - red coals with a blue glow rising above, just right for a Bar-B-Que!

First Tony scared the crap out of us, inside the building. "What do you think could happen to you out there?!" Yep, you could trip and fall and get COAL FACE! You could catch your hair on fire! You could be the ONLY one who gets burned! You could be in a hospital for months!

Why would we do such an apparently stupid thing? To push the limits? Actually Tony saw this as a goal setting exercise.

First you set your goal. You are going to walk about 12 - 15 feet on burning coals to a group of friends who are cheering you on. Waiting to hug and yell. (Tony is from California).

You are going to gather together your resources and take firm sure steps toward your goal. You do not run, because you could slip and fall. You do not stop in the middle. When you reach your goal, you celebrate!!

I watched 211 people walk on fire. No one was injured. I looked at their feet. NO burns. No blisters. Old people. Young people. All kinds of people. But I was just not going to do it! Until I thought, what will you feel like when you get back home and you did not even try?

So I found myself in front of the coals. I hesitated. Did I mention there were African drummers beating out frantic rhythms? I stood there feeling the heat. Tony gently slapped me on the back and I stepped forward. Instantly I felt I was in the middle of an illusion. There was no sense of heat. It felt like my bare pale, shaking, feet were walking on popcorn. Each foot contacted these coals 4 or 5 times.

When I got to the end, the waiting people grabbed me, screaming, celebrating, hugging. I felt cold liquid as they washed the burning embers from my feet and ankles with a garden hose.

That night I met a physics professor from Princeton. He was amazed. He said there was no scientific explanation. He said we should have been burned. The hair was burned off my legs midway up to my knees, but there were absolutely no burns or blisters, my skin did not even look sunburned.

We did not walk though any kind of protective solution. We just took off our shoes and socks and walked on fire.

It remains a mystery today for me. I have done the firewalk several more times. Each time a terrifying experience. Two of the walks in Hawaii were 50 feet. I felt a little warm, but no burns.

I am not sure there is a rational explanation. But I am asking. Does anyone know what happens when we walk on fire?

EDITED It has been said that this is not a supernatural experience because audiences with little or no metepahysical knowledge have done it. As I understand it in Fiji, it is a common occurance where the fire-walking "priests" invite the audiance to follow them. I supposed that "nothing" is really supernatural.

However something did happen, as I put each foot down in burning coals 4 or 5 times, with no sensation of heat. BUT I have hurt these very same feet walking on a hot beach, or stepping on a stil buring cigarette.

Uri Geller bent spoons (maybe), one time he went to Japan and did a demonstration for children. Within a short period of time many of the children were also bending spoons. They saw it happen, had little resistance to the idea and did it!

When we actually experience something unusual that someone else is doing, it changes our belief system, and others can do it.

For about 2,000 years, it was thought that man could not run a mile in less than four minutes. That record was broken by Roger Bannister in May of 1954. His record lasted less than 46 days and other athletes, once they released their resistance to the "four minute mile barrier" were able to do it also.

Could we levitate? Walk through walls? I believe that we could, and probably some people (who are not interested in publicity) are doing this. It would just take releasing some restrictive, resistant beliefs.

It is ONLY our default, automatic belief systems that empower or disempower us!

asked 09 Mar '12, 18:10

Dollar%20Bill's gravatar image

Dollar Bill

edited 02 Jan '13, 08:23

This could be a stupid question, lol. But: How do you find events like this? I mean, I've been to festivals with shows, but never something involving huge groups.

(09 Mar '12, 23:53) Snow
showing 0 of 1 show 1 more comments

Does anyone know what happens when we walk on fire?

I've never done walking on hot coals myself but, maybe because I have a fairly scientific background, I've also never seen it as much of a mystery that requires either a mind-over-matter or supernatural explanation.

In my mind, the feet of the walkers are not in contact for long enough with the coals to cause enough heat transfer to burn the feet. So, to me, it's more of a psychological illusion than something actually long as you keep walking steadily. So it's about overcoming your fears rather than breaking the laws of physics.

When two bodies of different temperatures meet, the hotter body will cool off, and the cooler body will heat up, until they are separated or until they meet at a temperature in between. What that temperature is, and how quickly it is reached, depends on the thermodynamic properties of the two bodies. The important properties are temperature, density, specific heat capacity, and thermal conductivity.

The square root of the product of thermal conductivity, density, and specific heat capacity is called thermal effusivity, and tells how much heat energy the body absorbs or releases in a certain amount of time per unit area when its surface is at a certain temperature. Since the heat taken in by the cooler body must be the same as the heat given by the hotter one, the surface temperature must lie closer to the temperature of the body with the greater thermal effusivity. The bodies in question here are human feet (which mainly consist of water) and burning coals.

Due to these properties, David Willey, professor of physics, says he believes firewalking is explainable in terms of basic physics and is not supernatural or paranormal.

Firewalking, Wikipedia

I did once attend a Mind, Body, Spirit festival where the "performer" attempted to demonstrate his own "mind over matter" abilities by walking over a stage littered with broken glass.

The result?

He managed to badly cut his feet, which were heavily bleeding, and he was carried away, presumably for medical treatment - not the most convincing demonstration of "mind over matter" I've ever seen :)


answered 09 Mar '12, 23:15

Stingray's gravatar image


This would be my first response as well, but it doesn't explain the people who stand on coals, or jump on them.

Regarding the glass, that's unfortunate. I saw a performer on the pier in San Francisco who not only walked slowly on glass without trouble, freshly broke a few new bottles in the pile and walked on them, then proceeded to jump off of a step ladder and land on the glass. It was creepy. =P

But he told me his explanation was simply [lotsa] training and technique, nothing supernatural.

(09 Mar '12, 23:23) Snow

@Snow - The people who stand on coals are doing something different in my view, something along the lines of directing "chi" energy within the body. But the questioner here is asking about the masses who are doing firewalking and I don't see anything supernatural about that. Put it this way, if any average ordinary person who knows nothing about metaphysics can do it then it's hardly likely to be something that defies the laws of our physical reality :)

(09 Mar '12, 23:37) Stingray

An excellent point! I didn't understand that you were distinguishing between one and the rest, I thought you were simply passing off the entire concept as a trick. And yes, I'd agree with your initial assessment as well as a likely possible explanation.

(09 Mar '12, 23:48) Snow

@snow and @stingray To me the word "supernatural" means that which is not yet understood in terms of present knowledge, or a different perspective and understanding of natural law. We all have our metaphors. Some people find it supernatural that we always find a parking place near our destination. Always! But you and I do not find it "supernatural." It is a matter of stretching belief systems and when stretched, these systems can not return to their previous limits.

(13 Mar '12, 06:48) Dollar Bill

Advanced science and technology is always seen as magic by those less advanced. I have seen a Micronesian shield that had the "Phantom" comic figure on the front, hopefully to give the shield holder Phantom power. The same shield had a front license plate from an armored military vehicle, presumably to give the shield bearer invulnerability. Both the Phantom and the military vehicle were considered "magic" by the natives.

Magic and supernatural are viewpoints. Not Law-breakers.

(13 Mar '12, 06:55) Dollar Bill
showing 2 of 5 show 3 more comments

It was about 1990 when I did the fire walk with Tony Robbins in San Diego. (Later I got a kick out of the movie "Shallow Hall" in the scene where Hall was stuck in the elevator with Tony. When Hall shook Tony's hand, he exclaimed, "Wow, that's like shaking a bunch of bananas!" It's TRUE! I stood on stage with Tony that weekend and shook that same hand. When I heard Hall say that, it all came back to me... it's TRUE! His hands are huge!) That Friday night there was probably about 600 of us in that big room in that hotel down at San Diego harbor all screaming and shouting and standing on our chairs. Then at the peak of our hysteria late that night, we all went outside and got in lines where there were probably a half dozen rows of hot coals waiting for us.

I remember standing back ten or twelve feet from the the first line I passed and could feel the heat coming off the coals. I could see the glowing embers fall from the shovels of the helpers as they stoked the lines with more hot coals from the wheel barrows. And when it was finally my turn to walk, I kept repeating "Cool Moss" over and over as I tramped across those coals. And at the other end I yelled "POWER!" as I stood there and they sprayed water to wash my feet. I also walked on broken glass with Marshal Silver, a hypnotist in San Diego and I broke boards in Los Angles with Tad James, an NLP trainer from Hawaii and I loved every one of those experiences!

Yes, fire walking has been investigated to death by all kinds of people who want to find the "the real reason" people don't get burned when they walk. It's natural to want to try to figure it out. The first thing any kid does with an old clock is tear it apart to see what makes it tick. It's our natural curiosity to want to understand the unusual. And just about everyone who comes up with an answer makes sure it fits their paradigm of the world. Why? Because it's also natural to be suspicious of anything that does not fit.

Yes, we can all walk on fire. But what if that night Tony had you walk through a solid wall? Just think of the implications! Consider the scale of the impossible. As you go up that scale, it gets scarier. What if people really could levitate? Or even fly? What if voodoo is real? What if the world of Harry Potter is real and we just can't see it? What if people really can "jump" to other realities and learn from their "other" selves. And what if the Matrix is real? Am I really being gullible to let myself believe there's a supernatural reason I can do something unusual or impossible? Ripley's Believe it or not is full of stories of people doing the impossible. And believe it or not, believing the impossible is precisely "why" one can DO the impossible!

For me, I prefer the magic in life. Science is wonderful and I love what the world of quantum physics has done for our understanding of the world because now, where understanding fails, believing can pick up where it left off and finish the impossible dream. But if all one wants to do is explain away the magic so they can feel a bit safer in their world, then I say "Be careful Vernon Dursley. Don't let what's apparent fool you. It's what's not apparent that will sneak up on you in a moment of "Magic" and shatter your safe little muggle world. BUHAHAhahahahaha!!!" ;-)


answered 10 Mar '12, 11:42

Rindor's gravatar image


@Wade Casaldi Check out the last 2 paragraphs of @Rindors answer . . . it's awesome. "For me, I prefer the magic in life." . . . I love it, Rindor! We all need some. It makes the impossible, possible. What's life w/o some magic?

(10 Mar '12, 18:06) ele

Perhaps science has debunked firewalking, perhaps not. It seems to me that most of the people who debunk, have not tried it. Sour grapes? Who knows? For me it opened possibilities I never thought about. Gave me confidence to try new things. It is all a metaphor anyway.

(10 Mar '12, 20:44) Dollar Bill

sorry I deleted my original answer; but it was the only way I could delete my last paragraph permanently. I replaced it with links & nearly all of them will give you the same answer.

original post

considering who Anthony Robbins is & the fact your bio says you are an Industrial Psychologist; I think you already know the 'scientific' theory as well as mystical explanations to your question. I'm confident; you have searched the internet for an answer.

To answer your question, yes, I have & witnessed it more times than I've done it. I know it's a combination of physics & state of mind; but actually prefer to believe an explanation which is more mystical/spiritual over the scientific answers..


Today, it is often used in corporate and team-building seminars and self-help workshops as a confidence-building exercise. Firewalking implies the belief that the feat requires the aid of a supernatural force, strong faith, or on an individual's ability to focus on "mind over matter".[2] Modern physics has largely debunked this however, showing that the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground is not enough to induce a burn, combined with the fact that coal is not a very good conductor of heat.[1]

After that there was not much attention paid to firewalking in Great Britain nor America until the early 1980s. At about the turn of the decade there was a resurgence of interest due to lucrative businesses promoting self-image and confidence boosting courses which relied heavily on people firewalking as part of the course; many of them are still in existence. Most of those making money from these ventures tend to portray firewalking as something in the realm of "mind over matter" and not something understandable in terms of simple Physics. There are others though who are skeptical and do not believe that it requires a particular state of mind, or that anything extraordinary, in the true sense of the word, is involved.

The following quote tends to resonate with me most:

**"Danforth, the Bates College anthropologist, said that scientific explanations do not "debunk or diminish or invalidate the value of the ritual."

"[Fire walking] can have the power to affirm one's life. It can change lives, give confidence, all kinds of things," he said."**

I had a friend, who recently passed who had a doctorate in Business Psychology & like you owned his own consulting business. He too was a man of science & religion.

in regard to my experience with fire walking. It was at a weekend spiritual retreat; one of many 'activities'. I considered it a mystical, enlightening & yes, a sacred ritual. It was referred to as the Four Paths of Fire. When we came out of the sweat lodge; we dropped our towels & our inhibitions & proceeded to walk over live coals naked. Now before you get the wrong idea; it was not a coven of witches or did it result in a wild orgy . . . so if you're thinking along those lines, stop; shamanic intention. I know fire walking has a scientific explanation & nearly anyone can do it; but for me, it was all about intention. (Don't you just hate it when someone bursts your bubble with science? - rhetorical question)

I tried to Google this; but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. Here are a couple links which will give you a general idea.


answered 09 Mar '12, 23:21

ele's gravatar image


edited 10 Mar '12, 18:01

I was going to put in the Myth Busters (I watched that episod) link but now that would be like over kill, wow you slamdunked this one Ele! :-)

(10 Mar '12, 12:45) Wade Casaldi

@Wade Casaldi Though it seems I have; my intention was not to debunk fire walking or diminish in any way, Anthony Robbins work.

I guess I was protecting myself before someone slam-dunked me.

Please check out my edit; I left off the first part of Danforth's quote. I tried to put it in bold print; but it's not working.

(10 Mar '12, 18:02) ele

@Wade Casadi I wish I never found out it was not magic because it did cast a shadow...

You may find this interesting, if you didn't check out my links --

There is even mention of it in the Bible: “Can a man walk on red-hot coals without burning his feet?” (Proverbs 6:28). The earliest known reference is from a 3400-year-old Indian story.

(10 Mar '12, 18:03) ele

@Wade Casaldi Thanks for the big " E "; it's pronounced Elle; but my name actually has only one " L ". It must be thought transference; because I've been thinkin' of editing my user name; but it doesn't look like I can. Thank-You my wise friend.

(10 Mar '12, 18:04) ele

We place no reliance in the Virgin or the Pigeon Our Method is Science, Our aim is religion.

(10 Mar '12, 20:41) Dollar Bill

@ele thank you so much for all the clarification When you say it's pronounced Elle, does that mean like this L-E or like just L? I have been pronouncing it more like L-E myself while Jai pronounces it more like L.

Yes knowing the science behind it is kind of like knowing the Wizard of OZ is just some old man hiding behind a curtian, or watching David Coperfield disapear an elephant and knowing how he does it. It is just not the same feeling anymore.

(10 Mar '12, 23:31) Wade Casaldi

@Wade Casaldi lol ! "clarification" . . . beginning to realize NOT too many people 'get' me. I love that you both try & it's really cool we respect & appreciate each other's views; though different at times. I was thinkin' Santa Clause & thanks to reading a few of your older comments/answers; I've finally found clarification to several unanswered questions I've always had.... Thanks! Perhaps we'll all meet in the Pocono's or North Woods someday..

(11 Mar '12, 03:34) ele

@Jai & @Wade Casaldi pronounced EHL; either L or L - E are fine. Ele means torch & torch means - well, you take your pick(s); & your choice may lead to another. See the entire page & you choose; doesn't matter if your choice is mine - it can be whatever you wish it to be

finally, it all came to a full circle tonight; thanks to your question & if you had not asked, I would still be searching for the last link or connection to it all. Thanks,again!

(11 Mar '12, 03:43) ele

@Dollar Bill hmm.... lol ! Aleister Crowley

I much prefer this quote:

"The joy of life consists in the exercise of one's energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means to simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal." --- Aleister Crowley

and here I thought you didn't appreciate my answer when you didn't up-vote it - lol !.

(11 Mar '12, 03:46) ele

@Wade Casaldi BTW, your anologies were much better than mine. My mind, like usual went in another direction. I thought of another one you said once, which also would be fitting (who pee'd in your oatmeal!) lol! hope I quoted you correctly or was it rice krispies?

(11 Mar '12, 04:05) ele

@ele and others. We all live in a world of illusion. If the illusion serves us, we call it useful. There does come a time when illusions become real to us in our world and we can build states of mind from them. "Debunking" does not change my view of what happened. It was magical to me and served me. I learned that my metaphor, my process could change dramatically if I saw other people do something I though impossible.

(11 Mar '12, 11:03) Dollar Bill

The Dayak in southern Borneo, Indonesia believe that morning dew is the "essence of their ancestors" coming to reinvigorate the earth. They place religious fabrics out before dawn to be filled with this essence. Works for them!

(11 Mar '12, 11:07) Dollar Bill

Lovely, Bill . . . thanks for sharing; the "essense" creates a very beautiful & vivid image.

Reminded me of Cedar. Many Native Americans believe the spirits of their ancestors reside in the sacred cedar trees. Unlike sage, cedar attracts good energy & if you place cedar leaves in the bottom of your shoes; only goodness will follow you. This was a daily ritual I did for years & it "worked for me". It's been awhile; but tomorrow in the rain, I will gather cedar.

(13 Mar '12, 02:55) ele


I used to send cedar to friends in parts of the country where cedar trees do not grow. Thanks for the reminder, Bill.....

(13 Mar '12, 02:55) ele

@Dollar Bill wasn't till I read your latest question (mind-meld) that I got it. We put the eddy in the river....

(15 Mar '12, 11:58) ele
showing 2 of 15 show 13 more comments

Max Freedom Long in the "Secret Science Behind Miracles" talked about the Hunas taking him for a walk on semi-molten, but still very, very hot lava. They took a stick and tapped the lava in front of them. When Long ask, was it part of the ritrual, they said no, we just want to be sure the lava crust is strong enough to support our weight.

He insisted that he wear his boots. They demurred, saying he was walking on the Mother's breast and should be barefoot. He wore his boots and burned the soles completely off them. The Hunas laughed as he was making his way back through the thorny jungle with no soles on his boots. But his feet were unharmed by the hot lava.

In my world, something happened that night and the other nights when I walked on burning coals. I learned a lot about myself and how I processed information. I gained enormously from the experience. I en-Joyed it!

Maybe the coals are not hot enough to hurt you, but I have stepped on a lit cigarette on the beach and it hurt!! A LOT! That was one step with one foot. I put both my feet down in hotter burning coals 4 or 5 times with each foot and was unharmed.

It was about removing self-imposed limits and understanding -- and tweaking -- my connection with my inner being. Something marvelous and momentous happened that night. And that, folks, was enough for me.


answered 10 Mar '12, 21:02

Dollar%20Bill's gravatar image

Dollar Bill

I'd swear I voted up both your answer as well as Rindor's the other night - guess my click didn't stick. It's glowing now.

Seems like you live a very joyful life, Bill! Lucky man....

(13 Mar '12, 02:43) ele

@ele thank you, I feel the joy comes from understanding and following the principles we are studying. This is simple. Adjusting our attitudes and belief systems may take a bit of effort, or maybe not.

I feel this IQ venue to be of immense value in understanding / integrating these principles into our lives. Glad I found it, or did I create it in my life? <grin> We do write the script of our lives, star in our own movie, direct, produce, cast other actors - and we are free to change the script!

(13 Mar '12, 07:04) Dollar Bill
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