Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Firewalkers" Season 2 Episode 3

The episode "Firewalkers" first aired on January 5, 1978 . It was written and produced by Norma Thorn.

Nimoy dives in with images of fire and hot coals. He tells us that the ancient custom of firewalking persists around the world. But the question of how it is done without causing harm remains. I guess, but is this really such a big mystery worthy of a 22 minute episode? Certainly there are still some unknowns with firewalking here in 2015, but I feel l like this phenomenon is not all that bizarre.

Nimoy gives an elementary school type overview of the positive effects of fire as well as the dangers. It is unknown where it began, but record of it exists in the Bible and in Hindu texts. It is still quite common in the modern world and seems to have one common denominator. The firewalk is only considered successful if the walker emerges unscathed. To prove that fire typically burns easily, Nimoy holds his hand to a flame and explain how easy it is to burn skin.

How do firewalkers expose themselves to these hot coals without burning? Nimoy reminds us some skeptics insist a trick is involved, but he says evidence suggests there may be another explanation. We are introduced to psychologist Sydney Walter who has spent time studying firewalkers in Asia. He believes a type of hypnosis or mediation is key to avoiding the effects of the burning coals. He says they are able to disassociate from what their senses are experiencing.

What follows are some experiments conducted by Walter. This shows people can block pain out of their mind. This is not news and quite well known. As Nimoy asks, however, it may block pain but can it stop blisters and burned skin?

We are now taken to the village of San Pedro Manrique in the Northwestern part of Spain. Each year in June the village has a festival and a firewalk to honor a Saint. Both Christian and pre-Christian symbolism are a part of the festivities around St. John's Day.

Nimoy explains the connection between pagan customs and Christian traditions. A bonfire ushers in the night, followed by enthusiastic crowds. The fire bed is in excess of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The first walker is chosen and meets great success.

The Spanish villagers believe it is faith that protects them. What exactly it is, is still unknown and not everyone agrees. Now to India, where Nimoy suggests many believe the answer to how to avoid the burns lies in the "mystical" teaching of the East. Ganja White, who is trained in the teachings of Yoga, discusses how the body can be controlled by the mind. He is known as King of Yogis and has personally walked on fire. He spends a few minutes talking about energy and spirit and some other things that are not easy to follow. He suggests a type of energy serves as an insulator between skin and the colas. Nimoy goes so far to suggest that it can be photographed through a technique called Kirlian Photography.

Ganja White demonstrates how using Yogi techniques, people can do things they thought were impossible. The example is lifting a person with just your fingers. I think physics plays a larger role than mysticism, but they believe. Now on to to Indonesia where Nimoy draws comprsions  to the Hindu faith. The firewalking in Indonesia is very similar to what one sees in India. We are shown a Shaman entering into a trance.

We are shown the whole ceremony which includes lots of sinigng, dancing, and chanting. In the end, the Shaman walks through the fire unscathed. It is believed that this act purifies the village.

Now we meet Dr. Gerald Flagan (?) (can't tell what the last name is). He is a well known San Francisco surgeon who traveled to the South Pacific and participated in a firewalking ceremony. He seems to believe that parapsychology is a big part of the firewalking success. He tells us his background in science made him skeptical and a good judge of what was happening. He talks about the eloquence of the performance and how the mood seemed to have an effect on his mind and body. He went from being skeptical to being confident that he coud do it. He says that while walking on the coals he felt intense heat from his knees up, but cold from his knees to his feet. He is now a firm believer that firewalking is real and something paranormal is involved.

"According to legend, firewalking was practiced even more extensively than it is today. But no legend reveals the answer to the ultimate mystery. How and when did this bizarre custom begin? What could have compelled so many people at such far reaches of the world to pit themselves against one of nature's most awesome and terrifying elements? Although a definitive answer may never be found, there is a startling piece of evidence that points to a radical new explanation." All of a sudden, my curiosity is provoked! It turns out that those areas where firewalking is popular tend to correspond to volcanic activity. Perhaps people were trapped by lava and those who survived found a way to cross the lava safely and they attached some religious significance and divine providence to it? Its an interesting theory and it makes a lot of sense!

This episode was ok. Not as bad as the last one, but it wasn;t creepy at all and not even all that much of a mystery. I like the big reveal of the possible connection to volcanoes to explain the rise of firewalking, but that feels like interesting historical analysis and not really a creepy mystery.

You can watch this episode "Firewalkers" below.

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