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Record Type: Review   ID: 833

Firewalking: A New Look at an Old Enigma

Vilenskaya, Larissa, & Steffy, Joan

The authors survey the history of fire immunity and review the theories that have been offered to explain it. The authors' first-hand experience (Vilenskaya is a firewalk instructor) and their research (Steffy) has led them to view firewalking as a preparadigmatic experience, which means it is an exceptional human experience. Steffy found that "many participants believe that firewalking has helped them to transcend the limitations of their previous beliefs" (p. x). In the Introduction, Stanley Krippner asks whether firewalking today is simply a fad or whether it "will become a metaphor and an avenue for personal and social transformation" (pp. x-xi).

The book incorporates the approaches of the two authors. It begins with a review of the extant literature and Vilenskaya's experiential approach. The second part presents the study the authors conducted. The first chapter consists of reports of firewalking by Vilenskaya and others. Vilenskaya then shares what she has learned about the symbolism of light and fire in ancient and modern spiritual teachings. Chapter 2 is on fire immunity throughout ancient and modern history, including eyewitness testimony, controlled studies, rituals and other factors involved in preparing for firewalking, firewalking workshops, and psychological effects of firewalking. The third chapter reviews existing hypotheses, and the fourth tells how to learn to walk on fire. It is based on Vilenskaya's experiences in becoming a fire instructor and observations of firewalking in Greece. Part Two is "An Investigation of the Changes Perceived by Individuals After Their Firewalking Experience." Both intensive interviewing and questionnaires were employed. There were 40 respondents. A long chapter summarizes the responses, and it closes with another chapter on what the investigators learned.

Publisher Information:Falls Village, CT: Bramble Company, 1991. 253p. Bibl: 229-246; Chap. bibl: 215-228; 2 illus; Index: 247-253; 17 tables
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