FOES TURN UP HEAT Fire Walking Is Not So Hot, Skeptics of Seminars Say By Simon Fisher, Tr

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FOES TURN UP HEAT Fire Walking Is Not So Hot, Skeptics of Seminars Say ----------------------- By Simon Fisher, Tribune Writer ----------------------- A self-help guru offering personal-success seminars in Phoenix this weekend says he teaches people to believe in themselves enough that they can walk barefoot across a bed of hot coals. But firewalking is not such a mystical experience and the record should be set straight, says a group of skeptics. Phoenix Skeptics chairman Jim Lippard said almost anyone can walk across hot coals barefooted, and it isn't necessary to pay Anthony Robbins $125 for an evening or $495 for a weekend to learn how to do it. Lippard, an Arizona State University philosophy student and founder of the fledgling, 10-member group of skeptics, said his attendance at Robbins' seminar today will be the organization's first inquiry. Skeptics' groups worldwide investigate and attempt to find scientific explanations for such things as paranormal events, UFO sightings, and the predictions of astrologers. Lippard says he plans to hand out copies of articles explaining the firewalking phenomena at the seminar Friday evening at YWCA Leadership Development Center, 9440 N. 25th Ave. "We just want to let people know, to encourage people to think critically, and to make people aware of what the scientific explanation is," Lippard said. The Skeptics are not out to discredit Robbins, but the "mistaken interpretation" of fire walking puts the program in a questionable light, he said. Larry Prochazka, marketing executive for Robbins Research Institute in Phoenix, which promotes the seminars, said a firewalker needs the mental control Robbins teaches through "neurolingual programming" in order to walk on fire. "If you were to show up and say `I could do this, I just want to try it,' you could get seriously burned," Prochazka said. Firewalking is not the sole purpose of the program, but a "metaphor" for exercising specific skills to overcome fears of success, rejection, public speaking or whatever, he said. The goal is to instill the drive and confidence necessary to excel personally and professionally. The seminars in Phoenix are sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Business Journal. Prochazka said Robbins has also trained staff of the U.S. Army, Hughes and AT&T in recent years. "The whole purpose is not to teach people about fire walking," he said. "It helps them overcome the fearfulness, the nervousness that shuts off part of the brain. "You have to organize the brain in a certain way. Most people organize it in a limiting way," said Prochazka, who said he has done the fire walk several times. "Performance depends on communication with yourself." According to information Lippard provides -- an article written by physics professor Bernard Leikind, formerly of the University of California at Los Angeles, and UCLA psychologist William McCarthy -- fire walking is possible because of the conductive nature of the coals. The coals are poor conductotrs of heat, McCarthy explained in a phone interview Thursday, and the feet are not in contact long enough during the 10-foot walk to burn. ------------- Reprinted from the Tempe (Ariz) Daily News Tribune, 1 May 1987 ------------- POSTSCRIPT by Jim Lippard ------------- That evening, several members of the Phoenix Skeptics distributed flyers which explained the physics of firewalking to the seminar attendees, much to the dismay of the Robbins Research Institute. At one point, a woman asked me for a copy of our flyer only to have it taken from her hand by a Robbins staffer. We were asked to leave, so we stepped off the property and distributed flyers to people as they drove up. Larry Prochazka of the Institute then came out and spoke to us. He invited us to return later that evening to view the firewalking itself, but would not allow us to take part. This invitation was later withdrawn, apparently at the request of someone higher up in the organization. <<>> Entire article reprinted from Phoenix Skeptics News, Copyright 1987 The Phoenix Skeptics.

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