Pyrokinesis- Lighting a Fire under this Urban Legend

A Young Drew Barrymore in Stephen King's Firestarter

Stephen King has done well to ignite the imaginations of people the world over, his books and movies have become the stuff of nightmares for so many people, and one of his most popular titles brings undue credibility to a potentially dangerous phenomenon; Firestarter introduced pyrokinesis to popular culture.

The term pyrokinesis had never been used prior to the release of his film, though there were antecedents to Drew Barrymore’s character, none had been as glamorous and believable as the pretty young Charlie McGee.

In spite of what may seem possible with the special effects of Hollywood’s great film makers, mainstream science has declared pyrokinesis to be a physical impossibility.  Even well respected parapsychologists (who might be prone to believe in some fairly weird stuff) have claimed the mental manipulation of fuels sources to create ignition, flame and/or explosion is far fetched at best.

Nevertheless, many people hold a steadfast belief in their own ability to create flame with the power of their mind.  As with any other subject, doing a quick internet search, one can find simple meditative instructions for pyrokinetic abilities.  These instructions are eerily similar to one another, and typically call for one to learn the art of dousing flame with one’s mind prior to learning to ignite (a safe bet to be sure).

Below we will dissect these instructions, and try to provide either a basis for continued study, or sufficient reason to call pyrokinesis a “debunked myth”.

Pyrokinesis has been accused of being responsible for many reported cases of spontaneous human combustion(SHC), though, as with so many other unexplained phenomenon, the truth is often much more bland and believable, which is why so many continue to believe in both pyrokinesis and SHC.

Essentially what we’re talking about in pyrokinesis, is the excitement of molecules within the matter of whatever object we intend to ignite, through the use of mental intention only.  No other fuel sources, dousing sources or ignition sources are used to create heat, spark and flame, and subsequently to extinguish the flame.  Unfortunately, any purported Pyrokinetic (a person with this ability), must be able to prove that it is in fact their mental ability causing a reaction, and not some ancillary resource or element.

A.W. Underwood, a 19th century African-American who achieved some fame for his alleged pyrokinetic abilities and the only person with this ability to submit to scientific testing (which was admittedly low in standard at the time), was eventually discredited, as it was believed he used a small amount of phosphorus to ignite the objects he focused on. (Phosphorus ignites at a much lower temperature than other material, approximately 30◦ Celsius or just above normal body temperature)

In spite of this kind of scrutiny, the practise continues within pagan and Wiccan circles, as well as in other mystical religious sects, and is usually associated with some form of ritual meditation.

The ability to control flame is considered an advanced mental ability in the category of psiosis, and those who are interested in learning pyrokinesis techniques are urged to do so in stages, beginning with flame dancing and dousing.  As mentioned, here are the instructions for testing your own pyrokinetic abilities:

Copied from (atrocious spelling and all)

“Pyrokinesis The Ability Over Fire Pyrokinesis is one of my favorite abilities. It is the ablity over fire. This is an advanced skill, and can be dangerouse to others around you if you don’t have controll over it. The key to Pyrokinesis is focusing on what you want the flame or fire to do, and willing it to happen. Here I have listed a few ways to develope and increase you pyrokinesis skills.

The best way to develope and train your Pyrokinesis skills is a technique called the dancing flame. Get in a relaxed position, and grab a match. Light the match on fire and focus on the flame. Create a “tunnel” between you and the flame. Now visualize the flame going out. You must be focusing on only the flame. With enough will power, and hard concentration, the flame will go out. Putting a flame or fire out is the easiest part of Pyrokinesis. Making the flame or fire relight is the hard part. Once you can make the flame burn out, Focus on the flame relighting. After a few weeks of doing this, you will notice that once the flame is out, you will be able to see the ember start to turn red again as though it wanted to relight. Once you practice enough, it will relight. This is the easiest way to develope and train Pyrokinesis. This techique DOES WORK!! I started out a year ago by practicing the dancing flame, and now I can make a decent sized fire dim down and go out just by a wave of the hand. Then I can relight small parts of it.”

It doesn’t take an expert in statement analysis to recognise that there is a slight bit of information lacking in this instruction.  I have yet to try this, and likely never will, but I invite anyone who has tried it, whether successfully or not, to contact me.  I’d very much like to know if anyone has had any verifiable success in creating, controlling or dousing a flame with their mind.

I suspect I will be waiting a while.

In any event, the lack of credibility that so often goes along with this sort of meditative exercise in quackery, does so much damage to the mainstream scientific investigation of real psychokinetic or PK phenomenon; and even if that weren’t true, the potential danger involved in this one warrants telling anyone who might try it, to go find something better to do.

Despite my obvious slant toward the sceptical side of this argument, I do believe there are mental abilities available to us, as a species, that we haven’t yet accessed on any large scale, though I doubt pyrokinesis is one of them.

Now please excuse me while I take a moment to check my smoke detectors and fire extinguishers…just in case.

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