Oral dowsing

In this article (extracted from a longer one) from the early journals of the BSD, a member, Dr J. A. Simpson Emslie, applies his medical expertise to assert that dowsing reactions are purely a result of reflex actions. 


He says that normally the brain controls these, but during dowsing, this control is relaxed, permitting the dowser’s experience. He goes on to make the claim, but it is not clear how this is substantiated, that he knew two dowsers who had suffered damage to those nerves that control reflex actions. The resulting loss of control meant that their dowsing reactions were very much more exaggerated.

He points out that a dowsing reaction can be obtained with one’s tongue, “…if it held midway between the roof and the floor of the mouth. You will find that the reaction will make it rise towards the palate.” What me might refer to as “Oral dowsing”, was the subject of  a very interesting study into the dowsing effect, undertaken at Guy’s Hospital, London, by a Dr Lintott. It was entitled “Some observations on so-called water divining” and published in Guy’s hospital gazette, June 24; 1933. A summary of the work was published in the first BSD journal:  No1 p9-10

The study involved recording the changing tension in the jaw muscle of the subjects as they traversed a water pipe. This was achieved by having the subject hold a rubber bulb in their mouth! Interestingly, “all the experiments were carried out in a strong spirit of scepticism and under critical observation, and, where possible, control experiments were made.”

It was found that the subjects fell into three groups: 1) those who were completely insensitive; 2) those for who had some sensitivity, but this could vary over time; 3) those with constant and marked sensitivity. In addition, they noticed how the subjects’ attention was important, suggesting “some action of the higher cerebral centres” which prevented them from “tuning in”.


In conclusion, many dowsers would most likely agree with the Doctor and a lot of evidence seems to support this. However there are some documented instances of what appears to be psychokinetic influences at work. This will be the subject of a future post.  

That dowsing feeling

In this article the author, wants to make the point that the diviner is not passive, but an active agent. He appears to be self-taught dowser, with a “natural” dowsing ability, or sensitivity which extended to the ability to “feel” the presence of what he searched for. He was seeking a theory to account for his experiences, but that alluded him. However, some of his personal observations are of interest. For instance, he was able to feel “belts” of influence adjacent to underground streams. This I take to mean that he could feel the presence of the so-called “parallels” running next to streams. He could also “feel” underground water down to 2000 feet.  He primary observation was that he could direct his attention to whatever he sought thereby filtering out all other influences. This he was able to distinguish between multiple streams which might lie under each other. Using his directed consciousness, he seems to be one of the first dowsers to have developed a countdown method of depthing underground streams. A method quite common today. Practice and familiarity with environment he was working in seemed to be both important.

“A water divining theory” by Rev. H. W. Lea-Wilson:


How long is a piece of string?

Here is an article entitled. “The point depth method” by Elvan:


In the earlier years of BSD, members were often keen to improve the practices using in dowsing. Once such invention was “the point depth method” devised in 1936, by Major R. Creyke, (a.k.a. Elvan), who has been described as “an extremely painstaking and reliable English amateur dowser”. This was a new and simple method to find the depth of underground streams through dowsing.

It appears that the method was at least inspired by an earlier method devised by the French dowse M. Probst. This fellow seems to have been motivated by the idea that underground water emitted some form of electromagnetic radiation and he called his device the “radio-capteur”. It comprised a simple metal spike, rounded at one end, and pointed at the other, which was then stuck into the earth. The curved tip which remained protruding above the ground, was placed between the poles of a horseshoe magnet mounted inside a box. A wire was then attached to the box and, isolated from the earth by a series of stakes topped with porcelain fixtures, extended in a straight line away from the spike.

To quote from the book “Divining” by Christopher Bird, (M&J publishing Group, London 1980 ), “Probst considered that ‘waves’ emitted from an underground water source or metal ore deposit were in some way “captured” by the spike and, assisted by the magnetic field, propelled along the wire. A dowser would then straddle the wire and frog-walk along it until he got a reaction. The length of that portion of the wire from the ring to the spot between his feet was supposedly equivalent to the depth of the water vein or any other object being sought. Deeper water veins would be ascertainable further along the wire.”

Probst’s approach however was quite unwieldly and Creyke’s method was much simpler to use. He retained some elements of the original idea. He used a thin Mumetal rod (Mu-metal is a nickel-iron soft ferromagnetic alloy), and a wire connected to this rod, but now with no insulation between wire and ground. The road was inserted in the ground, immediately over an underground stream. The dowser then simply walked along the direction of the wire with their back to the spike, until they obtained reactions with their chosen dowsing device. The distance at which these reactions occurred, measured from the rod gave the depth of features relating to the stream.  In his original account, he makes no reference to e.m. radiation, but he asserts that Mumetal gave a better dowsing response than a copper rod.

However, at a later time, the self-appointed scientist to the BSD, Cecil Maby, in his book “Physics of the Divining rod” (Bell & Sons Ltd. London, 1939), concluded that all kinds of metal rod gave satisfactory results. For instance, he had successfully employed the method with iron, steel, brass, copper and zinc rods. He also made the observation that then longer the ‘point’ rod, the stronger the depth reactions. The difference between the experience of Creyke and Maby is interesting. It may suggest that unconsciously, or otherwise, Creyke considered the dowsing effect dependent on magnetism in some way. It was not uncommon at this time, or even today, for dowsing to be associated with magnetism in some manner.

Creyke cites several examples of actual depth estimates made in the field and how they related to the actual depth of water in the final bore hole, with quite remarkable accuracy. Some other interesting points are noted. While following his method to depth a stream, he was able to block out any reactions from nearby parallel streams, which one might consider would interfere with the process. This tuning in ability, seems to rule out any physical explanation as to the effect. Instead it rather appears that the dowser is mentally programming their reaction, although apparently on an unconscious level,  to coincide with what they seek, The wire simply acts as a prop, or aid, to focus the mind on the distance to the object dowsed. The material of the wire, the magnetism is being irrelevant. In principle then, it seems no different from map dowsing, where the map is represents the reality of the area being searched.

However, the article contains a final interesting observation. It describes how he introduced his method to a seasoned water diviner, who himself had no reliable way to estimate the depth of underground streams accurately. Although not familiar with Creyke’s method, it worked for him unintentionally, which on the face of it, appears to contradict the idea of unconscious programming. But in this case, the old dowser was being watched by Creyke, and there is the possibility that the former was being influenced unconsciously by the latter. This has been shown to be possible. It is difficult to say. Futhermore one could speculate on more radical possibilities. Perhaps the idea of the point depth method, once conceived of by Creyke, (or for that matter of Probst), might itself be capable of directing unconsciously the dowsing actions of dowsers, who otherwise have no conscious knowledge of the idea. (Well it’s just a speculation).

The Single handed rod

This article was written at the time the forked Y-shaped rod was universally used in dowsing. Here the author lists some of the virtues or otherwise of this device, for instance noting that it is particularly valuable when dowsing in a car! But when dowsing for long periods of time, it seems the Y rod is tiring to use. Today L-rods have become the main device for field dowsing, but before their “discovery”, other methods were adopted. One such is introduced here as the “singe handed rod”.

Essentially this is a traditional walking stick with curved handle. The stick is held in a state of unstable equilibrium. When the dowsing reaction occurs, the stick rotates around its long axis, thereby providing two possible reactions, just as with a forked Y rod.

The author also describes briefly how he conducts his dowsing. To begin he often using a sample of the object sought, a method characteristic of this period.

He was obviously a dowser experienced in locating water and minerals and describes how he estimates the properties of what he seeks.  For the flow rate of underground water, he asks whether the stream is the width of something familiar to him, eg the width of a finger or arm. And for coal seams he counts upwards in some unit of length, until a reaction occurs, yielding an estimate of the seam thickness.

For estimating the depth of water, he uses two methods. One is counting, imaging increasing depth, until a reaction occurs. For the other, he uses the “Bishop’s rule”, but with a difference. First, he finds centre of stream, then walks out to the “first parallel” reaction. (see blog post 03-04-2020). For most dowsers the distance between the two is a direct estimate of the stream depth, but for the author it represents only half the depth. This is a small but very interesting observation. In my reading of the BSD journals I have only encountered one other dowser who has reported this, Dr Arthur Bailey, writing 50 years later. But the implication of this exception to the rule, seems to be that the dowsing is not reacting to a something physical at the parallels, but to something else, more like an unconscious presumption about the significance of the parallel reaction.

This is just another example of how the dowsing reaction to what is sought can be “programmed”, by with respect to its meaning. This filtering may be attuned either consciously, or unconsciously, with the dowser being unaware they are influencing the results.

The article is: “The single-handed rod” by Hans Falkinger


Some dowsing methods

This short article was written by an Australian dowser and describes a few dowsing practices he has observed in use there over his 30 years as a dowser. It seems that the L shaped dowsing rod, made by bending a length of wire through ninety degrees, seems to have been in common use there, although sometimes of unusual shape. It was common at that time to use samples while dowsing and the dowser might suspend a sample form the end of the rod, but as he points out, it does not matter where the sample is located. It is simply an aid to the unconscious mind. Interestingly he mentions the more common practice of asking a “direct question”. Thi is clearly a time of transition in dowsing practice.

He is inclined to think that the dowsing reaction has a physical basis but works through the unconscious and makes reference to William Barret’s conclusion in his book the Divining Rod. Note also that he describes the reaction lines that lie parallel to the course of the underground stream and he finds that the distance from the centre of the stream to the parallels is a direct estimate of the stream’s depth. (See the post on 22-09-2020).

He thinks that dowsing is a “latent” ability in most people and he himself only managed to get a dowsing reaction with the L rod only through practice. But then not in all cases, since he finds that he can never obtain a reaction with a Y shaped rod. Is this an example of a subconscious mental block perhaps?

The article is by H. Busby, entitled “Some dowsing methods”:


Mr Tompkins – a famous English water diviner.

Mr Benjamin Tompkins, a water diviner, gives an account of his 30 years of practice. In it, he tells us that he assisted Sir William Barrett who wrote one of the first in-depth studies of dowsing the results of which were published as “The Divining Rod”. In this book, there is a short biography of Tompkins, in which he is described as one of the successful professional English dowsers of the early 20th century. He came to dowsing purely by chance, having observed the work of another famous dowser named Mullins, and without any tuition, it seems that he had instant success. This led him to advertise his services and he received many engagements in most parts of the country, and as far afield as South Africa. His list of patrons is very long and impressive.

He appears to be firmly of the opinion that water radiates some signal, relating to its presence, which enters his body through his feet. Perhaps this was because he felt the dowsing effect like a “current” passing through his body. He must also have thought that this signal was electromagnetic in nature, since he asserts that insulation between the feet and ground stopped the dowsing action in him.

When attempting to locate the best position for a borehole, he utilised his observation  that several underground water courses, each of which he “felt” with the movement of his rod, would converge on to a point, that he termed the “head of the spring”. Interestingly, he notes that when he stood at this spot,  his (Y shaped) dowsing rod would continue to revolve in his hands (this is an effect noted by many dowsers in the literature). There must have been quite a force at play in the rod, since he seems to have a difficult time in preventing it from revolving. To me, this suggests the possibility of a psychokinetic effect on the rod.

He is a little vague on how he measures depth, it appears to rely on a feeling, rather than using any “rule”. Perhaps this is professional concealment? Regarding quantity, he seemed to estimate it by measuring the number and size of flows into the spring head.

Finally, he says that water diviners are born and not made, and asserts that his own family have better talent than most and indeed the effect on one of his sons seems truly overwhelming, suggesting a well-developed dowsing sensitivity.

His article is “The theory and practice of water divining by the divining rod”:


Dowsing in Arabia

This is a short, rather amusing account about the kind of practical dowsing that was common in the early journals of the BSD. (It contrasts sharply with the more “spiritual” accounts that one finds in more recent publications).

In the account, the author (a military man, many of the members of the early BSD were from the military) wanted to locate through dowsing, additional water supplies for the city of Aden in Yemen.

However, he was a self-confessed amateur, having dowsed for just one well in his own garden in England. But despite holding the rather singular theory, that the dowsing effect was aided by uric acid in the blood, and therefore believing that success would be enhanced by imbibing a considerable amount of whisky, he also held to the idea that: “The tyro who has induced self-confidence is more likely to succeed than he who is dubious of his abilities.”

Despite a struggle with the disbelief shown by his superiors, his amateur findings finally proved successful.

The article is “Dowsing in Arabia”, by Commander C. Craufurd


A Yoruba Dowser

It has been several weeks since my last post, but I intend to return to regular posting.

To begin with, I will take as my subject several articles which were published ini the very earliest of the BSD journals, back in the 1930s.

At that time, several members of the British Society of Dowsers lived and worked abroad, or example the Indian sub-continent and Arica. They wrote of their experiences for the BSD journal. Some of these accounts were of the actions of local dowsers, which gives an interesting perspective on non-European dowsing methods.

Here is an account of a water divining practice in Nigeria, by a member of the Yoruba people. Of particular interest is that the dowser does not use any dowsing device, but was able to give position and depth of the underground water. . After this, the dowser was seen to “’re-collect’ himself”, which hints at a sort of trance like state, during the dowsing practice. We cannot be sure, but perhaps the dowser could “see” the subterranean water. There are other instances of such ability mentioned in the BSD journals.

The article, can be found here:


From the ridiculous to the paranormal

In July 1993, the British society of dowsers celebrated the society’s diamond jubilee, international congress, in York. There were several guest speakers from around the globe. But one I think stands out. It was delivered by Michael Bentine. Older readers might recognise him as a British comedian, comic actor and founding member of the Goons. He was also keenly interested in paranormal, having psychic abilities himself, and knew many of the great psychics of the 20th century. Although this talk only makes passing reference to dowsing, apart from being amusing, it includes some wonderful vignettes, illustrating that some individuals at least, are able to transcend reality in in simply extraordinary ways.  

His talk, entitled “From the ridiculous to the paranormal”, is here: 


The use of lists

Two very active and popular members of the British Society of Dowsers were, until recently, the late Christopher and Veronica Strong. Very much modern dowsers, they used dowsing to make most of the decisions in their daily lives. The autobiography of Christopher Strong was entitled “Autobiography of a sceptical dowser”, (Penworth Press, 2016), although on reading, it is hard to detect any scepticism.

He found that dowsing pre-defined, structured, lists of questions when tackling certain types of problem, could be a great time saver. I have included a short extract from his autobiography, so you can read about this practice in his own words. They held consultations for the public, at the College for Psychic Studies in London. People would visit them asking for help or information. Prior to the meeting, he would consult a pre-meeting checklist, which is included here. Also, in his book, he gives an example of the use of a list, by describing their use when buying and selling a house. http://www.dowsing-research.net/blog_extracts/sceptical_dowser_strong_p61.pdf        

Are Earth rays really of the Earth?

Here is a short but interesting set of observations by a member of the BSD. While dowsing on board two different ships during separate cruises, he detected “harmful” Earth rays. These lines, approximately 45 degrees to the long axis of the ship, were in fixed positions, irrespective of whether the ship was sailing, or in port. The “frequency” of the lines onboard ship was about the same as the “Earth rays” he has dowsed on land. Needless to say, the dowser could make no sense of his observations.

Here he first notes his observations of the lines aboard ship, “Dowsing whilst on a cruise in the Mediterranean” by Peter Pengilly:


In this article he includes further comments and a diagram of the ship. He also sets a challenge to readers to trace the energy one themselves and provides his own results in the following edition, “Dowsing aboard ship” by Peter Pengilly:


His results:


Although only one dowser’s account, it is such exceptional occurrences that beg the question, just what is the nature of these so-called Earth rays? Are they really of the Earth, or are they more a product of the dowser themselves?

A Dowsing Fest

I have just be informed about this by the American Society of Dowsers,
about the FREE Virtual 2020 West Coast Dowsers Conference, now on-going…

It is the 2020 Virtual West Coast Dowsers Conference.
July 3 – 7, 2020,(Friday to Tuesday)
A 5 day, 24 hour a day extravaganza, on a computer or smartphone near you!


Apple faced old ladies

Another article by Dan Wilson, who we have met in recent posts. In this short article

“The Pure Source or the secret of apple-cheeked little old ladies”, in


He discusses the difficulty of errors in dowsing in a rather light-hearted fashion. He thinks that perhaps we can never get to the bottom of what causes problems in dowsing. He suggests that analysing why failure occurs, might actually prevent finding a solution. The psychology is too complex, and anyway, as he points out, we don’t really know anything about the nature of reality.

He reflects on a certain class of lady dowser and members of the British Society of Dowsers, whom he encountered when he joined the organisation in the 1970s. He recalls that their dowsing was never affected by talk or expectation of failure, which would have undermined their confidence. Consequently, he claims, they were always successful. He contrasts them with another class of member, mainly male, who were also successful, but only because they “walled off” areas which they knew from experience, did not work for them.

With these observations in mind, he suggests that to improve dowsing, one must give oneself permission to be “fallible, but in ways, which will not affect the accuracy of the dowsing response to our very next question.” And follow the way of the ACLOLs.

We find what we believe

In the recent history of the British Society of Dowsers, one of its more philosophical members was Dan Wilson. A very accomplished dowser specialising in the medical side of the art, he often wrote short articles, or simply letters challenging the accepted orthodoxy. 

In this letter, he is inspired to write to the Society following the Beadon cube controversy, the subject of the last blog post.


He mentions his review of previous articles in the BSD journal, during which we found an instance of another device, which like the Beadon cube, supposedly removed the ability to dowse. This was in an article by A. D. Manning, who for 20 years had used a rather elaborate looking device, constructed from copper coils (figure supplied), to protect some 2000 properties from “harmful rays”.


In the article, Mr Manning provides some examples of his practice and results. He was familiar with the work of Von Pohl, who was mentioned in the post of 06-05-2020. He ends by saying that harmful effects not only from underground steams but other influences. The effect is usually very narrow. (Contrast this with the finding of Dr Bailey, who says otherwise).

Enter Robert Leftwich, who was an extremely able dowser. It seems that he challenged another dowser, who also used a device akin to Manning’s to remove the ability to “neutralise” a stream, to perform his work; Leftwich, would then try and locate the same stream. This he did very easily, in addition, finding the stream’s rate of low, depth, and breadth.


In his article, Leftwich asserts that the neutralisation of harmful streams, or rays, is purely a mental faculty.

In his article, Dan Wilson highlighted how extraordinary this observation by Leftwich actually was. It is clear that Wilson was no fan of the idea of “rays”. But what was happening? His idea was to dowse the answer. Through his “concept dowsing”, he tried to dowse, through a process of iteration, for a system of language, or vocabulary, that might allow him to better understand things. But at the same time, he realised that the results of such an exercise could not be trusted as facts, but only as “clues”.

He derives four principal reason for why dowsers get the wrong answers. To be honest, these are difficult to decipher from his writings. In attempting to understand, the nuances are very likely to be missed. Here is my attempt:

1. Our understanding of how things are, affects our interpretation of dowsing results.

2. He introduces “perceptual consciousness”. This seems to be a group consciousness, of which the dowser’s own consciousness is a part, and it may, or may not be matched to the task in hand. He suggests (and elaborates on this in other writings) that situations have very long histories and the perceptual consciousness cannot always comprehend the extent of this history. For many quests, it is sufficient to be in touch with only the most recent part of that history.

3. He suggests that there are subconscious concepts (he terms them SLWOTs) which are used to interpret reality.  These reside in the group perceptual consciousness.  They can arise from various sources, for instance from our collective human experience, or some may be added by individuals. He has the idea of a “perceiving intelligence”, which is a group effect of each individual’s intelligence, and works to select out the concepts applicable to a given quest, which may be helpful or unhelpful.  Though he suggests that there are ways to abandon unhelpful ones.

4.The cultural framework of the dowsers can limit what questions they can pose. This can lead to them working with too many unhelpful concepts and gives rise to incorrect results.

Returning to the Beadon cube. There is the shared subconscious concept that the cube will remove the ability to dowse, but one group held another concept that the no-dowsing effect is not cleared using the cube.

Perhaps his thinking is best summed up (with the risk of over simplifying), by his statement that the whole affair was “… a case of unwitting self-hypnosis with the aid of subconsciously transferred belief patterns.” For which he recommends that “[one] stand aside for a moment and do your own thing.” Here he seems to side with Leftwich, suggesting that for a purely mental processes, no devices are necessary.

This brings us back to the post of 31-3-2020, and Dan Wilson’s letter, which is broadly saying that what concepts we think about, we can choose to make a reality.

The Beadon Cube controversy

In the mid-1980s, a controversy suddenly arose within the British Society of Dowsers. It had to do with Earth Energies and a new invention intended to aid their removal. Earth energies were becoming an increasingly important part of members’ interests. It might seem rather ludicrous to non-dowsers, how so much angst could be caused by something so seemingly trivial, but it illustrates how seriously some dowsers take such matters. In the end, the matter was rather cleverly side stepped by the Society, by referring the subject to the “sound” judgement of its scientific advisor, the same Dr Bailey mentioned in the post of 13-06-2020 on radionics. What he has to say on the matter is perhaps the most interesting part of the affair. However, I include all the published correspondence including Dr Bailey’s “report”, as it appeared in the following BSD Journal article, “De-raying devices. Report from the Editor”


A picture of the device is here:


The story began with two well-known dowsers of the time, who belonged to the “Worthing dowsers”, Geoffrey King and Wing Commander Clive V. Beadon. (There are a number of small dowsing groups within the UK, some of whom are affiliated with the British Society of Dowsers.) These two individuals had been working some time on a device to remove harmful Earth energies. The device, which became known as the “Beadon cube”, was constructed from Perspex, moulded from liquid methyl methacrylate, into which had been carefully placed a spiral of copper wire. (Later the device would include selected gemstones and become an octahedron.) The claim was that, if placed on a map, then one was unable to dowse within the area covered by the spiral, that is, find any of the things you would normally be able to dowse for, eg water or pipes. Apparently, it removed the dowsing “influence” of such things, rather than acting on the dowser themselves.

There was a good deal of excitement about this innovation, some considered it a “quantum leap” forward. However, there were others amongst the Worthing dowsers, who were concerned that the device might also have harmful effects. Rather than investigate themselves, and cause a potential split between the membership, they appealed to the BSD to setup a committee to test this device.

The BSD council was rather reluctant to do an investigation, because they felt the results would not be unequivocal. In an effort at compromise, they asked Dr Bailey to give his opinion. His repsonse begins on page 162.

Bailey acknowledged that although there is a lot of evidence for non-physical Earth energies, this was mainly derived through dowsing, and that “dowsing results only are no evidence at all”. However, his own experience was that “people and animals ARE influenced by things that are not scientifically measurable” [his capitals].  But the whole field was difficult to understand. In fact, he asserts that “it is the EXPLANATIONS that cause the problems” [his capitals]. He acknowledged that there are no radiations that can account for dowsing. All the terms for Earth energies were just “mind constructs”, and the dowsers using these terms often had no exact idea what is meant by these ideas. What was needed was some objective criteria, using dowsing first to find an influence, followed by an examination into whether people were being harmed or actually benefitting from the “energies”. He pointed to the instance of such practice in article by David Steven, in the posting: 16-06-2020 – Clearing energy lines.  

In his report, Bailey therefore stuck to the observed facts, as he understood them. These were in summary:

1/ People can be affected by the environment in which they live.

2/ It is possible to improve this environment. Devices appear to work, only because the operator is present and believes in them.

3/ The improvement is not auto-suggestion.

4/ It is possible to be influenced by the thoughts of another. So, it is no surprise if many people get the same results.

5/ One’s own beliefs and motivations affect one’s dowsing results. (A humble approach was best).

He concluded with the assertion, that it is the practitioner rather than the methods that is important, and he looks upon so called de-raying devices as merely “props”. What is more fundamental is the integrity of intention of the person investigating the problem.

Clearing energy lines

One application that seems particular to dowsing, is that of removing Earth energies, which are perceived to be detrimental to health. We have met these in earlier posts for example post: 06-05-2020 – Earth energies view from Europe. They are variously referred to as ‘black streams’, or “geopathic stress”, or some time even “ley lines”. They are considered to be responsible for a range of health conditions. A description is provided by the author of this BSD article, “Dowsing for the cause of certain illnesses”, by Herbert Douglas


Douglas has dowsed the bed rooms of a significant number of people, who had either cancer or arthritis. In all cases he finds underground streams crossing under the beds of the sufferers. The article has several photos of beds showing this phenomenon.

Many dowsers spend a lot of their time and effort making suitable interventions to block, divert or remove these energies. In the past, such an intervention was often referred to as de-raying, reflecting the idea that these energies were indeed energetic rays.  

In this article, published in 1985, in the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers, the author Michael Guest, who became an honorary life-president of the society, reviews the field at that time, in “Through Dowser’s eyes. A survey of deraying techniques”


In his article, Guest points out that for a long time, he was puzzled about the apparent dual natures of dowsing – physical and psychic. He finally rationalised the situation by viewing these explanations as being “twin aspects of an underlying unity”. He then proceeds through the various methods dowsers use across the spectrum, from physical to purely mental. At the physical end, dowsers use “devices” of various kinds, then there are physical actions, through to a simple action of intent to intervene, (even just using a map). It would appear that all these interventions are indeed unified through the act of intention. This is the simplest explanation; the use of devices is simply part of a ritual, a physical representation of the intent. The dowser believes that it is the device that is making an active intervention, or possibly it helps overcome any unconscious inhibitions. 

But what of the noxious energy lines themselves? There is a frequent attribution to underground water. Other dowsers mention geological rock faults, “ley lines” and Herbert Douglas even mentions lightning strikes.

The most common assertion though is an association with water, and this must be because the dowser is obtaining a reaction for water. However, there is very little written that shows any independent confirmation of this link, for example, no drilling to confirm the existence of the streams. There is perhaps a possibility that the cause of the reaction is somehow mis-identified. However, some accounts do exist that collaborate the link indecently of the dowser’s reaction. A particularly interesting one, is referred to (not in the article)

“Dowsing on a Scottish farm”, by David Steven :


In this he refers to an exceptional dowse, Mrs Smithett, who through map dowsing discovered black streams and good streams. An intriguing point was that there existed wells on both these stream types, seemingly conforming the link between actual water and black streams. “[T]here were wells along the black lines, but according to local tradition these were bad wells, and nobody drank water from them. One well was fenced off as being harmful to animals”. But the wells on the good lines were OK, “people go to them in preference to using water from the main.”

In his article, Guest refers to instances where streams have been diverted. And there are many accounts in the BSD journal of similar results, lending credibility to the idea. But as we have seen, some dowsers show considerable PK ability, so it is not beyond possibility that they could possibly influence the course of underground streams.

However, there may be other explanations than purely physical ones. Based on observations such as those of Douglas above, that lines so often pass under a “victim’s” chair or bed, Guest speculates as to “whether the lines create the illness, or the illness creates the lines”. It’s a good question.

Improving the signal to noise in dowsing

Dowsing seems uniquely suited to field survey work in archaeology. Here is a short article, authored by Dr R.H.G. Whaley, describing dowsing work under taken for on behalf of the North-East Hampshire Archaeological Society. In it he addresses the problem of “false positives” in dowsing indications, and is a rare instance of “signal processing” applied to dowsing.

The aim was to test dowsing on a known site. The problem was to locate the positions of the two sides of a moat, which had long been filled in. The approximate positions of the moat’s edges had already been predetermined using a resistivity survey.   

The idea was to split the dowsers into two groups. One dowsed along a line directly over the moat, encompassing both edges of the moat. The second group dowsed a nearby area, which did not include moat. By having a number of dowsers in each group, it was possible to achieve some signal averaging over the members. Then by comparing the average dowsing reactions obtained between the two groups, statistically very significant results were obtained in the areas near the edges of the moat.

It was a simple, yet apparently powerful method. Although not suggested in the article, one might assume that the same method might be used in map dowsing work of a similar nature, with the further savings of time and energy that would bring.

The article, “Dowsing fashioned into archaeological tool”, is found here:


Radionics and distant healing

The article is taken from the book “Dowsing for Health. The Applications & Methods For Holistic Healing”, by Arthur Bailey, published by Quantum in 1990.


Dr Bailey, a lecturer in Electronics at Bradford University, was scientific advisor and President of the British Society of Dowsers. His dowsing interest tended towards health-related matters. In his book he devoted a chapter to “Distant Healing”, in which he describes the practice of radionics. The original concept of radionics was devised by a Dr Abrams, in the early part of the last century, and was subsequently developed by others. It is the art of medical diagnosis and treatment using a rather sophisticated looking device. It will at least have several numbered dials on it, a sample holder and perhaps an aerial. But otherwise it is totally impractical, in the sense that the box has no functioning parts. To use it, some type of sample is taken from the patient and usually placed on the box. The operator, turns the dials,  and dowses for a number that represents a particular symptom. The dowsing can take several forms. In the original device, the operator strokes a rubber pad and the dowsing reaction is a feeling that their finger is sticking to the pad, but in later practice, the operator might use a pendulum. The process can be done in reverse to find a treatment number, which is then “broadcast”, or directed toward the patient, to promote healing.

Bailey’s article is particularly clear illustration of the technique. He builds his own box, which he then uses successfully, but he can offer no explanation of why it should work. Therefore, he is aware that it is merely a prop, and that it is the mind of operator that is performing the diagnosis and treatment. In fact, as he points out, the box can be removed completely.

What is particularly interesting is that the diagnosis/treatment can be reduced to a number, irrespective of the complexity. This is rather like dowser obtaining a distinct number of pendulum oscillations over a given object. As we have seen in earlier posts, dowsing reactions are often particular (and consistent) to a given dowser and so is the case in radionics, with operators often disagreeing over what number, or rate, corresponds to what. 

The Bailey article ends with him explaining how anyone might begin the practice of healing, using only a pendulum.

Another interesting point which he touches on, is that the technique can also be used for harm as well as good. He mentions the use of the radionics box for pest control. I am not sure of the source of this story, but I have seen it quoted in another book by a British’s dowser book. An organic farmer was plagued with caterpillars, and unable to use chemicals, requested the help of a radionics practitioner, who it seems, successfully killed them all.

Finally, it may be of interest to read about the initial development of radionics by Dr Abrams.  The following article chronicles his work and ideas and was published in the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers. A wealthy eccentric individual, it seems that Abrams began with the observation that he could diagnose problems by gently tapping on the abdomen wall of the patient. (There was something rather unusual about this, because the sound changed depending on the orientation of the patient with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field).

It seems that Abrams was infused with the idea that all diseases emitted some form of radiation. He held the hypothesis that diseased cells radiated in some way, and that the nerves of the patient were affected by this radiation, which caused their muscles to contract, and this caused the sound changes, detected by his percussion technique. He then progressed to placing tumour samples in close proximity to healthy individual to see what effect that had.  Next he connected the samples to the subjects by long wires. Then convinced he was dealing with electromagnetic radiation, he introduced an electric circuit, comprising a series of rheostats (variable resistances). So now he could obtain a kind of “reading” for the illness, by altering the values of the rheostats. Finally, he discovered that he could use a sample, eg a spot of blood, in place of the patient.

Reading the article, it seems clear that there is no “physical” mechanism in Abrams work, except perhaps for his percussion technique, though this too, like his healing, was likely a manifestation of his mental intent.


The mental and physical aspects of dowsing

This article was written by a former president of the British Society of Dowsers (BSD), named Major-General J. Scott-Elliott. It is a transcript of a talk he gave to members of the society in 1966. At that time there was a good deal of debate about the cause of the dowsing reaction, did it have a physical cause, or was in a purely mental activity? Since then, I believe that the latter is the more widely accepted view amongst dowsers, but there are still those who believe it has a physical cause, or even a hybrid effect. Outside of the dowsing fraternity, most would attribute it to something physical.

His article is found here:

http://www.dowsing-research.net/blog_extracts/ BSD_No133_1966_p288.pdf

In this article Scott-Elliott, gives examples of a few of the many possible applications of dowsing, in an attempt to unpick the physical from the psychic. He considered dowsing to be the art of searching based on some question, so he arbitrarily refers to the dowsing reaction as the ‘Q force’. He asserts that this Q force acts through the dowser and that the dowsing device is simply an indicator. I believe that most dowsers would agree with that.

His examples cover the three broad types of dowsing practice: dowsing close to what is sought, for example medical dowsing, and working with plants; dowsing from a distance (in either space and/or time), archaeological dowsing, including dating, depthing of water; and map dowsing, where he dowsed the movements of a ship.  To Scott-Elliott, however, there is no differentiation between these practices, “all dowsing is one”.

He concludes that dowsing is “part physical and part mental”, but it’s not clear quite what he means by this. In some instances, for example in healing, something physical might be transferred something physical. Then there is the interesting effect of clay of the estimation of water depth.  But as he asks, “is this fact or inhibition?”. Many dowsers have commented that it causes them problems depthing, so there is clearly an effect, but with all dowsing, the dowsing is bringing unconscious biases to the process. How influential are these. There are examples in the BSD journal of dowsers who are untroubled by clay. Take for instance this statement from BSD journal issue no129, page 62,

“The practising dowsers present also expressed the views on the real or spurious effects of clays upon their depthing readings, and here it seems that the mental school had an advantage over the physical school of dowser, the former experiencing no distortion, at all of course, by strata content.”

We perhaps have a bias for physical effects, but the simplest explanation for the dowsing effect is that it is purely psychic. In fact, it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate information glean by psychic means, from that derived from physical source. However, consider this. A buried object might give rise to weak magnetic field at ground level. If we postulate the existence of a magnetic field detector, we might explain the dowsing reaction when in the vicinity of the object. But how do we explain any additional information we might obtain, through dowsing, about the object? We would need to explain how information about the object is actually encoded in the magnetic field. The scientist and dowser, Zaboj Harvalik (see dowsing-research.net for some of his papers) did substantial work on the ability of dowsers to detect weak magnetic fields. He concluded that professional dowsers can detect changes in magnetic field of less than one millionth the strength of the Earth’s field. How can these people possibly function in the World? This seems more understandable if the sensing of the field is through a psychic filter. And finally there is the problem of explaining map dowsing …

A sketched history of the pendulum – Part 2/2

There appears to have been a lively dowsing fraternity in France at the beginning of the 20th Century. The dowsing society “society of friends of radiesthesie” was established early on, by the Abbé Bouly, one of a line of priest dowsers, who had made significant advances in the application of the dowsing pendulum. In effect, there was a French school of dowsing, which was to influence dowsing practice for a goof part of the century.

For instance, the Abbé Mermet, the son of a dowser, also worked as a dowser for more than 40 years, and was active in the first half of the 20th Century. He developed an exceptional degree of skill in the use of the pendulum. He made a number of “discoveries”, including dowsing at a distance (Téléradiesthésie), the use of “samples” and the presence of certain “rays”. A record of his methods and experiences is contained in his book “Comment j’opère “.  He also wrote “Principles & Practice of Radiesthesia. A Textbook for Practitioners and Students”.

He may have been the first to use “serial numbers” in dowsing. A given object has a kind of signature, involving the movement of a pendulum. The dowser holds the pendulum in one hand, between thumb and index finger, and then holds his other hand near or above the object. When this is done, the pendulum performs a certain number of oscillations (swings backwards and forwards), followed by the same number of rotations (also known a gyrations), together these movements form the first “series”. This series then ends mand the pendulum hesitates for a moment, then repeats the same number in a new direction (perhaps also in the same direction), and continues to do so indefinitely, as long as the operator holds his hand near or above the body under observation.

The number of oscillations, or rotations, in a series is the “serial number” of the object. He gives the example of silver, for which he observed six oscillations, followed by six rotations. Then it starts again. The figure six is the characteristic “serial number” of silver. He considered the serial numbers to be an objective measure, citing the fact that some experienced dowsers, if they had learned to hold the pendulum correctly, had obtained the same numbers. But he admits that some sensitive beginners tended to get higher numbers.

Another important method in his dowsing work was the use of various “rays”. While reading the following explanation, it might help to refer to the diagram in :


The most important of his ray discoveries was the “fundamental ray”. He claimed that every body has a fundamental ray, emanating from it, directed at a fixed angle with respect to the  North-South direction. It may also be inclined with a constant angle to the horizontal. The direction of the fundamental ray is always away from the object. The ray has a length which is proportional to the mass of the body, and given the same weight of various bodies, to their power of “radiation”.

He gives an example of a silver coin, of weight 10 grams. The direction of fundamental ray is towards the East and has a length of 10 cm. Contrast this with a copper coin of weight 10 grams. The direction of fundamental ray is 45° South-West and has a length of 5 cm.

For an example of its use see the following article from the BSD journal. Here the fundamental ray is used in the tanning of leather.


A second ray which Mermet discovered was the “mental ray”. This links an object to the dowser and to any other person. It appears to come directly from the object to the brain of the observer. He considered it to be the second most important ray, after that of the fundamental ray.

A third ray he discovered was the “witness ray”. He claimed that every type of body sends out a ray towards another fragment of the same kind as itself. For example, if there are two silver coins and two copper coins in a room, a ray will link up the silver coins together, and another ray will do the same with the copper coins, but no ray will go from silver to copper. He considered this to be extraordinarily useful. For example, consider the case of a gold coin hidden, or lost, in a room. Another gold coin (the witness) can be placed on a table and the dowser then walks round the table. As soon as they pass between it and the searched for coin, the witness ray will be intercepted, and the pendulum, held in the right hand, will give the serial number for gold.

Finally, there is another ray, which was first discovered by another eminent dowser, named Abbé Bouly, who named it the “solar ray”. However, Mermet discovered that it had more properties than Bouly had ascribed to it and renamed it the “luminous ray”. It seemed to Mermet that the ray constantly linked an object either to the sun (even when masked by clouds), or to any artificial light source. (Bouly had thought this ray was only associated with the sun and that it only existed during daylight.)

The works of Mermet and Bouly proved influential in the use of the pendulum, and its use was further promoted by another dowser named, the Vicomte Henry de France. He wrote an influential book entitled “The Modern Dowser”, published in 1930. As with the Abbé Mermet, his method of pendulum dowsing was to identify an object through its “series”, which was the unique manner in which the pendulum gyrated over a sample of that object. His pendulum comprised a hemp string pone metre long, rolled on a little stick with notches at the end. The pendulum was suspended over the sample and the string unwound until a length is reached at which gyration begins; this could be either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The string length was fixed using the notches on the stick. Over different objects the pendulum would exhibit a number of periods of gyrations, taking place one after the other. For example, the pendulum gyrates in a certain direction. The dowser then stops the pendulum. Next the pendulum is set oscillating and it starts gyrating again in the same direction.  Then it is stopped and restarted and again starts to gyrate. After N such periods, the pendulum stops gyrating and simply oscillates, or it gyrates in the opposite direction. The value of N is said to be the “serial number” of the object. For example, he gives some examples of serial number: Chalk,3; diamond, 6; coal, 18=3×6. A refinement of the system was to make to make the pendulum bob a sample of the object sought, or the sample was held in the hand that held the pendulum.  Each dowser had to work out their own list of series

Another contribution to pendulum dowsing was made by an English dowser, T.C. Lethbridge, an archaeologist and Anglo-Saxon expert. Lethbridge devised his own method of pendulum dowsing, although it shared some similarities to those methods mentioned previously. By adjusting the length of string, his oscillating pendulum, would gyrate in a circular motion, indicating that the object, was detected. This process aided by holding a sample, or a picture, or simply imaging the object/thought. Every object had a detection length, which could result in a pendulum length exceeding well over a metre.  Through his experiments, he was able to compile a table of string lengths corresponding to various objects, eg 22 inches for lead, 17 inches for truffles.  Objects having the same pendulum length, could be distinguished by counting the number of oscillations that occurred over an object, before returning to oscillation, sometimes referred to as the “series”. For example, the metal silver and colour grey both caused gyrations for length 22inches, but silver caused 22 oscillations and grey caused only seven.

He even discovered that the pendulum could respond to abstract ideas, thoughts and emotions, eg death was 40 inches. In summary everything that he could detect could be done so with a pendulum length between zero and 40 inches. If the length of the string was increased then  the sequence was repeated with 40 inches added, for example silver would be detected at 62 inches and the sequence repeated again after 80 inches.  Lethbridge concluded, that the pendulum was not only reacting to the properties of the object sought, but was also acting as an extension of the dowser’s own mind.

In practice, this system has some fundamental problems. For many dowses, the length and series numbers they experience for a given item do not match with any other dowser’s. Furthermore, some items have identical length and series vales. These are apart from the facts that such a system takes time to calibrate and, given the length of the pendulum, can prove very unwieldly.

Ideas from the French school pervaded the early and mid-part of 20th Century dowsing practice. Ideas in general were pretty fixed, there was a bigger emphasis on the physical side of dowsing, including the type and composition of the dowsing instrument.  By the 1960s, practice was becoming more personal, with a recognition that dowsers should find their own way of practicing. There was also a growing recognition, that there was a mental underpinning to dowsing and this caused much tension between the mentalists and the physicalists, as to what indeed caused the dowsing reaction. In effect though, dowsing practice is perhaps best understood as a kind of ritual, which the dowser follows to get the results they seek.  

The following is a nice example of a lady who takes up dowsing. Se is initially bewildered by the methods she reads about, but finally discovers her own way and goes on to apply her new skills as a healer.

See “Let’s keep it simple”:


This is merely a brief sketch of the recent historical development of the dowsing pendulum. Much has been omitted, but hopefully this missing practice will be covered by future postings.

A sketched history of the pendulum – Part 1/2

The pendulum is probably the principle tool of the modern dowser. Therefore, it might be of some interest to provide a sketch of the history of this device. Here I provide several extracts covering its early history up until the early part of the 20th century. This early period sees dowsers using mostly the dowsing “rod”, which was typically the Y-rod, but could also take other forms (even a German sausage). There appears to be little written about the use of the pendulum by run of the mill dowsers. However, we do have accounts by several intellectuals of their day, who took an interest in the working of the pendulum. This was possibly related to the recent discovery of electricity and magnetism.

One of the greatest reviews of dowsing was undertaken by Sir William Barrett, founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and published together with Theodore Besterman, in the early part of the 20th Century, in their book “The Divining Rod”. In his review of the history of dowsing, he mentions the first written account of dowsing practice by Agricola in his treatise “De Re Metallica”, published in 1556. In this, Agricola “…points out that very cogently that as the [dowsing] rod does not move in the hands of all men there cannot be any specific affinity between the object of the search and the rod : the phenomenon (which Agricola himself observed) must be due to some quality of the dowser himself.”

However, it was another who discovered what might actually activate the dowsing rod, or pendulum. A Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher, working in the middle of the 17th Century, performed many dowsing experiments. He connected the movement of the dowsing rod with that of the pendulum. Furthermore, he concluded that the action of any dowsing device was due to unconscious muscular actions on the art of the dowser.

In “Divining” by Christopher Bird,  an encyclopaedic account of dowsing, by a former Vice-President of the American Association of Dowsers, he covers the early history of pendulum use, which he suggests may extend back to Roman times. You can read an excerpt here:


During his historical sweep, he focusses on Johann Ritter, who appears to be the first true scientist to study the dowsing pendulum, around the end of the 18th Century. By careful study of the motion of the pendulum when used by an experienced dowser, Ritter noted that different substances produced different signature movements in the pendulum. He became convinced that the pendulum was acted on by some yet unknown force, derived from living organisms, including the dowser, and from inanimate objects. The action arose as a result of the dowser’s intention. This intention could be in the form of a question, and the pendulum would provide the answer by an interpretation of is movement. It seems that Ritter made good use of this in his research.

It seems that at this time, in France, a certain Professor Gerboin, had also been making a long and in depth study concerning the action of the pendulum, the results of which suggested that the user could illicit or handicap the pendulum’s movements, substantiating Ritter’s work. The French scientist Michel-Eugene Chevreul, followed up on Gerboin’s conclusions, working from the early to mid-19th Century, was considered at the time, the standard treatise on dowsing, “De la baguette divinatoire” (1854). Bird states that Chevreul had effectively discovered what we now refer to as psychokinesis (PK), the effect of mental intention over matter, but stopped short of concluding such. It seems instead, he attributed all of the movements of the pendulum to auto-suggestion, and ruled out any supernatural, spiritistic, electrical or magnetic force explanation for the phenomena. Rather than advancing dowsing, he had hindered its understanding.

However, also working in the mid-19th Century, was an English scientist, J. Rutter. He did conduct some interesting research on the PK effect on pendulums. Using an experimental rig named the “magnetoscope,” Rutter seems to have demonstrated PK effects, and also demonstrated ways in which the pendulum could be used as a dowsing instrument, for example with the use of samples. This is briefly covered in the Bird article, but a fuller account is given in the BSD journal:

“Early experiments with the pendulum”,


Throughout the 19th Century the idea of “Animal magnetism”, proposed by Franz Mesmer in the 18th century, was an influential belief; the idea of an invisible force arising from all living things, which could have physical effects. It inspired much research, such as that of Rutter’s. Another example that Bird mentions is Baron Karl von Reichenbach, who built on Rutter’s work. Reichenbach was an impressive researcher, working with many psi-gifted subjects. He was convinced of the existence of a PK like force, which he named “od”, or “odic” force. His work was sometimes referred to by members of the BSD, but now he is largely forgotten.

See: “Reichenbach”, in :


Finally, Bird describes the work of Johann Karl Bahr, who he says essentially laid down the basis for all dowsing practice that followed. Bahr contended that things had “inner values”, which were only recognised by the particular effect they have on the movement of the dowser’s pendulum.

In the latter half of the 19th Century, there seems to be less scientific interest in the pendulum, but in France, there began in interest in dowsing by a series of priest (Abbe) dowsers, whose work influenced much of the dowsing practice of the 20th Century. More in part 2.

Testing dowsers

Here’s a piece from the BSD journal written by the late Dan Wilson, a very experienced dowser and engineer, who reflected much on the “mechanics” of dowsing.

“The failure of dowsing under test” :


Here he reflects on why dowsers seem to perform so badly in “scientific” trials, in contrast to their performance when dowsing in whatever “area” they specialise in. When one reads of the experiences of dowsers, their successes can be rather striking, but one does not get this same perception from the published studies on dowsing, see:


Wilson suggests that dowsers often put their failure down to the hostility of the investigator, an example of whom he gives as James Randi. Randi was offering a financial prize for those who could demonstrated any type of psychic ability. Wilson refers to Randi’s test of dowsers, which was broadcast on British TV in 1992. The footage of this survives and may currently be found on YouTube:

“Dowsing (1991-08-07) – James Randi – Psychic Investigator”:


The two dowsers tested were successful overall in performing the set tasks. They were members of the BSD and both were very gifted dowsers. Wilson attributes their success to them applying a form of psychic “protection” (see below) from Randi’s detrimental and sceptical intent.

In his article, Wilson concentrates on those practicing complimentary medicine, a field he was very familiar with. He reflects on why studies performed by the dowsing practitioners themselves also may fail to show very little or no effect. He refers to a 2002 study by “FACT”, (it is not clear what organisation this acronym represents). In this study run by a homeopathic institution, the participants, several homeopaths, failed to perform a given dowsing task. See the following:

“Can homeopaths detect homeopathic medicines by dowsing? A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial”,


He suggests that the principle cause of failure is because dowsing is a mental operation, and the dowser’s intention is different when they are under test, from when they are engaged in their normal work, in which they seek results in a confident and focussed manner. In this latter case the dowser accepts without question, that dowsing will produce the required results. This contrasts with dowsing under test, where the purpose is to demonstrate that dowsing works. Mentally the dowsers do not “own” the test, (they give up ownership to the investigator instead). And as he points out, the results of any trial can then be subject to the expectations of the investigator (the psi-mediated “experimenter effect” in parapsychology), or even the expectations of any larger group. Interestingly then, Wilson seems to imply that it is the ability to take ownership of the dowsing task, that confers the “protection”.

Another reason for failure, and one that most dowsers might ascribe to, is the hostility of the investigator. This parallels findings in parapsychology, in which investigators with a belief in psi do better than those who hold no such beliefs. Again, this is a kind of psi-mediated experimenter effect. Perhaps closely associated with this, is what you might term “performance anxiety”, the stress of being evaluated while dowsing, and of not getting it right.

He identifies several other issues, and one of these is something that many dowsers have agreed with in their writings, the lack of a “need to know” can impair a dowser’s performance.

He concludes with the suggestion that rather than formally testing dowsers with “artificial” tasks, it would be better to conduct “field studies”, looking at the results dowsers obtain over time in their chosen field of expertise. For example, the work published by  Betz:

“Unconventional Water Detection: Field Test of the Dowsing Technique in Dry Zones: Parts 1 and 2” :

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 9, 1, 1-43 (1995)


Journal of Scientific Exploration, 9, 2, 159-189 (1995)

In the absence of a comprehensive theory of psi functioning, the need to prove the existence of psi is always present. But repeating tests designed to demonstrate the effects seem increasingly pointless. Instead, more could be gained by viewing psi and its application through dowsing, as  a goal-orientated process and best studied in the field and through the lived experiences of dowsers.

Can I? May I? Am I ready?

Many dowsers ask permission to engage in dowsing. In the BSD, you will find this referred to by them asking the questions: “Can I? May I? Should I?”. The format is

  1. State what you want to to achieve by dowsing, then ask
  2. “Can I?” (dowse for this)
  3. “May I?” (dowse for this)
  4. “Should I?” (dowse for this)

It seems that in the history of dowsing, that this is a relatively modern phenomenon. The first printed reference to it appears in 1986, in the book “Spiritual Dowsing” by a renowned American dowser named Sig Lonegren. Here he recommends using the questions as a focussing exercise prior to actual dowsing. Note that he uses “Am I ready to do it?”, rather than “Should I?”, the lack of should appears not to appear to imply the same ethical question. Sig Lonegren’s ideas appeared to have been influenced by another eminent dowser named Terry Ross. In BSD journal no239, 1992, Terry Ross quotes “Can I? May I? Should I?”, the form quoted today (within the BSD).

Sig Lonegren says that failure to get a yes to the questions means that the dowsing results will be unreliable.  


In the late 1990s, a member of the BSD, named Dudley Wheeler, surveyed members of the society on their views about asking permission. He suggested that requesting permission did not much predate 1970. He was surprised to find that many were hostile to the idea, or did not do it.

The first results of his investigations are recorded in a newsletter of special interest group, part of the BSD,


About the granting of permission: “The simplest answer to ‘who gives permission’ is that it is your own sub-conscious mind which provides the response, based upon your own set of moral and ethical values. This simple answer does not satisfy everybody.”

Some of the verbatim feedback is recorded here, in “Update in seeking permission to dowse”,


If we assume that all members were capable dowsers, then it seems that asking permission is not a necessary prerequisite to successful dowsing. Perhaps what it really shows is a shift in emphasis in dowsing over time. It has moved away from seeking physical entities like underground water, utilising a dowsing effect mediated by radiations, to matters like health and well-being, and “Earth energies”. Dowsing is interacting with the life of others, and so the ethics of dowsing becomes more important, but also there seems to be a realisation that something else, other than the dowser, might be involved in making that dowsing work.

Using dowsing in agriculture to germinate seeds earlier.

This is an account of another application of dowsing. Historically psi has been thought of as a group of faculties – telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis. More recent thinking sees these as simply different expressions of psi. And I think the practice of dowsing bears out this assertion. The mind over matter element we have already encountered in healing, but I believe that dowsing offers many more examples. Some have been applied to agriculture and here is an example, which is particularly interesting because of the amount of effort that has been expended into exploring its use.

The account relates to the farming of a particular variety of narcissus flower – the Soleil d’or – on the Isles of Scilly. It is based on the work of a horticultural researcher named A.P. Tabraham, whose published his research in a short booklet: “Solar Energy and Dowsing”. http://www.dowsing-research.net/dowsing/articles/Tabraham-solar_energy_and_dowsing.pdf

An addendum publication came after his death:


and a talk about his work by Chris Burgess in 1989 and recorded in the BSD Journal:


The links above give a more than full account, but here is a very brief over view.

The research information has been extracted from the very informative private publication entitled “Solar Energy and Dowsing” by A.P. Tabraham, Isles of Scilly 1982. Tabraham was an enthusiastic horticultural researcher who was intrigued by the early flowering of the narcissus,

The Scillonian farmers who raised these narcissi, needed them to flower before Christmas in order to receive higher premiums during the Christmas market period. This required special treatment of the planted bulbs. The chosen method was to loosely spread straw over the planted ground at mid-summer and set it alight. This brought the bulbs through the ground 2-3 weeks sooner than bulbs which had not been treated in this way, the latter finally flowered in the early new year. The origin of the practice was unknown, as was the mechanism. It was applied for maybe 50 years until it became uneconomic.

While investigating other approaches, it seems that quite fortuitously, dowsing might provide at least some answers, if not a solution.  A series of trials were performed in which propane fires were used to heat the ground, in place of the straw and ground thermometers used to compare the temp of the treated ground with the untreated ground. This proved effective and more economic. Treatments were applied at fortnightly intervals, the more treatments applied, the greater the temperature difference, with a change of approx. 2°F per treatment (up to 3 treatments), which persisted over the following year.  The bulbs in the warmer ground duly flowered earlier. Now it was discovered that a dowser could clearly identify the burnt regions, even 6 months after the burning had been applied and furthermore, the bulbs showed a dowsing reaction.

Later, it seems that quite by accident, the temperature rise could actually be caused by dowsing. But they discovered that ferrous objects could remove the effect, the greater the mass of metal involved, the faster the effect was removed. There was also the observation that despite different farmers using the same novel burning technique, it tended to fail for the “tidiest” farmers, where-as less tidy farmers got excellent results. This effect they put down to the fact that tidier farmers would tend to plough the ground after burning to re-ridge the fields. The steel plough had removed the effect.

They searched the dowsing literature to find a novel way of applying the dowsing effect without using any burning effect. They concluded with the following simple technique. Simply trace out a pentagon (regular or irregular did not matter). This could be done by tracing with a stick on the ground, or by marking five points on the ground to form the outline of a pentagon, while walking around the field. It was not necessary to have any real physical line marking out the whole pentagon. The essential thing was that the first point must be touched again after walking around the perimeter, to compete the pentagon, absolutely no gap at all was allowed, otherwise the dowsing effect was lost. If done correctly, the dowsing effect was created immediately, over the entire area within the pentagon and created a temperature rise of 2°F, (the same as, or slightly better than, the burning over process). If two additional pentagons were added, at fortnightly intervals, the temperature rise was 3-4°F, and for three, 5-6°F, depending on the ambient heat (see later), but adding additional pentagons made no significant difference.

They had devised a dowsing solution, which was more economic and effective than the burning over method and one which could be adapted to any area. It could also be used on other crops. For example, the increase in ground temperature using three pentagons had decreased the germination of Freesia seed from four weeks to two. Winter broccoli, sweet corn and early potatoes were also found to benefit.

There were some additional intriguing observations. They discovered that the effect within the pentagoned areas tended to move south by approximately 6-9 feet per year. This movement mainly took place with the ground was full of water in December and January. Another effect was that anything that had been exposed to the “dowsing effect” within the pentagon (or by burning over) appeared to “connect” with any available heat source (above ambient). The connection could be identified by dowsing and along this “flowed” heat to the object. So plants outside appeared to connect with the atmosphere directly above them. Or if indoors, they might connect to an electric file. Glass or plastic did not stop this connection, but thin paper did. The temp rise per days was also found to be linked to the number of hours of sunshine that day, but rises were still observed in the absence of direct sunlight.

Tabraham published his data in the first publication. This is best reviewed as graphs.

Above is data from 1979. It compares the average maximum daily temperature, averaged over each month, for ground which had been burnt over three times (red line), compared with ground which had no treatment (blue line).  A consistent elevation of temperature is observed, with the difference increasing towards mid-summer.

Above is the data taken in1980, after the pentagon treatment had been introduced. It compares the average maximum daily temperature, averaged over each month, for ground which had been burnt over three times (red line), ground which had been treated with three pentagons (black line) and ground which had no treatment (blue line).  The pentagon treatment produced a slightly elevated warming effect.

Since the publication of the work, other members of the BSD have taken interest.

In this article the author adds some additional information obtain directly from communication with Tabraham. The latter asserts: that it is in fact not necessary to “walk” the perimeter of the pentagon, the creator can simply rotate themselves making five points as they do; the pentagon can be as grossly irregular as necessary; the effect can be applied to the warming of buildings.

See the correspondence section, a letter from a Philip. Sheaf : http://www.dowsing-research.net/blog_extracts/BSD_No282_2003_p23.pdf

In these two letters, a London dowsing group attempt a replication of the experient. In the first they describe how the pentagon was created. See the letters section, a letter from John Baker :


In their follow up letter from John Baker:


They succeeded in creating a persistent pentagon, but there was no significant warming effect within this, however the area did move south as observed by Tabraham. Despite noting an intention to repeat the experiment, no other report was printed.

Finally, some dowsers used the pentagon method to add modest warmth to their own homes. They claim it is possible to do this by simply drawing pentagon on a plan of the property.

See “Using the dowsing effect to cut your eating bill”:


Although the published information is not sufficient to evaluate the results in any rigorous manner, they do seem to suggest the presence of a definite effect. No attempt was made in the original repots to explain why the effects occurred, but it seems to demonstrate a mind over matter (PK) effect. The intention to treat the ground to bring forward the flowering process appears to be the fundamental action. The intention seemed to be expressed in three ways – the two types of burning over the ground (one with straw the other with propane), and the simple delineation of an area (mentally or physically).

We are not told how many farmers adopted the two later treatments (propane and pentagon), but it is interesting that the methods did not work for them all, and often it was the tidy farmers, who saw no effect. This was attributed to post-treatment ploughing the ground by the tidy farmers, the treatment failed to work if ferrous objects were introduced into the treated area. This might of course be true, however, when one studies the dowsing literature, ferrous metals seem to hold a special interest with dowsers (sometimes for their links with magnetism, another subject of interest). It is not inconceivable that confounding problem was created mentally. Therefore, it could be something to do with the differing mentalities of the tidy versus the non-tidy farmers, that influenced the success or otherwise. Interestingly, no such comment was made about the straw burning method, which apparently seemed to work for all.

The use of a pentagon shape was allegedly derived from dowsing texts. It is interesting to speculate whether a pentagon was effective because it had some mystic significance for many? It may well be the case that any shape could be used, as long as the one who applied it believes in its significance. The tracing out of the pentagon also involved some ritualistic behaviour, emphasising its importance.

Finally, another interesting observation was that the warming effect appeared to be drawing heat from the closest available heat sources, there seemed to be some invisible channel down which the heat was transferred. Although this could only be demonstrated by dowsing. 

Dowsing under German occupation

Since it’s VE day (8th May), here’s a post relating to WW2. The BSD existed before WW2, and its journal does include some articles relating to it. This short article is about the life of a dower – Mr. M. Meier – in occupied Luxemburg. It is a portrait taken from another, published in the French dowsing journal of the time, Radiesthesie pour Tous. It seems that he was an excellent dowser, making some interesting observations, but this this nearly cost him his life. He would have made an excellent spy. The reference to Vinnitsa in the Ukraine concerns “The Wehrwolf” bunkers, a smaller version of the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s fortified headquarters in Eastern Prussia and presumably top secret at that time.

The article is “Radiesthesia in German occupied Luxemburg”: http://www.dowsing-research.net/blog_extracts/BSD_No54_1946_p324.pdf

Incidentally, it appears that in WW2, the German government had a rather ambiguous attitude towards dowsing.  The following excerpt is a brief note from page 67 of the BSD Journal No26, 1940…

“The Evening Standard of Oct 21st 1940 Stated that Le Journal reports from Switzerland that Hitler has sent a corps of 7000 water diviners to the Siegfried Line.

The German General staff were doubtful about the value of the corps, but Hitler silenced objections by recalling that in 1918, during the setting in place of a great gun that shelled Paris, water diviners were consulted to ensure that the emplacements would remain dry.” 

It was in use in the German army at least until 1943. The following article provides some further insights, including the use of dowsing by prisoners of war and a remark about Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess and his flight to Britain in 1941. It is under “Notes and News“:


Earth Energies – the view from Europe

Modern day dowsers seem to concentrate much of their work on what are variously termed “Earth energies”. These come in various forms, having various names, but generally are thought of as lines of “influence” (if simplified, rather like the dowsing line above an underground stream). They seem to be only detectable by dowsing, although there has been some suggestion that some instruments, such as scintillation counters, or magnetometers also respond to them. Much has been written about these energies, because there is a concern about the effects of them on people’s health. The general idea is that long exposure to them, is associated with a variety of both physical and mental health complaints. For instance, such prolonged exposure might occur if one’s bed is located over. Therefore, many dowsers concern themselves with the detection of these energies, on behalf of other people, so that some intervention can be made to prevent, or at least alleviate, the harmful effects. It is a very big subject, which we can only touch upon.

Some dowsers claim that people have had an understanding of Earth energies from prehistoric times. The current day interest appears to stem from the work by a German dowser named Freiherr von Pohl, who was active in the 1930s.  He described the effects of these Earth energies on plants and animals. From all these observations he considered that they would be harmful to humans. He then made a study of a town named Vilsbiburg, which was considered to have a high incidence of cancer deaths. Von Pohl dowsed the town and postulated  an association between cancer deaths and subterranean water. His results were published in his book in 1932. This link shows some of his results.


His work is reviewed  along with a good review of the European approach to Earth  energies is given by Ilse Pope, in an article entitled “A view of Earth energies from continental Europe”



He was followed by Dr. Manfred Curry, a Doctor, who did similar research in Southern Germany between 1935 and 1953. He deduced that the Earth energies formed a regularly spaced net, running from South/West to North/East, now termed the “Curry Net”. If a person was unfortunate enough to reside under a crossing point on this net, their health would suffer.

This work was followed soon after by a Dr Hartmann, who also discovered an regularly spaced “energy” net, this time running east-west, later termed the “Hartmann net”. He published his results in a book. The effects of which were thought not to be as harmful as either the Curry net of underground streams.

The article also describes the results of extensive work conducted by Kaethe Bachler, who has written extensively about many cases, in which using dowsing, the causes of various illnesses and mental disorders have been found to be associated with either the Curry grid, or underground streams, or a combination of the two acting together.

A review of her book – “Earth Radiation. The startling discoveries of a dowser” – is given here:


Finally, as a point of interest, an article appeared in a BSD Journal in 1988 (No221, p317), which reviews some of the various Earth energies, including the fore-mentioned grids,  (and “black streams” , commonly found by English dowsers, and thought to induce poor health. Interestingly, the author  states.

English dowsers will find black energies, earth energies or ley lines depending on their experience and personal viewpoint. They do not find Curry grids or Hartmann grids. Continental dowsers do not find these energies at all. They find Curry grids and Hartmann grids. Different dowsers will find different grids.

See: “Noxious energiers and health”, by R.J.Pope:


The dowser of Suvla Bay

Here’s a tail for Anzac Day (25th April). Some readers might be familiar with the 2014 film, The Water Diviner, directed by and starring Russell Crowe, set in Gallipoli in World War 1. Although this was a fictional account, there does exist a true account of the work of an actual water diviner, named Stephen Kelley. An account of his story was first published in 1916 in The British-Australasian newspaper, and then reprinted in the BSD journal in 1951. The account speaks for itself, but it is perhaps indicative of the interest in dowsing by the British military, an interest that goes back further than WW1, but is based on the fact that, when practiced by a good diviner, dowsing delivers.

The article is “Water. A true tale of Suvla Bay”:


Psychic methods of diagnosis

Another common use of dowsing is its use for medical diagnose and treatment. Within the journal of the British Society of Dowsers, is an article by Philip Rogers, which is a reprint of a lecture he gave to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 1982. In this he gives a helpful and comprehensive summary of the principle methods of psychic diagnosis and healing. Although his talk was delivered before vets, the methods apply to both humans and animals. There is much written about healing within the dowsing literature and this article is reproduced here, to help serve as an introduction to the subject.

He begins with a description of some dowsing devices. Apart from the Y rod and the pendulum, which we have met in previous posts, “angle irons”, which are L shared rods. There is the mention of the “the rubbing pad”. Here the dowser rubs their finger(s) over a rubber pad, and the amount of resistance they feel, is a measure of the correctness of the answer sought. (Incidentally, in a manner similar to use of a pad, some dowsers practice a form of device-less search, in which they rub together their thumb and index-finger). The rubbing pad is a method favoured in some dowsing-based diagnostic instruments used in radionics. (Basically, radionics is diagnosis and healing using a specialised instrument that “broadcasts” some form of radiation to the patient). Dowsing devices though at not always necessary, as with practice, device-less dowsing, involving “involuntary muscle twitches” (blink dowsing), can be used. Or the practitioner can just “know” when they find something.

The practitioner can use such instruments, or otherwise, to divine the diagnosis, either in the presence of the patient, or remotely perhaps with the help of a photograph, or diagram, by systematically asking questions and waiting for answers. Interestingly, the range of possible diagnoses is much broader, using divining, than it would be using conventional methods. But at the same time, if care is not taken to become “detached” from the situation, diagnosis can be influenced by any preconceived ideas held by the practitioner. 

Mr Rogers specialised in acupuncture and he gives a couple of examples applying his methodology to animals. In one, he mentions the effect caused by when underground streams cross. Many dowsers report that the health of living things, that spend too much time above such the crossing points, can be seriously affected.  Much is written in the dowsing literature about this effect and how it can be remedied. Mr Rogers states that driving an iron bar into the ground directly over a steam, while upstream of the crossing point, can remove the effect. (Although used in the search for water, this is reminiscent of a similar technique to cancel stream effects, in the post of 6th April 2020 – “A different technique for water divining”). We will come back to the effect of underground steams in future posts.

He makes some interesting observations on acupuncture points and diagnosis through taking the patient’s pulse. In summary he seems to suggest that both are fundamentally mental exercises akin to dowsing reactions. Therefore, a good practitioner is one who has worked out their one technique, which they can believe in and therefore use with confidence. For instance, he uses a kind of remote viewing diagnostic technique.  His comment that the manner in which children “see”, contrasts with that of adults, is particularly pertinent. It suggests that we construct differing realities dependent on our mentalities, and it is that constructed reality which is what we really perceive.

He concludes with a review of common forms of healing practice. Homeopathy is perhaps the most recognisable, and is often used together with dowsing, the dowsing reaction is used to infer the most compatible remedy and its dose for the patient in question. Laying on of hands is perhaps what most people might think of when considering healers at work. But this proximity often seems unnecessary, as healing can be achieved remotely, with or without any kind of sample to represent the patient. What perhaps characterises all of these practices, seems to be the belief of the practitioner that they can help, and therefore have the intention to heal, often using some visualisation technique, either mental, or symbolic. Also, many healers refer to an exchange of some healing “energy”, citing results of Kirlian photography. Or in the case of radionics, the radionics device can both diagnose illness, and then “broadcast healing waveforms” (energy). Though this method is often derided, because the device often has no working electrical component. However, this is to miss the point, since it appears to be acting as a mental prop or sample to the practitioner who, as in all these methods, is healing with their mind. Finally, he seems to suggest, that the ability to diagnose and heal, is more of an innate skill, only be available to a minority (though being wary of aware of “charlatans”).  Therefore, it remains difficult for many most people to accept. But in the end, the efficacy of their work, depends on confirmation by more mainstream methods

The article, entitled “Psychic methods of diagnosis and treatment and acupuncture and homeopathy” is here:


A disillusioned dowser

There are plenty of dowsing failures. Even dowsers of long standing will sometimes not get the results that they expect. Some people take up dowsing immediately, perhaps after watching a dowser at work, who then encourages them to “have a go”.  But for others it can be harder. The consensus amongst dowsers, seems to be that the vast majority of people can dowse if they put their mind to it, which means they have to learn and practice, but that a significant minority, (sometimes put at around 10% of people) simply cannot dowse at all.

The following article is a letter written to the BSD by a particularly frustrated beginner, named Mr Gunning. He had obviously read several books on dowsing and had purchased some devices. The books must have suggested that he start with some simple search exercises, referred to as “parlour tricks”. However, he was not achieving any success and he expressed his evident frustration in his letter, see:


The letter provoked many written replies from members of the Society, and these were published on the following issue of the journal:


One cannot help thinking that some of the replies were quite patronising. Furthermore, the language used was sometimes incomprehensible and unhelpful to non-dowsers. For example, what are interrupters and there was mention of “evil spirits”!  However, there are several points which the writers stress as being important to the practice of dowsing and therefore worthy of note: being suitably relaxed; having a real need to know the answer; beware of being too over-confident; maintain humility; find something of personal interest to dowse for; and then practice. Some respondents suggested that, the ability to dowse with any degree of success, might only come after six months or more of trying. Sadly, Mr Gunning was obviously offended by many of the replies and presumably never attempted to dowse again.

Finally, the story is worth reflecting upon when one considers many of the experiments which have been conducted to “prove” whether dowsing actually works. In particular, whether the subjects of such experiments are seasoned dowsers, or perhaps more likely, college students simply handed a dowsing device.  Then how is such an experiment is conducted, is the procedure artificial, or more akin to a real-World situation? And we have not even mentioned the attitudes and abilities of the experimenter in charge.  

Blink dowsing

We normally associate dowsers with forked twigs, pendulum, or other dowsing devices. However, these are not strictly necessary. Device-lass dowsing is quite popular. One of the modern pioneers of this was the late Dan Wilson. He popularised the idea of “blink dowsing”, in which the involuntary blinking of the dowser’s eyes is associated with the dowsing response. Incidentally, many dowsers have reported unusual physiological effects when walking over subterranean water, or mineral deposits. Mr Wilson was not the first to blink dowse. It is said that the practice was first recorded by a clergyman in the eighteenth century, who found that he blinked spontaneously over subterranean water.

The article is a short letter that Mr Wilson sent to the British Society of Dowsers. See “Letters to the Editor” ….


He wrote the letter in response to an earlier BSD article, claiming that dowsing tools were unnecessary, but that some effort was required to dowse in this “device-less” manner.

Mr Wilson tells of how the new method did not work for him, if he consciously ran through the possible answers to the dowsing question in his mind, until his eyes blinked at the correct answer. Instead he used his hand to indicate possible answers. He doesn’t elaborate on this, perhaps he ran his hand over a predefined list of ailments? But interestingly the magnitude of the blink was related to the truthfulness of the answer. He was a very gifted individual and developed the ability relatively quickly and thus demonstrated that the need for tools is unnecessary.

He often used his dowsing ability to diagnose and treat medical issue. The latter part of the letter discusses ideas about how mentally activated healing might work. But we can leave that for a later post.