Dowsing Beliefs over the Ages

by Diane Marcotte

  • For at least 200 years the theory held by dowsers has been that all matter gives off a ray; which, in certain people who are sensitive to it, causes a change of tone in certain muscles of the forearm.  This in turn causes a reflex action of the muscles, which moves the rod.   W. H. Trinder 1939
  • In the sixteenth century (it was claimed) that the movement arose in the rod itself through “the law of sympathy”, i.e., the wooden bough of the tree was in sympathy with metal underground.
  • In the seventeenth century the Jesuit Father Kircher demonstrated that it was the dowser himself who communicated movement to the rod.
  • Later in the seventeenth century investigators insisted that it was due to “mischievous devils”.
  • Towards the end of the seventeenth century there was the atomic or corpusculat theory.  It was believed that the corpuscles that rise from the minerals, enter the rod causing it to turn down.
  • General religious belief (in the late seventeenth century) was that if the rod did good it was due either to divine inspiration or to the action of angels.  If the desired result was not achieved then the movement of the rod was due to the direct interference of evil spirits or even the devil himself.
  • In the early 1900s, Sir William Barrett and Theodore Besterman favoured the more practical and scientific view that the movement of the rod was due to unconscious muscular action, arising form the firm grasp of the operator.  Besterman made a rather obvious point – cases abound in which dowsers have managed to locate water without a rod (deviceless dowsing) , but there are no recorded instances in which a rod has indicated the presence of water without being manipulated by a human agent.
  • In 1556 Georgius Agricola, in his great treatise, pointed out that as the 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 phenomena must be due to some quality of the dowser himself.
  • Henry Gross, a famous American dowser, believed that self-generated muscle movements, perceptible or imperceptible, have nothing to do with the action of the rod.  He believed the rod acted on its own.
  • In the early 1900s Henri Mager hypothesized that currents of a physical force similar to electricity moved from underground water up through the dowser and into the rod, passing in a screw-like fashion up one of the branches of the forked stick and returning down through the other, back through the man, into the earth, and finally back to the source of the underground water, thus completing a circuit.  He further believed that having leather or rubber soles on his shoes or boots would prevent this force from coming up through him.
  • Nowadays, some dowsers believe that underground running water emits electromagnetic energy that affects sensors in our brain, which in turn causes our muscles to unconsciously move the dowsing instrument.  This, however, does not explain map dowsing. So most dowsers believe that through focused conscious intent they access subconscious fields or dimensions where the answer to their question is known and available. Intuitively the answer is passed to the area of the brain that deals with muscle contraction and expansion which in turn causes the dowsing instrument to move in a manner that the dowser has previously set up, i.e., asked his mind for specific movements for “yes” “no” “rephrase the question” etc.
  • Today, there doesn’t seem to be a theory that is acceptable in all respects.  Dowsing is far wider in its possibilities and uses than can be explained on the basis of current scientific theory.  Indeed, to have any chance of explanation, one has to postulate one or more dimensions to the universe than are at present recognized by the scientific fraternity….Arthur Bailey, author of “Anyone Can Dowse for Better Health”