By Kondañña (Barry) Kapke
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, June/July 2005.
The mention of “dowsing” often conjures up the image of someone searching for underground water by means of a forked willow branch called a dowsing rod. That mental association is usually accompanied by skepticism or outright dismissal. What is generally not known by the average person is that on-site dowsing, or field dowsing, is remarkably accurate. It has been shown that experienced dowsers are twice as successful at locating underground water as are standard geophysical techniques. In a 10-year study1 led by Dr. Hans-Dieter Betz, a physicist from the University of Munich, dowsers achieved an overall success rate of 96 percent in 691 test drillings in Sri Lanka. Conventional methods of detecting water would be expected to be successful only 30 percent to 50 percent of the time.
While dowsing has been used historically to locate subterranean water or metal ores, it may also be used as a methodology for accessing information not readily perceptible. It can reveal information about virtually anything that exists or has existed, but it cannot disclose or predict the future. It can be used to find missing objects, pets, or people. It can assist in determining factors that affect health positively or adversely and what treatments or therapies will be most beneficial. It is useful for locating blockages or other disharmonies in the meridians, chakras, mind, or aura. Dowsing can help choose the foods, herbs, supplements, homeopathic remedies, or flower essences your body can use right now, as well as the best dosage and frequency. It can tell you if a particular substance will antidote a homeopathic remedy or if you have allergies or sensitivities to a substance. You can dowse past lives. You can dowse affirmations. You can check compatibilities with other people in a business or personal relationship. Dowsing may be used in determining the best feng shui for your home or office. Dowsing can literally be used to answer any yes-or-no question.
Dowsing has been practiced in diverse cultures for thousands of years. Cave paintings in Algeria, dating to approximately 6000 BCE, are thought to provide the first record of dowsing. There are references by the Egyptians, circa 3000 BCE; by the Hebrews, circa 2000 BCE; and in the Bible. Some believe that Moses’ rod was a divining (dowsing) rod. The Chinese used dowsing rods to promote beneficial energies and to avoid or change negative energies in both internal and external environments; this came to be known as the art and science of feng shui. Dowsing was known in the Roman Empire. In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth retained more than 200 German dowsers to find buried veins of tin needed for the armada. By the 1890s, dowsing had begun to be used in health matters by French dowsers called “sourciers” (from which the English word “sorcerer” derived). Medical dowsing became well established in Europe by 1900. Following the discovery of X-rays, the Abbé Alex Bouly coined the term “radiesthésie,” literally “perception of radiation” to refer to dowsing. This term was Anglicized as “radiesthesia,” which became the term used to describe dowsing for questions of health, or medical dowsing. A practice doesn’t survive 8,000 years if it doesn’t successfully meet a need.
While anyone can learn to dowse quite easily and experience the phenomenon themselves, it is more difficult to explain what exactly is happening. One view is that the dowser is tuning in to some force that science has not yet identified. The noted physicist Albert Einstein wrote, “The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.”2 Some suggest everything has a unique energetic signature,3 and we have the faculty, if we pay attention to it, to sense these energy signatures. Applied kinesiology, or muscle testing, is a form of dowsing that is used by many chiropractors and other health professionals. That it works is clear but the truth of the matter is we do not yet know the “how” of dowsing. That’s nothing new. Inventor Thomas Edison, who was responsible for creating a system for the generation and distribution of electricity, was once asked, “What is electricity?” He replied, “I don’t know either but it’s there so let’s use it.”4
Using A Pendulum
There are three methods of dowsing: field, map, and informational. Field dowsing is best exemplified by searching for underground water, oil, or ore, where the dowser is physically traversing the territory being searched. In map dowsing, it is the representation of the territory of interest (a geographical location or a human body) that is being dowsed rather than the actual territory. Informational dowsing seeks information through question and answer.
Dowsing may be performed using any of a number of tools — a V-rod, L-rod, wand, pendulum, or even the dowser’s own body. For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on the pendulum because it’s versatile in its range of responses, and it’s easy to use. Anyone can learn how to dowse. However, like any skill, it takes practice to become proficient.
A pendulum is a small symmetrical weight, called a plumb-bob, suspended from a fixed point (the dowser’s hand) by way of a thread or chain. The bob can be made of almost anything — wood, metal, stone, crystal, or glass — but it should be symmetrical so that it hangs and swings in a balanced way. Ideally, the bob tapers to a point on one end. The longer the chain is the slower the swing will be, which can be an issue when dowsing for buried objects because the dowser may already have passed the object by the time the pendulum’s response can be noticed. A typical length for the chain might be between 3 to 6 inches.
Hold the chain or string of the pendulum between the thumb and index finger so that the pendulum hangs straight down and the pendulum’s swing is not impaired in any direction. Some suggest, because of the body’s polarity, it is best to hold the pendulum with the right hand (even if you’re left-handed). Try to relax any tension, particularly in your arm and hand, and relax your mind as well.
The first step is to “program” the pendulum. Cause the pendulum to gyrate in a clockwise direction, saying “This direction means ‘Yes.’” Then, make it gyrate counterclockwise: “This is the ‘No’ direction.” You can then ask a test question you know the answer to, such as, “Is my name Barry?” or “Is my name Jehoshaphat?” and the pendulum will respond with the correct answer. Some dowsers program their pendulums to oscillate forward and back for “yes” and side to side for “no.” The pendulum is capable of more than mere binary response but yes/no is a good place to begin to work with your pendulum.
In medical dowsing, there is a short set of questions I always begin with, which I call “permissions.” First, I ask, “Do I have permission to dowse now?” If the answer is affirmative and I am intending to dowse for information about someone else, I ask, “Do I have permission to dowse now on behalf of so-and-so?” It is very important when working energetically that you do not attempt to heal, or access information about, another person unless they have requested it or have given you permission to do so.5 You may have permission to dowse, but should you? Is there a need? Is it in the client’s highest interest? So the question here would be, “Should I dowse now?” And the last permission I ask is whether my own energy is clear and balanced now. I want to have an affirmative response to all these questions before proceeding.
Question & Answer
Informational dowsing consists of simply asking a question and receiving an answer. This is sometimes referred to as Q&A. You can initiate a slight forward and back oscillation of the pendulum, ask the question, and hold it gently in your mind as you wait for the pendulum’s oscillation to shift to a clockwise or counterclockwise gyration.
Asking the right question is critical to receiving an accurate answer. The dowsing response is always correct but the question itself may not be asking for what we really want to know. As a novice dowser, it is often helpful to write the question and read it several times to verify that it is really asking what you want to know. Make it simple, as if you were talking to a child. Make certain the language is not ambiguous. The more energy you put into clarifying what you want to know and how to ask, the more accurate your answers will be.
While learning to dowse, stick to questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” Ask many questions, so as to arrive at as complete a picture as you can. If any answer seems not to make sense, go back and start over. Ask if you are asking the right questions. Ask if your inner dowsing self understands the questions or if more information is needed. Inquire whether you’re allowed to ask that question. It may not be appropriate for us to have the answers to all questions.
It is useful to anchor your questions in the present — for instance, “Is massage beneficial to me now?” Simply asking, “Is massage good for me?” will probably always get a positive response, affirming that, generally speaking, massage is good for you. However, it may well be that, right now, massage is not the best choice for you and another therapy may be indicated. Try to be very specific in your questions.
One common use of medical dowsing is to find out whether a substance has a helpful, harmful, or neutral effect on the body. Holding a jar of vitamins, position the pendulum over the bottle and ask, “Is this good for me now?” “Is this the best brand for me?” I often use dowsing to select flower essence remedies. I have multiple boxes of essences, so I place my hand on one box, asking, “Is there an essence here that would be healing to me now?” and then do the same with the next box. When I’ve determined which boxes contain relevant essences, I hold the question, “Is this helpful to me now?” in my mind while I go down the row of bottles, touching each and watching for an affirmative response from the pendulum. Once I’ve selected the essence or essences I am going to use, I make certain my hand is contacting each chosen bottle and ask, “Is this the complete remedy for me now?” “Is there anything else I need to know now?” I can further dowse to ascertain the frequency and duration for taking this remedy. As you become more proficient at yes/no questions, you can begin to use lists or charts.
In addition to asking the right question, it is important to have the right intention. The proper intention in medical dowsing is to do good, to be of help, to facilitate healing, and to promote balance and harmony. Dowsing that is motivated by greed and personal interest does not work. You cannot dowse winning lottery numbers. The pendulum will not assist you to devise a strategy to win someone’s heart. If you persist in trying to use dowsing for selfish purposes, your dowsing will become less reliable.
Focus and concentration are equally important. It is necessary to hold the question in mind but the more the conscious mind can get out of the way, the more accurate the pendulum results will be. It’s important not to let your own thoughts, attitudes, and preferences encroach on your neutrality and to work in a state of receptivity. This resembles what in Zen Buddhism is referred to as “beginner’s mind” (shoshin). The empty, spacious mind hasn’t closed in on a narrow or fixed view of how things are or how you want it to be, but remains open to the potentiality of anything, receptive to whatever comes. Completely in the moment, each experience is as if “for the first time.” Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki taught, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” The dowser’s discipline is to wait, relaxed and alert, for an answer to present itself. Scientific studies, such as those performed by Dr. Edith Jurka in the 1980s and Edward Stillman in 1996, show brain wave activity during dowsing is very similar to that of Zen meditation. While dowsing, a person achieves alpha, beta, and theta brain wave activity, indicating that dowsers become naturally reflective, contemplative, and restful, and this is the key to their receptivity.
This is but the tip of the iceberg. If your interest in dowsing has been aroused, read more. Join a local chapter of the American Society of Dowsers (www.dowsers.org). Most importantly, practice. This is a tool, so use it. Like any skill, the more you exercise it the more it will become a natural extension of your abilities. You will become more sensitive, you’ll develop confidence and trust in your ability, and your dowsing will become more accurate and reliable.