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The Use of Hand Movements

Many can move their hands in two or three main ways: (1) Judiciously or voluntarily; (2) by reflex or something like it; (3) by very subtle attunements - a practice called dowsing or radiesthesia.

Such practice has precedents and relatives, Biblical divination among others. There is quite a lot to study, learn, and master in life otherwise too.

Pendulum, normally to be held between the thumb and first finger (enlarged photo).


Dowsing has existed for thousands of years, and dowsing is widely practiced. There are many forms of it. Dowsing now includes the claimed ability to discover almost anything, from water and minerals to missing children and archaeological sites.

In one of them one searches for underground water, ores, hidden or buried metals, gemstones, or other such objects by help of a divining rod or wand - also called rhabdomancy.

Another very common way is by a pendulum (Latin: pendulus, hanging). A pendulum is some object - a crystal or a metal weight - that may swing back and forth, or in circles, or "graded", as over charts. The pendulum in trained hands swings by minute unconscious bodily movements as a response to framed questions. In the practice of radiesthesia, a pendulum is used for medical diagnosis.

Some dowsers use neither rods nor pendulums; they use no equipment at all, just the bare hand.

"Believers and detractors both cite empirical evidence proving and disproving the credibility of radiesthesia, usually reaching conclusions in line with their own philosophical preconceptions."


When tiny hand movements set the pendulum (or rod) in motion, it it thought to be due to the ideomotor effect, as it is called. It is an involuntary body movement evoked by an idea or thought process rather than by sensory stimulation. The dowsing device seems to move on its own. The dowser is unknowingly moving the device of choice as a deep response to ideas - maybe subconscious, and maybe right ones: you do not know till you have tested your truth-telling ideomotor ability in various areas or walks of life.

Some water dowsers will insist that rubber footwear or footwear made of other insulating materials must be used by the operator, while just as may insist that such materials inhibit the effect.

Most claim that anyone can dowse successfully, while others say that it is an inherited gift.

A great number of scientists, mostly physicists, have embraced belief in dowsing.

Most publicly known dowsers claim 100% accuracy, and very few such ones claim anything less than 90%. The bottom line is that all appear to fail when properly tested. And afterwards they go on to believe in their powers.

It is advised to try a double-blind test of one's dowsing abilities. People at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) can advise how to design such a test protocol.

Dowsing organisations

  • ISD - International Society of Dowsing Research
  • ASD - American Society of Dowsers
  • BSD - British Society of Dowsers
  • CSD - Canadian Society of Dowsers


Among the sceptics is the Skeptics Dictionary with details of various scientific tests. James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has some significant information too. Both are on-line.

Pendulum Prowess

Pendulum prowess can be explored and trained through steps and stages, and is becoming popular. Many self-help books have been published about it.

Water Dowsing: Research Findings

"I'm a scientist ... we have established that dowsing works," says Professor Hans-Dieter Betz, University of Munich. However, his conclusion is not accepted by all scientists, sceptics and critics. Five years after the Munich study, Jim T. Enright thought these results were merely consistent with statistical fluctuations.

More interesting, a study was undertaken in Kassel, Germany, under the direction of the Gesellschaft zur Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP) [Society for the Scientific Investigation of the Parasciences]. A three-day test of some 30 dowsers involved plastic pipes through which a large flow of water could be controlled and directed. The pipes were buried 50 centimeters under a level field. On the surface, the position of each pipe was marked with a colored stripe, so all the dowsers had to do was tell whether there was water running through the pipe. All the dowsers signed a statement agreeing this was a fair test of their abilities and that they expected a 100 percent success rate. However, the results were no better than what would have been expected by chance.

James Randi and Dick Smith tested sixteen dowsers in Sidney. Eight tried for water via a buried grid, three tried for buried brass and seven tried for buried gold. 111 tries were made, with an expected 10% success rate by chance alone. There were 15 successes, 13.5%, a figure well within expectation. But the dowsers had declared beforehand they expected success in 92% of the tries. Randi says every precaution had been carefully and fully approved and agreed to in advance by all parties concerned. [◦Link]

On another occasion Randi James put 11 dowsers to a water dowsing test that involved ten identical pipes, and one of them would have water flowing through it. Thus, chance would dictate a ten percent rate of success. Before the test began, Randi had them all dowse the surrounding area to assure that conditions were right for dowsing. They said it was, and believed their rate of success would be about 80%. Their rate of success was just 12%, not significantly different from chance. [◦Link]

What Does Failed Water Dowsing Prove?

I think Randi has done a good job. Do his findings prove that water dowsing is wrong? That no one has the ability? No. There is room for new studies. Some TV documentaries have shown dowsers at work and with better success rates -

Here are some nuts to crack:

If water dowsing has not been documented to work in some studies, could it work in other studies? It is possible.

Also, if the proofs that water dowsing works are missing so far, does it mean that other forms of dowsing do not work? No. The case is open to further studies.

Water dowsing aside, what about other variants of dowsing? What are their success rates according to published research? Frankly, I may not tell so far - I have too little evidence. We should go for evidence rather than rash belief. Evidence is by documentation that is carefully treated according to "good rules of science" to be of much worth. Evidence may be not-published or published. The lack of published evidence does not mean that evidence is not around either.

Several Vital Sides to Dowsing Must Be Met

Discern between belief in having a skill and proven mastery of it.

Obviously there are many sides to the art. One is to be able to detect tiny movements, another to interpret them well. Some responses may seem unresolved, for example: allow for that. The source of the responses is either ideas (subconscious and mad and so on), or direct sensing somehow, or a combination of ideas and sensing. Such a combination is either largely true to fact or not so. It depends too.

To get the best out of dowsing and pendulum use, one is advised to get calm and as neutral as can be, and undisturbed, along with wise performance within the range of detection, and within the bounds one seems able to master. To the degree these crucial conditions are met, the result should be fine. To the degree the ideal conditions are violated, the testable results could be marred. and it is also possible that even if the conditions are met, results are not forthcoming because different people may have the ability or knack for dowsing in different areas, and to different degrees. One has to allow for that too, in a well designed project design.

Tip: Avoid rash conclusions if you mean to learn the basics well and maybe try for yourself. Many have fooled themselves, but maybe you can train and develop skills properly.

Surprising Rocard

Below we will go into "history and roots" of dowsing and a few linked forms of divination. Yves-André Rocard (1903-1992), was a French mathematician and physicist, and his son served as French prime minister for some years before 1991. Rocard contributed to the development of the French atomic bomb and radio astronomy. However, his professional reputation suffered in later years when he concentrated on the scientific study of biomagnetism and dowsing.

An eminent man took up an ancient, kingly and priestly practice -


Dowsing and Psychoanalysis

That the conscious mind is shallow and stupid as compared to the deeper mind, is a Jungian outlook.

In Freud's view, the unconscious is essentially the seat of irrationality. In Jung's thinking, the meaning seems to be almost reversed; the unconscious is essentially the seat of the deepest sources of wisdom, while the conscious is the intellectual part of the personality". - Dr. Erich Fromm, in Zen and Psychoanalysis (1986, 43)

Now what if the opposite is right - too?

The ancient virtue of keeping measure in all things helps balance.

Now, that is far from all there is to life. If we think of the organism, it is wrong to discredit its inherent wisdom, for on top of that we live. It is also true that sides to the mind that most people are unware of, influence the body - for good or bad, as the case may be. Psychosomatics and the value of visualisation and positive thinking (including optimism), attest to it. On the other hand, a harmful lifestyle is not a sign of great wisdom. Wisdom and silliness may mingle in the subconscious too - it is hardly either wise or foolish, but some kind of blend. Besides, persons are different. Some have much inherent wisdom, others appear too shallow. Moreover, in the light of the dreary human history, wisdom may be rare. And common sense is not all that common.

Much depends on what channels are set up and how they seem to work.

Body-mind at work

Dr. Harold Burr of Yale University did research of the psyche-system for twenty years and found that the electro-magnetic field in an organism was responsible for maintainance, growth and repairs. Sides to the Deep Mind seem to be we are talking about. There can be a bridge or link between Jungian postulates of the brightness and wisdom deep inside, where we are normally unconscious, and the biomagnetic field and so on. (1972)

The subtle depths of our body-mind organism determine a lot of how we structure perceptions and organise our world.


Quite non-directive or much involuntary movements of the body can be made use of to tap information - to make us consciously aware of the organism's deep wisdom - or silliness - or insanity, as the case may be. On the search for wisdom, can we tap the deep minds or deeper organism - so as to fore wisdom and not foolishness and madness?

Debased divination refrains differ from those that allow fair studies.

Truths Are at Times Expensive

If the deeper mind contains recesses of foolishness and madness, the task for diviners is a threefold one:

  • Improve oneself by taking up essential Buddhist teachings (they are for self-help and are almost non-dogmatic) and meditate.
  • Develop skills in both living and dowsing - that sort of "mental communication".
  • Adhere to expensive content. Dear content expressed is not without costs. And till we have aligned ourselves well with the wisdom that reach us, it could be that it will not work for our good. That is an idea of Rollo May. People tend to push away or repress ideas that are too strong to tackle for them. If so, it may do nothing good for a time to dig for expensive content (truths) if they do not work well in any one case? Maybe things become clearer later, when you study your dowsing notes.

Meanwhile, feel into your body and mind too. The "organismic feel" of Carl Rogers is fit for it, and taking note of impressive nightly dreams. Go for self-development above and along with perfection of skills and getting tools of radionics, is good counsel. Do not be just like the horse with blinkers that runs around and around in the circus year after year till it gets wearied out in its harness and drops dead.

Handy interactions of everyday living may be as needed as lots of radiesthetic tackle-and-grapple.

"I'm a Scientist"

"Trust me, I'm not a doctor."

"What is both puzzling yet enormously useful is that in hundreds of cases the dowsers were able to predict the depth of the water source and the yield of the well to within 10 or 20 percent. We carefully considered the statistics of these correlations, and they far exceeded lucky guesses." - Betz

Says Professor Betz further:

"I'm a scientist, and . . . we have established that dowsing works, but have no idea how or why."

Henry H. Bauer of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg gives us another side of that subject, of being scientific at large:

There exists no simple and satisfactory definition of "science." Such terms as "scientific" are used for rhetorical effect rather than with descriptive accuracy. The virtues associated with science — reliability, for instance, stem from the functioning of the scientific community. [Check]

Radionic investigation is a formidable field of endeavour. There is a whole lot to master in it to escape doing silly things, such as helping unworthy subjects, and trying to heal diseases a person is not ready to get rid of, among other things for sound, moral reasons. The founding idea behind it is that denseness and diseases could be what the system need to cope or get better, if not well. We may rise by diseases too, a Tibetan teaching has it. Buddha tells kindly of some of these aspects of living. [Why silly people may hear the truth, and good people too]


Dowsing, Radiesthesia, water dowsing, divination, Literature  

Burr, Harold Saxon. Blueprint for Immortality: The Electric Patterns of Life. London: Neville Spearman, 1972.

Fromm, Erich. Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. London: Unwin, 1986.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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