The History of Dowsing

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Albert Einstein said, "I know very well that many scientist consider dowsing as a type of superstition.
According to my conviction this is, however,unjustified.
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.

Dowsing itself is as old as mankind, it is claimed that the actual act of dowsing or looking for hidden things using a twig or rod, or something - anything - that gives an indication as to the location of the hidden or searched for item, is an instinct within all humans and one that we have forgotten in the main how to use.

The ancient art of Rhabdomancy, as dowsing was originally known, has been practised since time immemorial. At one time, people used intuition to determine where objects and influences were coming from, and it appears that as mankind evolved, this inner sense diminished. Whilst the inner knowledge or skill may have diminished, the art of dowsing, using implements such as pendulums, rods etc, evolved from this time. Ever since written records have been kept, the art of dowsing has been recorded.

Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians have dowsed using split reeds, the early Chinese Emporer Kwang Sung (Circa 2200 B.C.E) was known to have dowsed. The Chinese art of Feng-Shi, that is, sacred Geomancy or building, evolved from a theory linking Geomancy with Rhabdomancy.

The Romans and Greeks dowsed using all manner of oracles, even the early Jews used dowsing for their own benefits, and recorded the act of such in the Old Testament.

Scholars made themselves seem foolish by attributing unnecessary complications to the rustic skill of dowsing. Precise details of how to look for gold and other precious metals were composed, demanding elaborate almost ritualistic preparations, including the acquisition of expensive gold and silver divining rods to ensure success. The fact that village dowsers achieved the same results with a twisted bit of twig showed the worthlessness of the scholar's detailed methods.

During the Middle ages and later years dowsing was very much a hush-hush affair with it's association with the Mystical unknown and the Occult - what with talk of Witchcraft and the Spanish inquisition on the European continent, it was by far the best policy to keep any form of divination including dowsing very much low key!

Apart from Egyptian Temple and funeral paintings, the earliest printed illustration of dowsers, does not come from an Occult book, but rather from a book on finding metals; De Re Metallica by Agricola. In which it is seen that these early metallurgists searched for veins of metal in the earth using forked twigs, which Agricola refers to as Virgula Furcata - meaning a forked stick!

In the fifteenth century the British Isles was famed throughout the known world as a centre of excellence for Magical and esoteric arts. German dowsers came to the West Country bringing their tin divining skills to England. The Germans then travelled down to Cornwall where they successfully located veins of tin allowing new tin mines to be established for the Cornish landowners.

In France, dowsing was very much in vogue in the seventeenth century. This was mostly due to the mineralogists Baron and Baroness De Beausoleil, who together established a thriving mineral company through their successful use of dowsing. Sadly, the two lost all their money locating mines and died in the Bastille after being accused of witchcraft.

Later theories on dowsing emerged, the scientists often coming to the conclusion that somehow dowsing and electricity were linked, perhaps with a bit of mesmerism thrown in just to be on the safe side.

A massive treatise into dowsing was written and published by the Abbe De Vallemont. La Physique Occulte ou Traite de la Baguette Divinitoire. Given backing by the Catholic Church, who decided to backtrack slightly after its publication and after giving a deep and meaningful investigation into the phenomenon in 1853, gave the declaration that dowsing worked because it was the Devil his very self that pulled and twisted the dowsing rod to give the accurate results - the Devil, it seems, even then had all the best sticks!

This was immediately suppressed in Catholic France by Michel Chevreul in his book, De La Baguette Divinatoire. Published in 1854, which paved the way for more studies to be made.

In England dowsing was very much part of folk culture, like horse whispering, and like many other folklore activities including spellcasting and divination by stones etc, it was claimed that it worked, therefore there was every need to continue its use and not dismiss it as a work of the Devil - sanity prevailed!

Dowsing attracted many characters to it, none less than W.S Lawrence from Bristol, who was born in 1810 and for 70 years of his life dowsed in a semi-professional capacity. Lawrence was a stonemason and "Cunning man" who used dowsing in his work. For dowsing Lawrence used a steel wire bent like a horse-shoe for finding minerals, and a large forked hazel twig for water - curiously, upon finding his goal, Mr Lawrence would suffer muscular spasms that were most debilitating and energy sapping, thus reinforcing the mystique about his work to any onlookers, which re-emphasised the Magical aspect of dowsing.

Mr Child of Somerset, wrote one of the first popular books on dowsing, Water Finding published by the East Anglia Daily Times in 1902. Mr Child and his family were amazed to discover that he had the ability to successfully dowse, after he emulated another dowser at work. With the use of something as simple as a watch spring - he too could find water.

Another English mason come full time dowser was John Mullins, who picked up the art of dowsing from a visiting dowser to the estate on which he worked in Wiltshire in 1859. Twenty three years later John Mullins established himself as a full time dowser, and would only charge his fee if he was successful in his findings - which he frequently was, as the business grew and was taken over by his two sons. John Mullins was another advocate of the forked hazel twig and insisted on a new stick being used for each job being undertaken, and being taken from the locality of the work to be commenced.

In 1959, Verne Cameron, a professional Californian dowser, contacted the United States Navy and told them he would locate the entire submarine fleet using only a map and a pendulum. The Navy accepted the challenge and Cameron successfully located not only the US submarines, but also the position of Russian submarines around the world

In the early years of this century, a French priest - Abbe Mermot - successfully proved his belief that, if it was possible to divine the location and state of an underground stream, it should be equally possible to use dowsing to find out about the human bloodstream. The Abbe used a pendulum for his dowsing and he coined the word "radiesthesia" to refer to the use of dowsing in medicine. From early on this century, a field of practice has developed called radionics, by which practitioners aim to tune into peoples energy wavelengths. However, as well as the dowsing technique, radionics also frequently uses a special dialled instrument for detailed diagnosis and treatment.

The Christian Church at one time generated a lot of superstitious nonsense with their witching laws because they believed that dowsing was a form of witchcraft, thankfully that is now not the case, and there have been many studies of dowsing made since

Even the British Army in the Royal Electrician and Mechanical Engineer regiment (or sappers) used to train their regiment on how to dowse for water.

The U.S Army went one step further than this, and trained soldiers in Vietnam to dowse for un-exploded bombs and land mines. It is not known how many lives, both military and civilian, this simple technique has saved in its use in clearing minefields.

Whether a science or a psychic penomenon, from whatever viewpoint, started by miners, looking for metals, developed by civil engineers looking for water sources, condemned by the Church as evil, used by armies and medicine worldwide to save lives - dowsing is a phenomenon in itself that has many applications far and above those from which it first started to cater for!

"....There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio......"Shakespeare

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