A Scientific Basis for Water Dowsing?
THERE seems to be no scientific basis for some of the responses claimed by some water dowsers. In some cases the forked stick jerks about wildly, in others the pull is so strong that the stick breaks. Other dowsers claim that they can locate water just by working over a map of the area. Such reports rouse suspicions that some demonic forces are involved. The Watchtower magazine of November 15, 1962, had an interesting article on the subject of wicked spirits and their activities. It took the position that demonic forces might very well be involved in these experiences.
However, the article also said: “While scientific research to date does not agree that seeking water with the use of a forked twig is based on the operation of natural laws, this does not mean that such researchers are absolutely correct. It may be that there are certain basic laws of nature that are involved in it.”
Along this line, 17 years later an interesting article appeared in the reputable New Scientist magazine. (February 8, 1979) Under the title “Dowsing Achieves New Credence,” the subtitle read: “Reports from the Soviet Union of successful scientific experiments in the ancient arts of water and mineral divining have forced a fresh look at possible practical application of the technique.” The Soviet geologists involved “emphasized the merits of one particular method recently developed in the Soviet Union and known as ‘BPM.’” The New Scientist article added: “As it turns out, BPM (bio-physical method) is simply a respectable new name for water and mineral divining or dowsing!”
Attacked by the Church
“The first authenticated evidence of dowsing,” according to The Encyclopedia Americana, “comes from medieval Germany: in 1556, Georgius Agricola published in his De re metallica, a description of dowsing by Teutonic miners to locate minerals and ores. Martin Luther and other clerics felt dowsing had possible satanic relationships. In spite of church injunctions, dowsing spread from Germany to other European countries.” The Americana then describes the method:
“The traditional device, and still the most popular instrument, is a Y-shaped forked stick. One fork of the stick is held in each hand. The palms of the hand are held upward. The end of the stick is pointed forward and maintained in a horizontal or slightly raised position. When the end of the stick bends down, the presence of the desired object is indicated. In the past, rods of hazelwood were preferred. Now a variety of woods are employed, as are rods made of whalebone, nylon, and metal.”
After stating that dowsing was “controversial from the start and frequently attacked by the Church as the work of the Devil,” New Scientist disputed the claims that only certain persons had this power. Based on a study with ordinary people, “it seems that the ability to obtain such reactions is far more widespread than had previously been thought. . . . Using these devices which, like the traditional hazel twig simply act as high-gain mechanical amplifiers of small hand movements, hundreds of people found that they could experience dowsing reactions.” So it is not the rod that is attracted to the water or ore. It merely amplifies and makes visible small, imperceptible hand movements. Confirming this, the Americana said: “Some dowsers claim to be able to detect objects with their hands alone.”
The New Scientist article reported on a study conducted by two originally skeptical scientists at the Water Research Laboratory of Utah State University. They did not use established dowsers, most of whom were staff and students at Utah State University. . . . The Utah researchers came up with the important finding that more than 99 per cent of the people they tested obtained dowsing reactions.”
A Suggested Scientific Basis
Some biological systems have “a remarkable sensitivity to very small changes in ambient magnetic and electromagnetic fields,” according to scientists at University of Illinois and at Moscow State University. Experiments have demonstrated that homing pigeons sense the earth’s magnetic field and use it as a guidance system. Honeybees also sense it, and recent experiments seem to suggest that even some snails are sensitive to it. Can the human hand respond to variations in the magnetic field? If so, how would that be relevant to the presence of water? The New Scientist article explains:
“How could such a theory account for the phenomenon of water and mineral divining, or BPM as applied by Soviet geologists? Mineral veins and flowing ground water are both associated with geological discontinuities such as faults, fracture and shear zones, prominent joint planes, old stream channels, solution cavities in limestones, lava tubes in volcanic rocks and so on. These discontinuities cause small geophysical perturbations, in magnetic field strength, for instance, that could be responsible for the dowsing reaction. This is the belief of the Soviet geologists who have been using BPM for over a decade and whose work deserves to be better known in the West.”
According to this theory, it is thought that the variations in the magnetic field strength, caused by the particular geological formations, are what cause the dowsing reaction, and not the presence or absence of water or metals. These formations, however, favor the depositing of metallic veins or accumulations of water. Many examples of the successful application of dowsing in the Soviet Union have been given, for locating both ore bodies and flowing water.
In the Utah State University tests previously mentioned, the 150 novice dowsers were each given 30 wooden blocks and walked along prescribed test courses. They were to drop a block wherever they had a dowsing reaction. Each walked the courses alone, and before the next one came along the blocks were removed after their positions were recorded. In a significant number of cases, the blocks were dropped in the same locations. After reporting this the New Scientist article continues:
“These results suggested that it would be worth examining the possibility that the dowsing reactions were related to small magnetic field variations along the test paths, as measured by caesium vapour magnetometers. Some correlation was found: dowsers obtained more frequent reactions along path segments in which larger magnetic field gradient changes occurred. Chadwick and Jensen concluded that the possible link between dowsing reactions and magnetic field changes related to flowing ground water could form the basis of future research.”
The New Scientist concludes: “If the dowsing reaction is as general as this, and if the Soviet claims as to the effectiveness of BPM as a prospecting technique are to be taken at face value, there would seem to be every reason for making water and mineral divining the subject of a concerned research effort. . . . if the solution of an age-old mystery, frequently linked with clairvoyance and the occult, were shown after all to be merely a question of thorough analysis it would be a timely demonstration of the value of the scientific method.”
Even if it is proved that there are responses to changes in the electromagnetic field, which some attribute to the presence of water, it still does not explain the extreme reactions of some who claim that the stick or rod jerks about wildly and is sometimes broken by the violence of the reaction. Nor is there any explanation for the claim that some can pass the rod over a map of an area and locate water. In such cases demonic forces may still be at work. Wicked spirits sometimes seize upon normal reactions and distort them out of all proportions, or take a truth and push it to such an extreme that it becomes a gross deception.