By Robin Strom-Mackey
Dowsing rods, also called, divining rods, Y-rods or L-rods are an ancient tool, and one that has had as many proponents as skeptics. Without a doubt the tools have a vast history and have been employed for many uses. Most people, when they think of divining rods, probably envision someone walking a property with a forked stick in their hands looking for water. But finding water tables are only one of the uses for dowsing rods, they also have a long history of being employed to find mineral lodes, metallic ores and even petroleum. They have also a long history as a divination tool by fortune telling tellers. They have been used to foretell the future, find lost items and even commune with the dead, or so dowsers claim.
In their oldest and crudest form, the a dowsing rod is a single forked twig usually of hazel wood. The forked ends of the twig were held in either hand by the dowser, who then walks about looking for water or minerals,. When a vein is crossed the end of the twig is said to bend down, or in some cases snap down decisively, indicating where to dig. Diviners claim that under the effect of "rhabdic force," the rod twists or revolves by its own force, called “rhabdic force;” the term rhabdic deriving from the Greek for rod. The ability to dowse, is supposedly an innate ability held by only the chosen few, a talent much like (or perhaps is the same as) ESP or psi.
The history of dowsing rods is both rich and long. They appear in the literature as far back as ancient Egypt. The Roman Statesmen Cicero and Tacitus both wrote about the “virgula divina” during the first century B.C. The Germans used the Wunschelrute or “wishing rod,” eventually teaching the art to the English sometime around the era of Queen Elizabeth.
According to the Occult and Parapsychology Encyclopedia, the rods are written of in, “Agricola's De Re Metallica, published at Basle at the beginning of the sixteenth century.” Agricula distinguished the forked mechanism as the “virgula furcata” distinguishing it from the “virgula divina”. The “virgula furcata’ were a tool used specifically by miners to discover mineral lodes.
Use of the rods hasn’t always been an accepted practice. In fact , during the sixteenth century it was downright bad for one’s health. The Church included the use of diving rods under their list of magics and witchcraft, declaring dowsers demons in disguise. The penalty for witchcraft being torture and death - most often by burning.
Fact or Fiction
It is indisputable that the rods have a long and interesting history. What is disputable is whether there is anything to this ancient art. It is interesting that in the age of modern science a device as crude and mysterious as the diving rod is still in use. But then even science as been divided on the rods.
The Society of Psychical Research did some study on the rods, thinking to discount their use, and found instead that there appeared to be something to the ancient tools. Albert Einstein apparently did some analysis of the devices and concluded, “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient 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”.
Author Christopher Balzano in the book Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting, grouped dowsing rods with pendulums, postulating that the actual power of the rods lay not with the rods themselves, but suggesting that they acted as a tool that helped direct the psi ability of the user. (Psi is the more modern, umbrella ,term for abilities such as ESP or telepathy)
Other literature has suggested a similar conclusion, which is perhaps why the rods have come under such attack over the years. Held in the hands of a skeptic it becomes fathomable that that the rods can be a method for cheating. A quick and hardly perceptible twist of the wrist can set a rod to spinning making the devices appear to be working when they are not, which fuels the fire for skeptics. Another reason skeptics might remain skeptical is the “Sheep-Goat Effect” suggested by Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler.
Basically put, Dr. Schmeidler found a difference in scoring between those who believed in psi (sheep) and those who did not (goats). Basically put, when goats were tested, they not only did not demonstrate an ability in psi, but they often scored below chance. Sheep on the other hand, those who either believed in psi or were at least open to the idea of the existence of psi (ESP) did much better on the tests, scoring at the chance level, if not above. It seems that subjects who discount the very possibility of psi somehow or another act as a barrier to having a psi experience - which Loyd Auerbach believes is an innate ability of some magnitude in all of us.
Those who have studied dowsing rods seem to believe, like Einstein suggests, that the power to move the rods lie not with the rods but within the user herself. According to the article, Dowsing: Subconscious and the Paranormal; How Does Dowsing Work? Stephen Wagner interviewed the Director of the Western New Rock Paranormal [Group] of Rochester, Dwayne Claud, who suggested, “It’s not psychic ability, its biomechanics. The rods move through unconscious micro-muscular movements. The subconscious is in control of the responses the dowsing instrument provides.” Claud seems to affirm Einstein’s reaction that the rods react to the user, and the user to his/her subconscious.
But if that is true then are the rods merely picking up information from the mind of the person holding them? If one believes the subconscious houses only the thoughts, history, memory and imagination of the user than it would seem true that the rods act from the direction of the user and could go no further in divining information than that which was stored in the mind of the user.
However, there has been a debate for some time as to the possible vastness of the human subconscious. The famous Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung suggested that the human subconscious encompassed more, much more, than just the memories of a single human brain, but the collective memories of the entire species. In the book, Messages and Miracles: Extraordinary Experiences of the Bereaved, Dr. Louis LaGrand explains, that if we go “one step further into the collective unconscious, where Jung suggested we are all connected, then we have to entertain the belief there are non-local characteristics as well. Or as Jungians are wont to say, ‘in the collective unconscious there is no space or time.’ [And] if there is no space or time, then whatever occurs in it can occur everywhere and at the same time.”
It’s as if the subconscious were a giant river, to the banks of which we all come occasionally. This river holds all species memories, emotions, dreams and creativity, and is not barred by time or space restrictions. Those that can tap into the river of the subconscious then are able to glean whatever happens to be floating by at the time. And like a river, it’s vastness makes it impossible to see anything but a small portion at any one time. Think of a river going around a bend.
Granted the jury is still out on Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious. However, if he was correct, and if dowsing rods allowed a user a tool for expressing what she/he had tapped into by delving the subconscious, then the dousing rods might actually be a legitimate tool. Certainly many of the greatest minds in the world have not been able to discount these fascinating tools entirely.