Not Your Father’s Dowsing Rod: the Art of Dowsing in the 21st Century

ancient-dowsersWhen the average person thinks of dowsing, we picture an old farmer with a forked stick walking back and forth across his field looking for the place where he might successfully dig a water well. For thousands of years this has been the face of dowsing. Many people might be surprised to discover this practice still exists, not only in isolated rural villages. Furthermore, dowsing is no longer just for water.

Petroleum companies frequently hire dowsers (called doodlebuggers in the oil industry) to help identify likely areas in which they should drill. One of the biggest accidental oil spills in history – the Lakeview Gusher Number One – occurred in 1910 when a dowser hired by the Lakeview Oil Company directed them to drill in a certain spot in Kern County, California. The well not only produced a much greater quantity of oil than the company expected, it was also pressurized. The resulting blowout erupted oil for six months before it was finally brought under control.

Modern petroleum companies don’t rely mainly on dowsers, obviously; they rely on geologists. That said, petroleum companies often hire dowsers as an extra measure of comfort to either confirm what they already think or to narrow down the area of a prospective drill area. (Remote viewers are often hired to do the same thing – I’ve posted a couple of articles during the last year on what remote viewers do and how they do it.)

How Does Dowsing Work?

No one really knows how dowsing works. One of the more popular theories is that since the human body is a bio-electrical organism, individuals who are sensitive (and who train to be so) are able to unconsciously sense geopathic differences deep in the Earth – whether it be a reservoir of water, a large amount of oil, or earthquake faults – which makes the dowsers’ arms move. This doesn’t, however, address the issue of how many dowsers who are successfully able to find drilling locations by dowsing over maps rather than walking over the actual land in question.

The work of Dr. Edith M. Jurka offers us another explanation. In the February 1983 issue of The American Dowser (the quarterly digest of the American Society of Dowsers), Dr. Jurka presented the results of her research into human brainwave patterns using a “mind mirror” – two electrocephalographs (EEGs) which record both sides of the brain simultaneously and provide a brain frequency analysis. As you can see from the illustration, the brain patterns of a person in deep sleep (delta frequency), dreaming sleep (theta), falling asleep (alpha), normal waking (beta), TM meditation (alpha + theta) and zen meditation/lucid awareness (beta + alpha + theta) all follow well known patterns. When Dr. Jurka measured the brain patterns of experienced dowsers while engaged in dowsing, she found something she had never before seen – all the eight dowsers she studied registered brain frequency patterns that crossed all four frequency ranges, from beta down to delta. The brain patterns of dowsers were what one might expect from “wide awake sleepwalkers.”

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With this in mind, I recently asked Greg Storozuk (experienced dowser and past president of the American Society of Dowsers) what it felt like when he dowsed. He likened it to a session of hemi-sync meditation from the Monroe Institute, but “considerably deeper.”

Scientific Studies

The main criticism – and it’s a serious one – of many dowsing studies is that the study was not double-blind; the person conducting the test knew beforehand where the object was located and may have given unconscious signs to test takers that they were on the right track (or not). Additionally, if the object to be found was hidden beforehand, there is no way to ensure that the test taker was using dowsing to locate the object, or some sort of ESP. That said, the following studies appear to be both large and scientifically valid.

  • In Earth Energies, Geopathic Stress and Illness, I presented an overview of how naturally-present earth energies such as Curry lines and the Hartmann net often negatively affect human health; once these energy lines are properly identified by dowsers, the sick individuals can take appropriate precautions (for example, by moving their beds to different locations) to improve their conditions. I cited studies by Kathe Bachler, Dr. Veronika Carstens, Dr. Rudolf Kessler and Andreas Kopschina. But even though these geopathic stress areas were located by dowsers, the studies themselves did not focus on the success or failure of the dowsers.   While the studies can be considered as support for a position that dowsing should be further investigated, they cannot be viewed as “proving” that dowsing works.
  • A study specifically designed to evaluate the effectiveness of dowsing was “Unconventional Water Detection: Field Test of the Dowsing Technique in Dry Zones” by Professor Hans Dieter Betz from the Department of Physics at Munich University. In this study, a team of scientists investigated the ability of dowsers to find drinkable quality water over a period of ten years in ten different third world countries in which geological conditions were particularly difficult for finding water. In Sri Lanka, dowsers spent several days identifying areas in which to drill – 691 wells were drilled with a 96% success rate. A team of hydro-geologists who were given the same task took several months to identify likely drill sites – their success rate was 21%. Similar work in the Congo produced a success rate of 90% for the dowsers

The study was extended to a lesser degree to the Philippines and to the Dominican Republic, but although drinkable water was found, many wells turned saline, were determined to be seasonal only, or proved to be in too difficult terrain. Smaller projects in Niger, Yemen, Cape Verde Islands, Kenya, the Sinai, and Namibia were also undertaken, with a considerable degree of success (and after experiencing failure relying on traditional geological measures.)

There have also been several studies that claim to have “proven” that dowsing doesn’t work, including (of course!), James Randi and his $1 million paranormal challenge. For those studies for which I could find the testing protocol, I found none that were clearly double-blind. This is important because the lack of a double-blind protocol could work either way, causing a sympathetic researcher to get excited when the dowser is close to getting things correct or causing a skeptical researcher to become more hostile when the dowser is getting close. It’s also important to take the skill of the dowser into consideration. The basic criteria for being a dowser is being able to successfully identify areas in which to drill water wells. Many dowsers today have never done so, and instead focus on issues like pinpointing a client’s health problems. Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to classify dowsers as bad, good or mediocre when they aren’t working on the same problems or even using similar parameters for what constitutes success.

Why This Matters

Does it matter whether dowsing works? Does it matter whether humanity has an innate ability to identify water and minerals under the earth, or to locate geopathic stress lines and other areas of negative energy? I would argue that this matters a lot. Dowsing has been practiced by humanity since before there were written records and by every culture on Earth. It has helped us both survive and thrive on this planet and is a part of our heritage. And for this reason it’s important that we not let it die.   Lost in the wilderness, most of us would be unable to find water flowing six inches under our feet and would die of thirst. We have wrapped the mantle of modern technology so tightly around ourselves that we are no longer capable of surviving without it. And maybe more meaningfully, we have distanced ourselves from our place in the web of life.

Some of you may realize that I’m not talking just about dowsing here. Instead, I’m talking about the entire body of issues that I’ve been writing about – dowsing, pyramids, psychokinesis, remote viewing, psi science, crop circles, and the nature of the cosmos, etc. At the root, they’re all the same thing – a window into who we are. Let’s not slam it shut.




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  1. I like to point out that the brain activity when dreaming is not mainly theta and falling asleep is not that of alpha, but diffuse theta, intermixed with alpha – ie very similar to that illustrated as mediatating, in fact it is very difficult to differentiate between the two. When using the mind mirror the supposed beta can be mainly muscle potentials, especially jaw muscles and the supposed delta is likely to be at least partly eye movements. After all dowsing involves rhythmic eye movements ( watching pendulum) and holding the head in position.
    Anyone else revisiting the claims of Dr Jurka ?

    • Hi, Rusty. I don’t have access to Dr. Jurka’s original data, but I would imagine the technology would have advanced since the study was done nearly 35 years ago and I’m not surprised that today’s researchers are able to obtain results with greater detail and precision. That said, I spoke with Greg Storozuk – one of the eight dowsers studied – who told me that Dr. Jurka stated she had never previously observed this pattern (activity in all frequency levels in both sides of the brain simultaneously). And I think that’s the important takeaway from the study – the concurrent frequency levels and the left brain/right brain coordination involved while the individual is in the dowsing state. Also, keep in mind this is just a single snapshot of one study of her many years work with dowsing. I do believe there is someone is the UK – a clinical neurophysiologist – who has undertaken similar sort of studies and is looking over Dr. Jurka’s work, but I don’t know that he is far enough along in his investigations that he has obtained any results.

  2. I have been dowsing for some time now.Two rememberable events were when my son lost his toy and ultimately I had to dowse and find it under the sofa,after we had looked everywhere else.Second time I helped find a friends lost keys through distant dowsing.

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