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Radioesthesia is a scientific name for dowsing, is the interaction of the mind of the dowser and the energy of the object of interest. Most dowsing is used to find water and minerals. It has been used to find lost objects, even people. The ability to find people, artifacts, or substances by use of maps, pictures, or physically being in a place are currently the most popular applications of dowsing. Over the centuries, dowsers have made many appearances in mankind’s traditions. It is said that cave drawings in Spain and Iraq show dowsers working in prehistoric times, and woodcuts from ancient China and Britain support the long heritage of dowsing. During the Middle Ages, dowsers were vilified as witches or devil worshippers; Martin Luther even claimed that dowsing was ‘the work of the devil’.

Dowsing as practiced today may have originated in Germany during the 15th century, when it was used to find metals. As early as 1518 Martin Luther listed dowsing for metals as an act that broke the first commandment (i.e., as occultism). The 1550 edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia contains a woodcut of a dowser with forked rod in hand walking over a cutaway image of a mining operation. The rod is labelled "Virgula Divina – Glück rüt" (Latin: divine rod; German: fortunate rod or stick), but there is no text accompanying the woodcut. By 1556 Georgius Agricola's treatment of mining and smelting of ore, De Re Metallica, included a detailed description of dowsing for metal ore. In 1662 dowsing was declared to be "superstitious, or rather satanic" by a Jesuit, Gaspar Schott, though he later noted that he wasn't sure that the devil was always responsible for the movement of the rod.

However, history also shows that many official groups have placed their trust in dowsers. German dowsers were apparently invited to assist British miners during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and it is claimed that modern military organisations actively employ them. General Patton was said to have used dowsers to find water to replace the wells destroyed by German forces during the Second World War, Similarly, the US Marine Corps apparently used dowsers to find mines laid during the Vietnam War, and the British Army followed suit in the Falklands War.

The method of dowsers seldom varies. They grasp the ends of a forked twig (peach, apple, maple traditionally work best, though some modernists say a bent metal coat hanger works just as well) with palms upward. Another way of dowsing is to use a piece of string with a crystal on the end. The pendulum gently swings and the dowser is subtly guided to what they are looking for. The most impressive display is when dowsers are not even in the area to be searched, and simply use their dowsing technique over a map to locate an object or substance. There are a number of theories as to why the rods move. Some believe it is electromagnetic power or other earth forces. As they begin their search for water, they carry the butt of the stick pointed upward. When they near water, they can feel the pull as the butt end begins to dip downward. When the dowsers are over the water, the twig has been bent straight down, having turned through an arc of 180 degrees. A stick of brittle wood will break under the grip of a dowser as the butt moves downward. Pliable twigs will twist themselves downward despite an effort to hold them straight. However, the most likely explanation is involuntary nerve signals sent to the dowser’s palms.

It is generally accepted that dowsing is not controlled by physical or chemical influences, but more by the psychic ability of the dowser. It is suggested that, over time and with practise, the dowser can improve their talents and success rate. There have been some quite striking results from experienced dowsers. Few manifestations of so-called psychic ability have been more hotly debated than that of dowsing. On the one hand is the pronouncement of the scientific community which declares that locating water by means of a forked stick is utter nonsense, and on the other side of the argument are those men and women who go ahead and locate water with their forked maple twigs, completely impervious to the ridicule visited upon them by the skeptics. They could not care less whether or not a laboratory technician believes that water cannot be found in such a manner. All they know is that it works and that they have been finding water in just that way for years.

Novelist Kenneth Roberts stated in his book, Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod (1951): “Not all the derision of all the geologists in the world can in any way alter the unfailing accuracy of the dowsing rod in Henry Gross’s hands. Not all the cries of ‘hokum,’ ‘fanciful delusion,’ ‘hoax,’ ‘pseudoscience’ can destroy or even lessen the value of Henry’s dowsing.…” In 1953, UNESCO sponsored a committee of prominent European scientists in their study of radioesthiesa. Their carefully considered consensus was that “there can be no doubt that it is a fact.” The Academie des Sciences of Paris has commented that “it is impossible to deny the existence of the power, although its nature cannot be determined.” Five Nobel Prize winners have endorsed dowsing, and so has the Institute of Technical Physics of the Dutch National Research Council.

In Germany in 1987 and 1988, more than 500 dowsers participated in more than 10,000 double-blind tests conducted by physicists in a barn near Munich. The researchers who held the so-called “Barn” experiments claimed that they had empirically proved that dowsing was a real phenomenon. However, subsequent analysis of the data by other scientists raise the argument that the results could reasonably be attributed to chance, rather than any kind of unknown psychic ability to find water or hidden objects.

In a 1995 report by Hans-Dieter Betz, a physicist at the University of Munich, it was claimed that some dowsers achieved a 96% success rate in 691 drilling attempts to find water in Sri Lanka. The German government has since sponsored 100 dowsers to find water in arid areas of southern India.

The conventional scientific view is, however, that dowsing achieves no better results than pure guesswork. Some dowsers do still use their skills to earn a healthy living – a select few act as advisors to mining and drilling companies searching for minerals. However, the fact is that scientists are always sceptical about phenomena that they cannot explain.

(Sources : 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy; Encyclopedia of Unusual & Unexplained Things; and Wikipedia)

(Pic source : 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy page 132)

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  1. indeed some people have the advantage, but if the excess is used for the military seemed inappropriate. we all know the military is synonymous with war

  2. Its interesting, and of course, there will always be skeptics, but I think it would become soul-draining to be constantly skeptical of everything after awhile.


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