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Ancient Knowledge, Mysticism & Sacred Beliefs => The Ancient Arts: Astrology, Alchemy, the Tarot, Arcane Recondite Practices & the I Ching => Topic started by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:39:39 pm

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:39:39 pm


                                                         DOWSING AND ARCHAEOLOGY

In front of us is a level green pasture; and laid out on the grass is a grid of white tape, marking out
ten-metre squares. To one side lies an odd instrument, consisting of three white boxes linked by a pole, wired to a pair of head-phones: an electronic 'soil anomaly detector', more often called a 'banjo'. Beside it there is a crazy picture-frame stuck on a long pole, trailing a cable to a control box: a 'pulsed magnetic induction locator'. Within the grid a young man is pacing up and down, using a simpler and more traditional tool: he holds two L-shaped rods, pointing forward and parallel like a pair of shrivelled cowboy pistols. Dowsing rods.

As we watch, the rods cross over each other, in a metallic squint, then open out again there seems to be an old foundation trench below. A student, sitting at the edge of the grid, marks the position of the rods' reaction on the chart on his clip-board; while behind him, where the turf has been stripped off, leaving the soil bare, several people are working on this ancient site, patiently busy with their trowels and brushes. Above them, bright yellow, like mechanical dinosaurs, tower the tractors and excavators of the quarry that will soon swallow this site. This is another 'rescue dig', pursuing its quiet race against time.

New motorways, factories, quarries, housing estates, all demand huge tracts of land each year; and as the ground is cleared to make way for a questionable future, all traces of the past are destroyed. Archaeologists, if they want to rescue anything from this mass destruction, are faced with the monumental task of surveying the land in as much detail as possible, and as early as possible, to select the sites with the highest priority for 'rescue' excavation.

Traditional archaeological tools and techniques were designed only for small-scale detail work, and are too slow for survey work: the five-summer dig at Cadbury-Camelot was enormous by conventional archaeological standards, but it uncovered little more than a couple of acres of the site.

So in recent years a number of new techniques have had to be developed, so as to cover large areas
in some detail: hence aerial archaeology, and the development of sophisticated electronic tools like the 'banjo' and the induction locator. Another tool, too, is beginning to be used more and more for this kind of rapid-search work: the dowser's rod.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:42:06 pm

The acceptance of dowsing into the realms of archaeology has been something of a quiet revolution, one that is rarely acknowledged in public. The only text-book I know that discusses the use of dowsing to locate trenches and ditches is John Coles' Field Archaeology in Britain.

Two examples from the recent Cadbury-Camelot dig are fairly typical of the kind of dowsing work that now goes on: the dowser involved, who was one of the administrators for the dig, told me that he used a strip of flexible curtain rod as a kind of dowsing pendulum to find the outline of the cruciform trench (subsequently confirmed by excavation, and tentatively identified as the foundations for an unbuilt church), and to show that the Arthurian-period hall was not, as had been assumed, set into trenches, but mounted on large and very shallow post-holes (the only trench was for an internal partition).

Dowsing is a skill, the basics of which anyone can learn with a little practice and awareness; but the problem is that the reliability of the results depends on the skill and experience of the dowser, among many other factors.

There are plenty of inexperienced and over-confident amateur dowsers about, so perhaps the archaeologists are not being too evasive when they conceal the use of dowsing, as was the case at Cadbury-Camelot, under vague phrases in their reports, such as 'probing with metal rods'.[1]

In the meantime, many dowsers are discovering the full scope of their skill for the first time, finding that dowsing can be used not only to find water, but virtually anything, anywhere, even from maps.[2]

Again, this requires practice and experience before it can be reliable, but dowsers working for archaeologists have located specified objects of any given period, have dated objects and even the periods of occupation of sites accurately, and have identified sites of which little or nothing immediately recognisable remains.[3]

Dowser Bill Lewis gave me an example of the latter: he has located burial sites when all that remains of the body (as in some acid soils) is a pale brown smudge and a hollow where the stomach used to be both signs easily missed by an inexperienced excavator.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:44:34 pm

Barrows and trackways seem to have been particular concerns of recent archaeological dowsers, judging by articles published in the Journal of British Society of Dowsers a mine of odd information and clues for the archaeologist.

James Plummer, for example, describes how he used angle rods and pendulum on site and from maps to locate, track, measure and analyse six Roman stone roads, a junction and possibly a Roman temple, all in the South Fylde area of Lancashire. All were confirmed in some degree by excavation and library research.[4]

Captain F.L.M. Boothby noted traces of salt in the foundations of many pre-Roman tracks, particularly in the Winchester area, and suggested that the salt was used as a primitive weed-killer to clear the tracks of nettles and brambles.[5]

In the same vein, Helmuth Hesserl, commenting on the way that some Roman roads on the Continent twist about instead of following straight courses, noted that these roads tended to follow 'water-lines', apparent underground water-courses. These latter tend to inhibit plant growth directly above them; so Hesserl suggested that the reason for the roads' lack of straightness was that the Roman engineers had simply taken the 'line of least resistance' through the undergrowth of virgin forest.[6]

It's only through the use of dowsing in archaeological research that clues like these can arise.

It is with underground water-courses, and with the traditional role of dowser as water-diviner, that we find our first clues about the placing of ancient sacred sites.

Dowsers have discovered, often independently of one another, that water-lines, the underground waterbearing courses or fissures, intersect beneath many types of sacred site: not just the obvious ones, like the holy wells, but barrows, standing stones, stone circles and dolmens.

The first reports on this that I know of, in 1933 and 1935, were both French;[7] the first report in English seems to be Captain Boothby's article The Religion of the Stone Age in 1935.[8] Boothby described how he found that waterbearing fissures or 'springs', as he called them ran underneath a tumulus that an archaeologist he was visiting was working on. After finding that the same applied to every barrow he visited, including long barrows, he decided that 'it would appear that the whole layout of these ancient monuments is based on subterranean water; but', he added, 'until the whole has been tested it is impossible to be certain about this', and he called for other dowsers to test his results for themselves

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:45:50 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:46:58 pm

Other dowsers did test his results, and confirmed them. Perhaps the most important of these dowsers was Reginald Allender Smith, who gave a lecture on the subject to the British Society of Dowsers in February 1939.[9] He was a well-known and respected archaeologist of the inter-war period, a specialist in prehistoric implements. His lecture was based on a year's research that followed his retirement from a senior post in the British Museum in 1938. He explained in it that Merle and Diot (the two French researchers) had found that erect standing stones stood directly above the intersections of two or more underground 'streams'; tilted stones are not directly above such intersections, but lean towards them from a few feet away; and some dolmens and tumuli fit into the angles between converging streams, or are surrounded by them.

Both Boothby and Smith slightly disagreed with Merle and Diot, for according to the British results barrows and tumuli were centred on 'knots' of these waterlines (or 'blind springs', as Smith called them) rather than being surrounded by them; but both sides agreed that there seemed to be a definite connection between prehistoric sacred sites and underground water. Both sides also agreed on their interpretation, which was that some pre-Druidic priesthood had used a form of dowsing to locate underground water in prehistoric times, and had marked these 'emergency water supplies', as part of their routine religious observances, with their stones and barrows.

With that conclusion the research came to an end for nearly ten years, for Smith died only a year later, and Boothby had already moved on to other work. It's interesting to speculate what would have happened if Smith had lived a little longer, for the report on his lecture is fascinating; but it gives frustratingly little detail of what had evidently been an enormous amount of work. He stated, for instance, that according to his results the present stone circle at Rollright in Oxfordshire was only the second in a set of four concentric stone circles around the same blind spring; the present King Stone outlier, about three hundred feet from the centre of the present circle, was, he said, originally one of eleven stones on the outermost circle of that set of four.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:47:56 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:49:29 pm

A comment he makes about Avebury is also interesting: according to Stukeley, writing in the eighteenth century, there used to be another stone avenue, similar to the present Kennett Avenue, but running south-west towards Beckhampton.

Archaeologists usually dismiss this as 'a flight of fancy' by Stukeley, even though the latter had produced accurate plans of Avebury and many other sites at a time when most of the stones were still there to be seen. Smith claimed to have rediscovered the sites of all the stones in this 'lost' Beckhampton Avenue or rather an Avenue in the right direction in which 'the very twists of the Kennett line are reproduced', and which ended in an oval enclosure, similar to the Kennett Sanctuary, on the downs to the south-west of Beckhampton.

Silbury Hill was, he said, exactly equidistant between the two sanctuaries.

There is plenty more information in the same vein in the published version of his lecture; sadly, that report is now the only record of that work. As so often happens, all his notes, diagrams, and the 'series of lantern slides made for the occasion and exhibited for the first time' seem to have been thrown away after his death: at any rate, no-one seems to know where they are, or even if they still exist.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:55:02 pm

Smith's work may have been lost, but it wasn't forgotten. After the War another member of the Society, Guy Underwood, followed up the clues given in that lecture, and spent several years of his retirement visiting sites in various parts of the country - particularly in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and his native Somerset. Underwood wrote up his research in a long series of articles, which were published in various issues of the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers between 1947 and 1951.[10]

During the 1950s he extended, revised and reformed these articles into his important book Pattern of the Past, which was not published until 1969, five years after his death.[11]

In it he refined the work of the previous researchers (some would say over-refined, as we shall see) and extended it to apply to several other types of sites, including crosses, crossroads and junctions, 'heel-stones' in roadways, boundaries and field-divisions, stocks, gallows and pre-Reformation churches. Underwood's research has formed the basis of much modern research on dowsing and ancient sites, and we need to look at it in some detail.

Underwood was not the only one to discover the apparent connection between churches and underground water: a dowser by the name of W.H. Lamb commented, in a note to the Journal in 1965, on his (or her) discovery that two or more 'streams' cross over each other at different depths directly beneath the high altar of every church visited.[12]

In the next issue of the journal there was a reply by Muriel Langdon, who had made a similar discovery, finding what she called 'domes' of rising water beneath church altars, fonts, chancel steps and doors.[13]

Judging by the tone of the articles and the terms each writer used, both 'discoveries' would seem to be independent of each other, of Underwood and of the earlier researchers. So many of the dowsers I've talked to recently have discovered and confirmed for themselves the 'blind spring'/sacred-site connection, especially since Underwood's book was published, that it seems something must be there.

This was certainly Underwood's feeling. Throughout his research, he seems to have been convinced that the various types of sacred and not-so-sacred sites were water-marks, or markers of and for 'geophysical anomalies': the forms of the sites and the structures upon them were, he believed, determined by the positions of underground fissures and water-flows.

The pattern formed by the fine web of lines below the surface determined the shapes and forms of the sites and their structures above; the pattern of the lines was the 'pattern of the past'. This was much the same as Boothby's and Smith's view, as we have seen; and Underwood, in his articles and his book, produced an enormous amount of evidence to back it.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:56:11 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 07:57:41 pm

But it's important to realise, in looking at his work, that he was the major exponent of only one school of thought of the time.

Many of his contemporaries believed that the streams, according to their results, only appeared to cross beneath the stones and the like, since the stones themselves distorted the image of the stream below, producing the apparent intersections that Underwood and the others had found.

Colonel Bell, then the editor of the Society's journal, went so far as to add 'Editor's Comments' to the end of Underwood's last two articles, saying that the patterns Underwood described were more likely to be the effects rather than the causes of the siting of roads, tracks, standing stones and the like.[14]

He commented, rather caustically, that there was 'no reason to suppose that our Neolithic or Bronze Age ancestors knew anything of dowsing as now practised', that Underwood's whole idea of this 'pattern of the past' was 'farfetched, if not fantastic,' and that the whole of his theorising was probably based on 'entirely subjective observation'.

Given this kind of criticism, it's not all that surprising that Underwood's writing became progressively more and more dogmatic as time went on; but that dogmatism doesn't help us in trying to assess the value of his work and his ideas.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:00:40 pm

Going through the literature on the subject, we can see that most of Underwood's contemporaries were as certain as he was about the existence of a connection between standing stones and underground water; most, though, were less certain about any likely interpretation. Underwood's dogmatism didn't help to clarify matters: and when he went on to discover (or to invent, as his critics suggested) two new types of 'dowsing influence line' which he called 'track-lines' and 'aquastats' most of his contemporaries just gave up and moved on to other studies. That is probably the reason why Underwood's work on standing stones and the like is the only well-known work on the subject: it is important, though, to realise that it isn't the only work that has been done.

Few dowsers have exactly repeated Underwood's experiments, because few have been able to use his favourite dowsing tool, the 'sensitive geodetic rod' that he invented. It's one of the most awkward and cantankerous tools that I've ever come across, but there seems to be little doubt that Underwood himself could use it accurately and with ease.

 The version that one of my dowsing students made for me consists of a file handle and a short stub of metal rod, an unfolded paper-clip, a piece of motor-bike brake cable and four soldered cable clips.

The handle is held in one hand, the loop of the brake cable is held in the other: the idea is that the unwound paper-clip holds the rod and the cable apart when you try to push them together, and the springiness makes the whole thing unstable, tending to make the cable rotate around the rod as a dowsing reaction.

This sounds a little awkward, but the illustration should make it clear.

As I say, few dowsers bother with Underwood's rod, since the type of dowsing tool makes little difference to the accuracy of the results as far as a skilled dowser is concerned. In my own work I've mostly used angle rods, the L-shaped rods described in the rescue-dig image at the beginning of this chapter.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:02:06 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:03:43 pm

Underwood's earliest experiments produced results very similar to those of Boothby and Smith. He found that water-lines intersected beneath sacred sites such as barrows, standing stones and henges.

He also found, though, that water-lines formed large spirals round stones, several spirals converging on the same stone or stone circle in some cases, as at the Sanctuary near Avebury.

As far as he was concerned, the water-line was triple, three close and near-parallel lines making up each water-line; and he felt that this triplicity of the lines had been deliberately used in the past to determine the shapes of - for example henge ditches, as the outer influence lines seemed to move outward from the central line following the centre of the ditch, to coincide with the often erratic outer edges of the ditch.

But there are other interpretations, and his critics maintained that this was proof that the influence lines he plotted out were the result of the shape of the ditch rather than the cause of it.

Underwood denied this, of course, but the key question of cause or effect remained open, despite his efforts to resolve it in his favour.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:05:11 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:06:57 pm

The question of cause or effect opened still further with Underwood's discovery of his second type of influence line, the 'track-line'.[15]

Track-lines, said Underwood, are slightly weaker than water-lines, and are formed of three close, near-parallel groups of three still-closer 'hair-lines'. These nine-fold lines often run in pairs, from ten to sixty or more feet apart; and when they do they coincide closely with the hedges or ditches of old roads.

The width of single track-lines from four to ten feet tallies closely with the width of the tracks with which they coincide.

Underwood claimed that the winding courses of many old roads and tracks was 'controlled entirely' by track-lines and track-line pairs, and suggested, as his results seemed to show, that any alterations from the original prehistoric courses of the road would be shown up by deviations from the unchangeable courses of the track-lines.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:08:08 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:09:39 pm

Once again, his critics suggested that the lines themselves were 'due to some electrical phenomenon consequent upon disturbance of the earth's surface by man'; and once again Underwood denied this, saying that he had found track-lines across the thin turf of chalk downs, where no man-made disturbance could be seen.

But he could not say for certain what track-lines were: he suggested that they were connected in some way with regular fissuring in rocky sub-soils, but he admitted that he wasn't sure. One of the reasons for his uncertainty was that, unlike water-lines, the track-lines were not always continuous. They seemed to be interrupted at times, each hair-line of the nine-fold group forming a twisted loop on either side of the interruption. Where a track-line came to a dead stop, all nine of its hair-lines converged on the same point, often forming a spiral in the process.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:11:12 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:14:09 pm

The distinctions between water-lines, track-lines and Underwood's third type of 'dowsing influence line', the aquastats, have always seemed very minor to me but Underwood evidently felt that the differences were crucial.

Water-lines gave strong reactions, and they usually ran as single three-fold lines.

Track-lines were weaker, were nine-fold and usually ran in pairs.

Aquastats, like track-lines, were weaker than water-lines and always ran in pairs; but like the water-lines the lines of the aquastats were three-fold, not nine-fold like track-lines.

It's interesting that aquastats seem to coincide even more closely with the courses of tracks than did the track-lines: Underwood even temporarily re-named the latter 'geostats' to avoid confusion or so he thought! The aquastat pairs coincided with the edges of the roads themselves, and were always continuous; track-line pairs coincided with the outer edges of the roads' verges, and were often broken or distorted at field gates, junctions and wide points of the verges. Aquastats seemed to be more important than track-lines for some reason, for wherever the two types of line crossed each other it was always the track-lines that gave way.[16]

Underwood always assumed that all three types of line were 'lines of electrical equipotential' arising from 'geophysical anomalies' sub-surface rock-fissuring and the like and were thus permanently and immutably fixed in relation to the surface. The only exceptions to this general rule were one or two cyclical variations in the patterns that the lines formed, the cycles apparently being linked to those of the sun and the moon.[17] Therefore, suggested Underwood, the lines coincide with tracks and the like because some prehistoric priesthood had used them deliberately in laying out boundaries and marking emergency water supplies, and generally as 'good magic to impress the populace'.

Almost all the works of man, from the prehistoric period right through until the practice faded out during the Reformation and the European Renaissance, were directed towards this end, he suggested.

All sacred and secular structures in the landscape were designed to mark and define the various patterns formed by the three types of line and their interactions, patterns like the spirals mentioned earlier, and others called 'feathers', 'arcs', 'parallels', 'haloes', 'trivia', and so on. The underground patterns thus became the patterns on which structures were designed; they were the 'pattern of the past'.[18]

So, according to Underwood, this 'pattern of the past' determined the positions of all sacred and some secular sites, and all the major and some minor detail of any structures upon them.

Thus a waterline can be found under every altar in pre-Reformation churches, and two or more water-lines mark where a barrow was permitted to be built. Multiple water-lines (several water-lines running parallel, not necessarily at the same apparent depth) are indicated at ground level by marks on stones;[19] single water-lines are marked by ditches and the lower parts of lynchets (old agricultural terraces), among other features.

Aquastats mark the main courses of old roads, and are also indicated by linear mounds, by terraces and the upper edges of lynchets, by stone rows and stone circles. They can also be found to be coincident with the central axes of all old Christian sites, and appear always to meet a door, window or other gap wherever they go through walls at sacred sites Underwood suggested that it was 'forbidden' for them to be blocked.

Track-lines define where the edges of lanes and old roads should be; they also define animals' tracks and field-divisions, and solifluction or 'soil-creep' lines on the sides of steep hills.[20]

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:15:16 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:16:20 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:17:43 pm

Like many other dowsers, my own work tends to agree with Underwood's observations, as the illustrations show; but I've never been happy with the theories he derived from them.

They seem somehow too rigid, too exclusive to match either the information we can collect from other disciplines, or the overall 'feel' that we can get from the sites themselves.

I tend to side with Underwood's critics, who suggested that the patterns were 'the pattern of the present' rather than 'the pattern of the past'; but even that view doesn't match the feel of the sites, for there seems to be something else there as well.

Both Underwood and his critics are right, but both parties are too limited. If we may combine their views, however, and study their limitations, they may take us somewhere worthwhile.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:18:48 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:21:23 pm

We could say that Underwood and his critics set us an interesting 'hen-and-egg' conundrum: which came first, the patterns or the structures?

Underwood was certain that the patterns came first; his critics were equally certain that the structures the altars and the stones, for example were themselves the cause behind Underwood's patterns. Both parties were agreed that from a dowsing point of view there was definitely some kind of connection between the patterns and the sites and their structures: but then all the parties concerned in this particular conundrum were dowsers.

Many other people, both then and now, would maintain that the whole question was pointless and meaningless, for it was based on nothing more than 'unscientific superstition': dowsing itself, they would say, has no basis in fact other than 'mere coincidence'.

Now from my own experience I would dispute this view; but in a way these critics are right, for dowsing is un-scientific, and it is based on coincidence. But that doesn't prove that dowsing is meaningless and useless: much of that supposed 'proof' depends on what is meant by 'scientific' and 'coincidence'.

As usual, everything depends on your point of view. Most of these critics, I've found, have a very limited and distorted view both of what science is and what it does, and of what coincidence is. The misunderstanding of coincidence stems mainly from the misunderstanding of science, so I had better deal with the scientific side of the argument first.[21]

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:22:10 pm

The first point here is that we have to draw a distinction between science and technology. Their aims and principles are very different. The aim of science, crudely speaking, is to assemble the whole of knowledge into one consistent and coherent system; while technology is or should be concerned only with practical results. Science's main tool is logic, while technology assesses knowledge more in terms of its practical value rather than its logical 'truth'. For example, no scientist knows how even a simple thing like a light-bulb works: we have a range of models which explain how some aspects seem to work, but since they are not logically compatible as in the wave and particle theories of light they cannot be said to be scientifically 'true', in the classic and socially accepted sense of the word 'science'. But a technologist is quite happy to use these 'unscientific' theories in order to design light bulbs: the theories don't explain how bulbs work, but they do explain how the bulbs can be worked.

The same can be said of oddities like dowsing. We don't understand how dowsing works, but we do understand that it can be worked to produce usable results,[22] and we also understand how it can be worked.[23] In that sense dowsing can be said to be a technology, though it can't be scientific. There are in fact good reasons for suggesting that technologies are more closely related to traditional magic than they are to science but that's something I'll have to leave for another book.[23a]

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:24:50 pm

The other catch is the word 'coincidence'. Coincidence is simply co-incidence: things coincide. The whole of our observation of life is built up through observation of coincidences; some of them are meaningful, some are not. The only form of meaningful coincidence that classic science recognises is a particular form of repeatable coincidence called 'causality': when one action repeatedly precedes another the first action is said to cause the second one. Any other kind of connection between two incidents cannot be handled in a scientific manner; which is why in our culture, with its scientific bias, all other kinds of connection are dismissed as 'mere coincidence'.

But that does not mean that these other coincidences are meaningless: it simply means that they can't be studied scientifically. Instead of being assessed for their causal and logical 'truth', they have to be assessed for their value 'what use is this coincidence?' which brings us back into the realm of technology, as 'play it by ear', or the famous 'rule of thumb'. It isn't scientific, but it works, and that's what really matters.

Perceptual systems, like seeing and hearing and 'sensing', are interesting in this respect, because they compare the information coming in from a number of sources in order to decide the overall 1 value' of a given situation. Imagine if someone suddenly clapped their hands in front of your face NOW what would happen? You'd blink, and jump back, probably. The scientist would ask 'what was the cause of this?', but we can't give a definite scientific answer, because in that situation there are at least three causes, and science has to pin the answer down to just one in order to come to any logical conclusions. You would have heard the sound of the clapping, which is one cause; you would have seen the hands closing rapidly towards your face; and you would have felt the change in air-pressure as the hands passed by. Any one of these can trigger off the blink-and-jump reflex. Even imagining the blow can trigger off the same reflex, so we can't pin down the 'real cause', we can't tell 'how it really works'; the relevant 'signal' comes through, all the same.

This important when we look at dowsing, for dowsing works as a perceptual system.[24] The dowser's rod works because the dowser's hands give a reflex twitch to some signal; apart from certain rare cases the rod doesn't move entirely of its own accord. But this does cause problems if we try to study dowsing scientifically, for we can never be sure what the 'real cause' of any given reaction is. It could be a reaction to some magnetic or electrical stimulus; it could be a 'hypersensitive sense of smell'; it could be 'an unconscious knowledge of the terrain'; it could be some equivalent of sonar scanning; it could be something magical, like clairvoyancy or 'astral travelling' or whatever. An enormous number of models have been proposed and they do all make some degree of sense in practice.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:26:18 pm

But the real problem is that all perceptual systems involve a certain amount of filtering in the mind, to separate signal information from noise, so the cause of any dowsing reaction or lack of it could equally be prejudice, preconceptions, wishful thinking, inattention, clumsiness, lack of physical or mental discrimination.

The ability to limit and control these faults is the basis of a dowser's skill; but in studying the work of any dowser, or of anyone working in similar fields, we do have to decide how much of their observation is real tallies with the physical world and how much is imaginary. The judgements I've made and will be making as we go along are based on my own experience and practical work, but you must judge for yourself.

So to return to our earlier conundrum, the various dowsers' results were real as far as I am concerned, at least in the sense that they observed something. But before we can interpret their results, we have first to decide what they observed and that's not easy, because so many kinds of stimuli, at several levels, could have triggered off their dowsing reactions.

Dowsing is a perceptual system, and all our ways of perceiving things are limited by the paradox 'Things have not only to be seen to be believed, but also have to be believed to be seen'. (If this isn't obvious, compare the propaganda of the various political parties at election time: it's the clearest example of people seeing what they want or expect to see.) So a dowser's beliefs about dowsing, the theories and assumptions on which he or she operates, limit not only what they see but also how they see it.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:27:53 pm

For Underwood, and for most of his contemporaries, dowsing was 'the sensation of electromagnetic radiations'; Underwood in particular felt that it was solely the sensation or perception of some kind of 'radiations'. He thought that the lines that he perceived - the water-lines, track-lines and aquastats were 'lines of electromagnetic equipotential' resulting from the interruption of some force, emanating from the core of the earth, by 'geophysical anomalies' like faults and rock-fissures.

His idea was that these fissures interrupted the 'earth force' in much the same way as a spider's web interrupts a beam of light and casts a shadow on a wall. The different types of line were, he thought, probably different 'electromagnetic frequencies'; the patterns formed by and between them were the result of interactions between the different frequencies.

The lines and patterns originated from faults and fissures deep in the body of the earth: therefore, reasoned Underwood, the patterns thus formed on the surface must be permanent and immutable.

Because the patterns coincided with sacred sites and structures to a remarkable degree, the sites and structures must therefore have been deliberately chosen and designed to mark those patterns: hence the 'pattern of the past'. His critics held much the same beliefs about the causes of dowsing reactions: dowsing was the result of the perception of 'electromagnetic radiations', and water-lines were the shadows, on the earth's surface, of water-bearing fissures below. (This idea that water-lines are in fact 'images' is important, and I'll return to it shortly.)

They also agreed that the track-lines and aquastars, and the patterns they formed, were aspects of this indefinable earth-force: but they felt that they were not so much interruptions of this earth-force, as with water-lines, but surface diffractions of the force by the structures on the sites themselves. Underwood's patterns, they therefore suggested, were the 'pattern of the present' rather than the 'pattern of the past'.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:29:17 pm

All this theorising assumes that the sole cause of dowsing reactions is electromagnetic in origin. But as we have seen, this is not necessarily the only cause of Underwood's results. As one of his critics put it, it's possible that most of his results came from his imagination rather than the physical world. I don't think that is so, but we do have to bear the possibility in mind. All of Underwood's theories are based on the assumption that the patterns he observed are permanent and immutable; if they are not, then his observations take on some new meanings. Underwood also assumed that the builders of the sites and structures deliberately incorporated the earth-force patterns into their work: but there is no reason why they should not have done it unconsciously, because it 'felt right' to them. If we remember that Underwood's theories are based not on fact but on assumptions, then we can go beyond his limiting 'pattern of the past' to something more directly relevant to today.

First, though, I'd like to return to that idea of the water-line as an image or shadow. This is important for a number of reasons: not least because it defuses the geologists' scientific objection to the dowsers' concept of 'underground streams'. Geologists say that, apart from limestone and chalk, no rock structure will carry the literal kind of stream that dowsers seem to talk about. Dowsers agree with this: the idea of an underground stream cannot normally make sense in terms of geological theory; but the dowsers point out that that is how they perceive underground water, and they realise that it may not be like that underground.

In retaliation the dowsers also point out that geological theory is limited by the way it perceives things, viewing the world underground solely in terms of overall structure rather than local detail: hydrogeology is useful for predicting the level of the water-table in any given area, but cannot explain why dowsers can find water in areas with 'bad' geology (like Somerset, where dowsers have always been active), on hill-tops and at other places that geologists had decided were 'impossible'.

Geology sees the large structure, but not the detail; dowsing sees the detail, but not the overall structure: they're just different ways of seeing things.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:30:29 pm

So when Underwood described the water-lines as interruptions of some earth-force, that was simply the way he saw them; that may not be what they are in reality. Water-lines, blind springs and the like aren't real, physical 'things' at all: they are ways of defining and describing the apparent lines and points on the surface that coincide with certain kinds of definable water-flows below. You could call them a 'constructed reality', an imaginary reality, in the same way that the image on a radar screen or television screen is a reconstruction of reality.

To continue that analogy, the image on a radar or television screen can be distorted, or modified so as to add further information: wind-speed and direction, aircraft speed, alignment to the runway, and so on, in the case of an air-traffic controller's radar set. In the same way, the images of water in dowsing can be distorted to show further information, particularly of depth and the direction and rate of flow. In Underwood's system of dowsing these are shown by what he calls 'parallels' and 'flow-lines'.

Underwood uses the term 'parallel' for an image version of the so-called 'Bishop's Rule', a depth-finding technique that has been used by dowsers for centuries. Underwood's 'parallels' run parallel to the water-line and separated from the centre of the apparent line by a distance approximately equal to the depth of the water-flow at that point; while the Bishop's Rule states that if you walk outward from directly above the centre of the water-line, you will get a second reaction of your dowsing-rod at a distance out that coincides with the depth of the stream at the point which you started from. In both cases the rule is that 'the distance out equals the distance down'; Underwood's 'parallels' can be seen as the loci derived from measuring the Bishop's Rule outward from an infinite number of points on the water-line. Underwood's 'flow-lines' are small feathery lines, usually S-shaped, formed on both sides of the water-line; they 'follow' the apparent strength and direction of flow, rather like the eddy-currents formed in still air by the passing of a car.

Underwood maintained that these patterns, like all his others, were fixed and immutable (apart from a regular oscillation on a daily cycle), and thus formed part of his 'pattern of the past'. But we can see these patterns as Underwood's way of collecting information about depth and flow, for many other dowsers had other ways of collecting the same information, and never perceived Underwood's patterns at all. To them, Underwood's lines simply did not exist.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:31:37 pm

One of the popular contemporary systems for finding depth was Creyke's 'staking' method, which is important to our study because it challenges Underwood's assumption that all the patterns must have been fixed.

Underwood said that the water-line parallels were parallel lines which expanded and contracted in relation to the centre of the water-line by about ten per cent on a daily cycle; but Creyke's 'staking' system produced an unmoving circular 'parallel' around the point on the water-line which had been staked with a metal bar a 'parallel' which vanished once the stake was removed.[25]

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:32:47 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:33:42 pm

A lot of dowsers still use Creyke's method. The procedure is that you first have to find the exact centre of the water-line, and then, at a point exactly on that centre-line, hammer a large metal stake into the ground. Immediately, as far as the dowser is concerned, the waterline disappears, to be replaced by a circle around the point. According to the original system the radius of that circle is the depth of the stream at that point. There are variations: for some dowsers the radius of this circle is only a half or a third of the actual depth which can cause embarrassment at times and other dowsers don't actually stake the water-line, but rather place large lumps of metal or, in one case I know of, a small amethyst crystal, on the ground at the centre of the water-line.

Underwood's and Creyke's systems can be reconciled by saying that Creyke's system produces an artificial version of the Bishop's Rule, which leads us back to the relation between the 'parallels' and the Rule. But, more important, Creyke's system does imply that Underwood's apparently permanent patterns can be changed by inserting a 'needle' into the ground and that, as we shall see, is a key point in a new understanding of sacred sites.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:34:54 pm

Water-lines may not in themselves be real, but they do at least tally with something physical' underground. We can't so easily say the same of Underwood's track-lines and aquastats. In practical dowsing work, water-lines seem reassuringly solid, and have a definite 'feel' of depth to them; but the track-lines and aquastats seem only to be surface phenomena, and to be far more ephemeral. Underwood never actually defined what track-lines and aquastats were, and it seems he only assumed that they were 'lines of electromagnetic equipotential'.

We've seen that if we agree with his assumption, we get trapped by the conundrum of 'Which came first, the patterns or the structures?'. The way out of that trap is to look elsewhere for the 'cause' of at least some of those patterns: and one 'cause' which seems to make a great deal of sense, particularly in relation to tracks, boundaries and the like, is some kind of interaction between certain qualities of a place and aspects of the minds of people passing by. If this is so, then what Underwood observed as aquastats and tracklines could in some cases be memories if you like of the meeting of people and place: and Underwood's results do tally more closely with that interpretation than they do with his rigid theory of the 'pattern of the past'.

This idea of track-lines and aquastats as memories is not as strange as it may seem at first. Even a physical track is a memory, in a sense, of people and animals that have passed along it. Imagine a bare heath, with no tracks on it at all: to cross it you would have to push a pathway through the bracken and gorse. But next time you pass that way, would you make a new path? Probably not: it's much easier to follow an existing path than to make a new one. Each time you pass that way, you wear down the track still further, reinforcing it as a memory of your passing. You leave the district, and the path falls into disuse: but it is still there as a memory of you and your passing that way a memory at first as a bare line across the heath, then later (as it silts up, and conserves moisture better than elsewhere) as a line of denser undergrowth. You retain memories of your walking that path: it retains memories of you.

It seems that it retains those memories in more than just the sense of a worn pathway. Underwood's critics, with their idea of the 'pattern of the present', suggested that some of the patterns were 'electrical phenomena consequent upon disturbance of the earth's surface by man', and this is probably true in many cases.[26] But we can go beyond this, to suggest that it retains memories outside of a purely physical sense: we can say that such a trackway retains a ghost of you, to be seen or felt by other people passing by.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:35:46 pm

By 'ghost' I don't mean some 'spirit of the dead', since obviously you're still alive. Rather, I mean the specific sense of the term as developed by the late Tom Lethbridge in the series of delightful books that he wrote in the 1960s.[27] He suggested that most of the so-called 'ghosts' and 'ghouls' that people come across are better described as memories of emotions or images projected into and stored by certain characteristics of some places by people at those places and these memories could be reconstructed, and thus perceived, by other people passing those places later or, as seems to occur in some cases, earlier.

This theory does work in practice, and seems to gave gained a wide acceptance in recent years. In Church writings, such ghosts and ghouls are referred to as 'place-memories', and a recent official report on exorcism (of which more later) suggested that they account for some nine-tenths of all reported hauntings. If a track or boundary can retain place-memories of passers-by, Underwood's track-lines and aquastats could be a side-effect of the storage of these place-memories as much as, or rather than, 'lines of electromagnetic equipotential'.

The apparent conditions under which images and emotions can be stored in and retrieved from a place as place-memories are complex, and I'll have to leave a detailed discussion of them for later; but one of the conditions is known to be that state of mind of both 'transmitter' and 'receiver', and this gives us a clue as to what the difference between aquastats and track-lines, as place-memories, might be. Underwood said that both track-lines and aquastats coincided with roads and tracks, but aquastats seemed to be the 'holier' of the two types of line. So if we take the lines to be interactive place-memories, this would suggest that the aquastats are projected into the place by a 'holier' state of mind than that required for track-lines. This does explain a number of loose ends in Underwood's theories: it suggests, for example, that track-lines give way to the continuous aquastats because the 'holier' state of mind is a more powerful one, giving an effect like a strong radio signal swamping out a weaker one; it also suggests, as another example, that the coincidence between aquastats and boundaries that Underwood describes may be connected and caused by semi-religious ceremonies like 'beating the bounds'.

This also suggests that to look for track-lines and aquastats and the like may be to miss the point, for they may only be side-effects of something more important. To study them alone may put us in the same position as the hi-fi fanatic who studies the technical quality of each recording so closely that he forgets to listen to the music. Important though studies of Underwood's patterns may be, we must remember to keep them in context with a wider view of the sacred sites, and of nature as a whole.

Post by: Bianca on May 24, 2009, 08:36:45 pm


[1] See Leslie Alcock, By South Cadbury is that Camelot (the 'popular' report on the Cadbury-Camelot dig), particularly pp.72 and 78.

[2] See Francis Hitching, Pendulum.

[3] See Francis Hitching, Pendulum, particularly pp.159-88.

[4] James Plummer, Dowsing for Roman Roads, in JBSD XXV, No.174, Dec 76, pp.205-14.

[5] Captain F.L.M. Boothby, The Salted Track, in JBSD IV, No.26, Dec 39, pp.46-9.

[6] Helmuth Hesserl, The Earth Rays and their Importance, in JBSD IV, No.26, Dec 39, pp.52-60.

[7] Louis Merle, Radiesthesie et Prehistoire, 1933; Charles Diot, Les Sourciers et les Monuments Megalithiques, 1935; publishers not known.

[8] Captain F.L.M. Boothby, The Religion of The Stone Age, in JBSD II, No.10, Dec 35, pp.115-16.

[9] Reginald A. Smith, Archaeological Dowsing, in JBSD III, No.24, Jun 39, pp.348-56.

[10] Underwood's articles on these patterns are: Archaeology and Dowsing (Part I), in JBSD VII, No.56, Jun 47, pp.192-205; Archaeology and Dowsing (Part II), in JBSD VII, No.58, Dec 47, pp.296-306; Archaeology and Dowsing (Pad III), in JBSD VII, No.59, Mar 48, pp.354-60; Track Lines, in JBSD VIII, No.60, Jun 48, pp.22-8; Spirals, in JBSD VIII, No.62, Dec 48, pp.162-77; Aquastats, in JBSD IX, No.71, Mar 51, pp.279-86; and Further Notes on Dowsing Aquastats and Prehistoric Sites, in JBSD X, No.73, Sept 51, pp.40-6.

[11] It's important to realise that Underwood's work was nearly twenty years out of date when it was finally published: he had it published posthumously because of worries about bitter sarcasm from professional archaeologists.

[12] W.H. Lamb, Old Churches Over Streams, in JBSD XIX, No.129, Sept 65, p.85.

[13] Muriel Langdon, More About Old Churches Over Streams, in JBSD XIX No.130, Dec 65, p.150.

[14] See JBSD IX, No.71, Mar 51, p.286 and JBSD X, No.73, Sept 51, p.46. Colonel Bell was the Society at that time: as well as being editor of the Journal, he was the Society's president, secretary, treasurer and librarian!

[15] First mentioned in his article Track Lines, in JBSD VIII, No.60, Jun 48, pp.22-8.

[16] This is well illustrated in Underwood's diagrams in The Pattern Of The Past.

[17] See Pattern Of The Past, pp.46-7 and 58-9.

[18] See Pattern Of The Past, pp.34-59.

[19] The clearest example he gives is on his Fig.45 on p.131 of Pattern Of The Past, showing patterns on and round the Slaughter Stone at Stonehenge.

[20] This is his main theme in Chs.8-17 of Pattern Of The Past.

[21] For a practising scientist's view of what science and scientific research is and does, see W.I.B. Beveridge's excellent The Art of Scientific Investigation.

[22] The journals of the British Society of Dowsers are the most reliable British source on this: 'official' research in the past has had too much of a vested interest in the classical view of science to allow them to design experiments based on dowsing practice rather than pseudo-scientific theory.

[23] See my book Dowsing: Techniques and Applications [later republished as The Diviner's Handbook] for practical details.

[23a] The 'other book' which discusses these concepts is my Inventing Reality: Towards a Magical Technology, Gateway Books, 1986.

[24] See Maby and Franklin, The Physics of the Divining Rod, or Tromp, Psychical Physics.

[25] Underwood did recognise Creyke's system of depthing: he mentions and describes it briefly on p.51 of Pattern Of The Past, and refers to an article of Creyke's in JBSD II, No.9, Sept 35, p.86. See also Trinder, Dowsing, p.27.

[26] Particularly, for example, the detailed patterns at Stonehenge which Underwood shows in Figs. 32-5, 39, 40, 43 and 44 in Pattern Of The Past, which cannot match the archaeological facts if they are interpreted in terms of his theory of the 'patterns of the past'.

[27] See, in particular, T.C. Lethbridge, Ghost and Ghoul, and Ghost and Divining Rod.