What’s up with dowsing?

Today at dinner my dad was talking about a podcast he had heard where they talked about dowsing. For the unfamiliar, dowsing is a technique used to find hidden things, such as underground water or gravesites. The dowser often uses a rod or pair of rods, which are meant to guide them toward whatever it is they’re looking for.

The episode my dad listened to gave some impressive anectdotal examples of dowsing being used to find things. Obviously these are only examples, and if this were all I had heard, I wouldn’t be that interested. But I actually have a personal connection to the practice in my family history.

I’ve heard a few times from my mom that my grandfather actually had a pair of dowsing rods, and used them with some success. To be clear, my grandpa wasn’t some paranormal enthusiast or pseudoscience quack. He was a farmer of the American heartland, and not prone to eccentricity or superstition. He did dowsing because it produced practical results for him.

I don’t really have a clear picture of his success rate with it, but I do know that he used his rods to find water and the graves of relatives. And it must have worked well enough for him that he did it regularly; it’s not like he tried it once & gave up. My understanding is that it’s not uncommon for old farmers to have some experience with dowsing, especially for finding water.

So, what exactly is going on with dowsing? I don’t think anyone really knows, but I have a general theory I’ve picked up about things like this. People receive a lot of sensory information that never makes it to their conscious mind, but still gets processed. Some of this sensory information might be conditions in the feel of the ground or the air that give an experienced mind clues to where water might be. Processes like dowsing might give the unconscious a way to pass that information along to the conscious mind, bypassing the layer of filtering that would normally interfere with that intuition.

As I said, it’s just a general theory. Practices like dowsing are still mostly a mystery. But the interesting thing about it is that you can have no clue how it works, and it might still work for you. And if it works, why not use it? There seems to be some variation among people in their aptitude for it, but I’d like to give it a try sometime and see for myself.

Have you ever heard stories of dowsing working? Have you ever tried dowsing? Do you think there’s anything to the theory I gave? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​ctrl-c.club.