Dowsers’ Workbook – 1: Using this book

Dowsing is a way of using your body’s own reflexes to help you interpret the world around you: to find things, to make sense of things, to develop new ways of looking and seeing. And, as the title suggests, this is a workbook on dowsing: so it’s a practical book, with a series of exercises that bring the ideas behind dowsing into a practical, usable context. By using the book in this way, working through each of the exercises in sequence rather than just reading them, you should be able to develop new dowsing skills, or to improve the skills you already have.

What we learn to do in dowsing is take careful note of certain reflex responses — a small movement of the wrist muscles, for example — and work out what those responses mean according to the context in which those responses occurred. In a way this is little different from what we already do with all our other senses: we use them too to interpret meaning from what we see and hear and sense around us. In dowsing we somehow combine together the information from all those ordinary senses, so that (with practice!) we have just one simple and consistent set of responses to interpret; and we’ll generally use some kind of mechanical amplifier, such as a small weight on a string, or a lever such as the traditional dowser’s forked twig, to make those responses easier to see and to recognise.

What may seem odd, at first sight, is that there don’t seem to be any physical limits to what we can do in dowsing. We can find some things, such as underground water, that we could not possibly see with our unaided senses; and with practice we can also search using information from images — such as a photograph or a map — rather than only from tangible, so-called ‘real’ objects around us. Although it might disturb scientists, who always have to have explanations as to why things work, it needn’t worry us at all: all we need to know, in practice, is how to make sure that we do find what we’re looking for. Dowsing rarely makes sense in theory, but does work surprisingly well in practice if you let it work. We can just get on with whatever we need to do, and let the scientists worry about it afterwards.

But since most people seem to want to know how things work, you will find a small section here on the theory of dowsing: though it’s almost at the end of the book. That’s because until you have some practical experience — which you’ll get by doing the exercises — it will probably be more of a hindrance than a help: so read (and work through) the rest of the book first!

While we don’t need to understand how dowsing works in order to use it, we do need to understand how to use it (which is not the same thing at all). And perhaps the most important thing to understand is that you’re not using an ‘it’ at all: you’re using you. As I mentioned earlier, what we’re really doing in dowsing is learning how to interpret our own natural responses to questions that we put to our environment. Tools such as the old divining rod or the ‘pendulum’, the weight on a string, do help: but they only help. As in all skills, what really matters in the end is you: your knowledge, your awareness. Far more than in most skills, dowsing only works well when you work well: so you can also use your varying results in dowsing as a way of telling you how well you know you.

For the same reason, there are no set techniques in dowsing. Everyone is slightly different: so everyone’s dowsing techniques will be slightly different. What works best for you now is what works best for younow: not necessarily what worked well for someone else, and, unfortunately, not necessarily what worked well for you a while ago — even as recently as last week or even yesterday. Some dowsers would argue that, once learned, your dowsing skills and techniques need never change. But you change; things change; so your dowsing may well change too. (This is true for any other skill, of course, though it may not be so noticeable). Throughout this book I’ll be reminding you of that, to help you learn to notice when and how (and sometimes even why) things change.

To keep track of these changes, use this book as a permanent record. After each exercise you’ll find a ‘comments’ or ‘results’ box (whichever is appropriate) for you to record what you’ve found out during the exercise. Do take the time to do this: you’ll find it invaluable in future. For the same reason, leave some space in the box when you write up your notes on an exercise, so as to leave room for future comments.

So, before you read any further, note down what we might call your ‘starting position’:

Exercise 1: What is dowsing?

What do you know about the subject at the moment? Have you tried doing any dowsing yourself? If not, have you read any other books on it? Summarise your current views below.


As I’ve said, you will find that it’s useful to have that kind of summary to refer back to later — if only to see how your views change as you gain increasing practical experience. There are no right or wrong answers here: just ones that work well, or not so well, for you, now.

Developing your skill

The idea behind this book is that it can be used as a workbook both to develop your dowsing skills from scratch, or — if you’ve already had some practical experience — to dip into to improve your skills and to try out new ideas.

There are five parts to the rest of this book:

A beginner’s introduction

If you haven’t done any dowsing at all before, Chapter 2, A practical introduction, will get you going, using some ‘angle rods’, basic dowsing tools that you can make from bits and pieces you’re likely to find around the house.

The dowser’s toolkit

The next three chapters look in some detail at what dowsers use as tools, and why they’re used in particular ways. Chapter 3, Make yourself comfortable, takes a more detailed look at angle rods, and also at the ways in which our approaches the skill can make a big difference in the reliability of our results; Chapter 4, The pendulum, will take you through the many variations on what is probably the most popular dowsing instrument; and Chapter 5, The dowser’s toolkit, discusses some of the bewildering variety of instruments that dowsers use as their ‘mechanical amplifiers’, and will show you the practical reasoning behind the choice of using one dowsing tool in preference to another.

Some applications

In the end, dowsing is only useful if you’re going to use it: this section will show you some of the many ways in which you can put your skill to practical use. Chapter 6, Putting it to use, gives practical suggestions on how to build up applications, looking at the basic principle of using dowsing to interpret questions that we present to our environment; Chapter 7, “Physician, Know Thyself”, presents some aspects of perhaps the most popular theme in dowsing, its uses in the areas of personal health and fitness; and Chapter 8, Finding out, instead, goes outdoors into the more traditional realm of dowsing, that of looking for things in the outside world.

Making sense

The next two chapters have a change of focus, looking inward but wider at the same time, to put dowsing into a more general context. Chapter 9, The greater toolkit, gives some practical suggestions to use dowsing — either on its own or in conjunction with other approaches — to look at how we interact with the world and with aspects of ourselves; while Chapter 10, So how does it work?, shows why attempts to explain the dowsing process create more questions than they answer, and that a more paradoxical approach to theory is perhaps the best way out.

Out in the real world

Finally, Chapter 11, A test of skill, shows you how to put your new skills and experience to some practical tests — including using map-dowsing and many other techniques to find a real hidden object.

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