Articles & papers – A conversation with Tom Graves (TLH 105 interview)

In the late 1980s I was flitting backward and forward between Britain and the States, trying unsuccessfully to raise interest in genuine research in ‘magical technologies’. During one of my return-visits to Britain in 1988, I dropped by to see Paul Devereux, editor of the respected ‘earth-mysteries’ research-magazine The Ley Hunter (TLH), at his mid-Wales home. The resultant interview was published in TLH105:

A Conversation With… TOM GRAVES

Tom Graves dropped by the Centre for Earth Mysteries Studies in Brecon during the winter. Paul Devereux took the opportunity to speak with him on behalf of TLH.

PD: Tom, it’s good to have you here at the Centre for a few hours. In the 1970s you were a leading figure on the Earth Mysteries scene, and your 1976 book “Dowsing – Techniques and Applications” (Turnstone) and your 1978 title “Needles of Stone” (Turnstone) have become classics. You disappeared from Earth Mysteries (EM) view for some years as you developed your computing business, but have recently emerged again as a figure on the scene, with “Needles of Stone Revisited” (Gothic Image 1986), a re-isssue of your dowsing book (“The Diviners Handbook”, Aquarian, 1986) and a new work, “Magical Technology” (Gateway, 1986). You are also lecturing here and in the States. How do you now feel yourself fitting into the area of EM, or, to put it another way, do you feel you can continue where you left off, as it were, or do you feel the need to find new directions?

TG: Nice to know I still seem to have a reputation – though not necessarily always a good thing… I don’t know that I can “carry on where I left off”, because in some areas, particularly the Dragon Project physical work, I’ve become rather out of touch. I have been disturbed, though, to see how much some people have taken as “fact” things that I had gone to some pains to explain were only hypotheses or descriptive analogies – Williamson and Bellamy’s childish games in “Ley Lines in Question” being a good case in point, but, equally, several people who’ve taken a very mechanistic interpretation of that descriptive analogy about earth energies and “lines of energy”. I do feel that I’m developing in a slightly different direction, in which EM is more of a case study than an end in itself…

PD: In a way, isn’t that how you got into dowsing in the first place?

TG: Yes, very much so. I can wave a pendulum around a bit, but I certainly don’t see myself as the “great expert” that some people (such as my publishers!) might like me to pretend to be!

PD: Yes, but there is also a phrase which states that those who speak do not know, and those that know do not speak. We suspect you are being a bit over-modest here, Tom. But not only expectations in ability – didn’t people expect you to be in your sixties when they met you for the first time after you wrote the dowsing book?

TG: True – the “guru game” is always dangerous people don’t like to have their images punctured. I must admit that I’ve fallen for that one myself – I’d always thought of Tom Lethbridge as being thin and wiry, whereas he was definitely of “Chestertonian proportions”!


PD: Anyhow, to come back to the point of you making EM a case study…

TG: Yes, sure. I think that rather than being sidetracked into something new, EM itself has been something of a sidetrack from my main themes, which on the one side are about the learning process (for which dowsing is a wonderful test-bed!) and on the other about the use of “chance”, of coincidence, of all these other areas in practical applications. Not theorising about them, but their use – what I sometimes call a “magical technology’.

PD: How do you see “coincidence” working in an EM context?

TG: Strictly speaking it’s all coincidence. Ley alignments, dowsable fields, magnetic or microwave anomalies – all coincidence, in that we perceive them to coincide with something or other. And most of them are imaginary too, in that strict sense of “perceived images”. What they mean, though is something else. Definitely something else! We certainly haven’t even started on answers yet, in my opinion.

PD: Yes, but isn’t there a danger of disappearing up one’s own navel in this linguistic manoeuvering? In the strict sense of the word, these things are coincidence … they happen together. But if we are looking, at, say, an alignment of sites – a ley – set up thousands of years ago as a deliberate pattern by people, then are we not perceiving their manipulation of coincidence for their purposes? And in trying to perceive that, may we, perhaps, eventually learn something of what their purposes were all about?

TG: This is actually one area that we disagree. I don’t say that the line we perceive isn’t there – obviously it is, otherwise we wouldn’t perceive it. But that doesn’t prove that it was, as you say, set up thousands of years ago – all it proves is that we can surmise that it might have been, which is not the same thing at all. You could, if you like, say that that’s yet more semantics: I don’t think so. I happen to have a strong dislike of what I call the golden age game – making up fanciful pictures of some super-race of priests in Lemurian times, or whatever else the often none-too-bright “New Age” happens to think is fashionable at the moment. But what matters to me far more is not what may or may not have happened in the past – arguments which I know do concern you greatly – but what use it all is now. Now – not in the past, but now.

PD: I certainly agree with you about the “golden age” romance! We even get it concerning relatively recent times … the rural charm, when the peasants were half dead from starvation, poverty, disease. But not to digress …No, the study of ancient lines can mean that we only think some lines were deliberately laid down. However, by study we can amass a degree of evidence which leaves little doubt that at least some of them are deliberate artefacts. In fact, I could show you air pictures of the neolithic landscape in Britain that show very long straight lines (cursuses for instance), discernable now only as crop marks, that certainly were laid down in the neolithic period, and, moreover, do link ancient (and sometimes evolved) sites. And then, of course, we have straight lines in the Andean landscape , and so on. The evidence, the sheer mystery of straight line practice in early cultures is a fact. Its function is unknown. Now, like you, I do not study the past as some form of genteel antiquarianism. Quite the contrary. I want to know the relationship early peoples had with their planet, and with themselves. To learn that, we have to listen to the whispers that come off the land, we have to tune in to the archaic mind. Then, then, perhaps we can see if there is an ancient wisdom we can start applying to our condition now. So, I think we do actually agree in the main, but I want to see the input of something other than the 20th-Century mind. We need to get back to a more primary awareness, that may have values we can use today.

TG: …’ere! ‘Oo’s interviewin’ ‘oo’?


PD: Well, this is called “A conversation with…”

TG: Fine – but let me get a word in edgeways sometimes! Stop for a moment. Think. The only mind we know, and that badly, is our own. I know that I don’t even understand what life was like for my own parents, let alone my ancestors a hundred generations back. Do you? Otherwise it’s all an image, a fake. We live here, now. We can’t go back (though we can go round the bend quite easily, but that’s another matter…) So: the energies, as we perceive them (and for that matter measure them) are also here, now. The lines – again, as we perceive them – are also here, now. The question I’m looking at is very simple: what is their use – also here, now.

PD: No, you don’t get off the hook that easily! You started talking about coincidence. Then you made the statement that we do not know that alignments were laid down deliberately. I am simply stating that some lines we do know were deliberately laid down thousands of years ago. I was really questioning your concept, your need, to question the idea of coincidence. As to use, well, if we start using things too quickly, before we have listened and learned, then, well …look what happened in the Fifties with nuclear power. Look at that legacy we now pick up.

TG: Sure – that’s exactly what I’m worried about – hence my doubts about the aims of some groups like the Fountain Group, who have an infuriating habit of leaving all sorts of strange “real and imaginary” junk around the place, simply because that’s what their system says they should look like. Not to mention the joys of tidying up after more ominous groups like the self-styled “satanic covens” (more like overgrown kids with some nasty ideas) – it wasn’t exactly pleasant to remove the charred remains of a puppy from Rollright, for example. And the energies that those games leave behind are real. Very. My interest in use, I’d agree, is more at the moment about not using it – sitting and thinking, carefully – than assisting in yet another technological blunder on the scale of the nuclear industry. People playing with crystals, for example: I knew one American who told me “we’ve found these little tiddy crystals do neat things at sacred sites – so what do you reckon we could with this great sucker of a rock?” I must admit I’m horrified by the insanity of this – and yet they think they’re “healing the earth”!

PD: Yes …I recall Jim Lovelock (author of “Gaia – A New Look at Life on Earth”, OUP, 1979), one of the main champions of the idea of our planet acting like a living organism, saying at a symposium in America a couple of years back that it is not the Earth we have to save. The Earth will carry on even if we pollute the environment and change the chemical balance of the atmosphere and so on. It will simply be that we are no longer around. The Earth would just readjust to a different balance of elements, and, who knows, give birth to life that could operate in that new environment…

TG: We don’t need to heal the Earth. It’s quite capable of looking after itself, thank you very much. But we do need to heal ourselves. Especially the arrogant, so-self-important “New Agers”. So to me the sacred sites are places to heal myself. Places to be quiet. To listen. (Yes, I have been known to listen sometimes…) The difficult thing is that that takes peace and respect – which is not too easy when you have some loud-mouthed idiot ritualising in your ear on the top of Glastonbury Tor, which is what I got the last time I went up there. (Bitter laughter…) The sacred sites (scared sites, perhaps) are desperately overused, especially by “spiritual tourists”, who are more sensation-seekers rather than serious pilgrims. And I fear we are as much to blame for that as anyone, by writing books about EM. Which is one reason I stopped.

PD: Yes, your recent work – “Magical Technology”, and your next book, on the pendulum – deal with clarifying how we think, the precision of terminology, use of words – of accurate communication, really. And the clarity of what we perceive. I suppose if we can all master that, then it will be safe to write again! The trouble is, as you have found with misinterpretations of some of the things you wrote in “Needles…”, however clear one states things, people will tend to read what they want or expect in any case! I remember R D Laing once saying something like: “We were born – and no one issued guarantee cards”! But what is the essence you are trying to get across in your new work and thinking?

TG: I must admit that I wish I knew myself at times…! As I wrote in the new book, it’s like looking at a dim star at night, in that if I try to look straight at it I can’t see it all, but I can see it somehow if I sneak up on it, so to speak. This whole EM area’s like that: full of coincidence and paradox and dilemma. I’m accepting that it is like that – that no theory actually makes sense if you take it all the way – and see where that takes us if we put it into practice. In the everyday world. In skills, especially. Seeing how the magic – the mystery, as you rightly put it – can be put into practice, into use, while still retaining the awareness that it is still mystery.

PD: For myself, I do not have a theory as such. I have various possibilities that I try out with available information at particular times. It seems to me that we have to be open without losing some sense of structure in our thinking. Yes, I agree about mystery – to see it as a process rather than an end of some sort…

TG: Sure, we have to have some balance between the almost total absence of structure (or thought, for that matter) at the “New Age” end of the spectrum, with the total absence of awareness and, bluntly, common sense and wit, at the “scientism” end which still dominates most thinking about archaeology and, more interesting to me, technology. It’s that balance that I’m striving to find. In myself first – “physician heal thyself” and all that. Which is where it starts to hurt, of course! But also in how we see technology and, more to the point, how we apply it. We are technology; and we are both the sacred sites and the people who built them. That’s technology too, in a sense. A technology of awareness, a technology of reverence in a real sense. And that’s why I keep going on about this idea of a magical technology: not only to bring the magic back to technology, but also to bring the technology to some of the magical work that we happen to be doing, whether we realise it or not, at those sacred sites or anywhere, anywhen. To misquote Arthur C Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology!”

PD: Words of wisdom, Tom. Thank you very much for sharing them with us!

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