Dowsing and the Intuitive Mind
Induction into Earth Awareness
© 1989 David Yarrow all rights reserved

Nancy stepped slowly, hesitantly forward, eyes focused on twin metal rods in her outstretched hands. Suddenly the rods began to move. A look of fearful doubt crossed Nancy's face, but the rods continued to swing slowly inwards until they crossed parallel to her chest. Astonishment bloomed in her face as she looked down to see she was standing on my mark. Six feet below her was a pipe carrying water into her house.

She shot me a look of penetrating suspicion, as if to accuse me of casting a spell on her. I gave a merry laugh and had her step back and repeat the process a few more times to confirm that the rods moved at her own suggestion. Her doubt yielded to a cascade of questions with each subsequent success.

We then moved up the sidewalk to the next house on the block. In a quick minute, Nancy located its water pipe. In 30 minutes she could detect sewer and gas pipes, too, and distinguish between them. All were out of sight six feet underground-but not out of mind.

Nancy had just received her first lesson in dowsing, a practical, ancient way to locate objects hidden in the ground. In five years I've helped hundreds of people discover this innate ability. It's a native, natural capability built into our nervous system. Nineteen of 20 people can learn basic dowsing in just 30 minutes of practice. It's as simple as seeing. Sight detects high frequency electromagnetic waves of visible light; dowsing uses a similar talent to sense low frequency energy fields.


In 1971, Brian Josephson invented a semi-conductor that's extremely sensitive to magnetic fields. The Josephson junction led to invention of the Superconducting QUantum Interference Detector (SQUID), a highly sensitive device to measure magnetism. Among the first things learned with a SQUID was there are distinct and complex magnetic fields around our heads. This opened a window for science into a brand new world: bioelectromagnetics.

Also in 1971, bacteriologist Richard Blakemore collected bacteria from Cape Cod salt marshes and left some in a culture dish. The microbes swam to the dish's north side. He rotated the dish around, and the bacteria slowly migrated back north. No matter how often he turned the dish around, the bacteria migrated north. Using an electron microscope, another new scientific tool, Blakemore found in these bacteria a tiny mass of magnetite, crystals of naturally magnetic iron ore.

Then, in the early 1970s, Bill Keaton of Cornell University showed that homing pigeons navigate by sensing Earth's magnetic field. Nobody believed him, but it turns out pigeons have a compass in their heads. Next to their left brain lobe is a cluster of magnetite crystals enclosed in nerves.

In 1987, in Britain's New Scientist, geologist Tom Williamson summarized two decades of biomagnetic research. Bacteria, bees, fish, dolphins, birds, rodents, eels, and whales all were proven to sense magnetic fields to orient and navigate. In humans, a cluster of nerves and magnetite crystals was found in front of the pituitary gland, behind the ethmoid sinus. Their physical design make us as sensitive as a SQUID. Williamson also suggested magnetic sensing could play a role in dowsing.

In Sept. 1987, British medical journal Lancet, N. B. Eastwood wrote that dowsers can distinguish between north and south magnetic poles, of both bar magnets and the Earth itself.

But, to underscore the dark side of biomagnetism, in July 1987 the Power Authority of the State of NY (PASNY) released a 10 year study which showed a doubling of leukemia in children living in proximity to high current power lines. The study was commissioned in the 70s in a compromise with opponents to construction of 765 kv power lines. Bioelectromagnetic science, still in its infancy, can't say how power lines induce cancer, but PASNY's study is unrefutable scientific fact of the correlation.

Inner Sense

Dowsing is best known as a way to locate underground water. The popular image is a man walkinmg around with a forked stick. But dowsing is used for other purposes by professional welldrillers, plumbers, mechanics, surveyors, excavators, geologists, and even archaeologists. If this sounds improbable, consider that groundhogs and bees always nest directly above an underground water stream. They are among Nature's most reliable water dowsers.

Water dowsers agree water circulates in Earth's crust in complex networks of fountains, veins, streams, and rivers. Recent studies with a magnetometer detected dips in Earth's magnetic field where dowsers detect underground water streams. The obvious, but unproven, assumption is dowsers learn to respond to signals from their inner magnetic "compass"-the bundle of nerves and magnetite crystals at the top of the brain stem.

Biomagnetic science may be new, but the ability to sense magnetism is as old as evolution. It makes sense, since we evolved in a magnetic environment just as we did in water, and then air. It's logical, then, that organisms have magnetic sensing ability. The location of magnetite crystals near the pituitary deep in our brain suggests this magnetic sense is probably as old as sight. The practical question is: what good is it? The scientific question: how does it work? The answer to both is: we hardly know. But dowsing seems to use this inner magnetic sensing.
for more on water dowsing:
Water Angel in India
teaching the ancient art
of water divining

Unfortunately for science, dowsing is far more complex than such a simple scenario. To dismiss dowsing as mere "magnetic reflex" is to insist our mathematical skills are limited to counting from 1 to 100. Trained dowsers can also detect the direction of waterflow in veins. This directional ability requires more than a reflex; the analogy to math is counting backward from 100 to 1.

But trained dowsers can also tell the depth of a water vein. This requires an elegant range finding ability, and quite a bit of computation, too. This magnetic reflex can add, multiply and divide! Then there are expert dowsers who can tell the volume of water flow. So add measurement to our list of dowsing capabilities. And some dowsers can tell the water's mineral content, so this reflex can do chemical analysis, too! After all, how did Nancy distinguish between water, sewer and gas pipes?

Inner Mind

Although dowsing seems to use an inner magnetic sense, it also uses complex mental functions outside normal intellectual consciousness. The mind is far more complex than we think! To fathom the art of dowsing requires us to embrace the idea of the Whole Mind.
Water Angel
in India
teaching an ancient art in a desert

In 1981, neurosurgeon Roger Sperry won a Nobel Prize for proving our brain has two distinct halves. The corpus callosum, a nerve bundle at our brain's base, is the switchboard to let our left brain know what our right is doing. Sperry's "split brain studies" of epileptics, whose corpus callosum is cut by surgery, showed the two sides work independently. For example, shapes learned by the left eye aren't recognized by the right. But not only that, the two halves also process data in unique ways.

One side of our brain (usually the left) uses linear, analytical methods to process perceptions and data about the world around us. Intellectual skills such as logic, reading, writing, math, and speech which form the basis for Western culture, all rely on this left brain mode. I call this the Rational Mind, and it relies mostly on our outer physical senses.

The cortex's other side uses a different mode which takes in whole patterns rather than single elements. Rather than item by item sequential analysis, right brain mode sees everything at once as a the total picture. Right brain skills include abstract and creative thought, emotions, spatial visualization, imagination, and dreaming. Artists rely on this mode. Some call it irrational, but I call it Intuitive Mind. It uses non-physical, inner senses, including our mysterious magnetic reflex.

Dowsing opens a window between our Intuitive and Rational Mind. Like the corpus callosum, dowsing is a bridge betwixt our two minds to allow dialog between them. In dowsing, Rational Mind asks a question and Intuitive Mind answers by a movement of the rod. The art of dowsing is to ask clear questions which have unambiguous answers. Vague, imprecise questions will yield equally garbled replies.

Europe's earliest record of dowsing are of German miners who used it to locate mineral ores. But this window of perception opens into unexpected worlds, much more than minerals and water underground. It can be used to explore many unseen realms besides objects in the Earth. In fact, "underground" is a metaphor to hint to our Rational Mind the real depths of the Intuitive Mind. Psychically, dowsing's window also lets us peek into the subterranean realms of our psyche: our Unconscious.

Feminine Intuition

In olden days midwives used a dowser's pendulum to determine the sex of a baby before birth. The bob might circle clockwise for a girl, and counterclockwise for a boy. This example, drawn from conception and midwives, highlights dowsing's association with feminine qualities of mind. Although Intuition is considered a feminine art, it exists in both men and women. Both sexes have it, but it's more active in females. Childbirth itself is a spontaneous event which occurs instinctively; rational intervention usually impedes the process.

Like birth, love, sex, and appetite, dowsing is rooted more in feeling than thinking. They arise from your gut more than your brain-a precognitive awareness that, while not rational, nonetheless can be made conscious. Today intuition is underrated in our society which relies on "brains" while is plays with our "gut" feelings. But humanity has survived by feeling as much as by thinking.

Dowsing requires a receptive mind which doesn't try to manipulate our perceptions, but simply apprehends things as they are. Our rational mind constantly filters and programs our perceptions to make them fit our conceptual map and impose a preconcieved order on our reality, rather than admit the facts as they are. The most common block to successful dowsing is our constant attempt to impose expectation on perception.

Intuitive Mind is thoroughly subjective, whereas rational thinking claims to be objective. As in Zen meditation, the challenge with dowsing is to open the window of perception and make the continual chatter of our thinking cease and be still, and listen to the voice within. Dowsers find meditation is an effective way to train our intuition and aid in their art.

Dowsing is a rudimentary tool to allow communication with your inner awareness, and to gain access to its information. It develops a cooperative dialog between the outer attention of your Rational Mind and the inner sensing of your Intuitive Mind. The key to successful dowsing is to ask clear, explicit questions. If our Rationality can't conceive of the question, how can our Intuition respond with a meaningful answer?

Dowsing, then, taps a level of consciousness that is below the conditioned consciousness of our rational thought. This is the non-thinking awareness of our cells which, even though they lack intellect, nonetheless possess awareness and mind. Such a consciousness is our genetic heritage—it is a common ancestry imparted to all living cells which can sense and respond to the universe around them. In Return of the Bird Tribes, author Ken Carey put it this way:

"Information percolates to you from the subtle world of spirit. Your body knows, your senses pick it up. It's up to each to sense how that translates and relates in each day's moment. The process isn't complex—sensing and translating isn't done by the mind. It occurs spontaneously below the level of thought when judgement subsides and allows perception to simply be and take place effortlessly when your mind relaxes its cultural interpretations and trusts you to experience the natural clarity that's always present when you are present. [Today] this natural process is overridden by insistence on making decisions with intellect alone."

Common Sense

The old man's soft gray hair, held by a simple clasp, hung down below his shoulder blades. With eyes closed, he slowly counted, mumbling words only he could hear. Suddenly the rod in his hand trembled. His eyes opened a crack to peer at the metal shaft. As it began to turn, his eyes widened. In innocent wonder, he exclaimed, "It speaks Indian! I spoke to it in Indian, and it answered!"

Leon Shenandoah is the head sachem (chief) of Onondaga Nation. In their village, he's also the dowser, and for decades he's answered calls for water. On this day he'd invited me to escort him on one such errand. Leon had with him a large forked apple branch. The expectant homeowner had described where he wanted his water-as always-"not too deep."

Leon with his applewood "Y" rod, and me with my pait of metal "L" rods, had searched several minutes, and soon we agreed there were two springs near the house. Leon was startled when I told him how deep they were, so I'd explained how it's done. He asked to try my metal rods, so I showed him how to hold the rods, then watched as he executed the simple depth-finding protocol.

Now, I chuckled as I looked into his face full of amazement. Like the discovery of light after a long darkness, that first beam of illumination always ignites a delightful emotion on every face. The inner window into intuitive knowledge had cracked open! I said, "Yes, Leon, the Intuitive Mind speaks all languages."

Dowsing relies on an awareness that's below intellectual analysis. It arises from a direct deep perception in the native roots of consciousness. Original mind. Dowsing is only a window-a "channel" in the modern communications idiom—for another view of this same universe.

Dowsing is often confused with divining, but that's a vast other topic. Dowsing uses our non-physical perceptions to gain information about the physical world, such as water veins, mineral ores, or pipes. But divining accesses awareness in meta-physical realms of mind, emotion and spirit. If dowsing is a simple Morse code telegraph, then divining is the equivalent of psychic cable TV. The information channel is not only wider and deeper, but vastly more complex.


Earth's magnetic field is a barely explored realm. Present science can't explain what magnetism is, much less what its purpose and effect is in biological life. We know the Earth's magnetic field shields us from intense solar and cosmic radiations, and Earth emits magnetic pulses in the same extremely low frequencies (ELF) as human brain waves. New evidence links electromagnetic fields around power lines to metabolic disorders such as cancer. Magnets are used as adjuncts, or to replace, needles in acupuncture. But we have only dim glimpses magnetism's effect on the mind and our psychic functions, or on the viability of the entire ecosystem.

In July 1988, Scientific American revealed that Earth's magnetic field is weakening, and such declines preceded collapse and reversal of the magnetic poles. We now know the magnetic poles flipped thousands of times in geological history. That this is new data to the rational mind of science exposes the infant state of our evolving understanding of this subtle planetary magnetic network.

Some explorers combine science and dowsing to investigate ley lines, earth energies, sacred spaces, and ancient megaliths. Among their discoveries are noxious rays and geo-pathological energy, which seem to exert a powerful, disturbing influence on human health. For example, moving the beds of cancer patients who have been sleeping over a crossing of water veins often results in improvements in their health. Their discoveries reveal an invisible world of energy fields emanated by Earth, even as SQUID studies proved we have magnetic fields about our head. Adventurous pioneers into these invisible realms speculate terrestrial magnetism is a tangible manifestation of the Mind of Gaia, the Earth Mother. Thomas Berry, in his recent book The Dream of the Earth (1988), wrote:

"The human is that being in whom the universe celebrates itself in conscious self awareness. We invent our culture guided by transrational processes from tendencies we carry within. The rationality we exalt as the only true understanding is by an irony found to be mythic imaginative dream. Great scientists do their best work in this dimension of psyche.

"We substituted facts and figures for our visionary world. Our plight is to awaken from cultural pathology, to get back to our primary nature expressed in spontaneous being, to genetic imperatives from which culture emerged and from which it can't be separated without losing integrity and survival ability. We must reinvent sustainable culture by a descent into our pre-rational resources. New culture must emerge from an intuitive, non-rational process that occurs when we awaken to ever present numinous powers which work less through words than symbols.

"In our present confusion we aren't left to our rationality, but supported by ultimate universal powers present as spontaneities in our being. We must be sensitized to them as more than romantic attachment to nature, but as comprehension of the larger patterns of nature. Earth speaks to us through the deepest elements of our nature. In relation to earth, we've been autistic for centuries. Only now have we begun to listen to earth's demands to renew our participation in the grand litury of the universe. "

Dowsing Renaissance

Today dowsing is undergoing a revival. The American Society of Dowsers (ASD), founded in Danville, Vermont in 1961, has thousands of members in over 70 chapters and publishes a quarterly newsletter. A national conference in Danville every September attracts hundreds of dowsers, supplemented by regional gatherings. This re-emergence of dowsing in Western culture was highlighted in 1986 by release of Chris Bird's The Divining Hand.

Do yourself a favor and learn to dowse. You may not ever need to find water in the ground, but Westerners need to get in touch with the other half of their brain—the intuitive half. Dowsing can train us to use both modes of our Whole Mind, and to shift modes at will. Dowsing opens new doors into our awareness. It's simple, practical, reliable, and fun. It's not the door that's important; it's what lies beyond the threshold that's the real adventure.

Dr. Aubrey Westlake, an English physician who pioneered the use of dowsing in medicine, stated at age 91:

"Rediscovery of dowsing is not fortuitous, but is vouchsafed to us by Providence to enable us to cope with the difficult and dangerous stage of human development that lies ahead. It gives access to a supersensible world to extend our awareness and knowledge. It should be regarded as a special, peculiar sense, halfway between ordinary physical senses, which apprehend the material world, and our to-be-developed sense, which in due course will apprehend the supersensible world directly. "

David Yarrow — Turtle EyeLand — — updated 8/15/2002