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Colonel Bell







Colonel Arthur Hugh Bell DSO, OBE, MRI  (1878-1968)


President of the British Society of Dowsers (1933-1964)

Editor of The Journal(of the British Society of Dowsers) (1933-1964)

Administrator of the British Society of Dowsers (1933-1963)




Arthur Hugh Bell was born in Hampstead, educated at Charterhouse and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1898.  After a distinguished military career, during which he saw active service in South Africa and India, he retired in 1928 at the age of 50.   He had a second, thirty year, career as chairman of G Bell and Sons - the publishing house founded by his grandfather.


His obituary describes him as having ‘an acute, punctilious and energetic mind and a dogged, fearless and athletic temperament’.  He is also quoted as possessing a ‘brusque, military manner’.  ‘Once his mind was made up . . . contrary arguments tended to cut little ice, and this quality was at once his weakness and his strength’.    


The British Society of Dowsers ‘became his primary concern and personal hobby; the Society his ‘baby’, which he regarded with a fiercely possessive parental affection.’ Given the close association of the day between the fledgling BSD and its more established sister organisation in Paris, the Association des Amis de la Radiesthesie,it is interesting to note that the Colonel himself translated various books and texts about dowsing and dowsers from French into English.


In the period after WWII, AHB (as he was known to his closer colleagues) ‘became increasingly to support the psychical, at the expense of the physical (objectives of dowsing) which he had formerly supported’.   This might have been due partly to ‘the gradual veering towards mentalism on the continent (of Europe) as time went by, and to (his growth of interest in) medical radiesthesia - involving, as it does, a large amount of intuitive or psiperception’.


‘When faced by wartime threats, or when under intellectual fire, Colonel Bell was completely unperturbed, and bore all with stoical courage.  Such uncommon traits undoubtedly aided his many positive achievements.’


It is apparent that while his hard work and dedication was recognised by all, by the time of his death, many of his colleagues felt he had moved away from the core of the quest. However, changing times and changing outlooks have been very much on Bell’s side. While he brought the BSD into existence to investigate the phenomenon of dowsing, and to find a solid, scientific explanation for its function, in the end he realised that this was just the entrance to the maze, not the goal itself.  


He wrote again and again in his latter years that the effectiveness of map dowsing and distance healing rendered any physical scientific explanation of dowsing impossible.  He was too early to benefit from the more recent work on quantum physics or information theory, which might have led him on to some of today’s emerging lines of reasoning. However, what he was able to do was to formulate the question correctly and - as any experienced dowser knows - that is the key to unlocking the door.  


He came to appreciate that there wasn’t just one problem to solve, but that there were two distinct issues to unravel.  The first, the little matter of earth energy, earth rays, noxious lines, radionics and the like was a physical conundrum, resolvable within an expanded scientific paradigm.   Again, he lived too soon to grasp that there were forces other than electromagnetism, which could provide a greater perspective on this field. He did, however, realise that there might be an as-yet-unknown branch of physics, which could provide greater insight into these phenomena at some point in the future.  


His more important revelation was that even if we did eventually come to understand the form of ‘energy’ that defied the most sensitive of electronic equipment available at the time that, in itself, wouldn’t explain why dowsing actually worked.  He took the view, perhaps following on from the work of Jung, that our knowledge of the world outside of the here and now is in some way a function of the dowser’s subconscious.  


In that, A H B was well ahead of his time.  The theory of the information field only emerged decades after his passing, and he would have had no way of reaching such a platform through logic alone.  However, by defining the duality of the problem, he beat a path towards a logical understanding of the dowsing enigma that others could use.  In so doing, he has enabled us to gain a much better grasp of the importance of dowsing as a tool to broaden the understanding of our own reality.


Both practically and theoretically, he left us with a legacy of great worth - and, almost as a bonus, he bequeathed a flourishing Society of fellow travellers to continue the good work.

Nigel Twinn

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