It’s all too easy to take well-presented theories as statements of fact. In the world of dowsing, where facts are, in any case, very few and far between, this can be all the more tempting.
Although there is an overwhelming consensus that dowsing works, and an increasingly general understanding of how it might work (at least at the human end of the process), there are some surprisingly large gaps in the chain of reasoning that has led us to this point. The philosopher in me is unperturbed - after all, science is there to make sense of the material world by back-filling the foundations of everyday experience. But the rationalist in me still has concerns that maybe some of those gaps have led us to jump, not on to the next piece of solid logic, but into some unseen and possibly rather murky water.
Cornwall-born Paul Gerry, clinical neurophysiologist, Chair of the Devon Dowsers and TD member is fairly new to the field. This is both refreshing and disconcerting, as he is asking difficult questions from a position of strength-through-knowledge. His lifetime of experience in the field of measuring the activity of the brain has given him a background in the subject that few can rival. His marriage of this practical heritage to the intuitive outlook of the dowser is probably all but unique - at least in the UK in 2014.
Like many coming from a scientific background, Paul’s first foray into the field was to answer (well, to ask) the question “How does Dowsing work?”. He searched both the neurophysiological and the dowsing archives for data and research - and found the portfolio to be surprisingly thin. It seemed that most people thought the process was associated with ‘brainwaves’, but in the absence of any clinical experience of their own, just assumed that it had all been bolted into place by some clever people in California, or wherever, at some point.
While the electro-chemical emissions of the brain had been studied by a few pioneers for many decades, it was really only from the 1970’s onwards that increasingly sensitive technology and expanding personal awareness made the study of these phenomena a practical possibility. The godfather of the genre was the English scientist, C Maxwell Cade, whose research opened the door on to a new wilderness, and raised the awareness of the subject in the public domain. Assisted by his student, Anna Wise, Cade went on to describe and investigate the four main categories of brainwave patterns - termed alpha, beta, theta and delta. These broadly relate to the relaxation, calmness, dreaming and sleep states of the conscious mind. He went on to show how these states could be altered by various physical and non-physical methods, apparently to the considerable benefit of the patient or client. Cade’s Mind Mirror and Brain Mirror are still part of the bedrock of brainwave research - and niche technology to implement the process of brainwave modification, often using sound, is available to all comers via the internet.
Few doubt that Cade and his colleagues were on to something big, or that it has a critical significance to the appreciation of ‘How dowsing works’. However, Paul Gerry’s westcountry grounding led him to revisit the original research, with some surprising results. Using 21st century equipment and with several additional decades of application, it now seems apparent that the results achieved with such enthusiasm by Cade’s team might just as easily have been attributed to physical muscle activity, or even to external interference.
Even the demonstrably beneficial outcomes for the recipients of brainwave modification treatment might be due more to biofeedback that transpersonal transcendence. This does not diminish the benefit to the patient, but it does throw a very different light on the nature of how the brain/body interaction might operate.
So, Paul has moved the cutting edge back and, with the help of the Earth Energies Group of the British Society of Dowsers, has acquired state of the art equipment to rework the theories of Cade and his successors. At North Hill, Paul was able to wire up volunteer victim, Pete Bousfield, with electrodes, connected to a laptop monitor. The output showed that Pete has a brain that functions in a typical manner across the various wavelengths - but also that a fluorescent light above the subject radiated enough interference to seriously affect the displayed results.
Paul has been able to make contact with another veteran of brainwave research, former luminary of the American Society of Dowsers, Ed Stillman. Although advanced in years, Stillman is clearly still very interested in the subject - and seems pleased to assist a new shoot off the old bush, here in the UK, by forwarding to Paul some of his own results and data.
The next step will be to carry out a larger scale sample of dowsers, control non-dowsers - and sceptics - to try to establish a more precise relationship between neurological activity and dowsing actuality. This is clearly an open-ended process, but Paul hopes to start to be able to gather sufficient data to put forward some tentative hypotheses by later next year.
It is hugely encouraging that this profoundly original research is being guided from a base here in the south west - and potentially even more exciting for the BSD that it is being undertaken under the aegis of the Society.
Paul is very aware that, even to the dedicated rationalist, dowsing remains an extremely subjective process. Disentangling the various strands of input from the seemingly straightforward output on the screen will be a massive task. To what extent does the electromagnetic environment affect the subject - and over what distance? - Do planetary and other gravitational movements have an impact on the experiment? - What part does consciousness have to play in the process? - What about the influence of biofeedback, genetic makeup, outlook and personal bias? . . . answers on a postcard, please!
Many thanks to Paul Gerry for such a fascinating introduction to this facet of our rapidly expanding world. I am sure we will be seeing much more of him as time goes by.