‘I have had twigs as thick as my little finger twist off and break after scoring my hand until it was red. The muscles of the arm become contracted when the bodily magnetism is affected by the presence of water, and a strong spring will make my arms ache badly. It is quite true that only running water affects me, and on one occasion I had a curious example of this. It was on a Saturday evening, and I quite accidentally found the presence of water close to a house where my sister was living. The following day I told her about the spring and tried the spot, when no effect was observable. On enquiry she told me that there was a pipe underneath connected with a ram which was always put out of action on Sunday.’
Further on, referring to another incident, he says:–
‘I had dowsed the ground, and in addition had noted, with the help of an eminent geologist, the geological strata. The dowsing satisfied me that the ground was full of water: the geological survey suggested the best place to collect it. I suppose the power must have something to do with the composition of the blood and nerve cells, but I have never yet come across a scientific explanation of the power, which is certainly possessed by many people.’
Here we have a country gentleman of indisputable honesty and intelligence attributing to unknown forces such movements and sensations as any one can produce who follows the preceding instructions, water or no water being present. The ‘bodily magnetism’ is a pure rationalisation and beyond discussion, but the story of the pipe and the ram is different: a ram is a pump worked by a stream of water and the noise of it is carried a long way, especially along any pipe connected with it, and if I told this gentleman that he had heard the noise of the ram he would strenuously deny the possibility, and might challenge me to test whether I could hear the noise; but I have no dissociated water-divining personality unhampered by my conscious efforts and trained to pick up such indications. It would seem incredible to him that he heard the noise of the ram on the Saturday, failed to hear it on the Sunday, deduced that the water was no longer running, and then showed this deduction by refraining from tilting up the twig; but with our knowledge of dissociation and repression, and of the working of the unconscious, we can understand all this taking place without his main stream of consciousness being aware of it.
The reference to geology is also instructive; he evidently has a knowledge of that subject, and he might perhaps admit that the indications of the twig coincided with the geological indications, though he is unaware of and cannot admit any dependence of the former on the knowledge of the latter.
Thus in both these cases the likelihood of the presence of water is only a matter of observation–skilled and minute no doubt–and the movement of the twig is in no way caused by any physical forces except those exercised by the muscles of the dowser. That the second personality of the dowser is able to deceive him is now explained, and his obvious honesty so influences non-critical observers that their credulity is no cause for wonder.
An example of water-divining without dissociation was given me by Dr. W. H. Bryce, of Fifeshire, whose words are as follows:–
‘There was an old Scot who was reputed to be very skilful in finding water and who was so employed throughout his neighbourhood. He was not above using the twigs, but told me they were no use, but he judged entirely by the lie of the land. In his own language he always looked for the “rise of the metals” in looking for water. A diviner came to the neighbourhood and located water in two places. In the one place the old countryman said, “How can he get water there? Now at the top of the den where the metals rise each way he might get it.” Bores were sunk at both places that the diviner indicated, but no water was got.’
This man would probably have refused such a test as locating a water-pipe, for his conclusions were based upon conscious reasoning and he would be incapable of making guesses or picking up indications from the behaviour of bystanders; therefore in the eyes of the credulous he would be inferior to the wonder-working dowser.
One repeatedly hears stories of how the dowser has found water when geologists have failed, but the man who is sufficiently uncritical to accept the working of the twig as due to some strange ‘gift’ is likely to be as credulous in observation and beliefs concerning the rest of the phenomena.