The following article was extracted from The Divining Hand: The 500-Year-Old Mystery of Dowsing, by Christober Bird
"Dowsing can best be explained as to search with the aid of a hand-held instrument such as a forked stick or a pendular bob on the end of a string - for anything: Subterranean water flowing in a narrow underground fissure, a pool of oil or a vein of mineral ore, a buried sewer pipe or electrical cable, an airplane downed in a mountain wilderness, a disabled ship helplessly adrift in a gale, a lost wallet or dog, a missing person, a buried treasure or to help someone with a physical problem.
When first introduced to this method of location that has long defied, and continues to defy, rational explanation, most people react with a knee-jerk response of rank disbelief.
The actual words 'dowsing rod' first appeared in print in a seventeenth century essay written by John Locke, who referred to the ability to divine, or discover, mines of gold and silver.
Many people are familiar with the sight of someone walking over some plot of ground holding the dowsing rod and the object than bending or twisting downward.
One of the first medical dowsers was Abbe Alexis Bouly, a Catholic priest, living in a little French seaside village on the English Channel. He became so well known as a water dowser that, after finding commercially important supplies for French manufacturers, he was contracted to do likewise by other industrialists in Belgium, Portugal, Poland and Romania.
At the end of World War I, Bouly was summoned to the city of Reims to be examined on his alleged ability to locate unexploded shells buried in the ground and to state whether they were of German, Austrian, or French manufacture prior to their unearthing. He was so impressive that he was recommended to the Ministry of War in Paris.
Bouly eventually founded the Society of Friends of Radiesthesia, a new word he coined for dowsing, an amalgam of a Latin root for "radiation" and a Greek root for "perception." Looking for new worlds to conquer, he finally hit on what he called "the world of microbial vibrations." "I was bold enough to tackle it," he wrote, "but to start with I had to learn about microbes, to study their nature and their influence on the human body."
Eventually Bouly carried out experiments in the hospitals of Boulogne-Sur-Mer, Berck-Plage, Lille, and the Belgium City of Liege. Put to repeated tests, Bouly was able, simply by manipulating a pendulum, to identify cultures of microbes in test tubes just as easily as if he were observing them through a microscope.
In 1950, at the age of eighty-five, in recognition of his accomplishments, the Abbe was made a Chevalier de La Legion d'Honneur, the highest decoration his nation could bestow on him. In his acceptance speech the newly knighted priest declared, "This Cross of the Legion of Honor is awarded in my person to all practitioners of dowsing. For my part, the award represents the crowning of a life I have tried to dedicated to the service of God and the good of humanity."
A second medical dowsing pioneer was Father Jean-Louis Bourdoux, who spent sixteen years as a missionary in the jungles of Brazil's Matto Grosso. During one of his missions, he was struck down with a nearly fatal case of galloping consumption and later by a six-week long fever. Both times he was brought back to health with saps from local plants prescribed by his Brazilian Indian parishioners.
Bourdoux launched into a study of the medicinal properties of Brazilian plants. Following extended talks with doctors and patients, Bourdoux decided to write a book that might help his fellow missionaries care for the sick in outbacks around the world. The main question he pondered was "How can missionaries be taught which plants in a particular region would act as specific remedy for specific ailments."
In the midst of his writing, Bourdoux met Father Alexis Mermet who had learned to dowse for water from his grandfather and father in Savoy, France. Mermet came to the conclusion that if what lay hidden in the earth and in inanimate objects could be studied with a pendulum, then why couldn't the same pendulum detect hidden conditions in animals and human beings? Mermet wrote a classic book on the subject entitled How I Proceed in the Discovery of Near or Distant Water, Metals, Hidden Objects and Illnesses. Mermet claimed that he invented the method of 'pendulum diagnosis.'
After years of study and practice, and another visit to the South American jungles, Bourdoux published his Practical Notions of Radiesthesia for Missionaries, the preface of which read in part: "If you have the patience to read these pages you shall see how, thanks to the new science called radiesthesia, you will be able, without any medical training and hardly any funds, to succor both believers and pagans. Perhaps you will be amazed at some of the things I have set down and be tempted to say, "That's impossible." But are we not living in a time of marvelous discoveries each more disconcerting than the next?"
Father Jean Jurion, a Catholic priest, born in 1901, spent the first half of his working life as a teacher and administrator in Catholic colleges in the French capital. He was introduced to the dowsing art in 1930 by a fellow priest in the countryside near his home who used a pierced coin on the end of a string, to find lost objects and missing persons. For some time Father Jurion looked on the practice only as an amusement until, one afternoon, his sister lost her gold ring while packing apples into baskets between layers of hay.
Entering the shed where the packing was taking place Jurion, driven more by curiosity than purpose, held his own string-suspended nickel-plated gold coin over several baskets that, filled and covered, were ready for shipment to market and was surprised to see the coin rotate over one of them in the clockwise direction he had established as indicating a positive answer. He opened the basket, removed the top protective layer of hay, then re-dowsed for the exact position of the lost ring. The pendulum became violently active over one specific apple. When he gingerly lifted it from its resting place, there was the ring lying on the apple beneath.
It was only after World War II that Father Jurion began seriously to consider the use of dowsing in medicine. He was inspired by the aforementioned men. He began a survey of all the literature on dowsing but he was met only with a welter of contradictory opinions that, unsupported by experimental proof, had simply to be taken for granted. Numerous precautions filled the pages of dowsing guides:
"…one should never dowse unless one was facing north or while wearing rubber-soled shoes."
"…one should remove metallic objects from one's clothing."
The list was endless.
After liberating himself from what he called a conglomeration of 'self-imposed servitude,' Jurion found he could dowse anywhere, any time, under any conditions. When he began his own first attempts at diagnosis, he obtained excellent results confirmed by doctors. His greatest surprise came with the realization that his most spectacular achievements were related to cases which he thought practically impossible to solve because doctors had given up on them.
A particularly difficult case was a 49-year-old Belgian man. X-rays had confirmed two inoperable cancerous tumors in his brain. He had been given 40 cobalt radiation treatments accompanied by x-rays. Nothing had stopped the spread of cancer which was blocking his throat. He could barely swallow, had lost all hearing and lay in a coma in an oxygen tent. Through the pendulum diagnosis, and use of homeopathic remedies pushed down his throat, after one year medical doctors found the man cancer-free. Jurion wrote, "…this diagnosis and treatment, which medical specialists could not believe would be effective, amply justifies the existence of the radiesthesia practitioner, who may not be a doctor, but may be a patient's last chance. …it is our duty to take even the seemingly most intractable cases."
Jurion was harassed for years, and was in court six times, as a result of complaints by the Order of Physicians. "Since they treated me like an outlaw, I have written the book, Journal of an Outlaw, because I care for the sick without a medical degree, and they classify me with embezzlers, con men, and murderers."