I am always please to receive "pillowbiters" through the letterbox, particularly if there is some good research results published. I was therefore a little disappointed when I read the article on "twitching". The arguments the "geophysical correspondent" has put forward to dismiss dowsing as "mumbo-jumbo" are fundamentally flawed.
He states that there has to be a scientific reason for dowsing to work, and explores the various methods that have been postulated and dismissed. On the basis that nothing has been found to support dowsing, he believes that it cannot therefore exist The big mistake he has made here is that he is by inference, claiming that all physical processes have been discovered and understood by man, and as nothing seems to fit the bill, dowsing cannot work. How can he be so arrogant to assume that there are no more processes yet to discover, when more enlightened scientists are discovering things all the time.
To draw a parallel, let us consider acupuncture. There is no proven scientific reason for this to work, yet it has a widely accepted place in society. Are all the people who have been treated by this "unproved" method liars when they claimed to be cured or helped by it ? Or will the scientific correspondent dismiss it as mind over matter ?! He cannot do that as there is no proven scientific reason for mind over matter to work either ! On his arguments, millions of Chinese and Westerners must be wrong also.
He is also very wrong in basing some of his argument that any twitching of dowsing rods must be in some way controlled by the brain. It is a well known fact in scientific circles that not all bodily control comes from the brain. Reflex actions have been shown to operate from the spinal cord when the patient has undergone intense stimulus. There is no reason why the brain should be involved at all in a dowsing reaction. The famous twitching frogs' legs did not have brains attached to them when small voltages where applied across them!
The medical profession has now well established that there is a correlation between the phases of the moon and psychological changes such as increased dementia and an increase in suicides. The effect of the sun and moon on the tides should not also be forgotten. If the small influence of these remote bodies has a definite effect on the human body, then why should not a far close influencing force, albeit a small one, create some similar psychological or physiological fluctuations?
Just because we do not understand the workings of dowsing does not mean that it cannot exist. From my own investigations, it seems it is a fairly well accepted method for tracing underground cables and water pipes in the utility companies when a conventional locator is not at hand (like a JCB? Ed..) As the legal ramifications of street works have been beefed up, locators are the normal method now, but 20 years ago dowsing was in use far more often and with good results.
I do not believe that it is the be all and end all of finding caves and hidden water courses, but may be used as one of a number of methods, which in combination may be used to increase the chances of finding caverns measureless to man. The best thing to do with dowsing in unexplored areas is to publish a map of any reactions before any digging is started. That way the only influence on the dowser is his own knowledge of geology and likely trends in water flow or passage direction. A good cave prospector would use his observations of the lie of the land, shakeholes, drainage patterns , proximity to known caves and resurgences etc., to guide him to a likely area to start digging, or to chose between several likely spots.
Alternatively, he may traverse an area looking for strong dowsing reactions, plot them, then use other observations to try to establish likely spots to start a dig. The biggest obstacle facing a sceptical would-be dowser is his or her own scepticism which does not allow them to relax sufficiently and open the way to the small influences that cause dowsing reactions.
I would urge all cavers to keep an open mind on dowsing, if you want to give it a try, go with someone who has practised it before and leave the sceptics at home: they will only ruin your concentration. A quiet atmosphere will help you relax. Let others work over the same areas and compare your reactions with theirs. Record your findings as maybe you will be able to confound the sceptics by saying "I told you so".
A controversial subject no less! If you have any views, why not write to the editor, also would the mysterious "Metaphysical Correspondent" be willing to run a dowsing workshop at the cottage ? Careful - you maybe abducted on the way...The truth is out there!