A Web of Meaning – Thoughts on Agreeing Descriptions of Earth Energies

by Dr A. ‘Boris’ Morrice

How can we define earth energies, describe, study and use them, when dowsers seem to find such different things out there?

This short article is an attempt to pull together some otherwise rather separate strands of thought and bring them to bear on the example of dowsing and earth energies. My work currently is as an historian of medicine; studying the ways in which the current orthodoxy came to establish itself and how it justified and organised its rise to power. As a doctor very interested in the heterodox and particularly in homeopathy and dowsing, questions about what constitutes reality, or valid tests and descriptions of the truth, are constantly in my mind. What follows is intended to provoke some thoughts and perhaps stir some feelings.

Dowsing for earth energies can sometimes seem like trying to catch the wind. The concept of “ley lines” is quite well established, in a jokey ironic way in British mainstream culture now, but once anyone with any real interest, and particularly those of us who can dowse, get together to discuss earth energies confusion can set in. It can seem rather like the parable of the blind men describing the elephant as “tree-like”, “snake-like”, “stringy” and “floppy”. A colleague of mine has a slide showing this, where another blind man is feeling and describing the dung too – and my version would show several characters embracing the air as well. These people would be describing angels, fairies and all manners of mythic beasts.

The Anatomy of Earth Energies

Yet for most of us with an interest in using dowsing and earth energy techniques in the service of our fellow creatures there is a problem. Most feel the need to establish a kind of common understanding or “anatomy” of earth energies, a descriptive framework that will allow collaborative enquiry, Cross checking and development of the craft, art and maybe ultimately science of dowsing to progress. Certainly shared language and its elaboration and evolution has been one of the central tools that humans have used to travel the many strange and wonderful roads we have been down over the last forty-thousand or so years. Language is the currency of thought, and since dowsing so obviously involves the focusing of thought on service, task and parameters to work well, a shared set of ideas and working principles would be a great boon. I hear on the grapevine that one such may soon appear… (Ed. note: Boris is talking about the work of Billy Gawn and the British Society of Dowsers’ Earth Energy Group’s Earth Energy Terminology booklet. It should be out soon.

I personally feel that what we find in energy dowsing are thought-form metaphors for something that is hard for us, bought up in a concretised, left-brain, objectivity-obsessed culture to appreciate in its primal selfness. And the problem is particularly acute with energies, as opposed to water. A water dowser gets to find out whether or not they actually located water. No one can ever tell a dowser that the nice red pink and blue braided job with two-way traffic and nodularised connections to the Hartman grid doesn’t exist, can they? Anymore than any of us can dispute a claim to have conversed with angels at a sacred site. We are left with the options of blind acceptance, blind (reductionistic) rejection, or trying somehow to take the whole thing forward in the group discussion.

Cells – How Life Is Organised

There is a nice example from the history of medical and biological science to bring to bear on this. It concerns the emergence of the consensus that life was organised as living cells in the 19th century. Many of the chaps involved in this were university workers, but the culture of science at the time bore a marked resemblance to the culture of dowsing today. Most “scientists” of the 18th century were private gentlemen of means pursuing their philosophical and practical interests out of pure curiosity. There were no university departments of science, or specialisations really within in it – just lots of “natural philosophers” and “natural historians” doing their funky thing, publishing little monographs, writing to each other about what they’d found out. Archaeology, geology, botany, biology, etc etc all got a great “leg up” at this time from these gentlemen. In Germany things got much more organised much more quickly, and slowly orthodoxies, individual sciences and so forth got established, but it took a long time for the “amateur” model of scientific enquiry to die altogether.

Now, what of the cells? By the end of the 18th century living things were generally still thought of as being composed of tissues, fibres and fluids with various properties. Microscopes of the day were primitive by comparison with those of the late 19th century and particularly subject to colour distortion. No one saw cells; although “little rooms” (cellulae) had been described in cork. However, a particular branch of speculative natural philosophy from Germany called “Naturphilosphie”, one of whose proponents was Goethe, thought of life as being composed of basic units built up in various ways. Goethe demonstrated that all plant parts were made up of adapted “basic leaf” forms, and that vertebrates were made up of varied “spine” units, even in the head. Still valid to this day. Other “Naturphilosophen” thought that all life was composed of even finer little units, with Man as the most elaborate arrangement of them. Rather like cell theory.

“Naturphilosphie” fell out of favour by the early 19th century but the so called “Romantic Biology” that followed it kept some of its ideas albeit in watered down form, and with a greater emphasis on experimental (that is experienced) data. When better microscopes came on stream in the 1830s the German biologists using them had been used to thinking of life as made up of units, and lo; out of the less blurry, but still very blurry chaos down the ‘scope emerged … cells! Messrs Schlieden and Schwann published their cell theory in 1832 (although many took a lot of convincing) which was essentially a stripped down, de-mystified naturphilosophie approach combined with what they had seen. What was most striking however, was the way they had to coach people and particularly students in what they were going to see in order that they “saw” the right things. This remains true to this day. What students see down microscopes are not cells – they see all manners of shapes, colours and forms, but are taught to see cells.

One sadder aspect to the story was the “dumping” of the mysticism. Those working on cell theory by the mid-nineteenth century had little time for the vitalism and mysticism of the workers who had provided them with the idea which fed their whole science. But the most striking point is that you see what you want to see, and to an extent, you dowse what you want to dowse. It is interesting that most dowsers and other workers in this field import other metaphors and ideas into it. Thus for non-dowsers like Alfred Watkins, the original “ley-hunter”, or Paul Devereux, these are “old straight tracks” or “spirit roads”. Tom Graves used the wonderful analogy of earth energy chi meridians and of standing stones as “needles of stone”. Sig Lonegren sometimes talks of arteries and capillaries, or power grid technologies to describe a distributive “stepping down” of energies.

A Code of Conduct

These are all useful metaphors, but everyone who uses them knows that they are just that. At least I hope so. Anyone who doesn’t will be very upset if their ideas don’t get shared in the form of a common language or terminology of earth energies. And what will happen to those who refuse to talk the talk? Here I would like to offer some insights from the way professions organise themselves for us to think about. Dowsing is not a profession, but occupations are growing up using it, and as more and more people do this there will inevitably come points where some dowsers feel others are doing things that damage their credibility, or are behaving in ways that limit their freedom and creativity. Sooner or later the shift occurs between the old fashioned idea of “caveat emptor” (buyer beware!) to the people involved, or some of them, getting together to regulate themselves. There are very few services offered in our culture which do not use some form of code of conduct, (in medicine we call it “medical ethics”), which are built up of ancient principles such as truth-telling and doing one’s best for the client, as well as more specific rules. The “seed patterns” of occupational organisation are old in our culture and quite powerful and pervasive. So how do dowsers relate to them? Are services that use dowsing going to need to regulate the behaviour and ideas of dowsers? Will an “account of reality” emerge that is inclusive of only certain ideas, views, methodologies and “facts”? Or will everyone simply withdraw from the problem in a kind of ultra-liberal stance and say “well, whatever”? Dowsers are, even the most gregarious amongst us, generally outsiders, mavericks and rebels. The idea of us all sitting down and trying to agree an account of subtle reality may pose some difficulties, for the following reasons:

  1. Temperament: the whole idea is repugnant, smacks of patriarchy etc.
  2. Technological limitations: the measuring tools simply don’t exist to allow for an externally observable set of responses to be recorded and agreed upon; the dowsing response is a visible internal response not an instrumental one and this is important, perhaps because of: –
  3. Paradigmatic: we are still either “in” or “out” of, but nevertheless in intimate relationship with, the scientific rationalist experimental thought form. Dowsing is a dialogue between a dowser seeking truth and the universe with which the dowser is complete continuity; a drama played out by different aspects of universal intelligence. Crucially, as Sig Lonegren has pointed out, dowsing works better when the answer is needed rather than when it is itself the subject of inquiry.
  4. Liberal pluralism: in our current cultural and political climate it is considered wrong to undermine or destroy the worldviews of others.

A Web of Meaning

Anyone who is open minded, reasonable and can dowse, will quickly appreciate that this is far from simple and the dowsable world has properties and qualities in and of itself and that, for us in our current mind-set, are very hard to describe. Dowsing presents a particularly interesting set of conundrums for us living in post-modern age in which all voices are to be respected, yet in which huge structures of social organisation and ideas “objectivity” pervade our thinking. It actually exists “at an angle” to this set of psychological and spiritual patterns. The most fundamental questions facing dowsers as a group is to what extent they need to engage in older forms of inquiry, validation, group regulation and so forth, and to what extent we should be looking for new ways of ordering our dialogue. Most challenging of all is the aspect of energies and dowsing which most eludes grasp; the energies are at least partly what we make them, how we conceive of them. We need a web of meaning that we can at once share and use but which does not deaden or limit the dialogue with the greater reality/potentiality beyond. The dialogue is not just between dowsers, but between us and the Earth and the universe, and each possible conversation co-creates a subtly different “reality”.

© 1998 Dr. A. Morrice