By Mike Atnip
You may not be familiar with the word “radiesthesia,” but you probably know what it is. “Water witching,” “dowsing,” and “divining” are all various forms of radiesthesia.
Radiesthesia is a compound word with both Latin and Greek origins. The first part, “radi” comes from the Latin “radiare” which means to “go out from a center,” like the spokes of a wheel or the rays from the sun. A radio in a car is called a radio because it picks up electromagnetic signals that radiate from a central transmitter somewhere. The second part of the word radiesthesia has Greek roots, from aesthesis, which means “to sense or perceive.” Thus we end up with radiesthesia, which means “the ability to perceive or sense a radiation.”
This is where a divining rod comes into play. The dowser, with the aid of his rod, claims to pick up signals that are emitting—radiating—from the water (or whatever he is trying to find) and is thus able to discern or sense where the water is. He is using radiesthesia. Some people might even call it a sixth sense.
But that is only the beginning. According to those who promote radiesthesia (sometimes referred to as radionics, as well), each unique object on the earth radiates—sends out—its own unique signal. And so all a person has to be able to do is to “tune” into that unique signal to find that particular object. Gold, diamonds, water, or even an animal or person can be located by its particular signal.
But it goes deeper yet … Some claim that since each person on earth radiates out a unique “aura” or “radiation,” they can manipulate that person’s health by tuning into that aura. By sending “return” signals on that person’s unique “channel,” they claim ability to heal that person, even from the other side of the earth! One well known maker of these “black boxes” was Albert Abrams (1863–1924), who was sometimes called “the dean of 20th-century charlatans.” Although modern “black boxes” may not be direct descendents of Abrams’ devices, the underlying principle of making a connection to a person by some sort of radiation signal is the same.
Before proceeding, we need to clarify that the “radiation” that dowsers find by their rods or by their pendulums is not the well known electromagnetic radiation that a car radio picks up. Nor are they X-rays or gamma rays, which are in fact only very short frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Nor is it a radiation of light, like the sun gives off. Nor is it the ionizing radiation such as is used in nuclear reactors and bombs. In fact, the “auras” of radiesthesia have never been able to be found by any modern scientific instruments.
Fable, or fact?
So just what are these “radiations” that dowsers can pick up? It’s a good question. There are several possibilities:
1. Dowsers can pick up signals that, so far, modern science has not been able to discover. Many practitioners of radiesthesia make this claim.
2. Dowsing is bogus science, and no such thing as “auras” exists. Those who claim the ability to dowse are a bunch of phonies, junk scientists, and scam artists. Or, perhaps, innocent people who have been deceived into a lie.
3. Radiesthesia operates in the spirit world, into which natural science is incapable of measuring or seeing.
Now, let’s put the three options just mentioned into biblical terms:
1. Radiesthesia, in all its forms, is a God-created phenomenon that modern science has simply not discovered yet. As such it is harmless and, in fact, useful.
2. Radiesthesia is an “old wives’ fable.”
3. Radiesthesia is witchcraft or divination. The ability to dowse for water or oil, or determine health issues with a pendulum, is not listed as a gift of the Spirit, so it must be a gift from the evil spiritual forces.
Using our discernment
It is solidly established that, as of the date of this writing, the “auras” or “radiations” that dowsers and black boxes claim to use have not been able to be found by any scientific equipment currently available. That does not mean that these “auras” do not exist; it simply means that if they do, science cannot find them with the equipment currently available. We all know that modern scientists do not have all the answers.
But let’s look at the matter from a slightly different aspect of science. In physics, there are laws. For example, the law of gravitation. Every human being obeys the law of gravitation, meaning (in simple terms) we all are pulled toward the earth. It works for every last human being … no one is exempt or can willfully renounce gravity and suddenly float off to the sky if he wishes.
Another example is electricity. The law of electricity can be simplified to say that if you touch a charged wire with your bare finger while standing barefoot on the ground, you will receive a shock. Again, there are no exceptions. Computers, for example, work for everyone, and they work the same for everyone, since they are built around the laws of physics.
In simple words, the laws of physics hold true for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, computers work the same for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, height, weight, eye color, or religion.
But radiesthesia does not work for everyone.
I remember well someone who once was telling me about his new apparatus. This was a collar for his dog so that he could track it down when it got lost. But it wasn’t a GPS system. In a little box on the collar was a grasshopper or cricket!
The system worked this way: with another piece of the same grasshopper placed in or by the handheld tracker (which had an antenna very similar to a commercially-made dowsing rod), the tracker would pick up the unique signal that the grasshopper in the collar radiated, and the antenna on the tracking device would swing whenever the user’s shoulders were aligned with the dog collar. If a piece of gold was placed near the handle, the tracker would find gold. If copper, then it would find copper. And if a hair off of someone was placed there, you could track that person clear around the globe.
Red flags went off in my mind when I heard these things. The tracker, it seemed to me, was nothing but a souped-up version of an old-fashioned dowsing rod. Supposedly, there was some pretty sophisticated electronic equipment in the handle of the tracker. My doubts were deepened when the person told me, “Even the maker of this equipment acknowledges that it does not work for everybody.”
The laws of physics work consistently for everyone. Whatever does not work consistently for everyone is not based on natural law, but either uses supernatural power, or is a fable.
If it isn’t based on physics …
Many in the modern scientific world deny the supernatural because their worldview is based solely on the physical. If something does not work by the presently known laws of physics, it is automatically written off as fable. And, there are plenty of fables out there. There are plenty of times that dowsing has not worked—it doesn’t work for everybody. I, as a young boy, tried to find a sewer line by dowsing with copper wires. I knew where the line was and walked several times over the line to see if it worked. But my copper wires never crossed. I also watched a backhoe operator dowse for a water line he was trying to uncover. It worked for him as long as the line ran straight, but when the line made a turn, his rod failed him.
There are plenty of examples and university tests to show that dowsing is not based on any known laws of physics. It is not in the particular type of rod used. Some use willow rods. Some use other types of wood. Some use copper rods. Some use a pendulum on a string. This is proof that the “auras” that are being “found” have no connection to the type of rod itself.
Some people even dowse for minerals from a map. This shows that the actual gold or substance sought is not emitting a signal that is picked up. Could a gold nugget emitting a signal in California be found on a map in New York?
Why does it matter?
If radiesthesia works, therefore, it works within the spiritual realm. And that makes it a spiritual matter. Something is going on the spiritual realm, the realm that natural science cannot enter. And if something is going on in the spiritual realm, we as Christians had certainly better snap to attention!
If radiesthesia is simply a fable, we are told to reject it. All lying is to be forsaken, and if a black box trying to heal someone on the opposite side of the world is simply a huckster’s scheme, it would better be called a huckster’s lie, and denounced as a lie and abandoned. It is not an innocent game to be amused with; it is a lie, an untruth. Dare we as Christians promote lies?
Actually, many forms of “alternative medicine” may fall into this category. The particular form of “alternative medicine” may have begun as simply bad science. They may well have been invented by innocent, well-meaning people who really thought they were on to something scientific. But they are still a lie if they claim to be “scientific” and yet do not operate on the laws of physics. Homeopathy, muscle testing, iridology, and many herbal remedies are at best fables; at worst divination.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Ep 4:25
And if something works by a spirit? Well, it is either God’s Spirit or the demons of darkness that make it work. God has spelled out some of His supernatural gifts in His word. While we cannot say that God would never, ever, give someone the gift of finding gold by means of a willow stick, it certainly is not mentioned as a gift of the Spirit. In other words, if someone claims a supernatural gift that is not mentioned in the Bible, we need to be extremely cautious about that gift.
The illustration at the beginning of this article shows various types of dowsing rod configurations. This shows that radiesthesia is not based on the physical properties of the rod. The photo below shows other possible divining rods.
Back to radiesthesia …
Radiesthesia has never been proven to operate on the laws of physics. That in itself is not sufficient proof that it is witchcraft. Modern science does not know everything—who knows what scientists have yet to discover? However, radiesthesia does not work for everyone, especially for those who have renounced it in the name of Jesus. Radiesthesia does not work by one certain medium (i.e. certain type of dowsing rod or pendulum, or certain type of black box). These are evidences that radiesthesia is either fable or witchcraft.
Does dowsing work sometimes? While I myself have not seen it work consistently enough to say that “it is real,” there are testimonies from honest men who have seen it work. Radiesthesia does not need to work 100% consistently to be proof of being a spiritual power; false prophets never prophesy 100% accurately either. But that does not mean they are not under the influence of an evil spirit who does the prophesying for them. And whatever spirit is not of God is of the devil.
Many people are or have been innocently involved in radiesthesia. They may not have asked a spirit to help them find water or gold, but they dabble in trying to see if the willow branch has any science in it. This can be compared to the person who smokes some marijuana, just trying it out. It is still sin, even though the person may have been “just experimenting.” To those who have experimented with radiesthesia, you need to repent even though you may have never had any success. You also need to repent if you have asked someone to use radiesthesia for you, such as to find water before drilling a well, or to be healed by a “black box.”
If you have used a divining rod or a black box with any success, you have entered the spiritual realm—the supernatural. In this case, the spiritual power needs to be renounced in the name of Jesus and repented of. If you feel you have received the “gift of radiesthesia” as a gift from God, ask yourself these questions: Why do unbelievers also have that gift? Does God pour out the gifts of the Spirit on unbelievers also?
Dabbling in the powers of the evil spiritual realm brings a cloud of darkness and confusion over the user—body, soul, and spirit. Many people have testified to confusion, depression, and physical illnesses that were the result of dabbling in divination. Once they repented, they found themselves with more discernment (spirit), less depression (soul), and better health (body). By messing with dowsing rods, pendulums, and black boxes, you are essentially opening yourself up to the dark spiritual powers. Shut that door as fast as you can!
Thankfully, Jesus has conquered all the powers of darkness by His resurrection, and He invites us all to join Him in His conquest. By repentance and faith in Christ, we too can be “more than conquerors!”
 A black box is sort of a generic term for any device that has input and output, but the contents of the box itself—and how it works—are unknown.
 Electromagnetic radiation are pulses of “magnetic waves” that travel through the air. The human body is not capable of picking up these signals, at least by the five senses. In other words, the human body cannot consciously feel a magnetic pulse.
 Except by a miracle. Miracles are supernatural events that defy physics.
 Even though my experiment was in innocence, I have since repented of even trying to dowse.
 The gifts of the Spirit do not work by natural means, and they thus defy the laws of physics. They are supernatural, which means “above the natural.” Satan also has power that is above natural law.
 An example is a friend who told me that a dowser once showed him his power. He told his dowsing rod to point to the yellow bulldozer, and the rod bent toward the yellow bulldozer with enough force to twist the bark on the rod. The man telling me this was an honest man as far as I know him.
 Only the Holy Spirit is 100% accurate.
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.