dowsing as a research method

I was introduced to pendulum dowsing just over a year ago (2005) when I asked a friend for some advice on the herb seedlings I had started on my front porch. They weren't growing very well. Rather than drawing on her vast understanding of plant growth learned through reading, experience, and talking with other humans, instead (to my surprise), she pulled out a small wooden pendulum and replied: Why don't we ask them?

Following the 'yes' and 'no' circles of the pendulum, we surmised that the plants had enough water, but it was more sun and less wind they needed. We moved them around the corner of the house to where the swing of the pendulum indicated they would be much happier. The dowser, she explained to me later, allows for communication with the 'all-that-is,' which included the spiritual intelligence of plants (Hepburn, 2006; see also, Buhner, 2004, 2006; Montgomery, 2008).

Since that time, I have worked to develop my dowsing abilities which enable me to communicate with what, in the context of this dissertation, I refer to as animate Earth. These insights have provided considerable guidance in the creation of this dissertation. Using the dowser, and then deciding to be explicit about its use as one of my key research tools, has brought me considerable angst. I was concerned about the academic effects of admitting to using the dowser to assist in my research/representation.

It was not until the final draft of this work that I felt secure enough in my place in the academy, that I was willing to place an image of the pendulum dowser near the top of my research method(ology) page (and even then, it is hidden behind my tea mug). At one point about a year ago when I was on my way to a conference to present my work, I deleted the photograph of the dowser on the method(ology) page, not wanting to have to answer questions about its presence and risk undermining my status as a researcher.

Despite these felt risks, I could not help but be intrigued by the accuracy (and helpfulness) of insights I continued to receive through its use as I immersed in and became more skilled at dowser 'conversations'. And as I did so, the focus of my dissertation gradually shifted from my original research questions to an exploration of ways in which dominant Western ways of knowing, (re)inscribed through the Academy, make it difficult to gain (and speak of) insight from conversation with animate Earth, and perhaps more significantly, to explicitly acknowledge that one can intentionally solicit these conversations as a central part of research processes.

Essentially, I became very curious about what would emerge if I foregrounded insights obtained through the use of a dowser, and eventually, other ancient ways of knowing which enabled multiple kinds of cross-border dialogue in my research/representation. As I grew more attuned to my own increasingly animated perception, I used the pendulum dowser less and less and relied on the direction and insights gained through my body's movements instead.