From Anthroposophy

The term radiesthesy or radiesthesia means radiation perception: the ability to detect radiation within the human body and within nature.

Dowsing and pendulums are an ancient practice regarded as a kind of pseudo-science by current Mineral science. Nevertheless for some people they are a reality. Again a certain segment or cohort of the population has certain characteristics by which they have this capabilities (re Rudolf Steiner lecture reference below, and the Discussion section).

The reference books below give an overview of this practice throughout the ages: dowsing and pendulum already appear on cave paintings of approx. 6000 BC throughout Egyptian, Babylonian cultures, but also in numerous references in Greek and Roman literature. In more recent times references are made by a.o. Paracelsus and Goethe. The 'technology' was used in the two 30 years wars both in the 17th and 20th centuries.


Lecture coverage and references

See eg 1917-06-26-GA176 where Rudolf Steiner touches on the research by Moritz Benedikt into dowsing and consciousness.

The above lecture makes an interesting contrast with the anthrowiki site which gives an overview of much research that shows dowsing is not a real effect, an experience people make up.

A famous quote is by Albert Einstein, in a letter of 1946-02-15 to Mr. Peisach:

I read with great interest the reports from your father and I think that they deserve attention. To publish them in the daily press would have little effect. However, if you send these reports to a medical journal, you will have to re-write some of the other aspects that are not really pertinent to this matter.

I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however,unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.

.. If you submit the carefully revised reports to a medical journal you may attach a copy of my letter, so that this matter will receive the attention I feel it deserves. Very truly yours, A. Einstein

1923-01-07-GA220 explains dowsing

Now this knowledge is something which must not become the ordinary knowledge of man for our present civilisation, because he would at once place that knowledge in the service of his utilitarian and egoistic life. For this is a cosmic law, if — even to the tiniest degree — anyone was to place the metal-knowledge of the earth at the service of the ordinary utilitarian life, at once his imaginative cognition would be taken from him.

But it can happen, through a diseased condition in man, that the inner connection which should exist between the astral body and the organs is broken through, and that man, even while awake, really sleeps in a very delicate way. Of course, when he really sleeps at night he is outside his physical and etheric bodies and the astral body and the ego exist by themselves. But there also exists such a gentle sleep (that is by day — it is hardly noticed) that when a man is in such a condition he may appear extraordinarily interesting to someone else. And then such a man would be looked upon as being wonderfully mystical, having mystical eyes, etc., this can occur, because a gentle sleep is taking place while such men are awake. There is always a kind of vibration of the physical and etheric bodies, together with the I organisation and astral body — they oscillate to and fro. And such men as I have just mentioned are adapted to become metal diviners. The power to feel special metals inside the earth, seen from the point of view of man, rests always on a diseased disposition. Of course, as soon as one looks at these things merely technically, desires arise to place them in the service of technique on earth. The world can be absolutely indifferent, if I may speak crudely, as to whether a man is a little diseased or not as long as he can be used, because, as a rule, the means towards this or that utilitarian result are disregarded. But inwardly, seen from a higher point of view, there is always something diseased when a man perceives not only the things in a horizontal direction in the earth's environment, but also downwards, not through holes, but directly.

Then, of course, it is necessary that what man perceives he expresses, but he cannot express this in his ordinary way. If one holds a pen to write something, in the writing is the ordinary life of thought, which is a dead thing. And so you have the ordinary power of thinking, that illuminates your perception, and for that you can make signs, or talk, or write. In the same way, when man perceives through his diseased condition special metals in the earth, he can make other signs. I remark here expressly that water (for the occultist) is a metal, so that when a man perceives special metals (and such diseased persons can be trained not merely to perceive unconsciously but also to make unconscious signs for their perception) a twig can be put into his hand and with it he unconsciously makes signs.

And on what does this rest? On the gentle gap between the astral body and I on the one side, and the physical and etheric bodies on the other side. And thereby man does not only perceive what is beside him, but excludes his physical body, making it a sense organ, and perceives the inner part of the earth without digging holes: But when the vertical direction, which is usually the normal direction of feeling, is active, it cannot be expressed, like thought, in words, but only in signs as I have indicated. Similarly, one can simulate those perceptions which man receives from above downwards; these have another inner character, they do not correspond to metallic perceptions, they are inspirations which give one again the movements of the stars or starry constellations.

And, just as man can perceive the constitution of the earth below, so he can perceive above something which also appears because he is in a diseased condition, his I being partly freed from his astral body. He then perceives that which really gives to the world its division into time, which gives the flow of time to the world. Thereby he sees more deeply into the happenings of the world, not only according to the past, but also certain events which do not arise out of the free will of man, but out of the necessity of the cosmic ordering. He can then see to a certain extent prophetically into the future, because he sees into the ordering of time.

1924-03-01-GA353 describes how the water in an area acts particularly strongly on the etheric body

.. water has a tremendous influence on the human ether body. The Egyptians still had the instinct that enabled them to say: The human being has not only a physical but also an ether body.


When the Indians came to Egypt they appreciated the beneficial qualities of water, and said: This does not act on the physical body, but on a higher body in the human being. And so the Egyptians, and with them the Indians, really discovered the etheric body through their experience with water. Having discovered the ether body, the Egyptians developed the whole of their religion as a religion of the ether body.


Radiesthesy as example to illustrate the chasm between mineral science and spiritual science.

In mineral science, the human being and its full spectrum of sensory perception and consciousness is de-coupled from the events in scope of study. If a large random sample of human beings in taken, statistiscs may rightly point out that radiesthesy is non-existant. However, this does not mean it does not exist for a certain segment of the population. This is quite similar to other human sensory and consciousness capabilities such as clairvoyance.

In Goethean science and Spiritual science, the human being and its full experience is taken in scope of the analysis of reality. Spiritual science goes further than Goethean science in that it includes super-sensory consciousness. See also: Top five problems with current science

So who is right? both are right: in the framework of (and conditions set by) mineral science, radiesthesy and clairvoyance are not capabilities that can be proven for any human being. There can be no discussion about this from a rigourous scientific and statistical point of view. However, spiritual science is also right - as exemplified by the numerous authors across the ages, and the wealth of experiential facts and studies. It is just not generally valid for the whole population.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Marguerite Maury: 'How To Dowse - Experimental And Practical Radiesthesia' (1953) is a small booklet that is a great reference work. From the introduction we freely quote:

Mr. Louis Turenne, an engineer and radiesthesist of great repute, realised that Madame Maury, who previous yo becoming a nurse had studied physics in Vienna, had a special aptitude in this direction. She developed her abilities to the full and during the course of 15 years carried out more than 70.000 diagnoses, with the help of some collaborators founded the Collège Radiesthésique Français and drew up a course of instruction followed by more than 900 pupils.


Mme. Maury very rightly stresses the individual nature of the radiesthetic art, and anyone who has studied the subject from an objective point of view will fully bear her out.

Note: Marguerite Maury (1895-1968) was an Austrian born biochemist. Following the death of her young child, her first husband and her father, Marguerite trained as a nurse and surgical assistant, and moved to France. She was also one of the pioneers in aromatherapy and the use of essential oils, inspired by the work of Dr Chabenes 'Les Grandes Possibilités par les Matières Odoriferantes' (1838) and René-Maurice Gattefossé (1881-1950) with 'Aromatherapie' (1928).

  • Abbé Mermet: 'Principles and Practice of Radiesthesia' (1935) original in French: 'Manuel théorique et pratique de Radiesthésie'

Abbe Mermet, a village priest, became famous throughout Europe for his gifts as a radiesthesist, and his research into our natural sensitivity to radiations and force-fields established radiesthsia on a sound basis, raising it to the level of a new science. His skills and reputation were stellar. This classic work is based on decades of research and application and is filled with numerous remarkable accounts of the author's own successes (more so than being the best guide for developing the skills, see M. Maury).

  • Ernst Hoch: 'Strahlenfühligkeit' (1983), in Dutch 'Stralengevoeligheid' (1986)

Many authors of reference works in Russian, French and German, but books not translated to English. Example: Rene Lacroix-à-l'Henri.

See also french wiki page for Radiesthésie for more references and links.