Pendulum divination

Until recently I had would have agreed with the conventional scientific view that seeking answers to personal questions by asking a pendulum was a ridiculous idea. Now I am not so sure.

A couple of years ago I visited a colour therapy clinic. The assessment did not include any questions about my presenting symptoms and medical history, but was carried out with a pendulum and a set of multicoloured threads. It came up with some remarkably accurate statements about my past and present health.

The treatment involved having wires, coming from a machine in the next room, attached to my body via bands around my neck and wrists. Sitting on a comfortable chair for several hours, with nothing to do except read a book or look through the window at the pleasant view, was relaxing if a little dull.  During a quiet afternoon when I was the only client present, the therapist offered to show me how to use a pendulum. I was skeptical, but agreed out of politeness and to pass the time.

He gave me a key on a string and told me to hold it with one hand above the palm of the other, and to ask ‘Please show me a YES’. To my surprise it started to sway from side to side and then, when I asked ‘Please show me a NO’, it swayed in a direction at right angles to the first. The pattern of movement varies between individuals and is sometimes circular, for example clockwise for YES and anticlockwise for NO. The next step was to confirm the system by asking questions to which I already knew the answer, for example ‘Is my name Jennifer?’ and ‘Is my name Margaret?’. It gave correct results.

I was intrigued, and soon afterwards I bought a small crystal pendulum to experiment further. It almost always gives me an answer to ‘Yes or No’ questions ranging from the trivial (‘Is it safe to eat that curry?’) to the serious (‘Is it a good idea to move house this year?’). Many critics would say that its answers merely validate decisions I have already made, but I am not sure this is so; some of them have surprised me and they have never turned out to be ‘wrong’ as far as I can tell.

Googling ‘pendulum divination’ or ‘pendulum dowsing’ yields many articles and videos from intuitive and psychic perspectives, for example this one from Helen Demetriou which emphasises respect for the spiritual context. There is very little objective research about whether pendulums work, and if so whether the mechanism is physiological or supernatural. Theories range from subtle changes in muscle tension resulting from subconscious thoughts and feelings, to the influence of angels or spirit guides. This is a field of study in which the attitude of the investigators could easily bias the results, and most writings on the subject come either from committed believers or from cynics determined to debunk the whole thing.

I am sometimes asked whether I use a pendulum in my Bach flower practice to help choose the most suitable remedies for my clients. The answer is no, because this would go against the Bach Foundation’s code of practice, one reason being that such an aid could bypass the process of interview and self-inquiry which is an important part of the system developed by Dr Bach.

And what about the colour therapy? Again, there has been limited formal research. I met some other clients at the clinic who had been diagnosed with major physical diseases and said they had benefited a great deal, but whether it had much effect on my own various minor ailments is difficult to say.

Pendulum divination, colour therapy and Bach flower remedies are just three of the energy-based modalities which are well established in alternative circles, but are largely ignored or dismissed in orthodox ones.

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