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Record number: WCP5121

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Fletcher Barrett
[not recorded]

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, [address not recorded] to William Fletcher Barrett [none given] on  .

Record created:
04 March 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Barrett, William F. (1900). On the so-called divining rod. A psycho-physical research on a peculiar faculty alleged to exist in certain persons locally known as dowsers. Book II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 15(38): ?. [p. 277]

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[[1]]1 [p. 277]

If the rod does move wholly by muscular action, it does not at all affect the power of the dowser in finding water,--but the fact should be proved. To me, the evidence you adduce shows that it is not muscular action, and if this can be proved it, of course, places the dowser in the rank of a physical "medium," which I have always held him to be. If the two facts you state are facts: (1) That the motion of the rod cannot be intentionally produced (by any novice) without visible muscular action of an energetic kind; and (2) that in an outsider's hands, holding the rod for the first time, it will often move if the dowser holds his wrists, and with no conscious, and little visible, muscular action on the experimenter's part,--then it follows that the motion is not produced by muscular action at all, but is a physical phenomenon analogous to hundreds of others occurring in the presence of "mediums."

I think you should have said: "The obvious explanation, of course, is that the rod is moved by the hands of the operator, acting consciously or unconsciously. There are, however, many difficulties in the way of this view, and many facts which seem directly opposed to it." After which your various statements would follow naturally. Now, they seem to me to be in the nature of a non sequitur! . . .

Of course, I am a confirmed lunatic in these matters, so excuse the ravings of a lunatic, but sincere, friend,

Alfred R. Wallace.


1. Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: First of a pair of letter excerpts to William F. Barrett concerning dowsers and dowsing; printed in a long article of Barrett's titled "On the So-called Divining Rod. A Psycho-Physical Research on a Peculiar Faculty Alleged to Exist in Certain Persons Locally Known as Dowsers. Book II." published in Volume 15 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (1900-1901). The first letter appeared in the main text of the article, while the second appeared in Appendix G to the work.


This transcript originates from Charles H. Smith’s The Alfred Russel Wallace Page website (http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm): See http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S582.htm

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