By Josh Wingrove
Show me ‘yes,'” I stammer, almost yelling at the stone that is suspended from a string held by my fingers.
The stone starts spinning in a clockwise direction. Freaky: clockwise means yes. “K, thanks,” I say. It stops. “Show me ‘no.'”
The stone complies, circling counter-clockwise around my knee. I think I need to change my pants. How could this be? I am sitting in the middle of a room with 120 people in Toronto’s Latvian Centre.
Tonight is the monthly meeting of the Toronto Dowsers. What is dowsing, you ask? Dowsing is a method of reading energy in an environment. According to dowsers, energies in the environment create a neuro-muscular response in the human body, which is made physical and read by means of a conductor.
“Dowsing has been around for easily 5,000 years,” Marilyn Gang says. Her group, the Toronto Dowsers, has no president. Gang considers herself the “Head honcho” of the 300-member group.
“We are the cutting edge of dowsing groups. No one in the world is doing what we’re doing,” Gang says.
While dowsing is typically used for such tasks as choosing wallpaper, selecting medication, avoiding police radar, finding your way when lost or determining the gender of an unborn child, Gang’s group has made the primary purpose of their dowsing the reading and healing of the energy around us. “We change energies,” Gang says. “You change them from detrimental to beneficial.”
One of the evening’s presenters, Alicja Aratyn, explains the art of dowsing in more pragmatic terms: “Dowsing is about using pendulums,” she says. Pendulums, eh? And before I can ask, pendulums are brought out all around me. Brass ones, wooden ones, beautiful stone ones on what look like gold chains. And what’s more–people are talking to them.
“I think it deals with your own energies,” says Bernadette Halloran, an accountant who started dowsing last October. “I was a natural at it. I was very fortunate.”
She keeps her personal pendulum in its own little pouch–the same pendulum that I had spinning above my knee. “Dowsing has changed my life,” Halloran says. “There’s a whole world. And that’s what I like about (Gang’s) group, is she opens up a world to everyone.” Halloran uses dowsing in business to clear the energies that are attached to the contracts with which she deals. She says it has revolutionized the way she does her work.
Rick Roocroft, a retired Ontario Provincial Police special constable, said he wished he knew about dowsing while with the police force. “Once you start dowsing, you come in contact with the intelligent part of your subconscious,” Roocroft says. But, he adds, it’s hard to convince others of its veracity.
“There’s a real problem with the scientific method. Scientists want answers they can touch,” he says. “Scientists don’t recognize there is power in nature.”
Gang says she recognizes this natural power, but can’t necessarily explain how it works. One of Gang’s dowsers, Bob Seyffert, confronts this natural power in houses.
Seyffert says that dowsing allows him to sense bad energy left over from things such as domestic fights. “When I come across a negative thought form, I send it back to its owner in the form of love,” Seyffert says. OK, I know what you’re thinking. Dowsers read energy? With a ring on a chain? Are they the Ghostbusters? They send a thought form back as love? Is this some kind of cult? No, it’s not a cult.
And anything can be a pendulum. If you have headphones, hold them halfway out between your index finger and your thumb, with the heavier headphone part swinging down–Voila: a homemade pendulum. Dowsers claim their craft is used by mining and oil companies to find underground deposits.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines website actually defines dowsing: “to…locate and delineate formations bearing water, oil, or minerals by use of a divining rod or other non-scientific means.” Still I was a little skeptical of the whole thing and the fact that I was the youngest of the 120 people at the meeting was making me feel a bit out of place. “Definitely it leans towards an older age group,” Gang’s niece, Leah Breuer, says. Breuer graduated from Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program in 2003, winning a TARA award for her success in the program. The 24-year-old is working as an assistant editor for New Wave Entertainment in Los Angeles.
But it might not be the award or the education that guaranteed Breuer her dream job–Gang says she dowsed for her niece before her interview, giving Breuer the energy she needed to secure the position.
“I think it takes a certain kind of person to begin with,” Breuer says. “A lot of us, especially in Toronto, are a little too cynical.” Breuer says that while her family always teased her aunt about her alternative lifestyle, they supported her at the same time. “Having her in my life, specifically her, has taught me a lot about accepting other people’s beliefs,” Breuer says. “It taught me that people are different and that it’s OK.” Gang now leads the dowsing group full time, although her background is in computers.
She received her undergraduate in French and education and her master’s in French from Long Island University in New York State, in addition to a diploma in holistic healing. She started the dowsing group to try and make a difference in a world she says is corrupted and exploited.
“It’s the attitude and mindset of closed-minded people who want what they want for their own personal needs and they don’t give a damn about anything else,” she says.
“This is why we are so attracted to dowsing. Because in dowsing we have the means to uncover the truth.”
So it’s not a cult. Rather Gang sees her group as simply a collection of people drawing strength from each other and from a new craft. “Some people have hockey groups, others have book groups,” she says. “We have a dowsing group.”
It is clear to me by the end of the evening that Gang truly honours–as she calls it–the art of dowsing, and that her motives appear to be as simple as trying to help people and bring them together. “Dowsing is going to be very big,” she says.
“I’m just trying to make sure it’s done with honour and integrity.”