Element Books, London, 1989.
Mr Graves is a slippery customer. Most of the book seems to emphasize a way of drawing out ideas from one's own mind by opening up to unconscious suggestions or hunches. There is a kind of evasiveness throughout as to whether dowsing can be used to find, say, water hidden underground with more success than random guesswork.
This is partly because, for all his recurrent sneering about "school science", Graves has little idea about science, or about philosophical theorizing about it. He reckons that,
"In science, we have to pretend we know everything, understand everything; and everything has to fit within one interrelated structure of causes and effects, a closed net of logic with no loose ends. If something doesn't fit, we're in real trouble. That's why so many scientists get so upset about intimations of the paranormal: if something can't be forced to fit within the structure, it could actually destroy the whole beautiful edifice that's been built up over so many centuries." (p.29)
He goes on to try and distinguish science from technology:
"in technology... we don't have to make things fit. They only have to work - whether they fit someone's supposed rules or not."
Yet, a few pages later, he says:
"In most technology we cheat, and say that only information within a certain set of limits will matter. We call those limitations 'the laws of nature'." (p.34)
Further on he follows more musings about technology with a typical non sequitur statement about truth, which renders pointless anything he may have to say throughout the book:
"In a technology we accept that we don't know everything: we just use what we happen to have at hand. So anything is true; nothing is true." (p.96)
Graves also has peculiar things to say about tools:
"There are, of course plenty of predictive tools in the traditional toolkit: the Tarot, the I Ching, astrology and many, many others. All of them, you could say, entirely coincidence and mostly imaginary; but tools none the less." (p.105)
The question is, can we reasonably say that, for instance, a colander is a tool for holding water? Let's end with the usual dim relativist mantra:
"But everything is true, and nothing is true, all at the same time: what matters is whether it's appropriate for you, now." (p.107)
What matters about someone's claims about the efficacy of dowsing is whether he is correct or not, not what he feels it appropriate to say about it.
PSYCHOLOGY OF BELIEF AND SUPERSTITION
© Paul Taylor 2001