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Major Charles Pogson – Official Water Diviner of the British Army in India - paper on water divining to the Bombay Engineering Congress in 1923



Type of Spiritual Experience


Major Pogson also became official water-diviner to the Government of India. During the three years he held this position, water was found in forty-seven out of forty-nine sites he located

A description of the experience

Britain's X-traordinary Files - by David Clarke
 Wartime dowsing experiments

Police officers and tobacconists were not the only individuals who offered their special powers in support of the war effort.  Some skilled dowsers were serving members of the armed forces.  One of these - Major Charles Pogson of the British Army in India, presented a paper on water divining to the Bombay Engineering Congress in 1923.  In retirement Major Pogson used his powers to locate underground water sources in the countryside around Bombay at times of drought.

He learned the skill from his father as a child in south west England and, after many experiments began to trace the history of dowsing from books and manuscripts at the British Library in London.

Major Pogson said he found an image of the forked twig or virgule divina in a German text book published in 1500:
In this work there is a quaint picture of a diviner striding over the hills with a forked rod prospecting for minerals for which the rod at that time was only used’ he told the conference.  ‘The miners of Saxony appear to have been the first to use the forked rod.  This probably arose from the belief, once universal, that metallic ores attracted certain trees which thereupon drooped over the place where these ores were to be found

The first stage for the novice dowser was to fashion a divining rod from the tree itself but ‘later a branch was grasped in each hand and the extremities fashioned together … from that it was an easy transition to the use of a forked or Y shaped twig’.

At the British Library, Major Pogson found references to an English delegation that visited Saxony during the reign of Elizabeth I in order to investigate methods of finding ore in the Cornish mines.  Soon afterwards divining rods were adopted in England as a reliable method of locating not just ores but also water.  He said that he was given to understand, ‘notwithstandng beliefs and disbeliefs, that this method was used certainly up to quite recent times’ in English villages, to locate hidden treasure and even missing persons.  In effect, ‘corpse divining’ …:

Fortunately or unfortunately there are some who require a scientific explanation of all mysteries of our surroundings and will even go so far as to be short of water in consequence … the refusal of its acceptance by some is because scientists have not yet been able to explain fully its marvels, or apparent marvels, as if an occurrence that has not been explained by scientific methods must necessarily be a fraud.

The retired soldier tried to explain his own powers by offering his opinion that all metals, minerals, water and oils ‘emit certain radiations’ similar to radioactive elements.  He believed gifted individuals acted as ‘human galvanometers’ when working with a Y shaped fork.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps